Butternut Ridge Cemetery

Butternut Ridge Cemetery
Butternut Ridge Cemetery First Burial 1821

Monday, October 12, 2015

SITES and Butternut Ridge Cemetery

At the Landmarks tour I asked Jeff Zullo send me information on the S.I.T.E.S program. at the end of his answer I will tell you how it relates:

Here is that synopsis of the SITES Program that we talked about yesterday:

SITES stands for Social Involvement Through Education and Service, and it is a senior level elective program that offers an alternative to the traditional school day.  SITES includes senior level English, History, and an elective credit of service-learning.  SITES offers a differentiated approach to learning, offering an environment of mixed learning between Honors and Generals.

SITES is blocked three periods a day.  Three days a week, students attend class to engage in a multi-disciplinary approach to learning.  Two days a week, students are released from class, and they go into the community and perform their service learning.  What makes this concept even more unusual and fulfilling is its structured learning component.  The students participate in reflective seminars, offer oral presentations, conduct research, write papers, and read selected materials and literature that focus on the universal themes of man in his social context and the specific study of contemporary global and social issues.  This, in turn, affords the students the opportunity to integrate their community experiences into their English and Social Studies curricula.

This Program has created a link or "bridge" between the school and the community and places the students and the city of North Olmsted itself in both resource and beneficiary roles.  Data indicates that young people who perform voluntary service within an educational framework gain heightened self-esteem, sensitivity to others, social responsibility, civic participation, and "real world" experience.  Conversely, the young, elderly, ill, disadvantaged, and handicapped of North Olmsted and surrounding communities benefit from the thousands of hours of service the SITES Program provides to the area each year.

When I first started working on Butternut Ridge Cemetery to digitize the records I kept hearing about a SITES student the city had ,the previous year, that had been working with them on a study of the two city owned cemeteries. The students name was Phil Tomko.  He did a lot of work with and for the Cemetery Committee that was appointed by the city.  My coming to the city as a volunteer fell right into place with part of what was planned. Jeff did a lot of ground work on getting Butternut and Coe cemeteries preserved. At about the same time, I joined the Olmsted Historical Society who, I found out later, had a Cemetery fund started. OHS has been getting more donations to help preserve the cemeteries and we now have an active committee. This is also when Sandi's project was started to have a spokes person for the cemeteries. She represents all the little children in our cemeteries.  I still am working on the cemetery database it is a much bigger project than we ever thought. 

If anyone ever wonders about the good that the SITES Program does you can point to what Phil Tomko started.   At Frostville we have always appreciated what has been done for us.



John Ames Hearse and the Barn

Some times you get a good feeling and more respect for the volunteers at Frostville Museum. Earlier this summer the hearse barn was moved to its new home along side the church.  The guys (Bill , Bob, Larry and Jim) from the workshop started in to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.  The barn had been used for many years as a garden and storage shed. I was quite beat up it also sat a little crooked thanks to the groundhogs. Bees built a nest on it and mice moved into some of the cabinet drawers.  The building was straightened and braced inside to bring it back to a sound structure. It now has a full foundation under it so the groundhogs can't undermine it again. The outside holes and gaps filled, repainted and all the new interior bracing lumber was stained so that it matched the old wood.

It will now last another 175 years. 

The barn was originally at the end of the east drive in Butternut Ridge Cemetery. It was built by John Ames in about 1830. It  is of Post and Beam construction with wide vertical board siding and smaller joint lap boards. Picture below from about 1920

The hearse was dug out of the display barn They ended up taking the front bumper off the pumper fire truck to extricate it from the building. It was taken to the workshop for some of Bills magic.  He cleaned it up with 409 and washed the windows inside (fearing someone would come up and lock him in) and out. He repaired a couple of the floorboards. It was then wiped down with linseed oil. The finish on it we believe is original. 

The sign on the front of the hearse reads as follows:

The following was written by L. M Ames Grandson of John Ames

The body of the hearse was built by John Ames a carpenter and cabinet maker who lived oat the east end of Butternut Ridge Cemetery. It was a community hearse. John Ames was the only undertaker of that time making all coffins by hand on order after the death occurred.  They were made of walnut, cherry or whitewood.   Prices ranged from two to ten dollars, The order for a coffin was a coffin stick the length of the body with a notch cut for the width of the shoulders as the coffins had bent sides and a narrow at foot. As he would often be away all week, when he came home Saturday night he would find a coffin stick behind the door and would work all Saturday night so they could have a funeral on Sunday. I heard my Grandmother say at one time there was a coffin stick waiting nine successive Saturday nights.  The bier was used to support the body during the funeral to carry it from house to hearse and the hearse to the grave as most coffins of that date had no handles. About 1850 there was a $2.00 service charge for laying out, and for use of a horse to haul the hearse Mr. Ames charged  75 cents per day for his labor
OHS had a been given couple of old headstones, that had been replaced by new ones at Butternut. We hung tools on the walls that would be used during that period. 


