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Leave the blood feuds at home


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The photo below is of the oldest existing Illinois State Capitol building. Built in 1836 in Vandalia, Illinois, it served as the capitol for only the years from 1836-1839. Abraham Lincoln began his political career as a young member of the Illinois House of Representatives in this very building. I was thrilled when I walked on the wooden floors of that chamber, seeing the ghost of Father Abraham at every turning.

There are several reasons I mention this. One, is that it is a such beautiful building and so worthy of showing to you. More important for my purposes here is that Vandalia is also the county seat of Fayette County where all but one of the cemeteries in my "Country Roads, Old Bones" diaries are located. The other is my fascination with the idea that my 3rd and 4th Great-Grandfather Jonathan A. Halford knew Mr. Lincoln. I know he voted for him to be President. Learning this has been one of my fondest "finds" in all my genealogical searching.

Old Statehouse Vandalia 012

Vandalia was important for another reason: it was the terminus of the Cumberland or National Road, the first road to be built with federal funds and to use macadam surfacing. Vandalia wasn't the planned end of the line.  St. Louis, only 70 miles distant was, but after 26 years of construction the financial panic of 1837 put a halt to the last stretch of road.

cumberland road sign 019

Another historical marker on the Old State Capitol grounds is called Madonna of the Trail. It is one of  a series of twelve statues commissioned by the DAR in honor of the memory of our pioneer Grandmothers. That these women were great heroes of our country simply cannot be denied. This one was dedicated on October 26, 1928.

madonna of the trail 017

Time's a'wasting. Let's pass this orange thing and get back on the road.

The village of Ramsey was the hub of town life for these ancestors whose graves I visited. I couldn't help but let my fancy take flight when driving through town. I spotted this derelict old dwelling on Main Street and immediately wondered if it might have been the very home my Great-Great Grandfather Jonathan F. Davis lived in with his granddaughter Edith and her family. After his wife Elizabeth died, he lived with Edith (who I knew as a child), her husband, known to all as Jay Bird, and their children in Ramsey village. The 1930 census records I've seen do not show a street address, just Ramsey.

old ramsey bldg 075

Like many of advanced age, Jonathan hadn't much to do in his later years, but he did love to sit at a second floor window, perched on several books atop a chair, and watch the traffic as it rolled by. His favorite thing was watching the trains. He died in 1932 at the age of 88 after he fell from said perch and fractured a hip.

This is the old train station in Ramsey and is across the street and about a block south of the building above. I don't know the age of it but it looks to me that it would have been there in 1932. The caboose was certainly much like those Jonathan saw as he sat and watched the world go by. Yes, I often ask myself if I am totally whack to get such a thrill out of laying my eyes on something an ancestor might have done so long ago. Don't you?

ramsey train station and caboose 023

You surely won't be surprised that this is all leading up to my story of finding Jonathan's burial spot. I knew only that he and his wife were buried in Ramsey Cemetery and that there were 2,112 interments there at last count. I had not seen a photograph of their marker. How on earth was I going to find it?

My habit in these old cemeteries is generally to start at what I thought were the oldest trees. Made sense to me. Unfortunately it wouldn't work this time as I was looking for a relatively new tombstone. There was nothing left but to let my intuition and attraction to Jonathan guide me....where could it be? Why not try the opposite side of the cemetery, over there by that other clump of trees... along that drive. And there it was!

j f davis long view ramsey cem 040

j f davis close 034

This was not the first tombstone I found on this trip with a name misspelled. I've seen Jonathan's signature. He most definitely did not use that first "h." I was, of course, thrilled down to my toes when I saw this. Grandfather Davis, you see, left a record when he and his son-in-law, my Great-Grandpa Ashley pubished Jonathan's little red book. It was a collection of the thoughts, views and musings of an extraordinary ordinary man.   From the story WHAT I AM GOING TO DO WHEN I GET TO BE PRESIDENT

I look at little children all over the civilized world, going hungry and ragged on account of improper legislation.  If we could have proper legislation the working class would not have to work more than four hours a day to make a good living.
And this unattributed quote from said little book was important enough for him to include it. It sounds much like much of the rest of his writing so it could have been his.
I am a reformer and must stand outside of all strife and contentions, with no bread to earn, no object in view; only to tear open every question and riddle it with light.
Do you see why I am so incredibly fond of this man? He may have been self-educated but he was a very wise man and an incredible character who left this descendent very proud of him.

Here he is, the patriarch, with my Great-Great Grandmother Elizabeth Rhodes Davis and their flock. My Great-Grandmother Nancy is standing with her hand on her mother's shoulder. Such a pretty young thing to have had to have her life so filled with tragedy.

JF Davis family

I had thought that my cemetery sleuthing story could be broken into two parts, but now that I've got going, I think I shall save the other cemeteries for another day. More than this would be too much for an Open Thread, I think. Part I, if you missed it and would like to check it out is right here.

I hope you'll tell us any stories you might have of cemetery walking or other "intuitive" genealogic  finds. Oh, and a bit of advise for anyone who might venture out into the countryside like I did:  go in the Fall. The colors were so incredibly lovely and you have much less chance of getting your vehice stuck on some muddy lane or other.

The floor is yours............. oh, wait, just a word from our sponsors. We are all being treated to another GFHC diary today. fenway49 has a post coming up at 1:00p CST. Be there or be square!

Originally posted to Genealogy and Family History Community on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 09:00 AM PST.

Also republished by J Town.

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