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View From The Attic

12 January 2009

by Danette Hein-Snider

Wm. H. Barger of Monroe Township

Interesting Life Details Found In Obituaries


The reason a historical museum saves and stores obituaries is for the wealth of information such materials provide researchers, historians and family genealogists. Besides, they are full of fascinating , real-life stories that are interesting to read.  Take this obituary from 1858 for example:

“We regret to learn that Wm. H. Barger of Monroe Township was drowned on the 20th inst, while endeavoring to swim across Walnut Creek. The stream was not over 3 or 4 rods wide, but he went in with his clothes all on, and the current being swift he was unable to keep above water. Mr B. was about 45 years of age, and leaves a large family to mourn their loss.” (The Fremont Herald 31 July 1858)
This brief death notice fails to provide the interesting details of William's life. He was married to Ferraby Frost on June 15, 1837 in Fairfield, Iowa and to this union nine children were born, the youngest, Charlotte, was born December 22, 1858 in Walnut Creek, Fremont County, after her father died in July. 
William Harrison Barger was one of the young men who enlisted in the Mormon Battalion and marched with the battalion from Council Bluffs to San Diego, CA. Following his discharge on July 16, 1847, he traveled to Sutter's Mill in Northern California. William was at the mill the day gold was discovered and it is reported that he was the first man shown the precious metal by the finder (Carter, Our Pioneer Heritage, 9:498).
In 1848 he left California and migrated to Fremont County, Iowa, to live with his family. On July 23rd 1858 he was returning home after attending the funeral of Vine Pease, his friend and school teacher neighbor, who had been killed by lightening. William, contrary to the newspaper account, accidentally fell off the foot-log bridge spanning Walnut Creek, and drowned.  

William Barger was the third burial in Chambers Cemetery. Gartra Meredith Chambers, wife of Ezekiel Chambers (the cemetery is named for him), was the first. Gartra was making soap but it was when a lightening-strike caught the barn on fire that she and her daughter, Caroline, tried to get the horses out.  Gartra was knocked down by a colt and the silk trim on her dress caught fire and caused severe burns.  She died from infection a few days later. and was buried on the family farm near Walnut Creek. The second burial was the neighbor, Vine Pease who was struck by lightening.  The fourth internment was that of a child of a pioneer family who were driving by and asked if they could bury their child near the other graves. 

In such a way many early cemeteries were created.