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Turkey Creek Lane · Searching for Sarah

Searching for Sarah

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Sarah J.’s tombstone.

DH is a collector of stuff. Ask him for anything and he probably has one. He even has a gravestone, which appropriately enough, right before Halloween, has become my latest project.

It is a mystery to be solved,  with grave robbing, a secret society and fascinating historical detail.

Why did the I.O.O.F. Lodge take Sarah Jane Cole’s tombstone? 

Why did they use the other side of it for the cornerstone of their lodge? 

Who are the I.O.O.F.? Who was Sarah Jane?

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The other side of Sarah Jane’s tombstone, which the I.O.O.F. made into a building cornerstone with their masonic emblem and name.

DH aquired the “tombstone/cornerstone” in 1983. Fueled by rising oil prices Texas was booming. Houses couldn’t be built fast enough for the oil executives of Houston and Dallas. Rustic, weathered & aged bricks were especially-desired building materials  for newly rich oilmen wanting  to look like old money. Which meant the former I.O.O.F. Lodge in Windfall, Indiana, three layers deep in bricks, was coming down.

A contractor was hired. Teenage workers and kids started cleaning up the bricks, brick by brick, for fifteen cents a brick. During the painfully slow and tedious procedure, Sarah’s perfectly carved tombstone was found on the other side of the building’s I.O.O.F. embellished cornerstone. The contractor, a friend of DH’s, had no use for it.  He thought my husband might want it.

DH did.

 And now I am on a quest. I am trying to find out everything I can about Sarah Jane Orem Cole and the people who took her tombstone.

The “1850 Federal Census” listed Sarah Jane as a 15 year old living in Prairie township in Tipton County, Indiana. She shared her home with her father, Josiah Orem, 43, her mother, Ann, 34, two sisters and four brothers.

Originally part of the Miami Reservation, much of Tipton County was not opened up to settlers until 1847. In their early years in Prairie township, Sarah Jane’s family would have depended very largely upon game for their chief substinence.

 G.K. Berry describes pioneer days in Tipton County, “Wild animals of all kinds infested the woods, and every settlers table was supplied with choice meat. Venison was no rarity, but served as a staple article of food, deer being so numerous as to cause, great injury to the crops. Some bear were found by the early hunters. To kill one of these animals was considered a mark of superior skill, and the man who was fortunate enough to bring down a bruin enjoyed an enviable reputation in the community. Three of these animals were killed by Samuel Baldwin a short distance east of Windfall, in the year 1847. Wolves were especially numerous, and for several years all domestic stock had to be tightly penned at night in order to protect them from the fangs of these gaunt scourges. During very cold winters, they became voracious, and old settlers tell of having to take their dogs into the house to keep them from being torn to pieces.”

According to the “United States Federal Census of 1860“, Sarah Jane Orem married Newton Cole in 1853. In 1860, they had two children, Martha A., 3 years old and Mary J., 1 year old.

December 1, 1866, Sarah Jane Orem Cole died.

By 1880, Newton was remarried to Nancy Elizabeth Vargus. According to the “1880 Federal Census“, he was an engineer. Martha, listed as single, lived with her father and stepmother. Josiah Cole, 19 years old, also shared the home. He must have been Sarah’s last child.

Did Newton fight in the civil war? No children were conceived during the war years. And what about Mary? Mary wasn’t listed as part of her father’s household in the 1880 census. I wonder if she married before her older sister? Or did Mary succumb to a childhood disease or accident?

A Mary J. Cole was buried in 1865 in Sarah’s hometown. Was she Sarah’s Mary? Did the heartbreak from losing her little girl contribute to Sarah’s early death? Or did Sarah Jane die from childbirth, a year after her husband’s return home from the war? Or both?

Did Newton ever take Sarah’s children to visit their mother’s gravesite?

And what about the people who took Sarah Jane’s tombstone?

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The Independent-Order-Of-Oddfellows’ Lodge Emblem. The three chain links are carved into a  eye on the I.O.O.F. Cornerstone.

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The I.O.O.F. Masonic Eye Emblem.

fullshield.gif The Full Shield…the Odd Fellow is introduced to universal symbols important to the teachings. All symbols are regarded as derived from a common source of symbolism and are said to scintillate with meaning.

Historical Origins of Secret Associations

From the I.O.O.F. Lodge Philosophy and History site , “History records the existance of secret associations among nearly all the nations of the earth. They have accompanied and been a part of the advancement of civilizations. They have served as the conservators and promoters of religious, scientific and political life.

