Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Cemetery Tour No. 5: Carl Jones & good Samaritans

This is the final post of five that have consisted largely of the scripts used on Sunday, Sept. 25, during the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission's 13th annual Chariton Cemetery Heritage Tour, "Stories from Potter's Field."

Trae Hall portrayed Carl Jones, a young man who died during 1932 as a stranger among us, cared for during the final weeks of his life by good Samaritans.


My name is Carl Jones and I was a stranger to Chariton and critically ill back in January of 1932. But you took me in, cared for me and when I died you buried me here, in the Potter’s Field. 

“He was a splendid young man,” Chariton Leader editor Henry Gittinger wrote of me when announcing my passing. “His death when life seemed so full of promise, and among strangers, was sad.” 

I was just 21 that winter and my older brother, Lealon, was 24. He sat by my bedside at Yocom Hospital during those final six weeks of life --- and never forgot your kindness, or my grave. More than 20 years later, he returned to Lucas County and bought me a tombstone --- so mine is now among the marked graves here. 


I was never much of a complainer, but you could call me the original hard-luck kid if you wanted to look at my life that way. 

I was born during 1911 at West Frankfort in far southern Illinois. My folks were Larkin and Jennie Jones; Dad was a coal miner. I had an older brother, Lealon, and sister, Verdell, and by 1918, three younger siblings. 

Our family was like any other until that year, when the great flu epidemic --- which hit southern Illinois especially hard --- killed my baby brother, Clyde; my mother; and on Oct. 29, my dad at the age of 33. I was 7 at the time. 

There was no one to take care of us after that, so places were found at the new orphanage, now known as the Baptist Children’s Home, in nearby Carmi, which the pastor of Carmi First Baptist Church and two of his deacons had established that year to care for children orphaned by World War I and the flu epidemic. 

The younger ones were adopted, but there were so many of us there --- 40 by 1920 --- who were a little older. No one could be found to take us in. 

Once we reached our teens, however, and were able to do heavier work, most of us were placed with families willing to exchange room and board for our labor, so both Lealon and Verdell had been farmed out by 1920. 

A few years later, a job as a farm hand was found for me, too, and I left the orphanage. Lealon and Verdell always kept track of me, however. 


During those years in the orphanage, I had contracted tuberculosis, then called consumption, and by 1930 I was having trouble doing the type of physical work required of a farm hand. 

By the fall of 1931, my condition had grown so serious that the doctor told us that my only hope was to move west to a higher and dryer place. 

Lealon, who by now had an old car and a little money, decided to take me to Colorado, hoping to save my life. He figured that he had enough money to get us there, then could find a job to support us. 

We started out from McLeansboro during the latter half of January, 1932, planning to drive through to Colorado as fast as we could. We turned west onto U.S. 34 at Burlington and reached Chariton late in the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 22. Ordinarily, we slept in the car --- but I was really sick that day and so Lealon took a room for us at the Bates House hotel. 

That night, my lungs began to hemorrhage and I became critically ill. The hotel staff told Lealon to take me to Yocom Hospital. Dr. Yocom and his wife, Jennie, met us there and were very kind, but they told Lealon that I could not recover. 

I could not travel and even if I could, we had no place to go. So I was cared for at Yocom Hospital for six weeks and Lealon never left my side, although many people in town --- including members of First Baptist Church --- were very kind to us. 

I seemed to improve at times, but then was wracked by more hemorrhages and grew gradually weaker until I died near midnight on Friday, March 4. 

The Dunshees took charge of my remains and Harry Secor, pastor of First Baptist Church, took charge of Lealon. Rev. Secor conducted my funeral on the Monday following at the Dunshee Funeral Home and burial followed here in Potter’s Field. Lucas County paid my medical bills --- $210 for six weeks of care at Yocom Hospital. 


After I died, Lealon went on to Colorado, where he found work as a lumberjack, then he returned to Illinois and went to work for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. He served during World War II, then went back to his job with the railroad. It was a good job and he was able to put some money aside. He used some of that to return to Chariton, visit my grave and order the tombstone that now marks my resting place. Lealon died during 1974 in McLeansboro, where our journey had begun 42 years earlier.

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