Sometimes you just have to believe that maybe you are being guided on a certain path for an unknown reason. Maybe the only reason is to bring a smile to your lips and warm your heart. But sometimes you just have to think maybe, just maybe, this series of events is more than a coincidence. Sometimes it’s bigger than you. Sometimes. Here is one of those times for me.
Years ago while in school, an assignment was given to find out and share a family history story. When I asked mom for ideas later that night she reminded me of her ancestor named Mary that was born in England and at the age of 13 her parents were in debtor’s prison. In order to get out, a marriage was arranged for Mary to wed 28 year old Henry. According to family legend, her parents lied about Mary’s age and said she was 21. Mary was not, shall we say, merry about the arrangement and at some point stowed away on a ship sailing for America. At least, she found her way to America and specifically to Brown’s Park that straddles the Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming border. At some point she married again and had two sons. Her second husband died and she married a third time and had two daughters. The oldest daughter is my great grandma.
What an exciting story to share! It’s the kind of action and drama Hollywood makes movies out of that win awards and recognition. At least, that’s how I’ve always shared it with other people.
Fast forward a couple or few decades. I moved back home to be closer to family and work in my hometown. One day after several years on the job a coworker mentioned that she likes to go ‘south’ out of town to camp. There are two routes out of town so I asked which one she takes and she wouldn’t answer me. She doesn’t divulge her favorite camping spot to anyone. Not even to someone who doesn’t really like to camp and would never find her spot anyway.
Fast forward a couple more years. I started a historical cemetery walking tour in our local cemetery. Three sets of my great-grandparents and one set of great-great grandparents are buried in the cemetery. As I found out stories of people in the cemetery my heart turned toward my ancestors. Also close to that time, a cousin of mom’s had started a TETERS FAMILY GROUP on Facebook allowing cousins and distant cousins that all descended from the same tree – my mom’s paternal grandparents. My great grandparents had 11 children with offspring so it is quite a big and full tree.
I have been working on my father’s line for some time but I am totally stuck. In fact, I am beginning to doubt he really exists even though I see him every day. On a break, I started going through some of my mom’s work. There in her stuff all neatly labeled and organized was a document I had seen before but never really paid attention to. I’m pretty sure mom had also told me about it and I may have taken it to school that day years ago as a kind of show and tell for my genealogy assignment. But that night I focused on what I held. It was a copy of a birth certificate for Mary and on the other side a copy of a marriage certificate for her and Henry Greenward in England. It all clicked. In my excitement I shared it with the Teters Family Group. My post allowed me to connect with a distant cousin who has done extensive family research and she quickly proved it was probably not our Mary’s documents.
Dejected a little bit, I tried focusing on my dad’s line again and realized I’m still stuck. I decided to search for Mary online and found a message board in Ancestry.com with her name. It was from about ten years ago and it was between my newly found cousin and a couple visiting the area. They had found Mary’s grave. The thought of her grave being in the area had never occurred to me before. But it was in Brown’s Park which is not far from my town. I tried to message the traveling couple but the conversation was so old I didn’t get a response. Because Brown’s Park was an important part of mom’s growing up years we have a few books floating around the house about its history. I read one hoping to find mention of Mary’s name. It did not mention her name at all but it did mention both of her American husbands, her sons, and her oldest daughter. I Googled Mary’s name and tried looking through listings of Brown’s Park cemeteries but couldn’t find anything. The message simply stated it was a lone and beautiful grave with no indication of location. My newfound cousin lives in Canada and mentioned in the discussion that she would like a picture of it but there was no notice if she ever received a picture. I looked up obituaries and death certificates in the Park but because of its location it not only overlaps counties it overlaps three states. I couldn’t narrow down a specific county to look in. Although, a divorce decree between Mary and her husband Anton was found. It occurred in 1891 and he apparently went back to Austria and had another family.
My excitement started to wane again. It appeared I was stuck. Dad and I decided we would take a trip to Brown’s Park in the summer and look for cemeteries.
Early in the summer, previous to my Europe trip, Brown’s Park experienced a pretty big fire. My co-worker I mentioned earlier discussed it with another co-worker and I eavesdropped. “You like Brown’s Park?” I asked. She mentioned it was a favorite spot of hers where she and her husband like to go camping (aha!). I told her I had just finished reading a book on it and she said she had read it. Then I explained my reason for reading it and she told me she has taken pictures of a lot of graves in that area. The name didn’t sound familiar but she would check when she got home to see if it was one of the graves.
