Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Kindness of a Stranger

Henrietta C. Werner Palmer
Isaac B. Werner's youngest sister, Henrietta Catherine, was a young girl in her mid-teens when Isaac left for the West.  His father had died, and although his twin brother chose to remain in the area, Isaac was eager to seek his fortune beyond the Pennsylvania community where he was raised.

His widowed mother, Margaret, and his two teenaged sisters moved from the family home in Wernersville to the larger town of Reading, not far away.  Emma married first, and when Henrietta married the Rev. Samuel Palmer, Margaret made her home with the Palmer family and traveled West with them to Abilene, Kansas.  You may read more about Margaret at "Finding Margaret," Aug. 20, 2015 in the blog archives.

Not long after Margaret's death the Palmer family moved to Lawrence, Kansas.  Rev. Palmer died there in 1921, followed in death by his wife Henrietta ten years later.

I was eager to locate the grave of Isaac's youngest sister, so when other events took us to Lawrence, I arranged to visit Oak Hill Cemetery to search for Henrietta's grave stone.

Grave marker of Henrietta C. Palmer
Oak Hill Cemetery was created to honor those killed in Quantrill's Raid in 1863, land having been purchased in 1865 to create a rural, garden style cemetery modeled after Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery.  It is a lovely old cemetery on rolling terrain with many shade trees, but the irregular, naturalized design makes locating graves a challenge.  My husband and I wandered the area in which we believed Henrietta and her husband to be buried without success, and we were giving the effort one last try when we noticed a man tending a grave.

Grave marker of Rev. Samuel Palmer
My husband approached him to inquire whether he was familiar with the cemetery, in hopes that the man's knowledge might help us locate Henrietta's grave.  He confirmed that we were probably looking in the right area but couldn't offer any specific help.  However, in the course of the conversation we discovered a connection.  His deceased wife, whose grave he was tending, was the daughter of our high school superintendent.  A pleasant chat ensued, much of it about the football careers of his former father-in-law and his brother-in-law, with whom my husband had played high school football.  When we prepared to leave without having located Henrietta's grave he offered to find it for us and send photographs.

Rev. Samuel Palmer
Within a few days, the kindness of this stranger, Earl Van Meter, provided not only photographs of the grave stones of Henrietta and her husband Rev. Samuel Palmer but also a map with the locations of the graves clearly marked.  When we visit Lawrence again in a few months we should be able to find their graves and pay our respects to Isaac's sister and her husband.

Isaac was very fond of his sisters, and during the early years of his journal he mentioned them often.  Later, he regretted that correspondence with the two of them had become rare, and although he understood that they were busy with their own families, he missed hearing from them.

In doing the research on Isaac and his family, I have connected with a descendant of Henrietta, or Ettie as Isaac called her.  This descendant was not aware that Isaac's homestead had gone to his siblings and their descendants when he died.  More than a century after Isaac's death my research has closed the circle to reconnect with his siblings--thanks in no small part to the kindness of strangers. 


Susan Davis said...

Henrietta and Samuel Palmer are my great-great grandparents through their daughter Gertrude Octavia Palmer Rodgers and her daughter (my grandmother) Ruth Rodgers Price.

The Blog Fodder said...

That is so great. Grave sites are hard to find in cemeteries of any size.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

Susan, I hope you enjoyed the blog. I didn't use your name in the blog but suspected you would recognize yourself...

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

AML from Washington state wrote: "I love a good cemetery story! I too have made new friends while one or the other of us was searching for a departed relative. Thanks for sharing this one...nice to know about Isaac's sister!

Grace Grits and Gardening said...

Wow this is so fantastic. I especially love when blog posts connect people.