Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day Two of the Midwest Family History Expo

WOW! What a day yesterday was. Excellent presentations at the Midwest Family History Expo.

Learned more about using Google Earth to create interactive tours of your ancestor's lives. Amazing!! Also how to locate missing relatives using some of the same procedures Private Investigators do. And found out the latest at the National Archives.

There just wasn't enough time to attend all of the sessions I would have loved to.  Everyone is amazed and thrilled at how far family research has come, thanks to the Internet.  And more changes are on the way...just making it easier for us to find our ancestors.  : )

Met great people and had a blast!  But now it's time to head back to the South!

~ Joy

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Midwest Family Expo Update:

Attended Day 1 of the Midwest Family History Expo yesterday!

Though the weather in Kansas City is HOT (Temps in the low to mid 100's) the Expo has been very COOL!!

Went to sessions with Ruby Coleman who talked about Networking on the Internet.

Lisa Louise Cooke
M. Bridget Cook
Lisa Louise Cooke - a Google dynamo - held two sessions on what you can really do with Google regarding family history.  I think she's doing things even Google doesn't know how to do yet ; )

And,  M. Bridget Cook discussed 25 ways to write compelling true stories.  A very interesting person who knows how to connect with her audience!  Met some great people from around Kansas and Missouri at dinner!

Saw a great T-shirt that said "I seek dead people." ; )

I present a session at 2:30 today called....'A Grave Interest - Digging Into Cemetery Research!"  I'm sooo excited to be a part of this : D

~ Joy

Friday, July 29, 2011

Forgotten Assets

I am in Kansas City, Kansas, attending and presenting at the Midwest Family History Expo this weekend!  I have not attended this conference before, but with over 80 presentations offered, this looks to be a very busy and informative two days!  I will talk about cemetery research on Saturday and show some examples of what we "Tombstone Tourists' love to do.

Unfortunately, in all of my excitement in getting everything ready....I left my blog research and pics for today's blog on my home computer, back in Lexington.  My apologies!  Look for it next Friday.

This coming Tuesday, we'll take a look at the Lexington (Kentucky) Cemetery in our monthly 'Cemeteries Worth the Visit' blog!

Have a great weekend!

~ Joy

Friday, July 22, 2011

Public Enemy Number One – John Dillinger

John H. Dillinger
America’s number one gangster was killed on July 22, 1934 at the Biograph Theatre, betrayed by the infamous ‘Lady in Red.’  In the short period of time, from May 1933 to July 1934, Dillinger robbed over ten banks throughout the Midwest, killed 10 men, wounded seven and staged three jail breaks in which a sheriff was killed and two guards were injured.

He was born John Herbert Dillinger in the Oak Hill section of Indianapolis Indiana on June 22, 1903.  His parents were John Wilson Dillinger, a grocer, and Mollie Lancaster.  Dillinger’s mother died when he was three.  His father remarried when John was nine, but he bitterly resented his stepmother. 

Dillinger Farm - Mooresville, Indiana
At the age of sixteen, Dillinger dropped out of school and began working at a machine shop in Indianapolis. It was during this period that he fell in with the wrong crowd.  His father, worried that John was hanging with the wrong element, moved his family to a farm near Mooresville, Indiana.  The move did little to tame John’s nature and he was soon in trouble with the law.  He enlisted in the Navy, but ended up deserting.

Beryl Hovious
In 1924 he married 16-year-old Beryl Hovious.  They moved to Indianapolis where Dillinger searched but could not find work.  He again became involved with the criminal element.  He and another man were accused of robbing a grocer of $555.  Dillinger, following his father’s advice, pleaded guilty and was given the maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.  He was paroled almost nine years later, bearing a grudge against the law - and some in-prison training on the finer aspects of bank robbing from Walter Dietrich.

Indiana State Prison - 1927
Dillinger's Fingerprint Chart
Dillinger now had a score to settle with the cops.  He began robbing banks and taunting police.  He was arrested on September 22, 1933 in Dayton, Ohio and held in the county jail.  On October 12, four “guards” arrived at the jail in order to pick Dillinger up and return him to the Indiana State Prison.  When proof was requested, one of the “guards” pulled a gun, shot the sheriff, and locked the sheriff’s wife and deputy in a cell.  They then released Dillinger and all five made their getaway.

