Monday, December 02, 2013

Nehemiah Hart's oak leaf cluster

Winter offers the opportunity to see, after leaves have been stripped away, the shape of things --- including the magnificent sculptural oaks that dot southern Iowa's landscape. Hogue Cemetery, a good place for oak viewing, offers the bonus of Nehemiah Hart's oakleaf cluster, emblazoned on the mighty chunk of granite that forms his family tombstone.

To be fair, this oak leaf cluster was awarded posthumously to both Nehemiah and his wife, Permelia (Cox) Hart, but there wasn't room to fit all those names into a headline.

It would be interesting to know if the Hart family was thinking of the oaks that surrounded them here along the South Chariton when they selected this design. Or if it was just the symbolic value of oaks and acorns that sold them.

I drove down to Hogue Sunday afternoon because of a promise I'd made to photograph and post to Find A Grave the tombstones of two of my mother's great-aunts, Jane (Boswell) Ratcliffe (married to Thomas) and America E. (Boswell) Cox (married to George). I've been here many times, so you can go here to read more about the Ratcliffes, Coxes and other family members buried at Hogue.

The Ratcliffe, Boswell and Cox families were part of a compact neighborhood dating from the earliest days of Wayne County settlement whose pioneers are buried here. It's called Hogue most likely because it ended up deep inside a Hogue farm and many Hogues are buried here. Nehemiah Hart's father, Myrtillo, who died Jan. 13, 1852, at the age of 37, reportedly was the first to be buried here, however. His tombstone is just north of Nehemiah and Permelia.

As I've written before, Myrtillo's tombstone contains a detail that warms my obsessive-compulsive heart. You can see the maker's mark inscribed on its base: "R.S.S., Eddyville." 

I'm not even going to start trying to explain the Harts. It's a minefield. There were dozens of them among Wayne County's earliest settlers, scattered all over the place. They were part, too, of the vast Mason County, (West) Virginia, conspiracy that began invading Wayne County during the late 1840s and early 1850s.

If you're out for a Sunday drive (starting from Chariton) and want to find Hogue Cemetery, here's my preferred route (and there are others). Drive south from Chariton on Highway 14, turn right (west) onto the Cambria Road, turn left (south) onto the first gravel road, turn right (west) at the stop sign, then start watching for the "Hogue Cemetery" sign on your left. The half-mile lane back to Hogue is well maintained and there's a generous parking area and turn-around just outside the cemetery gate.

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