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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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