Where’s George?

Week 21: #52 Ancestors – At the Cemetery

By Eilene Lyon

Many of my farming ancestors led stable, quiet lives that can be hard to document. But some relatives had a flamboyant existence. One of these was my 2nd great-granduncle, George Albert Cutting, brother of my ancestor Arthur N. Cutting. George’s travels spanned the continent, he married three times, and he eschewed farming to be a jeweler and optician.

George was born in Vermont in 1856 and moved with his family to southern Minnesota when he was 10 years old.1 His future wife, Nora V. Hutchison, lived nearby in Hesper, Iowa.2

Headstone for Jonas Cutting and Infant Cutting, son of G.A. and N.V. Cutting. Though the child lived almost 5 months, he was not given a name. Woodlawn Cemetery, Winona, Minn. (E. Lyon 2012)

George and Nora married in 1878.3 They had two sons together, the first dying as an infant. They buried this unnamed child with George’s grandfather, Jonas Cutting, in Winona, Minnesota.4 George, Nora and their son, Clyde, continued living in Winona until about 1900.

The events of 1899 or 1900 are unclear. Nora moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin. There, she gave George’s name to the census taker in 1900, though he was not living with her.5 The city directory lists her as his widow.6

Nora, George, and Clyde Cutting c. 1885. (Courtesy of N. Ingram)

George, however, was actually in Sonora, California, living with a much-younger woman named “May.”7 Her given name was actually Inez L. Ascott, but she went by the nickname “Mae.” She and George apparently met in Winona and ran off to California together. I’ve been unable to locate a marriage record for them.

George and Inez lived in Sacramento for a couple years, where George took up the optical trade, then moved to Portland, Oregon. The couple appears to have been happy together until Inez died in 1907 at the age of 34.8

Inez L. “Mae” Ascott c. 1905. (Courtesy of N. Ingram)

It was this occasion that led George to purchase a lot in the River View Cemetery in Portland. He paid $150 for the lot, which contains six separate burial plots.9 The cemetery is one of the finest in the country, established by Portland’s founding fathers and occupying a beautiful, wooded hillside overlooking the Willamette River.

George did not mourn long before marrying a third time. In 1908, George was 52 years old when he wed 25-year-old widow, Bertha (Munson) Sergeant.10 Bertha lost her first husband, Bert Sergeant, after less than a year of marriage. Bert was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and died of meningitis after returning to the Philippines in 1905 for unknown reasons.11

George and Bertha moved back and forth between Portland and San Joaquin County, California, over the next eight years. They had a son, George Bert Cutting, in 1910. Tragically, young George died at the age of two.12 They brought his body to River View in Portland for burial, but never placed a monument on his grave.

Notices in the Portland newspaper hint that shortly after they married, George and Bertha struggled financially. Perhaps it was the strain of losing a child, or maybe the lack of money, but George and Bertha divorced about 1915 or 1916.

George A. Cutting, jeweler and optician, date unknown. (Courtesy of N. Ingram)

Late in life, his health failing, George moved to Sacramento to live with ex-wife Nora and son Clyde. He died there February 7, 1928.13 Clyde never married nor had children, so George left no descendants.

The mystery is what happened to the burial plots at River View, and why isn’t George buried there? My investigation revealed that George was cremated in Sacramento and his remains were shipped to Portland. The trail ends there – no one knows who received the shipment on the Portland end.

Three of the six cemetery plots are occupied: Baby George, Inez Cutting, and Bertha’s sister, Martha Munson. The three remaining plots have sat vacant for over a century, but thanks to this research, have now been claimed (for later use) by living relatives of Uncle George.

Feature image: River View Cemetery, Portland, Oregon. (E. Lyon 2013)


  1. Census records reveal that George’s younger sister, Mary Elizabeth Cutting, was born in Minnesota in 1866, giving an approximate date for the family’s move. 
  2. Eleonora Hutchinson. Year: 1860; Census Place: Hesper, Winneshiek, Iowa; Page: 872 – via Ancestry.com. AND Nora Hutchinson. Year: 1870; Census Place: Hesper, Winneshiek, Iowa; Roll: M593_426; Page: 186B – via Ancestry.com. 
  3. Geo. A. Cutting and Nora Hutchinson. Ancestry.com. Iowa, U.S., Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. 
  4. Personal visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in Winona, Minnesota, on Sept. 30, 2012. 
  5. Nora V. Cutting. Year: 1900; Census Place: La Crosse Ward 14, La Crosse, Wisconsin; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0081; FHL microfilm: 1241795 – via Ancestry.com. 
  6. Mrs. Nora Cutting. La Crosse, Wisconsin City Directory, 1900. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 
  7. George Cutting. Year: 1900; Census Place: Sonora, Tuolumne, California; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0124; FHL microfilm: 1240116 – via Ancestry.com. 
  8. “Inzell” Cutting death notice. Morning Oregonian. (Portland, OR) June 6, 1907. 
  9. River View Cemetery Assn. to George A. Cutting. The Oregon daily journal. (Portland, OR) July 8, 1907. 
  10. State of Oregon. Oregon, Marriage Indexes, 1906-1924, 1946-2008. Portland, OR, USA: Oregon Health Division, Center for Health Statistics. Oregon, U.S., Marriage Indexes, 1906-2009 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2000. 
  11. Bert O. Sergeant. Ancestry.com. U.S., Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914>1904 Jul – 1905 Dec>L-Z>image 402 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. 
  12. River View Cemetery burial permit No. 6397 for George Bert Cutting. Signed by George A. Cutting on July 31, 1912. Contains both birth and death information. 
  13. George Albert Cutting death notice. Sacramento Bee, February 8, 1928, p. 5. AND George A. Cutting. California, U.S., Death Index, 1905-1939 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. 

