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Cemetery stories

Posted October 09, 2013 in Norwalk
Webb Cemetery is also known as the Spring Hill Independent Order of the Odd Fellow Cemetery or the Greenbush Public Burying Grounds. It has also been called the Lockridge Cemetery because a family by that name lived across the street from it. The cemetery’s early records were destroyed in a fire in the early 1950s.

Webb Cemetery is also known as the Spring Hill Independent Order of the Odd Fellow Cemetery or the Greenbush Public Burying Grounds. It has also been called the Lockridge Cemetery because a family by that name lived across the street from it. The cemetery’s early records were destroyed in a fire in the early 1950s.

There is a small limestone marker in the back of Webb Cemetery under an old pine tree that reads, “Henry.”

The stone is almost so weathered that Henry’s name is only visible in certain lighting. But it was the fact that the marker contained only a first name that intrigued Rosemary Hoover to want to learn more.

Hoover, who serves as trustee of Webb Cemetery, located south of Norwalk, wanted to become educated about Henry and the others buried at Webb Cemetery.

“It was like, ‘Who are these people?’ ” she says. “We’re four or five generations out. They have a personality, and some of the stories are just amazing. They fought in wars and the disease and things they had to overcome.

Rosemary Hoover, trustee of Webb Cemetery, shows some of the information she has uncovered during her months of researching the history of cemeteries in Warren County. She first walks cemeteries to record names and dates, then sifts through history books and looks at obituaries on microfilm machines to learn more about the individuals buried in the cemetery, and interviews family members when possible.

Rosemary Hoover, trustee of Webb Cemetery, shows some of the information she has uncovered during her months of researching the history of cemeteries in Warren County. She first walks cemeteries to record names and dates, then sifts through history books and looks at obituaries on microfilm machines to learn more about the individuals buried in the cemetery, and interviews family members when possible.

Hoover has spent hours, which turned into days, which have become months, first walking the cemetery to record names and dates, and then sifting through history books and looking at obituaries on microfilm to learn more about the individuals buried in the cemetery. She then uploaded the information onto an online cemetery records website for others to view.

“Sometimes I would only find a two-sentence news item,” Hoover says.

She’s completed the work on Webb Cemetery and is in the process of researching burials at Linn Grove and Norwalk cemeteries. She estimates she has thus far gone through about 4,000 obituaries as part of her research.

Hoover’s research and interviews with descendants of those buried at the cemetery answered the question of the identity of a small, weathered stone that reads “Henry.” The stone lies next to a large monument belonging to the Dillard family.

Henry was Henry Clay Vance who was born in Kentucky and had been a slave in the south. He cared for his master’s racehorses, and one of his duties was jockeying. If he was overweight prior to a race, Henry would sit in a barrel of horse dung and cover himself with wool blankets to sweat off the extra pounds. One evening, he took two horses, fled the south and headed north for freedom.

His journey led him to Warren County and the homestead of George W. Dillard Sr. Henry worked for the Dillard family and lived with them, as did his son Joseph, according to the 1880 U.S. Census.

Upon his death, Henry was buried with the Dillard family.

Cemetery is known by several names, contains many graves of early settlers
Webb Cemetery is also known as the Spring Hill Independent Order of the Odd Fellow Cemetery, or the Greenbush Public Burying Grounds. It has also been called the Lockridge Cemetery because a family by that name lived across the street from it. The cemetery’s early records were destroyed in a fire in the early 1950s.

Between 1846 and 1849, Daniel R. Perkins homesteaded 280 acres in the area. A few years later, John Jones Perkins platted out the community of Greenbush, which was a military encampment for a time. The oldest grave is Susan Shelton’s, a niece of Daniel Perkin, who died Dec. 5, 1850. Daniel’s first wife, Evelena, was buried at the cemetery in 1851, as was his brother Elisha in 1853.

In 1856, Daniel and his third wife, France (Webb), conveyed 170 acres to another A.B.C. Davis. The area included the cemetery, but it is not specifically mentioned in the transaction.

In 1860, Davis conveyed 120 acres, minus one acre, to Asa Webb. The acre was the site of the cemetery. The cemetery was later named for Asa and Mary Webb. However, they are not buried in it and instead were buried at Linn Grove Cemetery. That same year, the cemetery was incorporated as the Greenbush Public Burying Grounds, and a cemetery association was formed.

This obituary of Viola Burkhead is one of hundreds that Rosemary Hoover has uncovered as she searches the history of Warren County’s cemeteries. Hoover estimates she’s gone through 4,000 obituaries during the process to uncover the stories of those who are buried in the cemeteries. Burkhead was known for traveling around the city with three of her friends in a Ford Model T. She died in the 1940s and is buried in Linn Grove Cemetery.

This obituary of Viola Burkhead is one of hundreds that Rosemary Hoover has uncovered as she searches the history of Warren County’s cemeteries. Hoover estimates she’s gone through 4,000 obituaries during the process to uncover the stories of those who are buried in the cemeteries. Burkhead was known for traveling around the city with three of her friends in a Ford Model T. She died in the 1940s and is buried in Linn Grove Cemetery.

