Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stone Boats

In my Michigan research in July, I was reading The History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant (1877), which tells the following regarding our Gillespie/Greer pioneers:

So naturally I looked at a map and determined that Gilbert Lake is roughly 4 miles away from Franklin Cemetery where the pioneer stones are located. Here is the picture I took when visiting Franklin Cemetery:

Is it just me or does it seem like those stones are lined up rather closely? And maybe the stones are not really resting on top of actual graves? Well, based on what I read in the book, it seems clear that the gravestones were moved at some point. I imagined that it had something to do with Highway 24 going in, but who knows. I have sent a letter of inquiry to the Franklin Cemetery to see what they have in their records about all this.

Ah, but there's now there's more to the story. Thanks to finding a new Greer cousin, we have found a letter written by a Greer family member 25 years ago. Here is an excerpt of the letter that applies to this discussion:

"Isabella and John are buried in Franklin, Michigan. I think it is called Franklin Cemetery. It is on the main road of the village. Think it is Middlebelt. The monument is a very large stone taken from their property on Lone Pine Road. Isabella hauled many of the stones from the property on a stone boat [used] to build the home (still there)."

What the heck is a stone boat? According to wikipedia:

A stone-boat is a device for moving heavy objects such as stones or hay bales. It was used with horses or oxen by the settlers of the Western United States, and is still sometimes used with tractors today. The device looks like a low-profile sled. They were usually made of wood, but metal versions exist with hinges.

OK - see how much there is to learn when doing genealogy? But here's the rub. The letter says Isabella moved the stones (which I take to mean the gravestones), but Isabella Sr. died BEFORE her husband John (she died 1891, he died 1894). So maybe the letter refers to their daugher, Isabella Jr, wife of James Gillespie? Or maybe this information is a mixture of fact and lore. Does it matter? Until I hear otherwise from somebody with access to Franklin Cemetery records, I am imagining the stone boat (regardless of its driver) carrying our pioneer gravestones to a place where they would be carefully lined up together to be found by the future, by us.

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