55 thoughts on “Where’s George?

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  1. I really enjoy your posts about your ancestors, Eilene! This one hit home because I had a great uncle, Robert George Plowman, who was a bit of a rogue. He left his first wife (no evidence of divorce) and went to Cuba with a married woman. He claimed on his passport they were married. He lived for years in Cuba and Puerto Rico but eventually returned to the US. He purchased a grave plot in Miami for himself and his second “wife” but only he is buried there. She’s buried in St. Louis with the son from her earlier marriage.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Definitely some parallels there! I have no idea if George ever got officially divorced from Nora or legally wed to Mae (Inez). Perhaps he was a bigamist when he married Bertha. Hard to say. I was really surprised that his ashes got sent to Portland, but weren’t interred in his cemetery lot.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I wonder what he was thinking when he bought the six plots…perhaps he was hoping for more children or Clyde having a family. Does it seem unusual that Bertha’s sister was buried there?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bertha’s sister died rather young and was buried in this cemetery before Bertha married George. They had her dug up and moved to George’s lot! I’ve never found out what happened to Bertha after she split with George. She must have originally planned to be buried there with both Georges and her beloved sister.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I would think so, too, but have not found a record of a marriage or anything else. She ended up with a property in Portland. Maybe I can eventually trace her through real estate.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A fascinating tale! The Goff burial plot in Guthrie Center, Iowa, was bought for their daughter who was in her twenties when she died in 1922, a daughter-in-law who died of mumps in 1924 four days after childbirth, three Wilson infants (grandchildren) who died during the Depression, Sherd and Laura Goff themselves, and two sons who never married but had their bodies shipped back to Iowa (from Florida) to have their sister Leora Wilson bury them! Guess I need to write a post about this, huh!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is the truth of it. I’m working on a story that arose from a photo I bought at the antique store – a 6-year-old in Crawford, Nebraska. It’s connected me to a whole bunch of Four Corners history and a 5th cousin of mine, and it keeps going on and on.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great story, Eilene. George certainly had a life filled with tragedies and lots of women. So Nora took him back in the end. He must have been quite a charmer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I enjoyed your story. I, too, have an ancestor who purchased a large plot but is nowhere to be found. It’s a gg grandfather, who appeared a few days before his marriage, when he converted to Catholicism. He marries, has children, life seems good, and in 1905, a month before the census, his wife dies. He is gone from the family home by the time of the 1905 census and I haven’t been able to find anything about his life pre-conversion or post-widowerhood. But Vincent, the cemetery caretaker, told me the empty grave is mine if I want it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt that the River View Cemetery had excellent record-keeping, so my feeling is that they did not receive George’s ashes, but I can’t help wondering if it somehow slipped through the cracks and he actually is in one of the “empty” plots. If you like your gg grandfather’s plot, go for it!

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  6. George ran off with Inez? Oh the names, the stories you can conjure from them. But back to reality… you are doing great attempting to find the graves but maybe record keeping in cemeteries wasn’t so sharp back then?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cemetery sounds fabulous – I don’t know why you wouldn’t be buried there if you already had a plot, unless he was a bit like my grandparents. My grandma bought a mausoleum vault for two because she didn’t like the thought of being put in the ground, but my grandpa chose to be buried in a different (older) cemetery next to his parents because that plot was already paid for (as was the one next to my grandma, but the other plot pre-dated that). So maybe George had a similarly complicated situation.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmmm. That’s a thought. His older brother is buried in Tigard. But given that his wife and infant son are in his lot at River View, I’d bet that’s where he intended to end up.

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  7. A mystery indeed…where did those ashes go? Was there anyone related to the family who might have received them?

    Wonderful you have a photo of George – I can quite see why he was married three times. He looks like a charmer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He had some nephews in the area. His ex-wife, perhaps (I still don’t know what happened to her). It makes the most sense that they were shipped to the cemetery in Portland. But their meticulous records would indicate they never got there.

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      1. Apparently scattering ashes was not something done back then. I’m not sure when that practice started. Maybe he was “ahead of his time”!

        Like

  8. [I apologize for my tardiness in commenting Eilene – we had a computer crash at work that has wreaked havoc on my work life as well as encroached bigtime on my personal time. I am still ten days behind in Reader but aim to catch up a little at a time.] You have fascinating relatives. There’s a “plot” for a mystery novel. George, the optician and jeweler, looks stylish with his rounded shirt collar and bright tie plus his rimless spectacles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that photo must have been like an advertisement for his business! Sorry to hear about the computer crash – what a drag. You certainly shouldn’t take it upon yourself to worry about catching up on blogs. Real life concerns are always a good excuse to disappear from here for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed! He was very debonair looking. The computer issue lingers and has caused a lot of extra work for me from the data lost. I was confident I could catch up, but may have to jump ahead as I’m way behind again. I wanted to give an explanation as I’ve tried to stay current, even a few days behind, but ten days behind in Reader may necessitate otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Eilene. Joni and a few others have suggested to just move to current Reader and mention I’m doing so in my next post. The computer issues linger on and I’m a little frazzled by it.

        Liked by 1 person

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