Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mystery Solved!

     In our last blog visit to the cemetery, we were pondering whether Elizabeth Israel's husband was ever laid to rest beside her or if he had been interred away from his beloved wife.

     I am happy to report that I received a reply to my question from a genealogist whose husband is related to the Israel couple. 

     She shared that they had been told that Alexander died while visiting his sister in St. Louis, but that they had discovered a receipt for his burial next to Elizabeth. The receipt had the payments broken into monthly payments, so it may be assumed that the engraving was too expensive for the family to undertake at the time.

     I am so grateful to know that the couple is together. I don't know about you, but these situations can make me grieve a bit for those involved, even if they are no relation to me. Yes, people interred in cemeteries are "real" people who led very real lives. I would rather find out about them than read a fictional account of someone who never actually existed.

     I've added Alexander's name and information to the Findagrave database for anyone who has the same question in the future.

     I was also glad to be able to share a bit of fun information about Alexander with our informant, as well. Although her family knew that he had a registered patent for a washing machine, they had not yet seen a picture of it. Here it is:

     Alexander was quite ingenious, and surely his blacksmithing skills came into play with the design. 
The description of the machine is in Alexanders own words, so it gives an insight into his engineering skills.
     "…the clothes are thoroughly washed or scoured and boiled at the same time. The clothes are thoroughly cleaned without danger of injuring or tearing the same, and the machine is adapted for washing the finest fabrics - lace curtains and the like. The water is kept constantly boiling by the heater and s continuously circulated throughout he revolving drum an brought into contact with the clothes contained therein. The clothes are constantly carried upward and dripped by means of the radially-disposed ribs and are at the same time subjected to the scoring or rubbing action of the rotary washboard."

     It actually sound quite like our washing machines today!

     Thanks to Jan for solving our mystery.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Is Elizabeth Eternally Waiting?

While walking through the LaPorte Cemetery in Harris County, Texas this gravestone caught my attention. It's a lovely marker in wonderful shape, despite being over 100 years old. But what intrigued me is that someone seems to be missing.

Only half of the stone is engraved.

"Eliza, beloved wife of A.C. Israel"was interred here in 1910, having passed away at the age of 55. The other side of the marker was obviously left blank in wait for the passing of her husband…but where is he? Unless he is breaking a Guinness World record for age, surely he has passed away by now.

"A.C. Israel" was Alexander Charles Israel, who was born in Ohio in 1844 to native residents of that state. The family also lived in Meigsville, Ohio (1850 census) and St. Louis Missouri (1860).

On September 8, 1864 Alexander married Elizabeth Williams, who was born n 1845 in New York. She was the daughter of Henry Williams (b. 1823) and Harriet (born 1825).

 Alexander and Elizabeth lived in Concord, Missouri (1870 census) and Rock, Missouri (1880) before moving to Texas. They had three daughters together: 
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Harriet Israel (Serface) b. 1867-1913
Emma Florence Israel (Serface) b. 1869 - 1954
Cora Belle Israel b. 1871 - 1923

Family photo shows :  Alexander Charles and Eliza and their daughters Emma Florence (left), Libby (top) and Cora Belle (bottom).

Elizabeth died in 1910, leaving Alexander a widower.

He was recorded as living in LaPorte, Texas by the 1910 census with his occupation listed as owner of a blacksmith shop. A 38-year-old servant, Lillie Brown, and her six-year-old daughter Helen lived with him. He was still living in Harris County at the time of the 1920 census.

Alexander passed away on May 22, 1922 in Harris County, Texas.

I can find no record of his burial in the LaPorte Cemetery, or in the cemeteries where Elizabeth Harriet (who died just three years after her mother and is interred in Houston) or Emma Florence rest. I have found no grave listing for little Cora.

So the mystery remains…where was Alexander buried. It's possible that he was laid to rest beside his wife and the engraving was never ordered. It's sad, but I've seen it happen several times. 

I have contacted a descendant of the family in an attempt to find Alexander, but haven't received an answer. Perhaps someone reading this will have a clue. 

Until then, his resting place remains a mystery.

Is Eliza still waiting for her beloved husband to join her?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Showmen's Rest - Part 4

"To Each His Own"
1925 - 2003

    Frances Loter Padilla of Hugo, Oklahoma performed in circus sideshows with an act not many would be brave enough to attempt. She and her "co-stars" are immortalized in a ceramic photo on her gravestone.


1915 - 1976

     Kenneth Ikirt was a circus showman for 30 years. The World War II army veteran is said to have been especially good dealing with elephants known to have bad tempers. At various times he toured with the Kelly Morris Circus, Ringling Brothers, and John Pauling's Great London Circus. He was also the elephant trainer for the Miller family shows.
     The back of his grave marker exclaims, "Boss elephant many for Carson-Barnes Circus, Largest Elephant Herd in America."

