26 October 2014

Keep Looking

This past weekend, my Aunt from Alabama traveled to Colorado for a visit. My parents, my sister and her family, myself and my family, and our Aunt, all gathered in Leadville, Colorado to create some fall memories. While there, I wanted to get back to the Evergreen Cemetery to correct a mistake I made a few years ago: insufficient headstone photos. 

Thomas Perkins was born in England, and I first discovered his headstone about five years ago. The story is a bit long, so bear with me. 

Thomas Perkins was the first husband of Mary Isabelle Daniel. Mary was born in 1868 in Cornwall, England, and is the mother of three children. She arrived in America and appears to have traveled almost directly to Colorado. Although still unclear where the marriage between them took place, they ended up in Leadville, which is the highest incorporated town in the United States, sitting just above 12,000 feet in elevation. In the late 1800s, it was a booming city, and was even considered for the Colorado state capitol at one point. The town was the epicenter of the various mineral rushes in Colorado through the late 1800s and through the 1900s. 

After Thomas died in 1900, Mary continued on in Leadville for a few years. She ran a boarding house on East 5th Street, just three blocks from where my sister lives today. For whatever reason, in 1910, she and her children traveled to Springview, Keya Paha County, Nebraska, where she married my great grand uncle, Dick Heerten. Technically, she responded to his ad in "Lonely Hearts" magazine, or so the family story goes, and they were married within minutes of her stepping off the train. They then headed out to his farm, where they raised her three children, and life appears to have progressed fairly smoothly for the couple. 

What does all this have to do with Evergreen Cemetery? 


The thing is, our family never knew about Mary and her first husband until just a couple of years ago when I managed to dig it up from the black hole of history where family stories go to die. I put the pieces together and when I finally realized the truth of the story, my family was a little more than surprised. Not only has this particular line (the Heerten's) never before had any connection with Colorado, it was absolutely crazy to us that Mary and Thomas lived in Leadville. The town where my sister and her family had moved to about twelve years ago. A town that none of us had ever heard of before that point, and a town that has since captivated us a bit with its history. 

As this story started to unravel, I went to Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville and found the headstone of Thomas Perkins. I was unsure of his birth date, and his actual death date, and was really hoping there would be more information there. With no images available online that I could identify (at the time, at least; after I found the memorial, I created a place for him on FindAGrave.com), I really felt I needed to see the headstone. And I'm glad I did. 


Headstone of Thomas Perkins, Evergreen Cemetery.
Leadville, Lake County, Colorado
Copyright Jen Baldwin, 2014.

I was excited to find his marker, and several other's with the surname Perkins. I took the time to document all of the stones in the plot, and got the close up of course of the iinscriptionon Thomas' stone. 

Headstone of Thomas Perkins, Evergreen Cemetery.
Leadville, Lake County, Colorado
Copyright Jen Baldwin, 2014.

My mistake came when I walked away without a clear image of the two symbols on his marker. Although relatively common, they are significant enough that I knew I needed to confirm them, leaving no doubt as to their meaning. If you are familiar, you may immediately recognize them. This is what I was determined to correct this past weekend, and I did just that when I visited the site again, accompanied by my husband and my Dad. (Great experience, to walk a cemetery with the two men in this world I love the most.)


Copyright Jen Baldwin, 2014

Copyright Jen Baldwin, 2014

You may know them, you may not. The top one is a bit harder to see, but it is the anchor and shield of the Association of United Workmen. The initials, A.O.U.W. are often inscribed across the symbol, as seen here.  The lower symbol is an Elk inside a shield, representing the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. Both were prominent organizations in Leadville history. 

The Elks is a great one for me, as I already know the lodge is still active, and my sister has friends who are members. I have an "in" for any future research I may want to do. The A.O.U.W. may be a little more challenging, however, as the Leadville lodge has since gone defunct, and in fact, the organization as a whole has evolved into a life insurance company. The great part for me was as we walked over to the next plot, and I found this: 


A.O.U.W. Headstone, Evergreen Cemetery
Leadville, Lake County, Colorado
Copyright Jen Baldwin, 2014

I do not know if this person is affiliated in my research of Thomas Perkins in any way, but I'm grateful for them, nonetheless. Why? Because the Lodge for the A.O.U.W. is identified on their marker! "Excelsior Lodge No. 5" is inscribed along the top edge, with the A.O.U.W. symbol on the front angle. Although more ornate than the version on the Perkins stone, there is no doubt that this is the same organization. YES, there could have been more than one lodge in Leadville. NO, there is no guarantee that this was also Thomas Perkins' lodge, but it is a place to start. I almost missed it; I almost just walked on by. But for whatever reason, I didn't. I looked down and paused. I took a second look. 

And that is why I say, keep looking.  You never know what is going to be right under your feet.