Dillinger and his gang began staging bank robberies throughout the Midwest.  The FBI became involved, due to the dangerous nature of Dillinger and his group.  Armed with machine guns, ammunition and bulletproof vests, Dillinger and his gang began knocking over banks in earnest.  They were apprehended on January 23, 1934, along with $25,000 in cash.

Dillinger with Gun
Dillinger was being held in the Crown Point, Indiana jail, awaiting trail, when he staged a notorious jailbreak, stole a sheriff’s car and drove to Chicago.  Once there, he hooked up with Homer Van Meter, Eddie Green, Tommy Carroll and Lester Gillis – better known as ‘Baby Face Nelson’   - the four comprising Dillinger’s gang.

The gang continued robbing banks, until FBI agents located where the Dillinger was staying.  When agents tried to arrest Dillinger, someone armed with a machine gun sprayed the hallway of the apartment building and Dillinger escaped, along with Van Meter. Green later died of his wounds.

Baby Face Nelson
Little Bohemia Lodge
Dillinger and Van Meter then robbed a police station in Warsaw, Indiana of guns and bulletproof vests.  They proceeded to a summer resort known as Little Bohemia Lodge, near Rhinelander, Wisconsin where they met up with Baby Face Nelson.  The FBI was in hot pursuit and cornered Nelson in a car where he was holding three local residents hostage at gunpoint.  When Nelson saw the police he opened fire on them, killing one and severely wounding two others.   Meanwhile, Dillinger had fled the lodge.

Melvin Purvis
J. Edgar Hoover
In Washington, FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover became involved.  A special squad of agents, headed by Melvin Purvis, was set up, intent on the capture of John Dillinger, dead or alive. 

Wanted Poster
Dillinger was declared America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” and a reward of $10,000 dollars was offered for his capture.

Anna Sage
On July 21, 1934 Anna Sage (Ana Cumpanas) a Rumania immigrant and well-known brothel madam, contacted the police and offered to lead them to Dillinger in return for the prevention of her deportation and some cash.  Agents agreed.  She told them she would be wearing a red dress when she was with Dillinger. (It was actually an orange skirt and white blouse.)

Biography Theatre
On Sunday, July 22, at 8:30 P.M. Anna, Polly Hamilton and John Dillinger went to the Biograph Theatre in Chicago to see Manhattan Melodrama –a gangster film. 

Dillinger's Gun
At 10:30 P.M., Dillinger and his two companions exited the theatre.  Dillinger was able to pull his gun before being shot three times by FBI agents.  John Dillinger died at 10:50 p.m. at Alexin Brothers Hospital.

Crowd Viewing Body
Dillinger was taken to the funeral home in Mooresville, Indiana where close to 10,000 people viewed his body.  

Dillinger Family Stone
John Dillinger's Grave
He was then buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, next to his parents.  He was 31 years old.

~ Joy

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Making of The National Cemetery System

Crown Hill National Cemetery
Abraham Lincoln

The National Cemetery System was developed as a way to provide a respectable and honored burial location for Civil War soldiers killed defending the Union.  In the Act of July 17, 1862, Congress authorized President Abraham Lincoln "to purchase cemetery grounds ... to be used as a national cemetery for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country."  This was the first U.S. legislation to set in motion the concept of a national cemetery.

Before the national cemeteries were developed, soldiers were buried where they fell, at military posts, or the body was sent back to the family for a private burial.  A headboard was usually placed at the grave with the soldier’s name and information either painted on or written on in chalk.  Since the wooden markers could not with stand the elements, the boards deteriorated rapidly and burial sites were lost.

Nashville National Cemetery

In July of 1862, the Army’s Quartermaster Department was assigned the task of establishing and maintaining the national cemeteries. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, the program began in earnest – to search for, locate, recover, and identify the remains of all Union soldiers, before re-interment in a national cemetery.  By June 1866, over 1 million dollars had been spent re-interring the war dead.  The Quartermaster General estimated that over $2.6 million would be the ''total cost of national cemeteries, and collection, transfer and re-interment of remains of loyal soldiers.'' The average cost of re-interment for each body was $9.75.

