It just felt like the right thing to do….

UPDATED…..if you’ve already read this, scroll to the end to read what I found out about the mysterious Ross Brown!!! 🙂

I go to Mount Albion Cemetery at least a couple times a week during the spring, summer, and autumn months. Sometimes more often. One of the main reasons for going is to water the flowers on family graves. I always stop first at my Great Grandma Freeman’s – my grandfather’s mother – then I go up on Bitternut and water my Grandma and Grandpa Freeman’s (my mother’s parents) and my Mom and Dad’s – they are all close to each other on that lane. I’ve been doing this, like I said, at least twice a week consistently since I returned to my home town in 2011. Before that, I’d go with Mom to help her every time I happened to be home for a visit during the months when flowers need tending…….and, often for no other reason than to “visit” and have a chat with them all.

So…..given the many, many times I’ve been to my Great Grandmother Freeman’s grave, I was surprised when a large stone just past the water spigot I use to fill the watering can for her flowers caught my eye – I couldn’t believe I’ve never noticed it before! So, before I filled the watering can, I strolled over to take a closer look.

This is Great Grandma Freeman’s modest stone and flowers

While I am watering her pot, I usually also water the two you see in the distance – they are on my way back to where I park, so it only seems fair to fill the watering can with enough to do all three pots!

This is the stone that caught my eye……I was particularly struck by the phrase “My Love It Is With Thee”!

I was curious as to why there was no info inscribed as to Lucinda Fields Monroe’s passing, so I looked up all three names on the Mt Albion roster web site and found the following:

Lucinda was first married to Michael Fields (more on him later), had a second husband named Milo Birch and was the third wife of her third husband – Rial Willis Monroe. She died in 1913 at the age of 67 – just 7 years after the death of her husband, Rial Willis Monroe. No info regarding why there is no inscription for her passing…….my “assumption” is that she had the stone placed there after Rial Willis Monroe’s death and when she was interned, perhaps there was no one to add her information to the stone.

As for Lucinda’s first husband – Michael Fields – I wonder if he is actually buried here……perhaps the stone is just a memorial to him. My reason for wondering this is that I researched his infantry info – he served in CO B 151ST NY VOL INF in the American Civil War. Here is what was listed under his name on the muster list for the 151st NY Volunteer Infantry – apparently, he was missing in action and presumed dead. His date of death is listed on the stone as just 6 days after he was reported missing.

And….to make this even more interesting, Lucinda’s first and third husband both enlisted out of Barre within a few days of each other and were both mustered into the same company on the same day……..but, Rial Willis Monroe made it home after the three years he was enlisted to serve. The hopeless romantic in me hopes that he was friends with Michael Fields and promised him he would take care of his wife should anything happen to him and looked her up when he was discharged and through his promise, they fell in love…….and he kept that promise till his death……of course, that’s just my over active imagination – no way of knowing that for sure! 🙂

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As I was looking at the Monroe stone, I also noticed another large and very striking stone a row or two behind it that, again, I had never noticed before:

Rachel Stern Mattison passed away at the age of 21. I, again, wondered why there was no date of death for her husband, Earl. I looked them up on the Mt. Albion list of burials and he is not listed. I wonder if perhaps he moved away and was somewhere else when he passed away and is not actually here with his wife, Rachel. A similar circumstance is related to my Great Grandma Freeman and her husband. When she passed, my grandfather purchased to graves and placed two stones – one for her to mark her grave and one for her husband, who was buried in Delevan, NY – my grandfather intended to have him moved so they could be buried together, but was never able to do so. So, there is a marker for him, but the grave is unoccupied. (a side note: it has since been transferred to my brother’s name, so it is his for when the time comes)

So, I decided to look around a little more and see what else I could find…….and came upon this stone, just down from the Mattison’s:

I was intrigued to see that Ross Brown served in  CO K 18th US COLORED INFANTRY in the American Civil War! He obviously survived his service and lived to the age of 90 before passing in or near Albion. I looked him up on the Mt Albion list of burials and there is no notation of spouse, parents, or children, as is customary for most other listings. I then looked up the 18th US COLORED INFANTRY and found that it originated in Missouri to serve in the Civil War. Unlike other colored units, the 18th Infantry was mustered directly to US service, rather than state service. But, unlike the infantry info I found on Michael Fields, there was no links to lists where I might have found out any other info on Ross Brown.

