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Friday, December 16, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy Style - Part Five - Journey to Roseland Park

It took some time to find this gem, not that this resting place for souls is hidden, it's not - it is on a "main drag" in Northwest Detroit.  What took the time is the research, the letters and phone calls to what seemed like every church and cemetery in Wayne County.  At last, about three weeks before we were to leave on our excursion, a phone call from a kind gentleman at the Hamilton Funeral Home directed me to Roseland Park. .
My grandmothers death certificate listed the Hamilton brothers as providing services to the family after her death.  Hidden deep in some old filing cabinets in the cellar of their main office were records that included the "place of interment".  Mr. Hamilton, Sr. himself called to share this information with me.   Located in the small suburb of Berkely, Michigan, Roseland is actually located in Oakley County but still a short drive from Detroit

So now, three weeks later, with Emily at my side, I'm driving through the imposing gates of Roseland.  A quick stop to register in the office, some questions and yes, Mary is indeed entombed here....in a mausoleum some few 100 yards away.  "Are there any others?" we asked.  Some hesitation on her part but "Wait a minute and I'll check".  Yes, not only Mary, but also her mother, Elizabeth and two of her brothers, Albert and possibly George.  And with this news, a letter from Walter, Mary's youngest brother who in 1950 was paying for maintenance at the site and asking that fresh geraniums be planted each spring.  Walter, was by that time, president of a bank in Holly, Michigan.  The youngest child, once a bank clerk, now president of a bank and manager of his familys final resting place. 

Why was Mary entombed while the rest of her family were elsewhere on the grounds?  Presumably, her burial was provided and paid for by W.C., her ex-spouse who had left her and the boys on their own in Detroit several years before her death.  He had tried to provide for their housing but according to letters, Mary refused his help.  Possibly Mary's family were willing to accept an offer to provide for the final resting place of his ex-wife and mother of his two sons, William and Robert.  Located on the last column and next to the window, her vault is in the top row, its door void of all information save for her name, year of birth and year of death.  Em and I left a bouquet of babies breath in the only place we could - the floor in the corner below the niche which has probably not seen a visitor since 1950.
Outside, a short distance away, we found what one might call a "family plot".  One headstone with one word - Lentz near which were two markers again with simple engraving;  Elizabeth 1857-1942  and Albert 1895-1921.
No words of remembrance or solace, just a name and a date.  Was this for lack of funds or for humility?  We'll most likely never know.  The large headstone seemed newer - perhaps erected by Walter years after when he had become successful.  Emily cleaned the weeds and dirt away from the markers and placed a butterfly on Elizabeths marker.....Emily - Elizabeth's great, great grand-child.

Elizabeth died in 1942.  Mary died in 1934.  They were my great grandmother and grandmother and I never knew them.  What is it that causes families to fall apart?  What is the secret that enables some to endure turmoil and others to shatter?  How is it that one generation has so much impact over generations yet to come?
What are the precedents set by such actions?  How can it be so easy to turn away from those we once loved?  Why did W.C. leave Mary and his boys?  Mary who must have struggled to raise her two sons while battling tuberculosis.  Did he take her "in sickness and in health"?  Or was infidelity to blame?  Why was Mary in Detroit while W.C. worked in Wisconsin?  Did she want to be closer to her mother, did she not like the icy landscape of Wisconsin, did she need more help with her young boys than W.C. could provide?  So many unanswered questions.

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