IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.


Mowing the Cemetery
A weekly newspaper column
by Bev Bernhard


Bev's articles appear in The Outlook a local weekly publication in Monona.
They are published on the Clayton co IAGenWeb with permission of the author.
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Had you told me while working on my second college degree that one of the most pleasurable jobs I’d ever have would be mowing the cemetery, I’d have had a big laugh.

Four or five hours of sitting on a lawn tractor gives you plenty of time to think and the constant progression of names opens up a local history book that is fascinating.

As a genealogist of fourty-plus years, I couldn’t just mow by the stories. Armed with Melvin and Marion Beimfohr’s local history book, “Giard’s First Hundred Years”, I found the owner of Lot 1, Herman Schneider.

"Herman was born in Hesse, Germany in 1811. He left at the age of seventeen in order to avoid being drafted into the German Army. He was six weeks on the sailing vessel to New York, where he landed around 1828, a very sick young man with only thirty-five cents in his pocket.

He found an old barn and crept into it for shelter. Some children at play found him, and told their folks, who then investigated, and tried to talk to him. But he didn’t know how to speak English and they didn’t know German, so they contacted an old German blacksmith and he took Herman in. After he had regained his health, Herman worked for the man and learned the blacksmith trade and also gunsmithing.

Because he wasn’t doing too well financially, he decided to enlist in the U. S. Army and came west. He was stationed at Ft. Crawford at Prairie du Chien. During the Blackhawk War, Herman served as gunsmith for the Army. It was while he was at Ft. Crawford that he met Martha Foster, a girl born in Ohio, who had come to work in a hotel in Prairie du Chien. They were married in Ft. Crawford.

After the Blackhawk War was over, and the treaty with the Indians signed, the government was pledged to repair the guns of the Indians, so they could use them for hunting. Herman was sent to Ft. Atkinson,

  in Iowa, to do this work. He made many trips between Ft. Atkinson and Ft. Crawford during this period, travelling along the Old Military Trail. He learned to know many Indians personally, and could speak their language.

The story is told, that on one of his trips between the forts, he stopped overnight at an inn in Luana. Some Indians got up a sort of war party (probably under the influence of liquor which could be obtained by them at Hardin, north of Luana, since it was just over the line from the “Neutral Grounds” on which liquor was forbidden), and decided to attack the inn; scalping and burning their object.

Mr. Schneider was an exceedingly brave man, and he went out to speak to the whooping warriors. Hearing their own language, they quieted down and listened. After some arguments, he was able to talk them out of carrying out their grisly plans.

In 1842, he entered claim to a 160 acre homestead in Giard Township. He was one of the township’s first landowners.

Herman wrote back to Germany and sent for his brothers, other relatives and friends (who did come, but that’s another time mowing).

When a company was formed to build a narrow gauge railroad to Elkader, ties and rails were needed. Because it was planned to use the cheaper wooden rails instead of metal, Herman put up a saw mill near the creek that runs through Bogus Hollow, on his farm, and started to turn out ties and rails.

The Iowa Eastern as the company was named, was started in November of 1871. After three years, it still hadn’t quite reached Elkader, but trains ran as far as they could. The company went broke and it is said Mr. Schneider lost a good deal of money because the company couldn’t pay him.

The Schneiders lived on their farm for over fifty years and they passed away within a year of each other, Herman in 1896 and Martha, in 1897.”

Right by their graves, under the big maple tree is a great place for a picnic lunch.

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There are very few epitaphs on the tombstones at Giard Cemetery and most of them have succumbed to time and weather, but there’s one in particular that struck my fancy. The stone reads: Pamelia, wife of Wm. Reed died Dec 2, 1892 aged 72y 3m 28d “She done what she could.”

An epitaph is supposed to make you think and this one sure did for me. I wondered what it was she “done”, so I went hunting to see if I could find out some more about her or her family. The Reed family wasn’t mentioned in the Beimfohr books, so I headed for the internet.

I found her husband, William S. Reed in the 1852 Iowa State Census for Farmersburg Township. They most likely came to Iowa in 1848 or 1849, when the Neutral Ground was opened up for settlement as Willeroy Reed who died in 1849 shares the third side of their tombstone.

They show up next in the 1870 Farmersburg Twp. census and again in the 1880 census.

On Aug 19, 1870 William Reed’s next door neighbor, J. E. Corlett, who also happened to be the census taker that year, finally got around to including William and Pamelia in the census. William was 50 and had been born about 1820 in NY, Pamelia was 49 and also born in NY, and their daughter Lura was 18 years old and had been born in Iowa. William’s farm was valued at $1,800 and he had a personal estate of $1,106. No one in the family could read or write, but then, neither could their neighbors.