Greenbush was later abandoned and people moved to nearby Spring Hill. In 1881, the Spring Hill IOOF Lodge No. 435 took over the cemetery. By 1914 the cemetery was nearly full, and additional land was purchased.

The Webb Cemetery Association was formed in 1946, and the name was changed. However, the cemetery also was referred to as the Lockridge Cemetery. Samual and Mary Lockridge lived in the area and had 11 children. Most of their children lived in close proximity to the cemetery. Most members of the Lockridge family are buried at Webb Cemetery, which is why it received their name.

Among those also buried at Webb Cemetery are:

John Brewbaker, who came to Polk County as an adult. He spent a few years in California for work, and on his return trip home in 1862, he was attacked by a group of 40 American Indians. He wounded five but was shot in the lung during the attack. Brewbaker held off the Indians for four hours before he was able to flee. Two pursued him, but he escaped and eventually caught up with a party of immigrants who assisted him. He rode 14 miles before he was able to find a physician who removed the lead ball from his body.

Corp. Alfred Frances, who volunteered in 1861 and served with Co. G of the 3rd Iowa Calvary during the Civil War. He was at Vicksburg, Miss., when the city was surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. He had been wounded earlier in the war and later served in military hospitals tending to the injured and sick.

At least 15 other Civil War veterans, some of whom the graves have been lost over time as the monuments were knocked down.

Norwalk Cemetery expands
It may be hard to believe it now, but Norwalk Cemetery was once outside the city limits. The cemetery was laid out in 1858 under an association. The cemetery association today still has the original minutes in a leather-bound book from that first meeting. Many of those original association members, including Henry Onstot, William Crow and Jonathan Swayne, were buried in the cemetery.

Tom Hughes, chairman of the Norwalk Cemetery Association, and Mike Myer, caretaker of the cemetery, walk among some of the older burial plots in the cemetery, including that of the Kern family.

Tom Hughes, chairman of the Norwalk Cemetery Association, and Mike Myer, caretaker of the cemetery, walk among some of the older burial plots in the cemetery, including that of the Kern family.

H.B. Allison and his wife, Mary, along with David Gabby, sold four acres to the Norwalk Cemetery Association in July 1859 to be used as burying grounds.

Some records indicate Onstot and G.W. White’s little girls were the first to be buried in the cemetery. The only child or infant Onstot grave that can be found today is for a son. A child named Martha White, who was 2 years old, was buried in 1860.

Others buried in the cemetery include:

Benoni Black and his wife, Mary, who were early pioneers of the community.

John Kern and his wife, Miriam (Black). Kern was a major in Co. H of the 34th Iowa Voluntary Regiment. He served in the Civil War from August 1862 until November 1864. His descendants still live on the farm that he began in Norwalk.

Various members of the Easter family, who started a chain of grocery stores beginning with one in Norwalk. The family business expanded into a chain of family centers and hardware stores in four states along with a trucking business and a bank.

Rolland and Grace Gideon, longtime residents of the city. Rolland helped form the Norwalk Volunteer Fire Department and converted a Chevy van to serve as an ambulance.

Many members of the Lane family who first came to the Norwalk area in 1868. Among those buried in the cemetery are 6-year-old Ora Lane, who died in 1876 from a snakebite; and Marion Lane, who survived an appendicitis attack in 1904 that required a surgeon to travel to his home in Warren County.

A man known as Captain Breckenridge, a slave who was brought to Norwalk from the south by Israel Perkins. He worked for many years as a janitor at the Methodist Church.

The Black family were among the pioneers in Norwalk.

The Black family were among the pioneers in Norwalk.

Lots at the Norwalk Cemetery initially sold for 2.5 cents per foot, and it cost $2 to have a grave dug. By 1894, the price for a lot was $10.

In 1904, association members decided to earmark two lots, 1 and 2, for people who could not afford to pay for their lot.

Some of the early markers have been broken by time and weather conditions. The writing on others has weathered away through the years. Most of Norwalk’s pioneers are buried in the middle of the cemetery. In addition, there are at least eight graves that have been lost because the markers were broken off and removed.

As of today, the cemetery is 12.5 acres in size. It is almost two-thirds full, which has cemetery association members looking toward the future, says Tom Hughes, chairman of the association.

Ideas include selling burial plots in the area that was once the carriage drive and a mausoleum-type building to store cremains instead of them being buried in a lot. Hughes’ family donated several acres on the north side of the cemetery to the association years ago, which helped alleviate some space issues at the time.

Early pioneer donates land for country cemetery, Methodist church
Linn Grove Cemetery is located about four miles south of Norwalk. The cemetery was established when an early settler, Samuel Crow, gave land for a cemetery and church in 1850. He had settled in the area a few years prior.

In the early years of the cemetery, there was a small log cabin inside the gate that served as the church and a community affairs building. This is where the Linn Grove Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. A fire destroyed many of the church and cemetery’s early records.

Among those buried at Linn Grove is Viola Burkhead, known in the community along with three of her friends for driving around Warren County for 18 years in the same Model T Ford. She died in the 1940s.

Hoover says the long list of historical element of cemeteries draws her interest. If people take the time to research on their own, they might be fascinated as well.

“To me, they were pioneers, and they were amazing,” she says.





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