Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Gravestone finally finds way home

August 7, 2002

It's been more than 25 years since the gravestone of Caroline A. Root was positioned in her family's cemetery.

That will change in September, but it turns out the gravestone will stand alone.

Of seven gravestones in the Root family cemetery, Caroline's is the only one that's been located. All of the headstones were uprooted in the 1970s, said Ola May Earnst of the Linn County Historical Society.

Now, more than a quarter century later, at least one monument has returned.

The tombstone, which was transported July 23 from Tonganoxie to its rightful home in Linn County, was eagerly welcomed.

"We were so pleased to get it back," Earnst said.

The monument, which had been in limbo in Tonganoxie for two weeks, has made a strange trip from Tonganoxie to Linn County. The tombstone was supposedly found last March in a ditch near Tonganoxie and taken to Clinton, Mo., because the gravestone was made there. Henry County, Mo., officials later brought the stone back to Tonganoxie, but lost the report on who found it and exactly where it was found.

Detective work by Tonganoxie dispatcher Mike Vestal and his sister, Brenda Baker, Olathe, unearthed the tombstone's true home.

Earnst said Caroline's stone would be reset in the cemetery in September. Another stone, a Civil War memorial for Caroline's husband, Alva Dennison Root, will also be constructed at the cemetery along the Marais des Cygnes River near Pleasanton.

Although no Roots live in the area now, A.D. Root's great-grandson Jon Root, Leawood, said he was surprised the stone was returned.

"I was kind of amazed and I was very thankful someone thought enough to take it to the authorities," Root said.

Earnst said the area where the cemetery stands was once part of 160 acres A.D. Root homesteaded. The family also had a gist mill, saw mill and farmland on the property.

Now, the area is used for strip mining. Root said he was told that, along with the possibility of vandalism at the Root gravesite a nearby cemetery also had missing stones at the same time it's also possible that a road grader damaged some gravestones. A county road runs near the cemetery.

"They may have broken some of them off and people may have used them for souvenirs," Root said.

Wherever the stones are now, the stories behind the family are numerous. A.D. actually remarried in 1877, one year after Caroline's death. He married Harriet Henshaw Caroline's sister and Jon's great grandmother. A.D. and Harriet had a son, Alva E., who was born in 1879. A.D. and Caroline, meanwhile, had eight children, but three daughters died before Caroline, each two years apart starting in 1864.

Small pox led to their deaths, while Caroline died during childbirth at age 41.

The first daughter's gravesite became the family cemetery's first stone. The family cemetery also had a worker who was killed in an explosion at the mill buried within its borders.

A.D. Root died in 1893 and was buried alongside Caroline, but he was the last Root placed there. Jon Root's great-grandmother, however, was buried in the Pleasanton city cemetery. After A.D. died, the land was sold, but the cemetery and its tombstones stayed for many years.

Originally a soldier from Iowa in the Civil War, A.D. Root eventually moved to turbulent Kansas. Jon Root said that, during the Civil War, Confederate soldiers took his great-grandfather and other farmers in the area into Missouri where they were held in a makeshift stockade. Caroline Root learned that the farmers weren't being fed, so she would bring food by horseback to the prisoners. The Confederate officials opted not to deal with her persistence, and the Kansans were let go.

"The were wild times," Jon said of the Civil War. "I'm glad I wasn't there."

Jon Root's other great-grandfather fought on the Confederate side.

Now that at least one landmark has been returned, Jon hopes the cemetery will be refurbished. He and Earnst have discussed putting a cable up around the cemetery, along with the monuments of A.D. and Caroline. Earnst has been mowing the cemetery roughly three times a year. As a member of the Potosi Township board, it's been Earnsts' duty to oversee the cemeteries. She said she'll continue to work on preserving the cemetery.

Jon Root plans to beautify the site as well. With retirement nearing, he plans to visit the cemetery more often.

Earnst will keep looking for more information on the Root family and oversee the cemetery she once saw full of tombstones as a child.

"Hopefully they'll find the rest of them somewhere," Earnst said.

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