Rest In Peace


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News
on December 1, 1990

 

REST IN PEACE

BESSIE LITTLE'S GRAVESTONE GETS MUCH-NEEDED RESTORATION
By Roz Young

 

            Tall, spare Jim Sandegren has been horticulturist of Woodland Cemetery for two and a half years. He loves its trees and even the 700 acres of fallen leaves to rake and cart to the compost heap. He makes slide talks around town about the beauties of Woodland and weaves historical material into his remarks. Woodland's thousands of monuments are a tangible history of Dayton.
            When he read the story of Bessie Little here in September, he thought that her story and a picture of her gravestone would make an addition to his remarks.

            He consulted the 3 by 5 card file that lists all interments. One card said, "Bessie Little, interment number 20596, lot 3009, section 111, grave 3-15." The grave number meant that it was in tier 3, grave 15. He was somewhat dismayed because he knew that lot 3009 was an area to the right of the avenue leading into the cemetery from the old and now unused Wyoming Street entrance. Formerly all the gravestones in lot 3009 had stood vertically and would have been easy to find, but for many years all have lain flat in the ground so that at a distance lot 3009 looks like a long terrace of grass.

            It would be hard to find the grave.

            Jim walked to a row that appeared to be the third tier from the road. He found a granite headstone that carried the name of Henry P. Smith. The office card catalog said that Henry's grave was grave 34 in tier 3. He had the right tier.

            Back at the site he walked along tier 3 and found another stone which he checked with the cards. It was grave 45, tier 3. He was going the wrong way.

            Henry's grave was three feet wide. Jim figured he would find Bessie's grave 19 lots or 57 feet from Henry's. He paced along the tier and located a small stone flush with the ground and overgrown with grass and roots. Time had nearly obliterated the inscription. All he could make out was "Died Aug. 29, 1896, age 23." No name was visible. Was this Bessie's marker?

            Names on the markers next to the small stone were George and Ellen Long and Julia A. Rapp. Their records in the catalog showed the graves were 3-16 and 3-17.

            Jim walked back to his truck and took out a spade. He carefully lifted the stone and took it to the maintenance shop. He ran a sharp stream of water over it, and as he carefully rubbed the encrusted mud and roots away, he found on the curved top of the marker the one name, "Bessie."

            Bessie's marker is back in place.

            "Now on an obscure hillside," says Jim,. "an equally obscure stone will take on life from now on."

            Woodland will celebrate its sesquicentennial in February, and Bruce Ronald is working on a history to be published at that time. In recounting the story of all the famous founders of our town and the great inventors, all of whom rest in those grassy hills, we hope he will not forget to mention two women notable for other reasons who lie there, Lib Hedges and Bessie Little.

            We also have a sidelight on the story of the NCR fireless steam locomotives. The Rubicon is on exhibit at Carillon Historical Park. I wondered what had become of the other two, but the staff member I called was unable to find any record.

            Then Mary Mathews, educational director of the park and who was not in the office when I called, got on the job. "We do have in our files information about the disposal of the other two steam locomotives," she wrote. "The 1910 'South Park,' was donated by NCR to the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. The 1913 'Dayton' was given to the National Railway Society, Atlanta chapter, Atlanta. So far as we know, the locomotives still reside in those institutions."