I found myself wanting to know more about Ross Brown……I’ll probably never find out who he was and what brought him to the Albion area….which left me feeling sad. But, I was particularly saddened that he did not have a flag — he has a flag holder indicating he served his country, but no flag. I noticed that other military in the immediate area had flags. This upset me……I have no idea who this man was or any information about him other than he served his country in our Civil War, but I found myself feeling very sad that there was no flag. A number of things could explain it……perhaps he was accidentally missed when they were putting out the flags this spring……perhaps his flag was stolen by some low life who thought that would be OK……..perhaps it blew away in one of the recent storms…….whatever the reason, it bothered me…….not that I go around getting upset about every military grave that doesn’t have a flag……no idea why this one touched me so deeply! But, it did!

So……I finished watering my Great Grandma’s flowers and the other two I usually catch while I’m there and then went on up to water the flowers at my grandparents and parents graves……..and, then, instead of hanging around for a chat with Mom, I apologized and told her I had something I needed to do. I drove straight to Walmart, bought a flag, and took it back to put on Ross Brown’s grave!

When I put it in the holder, I noticed it was extremely loose and thought it may just blow away……which strengthened my thought that perhaps the original one placed there did just that! So, I took it out of the holder and stuck it securely in the ground beside the holder. It should last the rest of the season……and, I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure!

Walmart didn’t have any single flags – I had to buy a pack of two. So, if I find that Ross Brown gets overlooked again next year, I already have a flag to put out for him…….and, I am quite certain that I’ll make sure he has one every year as long as I am here and able to do so!

I feel like the bigger stones caught my eye so I would go check out that area and find Ross Brown…….I feet like I was meant to find him and give him a flag…….It just seemed like the right thing to do……..and I have a warm, fuzzy feeling for doing it!

UPDATE: I sent this post to our Orleans County Historian – Matthew Ballard, thinking that maybe he might want to research Ross Brown to find out more about him and how he made his way to Albion. As it turns out, he already has researched him and, in fact, he was one of the subjects he talked about on a recent Mt Albion Cemetery Walking Tour! YAY! I’m so glad to learn more about the man who tugged at my heart strings this afternoon!

Here is what Matt sent to me……copied with Matt’s permission:

“Hi Kim, Thanks for sharing this (and I’m happy that you placed a flag on Mr. Brown’s grave). I covered him on my latest tour this past weekend. He was born in S.C. on a plantation near Charleston and escaped during the confusion that resulted from the war/Emancipation Proclamation. He made his way to New Orleans where he stowed away on a riverboat and made his way north to Davenport, Iowa. While he was living here, he was enlisted as a substitute (in place of a white attorney in Davenport, so he really did not have a choice in the matter) and was placed into Federal service with the 18th U.S. Colored Infantry (since all African-American units were segregated and federalized). After the war he worked as a sailor on the Great Lakes and visited places like Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo and made his way to Albion. He found the location to his liking and brought his wife here. I’m not sure where they settled when they came to this area, but his home burned and his wife left him. He ended up rebuilding his house which still stands today, a few houses west of Waters’ Auto Body on West Avenue on the north side of the road. During WWI, the local papers featured his prediction that the war would end within nine years and three of countries would be involved in its end (the papers called him a prophet). I suppose, in some respects, he was correct, as the war ended a little over five years after it started and the U.S., England, and France were instrumental in the end of the war (though I suppose that is debatable). He was known locally as “Uncle Ross” which would be a bit insensitive given the context. Next time you visit his grave, a few rows to the west, is the grave of Michael Collins”  (Michael Collins is an Albion native who was present at the capture of John Wilkes Booth – here is the link to that story by Matt Ballard: click here )

6 Comments on “It just felt like the right thing to do….

  1. …what a researcher you are, I too like to get the whole story, but that not always possible. I’ve always been impressive by the job Mt Albion does placing flags on veteran’s graves.

    • I wish I knew more about Mr. Brown……he managed to touch my heart for some odd reason!

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