The first National Cemetery Act was passed on February 22, 1867.  It provided funding in the amount of $750-thousand for the construction of national cemeteries, including the purchase of land, fencing and headstones.  The act also set some rules into place regarding conduct in a national cemetery stating, “any person who shall willfully destroy, mutilate, deface, injure, or remove any monument, gravestone . . . or shrub within the limits of any said national cemetery” would be arrested and found guilty of a misdemeanor.

U.S. Colored Troops Burial Grounds
Union Head Stone

The headstone design was subject to several years of debates.  Many materials were suggested, including cast iron.  Final approval and the appropriation of 1-million dollars was given by Congress, in March 1873 for the erection of a marble or granite headstone, measuring 12 inches high by 10 inches wide by 4 inches thick, with a slightly rounded top.  Name, rank or affiliation was placed in a federal shield carved into the stone.  Headstones for the regular Army soldiers were marked as “USA.”  Stones for the U.S. Colored Troops were marked as “USCT.”  Due to interpretation of the act, stones for ‘contrabands’ and civilians were not allowed.

Marble or granite headstones for those whose remains were unidentified measured 6 inches high by 6 inches wide and 30 inches deep.  They were marked only with a number and/or by the words “Unknown U.S. Soldier.” Forty-two percent of the bodies and remains recovered were never identified.
It took eight years for the interment of nearly almost 300,000 Union remains into designated national cemetery grounds.  Of those, over one hundred thousand were not identifiable. In 1870, General Montgomery Meigs declared the reburial project to be completed with a total of seventy-three national cemeteries created.  However, more would need to be created in the West where fallen soldiers had been abandoned at their frontier posts.

During the 1870’s several amendments were added to the National Cemetery Act of 1867 to allow the burial of Union veterans in national cemeteries.  In 1872, an amendment was passed to allow “all soldiers and sailors honorably discharged from the service of the United States who may die in a destitute condition, shall be allowed burial in the national cemeteries of the United States.”

As a result of the amendments, many national cemeteries began to be located throughout the country – not just at the site of Civil War battles.   National cemeteries were set up in New Mexico, Nevada, California, and Mexico City, Mexico for those slain in the Mexican War.

Fredrick L Olmsted

Landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted was called in to offer his opinion on the appearance of the national cemeteries.  Olmsted advised, “the main object should be to establish permanent dignity and tranquility ... sacredness being expressed in the enclosing wall and in the perfect tranquility of the trees within.”   As a result, trees and shrubs were added to the national cemeteries, flowers were planted, and stone, brick or iron fences enclosed the grounds.  Many times cannons and other artillery were added as cemetery monuments.

Courtesy of
Arlington National Cemetery
Gen. Montgomery Meigs

In June of 1881, General Meigs issued a recommendation that “Arlington cemetery, … be declared and constituted by law the official national cemetery of the government, and that its space, not needed for the interment of soldiers, be used for the burial of officers of the United States legislative, judicial, civil, and military, who may die at the seat of government or whose friends may desire their interment in a public national cemetery.”

Confederate stones

In 1906, over forty years after the war, legislation passed that allowed the re-interment of Confederate soldiers in national cemeteries.

There are now 131 national cemeteries located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.  Many are located on or near Civil War battlefields or troop concentration points such as military hospitals and campsites.  The original fourteen national cemeteries, created in 1862 are –
Alexandria National Cemetery, Alexandria, Virginia
Annapolis National Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland
Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Maryland
Camp Butler National Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois
Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Danville National Cemetery, Danville, Kentucky
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas 

Fort Scott National Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas
Keokuk National Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa
Loudon Park National Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
Mill Springs National Cemetery, Nancy, Kentucky
New Albany National Cemetery, New Albany, Indiana
Philadelphia National Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Soldier’s Home National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Since 1862, more than 3-million burials have occurred in national cemeteries.  The purpose of the National Cemetery System remains the same as it did 149 years ago; to provide a proper burial service, headstone, and interment in hallowed ground for veterans, those on active duty, reservists and National Guard members who serve and defend our country.

