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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, March 31, 2016, Pages 1 & 9

Tombstone mystery
Who was the Ringgold County man who doanted orphans' monument?

[Editor's Note: The following unsolved mystery features a man from "Ringgold" County, Iowa who graciously funded the placement of a monument in the Orphan's Section of a Davenport cemetery. This article, found at http:..blogs.davenportlibrary.com'sc/2015=4/05/22/th-mystery-of-the-orphans-monument/ is reprinted courtesy of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center - Davenport Library.]

Standing like a sentinel over the headstones in the Orphans' Section in Oakdale Memorial Gardens Cemetery is a large granite monument, surrounded by mystery.

Staring in November of 1865, Orphans from the Iowa Soldiers' Orphans Home (later renamed the Annie Whittenmyer Home) were originally buried in Section 6 at Oakdale Cemetery.

In 1883, the Oakdale Cemetery board donated an area near Section 15 for a new resting place for the orphans. On October 3, 1883, the Davenport Weekly Gazette reported that fifty-three orphans were being removed to their new burial section.

By February 1884, the Davenport Daily Gazette and the Davenport Weekly Gazette were reporting that the Board of Trustees at the Soldier's Orphans Home had decided a large monument was needed for the Orphans' section at Oakdale.

Fortunately, they had $600 from a bequest to be used as needed and the money was used to purchase the large monument that stands today near the orphans' graves. The monument was installed on May 1, 1884.

Inscribed on the face of the monument are the words:

"To The Memory of Iowa Soldiers Orphans, Erected A. D. 1885.
"Through the Benevolence of William D. Berryhill of Ringold [sic] Co. Iowa
"Their Fathers Fought for the Union."

(The county is correctly spelled "Ringgold". As the newspapers of the time also spelled it "Ringgold", we can only guess a mistake was made by the monument carver.)

And who was William D. Berryhill of Ringgold County, Iowa?

The answer is simple. We don't know.

Even the facts about Mr. Berryhill supplied in the newspaper accounts don't match. The Davenport Daily Gazette article from February 13, 1884 indicates the $600 was a donation from a man from Ringgold County who had sold 40 acres of land to be used as the trustees would prefer.

But the Davenport Weekly Gazette on February 27, 1884 lists the monument being paid for by a gift received through the will of a deceased former resident of Ringgold County.

[Page 9] While the February 13th article sounds like the bequest of a living individual, the February 27th clearly indicates it is part of a deceased individual's will.

A US General Land Office Records search on Ancestry.com for Ringgold County, Iowa, comes up empty for a William D. Berryhill owning land there.

A Census search on Ancestry.com finds a William D. Berryhill lived in Louisa and Johnson Counties in Iowa, but not Ringgold [County]. This Berryhill was born in 1824 Pennsylvania, but did not die until March 1907 in Lousia County. His obituary indicates he owned land throughout Iowa.

If the February 13th article is correct with a ilving donor it could be this William D. Berryhill, but if the February 27th story is true, it certainly would not be him. Sadly, at this time, we have no confirmed information about who Mr. Berryhill was or why he would single out the Orphans' Home for a bequest.

If you know the answer to this mystery, please let us know!

[You may contact the Davenport Public Library at http://www/davenportlibrary.com.]

Transcriber's Note: On the 1855 Iowa State Census, William D. Berryhill appears as age 31, born ca. 1824 at Pennsylvania, residence at Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa . Residing with William are his wife, Anna, age 25; son Andrew, age 2; infant son William; Eliza (illegible), age 15; and Margaret Boty, age 26.

A search at ancestry.com states that William D. Berryhill married in 1853 to Esther Ann Wildman (1835-1915).

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2016


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