29 August 2011

Theory Offered in Case of Headstone Mystery in Lorain

I live in Brecksville in Cuyahoga County, about 40 miles from West 23 Street in Lorain in the next county, which has the same name. With the power of the Internet, I learned about a mystery surrounding a headstone found in a backyard in Lorain—and I was able to follow developments in the story--all without leaving the comfort of my home office.

I first learned about the mystery from an email from LinkedIn wherein an acquaintance, Linda Ellis, reported “Finding the Tombstone of Simeon Shepard in a Lorain Backyard.” This sounded intriguing so I followed her link and checked it out. [You can find it at  http://limesstones.blogspot.com/. Scroll way down on the page.]

It turns out that the Morning Journal newspaper in Lorain first ran the story on Aug 18. The report stated that Tarrence Scott, 24, was cleaning up the backyard shrubs at his W.24th Street home when he stumbled upon the headstone. "I thought it was just a brick, I picked it up and pushed it over and it was a tombstone," he reported. "I thought there was a body under there. There might still be a body under there." Scott ran inside an told his wife Jennifer Scott, age 27 who called police. Police advised the couple not to touch the stone and to call a cemetery to come out and inspect.

The tombstone was inscribed as belonging to "Simeon Shepard" and reads "Died June 16th 1864, aged 82 years and 16 days."

The story caught the attention of Channel 8 in Cleveland which broadcast the story the afternoon of Aug 18.

The Morning Journal did follow-up stories over the next two days. These stories ended up being posted by a FindAGrave volunteer in an entry for Simeon Shepard [go to http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=21476766]. From that source, I’m relaying what the newspaper reported on Aug 20:

After two days of searching and calling, the mystery behind why Simeon Shepard's headstone is in the back yard of a West 23 Street, Lorain, home isn't known, but there is a plausible theory.

"It was either replaced or stolen," Diane Wargo Medina said.

Since she was 19 years-old, Medina has been helping care for the Charleston Village Cemetery on West Sixth Street, Lorain.

So when she heard about the backyard tombstone she was determined to discover where Shepard came from and belonged.

Her investigation ended up being very fruitful, as she studied U.S. Census and death records.

"The date of death matches and they were from the Lorain County area," she said.

There is a monument at Andress Cemetery with Simeon and his wife, Aseneth, names. Aseneth passed away a few years after Simeon.

Which is one of the reasons, Medina believed that the headstone could have been replaced.

Whether the stone ended in the West 23rd Street back yard by accident or on purpose, she believes it belongs in one place only.

"I personally think that (the headstone) should go back over there (cemetery)," she said.

Medina, who repairs headstone at the West Sixth Street cemetery, stated that she would be happy to help relocate and repair the stone.

"I will gladly repair it," she said. "It should go back."

While the mystery of how the headstone ended up in the backyard may never be solved, the mystery of who Shepard was has been.

Shepard was a farmer, born in Massachusetts, who moved to Henrietta with his wife, Aseneth and their daughter, Sarah Shepard, according to the website familysearch.org. [She obviously used the Internet to do this checking.]

I also did a quick check of census records for Simeon Shepard, using Ancestry.com, and found find him and his family in the 1850 census in Henrietta Township in Lorain County. I also noted  several listings for men by the name of Simeon Shepard in earlier censuses, including listings in Massachusetts. The listings include several in New York, which often was a waypoint for people migrating from Massachusetts to Ohio. 

There is one more census result of interest: In the 1860 census, Sarah Shepard, age 35, was living in the home of a hardware merchant, and working as a seamstress, in Wellington, Lorain County, about 15 miles from Henrietta Township (distance gleaned from Google Maps). It seems likely that she was the unmarried daughter of Simeon and Anseneth Shepard listed with them in the 1850 census.

Using the power of the Internet, I was able to see all this within about a half an hour. Wow!

1 comment:

  1. We had a similar incident here in Northern VA - it turned out the headstones found were discarded after being replaced. Someone thought they would make a good addition to their backyard...
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)