Saturday, March 26, 2011


I once heard said that one thing that distinguishes Southerners is they know where their grandparents are buried. That hurt. I barely claim Southerness, but there are a few things every man should know, this is one and I don't.

I know where my parents are buried. I know where my paternal grandfather is, but hadn't a clue where my other 3 grandparents were. I became a man on a mission.

Beginning with the obvious, I went to visit Grandpa, hoping for clues. My parents didn't talk of their parents. Their mothers died much too early, their fathers sad, old men before their time, working too hard, for too little.

My paternal grandfather is buried in a cemetery which was formerly a family farm owned by Henry Clay. After a 1848 cholera epidemic, church yards in the city were closed, and new cemeteries were built taking advantage of the then new, garden plan, outside city limits. Today, it's a neighborhood few would linger, but I did, and am glad of it.

Although I hadn't been there in 40 years, I found Grandpa pretty quickly. Unsurprisingly, his wife and parents are there too. While I always think of myself as the oldest sibling, my parents had a son before me who died soon after birth. He too is buried there. We have the exact name. Looking at your name on a tombstone is eerie at my age. Little Toad is buried next to my great grandmother.

On great grandmother's other side is lies my first wife's, the mother of my children's, great grandmother. A coincidence more likely found in a small village than in a once thriving metropolis. Are marriages made in heaven?

Nearby, lie my kids maternal great grandparents as well.

That part was easy so I took a stroll to see who else lived in the neighborhood.

A few steps away is birthday boy, Tennessee Williams, who is celebrating his 100th today.

and his mother, sister Rose and brother Dakin. Dakin was a neighbor in our old 'hood before we moved.

I always thought of him as his generation's Ringo. He'd attend an envelope opening if money passed.

I much prefer his brother. TCM has broadcast several movies made from his work this week. Is anything creepier than Baby Doll?

Dear to any Southerner's heart, a short walk up the road leads to the final resting place of General William T. Sherman, scourge of Georgia, along with his wife and children.

Directly across the road lie 2 other Generals from the war of Union aggression, 1 from each side.

General Daniel M. Frost,CSA

and General John Wesley Turner, USA

You pass Dred Scott on your way out.

Keep walking and you run into Charles and Ray Eames. I had forgotten they were local kids.

Male that I am, what may surprise many, is that while there I did ASK the concierge about my maternal grandparents. Turns out they too are here and doing well, although they don't get out much. Proof positive I know where my grandparents and half of my great grandparents are buried. Can one become Southern? I passed the test.



Divine Theatre said...

This makes me sad. I know nothing about my family...very little about my parents, just what I learned before the age of seven before they left us.
I remember when Gracie was born, I bought a baby book for her. On the first page it had a form of sorts to be filled out with the lineage of the parents. I cried and cried...for her. I am okay with my abandonment but I never realized it would affect future generations. It dawned on me that I am the beginning of the end.

M.Lane said...

A very interesting post. I have a story about my paternal grandparents "burial" that is too nuts to tell in a comment. Maybe a post sometime.

To Divine, above, I see it that you made better choices than they did. The past is long gone. When you look at Gracie, you are the beginnning of the beginning.


Shelley said...

Well, I thought I knew all about my grandparents until some smartass researcher passed on the info that my Dad was adopted; I doubt he even knew. So, I'm waiting for 2020 to find out more...

Anonymous said...

"Can one become Southern? I passed the test."

Wellll, it would have been too crude for a gentleman such as yourself to spit on Gen. Sherman's grave, but the keys to the southern kingdom are yours if you tell me you at least scowled your worst scowl over his remains.

Mom on the Run said...

I find cemeteries so interesting--about half the headstones in the country church cemetery where my grandparents and their parents are buried are in German (right in the middle of a Nebraska cornfield). Congratulations on your successful research.

TWJ said...

Yes Toad, one can become southern and even much more…
" be a Virginian, either by Birth, Marriage, Adoption, or even on one's Mother's side, is an Introduction to any State in the Union, a Passport to any Foreign Country, and a Benediction from the Almighty God...." Anonymous

From an 8th generation Southern Gentlemen and more importantly, Virginian.


Toad said...

MOTR: my in-laws family church in Southern Illinois is the same way. English wasn't used until immediately after WW1.

Flo: I realize that this won't help, but more moving was WT's 9 yo sons memorial. Died in Memphis in 1863. What's with leaving pocket change on headstones? I could have made $5
on the Sherman's alone.

Divine, read Mr. Lane's comments over and over, whenever necessary. He personifies wisdom.

Shelley, I hope you aren't planning on visiting the other side in 2020.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

My people in the south arrived about 1741 and we've never left. To your question as to one can become s southerner...there are many who were born here who do not deserve the title merely because of a geographical accident of birth. I think you might have it in you. Southernness is an attitude and state of mind along with a certain something that cannot be precisely defined, but we true southerners know it when we see it.

Anonymous said...

"I realize that this won't help, but more moving was WT's 9 yo sons memorial. Died in Memphis in 1863."

It helps, and you have sent me off to the history books for cause and dates and siblings and travel itineraries, *amn yellow fever.

"Sherman never ceased blaming himself for the death of his son. He literally went insane with grief. Historians now consider the fact that Sherman's madness, the burning and killing throughout Mississippi, continuing on to the March to the Sea, was the result of his insurmountable loss."

A year after the death of his first-born son, he lost his third-born infant son as well.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting... and quite a bit of history there!

My one half that is Finnish knows where absolutely all the relatives from that side are buried. In one churchyard, and now my father has joined them there in their ancestral land. It is a most peaceful place and, as you point out, there is something nice about knowing where they all rest eternally.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

catching up on some of your posts ... glad i finally got to this one. remarkable. love history, personal histories especially. i do know where my grandparents are buried, but haven't been for 30 years. i need to.

regarding "becoming southern" ... i loved my five years in Virginia, commonwealth of. would that i could have stayed.

SouthernProletariat said...

I agree with is not just about geographic location. And any gentleman that can carry a white suit as you can, must surely have a touch of southerness within him!

Toad said...

TWJ my fore bearers left Virginia, twice. Mayhaps I've inherited my stupid, not earned it as I thought I thought.