Monday, December 30, 2013

Musical Graves & A Mystery Solved

In autumn 2011, I posted about the practice of grave robbing in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. This late 19th century practice has been well documented, but the actual number of bodies stolen has not been. As part of the post, I related a family story that was written down and added to the E.E. Barton Papers in the 1940s: "My Mother never did think that her grandfather [Samuel Cox] rested in his grave, for just in a night or two at 12 o'clock, a man left that grave with something wrapped in white lying across his horse in front of him. The man was a truthful man, and is a brother-in-law of my father, Newton Humble was the man. [Speaking of the witness]. We always thought that it was old Dr. Thomas, and that he probably took the body to Cincinnati and the medical college to find out what was the cause of his death." Pearl Allender 

For decades, my family has known where this small family plot was located. My Great-Grandmother, Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer, would always point it out to us, and when I was early into my genealogy journey, my Mother and I visited a few times. We knew this was the resting place of Samuel Cox (d.1857) and his first wife, Mary Dean Cox (d.1836), on their farm, Cox's Run. The stones were in terrible shape - hardly legible with lichens filling in the carvings. They were so bad that photographs did not help, and so I took notes about each stone. The plot only contained a few graves. Two upright, carved stones, and a couple of rocks sticking out of the ground with no markings/carvings. Per Kentucky law, the landowner had been faithful about keeping them from harm by placing his bales of hay around the plot each year. There was a small fence, but things were deteriorating, and they did sit dangerously close to the road.
Samuel and Mary Cox Graves, taken in 1996
In a surprise move out of left field, Jim Cox, another distant cousin and descendant of Samuel Cox, recently decided that they were in harms way. He took action and paid to have the graves re-located to a larger cemetery that already contained many of this couple's descendants. According to reports from John Peoples of Peoples Funeral Home in Falmouth, they disinterred each grave, but only found remains in two of them: the two adult graves with carved stones. With no remains being found in the rock marked graves, everyone assumes these were infants and already decomposed to dust. Both sets found were re-interred into the same grave next to Sam & Mary's Grandson, Jeremiah Cox in Lenoxburg Cemetery. If my memory serves me correctly, Jeremiah is on the outer edge of the cemetery, not too far from other Grandchildren of Sam & Mary - a very fitting spot for them - and quite romantic as this was the original couple who produced so many Cox descendants. I'm certain they would have approved.

So....with two sets of remains being found (one set was more complete than the other), this might suggest that our old family story related through many generations was just that - a story. Which, actually makes me feel better. I was hoping Grandpa Cox was resting peacefully in his grave, and not scattered to the wind without his family's knowledge or permission. This also exonerates poor Doc Thomas as Pearl accused so many years ago. Will this make me leave this story out of our family history? NO WAY!! I still love this story, and it serves as a valuable example of the oral grapevine that flourished in our family - even if the tale was wrong. do we know there wasn't some community truth to the story? In other words, maybe there wasn't a grave robbing going on....but maybe some other nefarious activity? Was someone sitting in a graveyard getting drunk and needed to be carted home? Was the person on the horse drunk and merely took a small detour late at night through the graveyard? Or, was Newton Humble drunk as a skunk that night, and telling a whopper only seen in his imagination? With any of these scenarios, it makes for a colorful addition to the family narrative! Besides, the conclusion they all made about the sight in the middle of the night proves the prolific nature of the grave robbing rumors in the area.

As for a small post script, their new stone has not been made just yet. That is a work in progress. Another cousin, Eric Peelman, has been hot on the trail of this story and is helping with the effort to replace the stone. They had hoped to re-incorporate the old stones into a new monument, but that might prove to be too cost prohibitive. However, Eric sent me these wonderful photos of the stones after they had been cleaned off - how beautiful they were under the years of lichen build-up!! We rarely get to see them in this state, so I was delighted with the end results. I can't wait to see what they have in store as a monument. Once that is up, I will travel to that cemetery for more photos!



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