Our Family Legend is about John Densmore. He was born in Darlington, Ontario on the 8th of November, 1839. He married his wife, Sarah Louise Reynolds in Malden, Ontario on June 16, 1856. They were married by Rev Johnson a clergyman from the ME Church in Malden. They remained in Ontario until 1861 at which time they crossed the border into Michigan and settled near Marine City Michigan. John was a carpenter who worked on sailing ships. John served in the 11th Michigan Infantry, Company K during the Civil War. He enlisted on February 25, 1865 and mustered out on September 16, 1865.
Our Family legend involves John’s body twelve years after he died. John died on February 15, 1906. I have located his death record from the State of Michigan. He died in Cottrellville, Michigan at his home. He was laid to rest in Smiths Cemetery in Cottrellville, Michigan. I had half heartedly attempted to find this cemetery with no luck. I did locate the cemetery on findagrave.com. So when the weather breaks (here in wintry Michigan) I’ll go look for it again.
As you can see from his death record, he died from Addisons Disease which we know today is an Adrenal Insufficiency Disease. His Civil War pension file seemed to indicate that he was having heart issues and “piles” as early as 1880. He was requesting disability benefits in 1890. I see no indication that he received disability until 1904 though there were many request from 1890 until 1904. He was sick for three years prior to his death according to affidavits from John’s Civil War Pension files later made by his wife and close family friends. His place of burial is listed as Smith’s Cemetery, Cottrellville, Michigan on his death certificate.
Sarah Reynolds Densmore was eventually able to get his pension after his death. She lived with several of her son’s and their families after John died until her death twelve years later. She was living in Marine City at the time of her death with her son, Harvey Densmore. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City. I do not know why she was not buried in Smiths Cemetery. I do not have a copy of Sarah Death Certificate.
So the legend goes like this….
One night Charles Densmore and two of his nephews, Wesley Densmore and Harold Densmore, decided that John Densmore needed to be buried next to his wife in the Woodlawn Cemetery. . So they hitched up a wagon with a couple of horses and went to get him. They made their way from Marine City to Smiths Cemetery which was about five miles away.
It was a very dark night. They found his grave and dug him up. They loaded him onto the wagon with his tombstone and headed back to Marine City. At Woodlawn Cemetery, they dug a grave for him and laid him in the ground next to his wife. According to Harold, John’s remains had deteriorated as expected but his clothing especially his shirt and tie had held up really quite well! The box was very deteriorated beginning at the feet end of the coffin. They brought his military stone with them. In their haste to finish the job before dawn they installed the military tombstone backwards. (and it still is today!)
I made a couple of phone calls. Woodlawn Cemetery looked through their records and they have no burial record for John Densmore. According to the secretary, “ No we have no John Densmore buried in our Cemetery! “ Humm, that is interesting! Yet here he is in their cemetery.
John is listed in the Woodlawn Cemetery on Findagrave. Those entries are entered by volunteers based on finding a tombstone and transcribing it. I have visited his grave so I know it is there. It was hard to find since the stone is backwards but I found it. Actually I found Sarah’s first….then his.
I called Smith’s Cemetery. They had no record of his burial either. They said they had a fire in the township office and all the records were destroyed. They stated that if the Michigan State Burial record indicated that he was buried in Smiths Cemetery than he was but they have no way to prove it. Now the township just go by the accuracy of tombstones transcriptions for burial information prior to fire in the township office. They have records for the burials after the fire. It is an active cemetery.
So now I need to see if I can find out who ordered the Civil War stone, when it was placed and where? I know that there are very specific placement rules for military stone. Backwards is not one of those requirements. I believe that this stone is also placed too far into the ground. So now I need to look those requirements up. I am told by the local undertaker that the family orders the stones. Was that the case in the early 1900’s too? There must be a database that has this information in it. I have looked thru John’s Pension file and there is no information about the Military stone in it. Wonder if the National Archive could tell me who order his stone ? When it was order? And where it was placed? That would tell me where he is suppose to be.
Charles Densmore, ironically, became the Sexton of the Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City from about 1925 until his death in 1943. So I will keep trying to solve this family legend. So far the evidence makes it looks like it could be accurate. I’ll keep you posted.