Associations have their beginnings in ancient cultures where they were a means of passing on teachings to the un-initiated. These teachings included writing, arts and sciences. Associations provided a means of education and training in philosophical matters of conscious human existence. This required both theoretical learning and rituals. The ancient societies where associations originated include the Egyptians, Babylonians, Jews, Greeks, Persians, and other Eastern cultures.

The motto of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows has always been ‘to elevate the character of mankind under the Fatherhood of God and within the brotherhood of man’. The Lodge existed for decades as the only source of security for working families, and provided a crucial social safety net in times of unregulated labour markets and fledgling government services.”

To Improve and Elevate the Character of Man

In 17th century England, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Those who belonged to such an organization were called “Odd Fellows“. Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.

Odd Fellows have also been linked to an organization known as the Ancient Order of Bucks which thrived in England in the 18th Century, and had as its emblem three bucks with their antlers intertwined. These men had as their leader a “Most Noble Grand” and met in club rooms and taverns. One of their principal emblems was “a bundle of sticks,” familiar to modern Odd Fellows as signifying strength in union. They dropped “Bucks” from the name in 1802. 

Among the first records of the Order in America is that of five Brothers of the English Order who met in New York City in 1806, and formed Shakespeare Lodge No. 1. The founders were three boat builders, a comedian and a vocalist – a group befitting the name “Odd Fellows,” indeed.

 Windfall Lodge, No. 438, I. O. O. F., was instituted November 20, 1873, with the following charter members: F. S. Zeek, George Dunn, William Brooks, G. W. Boyer, W. S. Armstrong, Joel Reece, S. G. Young and H. H. Lindley. The first officers were J. H. Zehner, N. G.; John B. Thorn, V. G.; F. S. Zeek, Secretary, and T. J. Lindley, Treasurer. Meetings were held in a hall belonging to the lodge.

 Charter Member and first I.O.O.F. officer J.H. Zehner was elected president of Windfall’s town council when Windfall was incorporated in 1871. I.O.O.F. officer, F.S. Zeek was also elected to Windfall’s town council. By 1888, Sarah Jane’s tombstone had been removed from the cemetery and become the I.O.O.F. Lodge’s cornerstone. Without a grave marker, her burial site wasn’t noted by those compiling genealogical and historical society records.

Sarah Jane doesn’t come up on cemetery search sites . None of her family can visit her grave.

Why? Did the stonemason take the tombstone from an unkept grave for extra profit? Or was there a symbolic reason for Sara’s grave marker becoming the back of a cornerstone?

I wonder how Sara died? I wonder how Martha got along as the “maiden” daughter living at home with a new stepmother? Did she ever marry? What happened to Mary? Or Josiah?

This is a puzzle for conspiracy addicts, history buffs, genealogy researchers,  or anyone who would like to help Sarah’s Cole’s descendents who may be searching for information, burial records…or a tombstone.

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  1. paperseed’s avatar

    You know, it might be possible that there was a mistake on this tombstone and the maker simply recycled it for the IOOF. What a mystery though. Good luck – it looks like you’ve gotten a lot of good super-sleuthing information so far.

    Hi paperseed,

    Good thinking. However, I just checked and the dates and names match up with census, birth, marriage and death records. If the stone had been replaced Sarah Cole also should show up on a cemetery registry.

    I may have to go to all the area cemeteries to make sure the stone wasn’t replaced, though.

    Reply

  2. Dave’s avatar

    Just a slight correction. The IOOF is not “Masonic” and never was. Freemasonry and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows were (and are) two completely different and separate fraternal organizations. They shared some symbolism (such as the “all seeing eye” representing God, as well as the skull and crossbones representing mortality, and the hourglass representing the fleeting passage of time). And both groups were founded in the early 1700’s in Britain. But they were never connected to each other, so your repeated use of the term “Masonic” is not correct.

    My first thought was that the carver of the gravestone made an error or simply didn’t get paid, and simply turned it over for the IOOF cornerstone, figuring no one would ever see the backside. But you do have a mystery there…

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your information. I have edited the word Masonic out of my story and apologize for my mistake.

