Saturday, August 30, 2008

Laura Virginia Dunfee

As promised, here is an example of the results of using the "foil technique" for reading nearly illegible tombstones mentioned in a previous post. There will be several more examples, with even more dramatic results, posted soon. (As always, click on an image to view a larger version.)

Laura is buried in the Masonic Section of Greenhill cemetery in Columbia City, Indiana near her parents and several siblings. Both pictures were taken yesterday afternoon. The larger letters on the stone are mostly legible but the foil enhances them considerably. The very small letters towards the bottom of the stone still can't be read, even with enhancing the image. There just isn't enough left to get a legible rubbing.
Laura Virginia Dunfee was the first child born to my 3rd Great Grandparents, William Hamilton Dunfee and Catherine B. Jones. Of their seven children, four would die young and Laura was the first to pass to that other world.

There is some confusion on my part as to her date of death. According to the cemetery transcriptions done by the Genealogical Society of Whitley County in 2000, Laura died May 1, 1861 aged 12 years 3 months and 6 days. That information is confirmed by the photos above, and based on that information, Laura's date of birth would be January 25, 1849.

Many, many years ago Nellie Raber compiled the "Digest of Obituaries Published in Newspapers of Columbia City Whitley County, Indiana 1856-1910". A mouthful, for sure, but a very useful and valuable resource. Especially since many of the very early county newspapers didn't make it to microfilm and the originals are no longer extant. Why am I mentioning this, you ask?

Well, Nellie had an abstract of a death notice for Laura: "Died - At the residence of her father, Laura Virginia Dunfee, daughter of William and Catherine Dunfee, on the 4th inst. of scarlet fever, in the thirteenth year of her age." Nellie listed her source as "Whitley County News, May 28, 1860". And therein lies the confusion. How could an obituary be published a year prior to Laura's death? It could have been either a transcription error on the part of Nellie Raber or the person typing the final copy read her writing wrong.

Laura's parents, William and Catherine, were married on March 5, 1848. Based on the date of death and age inscribed on her grave marker, Laura would have been born 10 months and 20 days later. If you go by the date of the newspaper as provided by Nellie Raber and the fact that Laura was in her 13th year, then she would have been born 2 months before her parents were married.

My aunt Phyllis has a very old scrapbook full of newspaper clippings. Almost none are dated. Stamped on the back cover of the scrapbook is "PAT. MARCH 1876". Most of the clippings are obituaries of friends, neighbors, and family. We think that it was started by Catherine Dunfee, got passed down to her daughter Sophia who contributed many of the clippings , then to her daughter Maude Wise Brubaker. Then to my grandmother and on to Phyllis. I've only seen it twice as it is very fragile but a cousin made copies of it and gave a copy to my mother and her siblings. Making the copies probably didn't help its condition any but at least the information is available to me. The clippings are not in any kind of order. They were not pasted on the pages in chronological sequence. They aren't grouped by families.

Laura's obituary from "the scrapbook" with no date, no newspaper noted.

Laura, though young, had quite a circle of acquaintances to whom she had become endeared by her kind and gentle conduct. She was dutiful to her parents, kind and sisterly to her little brothers and sisters, social at school with her school mates, everywhere made and had friends. Her numerous acquaintances have lost in her death a dear little friend. It is truly sad to part with those we love whether old or young, but Providence so orders and we must and should meekly submit. She is gone and from our sight; but let this be our consolation, such as she compose the kingdom of heaven.

A branch has been torn from the family vine;
Unlooked was the storm that swept by,
And suddenly ceased the fond tendrills in their twine,
And slowly the tear drippings dry.
A star from the household's bright sky has gone down,
O'er Jordan's dark shore one has risen,
There sparkles o'er yonder another bright crown,
A voice swells the music in heaven.

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