Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where Do the Wests Really Rest?

Between the headstones marked McKechie and Miller is a headstone that bears the family name of West. The name is written in letters about five inches tall and embedded in the smooth polished surface of a large piece of granite. That piece sits on a squat base of granite that acts as its pedestal. Although the stone is not extravagant, neither is it simple. It is distinct enough to suggest those buried beneath it were people of means.

Smaller letters are also chiseled into the headstone's shiny face. They read, George R. West and his wife Lelia Cottam. George was born November 3, 1866. Lelia was born May 10, 1875. Were they alive today, the Misses would be 134 and her husband would be 143. I do not think I would be presumptive to conclude they are long deceased.

But that is where the mystery comes in . . .

Neither of their birth dates are followed by the dash and then the date of death. Why? I saw that peculiar marker this morning when I took a walk through the cemetery. It piqued my interest, and I decided I would return with notebook and mechanical pencil in hand, sit in the shade of a giant oak, and write out questions about where the Wests really rest (I know this is unusual. Perhaps it is a result of the accident). My questions . . .

Are they actually buried there?

Did they divorce, and the courts are still deciding who gets the grave plots?

Did they decide if they couldn't sleep together in life--the prospects of sleeping side-by-side forever seemed unappealing?

Do the remains of one lay beneath the sod, and the remains of the other somewhere else?

Did they grow old, senile, and forgotten--so that no one knew of their prearranged resting place?

Were they unable to bear children, or did they outlive their children, or were they estranged from their children, and had no immediate kin to see to their final arrangements?

Were they friendless or outlive all their friends?

Did they hold peculiar religious beliefs that recognized their day of birth, but did not recognize their day of death, because they believed their soul would reincarnate forever?

Did the headstone chiseler chisel them out of a few bucks?


  1. Uncle Bill,

    I've been able to track them down a bit. I'm sending an invitation to your gmail address to a family tree I've opened for them

    Looks like they were both Canadian immigrants into the U.S. George died in 1911 in Mass., so he is probably buried there. Lelia died in 1940 while living in KY with her son Harold and his wife Helen.

    George was of Scottish descent. Haven't tracked down Lelia's history yet.

  2. You are incredible! Great head on your shoulders. Thanks for following the posts.