    The names and dates on the stone are correct according to birth and death records (the census links I provided also can be used to find birth and death dates). I dont know if the carver got paid. The 1880 census (link included) did show Newton, Sarah’s husband, was an engineer. Plus the other side of the tombstone wasn’t used as a cornerstone until 20 years after Sarah died. If there was a mistake or he hadn’t been paid, I don’t know if the stonecarver would have waited 20 years before recycling the stone.There is also no record of Sarah being buried in any area cemetery that I have been able to find.

    In any case, I appreciate your correcting me about the I.O.O.F. Lodge and am glad you read the article, when you did, so I could make the necessary changes in my story.

    It looks like there is still more research to be done.

    Hopefully, I can find one of Sarah’s descendents in case they would like this part of their family history.

    Reply

  3. barngoddess’s avatar

    wow-what a great tale!

    this is a great story for this time of year too.

    thnx for sharing it 🙂

    Hi Barngoddess.

    I love doing that kind of research so it was a fun story. I thought the picture of the tombstone would be appropriate for Halloween too.

    Reply

  4. rosehavencottage’s avatar

    I love this kind of research! I have a new possible explanation for you that is based on something that actually occurred in my family. My mom has the headstone for her father in on her condo’s back patio instead of it being in the cemetery where he is buried. Why? Well, my mom’s father died first and the headstone was carved for his grave and installed. Then when her mother died later, a new dual headstone was carved with both her parents on it since they were buried side-by-side. The single headstone was uninstalled by the cemetery groundskeeper and propped against the keeper’s shed. On a visit to the gravesite, my mother noticed her father’s headstone just sitting there and asked if she could take it home. The groundskeeper said, “Sure! We can’t do anything with it.” So now my mother has her father headstone. It’s quite a conversation piece. It is quite possible that because your Sarah J. died before her husband that the same thing happened. When he passed away a larger monument may have been installed including both of them on it and her single marker may have been uninstalled and recycled as another commenter has suggested. No one counted on anyone ever seeing the reverse side. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

    Hi Cindy,

    Wow, to your mother having her father’s first headstone. I had no idea that ever happened.

    Newton getting another headstone for the both of them, sounds like a real possibility. He did have another wife in 1880 though, which makes it more complicated. Life must have been very hard for women back then. Doing research into families in that area of that era, many men were widowed and remarried and had second families. (I thought the first wives died in childbirth. )Two of my great-great-grandfathers had first families. My great-great-grandmothers were the second wives. I know one of my grandmother’s was buried next to her husband even though she was a second wife. I don’t know about the other one though.

    However, in 1880, Newton hadn’t had children with Nancy, so he might have wanted to be buried next to the mother of his children and prepurchased a headstone for himself and Sarah. Maybe he gave Sarah’s first headstone to the stonemason because he didn’t want to bring it home where Nancy was?

    I do LOVE history and research. My imagination could take Sarah’s story in so many directions.

    I would love to find Sarah’s family to see if more details can be filled in.

    Reply

  5. h’s avatar

    You should write the book! Love you, h

    Reply

  6. ProphetJoe’s avatar

    A very interesting read! I was googling a graphic image and your “IOOF logo” made me want to follow the link… just goes to show, you never know where you’ll end up!

    I took a brief tour of your site — really good work on the tornado posts. What part of Indiana are you in? I’m located in Champaign, IL myself.

    Keep up the good work!

    Hi ProphetJoe,

    Thank you for your kind words. I am glad my IOOF logo caught your attention.

    I live in in Northern Indiana, between Nappanee and Goshen. It’s a slow pace, but believe it or not, we keep busy and the time flies. The area is rich in written history. There are lot’s of old diaries & almanacs ro be found, so I am always researching one thing or another.

    Reply

  7. Stacy’s avatar

    Hi. My name is Stacy Cooper but my maiden name is Orem. I stumbled across this article while researching an old photograph I found going through some family stuff. I do believe Josiah Orem is my great,great,great, great grandfather! This story is so intriguing to me! And I still haven’t identified the man in the photo. So I’m on a mission. Thank you for your interest in solving the mystery!

    Reply

    1. admin’s avatar

      Hi Stacey, I am so excited to being closer to learning the origins of Sarah. If you find out more please let me know and maybe I can give the story an ending. History is fascinating. You also inspired me to reopen this blog. My husband and I built a new house and in the process my poor blog was neglected and then forgotten. Which I never intended to do. It just happened. Thanks for your comment. If I find out more about Sarah or Josiah, I will be sure to post about it on Turkey Creek Lane.

      Reply

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