Genealogy Stories: Some Grave Matters

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry presents the stories of three found graves – and how they were located. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

Whatever your resolution is for the New Year, consider a genealogical dig into your family’s past. A helpful source to excavate some great material is GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives. Today I am going to share a few finds I came across recently in the newspapers. My theme is a very grave matter – and I found grave finders and grave diggers.

WWI Veteran’s Grave Found

For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1920 that Frank Francis, a well-known steel man from Chester, Pennsylvania, visited Europe and honored his promise to locate the grave of Walter S. Mitchell, son of George S. Mitchell and Ida Thompson, who was killed in action there during WWI.

An article about Walter Mitchell's grave, Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper article 24 January 1920
Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 24 January 1920, page 4

Francis sent a letter back home that read:

“I went to the American Cemetery, No. 617, Fismes (Marne), and found Walter’s grave. There are about 4000 bodies buried there and two American soldiers are taking care of the cemetery.”

He placed a wreath on Walter’s grave.

Photo: Walter S. Mitchell. Courtesy of Deborah LaRiccia Brown of Indiana, private collection.
Photo: Walter S. Mitchell. Courtesy of Deborah LaRiccia Brown of Indiana, private collection.

Mitchell was a member of Company C, 111th U.S. Infantry, and was shot through the head while charging a hill to rescue his comrades. A letter sent home stated: “He died like a hero.”

Another Veteran’s Grave

Another soldier’s grave was found in 1918, as reported by a Maryland paper, the Sun. A mother of a soldier killed in battle received a telegram from the War Department informing her that on August 17 a grave had been found in France marked “Oliver T. Beauchamp.”

Photo: grave marker for Lt. Oliver T. Beauchamp, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, Fere-en-Tardenois, Département de l’Aisne, Picardie, France. Courtesy of Colin George France.
Photo: grave marker for Lt. Oliver T. Beauchamp, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, Fere-en-Tardenois, Département de l’Aisne, Picardie, France. Courtesy of Colin George France.

This was a positive id. Lt. Beauchamp was in the aviation service, 27th Aero Squadron, and had been on the firing line for months.

An article about Oliver Beauchamp's grave, Sun newspaper article 5 September 1918
Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 5 September 1918, page 7

On August 15 Mrs. Beauchamp had been notified that her son was missing. It was supposed that he fell within German lines, and his grave was discovered by the Allies during an advance.

Oliver Thomas Beauchamp Jr. was the son of Oliver Thomas Sr. and Ida Beauchamp of Princess Ann, Maryland. He had a sister Mildred, and three brothers: L. Creston, Sidney, and Roger.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Endicott’s Tomb Located

The location of Governor John Endicott’s tomb, the longest-serving governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was discovered in 1903.

Illustration: Governor John Endicott. Credit: Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum; Digital Commonwealth.
Illustration: Governor John Endicott. Credit: Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum; Digital Commonwealth.

According to Gordon S. Harmon, 11th generation grandson, the confusion of where his ancestor was laid to rest had resulted in the placement of the commemorative plaque on the fence at the Kings Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont Street in Boston. The inscription on the plaque had included the name of Governor John Endecott, Esq., as being buried there. That had been incorrect.

Many newspapers printed the correction of the location of Endicott’s tomb. Here is one, published in the Times-Picayune.

An article about Governor Endicott's tomb, Times-Picayune newspaper article 24 November 1903
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 24 November 1903, page 13

This article reported:

“A search of the old town records of Boston, family records, and the original plan of the South Burying Place has resulted in the discovery of the location of Governor John Endicott’s tomb, which has been unidentified for more than 150 years. The tomb is in the northwest corner of the old Granary Burying Ground, where the first tombs were built, soon after the establishment of the cemetery.”

Stay tuned for more grave finds!

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2 thoughts on “Genealogy Stories: Some Grave Matters

  1. Awesome as usual! So interesting! Thank you for sharing and writing yet again another wonderful article, Melissa.

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