I tried to not get my hopes up. What would be the odds?
She forgot to check that night. I patiently waited and tried to be cool about it all.
One morning, I arrived to work and a picture of a headstone was on my desk.
She found my great-great grandmother’s grave! Instead of going through all of her pictures she took one that weekend while she and her husband were in the area. I’d like to say I played it cool but I gushed. She gave me directions and told me it was by the LOGAN HOMESTEAD. “The Logan Ranch?” I asked. “I’ve been there. My dad knows where that is. My grandpa’s sister married a Logan.” So when she told me the directions I only paid attention to the last part because I thought I knew the first part.
By this time it was already late July. My August was already booked up and my next available weekend wouldn’t be until Labor Day. The Saturday before Labor Day dad and I loaded up my car. I had my adventure hat, a new pair of binoculars, snacks, and my camera. It promised to be a good adventure. We headed out toward the LOGAN RANCH.
We found the ranch but could not find the grave. So we kept driving. We drove down that stretch, then back, then back down again. We stopped at the dilapidated building and walked to it and around it. No grave. We found a couple of groups of people out celebrating the holiday and asked them. One group didn’t know, the other group pointed us back to the same building we had already inspected. All day we searched until the sun started to set. That was a disappointing day. We failed miserably.
That Friday dad went to a funeral of a spouse of one of mom’s cousins. He asked some of mom’s cousins and they knew about the grave. Were we the only ones that didn’t know about this place? It feels like it. They had been there before. It turns out we took the wrong road out of town because apparently there are two LOGAN places in the area.
One of mom’s cousins said he would take dad and I to the grave. Again, I had an unusually busy September and the only weekend I had a break was at the very end. But I wanted to get the trip in before it snowed or else I’d have to wait until next summer after the thaw.
When the designated weekend rolled around the weather was cold. Also dad wasn’t feeling up to making the trip. We had to cancel. I was sure I wasn’t going to make it there until next summer now.But after I had to confess to my co-worker that we didn’t make it and why we didn’t find it, she made me a very detailed map with instructions. Then she went over the map with me very carefully. I now had the specific directions. Not only that, I knew which road to start out on and that makes a huge difference.
Even my October was busy and filled up. I felt positive I missed my chance and I was going to have to wait until next summer because winter seemed to be creeping in closer and closer.
The last weekend in October I was home and my time was free. The sun was shining. The forecast was pleasant. I finished work on Friday before noon. When I got home I told dad that I think I could find the grave. He wanted to come with me and was feeling up to it. So we headed south –on the right road. I followed my co-worker’s instructions down to the very last detail. Although at one point I wondered if we were going the right way. I left dad and the car and walked down the road a bit.To my right on the hill I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a fence or not so I walked past it and followed the road up the hill. From above I could look below and could see there was, in fact, an old fence marking something but I didn’t really want to have to walk all the way down and around. I kept walking up and found a gate I could crawl over. The whole time I hoped I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself and need to be rescued. How embarrassing would that be?
I walked to the old fence from behind and hoped there was a grave in it. Sure enough, I came behind an old stone and walked to the front of it. Mary’s grave! I found my great-great grandma’s lone grave in the middle of nowhere. I hollered and cheered. Promptly I took out my phone and marked the spot on my map app. I took some photos.
Then I walked down the hill and back toward dad trying to get his attention to drive down and come to me. I finally text him and said “COME HERE.” He got that and drove the car and picked me up then we drove to the gate below the grave. We got out and walked up the hill to the grave and took more pictures. He wanted to keep going on the road but I was nervous about getting back so we decided to come back again in the summer. At least I checked off my last summer bucket list item.
If any of these events would have happened out of order, would I have found the lonely old grave? I don’t think so. Everything happened in an order and way that led to my October adventure. A series of coincidences? I don’t buy that either because the coincidences were too marvelous. Dad and I discussed it and we both wished mom would have been there. She would have enjoyed it. But then again, the way everything played out just so – maybe she was there. Maybe, just maybe, she was our guide on our quest for Mary.