To top it off Bill made a replica wooden coffin for the inside.

Priscilla Sears Thompson born Rochester Mass September 21 1771 died Olmsted Ohio February 11 1859.  Known by every one as Grandma Thompson

Here is an excerpt from the Snow letter to her grandchildren.  The letter is in the OHS archives:
One day in the autumn after Grandma Thompsons eighty seventh birthday, she stopped at Uncle Daniels on the way to John Ames’s.  Uncle Daniel lived about half way between Mr. Ames and Grandma’s home and a good half mile from either.  He wanted her to let him hitch up a horse and let him take her there, but she insisted upon going afoot and alone. A few weeks later, she again stopped at his home on her way to the same place.  This time she was prevailed upon to drive his horse but still insisted upon going alone. 

In February she was taken sick and no one realized better than she that the end was near.  Two granddaughters waited on her the last night.  After repeated suggestions that she go to bed, she said “I won’t go to bed.  I have never turned my back to an enemy in my life, and I will meet death face to face.” Next day, she sat up in bed supported by one of her sons, “Alden” she said, “would you be scart if I should die here in your arms”? “No, Mother. He said.  “Alright then.“ She said.
Then she requested Rev Dimick who was present to lead a prayer, after which she asked all to sing “Rock of Ages”, and, with her feeble voice, she joined in  the entire hymn.  “Now lay me down” She said.

Uncle Alden gently laid her back on the pillow. She folded her arms acrossher breast and fell asleep
John Ames was the local undertaker and maker of burial cases. He did not keep a supply on hand but he made them to measure as they were wanted.  After Grandma died they sent for him to come and measure her for a coffin.  He said “Her coffin is made She came down here last fall and ordered it and gave directions as to how it should be made --- not too small, and with a down pillow  --- She came again when it was done and lay down in it to see if it was the right size, She pronounced it satisfactory and paid for it”

They found her burial clothes, made by her own hands, and laid away for the final need.
At the time of her death she had 110 living descendants. Some still lived in Olmsted

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Mystery of Rienzi Austin

Rienzi Willard Austin was born on the 28th day of April 1841 in Dover, Cuyahoga, Ohio.  He was a son of Nathaniel H. Austin and Luciena Coe Austin. Luciena is the daughter of Ashur Miller Coe. Rienzi married Matilda Glendenning on the 4th day of April 1868.  Rienzi and his older brother, Bertrand Coe Austin, both served in the Civil war. Bertrand died from his war wounds in April of 1863.  Rienze named his son after his older brother. Rienzi died 4 November 1887 and is buried in Coe Ridge Cemetery

This gives you some of the genealogy of Rienzi now for the Mystery.

We have been sorting and scanning the archives of Olmsted Historical Society in Frostville. In an 1800's scrapbook was the following:

"Andrew M. Higgins the alleged murderer of his brother-in-law Rienzi Austin, was released today from the county jail Tuesday on $5,000 bail. His wife, George E Higgins, his brother, and John Hill of Willoughby signed his bond."   

There is no modern day Death certificate to get information from or any records from any of the online sources to find out what happened. It is back to looking through old newspapers on microfilm at the Fairview Branch of the CCPL. I will add to this post as things are found or not found.

My first 2 hours in the library yielded the following article from the November 5 1887 issue of the Cleveland Press.


   A telegraphic message was received at The Press office late Friday afternoon stating that the wound received by Dan Austin at the hands of his brother-in-law Murray Higgins at Dover, Thursday night had proved to be a fatal one, and that Austin had passed away.  The wound was in the right side of the abdomen, about two and one half inches long and penetrated Austin's stomach ,causing an internal hemorrhage, and death.
   Further partiularsof the tragedy learned were as follows: Higgins had been to Olmsted Falls for some doors and cement to be used in a house which he was building.  When he returned it was nearly 12 o'clock and he found his wife gone.  He was somewhat under the influence of liquor, and his wife's absence angered him.  When she returned he followed her into her room and began to threaten her and held a knife over her head.  She became frightened and ran out of her room and out of her room and out of the house followed by her husband, closly followed by Higgins, who soon overtook her and threw her to the ground,  her cries attracted the attention of both her brothers. Edward and Dan, who rushed to her help, then it was that the stabbing occurred . Austin was a man 48 years of age and leaves a wife and 3 children. Higgins is a year his senior. After Austins death Higgins was arrested and placed in a room in the hotel under guard. The funeral will be held at 1 o'clock Sunday afternoon."

