Uncovering The Dead

Week 13: #52 Ancestors – Almost Forgotten

By Eilene Lyon

This is the 52 Ancestors post that will have you shaking your head and muttering, “That Eilene is insane about her genealogy research.” And I won’t argue the point.

Meet Dr. Jones

Back in November 2018, I told you a little about my cousin, Dr. Benjamin H. Jones. Benjamin came to my attention, because he is mentioned in the family gold rush letters. His brother Samuel headed the Blackford Mining Company that included my 3rd great-grandfather, Henry Z. Jenkins.

The world had essentially forgotten Benjamin Hull Jones until I began researching his life. Even though he married and had children, he has very few descendants.

Born in 1820 in Barnesville, Ohio, Benjamin was the second child of Thomas Jones, Jr. and Sarah Ransom.1 The Joneses had six children, plus an adopted niece, when a scarlet fever epidemic ransacked the community in 1832. Three of Benjamin’s brothers died, and evidence suggests that he also got sick, but survived. Thomas and Sarah later had two more children.2

IMG_1275
Samuel Jones family Bible record that shows the birth of Benjamin H. Jones and his siblings. (Collection of J. W. Beck)

Perhaps this childhood event is the reason he became a physician. In his 30s, he apparently suffered from arthritis, which is one reason I think he got sick during the epidemic.

Dr. Jones married Mariah W. Zinn on February 28, 1843.3 They had five children: Thomas, Geneva, Lucetta (aka Louise or Lou), Weston, and Mary. The family moved to eastern Indiana about 1849, which is the year Weston was born and died as an infant (actual dates unknown).4

Because he arranged the loan for the Blackford Mining Company to go to California in 1851, Dr. Jones was a key witness in the lawsuit the lender filed when Samuel and his partners refused to repay the money. One reason I’m so taken with Benjamin’s story, aside from his tragic accident, is that his testimony survives. It’s like hearing a voice call out from the past.

On December 30 and 31, 1853, Benjamin gave a deposition, assisted by his sister, Rebecca. A couple days earlier, he’d accidently shot himself in the face. The deposition was arranged because everyone thought he would die from his wounds.5

Dead and Buried

But Benjamin didn’t die, then. A few months later, he testified in court. On or about the same day the judge rendered his verdict, Benjamin and Mariah’s youngest daughter, Mary Adeline, died and was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Pennville, Jay County, Indiana. She was not quite 4 years old. A headstone marks her place of rest.6

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Though difficult to read, the headstone is engraved “Mary A. daughter of B.H. and M.W. Jones”. (E. Lyon 2017)

The Jones family Bible states Benjamin died in March 1864, when he was just 43 years old. I doubt his old gunshot injury had any bearing on his death. The Blackford County Historical Society has a diary written by Joseph Van Cleve, a Hartford City merchant. Van Cleve made this note on March 15, 1864: “Dr. Jones of Camden [now Pennville] found dead near Ben Swovelands.”

The Swoveland property was near Trenton, in Blackford County. Dr. Jones almost certainly traveled everywhere on horseback. I suspect that as a further complication of his childhood illness, he had a weak heart and simply collapsed and fell from his horse.7

Presumably, Mariah buried Benjamin next to little Mary in Hillside Cemetery, but there is no headstone. Several months later, his 18-year-old daughter, Geneva, passed away of unknown causes.8 She is probably also buried near Mary, but again, no headstone. Nor is there one for Weston, though he may have been buried in Ohio.

Mariah W. Jones, Thomas J. Jones, Lucetta (Jones) Larrick, and her son, Edward Larrick, are all buried in Maple Lawn Cemetery, which is across the road from Hillside Cemetery. They all have nice headstones. (The reason they are not in Hillside is because the cemetery was closed to new interments by the time they died.)

 

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Grouping of Jones family headstones in Maple Lawn Cemetery, Pennville, Indiana. Group includes a tall standing monument (center) and four flat stones in the foreground. (E. Lyon 2017)
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Gravestones for Thomas J. Jones, Lucetta (Louise) A. Larrick, Mariah W. Jones, and Edward H. Larrick. (E. Lyon 2017)
P1140615
The side of the standing stone includes this inscription for Mariah W. (Zinn) Jones. She lived almost twice as long as her husband, Benjamin. (E. Lyon 2017)
Uncovering the Dead

It really bothered me that Benjamin and two of his children were apparently laid in unmarked graves. So, I decided to see if my hunch about them being next to Mary’s grave in Hillside could be correct.

I checked to see if Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, had an archeology/anthropology department with ground-penetrating radar equipment (GPR). It turns out that they do. At first, a student was going to do the project for me as part of her thesis, but her grant would not allow it.

Instead, I paid the Applied Anthropology Lab to study a couple areas in Hillside Cemetery for me, including the area around Mary A. Jones’s grave. The report I received states that north of Mary’s grave there is an anomaly that appears to have two burials done around the same time period (Benjamin and Geneva?). There is also another probable grave south of her that may be Weston.9

Jones graves
This image from the AAL report shows Mary’s headstone (red box). The blue rectangle indicates a possible double burial. There is also a rectangle below Mary’s grave that could possibly be her brother, Weston Sinclair Jones.

The two areas surveyed revealed 55 possible graves where only 20 are marked by currently visible stones (some markers may be buried).10 The GPR results suggest my hypothesis has merit. There’s no indication that markers were ever placed on Benjamin, Geneva, or Weston’s graves.

