The Cast-Iron Monument

Over the past two posts I have shared with you my investigation into my mother’s family tree. This week you will discover just how close I have been to my third-great-grandmother.

The most enlightening part of this adventure was when I found Berthena Cannon Morris’s grave, and realized I knew it. Not just that it looked familiar, but that it was extremely familiar, like an old friend you hadn’t seen in forever but you always wondered where they were. I realized that I had played on her monument as a kid at the family cemetery. Yes, the FAMILY cemetery. This is when I wanted to shoot myself and decided that my mom and I were going to have a talk when I was home at Christmas.

Berthena (Cannon) Morris was buried in Truelove Cemetery, Rutherford Township, Martin County, Indiana. Her tombstone is a large cast iron monument with plaques on it that tell who is buried in the family plot. Berthena’s plaque reads “Berthena, Daughter of WM and Mary Cannon, wife of Robert Morris, Born June 4 1824, Died Mar 22 1909.” I just looked, and kicked myself, again, because there was all the information. Talk about feeling a bit dumb for not looking in an obvious place!

During my visits back home as a child, my grandma Arvin took “flags”, or irises to the rest of the world, fresh cut from her garden every week to lay on grandpa’s grave at Truelove. I don’t know if she did this year round, but according to her these were his favorite flowers and as long as they bloomed she took them to the cemetery. When we were there I would wander the cemetery and look at the older headstones, fascinated by what I saw. My grandma told me we were related to over half of the residents there: soldiers, farmers, wives and children of the people who settled the area. Reading and re-reading the fading crumbling markers that dotted the landscape I would try to see these people in my mind’s eye. One of my favorites was a cast iron marker that stood taller than me. It was cool to the touch on the shady side, even in the middle of summer. There were ornate curly-cues, and decorations. I loved running around it, trailing my fingers over the marker: hot to cold to hot to cold again. Eventually I sat the shade of the monument and I read the words wondering who this woman was and how much she was loved to have such a wonderful monument to her.

I couldn’t wait to get to my parents’ house after all I found. Doing it over the phone wasn’t an option; I wanted to see my mom’s face and I wanted to show her the images I found. I just knew she would be surprised! Little did I know what mom would tell me next.

To be continued…

Photo by Koshyk


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


Registration is now open for our They’re Alive! Finding Living Relatives webinar with Thomas MacEntee on Feb. 9, and our Tennessee Genealogy Crash Course with J. Mark Lowe on Feb. 23. Hurry to take advantage of Early Bird prices!

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