Friday, September 28, 2012

Uncle Rollin's Headstone

On our return home from New England this past July we made a scheduled stop at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC to visit the grave of my grand uncle, Rollin Farquhar Webber. Back around April 2011 I started posting the results of my research on Uncle Rollin. I found him a pretty interesting character, perhaps because I was able to document a sizable amount of information on his life from photographs, newspaper articles, census reports, and more. Starting with the first record I uncovered on him, the 1880 Federal Census Record for Oxford, Maine where he was listed at the age of "4/12" (four months) and ending with the Allentown, Pa newspaper obituary notice I found in the public library in Allentown. After serving as a fusilier (counterpart to today's Marines) in the Spanish American War, he distinguished himself as a machinist at the Boston Navy Yard, the Washington (DC) Navy Yard, and finished his career with the Navy serving as an inspector with the Navy's Bureau of Ordinance in Bethlehem, Pa. He married his first wife in 1910 but sadly, she died from complications from childbirth a year and a half later. The unnamed infant son also died. He married his second wife in 1913 and in 1915 they had a son who was named after Rollin. I found one reference to the son in 1930 when he accompanied Rollin to New Hampshire to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Rollin's sister, Florence (my grandmother), but I've uncovered very little else on both the son and the second wife. Apparently the second marriage was not a happy union despite their having a child together as documented by wife #2 listed on the 1930 Washington, DC Federal Census with marital status "D" for divorced while Uncle Rollin shows up in Philadelphia that same year with wife number three. The newspaper article on the silver wedding anniversary lists Rollin in attendance "from Philadelphia with his wife and son" but I can't tell for sure which wife he was with, number 2 or number 3! Probably 3 but just my guess. Rollin also managed to be issued a patent in 1915 for a "motor vehicle starting device."  From this and his varied assignments with the Navy yard and the Ordinance Bureau, I'm pretty sure Rollin wasn't just your average everyday journeyman machinist but a very skilled machinist to say the least.

I'm familiar with Rollin's third wife, Lois. But before I started researching I didn't know anything about the previous wives or a Rollin, Jr. Nor did my sister who as a few years older than me, is my only living source to verify family genealogy. The truth of the matter is I recognize Uncle Rollin and Aunt Lois in photos but I don't know if their images are actually in my memory from firsthand exposure or if I'm just associating their faces with photographs where they have been identified. There could be a memory link inside my degenerating brain cells because I know for a fact we were all in the same place in 1955. The occasion was my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. I was recently fortunate enough to locate the guestbook for their golden wedding anniversary. And listed on the guest pages at the top of one page were "Bro (brother) Rollin F Webber & Lois" and my distinguished signature as a ten year old guest on the opposite page squeezed in between my sister and my brother.  I don't remember the celebration. Even though, there's strong evidence we were in the same place at the same time. But at ten years old I probably was paying more attention to other things besides people's faces. Especially, older people's faces!

Rollin F Webber

Lois Webber

These two photos were probably taken around 1940 when Rollin and Lois were in their late fifties.  So if there are some facial recognition memories lurking inside my brain they would be of Rollin and Lois when they were in their seventies. So you could say I've got photographic memory but it has nothing to do with retention. I'm just fortunate enough to have inherited a lot of photographs to go along with my family history research. 

Guestbook for 50th wedding anniversary
Guestbook signatures

In the summer of 2011 I completed most of my research on the lives of Rollin and Lois. Rollin's obituary indicated his funeral in 1960 was being handled by a Washington, DC funeral home. And from them I was able to pinpoint his burial in Congressional Cemetery. He is buried with his first wife, Cora, and the unnamed infant son who was interred with her in 1912. I had a photograph of the headstone I found online through the FindaGrave website but it was blurry and couldn't see the engraving. So our July trip to Congressional Cemetery was to see where he rests and to get better photos of the headstone. Congressional is a beautifully maintained cemetery located on the southern edge of DC. It's old and worn and sits inside an urban setting but the area is not drab and dreary like we feared we might find. The cemetery gets some Federal financial assistance for historical preservation and we were surprised to find that a lot of revenue for maintaining the grounds comes from dog walkers. Dog walkers pay an annual fee for the privilege of walking their dogs on the grounds. We saw plenty of them and got to meet a few. Sounded like a perfect solution for dog owners to have a place to walk their dogs in the middle of a city and for the cemetery to earn revenue. A win-win story if I've ever seen one and did not see any evidence that the dog owners were not cleaning up after their pets. 

This brick path leads to where Rollin is buried

Rollin's headstone is the 3-tiered monument left of center
The base of the headstone on one side is engraved with Rollin's first wife's maiden name, TREWOLLA. Gertrude L. Trewolla, was Cora (Trewolla) Webber's sister and she is buried with her sister and brother in law in the same plot. 

Gertrude L. (Trewolla) 1868 - 1933 
On another side of the same headstone the base is engraved with the name WEBBER where Rollin dedicated with engraving to "my beloved wife, Cora L. and infant son" and lists their birth and death dates as well as his own. Rollin died in 1960.

Rollin, Cora, and infant son

I found out from the funeral home that arranged for moving Rollin's body from Allentown to Washington that Aunt Lois accompanied his remains on a train and was met by the DC funeral home to coordinate burial. Lois was married to Rollin for thirty years and she showed her love and loyalty to her husband by honoring his wishes to be buried with the young wife and infant he lost fifty years previous. Lois passed away in 1973. She had remained in the same home she and Rollin shared in Allentown since 1936. The same funeral home that helped her move Rollin to DC coordinated moving her remains back to Indiana where she is buried in a family plot with her parents.