Saturday, September 06, 2014

Join us for the annual cemetery tour on Sept. 21st

Just in case you've been wondering, the 11th annual Cemetery Heritage Tour, sponsored by the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission, is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 21, commencing at 2 p.m. This year's theme is "Destination Chariton" featuring, since this has been the year of the Hotel Charitone, early Lucas County hoteliers. 

The tour will begin at the Larry J. Clark Memorial Gazebo on the courthouse lawn, then proceed by bus to the Chariton Cemetery. Refreshments will be served there in the Shelter --- a diminutive cottage that is a contributing structure in the cemetery's status as a National Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is the only fund-raising event for the Commission, officially a city agency but totally unfunded by it (trust me, we are NOT benefitting from your tax dollars). That's why we have to charge admission for the tour.

Anyhow, I went out to the cemetery in the rain late Friday afternoon and made it to the tombstones related to three of folks we'll be visiting on the 21st, but didn't make it to the fourth.

The tombstone at the top marks the burial places of an entire family, that of Samuel B. and Mary St. John. His father, Bartholomew, moved his family to Chariton in 1855 after purchasing an hotel he immediately named the St. John House. This was a two-story log structure, later clad in clapboard and added onto, on the current south-side site of Hammer Medical Supply. Sam St. John took over management of the hotel, then purchased it.

Sam, who died in in 1905, is buried here with his wife, Mary (d. 1882), and their adult children, Frank (d. 1894), Mary Alice (d. 1894), Emily (d. 1923) and Lounette (d. 1954). There may be other family members here, too, but if so their presence cannot be documented.

Lizzie Crips, who founded the White Front Restaurant and Hotel during 1913 on the east side of the square, then moved it soon thereafter (retaining the name) to what now is the Charitone Annex, doesn't have a tombstone, but she's buried next to her husband, John. Like many other women in the Chariton Cemetery, Lizzie erected quite a nice stone at the grave of her husband when he died during 1924, but was a victim of parsimonious heirs when she passed herself 10 years later.

Lizzie and John moved to Chariton from Ottumwa during 1884 and built in 1887 just opposite the C.B.&Q. Depot on what became known as the "Levee" a two-story brick building where they operated for more than 20 years a popular restaurant. Then John suffered a mental breakdown and Lizzie, a civic leader who among other achievements was a charter member of the Chariton Public Library board, became the bread-winner.

I did not make it Friday to the grave of Henry F. and Louise (Junkin) McCollough, who with Louise's father, William D. Junkin, built the Hotel Charitone during 1923. But we'll visit them on the 21st.

We'll also visit the family lot of the O.A. Clark family, who purchased the Charitone from Junkin and McCollough during 1931. There Orliff A., who owned the hotel from 1931 until 1971, will introduce us to his family, all buried here --- wives Sylvesta and Elizabeth; son Jack, an artistically gifted man who was manager and part owner of the hotel for most of the time his family owned it; son Ford, a promising author and journalist at the time of his premature death; and daughter Kay and her husband, William K. Murphy, who spent their married lives in New York where they owned the Murphy Bed Co. --- yes that Murphy Bed.

Curiously, only Jack actually lived in Chariton --- but the balance of the family apparently liked Lucas County well enough to spend eternity with us.

Hope to see a good turn-out on the 21st!

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