Some spouses want to look at mattresses. Space age foam, coils and springs, firm tops, pillow tops. Mattress makers have even cleverly devised ways to please more than one mattress occupant with dual sleep number settings. Finding a resting spot is vital.
But my spouse is asked to search for different resting spots. I’m not interested in mattresses; I want to find old cemeteries. On our forest service map, the one we use to navigate where to cut firewood in the Kaniksu National Forest, I discovered listings for known graveyards.
I say, “known” because Idaho has a creepy law. Home burials are legal in most counties within certain zoning restrictions. Back in the 1900s when Elmira was a thriving town for railroad workers, backyard burials were common. For a history buff like me, I dig hanging out in cemeteries where history reads in the names and dates carved in stone. So I was puzzled when I discovered that Elmira had no old cemetery. A local explained why.
After all these years, the Elmira Schoolhouse stands, but we no longer know where anyone buried loved ones in backyards or family plots. We’ve forgotten these final resting places.
This makes me curious to discover the ones I see listed on our map. The Hub is less curious, but has promised me a cemetery day after I pitched a fit in Bonner’s Ferry this afternoon. For some unknown political or economic reason, gas in Bonners is way cheaper than it is in Sandpoint. Our normal route to the firewood stand is up a two-track called Twenty Mile Road. From there we take a logging trail numbered 2260A on our map. Because the Hub wanted to fuel up in Bonners, I thought we’d take the back way in and look for the Boulder Cemetery.
No. That’s all he said when he jumped back in the truck, put it gear and turned south toward Twenty Mile. I wailed like a spouse told, no we aren’t going to get that mattress. Don’t mess with my resting place curiosity! I gave up an afternoon of blogging to get firewood, all I wanted was to go past a cemetery. With a heavy sigh, the Hub pulled over and looked at the map. He pointed out the distance, and he was right.
But wait. I saw a cemetery listed on the map just east of Bonners and not too far. This time, I got my way. It’s called Grand View and it is a resting place with a fabulous view of the Cabinet Mountains. The very mountains the Hub would prefer to be in with his chainsaw. He let me snap a few shots and then agreed to taking a cemetery day on Friday. We continued to the forest and tipped several trees (he, not we) and skidded several logs (me, too).
Here’s a bit of our day (the Hub skidding a log from a dead tree he fell):
And I got to skid one, too:
You can tell from how giddy I get that I had fun even though I was thwarted from viewing more cemeteries until later. Believe me, we both are going to enjoy our resting place tonight.
When working on historical fiction, I begin with the non-fictional parts — the facts that detail the story like trim on a hot-rod car. Cemeteries can reveal much more than dates and names. Last year, when I visited the Fairbury Cemetery outside the remains of Rock Creek Station in Nebraska, I noticed an oddity about Mary McCanles’s headstone — it bore no last name. That was really the starting point for me to get into this woman as a character. The stone did claim her role as “wife of D.C. McCanles” but revealed nothing of her maiden name nor her brief marriage years after Cobb’s death. I felt she had a sense of identity loss, having given up her Green family to follow her husband she chose the side of the Union over the Confederacy. Even after the Civil War and after Cobb’s death she never returned home.
Another telling point from the Fairbury Cemetery is the fact that D.C. McCanles and James Woods are listed on a single headstone. If you didn’t know the story, you might puzzle greatly over that one. The day Cobb was shot, his two ranch hands were also killed. James Woods was not only a ranch hand, but was Cobb’s young cousin from North Carolina. The reason they were buried together, according to witness statements who did the burying, is because the neighbors built one large pine box and interred the two bodies in one grave on a knoll behind the station. The third body was a quarter mile away, thus had its on final resting place.
So, if Cobb and James had a backyard burial, how did they get to the Fairbury Cemetery? A family story claims that when the railroad cut through that knoll, Cobb’s son, Clingman, met the workers with a rifle. He didn’t want to disturb the bones of his father. Finally, the railroad agreed to re-inter the bodies in a single grave in Fairbury. Mary is buried on one side, and Clingman on the other. Cobb’s only daughter, Lizzie, is also buried with her brother and parents. Cobb and Mary did a rare thing back in the 1850s — they let their baby, who was deprived of oxygen at birth, thrive. Most parents let such children die of natural causes in infancy. That Cobb and Mary cared enough to give Lizzie life, speaks of their compassion. Clingman never married and took care of Lizzie, his mother and the third ranch that Cobb built.
And I could read all this in a cemetery.
What will I find on my upcoming cemetery day? I don’t know! That’s part of the fun. Maybe a name or gravestone moves me to research Census records, and maybe I uncover new material for future historical fiction. And what will you discover, so close to Halloween and with a possibly ghoulish prompt?
October 21, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. You can take any perspective that appeals to you from the historic to the horrific. Just don’t scare me too greatly. You can also choose to write about those buried before they came to their final rest. An extra challenge is to discover a story or character from a local cemetery. I double-dog dare you to join me with your own cemetery day!
Respond by October 27, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Lunch with Wilstach by Charli Mills
“Call me, Sarah, Mr. Wilsatch.” Her stomach rumbled at the sight of steaming soup served to their table.
“All right, Sarah.” Frank Wilstach dabbed his lips after each spoon of broth.
“A right fine lunch companion you are, Sir. A fair price for an interview.”
He smiled. “Sarah, did you know only you and Mr. Monroe McCanles are left ?”
“What of Mary?”
Wilstach shuffled notes. “Ah. She went to her final rest in 1907. Buried next to her husband.”
“At Rock Creek?”
Why did it matter they had moved Cobb? He was never one to rest.