Even in the early days the press messed up names. these are the same people Dan is Rienzi and Edward is his brother Edwin. I just found out that Rienzi did go by Daniel and Charles M Went by Murray. Don't these people like their given names!

This has turned into a Genealogist's nightmare. Here is what we have figured out so far:

Rienzi's sister Clarissa Imogene Austin for some reason started using the name "Jennie" She first married William Crawford in October of 1868 and had two children. In 1880 Jennie Crawford married Andrew Murray Higgins who went by Murray most of the time. In the 1880 Census we find Jenny,  Murray and the Crawford children in Wickliffe Ohio.  We still have not found the disposition of the case but, we do know that Murray died in 1916 in Lake County Ohio. Jennie died in North Olmsted in April of 1906 and is buried in Coe Ridge Cemetery with the 2 Crawford children Clvie died at 18yrs and Leon lived to be 80 yrs. 

We will still be searching the Press for comments on the case, now looking in December of 1887. Fairview Park CCPL has new computerized readers for their microfilm records Took a while to get familiar with them but they are "neat" you can print to Thumb drive. 

Murray and  Jennie

I tried something different today and started looking at the Plain Dealer. I started with November 5 and found a big article on the killing:
Cleveland Plain Dealer Pg. 1 Nov 5 1887


Daniel Austin of Dover Killed by His Brother-In-Law

While attempting to shield his sister from her husband’s Murderous Assault --- A Terrible Ending of a Drunken Spree --- The life of a Good Man Taken

A good man of Dover township yielded up his life yesterday to save his sister from the murderous hand of her frenzied husband.  A drunken spree ended in blood and gloom, and desolation was cast over a household which but a few hours before was a bright and happy home.  Murray Higgins, who lives on the Coe ridge in Dover township, plunged a knife deep in the bowels of his Brother-In-Law, Daniel Austin an old and highly respected farmer of that place.  Higgins would have killed his wife had not her brother, Mr. Austin, sacrificed his own for her sake.  They lived together on the Coe ridge, about 3 miles east of Dover Center.  Higgins rented a house from Mr. Austin and worked for his victim’s brother, E. M. Austin, for whoom he was building a home nearby. The families were thus close together and    


until the calamity which suddenly cast sorrow not alone over the family but over the entire neighborhood. Higgins was a good-hearted man and was well liked when he was sober, but he had a very bad habit of getting on a spree occasionally, when his disposition would be entirely different. His last spree had a terrible termination.

Higgins drove to Olmsted Falls Thursday night for some doors and cement for the house he was building for E. M. Austin.  After he had been gone for a short time Daniel Austin proposed that they all go to an oyster supper that was served at Odell Stern’s about 2 miles away.  Accordingly a team was harnessed up and the two Messrs.’ Austin and their wives prepared to go, Daniel Austin thought of his sister and of her being alone that evening, and he asked her to go with them, which she readily consented to do. The whole made


and they had a happy time, returning about 12 o’clock, Higgins had arrived a short time before.  He was intoxicated.  He found his wife away and did not like it.  The man considered the he should also have been asked to go, and he became angry.  The more he thought about it the madder he got.  The liquor he had drank made a demon of him. It spurred him on, so that when his wife reached home he was like a madman.  He upbraided her for going away to enjoy herself and not asking him to go, too.  He became excited and her pleadings and entreaties only tended to make him worse. He completely lost control of himself.  He was a perfect madman and rushed upon his wife with the


He was determined to kill her.  He grabbed her and doubtless would have ended her existence, but she broke away from him and ran screaming at the top of her voice along a well beaten path to her brother’s home.  The brother and his wife were sitting before the cheerful fire talking of the pleasures of the evening when the piercing and pleading cries of the sister rang out in the midnight air.  Mr. Austin jumped to his feet and rushed to the door. The other brother was on his way home when sister cried for help, and he too rushed to her assistance.  When Mrs. Higgins broke away from her infuriated husband and ran for her life, he followed, flourishing his open jackknife in the air and threatening to have her hearts blood. Mrs. Higgins ran as fast as she would, but was soon overtaken and knocked to the ground. Her screams were pitiful and froze the blood in the veins of her brothers. E. M. Austin stopped before he reached the prostrate form of his sister.  He saw something in his brother-in-law’s hand which he thought was a revolver. He attracted th attention of man for a moment but Daniel came rushing up and grabbed for the man’s throat and shook him off, but the knife which had been flourished over his sister’s head was buried in Daniel’s bowels making


