Archive Page 3

May Belle Cook

She was only 16 when she died. May Belle Cook was born in New Orleans, LA on July 23, 1907. Her mother, May Belle Harris, is my grandmother’s oldest sister. So, she is my first cousin once removed. We were always told that she passed away as a result of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Her story always intrigued me. All we had was the family story and this picture. May Belle is on the far right.

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I began to wonder if the story was correct. The flu pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. May Belle died in Omaha, NE on November 5, 1923. That death year didn’t make sense if she indeed died from the flu. So, I obtained her death certificate from the state of Nebraska. On it, the death date was confirmed and the cause of death was listed as diphtheria. Diphtheria was a dreaded disease in the 1920s. There were an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases per year in the US, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths per year. She had only been sick for a couple of weeks. Maybe she did have the flu, at one time, and her health was compromised because of it. I don’t think we will ever really know for sure. May Belle’s death certificate also indicated her burial was in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Omaha.

Through the help of a Find A Grave Volunteer, I now have this photo of her tombstone.

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It’s sad that someone so young was taken so suddenly. I’m glad to be able to have some answers and know where she rests.

“English” Cemetery, Florence, Italy

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The Protestant Cemetery of Florence, called the “English” Cemetery, is located in Florence, Italy. Because it was a Protestant burial site, it was placed outside the medieval city walls. The cemetery stood on the top of a hill where Florentines would go in the early 19th century to watch ball games played on the adjoining piece of flat land.

In 1827, the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church purchased the land. It was enlarged in 1860, after the purchase of an additional parcel of land. It is called the “English” Cemetery because the majority of the tombs belonged to English people who resided and died in Florence.

The layout of the cemetery is simple – two main gravel paths running at right angles to each other, with a column erected by Frederick William of Prussia in 1858 at the point where the two paths meet. The graves are not laid out in regular ordered rows as in Catholic cemeteries, but in a romantically landscaped manner, creating a natural feel that is accentuated by the lie of the land and the presence of a variety of trees and shrubs. It’s present oval shape came about in 1870 as part of the “Florence Capital” plan. This included the building of city ring roads, the creation of the artist district and various works of landscaping, with the cemetery standing as an island at the center.

The cemetery closed in 1877 when Florence became the capital of Italy and the medieval walls came down. Roman Law made it illegal to bury within city limits. For a century and a quarter, it remained locked and the tombs neglected.  It opened to the public eight years ago, and restoration funds are being actively raised.  Although no bodies can be buried there, ashes still can.

For many years the entire area was doused with weed killer, but today the effort is to restore the cemetery to the 19th-century garden it once was. Weeding is done by hand to protect the tombs, and replanting is being carefully managed.

Among the well-known buried there are the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, sculptor Hiram Powers, and English novelist Frances Trollope. Richard Hildreth, an American journalist, historian and anti-slavery activist, is also buried in the English Cemetery.

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He is a distant cousin of mine. Hildreth was born on June 28, 1807 in Deerfield, MA. He graduated from Harvard, studied law at Newburyport and became a lawyer.

Having gone to the South in 1834, for the benefit of his health, he was led by what he witnessed of the evils of slavery (chiefly in Florida) to write the anti-slavery novel The Slave: or Memoirs of Archy Moore. It is almost certainly the first anti-slavery novel published in America. His chief work, however, was The History of the United States. The history is notable for its painstaking accuracy and candor.

Poor health forced Hildreth to retire from his writing career in 1860. In 1865 he moved to Florence, where he died on July 11th.

**The above cemetery photo is attributed to Samuli Lintula and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Wilhelm Hau

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My Great Great Grandfather, Wilhelm Hau, is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in St. Joe, Marshfield Twp., Fond du Lac Co., WI. He was born on November 25, 1842 in Prussia.

We don’t know a lot about Wilhelm.  One family story states that “…he came to America from Prussia. His family were wealthy land owners who had tenant farms. He fled Germany because of the conscription under King Wilhelm. He served in the Prussian Army and had a crippled small finger and a scar on his face as a result. He played the violin and was a choir director in Germany. He came to America with his sister from, we think Stuttgart, but she died at sea.”

We do know that Wilhelm settled in the Town of Russell in Sheboygan Co., WI in the 1860′s. He married Katherine Tuepper on January 12, 1869, in nearby Mt. Calvary. Together they had 9 children. His farm was not far from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He is listed a donor toward it’s building. One donation was for $65 and another was for the purchase of windows for the new church in 1871.

Wilhelm died at the age of 41 on August 12, 1884.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, St. Joe, Marshfield Twp., Fond du Lac Co., WI

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St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and cemetery are located in St. Joe, Marshfield Twp., WI

The first church was made of logs and built in 1860, on land donated by local farmers. It was started as a mission church from nearby Mt. Calvary. The first death occurred in 1866. In May of that year, an energetic priest announced a new project: the church graveyard should be brought into order. A few days later, large boulders were dug up and dragged away by oxen. Three stumps were dug out and the ground was leveled. Posts were set around the border and boards nailed to them. More about the history of the church can be read here.



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