Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Spur of the Moment Trip to Iowa

My wife and I decided to drive to southeast Iowa at the last minute. While there, I decided to stop by the Fort Madison public library to see if I could find the obituary for my great-grandmother, Philomena Bixenman Miller. When I found it, I looked for others I may have overlooked previously. Would you believe that I didn't have the obituary for any of my Miller grandparents or great-grandparents? We also made it over to Carthage, Illinois to look for records and look around the town. Here's a time-lapse video I took of the Carthage Jail while looking at records at the Hancock County Historical Society:

Here is the funeral announcement for my great-grandfather, Thomas Doran.
It doesn't have any new information other than the time and date of the funeral, the officiate and the pall bearers.

Next is the obituary of my great-grandfather, Charles E. Miller, aka Carl Christian Müller. I previously had a transcript of the obituary but I never had a scan of the actual article.

Next is his wife, my great-grandmother, Philomena Bixenman Miller.
Would you believe I didn't even know her death date just a few months ago?

Next is their son, my grandfather, Leo Henry Miller.

I distinctly remember his funeral. I was just a child at the time. We had just returned from a visit to southeast Iowa that evening and my father got a phone call in the middle of the night. After a while of hearing the muffled sounds of my parents talking, my mother came to my and my brothers' bedroom, told us and said we'd be leaving for Iowa again first thing in the morning. Here are my grandmother's diary entries for the day we left for home and the day we came back.

Having these sources of information all supporting each other really put the whole story together. I am still confused as to his address in the obituary. I drove by this house and that is not the house I remember him living in.

Moving on, here is the obituary for my grandmother, Julia Doran Miller:
Finally is the obituary of her sister, my dad's Aunt Mamie Doran.
I also drove by the old Doran home.The old porch posts are still there and make an excellent confirmation that we're looking at the correct house.

If you look at the porch posts and the roofline in these photos, you can be sure they are the same home.
I tried tracking down the area in Carthage, Illinois where the Doran family lived. It was noted in the newspaper article regarding the death of Henry Doran that the family lived near the Wabash depot. I spoke with a worker at the county historical society and she described its location. She said it was a "depot-looking" building that is falling apart. I'm confident I found the correct building.
The old Wabash depot in Carthage, Illinois
I also stopped by Sacred Heart Cemetery to visit the graves of my Miller and Doran grandparents and great-grandparents and found a sad sight. The headstone of Thomas Patrick Miller is continuing to sink.

Top: 2012                                                                         Bottom: 2017
The first time I saw this stone in 2012, it was obvious that it had sunk. Now it appears that the sinking is continuing. I contacted Harrison Monuments in Warsaw, Illinois, who does most of the monument work in Sacred Heart Cemetery. They say the cost to reestablish this stone with a new concrete base will cost $175. While I might pay for it myself, I also may "pass the plate" to my Miller relations for anyone else to contribute.


I got a call from Harrison Monuments today. They were at Sacred Heart Cemetery and worked on Thomas Patrick's headstone. It ends up that the stone had slid off of the foundation and started sinking. The foundation was still in place and solid. This means that all that needed to be done is clean off the foundation and the stone and set the stone onto the foundation with a setting of concrete. This means the cost was only $50 instead of the $150 initially planned. I highly encourage any memorial work in the Fort Madison area be done by Harrison Monuments. This shows a high degree of integrity because I am a 5-6 hour drive from the area and they could have reset the stone for the quoted price and I'd be none the wiser. They were honest in charging only what was necessary. For this I am grateful. I encourage others to use their services.

Here is what the stone looked like when it was removed from the ground:

And then the finished product, cleaned and set on the foundation:
I'm very happy with the results!



  1. That's a wonderful thing to do and I would hope that some of the relatives might want to chip in and help you out.

    1. Linda,
      Please see the updated blog post for pictures of the restored stone!