A Revealing Obituary

May 27, 2011

The picture was taken at Spanish Fort cemetery. The taller monument is for Porter's parents, Sampson and Josephine. The shorter one is for his brother Charles. My cousin Chris has a picture of the stone that we think marks Porter's grave.

As I mentioned last week, my dad sent me a packet of family documents that included an obituary for my great-great-grandfather Porter Allen. Porter has always been something of a mystery. From my father, I learned the story of him selling the family farm. But no one seemed to know his birth or death dates or even where he was buried, although we suspected he was in a family cemetery — Spanish Fort Cemetery in Hoberg, Mo. There’s an unmarked stone next to his parents’ graves. My cousin Chris, who lives in the area, has looked for a death certificate but has been unsuccessful. There was a courthouse fire after his death that might explain the absence. Here is a partial transcription of the obituary [with my notes in brackets]:

William Porter Allen, locally known as Porter Allen, died at his home four and a half miles east of Mt. Vernon at midnight the 5th day of December, 1908. [Hooray! Finally some dates!] Porter was the son of Hon. S. R. Allen who died in this city Dec. 22, 1899. Porter was born in this county, about four miles southwest of Mt. Vernon, the 4th day of May 1854 and always lived near this city and followed farming.

He was a splendid citizen and liked by all who knew him. His life was an open book. He was true to his friends, a devoted husband and father. He was amiable, good natured and did not hold malice against any one. Funeral services were held at his home at one o’clock p m Dec 6th … [Wow, that was fast! Service details follow, which I have omitted] … His body was buried at Spanish Fort along side of his father’s, mother’s and brother’s graves. [I knew it!] He leaves an afflicted widow who had been confined to her bed for many years [I knew she had rheumatoid arthritis from a young age, but I didn't know she was bed-ridden]; and four children, Mrs. Ora Scott, who resides near Golden City, in Dade county, Walter Allen [my great-grandfather], Pearl Howard and Miss Bessie Allen. The last named, the only child at home. Walter and Mrs. Howard live near their father’s home.

Farewell dear Porter, death claimed you and thou hast [illegible] forever from this troubled world.

Spanish Fort Cemetery is a lovely old place out in the country where many of the Allens are buried. There was a schoolhouse adjacent to the cemetery where my great-grandfather and many other family children went to school. As the name implies, the area was thought to contain the remnants of a fort established by Spanish explorers. The general consensus today, however, is that it’s actually an ancient Indian mound. And, for those of you who are into that sort of thing, it’s said to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Missouri. But you’d have to verify that fact for yourself. I double-dog dare you. Just say hello to Porter for me if you go!

—Nancy

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Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

One thought on “A Revealing Obituary

  1. Congratulations on finding such a beautiful obituary, I love finding those old biography-like ones. I got a little thrill when I read the name Pearl Howard; As a Howard, I always get excited when I see the name in someone else’s family tree. Although, since it is a fairly common name, that doesn’t always imply a connection. My Howard’s are originally English immigrants to Massachusetts, who came in the 17th century. I haven’t found any family connection to Missouri yet.

    I do however, know the frustration of not finding a gravestone for someone. My great-grandfather was buried in what was at the time called the “white freeground” section of the cemetery. There are no stones for anyone, just a large grassy field. I am happy that Porter is at rest next to his family.

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