~ Joy

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Summertime Decision....

A Grave Interest has been posting on Tuesdays and Fridays.  For the next two months, I will be taking Tuesdays off.  After starting a new job, moving to a different section of the country, and preparing to present and speak at the Family History Midwest expo, (YEAH!) http://www.family
I'm finding there is not enough time for me to do everything I love to do.

Joy & Brian on the Kentucky River
Plus, my husband Brian, requested that I find some free time so we could enjoy the summer (and some cemeteries) together.  So, with that in mind, from now until Tuesday, September 6, A Grave Interest will only post on Fridays, except for the first Tuesday of the month feature "Cemeteries Worth the Visit" which will continue. (As will the regular Friday posting of this blog.)

Thank you for understanding!  I truly LOVE doing this!

So check back this Friday for information on how the National Cemetery system came about.

Now, let's go enjoy the summer and all of those cemeteries just waiting to be explored!!

Till Friday!


Friday, July 8, 2011

What Do Cement Grave Markers Tell Us?

Stroll through enough backwoods country cemeteries and you will eventually find a cement grave marker.  At first, they are surprising to discover, a rough cement stone lying nestled into the dirt.  A marker created when the family couldn’t afford better. 

But with more thought and investigation, you realize that the cement grave marker is actually a symbol that marks certain periods in our country’s history – when we have been pushed to improvise with what we had available; the serious economic depression of the 1890’s, the years during and immediately after WWI, and the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The first was known as the Panic of 1893.  It began with the collapse of the railroads, followed by a run on silver, and bank failures around the country. Unemployment ranged from almost 12% to over 18% during the mid to late 1890’s. All told, over 15,000 companies and 500 banks failed during this period.  Until the Great Depression some 40 years later, the Panic of ’93 was the worst depression the U.S. had ever experienced.

At the start of World War I, the country was again in an economic flux. When the U.S. declared war, financing the war was a major concern.  Higher taxes were called for and short-term borrowing was undertaken as a stopgap.  

Liberty Bonds were issued and the Food Administration was created to assure a fair allotment of food among U.S. citizens.  Although World War I ended in 1918 with the country looking at an economic uplift, the long term effects of a county ill prepared could be felt for a few years after, especially in rural areas, as seen in country cemeteries.

Then came the Great Depression, an economic depression that affected not only America, but also the entire world.  It was the longest and most devastating financial depression of the 20th century.

It began in 1929 with the stock market crash, followed by bank failures and a breakdown of the free markets.  The Great Depression continued until the start of World War II. Unemployment was over 20% throughout the U.S. Farming and rural areas were hit hard along with industrial regions. Families were driven away from their farms by dust storms, locusts and bankers.

The Great Depression continued until the start of World War II. Unemployment was over 20% throughout the U.S. Farming and rural areas were hit hard along with industrial regions. Families were driven away from their farms by dust storms, locusts and bankers.  

During these times of economic despair, burying the dead became a quick and straightforward procedure.  Few could afford monuments, mausoleums or intricate gravestones for their loved ones. 

When there wasn’t money for a ‘good’ tombstone, someone in the family would make a wooden mold and form one from cement.  The deceased’s name and death date would be carved into the cement with a stick, or possibly someone’s finger.

Many times the name and dates were not carved deep enough and did not stand the test of time. 

During these difficult years there were times, when all that was known of the deceased was a name.  If that was not known, then a date was listed to mark the deceased’s passing. 

Some cement stones were more formally cast with lettering and decoration stamped in before the cement set up. 

And some homemade stones were fashioned with care into the shape of a cross, as well as could be done with limited tools.

If a family could not afford cement, they were left with using a rock to mark the grave, painting the information on it. 

Cement grave markers remind us to pause and consider the historical significance of what we see in cemeteries.  These cement stones and markers were crafted by loving hands and grieving hearts.  They are now are considered to be an expression of folk art, utilitarian stones with a story to tell, both in our cemeteries, and our history.