1908 - 1979     and       1907- 1978

C. L. “Tex” Clayton was the “24-hour man” for Al G. Kelly and Miller Brothers Circus. He traveled a day ahead of the show, making final arrangements for the 30 or so vehicles and approximately 100 circus people. A former rodeo  man, whose home was Hugo Oklahoma, never saw the circus road show performances, as he was always ahead of the tour on the road. The last time he would see the acts was during dress rehearsals in the spring.
     His wife Lucille was a juggler and had a huh wire act with their young daughter, Mary.
     The circus wagon etched on their marker bears their initial "C," and the slogan "With It and For It" is emblazoned across the bottom of the stone.

1945 - 2001

     Ken "Turtle Benson" was an elephant man with several shows, but spent his last years with Roberts Bros. Circus. He was so dedicated to the shows that he left a VA hospital in his last days to return to the Roberts Bros. Circus. He passed away shortly afterward.

1933 - 2008 

     Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any information about Lillie Jean in old newspapers or circus publications. 
     She was certainly a lovely lady, and many admirers stop by to look at her photo. 
     If you know anything about her life or career, please share it with us.


     Samuel was a member of the famous Perez Family from Mexico City, who perform with the Kelly Miller Circus. He was a dynamic trapeze and acrobatic performer whose act included jumping rope on top of a spinning wheel known as the "Wheel of Death," shown on the back of his marker. 
     He suffered an untimely death due to illness. A piece of acrobatic equipment had been left on top of his marker along with the beautiful floral arrangements.

     There are many other fascinating grave markers and stories in Hugo's Showman's Rest cemetery that I will share in the future. For now, I think it's time to move to other areas and stories. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Showmen's Rest - Part 3

There are so many fascinating lives behind the stones in Showmen's Rest, from the people who performed under the big top shows to those who ran the business behind the scenes. Here are a few more of their stories.

1888 - 1966

     A long-time animal superintendent, Dutch was famous for showing his "blood sweating hippo" from the River Nile, named "Miss Oklahoma." A hippo has to be a big (pun intended) part of your life to feature her on your tombstone!


     Kennedy Swain was born in a railroad show car and brought up on show business. He performed in vaudeville and stage and including being a comedian in Plunkett's Variety Show.
     His wife "Snooks" came from a long line of famous circus people, the famed Plunkett family, and was drummer in the circus band. Their son followed them into the business.
                   "Kennedy Swain and his Musical Mavericks," featuring Kennedy on trumpet, performed opening music for the Harley Sadler Tent Show.
     The World War II Air Force veteran also worked as a sideshow manager for the Al G. Kelly-Miller Brothers circus and the announcer for the Carson and Barnes Circus. 

     Zenda's talent is proudly displayed on her marker next to Kennedy's.

1923 - 1998

   Born and raised in Indiana, Bonnie "Jean" loved her work with Chimpanzees so much that she is forever depicted with one. She died in 1998 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

1907 - 1988

     "Flo," was a circus performer with a number of shows including Barnett Bros., Clyde Beatty, King Bros. and Kelly-Miller. She died at age 81. Just imagine the stories she could have shared with us!

1915 - 

     Grace is a businesswoman who was ahead of her time. 

     She was raised by bareback rider Elizabeth Romig, a family friend. Her mother had died when she was young and her father, a circus baggage stock handler was on the road with Sells-Floto. 
     She became a trapeze artist at age 12, and later married circus superintendent David McIntosh, circus superintendent. After her husband's death she purchased the M&M Circus with Charles Marine. When Marine passed away, she ran the circus alone. 
     This beautiful marker is still waiting, because she still has things to do. She celebrated her 99th birthday last month!

1926 - 1980

   John Carroll, known as the "Elephant Man," was a famous elephant trainer and handler.

     At age 15, he was a cage boy for Terrell Jacobs, then joined the Kelly-Miller Circus around 1948. He died of a heart attack at age 54 while in Jacksonville, Texas with the Carson & Barnes Circus.
     His funeral services were held in the spotlighted center of a circus tent. 
     Carroll left his life savings to establish the "John Carroll Showmen's Rest Trust Fund, to provide gravestones for show people who could not provide their own. 
     Several of the markers in Showmen's Rest are inscribed with the fund's name.

1927 - 1999

     Ted Bowman started his circus career with the Terrell Jacobs Wild Animal Circus in 1949, and also worked for Royal American Shows, Fairyland Circus, Gil Gray Circus, and the Al G. Kelly - Miller Bros. Circus. He served as the general manager of the Carson & Barnes Circus for 17 years.
     His unique marker at the front of the Showmen's Rest section depicts an old-fashioned circus wagon wheel, with the poignant inscription:

"There's nothing left but empty popcorn sacks
and wagon tracks…the circus is gone."