Miscellaneous News Gleanings
Thirty-four years ago, a farmer in Wayne county Illinois, stacked some flax to wait for higher prices and his heirs gave it away the other day.
[Daily Evening Bulletin, (San Francisco, CA) Saturday, October 21, 1871; Issue 12 and 37; col E - Submitted by Janice Rice]
Miss M. J. Simpson of Denver, Colorado, wishes to learn the whereabouts of Mattie McDonald, “whose maiden name was Martha Jane Simpson,” and “Sadie Hurbert, maiden name, Sarah Anna Simpson,” sisters, and natives of Wayne County, Illinois. [Reno Evening Gazette May 31, 1882 - Tr 9/6/12 by K.T.]
Enterprise -- Zen. Campbell and Jerome Molt took two span of mules to Mt. Carmel, to sell, but they had to leave them in the care of John Molt until McKinley gets a little more confidence restored, as the price offered was too low [Wayne County Record, Thursday, February 4, 1897, Submitted by Becca Hamblin]
Enterprise -- The sheriff sold an engine and separator in our town last Friday. They brought $20. That looks like confidence and prosperity fully restored… Before the election the Republicans said if Bryan would be elected everything would go to thunder, and we would all starve to death. "It looks like he got elected" [Wayne County Record, Thursday, February 4, 1897, Submitted by Becca Hamblin]
Enterprise -- Every time "Bachelor" (the correspondent from Buckeye) sends in his items he reports two or three weddings, which I can't do, but I will bet him a mess of cucumbers that I can send in the largest list of babies in the course of one year [Wayne County Record, Thursday, February 4, 1897, Submitted by Becca Hamblin]
Jeffersonville: Fred Bestow has about one hundred tons of ice put up for the summer…
[Wayne County Record, Thursday, February 4, 1897, Submitted by Becca Hamblin]
Body Guarded by Dynamite in Mystery Grave?
[The Greene Family]
Does a dead man’s hate really rule over the grassy grave of his brother, Abel C. Greene? In peaceful Maple Hill Cemetery near the village of Fairfield, Illinois, the plot where Abel is buried isn’t as tranquil as it looks. Instead, it is becoming a legend, the consequences of which citizens have come to fear. Grim symbol of the suspicions and hatreds of the brother, James Greene, who was a miner and expert in explosives, is the persistent rumor that shortly before his own death he planted six quarts of TNT in Abel’s grave as an insurance against any attempts to move the body. Or else, it is said, there are sticks of dynamite with sensitive caps buried there. Nobody knows for sure whether the burial spot is really ready to be touched off, or if it contains either dynamite or nitroglycerine. Only James could have told, and he is dead. As for digging to make sure the grave is not “loaded,” nobody seems to care to risk it. Mayor L. A. Blackburn is thought recently to have considered an investigation. The city council discussed hiring an explosive engineer to examine the grave, but no action was taken. Instead, the inquiry seems definitely to have been abandoned. Nobody has tampered with Abel’s grave nor its modest headstone, and no tampering is being contemplated. But Karl Goodall, cemetery sexton, isn’t one of those who takes the rumors lightly. Like many another, he is in no mood to test the existence of the TNT and is entirely willing to let well enough alone. He readily admits that he “was plenty careful” when James Greene died and it was his job to dig the new grave near that of Abel in the family lot. Before digging, the sexton consulted the sisters of the Greene brothers. “We talked it over,” Mr. Goodall explains, “but I felt I had nothing to fear as long as I didn’t dig too close.”