  I found William on a list of Civil War soldiers. He and his 16 year old brother Charles enlisted on 14 Aug. 1862 at McGregor and joined Company G, 21st Infantry Regiment Iowa on 22 Aug. 1862. William mustered out on 15 July 1865 in Baton Rouge, LA, having fought in numerous battles, including Vicksburg. Brother Charles was killed at age 17 at Jackson, Tenn. and his name is on the fourth side of the stone.

Many say you can find out just about anything about anybody on the web. Considering that Pamelia died 114 years ago I’d say finding this much is pretty amazing. I guess I “done what I could”, too.

By the way, both William and Pamelia’s parents were born in Vermont.

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This week I had the pleasure of meeting with Sharyl Ferrall who is the coordinator of the Allamakee County and Clayton County websites for the USGenWeb Project. GenWeb is a group of volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. Sharyl is originally from Postville and is now living in Alaska.

In addition to mowing the cemetery this summer I have been doing a “reading” of the cemetery for the USGenWeb Project, a copy of which will also go into the archives of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston. It amounts to making a list of the names and dates of birth and death and anything else written on the tombstones so that people can find out about family members they may never have known.

During the depression, one of the jobs done by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was to make this same sort of list. Hardest of all has been that not all the stones are still readable or are broken and some even partially or mostly buried.

  As Sharyl and I talked about local history, we put pieces of stones together and tried to glean the information from them. We even found one mostly buried stone that wasn’t on anybody’s list with a death date of 1852, which makes it one of the oldest stones there. After putting the stone pieces together, we photographed them and made note of the information and then returned them to the way they were. The next step will be attempting to use computer enhancement to bring out the writing on the stones. [read more in the next article]

Simeon Phillips, who was born in 1793 and died in 1864 has the distinction of having the earliest birth date in the cemetery. His daughter, Julia, married Peter Farley at the Villa Louis in 1856. She was born in Chautauqua County, NY in 1835.

Stop in and visit the Clayton County IAGenWeb site at http://iagenweb.org/clayton. You just may see some of your family there!

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When I came whizzing around the tree I saw SugarBear on his hands and knees looking down into the shallow hole at the stone Sharyl Ferral and I found last week. Computer enhancement of the pictures finally gave us her name, Katharina Trueger, born Sept 1823 died 18 May 1852, aged 28 years 8 months.

I found a G. Trueger in Hesse Germany who was born in 1822 and I found a Catherine Trueger on the Passenger and Immigration lists as having immigrated in 1847 to New Orleans. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that she was part of the group that came back with Henry Froelich when he brought a group of people from his home town of Kassel in the Grand Duchy of Hesse in Germany.

Henry Froelich, Melvin Beimfohr says, “came to America in the 1840’s and made his home near Herman Schneider. In 1847, Mr. Froelich went back to Germany and related how wonderful America was. The passenger pigeons were in Giard Township in countless numbers, the fields were full of prairie chickens, deer, elk, and smaller game abounded, and the streams were full of fish. Remarked Henry Froelich, dryly, “the fried pigeons fly right into your mouth in Iowa!” He brought a large group of friends and relatives to America when he came back. Some sources say there were 20 in the group, others 28, men, women, and even small children.”

After a three month voyage across the Atlantic to New Orleans, they took a steam boat up the river to McGregor’s Landing, arriving on the 6th of June, 1847. They walked the six miles up the Military Trail to the Herman Schneider farm.

  The Schneiders’ didn’t know this group was coming, but in true frontier style, they provided food and shelter for them, and not only for that day, but in the days to come until one by one the families found homes of their own.

Now I don’t know about you, but having 28 or so extra guests for dinner and a sleepover for a month or five would put a serious strain on my hospitality. They probably put some of those flying fried pigeons to good use.

Katharina Trueger may or may not have been married. If she was, her husband must have moved on as there are no others by the name of Trueger buried in the cemetery. Even if I don’t really know much of anything about her, at least her name which had been hidden for who knows how many years has been found. You think about these kinds of things when you mow the cemetery.

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Bev & I met at the cemetery one morning in late September 2006. She filled me in on her project of the past 3 summers .... transcribing & researching the Giard cemetery; and we talked about the local history and some of the people who settled the Giard area. A highlight of the day was practically running into the gravestone of one of my own ancestral family members. I'd looked and looked for her marker several years ago, but never found it. Another highlight was uncovering Katharina Trueger's stone. What an exciting find! Katharina's spirit must have been with us that day!

Thanks for the great day at the Giard cemetery Bev!! I sure enjoyed meeting you.

Sharyl Ferrall

 

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