As I say in my Find a Grave profile, "There is a story under every tombstone". While photographing graves for Find A Grave or genealogy research, I have come across many interesting stories about the people buried under those tombstones. In this blog I will share some of the most interesting of these stories with you. Why? So these people will not be forgotten. ~~~~~Jim Craig - Evanston, Illinois USA - A member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits~~~~ Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Francis Malone was born January 17, 1760 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Malones were originally from County Westmeath in Ireland and one of Francis' ancestors was The Right Honorable Anthony Malone, Member of Parliament from Baronston in Ireland and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The first Malone to emigrate was Francis' grandfather Edmund who came to the Colonies in the early 1700s. Francis was 16 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia and he volunteered for the Pennsylvania Militia in April of 1777. Because of his youth and familiarity with the area, Captain William Morrow assigned Francis to spy on the Indians, who were allies of the British in the Revolutionary War. Francis would sneak into the woods, and after finding the Indian encampments would report the information back to his commanding officers.
In 1788 Francis married Elizabeth Rogers, and about 1800 Francis and his family went west, eventually locating in Helt Township, Vermillion County, Indiana. Francis farmed the rich Indiana soil, and he and Elizabeth raised four children: Rebecca, William, Samuel and Martha. In 1833 Francis was granted a US Government pension in recognition of his service in the War of Independence. He died in Helt Township in 1841 at the age of 81.
It was known that Francis was buried in the Helts Prairie Cemetery in Hillsdale, Indiana, but over time the exact location of his grave, along with any grave marker, was lost. In 2004, the William Henry Harrison Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in recognition of his service made arrangements to have a new marker made for Francis Malone, and had it installed next to the flagpole in the Helts Prairie Cemetery. I am especially proud of the contribution that Francis Malone made to the founding of our nation, because he was my 4th Great-Grandfather. May Francis Malone, and all of our patriots, rest in peace.
Group picture after the memorial dedication and memorial service in Vermillion County.
This sad story takes us all the way to Hollywood, California:
OUR LOVE BABY - VIRGINIA RICHDALE KERRIGAN
For years I have been fascinated by the life and career of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. In my studies about Valentino I would occasionally come across the story that Valentino used to go to the Hollywood Cemetery to leave flowers at the crypt of a little girl he knew who had died tragically. Further research showed that this little girl was Virginia Richdale Kerrigan, the daughter of William W. Kerrigan. Kerrigan was the general manager of Universal Studios and the twin brother of silent film star J.W. Kerrigan.
Early in his career Valentino made movies at Universal and became captivated by the charming little girl who used to spend time at "Daddy's Studio". Valentino loved children and one of his greatest regrets was that both of his marriages were childless. Over time, Valentino became very close to little Virginia, and even as he became famous he still found time to take his little friend for rides in his fancy cars through the Hollywood Hills.
On the day after Christmas, 1924 Virginia and her family attended a party at a neighbor's house at 2006 Ivar Avenue in Hollywood. It was chilly that day, as it can sometimes get in Hollywood in late December. To take the chill out of the air, someone lit an open gas heater. Virginia had received a new dress for Christmas and was modelling it for the partygoers. Shortly before noon, as she laughed and twirled around the room, her dress came in contact with the gas heater and caught fire. The flames spread rapidly to the upper part of her clothing and to her hair. Before anyone could extinguish the flames, Virginia was badly burned around the arms, body and head. An ambulance was called and rushed Virginia to the nearest hospital, which was Stadfield Hospital on Sunset Boulevard. Virginia's burns were too severe, and shortly afterward she was transferred to the Hollywood Community Hospital. Virginia fought valiantly, but the burns were too much for her little body, and she died on Saturday night, December 27, 1924.
The funeral services were held at the home of Virginia's famous uncle, J. Warren Kerrigan. From there her body was taken to the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever Cemetery) on Santa Monica Boulevard. Virginia was laid to rest in crypt 1399.
Virginia's family relates that Rudolph Valentino was devistated by the death of his little friend Virginia, and would often visit and leave flowers at her crypt at Hollywood Memorial.
As fate would have it, less than two years later Rudolph Valentino was himself interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum, in crypt 1205, after his tragic death in New York on August 23rd, 1926. Valentino rests just two aisles over from his little pal Virginia.
Let us stop and say a prayer for Virginia and her family this Christmas - they are not forgotten.
Children are often buried in a separate part of the cemetery away from the adults. Childrens' burial sections have to be the saddest part of any cemetery, as you stroll along and see so many dear lives snuffed out by disease or accident. On another of my photo request trips to Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park I found myself in the children's section of Gate 55 - First Roumanian Congregation. First I saw the grave of Jeanette Schwartz, a beautiful little girl who died in 1924 of lymphosarcoma - just shy of her 10th birthday. A sad story - but compounded by the fact that her brother Marvin was buried in the next row. He died in 1932 at the age of 7 of meningitis. There was so much sadness in that family that Jeanette and Marvin's parents composed a poem about it - and put the poem on the back of Marvin's tombstone. Here is their poem:
“When that dreadful sorrow
Befell our heart
We did not think that we could live
From dear Jeanette apart.
God sent an angel
To fill the empty space
It was darling Marvin
That took her place.
Like a beautiful star
He lit up our way
But to our great sorrow
He was not here to stay.
Just like his sister
He went so quick
And in our hearts
He left a leak.
MOTHER AND DAD”
May the souls of Marvin and Jeanette, and their grieving parents, rest in peace.
It is never a good sign when you see a tombstone where more than one person shares the same date of death. You can be sure that something bad must have happened. So when I saw the tombstone of Joseph and Sarah Dorf and noticed that they both died the same day - February 12, 1928 - I knew that I would find a sad story there - and that was exactly what I found:
BRIDE TRIES TO SAVE MATE AT FIRE; BOTH DIE
Flames sweeping through a home in which a Valentine party had been held only a few hours previously early yesterday took the lives of a newly married couple, the bride perishing in a vain attempt to rescue her husband. They were Joseph Dorf, 28 years old, and his wife, Sarah, 28, of 4747 Grace Street.
With several friends and relatives the Dorfs had attended the party in the bungalow of Raymond Burke, 6078 Newburg Avenue, Norwood Park. The party lasted until 1 o’clock when it was decided it would be too late for the guests to return home. Dorf and his wife were given a room on the second floor.
Soon after all had retired other members of the household were awakened by the screams of Mrs. Dorf as she fled down the stairs. Burke ran to the room and found it a mass of flames.
Then, despite the efforts of others to hold her back, Mrs. Dorf rushed back into the wall of fire. Her body was found beside that of her husband, whom she tried to save.
Police believe that Dorf fell asleep with a lighted cigarette in his hand, which fell and ignited the bed clothing.
Chicago Daily Tribune – February 13, 1928
The graves of Joseph and Sarah Dorf, together in death as they were in life, can be found at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Gate 109 - Ostrower #1. May they rest in peace.