This living threat of the dead seems to have been started by James himself. The explosives expert said he had planted the TNT, two quarts at the head, two in the center, and two at the end of Abel’s grave. He told all who would listen that “no person will ever move Abel!” Those who heard him say they recall that he gave the impression it was something he had attended to – made sure of. The fact was that James feared the Masons were going to exhume Abel’s body and rebury it in a lodge plot. Soon the rumor was circulated that Jim Greene had put enough nitro in the grave to blow the entire cemetery to Kingdom Come if it were disturbed. At the death of James, the talk was again rife. According to Karl Goodall, “while I was digging, Mrs. Kline came to the cemetery and asked me to be more careful.” This was Mrs. Sara Kline, of Kirk, Colorado, who came to care for James when he was ill. Mrs. Kline later repeated her statement to the mayor. She was not, however, the only one who claimed first-hand knowledge to the nitro or the dynamite. Mrs. Dora Wilson, at whose rooming house James had stayed when he was ill, said he also told her about the loaded grave. This Fairfield legend had its beginnings in an old family feud. Abel Greene, in his youth, left home and amassed a fortune estimated at $300,000 in the mining business. But being eccentric and a bachelor, the poorly dressed man lived only for the Masonic Lodge in Joplin, Missouri, where he stayed for years. His social life and pleasures were all centered in the activities of different bodies of the Masonic order. When his father died, he made a trip to Fairfield and learned that the old homestead of forty acres was claimed by his mother. In anger he is said to have asserted that he was robbed of his share of his father’s estate. A family quarrel led to his return to Joplin, where he continued his solitary existence, practically living in the Shrine Mosque there and spending much of his time in the reading room. He played the stock market and it is believed that despondency over losses led to his death. His body was found February 9, 1930,in his room after he had been dead two days from a gunshot wound. He had collapsed on his bed, the revolver still clutched in his hand. All supposed he had died penniless. But when his safety deposit box was opened it was found that he had left a will drawn up by himself a short time after his family quarrel. Dated January 14, 1924, it directed that most of the estate, nearly $36,000 in cash, should go to the Masonic lodge at Fairfield for a public library or a home for the Masons. He willed $1,000 to the lodge for the upkeep of his grave. The only other bequest was $100 each to his mother, sisters Mary, Rose and Sarah, and his brother James.
Masons of Fairfield carried out the terms of the will nearly as they could. Abel was buried, as directed, in the family plot under Masonic rites. But hardly was Abel buried than James filed a suit in Joplin contesting the will. A compromise was reached by which the lodge received $10,000 of the estate – not enough for the library it was asked to build. The rest went to the relatives, even though the testament stated that if it were contested by them they were not to get a penny. But James did not cease to be suspicious. He continued to live in Fairfield and to maintain a little locksmith shop near the town’s edge. But he held himself aloof. Always a strange man, liking few friends greatly, hating other persons intensely, he became more and more embittered against the Masonic order. Even though perhaps the only kind words old Abel heard in his declining years were from lodge members, James was convinced that they had inveigled him into leaving the money to the organization. He declared that the order was planning to move his brother’s body to a Masonic burial ground. He spent much time at his brother’s grave. That was when he began saying grimly that his brother would never be moved. Several believed his story of the TNT. Many repeated it, and the rumor grew and spread. When James, sick at heart, died, a crowd gathered near the cemetery fence to watch the grave digging. Others, not quite so courageous, watched from a distance. But nothing happened. Just as mystery surrounded the lives of the eccentric brothers, so mystery seems destined to hover year after year over their graves. They have died, but their deeds, real or imagined, stay forcefully alive. Fairfield itself is no longer just another little Illinois town but a town with a legend which parents will tell their children, and grandparents their grandchildren. It is the legend of the embittered brothers and the “loaded grave” which might blow up a corner of the village if disturbed. Some of the children tread lightly when they are near the Greene family plot. But the last strange twist is that the intrusion of the Masons, which James had so feared, is farthest from their minds. Officers of the Masonic lodge, in fact, being responsible for the care of the grave, are protecting it from interference even though some insist it’s a public danger. The officers have actually rejected offers from national munitions experts to examine the grave. And Masons also state that James’ fears were groundless, that the lodge never considered moving Abel’s remains.
["The San Antonio Light", 13 Mar 1938 -- Tr 9/6/12 by K.T. to correct errors in the previous transcription]
BACK -- HOME