Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Mason? Amasa? Amasy?
Sometimes, in rescuing abandoned family photographs from antique stores, I'm led on a chase through the generations of the family tree of total strangers. I try to piece together the picture—especially in this case, where I've stumbled upon the collection of an entire family—but not knowing these folks like my own relatives, I've got to slowly examine every detail.
Take the name of Rebecca O's father. In the census record, his name was listed as Amasa Lewis. In Rebecca's own death certificate, his name was given as Mason. And on the only memorial to be found for his final resting place, the entry is likely his nickname: Amasy.
Since I have such a weakness for following rabbit trails, it was the cemetery memorial that caught my attention enough to want to share the details here. Amasa Lewis apparently remained in Marshall County, Indiana, where, while seeking records of his daughter, we had found him in the 1870 census.
Not long after that—possibly by 1875—Rebecca Olive's father had died, and was buried in a place known alternately as the Argos Town Cemetery and the Argos Memorial Park, among other names.
If you check the memorial entry for Amasa Lewis today on Find A Grave, you will see there is only one monument containing the names of the many people buried there. Apparently, there are no individual headstones remaining to mark the graves—at least at this time.
The Find A Grave entry for the cemetery itself provided an explanation, thanks to a volunteer who was resourceful enough to post it on the website. Apparently, a letter was sent by the town council in 1945 to all interested parties. The message explained that, since no one had been buried there in the past forty five years, and since none of the near relatives of those buried in the cemetery were even alive at that point, the council wanted to do something about the neglected appearance of the land.
The town council had received requests to turn the abandoned burial grounds into a memorial park. According to the council's August 1, 1945, letter, the cemetery by then was seen as no more than "an unsightly weed patch, filled with tangled vines, briars and broken marker stones." Based on instructions from a 1925 Indiana state statute, the council made a record of the information on all the stones which were still legible, filed that record with the Argos Public Library and the Marshall County Historical Society, then removed all the debris and weeds from the plot of land, transforming it into "a place of memorial beauty."
At a later date, the monument which includes the names of all who were buried there was erected on the site of the old cemetery, which now had been converted into a memorial park. It is there on that monument that we find the name of Rebecca Olive Lewis Purkey's father, though once again caught in the struggle of just how to spell the surname. This time, "Louis" won out, and her father is now memorialized as Amasy Louis—not even on his own headstone, but on a monument recalling the transformation of a cemetery into a memorial park.