Monday, March 20, 2017

Update on Elisabeth (Fast) Sudermann's Missing Grave

Here's an update to my recent (by now not-so-recent) post on Elisabeth (Fast) Sudermann's grave.  After not finding her grave in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton, Kansas, I sent an e-mail to First Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas, to ask if they had any information about her since she was living with her children who were members there when she died.

Within hours I had a response from a member of the church's historical committee.  He invited me to come to the Harvey County Historical Museum that evening to use some of their resources to search for her grave.  They are housed in the old Carnegie Library, a beautiful building which is worth a visit simply on its own.  He had a lot of suggestions - none of which have panned out yet - but they are all good ideas worth sharing with you, dear reader.

Local Newspaper.  I had found three different obituaries or mentions of her death in Mennonite newspapers, but I hadn't looked in the local newspaper, the Newton Daily Kansan.  I searched for about a week after her death and didn't find any mention.  Although it didn't work this time, it makes sense that a local newspaper might have burial details when an international Mennonite newspaper doesn't.  But I did find a notice of a lawsuit when a lender sued her husband, Johann Sudermann, for defaulting on a loan.

Old Plat Maps.  I wondered if she might have been buried on her children's farm, so he showed me a couple plat maps, and there were no cemeteries or burials marked on the maps in that area.  But their ownership was not marked on any of the plat maps, so I wasn't sure if I was looking in the right place.

Contact the FindAGrave Contributor. I contacted Tom Crago, who manages all of the late Adalbert Goertz' thousands of uploads to FindAGrave.  Unfortunately, he was unable to give me any more information, but he did transfer the memorial to me, so I added a note that the grave was not at the location indicated.

Local Cemetery Listings.  The Historical Museum has transcribed the tombstones in many (but not all) Harvey County cemeteries, but Elisabeth Fast's grave was not mentioned in any of them.  I also went online to the Reno County Genealogical Society's cemetery listings (the Mennonite community spilled across the county line into Reno), but I didn't find anything there.

Farm Burial.  In the early days of settlement, many people were buried at their farms.  Many of these burials have been lost because they were never well marked.  And some farmers sadly would rather grow an extra bushel of wheat than preserve a burial plot, so some have been plowed over.  Since Elisabeth Fast was living with her children east of Newton when she died, I want to locate their farm in the county land records and then go to the farm to see if there is a sign of a burial plot there.  But I haven't done that yet.

While none of the suggestions have panned out (at least yet), they were all good ones.

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