Monday, October 06, 2008

Ansearchin' by flashlight

The 58th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is inviting bloggers to post on the theme of "Halloween Hauntings . . . Fact or Fiction?"

Kinda appropriate since Hallowe'en is only a few weeks away . . .

I'll let ye socks determine just how much truth is in the following second-hand account:

Twenty years ago, Skip Morgan's full time job was as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. His part-time obsession was genealogy. The little library near his base in West Texas had a remarkably good collection of research material, and it was there he discovered a book that listed the final resting place of his great great grandparents James Lorenzo Morgan and Martha Virginia Brown Morgan.

(Shameless plug: For a compelling account of James and Martha's experiences during the U.S. Civil War, check out my book Like the Cats of Kilkenny.)

Their names were recorded among the many early burials at the Washington Cemetery in the little Missouri River town of Glasgow--about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis.

As luck would have it, just a few days after Skip discovered this little genealogical tidbit, he was sent on a mission to Whiteman Air Force Base. It was just over 90 miles away from Glasgow, a trip that would take over two hours to make-- even for somebody who knew the backroads of rural Missouri. And, he was only going to be there overnight. But, Skip was undeterred.

Upon landing at Whiteman, the intrepid genealogical sleuth commandeered one of those old blue Air Force trucks all of we brats recall so fondly from our childhood bases. You know the ones with the yellow lettering and bad suspension. Soon, it was carrying him up bumpy Highway 65 to Marshall, and east on county roads 41 and 240 to Glasgow.

Unfortunately, by the time he got to the little river town, the sun had long since set and all the businesses were closed. There was no one about to tell a stranger where the cemetery was. And, it would be a peculiar question to ask, anyway. So, Skip decided to just cruise up and down the streets until he found it.

Fortunately, Glasgow is a small town, and his cruising did not take too long. He found the cemetery just before midnight, which would have deterred almost any non-genealogy addict.

Grabbing a flashlight from the glove compartment of the truck, Skip began exploring the eerily quiet cemetery. There were none of the proverbial hoot owls or spooky winds that generally accompany late night visits to such places, just a lot of quiet and a lot of dark.

He made his way to the biggest monument he could see outlined against the night sky, and flashed his beam onto the obelisk. Amazingly, it had been erected in memory of his namesake William D. Swinney--an uncle to both James and Martha! Surely, their stones must be nearby!

So, Skip began circling the Swinney plot as slowly and methodically as his excitement would allow. Around and around he went, shining his small light on stone after stone, looking for his elusive ancestors. But, all his patience was for nought.

It should be mentioned that the cemetery in question is not on a level piece of ground. So, before too long, our intrepid genealogist found himself atop a small rise. Frustrated, he was just about to admit defeat. Then, out of nowhere, a breeze blew across the garden of stones and he could have sworn it whispered something in his ear, "Over here!"

He spun around to see whose voice might have been carried on the wind, turning so quickly as to lose his footing. His flashlight fell from his hand and rolled down the rise, and Skip would have gone tumbling after if he hadn't reached out to grab a nearby stone to regain his balance.

Muttering a curse of resignation, he carefully made his way down the rise to recover his still shining flashlight. He knew he better get out of there before he caused any alarm amongst the townfolk, and he had to cover the 90+ miles back to his base for the return flight the next morning. But, as he knelt to pick up the flashlight, he noticed its beam was illuminating the same stone that had steadied him atop the rise.

A chill went down his spine as he read the name: James Lorenzo Morgan.

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Blogger Jasia said...

oooh! This is a good one!!! It's certainly possible, but what are the odds? I love the eerie night-in-the-cemetery setting. I'm debating.

Hmmm. I'm going to say... yes, it's a fact. We'll see if I'm right. I'd love to have a story like this to tell about a genealogy sleuth in my family!

1:44 PM  
Blogger Orange and Blue said...

Thanks! I'll give a hint as to the veracity of the story: This was one of many research trips undertaken by my Dad and myself that eventually led to the publication of "Like the Cats of Kilkenny: A TRUE Story of the Civil War." (ISBN 9781425912017)

3:55 PM  
Blogger T.K. said...

A well-told tale... I believe every word of it!

1:37 AM  
Blogger Apple said...

Not my 1st choice for locating a grave! Great story.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Msteri said...

Great story!


12:06 AM  

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