Monday, January 27, 2014

Cemetery Tales - Rosehill Cemetery

Dad and I took a great trip in the fall of 2012 back to see family in North Dakota, Minnesota and then down to Iowa and Nebraska.  It was on a lovely Fall day when we pulled into Rosehill Cemetery in Kirkman, Shelby Co., IA.  My great great grandparents had come up to Iowa from Tennessee and there was a special excitement to see the small community cemetery where they were buried!

My Father - Gene Johnson at his great grandparents grave

Washington Abraham Johnson was born on 25 Oct 1819 in Greensboro, Guilford Co., NC to Moses Johnson and Nancy Mayfield.  He was the second oldest of five children.  His family left North Carolina and traveled to Carter Co., TN to the small town of Hampton.  In 1855, he married Mary Ann Smith, the daughter of Jacob Cunningham Smith and Eleanor Wilson.  Mary Ann was born on 16 Apr 1830 in New Market, Jefferson Co., TN and it was in New Market where Washington and Mary married on 21 Aug 1855.  In 1862, Washington and Mary Ann fled from Tennessee to Iowa to escape the Civil War with their three young children.  They first went to Jasper Co., IA where Washington's brother, Henderson lived but were in Kirkman by 1870.  Washington Abraham and Mary Ann had eleven children, ten who survived to adulthood.  Washington Abraham Johnson lived to the grand old age of 97 years of age, dying on 14 Feb 1917 while his wife of 61 years lived to the age of 85, dying on 14 Mar 1916.

So, here we were on that lovely September day in 2012, Dad I and I pulled into the driveway of Rose Hill Cemetery.  Dad had been there before his mother and my Mom.  They got out and searched the entire cemetery to at last find Washington and Mary Ann's grave.  When they pulled out of the cemetery, they noticed a sign at the entrance that told them where everyone was buried in the cemetery.  Mom told me later that she learned a valuable lesson - always take the time to look around and see what is there.

Dad and I were able to find the cemetery stone fairly quickly without consulting the cemetery listing - but then I had a head start.  I had seen photographs of the gravestone and knew what it looked like.  Near their grave was that of their daughter, Maggie with her husband and children buried nearby (Maggie and Charles Rank).  Of all of their children, only their daughter was buried in the same cemetery.

As far as I could see, most of Iowa is relatively flat and without the wealth of trees that I was used.  It was impossible to know where Washington and Mary Ann lived exactly.  I do have a photo of their house and know that they were farmers.  The town of Kirkman now only has a population of about 64, so it is pretty tiny.  It has been around since about 1880 and was incorporated in 1892.  So, to my shock it is younger than my own hometown of Lewiston, ID.  I do know that they attended the Methodist Church and since the church I found in time was built before my ancestor's I would guess that they probably attended the church.

I can't say that I learned anything special about my great great grandparents that day, however seeing where they lived, went to church and where they were buried gave me some sort of context.  I had seen the land where the Johnson's immigrated to in Tennessee and where Washington's father was buried.  Now, I was able to see where Washington and his wife of 61 years were buried.  I must admit that it did my heart good to add context to all of the census records and photos that I had seen of them over the years.  Something that anyone who researches their family genealogy can truly understand!

Washington & Mary Smith Johnson abt 1914
Washington Abraham Johnson abt 1855

Mary Ann Smith abt 1855