Mr. Austin did not cry out with pain and his brother did not know what happened.  “I’ll get my gun and shoot you if you don’t let that woman alone,” said he to Higgins “No you won’t Dan” said his brother. “Yes I will, too.”  But Higgins fury seemed to have been spent and he returned home. The two brothers and their sister went toward the other home.


the brother and sister were shocked to hear it.  Mr. Austin began to grow weak. He was led home and put upon a bed in the front room.  Dr. Lathrop of Dover Center was immediately summoned.  He found an ugly wound two inches and a half long on the right side of the abdomen near the navel.  The blade of the knife had pierced the stomach.  The injured man suffered terribly but was put under the influence of anesthetica.  There was internal hemorrhage and the doctor could see that there was very little chance for his patient’s life.  Dr. Allen and Dr. Hobson were called and the three physicians held a consultation, but it was all in vain. The man’s life was fast ebbing away.  He had been a warm-hearted man all his life.  He had been a kind son, husband and father.  His aged mother, his beloved wife and children and his brother and sister gathered around his bedside and his bark sailed peacefully out upon the unknown sea. 
Before he died the injured man, with no enmity in his heart toward the man who had killed him, in the spirit of
said in his feeble voice: “Don’t punish him,  he wouldn’t have done it if he had been sober.” The man who thus gave up his life that his sister might live was an honest, whole-souled farmer, who was always happy in doing good for others.  He lived in the same place all his life, where his father lived and died.  He had a pleasant home, a neat white house a story and a half high. His aged mother lived with him, but the terrible calamity which has befallen her son will undoubtedly hasten her steps toward the grave. There are three children Burt, aged 18; Mary, aged 10 and Len who is a little over 3 years old.  He was about 48 years old, tall and powerfully built.  He served his country years during the war in company E of Garfield’s Regiment.
is a year or two older than his victim.  He formerly kept a saloon in Willoughby, but he went to Dover several months ago and has worked at his trade as a carpenter since then.  Mrs. Higgins is his second wife and he is her second husband.  They have been married about seven years.  One child from his first wife died a short time ago, and recently the only child of the present union, a boy 4 years old, was taken away.  Higgins felt this loss deeply and some of the neighbors say: he has not acted like himself since. Higgins was arrested about 9 o’clock in the morning and taken in front of Justice Guyler who released him on $500 bail.  When Mr. Austin died, however, he was
He pleaded guilty to the justice and was bound over to the common pleas court.  The man was kept under guard at the tavern in Dover last night and will be brought in to the county jail this morning.  His wife, faithful even under such circumstances remained with her husband last night at the tavern.  The man is deeply grieved at the fearful thing he has done.  The family seems to pity rather than to blame him, and not a word of reproach was uttered against him.  “Murray is very sorry, indeed,” said Mr. Austin and when the subject of allowing him to remain at the hotel all night instead of prison was broached he said: “Why the man wouldn’t go away.  They could leave him alone and he would remain and take the consequences.  The murdered man had many friends throughout this county.  He was a relative of County Surveyor Varney and of Mr. L. D. Benedict of the probate office.  Undertaker James Pease was called to prepare the remains for burial.  The funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon at 1 o’clock  
 I made a trip to the Cuyahoga County Archives on Franklin Blvd. They have the Court of Common Pleas records.  Here is what I found so far. On the 30th day of November 1887 the Jurors of the County Grand Jury issued a Bill of Indictment for Andrew M Higgins for Murder in the Second Degree.   On the 13th day of December he was formally indicted in the Court of Common Pleas and released on a bond of $5000.  We find him again on the 27 day of December 1887 and his trial set for the first session of the court in 1888.  The county records do not show outcome of the trials so we are back to the Plain Dealer starting in January of 1888. 

To use Paul Harvey's  line " and here's the rest of the story"  February of 1888 Andrew M Higgins pled guilty to 1st degree Manslaughter and was sntenced to a maximum of 10 years in the Penitentiary He was divorced and living in Willoughby as a farmer in the 1900 Census.  He died on the 16th of March 1916 in Willoughby Lake County Ohio. We do not know where he is buried

Clarissa Imogene Austin died on the 23rd of April 1906 in North Olmsted and is buried in Coe Ridge Cemetery as Jennie Crawford (her First Husband) We do not know where he is buried, Their Sons Cluie (Died Young) And Leon and wife Harriet along with "Little Murray" Andrew's son that lived for only 4 years, and died a month before Andrew stabbed Renzie. 

I guess we found most of it.