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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

In the Shade of the Oaks

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, on a gloomy August morning on my way across Iowa, I stopped at Oakshade Cemetery in Marion. It has some of the oldest burials of any cemetery in that part of the state, so of course I had to stop.

The name describes it perfectly. There are still many weathered yet magnificent oak trees of several different varieties there. Some of the cemetery's oldest gravestones are so worn by time and the elements that they are unreadable or altogether crumbled. Though I was impressed to see so many stones in the process of being repaired.

I took dozens of photos while I was at the cemetery. Today as I was downloading the photos to my computer, among the snaps was the gravestone of Betsey Herman. All I really noticed at the time I took the photo was the age at which she died--19 years, 7 months, and 3 days--and the oak leaf that had come to rest there in Oakshade Cemetery. But today I noticed the date she died: August 28, 1851. Exactly 171 years ago today. I took that as a sign that she was the one in Oakshade Cemetery that I needed to learn more about.

If the years, months, and days on Betsey's gravestone were calculated correctly (and they were often not), and if I read the months correctly from the degrading stone (and I often do not), she would have been born January 25, 1832. The only other information on the grave marker was that Betsey was the wife of Moses Herman.

I was able to locate the Herman family on the 1850 census of Linn County, Iowa, which is where Marion is situated. According to the census, Moses was a merchant, born in Germany around 1832. Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania around 1832. Living in the same household that year were Flora Herman, age one month, who was born in Iowa, and Elias Underwood, age 8, born in Illinois.

It looks like Moses was in Sacramento, California, by1852, but that is the last I found of him in my brief search. Other than that, there were literally no more clues for any of them.

I'll have to add this to my list of little mysteries to someday solve.


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