Thursday, November 10, 2016

Imagining Isaac Werner's Funeral

The day we found Isaac Werner's grave stone, it was neglected and in need of repair.  (See "Finding Isaac's Grave," 1/13/2012.)  Since then, not only has the stone been refurbished but also much has been learned about the man.  Between my research and the faithfulness of readers of this blog, Isaac is no longer a forgotten man.

Isaac's probate records provided a great deal of information about his burial.  I know that a burial suit was purchased and from whom his casket was obtained.  However, I do not know if an actual funeral ceremony was held.  The preface  to my manuscript describes the funeral I imaged for him, conducted by the friends who appear in his journal.  The people and the relationships described in the preface are well documented, but the service is identified as imagined.  It is one of the things that concerns publishers who expect strict historical events to be depicted.
In a way, I suppose, I gave Isaac the funeral I believe he would have wanted.  I imagined those he was closest to in life gathered at the grave site to bid him farewell.  I described the songs he might have chosen and a singer he knew to lead the group in song.  I selected passages from his beloved Shakespeare that Isaac might have wanted read by his friend with the politically trained voice to read those passages well.  Each of those choices was based on my extensively researched knowledge of Isaac's friends and his preferences; yet, I cannot know if the service I imagined reflected any similarities to his actual burial.

At the recent Octoberfest in Stafford, Kansas, I thought of Isaac as I visited a display of antique items associated with funerals.  I doubt that Isaac would have been conveyed to the cemetery in a hearse, and there was certainly no fee included for such a conveyance in his estate records.  It seems more likely that he would have been conveyed in a common farm wagon.  The elegant black hearse on display was more likely used for funerals in town, and for those times, Stafford was a long distance from the cemetery in which Isaac was buried.

Also displayed was a long wicker basket used to transport the body from the location of the deceased's death to the mortuary--a sort of gurney for its day.

A child's casket was also displayed, a sad reminder of the large number of deaths among children at that time.  Isaac's friends, Wesley and Elizabeth Logan lost their daughter Perlie when she was only 4 1/2 years old, the third of their children to die.  Doc Dix and his wife Susan had lost three very young children before they came to Kansas, where their daughter was born.  William Campbell lost his wife Eliza in childbirth, and she is buried between two daughters who died in infancy.  There are more examples that occurred in Isaac's community, but I mention these three because they were all among his closest friends.  The need for tiny caskets in the 1800s was significant.

The horse-drawn hearse was donated by the Rex and Mary Milton Family, together with a fur lap robe (visible on the  seat of the hearse), mittens, and a foot warmer.  The hearse was used after 1886 until the 1920s.  It was kept, along with the horses that pulled the hearse, in Nunn Livery Stable on the east side of Main Street in Stafford, Kansas.

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