It’s unfortunate that the Society of Friends, who started and managed this cemetery, did not keep records. There is no map and no record of burials.11 The small areas I had surveyed clearly show that there are many unmarked graves in Hillside. Sadly, GPR can “uncover” the dead, but it can’t name them.

survey sites
This image from the AAL report shows the two areas I had surveyed with GPR. Given that the survey turned up as many as 35 unmarked graves, the cemetery undoubtedly has a large number of unmarked graves.

Feature image: Mary A. Jones’s grave in Hillside Cemetery (center of image), alone in a sea of green.


  1. The Samuel Jones family Bible, collection of J. W. Beck. 
  2. Ibid. A history of Belmont County suggests the epidemic took place in 1833, but if the family record is correct, it took place in 1832. 
  3. Benjamin H. Jones and Maria Zinn. Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  4. Jones family Bible. 
  5. Muncie Public Library. Delaware County Digital Image Search. Allen Makepeace v. Samuel Jones et al. http://digitalresource.munpl.org/default.asp 
  6. Ibid. and personal visit to Hillside Cemetery. 
  7. The CDC lists long-term complications from scarlet fever, which are rare today. But in Benjamin’s time, it was common for this disease to lead to rheumatic fever (heart disease) and arthritis. Benjamin, in his deposition, indicated he suffered from “the hip disease” which could have been arthritis. https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/scarlet-fever.html 
  8. Jones family Bible. 
  9. Nolan, Kevin C. 2018. Geophysical Field Reconnaissance of Hillside Cemetery Jay County, Indiana. AAL Project #17SP005, Applied Anthropology Laboratories, Department of Anthropology, Ball State University, Muncie, IN. Report prepared for Eilene Lyon, p. 6. 
  10. Ibid. p. 65. 
  11. My research in the Family History Library records for the Camden meeting indicated that the White Water Monthly Meeting had directed the Camden group to make a record for deaths and burials, but it seems that no such records were ever created. I contacted a professor at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, (a Society of Friends institution) and he did not believe there were any records. The Township Trustee has no records, either. A survey was made from the existing headstones, but that is all I’ve been able to turn up. 

26 thoughts on “Uncovering The Dead

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  1. If there were a genealogy prize for “going the greatest lengths” I think you’ve won!…”ground radaring” a cemetery. I never would have thought of it and if I had I suspect I would have just as quickly dismissed the idea as unattainable. Way to go! I agree with you that Benjamin and Geneva are buried beside Mary Adaline. Benjamin’s wife most likely didn’t have the money to spare for headstones. Thanks for another very interesting post!

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    1. I suspect many graves had simple marker (wood, perhaps) at one time that are gone now. Also, Quakers in early days deliberately eschewed headstones. In the local meeting minutes ( from the 1840s) I read that they were only permitting markers no taller than 6 inches. That restriction obviously went by the wayside not long after. Thanks for the prize!😉

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    1. Hopefully there are other types of records that family members can find that at least indicate a person was buried in this cemetery, even if the exact location of the grave is unknown. What’s nice is that the township has taken responsibility for maintaining this cemetery and it looks very nice. They’ve even been cleaning and repairing old gravestones. I can’t say that for all old cemeteries, even the nearby one in Trenton.

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      1. It’s good to hear that the township is maintaining the cemetery. One thing that struck me when I moved to southern New Hampshire was just how many abandoned family graveyards there are in this part of the state, including the street where I live. Farms may have been replaced by strip malls, but the people who once lived there have their names engraved in stone. There is an organization that is working on recording the location of these abandoned graveyards and the headstones they contain, along with GPS coordinates for people researching their family history.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Now that genealogy has become so popular, people have begun paying attention to cemeteries more and more. I’m glad that your area has an organization to do such documentation. One of my friends who started our genealogical society works as a historian for the San Juan Mountains Association and is documenting many old cemeteries around the county, many of them Hispano, because of course this area was part of Mexico for longer than it’s been part of the US.

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      1. Takes one to know one. My 3x-great-grandfather is buried in a Philadelphia cemetery. His headstone, if he had one, has sunk into the ground, but those of my great-great-grandfather (his son) still stands, and there is a synagogue that maintains the synagogue and has mapped out the plot where my 3xGGF is buried. We spoke about replacing the stone or trying to unbury the original, but somehow that slipped between the cracks over time. You’ve inspired me to get in touch with the rabbi again!

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      2. Good idea! I was supposed to be in Indiana right now, meeting some Jenkins cousins and maybe uncovering a buried grave marker in Hillside for my 4x great grandmother. Oh well!

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  2. It must be a little frustrating to go to all those lengths, but still not really be able to definitely say it is them. But I think it is fascinating what can be found out with technology, hopefully somewhere along the way you’ll find some documentation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Quakers used to keep meticulous records. Some of the older ones are even published, which helps when you’re wanting to join the Society of Mayflower Descendants, etc. I didn’t know about the GPR possibility. Have one grave area there’s a question about, if I want to pursue it. (I think four are buried there but there’s only records for three.)

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    1. It’s an interesting technology. I suspect there are times when you can find a student to do the work for free. Check around. These Quakers kept meeting minutes, but they did a poor job with vital stats, for some reason. A family Bible record would be my only hope for my other mystery in this cemetery.

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  4. You followed your hunch but where it has gotten you is perhaps not where you hoped? I’m fascinated by the process you went through to discover these graves. Mysteries never end in genealogy, do they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I thinks it’s highly probable that I’ve found the graves I was looking for, and certainly it’s unlikely anyone else will claim it otherwise. At some point, I may put up a monument. Or not. I feel somewhat obligated since Benjamin’s story is part of my book. There will never be an end to the mysteries! I can play sleuth for the rest of my life. 😎

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