Topeka's Rochester Cemetery: More Than the Ghost of Albino Woman

Rochester Cemetery has been a favorite of ghost hunters and Halloween thrill seekers since at least 1967. They come here hoping to see the infamous Albino Woman who roams the cemetery as well as the surrounding neighborhood, supposedly searching for her lost child. But Rochester Cemetery is much more than the home of a famous ghost.

Perched on a bluff overlooking the Kaw River Valley near Topeka, Kansas, Rochester is possibly the capital city's oldest cemetery. A sign at the side of Menninger Road proclaims it's been there "since 1850". But most any American history buff knows Kansas Territory wasn't opened to white settlerment until 1854. Therefore, any burials before that date would have been pioneers from "the States" (as everytthing east of the Missouri border was then known), bound for New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail. Covered wagons making this arduous journey had been passing nearby since 1821.

Early March, when trees are bare.

The most charming aspect of Rochester is the abundance of trees, many uncommonly tall for the area. During spring and summer, it's not hard to imagine that you're in an ancient burial ground somewhere in the British Isles. Because the trees provide a nearly solid canopy of shade, better take a jacket on a summer day because the temperature can be twenty or more degrees cooler. AC comliments of Mother Nature.

With so much of the sun blocked out, it's also quite spooky, which only adds to its reputation for being haunted. But only when the trees are in full leaf does it look like a place where one could meet a roaming spirit at any moment, even during a daytime visit. When the trees are bare, as in the photo above, Rochester doesn't seem spooky at all. Then it's "just" a cemetery.

I recently seized an opportunity to visit, looking forward not only to a respite from the the day's unseasonable heat, but also the chance to connect with my British roots.

Turning lemons into lemonade...

Why I thought the trees in Rochester would have leaves when every other tree for miles around didn't is beyond me. Wishful thinking probably. But there I was.

Determined the trip wouldn't be a total waste, I followed the road round to the oldest section. Usually this is the least visited part of a cemetery because family members and friends who used to bring flowers on special days have died or moved away. Following the 19th century tradition that graves face the morning sun, Rochester's is on a downhill slope on the east side.

Here lies Peter OWENS...

Born May 4, 1846; d. January 3, 1898
Born May 4, 1846; d. January 3, 1898

Since I didn't get my Brit Fix, as well as being just plain ol' curious about who these people were, I decided to turn this into a test of my skills as a researcher.

None of the stones here mark graves of any of my ancestors or relatives. The few interred in Topeka are on the other side of the river. Meaning I had no prior knowledge of Rochester's Forgotten for a jumpstart.

There's a tradition, btw, that only those who lived north of the river were buried at Rochester. This is a myth that won't die (if you'll forgive the unintentional pun). Personal preference was the determining factor, not the side of the river one lived on.

The first stone that came into view was that of a Peter Owens.

Wish I could tell you more about him, but he appears to be one of those who fell through the cracks of time. Any hints or details of his life "in the dash" aren't available online, nor could I find him in any Kansas census from that period. But then I didn't look for his obituary on my last visit to the Kansas Historical Society Library. Considering his tombstone is rather "substantial" for the 1890s, I'll be surprised if there isn't an obituary, however brief.

Lest you think poor Peter is lonely being the only Dearly Departed for several dozen yards in any direction, those "piles" of leaves aren't piles at all. They're leaves that collected in the depressions caused by the disintegration of wood caskets and the sinking of the dirt above them. Wood grave markers (usually crosses) also disintegrate eventually, giving the impression the poor soul under a stone has always been out there all by himself (or herself).

Note: watch out for the branches in those depressions! Without realizing it, I once stepped on the "big" end of one next to a great-grannie's grave, causing  the other end (that looks like a hand) to flip up and lock around my ankle. I froze on the spot, absolutely certain Granny had reached out and grabbed me, and that I was about to be yanked downward for an unplanned chit-chat. Did I feel s-t-u-p-i-d when the cousin with me said "It's only a branch, silly"!

So unless you routinely carry extra underwear, avoid those branches!

Next up, Fortis C. McDowell...

Note the group of stones above Fortis McDowell's stone, in front of the two trees. Those are members of the family of John Wesley READY. More about them later. The speck of white to their right marks the final resting spot of Lydia REYNOLDS. Emily MATHENY's is the stone in the upper left hand corner.  More about her later, too.

Another side of Fortis McDowell...

From the Topeka Daily Capital, Sunday, May 7, 1893:

"F.C. McDowell, aged 34, died at Christ's hospital Friday night at 11 o'clock of blood poisoning. The funeral will not be announced until relatives living in Oklahoma are heard from, but it will probably be held tomorrow morning at Knight's chapel."

The tombstone clearly shows Fortis wasn't 34, but 36 years, 9 months and 22 days old. According to the date calculator in Legacy, the genealogy program I use, he was born July 15, 1856, in Pennsylvania if I have the correct Fortis McDowell in the 1880 census.

Although I consider myself fairly familiar with the history of Topeka, I'd never heard of any hospital named Christ's. Currently there are only two: Stormont-Vail, across from the public library, and St. Francis, across from Willow Park. In the early 1900s, Security Benefit Association (SBA) had its own hospital on the grounds later occupied by world-famous Menninger's, the psychiatric hospital, which ceased operations in that location a few years ago. The only other I'd ever heard of was the Jane C. Stormont Women's Hospital in the historic Potwin neighborhood. That should've been the big clue...

According to an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal dated 4 Nov 2001, Christ's Hospital was the name of Kansas's first non-miltary Protestant hospital.

Ellen Vail, wife of the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in Kansas, was critically ill in 1878 when she dreamed of a modern hospital. Her husband met with other influential Topeka men, and a board was created who chose Christ's as the name of the new hospital which opened May 14, 1884 at the corner of SW 10th St. and Washburn. On August 20, 1927, a larger, more modern Christ's opened.

"This original building still exists as part of the Stormont-Vail complex," said Cindy Yelkin, communications manager. "It is the older structure sandwiched between the south and the north buildings....identified by its red tile roof and houses the chapel."

The Jane C. Stormont Women's Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which opened in October 1895, was named after the widow of Dr. D.W. Stormont. By 1949, it had an endowment fund of $500,000 but being in a residential neighborhood, no room to expand. Christ's had the opposite problem, plenty of land for expansion but no cash. In April 1949, the two hospitals were combined as Stormont-Vail.

Mystery Solved: Christ's Hospital

Undated photograph of Christ's Hospital from the Kansas Historical Society.
Undated photograph of Christ's Hospital from the Kansas Historical Society.

Gone but not forgotten...

Remember Emily Matheny whose stone sits way off by itself in the one photo?

According to the Topeka Daily Capital of Wednesday, 8 July 1896, "Mrs. Emily MATHENY, aged 60, died yesterday afternoon from consumption at her home on North Lincoln street. The funeral will be held tomorrow. She has sons in St. Joseph."

Consumption is an old name for tuberculosis, because victims were literally consumed by it. We now know TB to be a highly contagious bacterial infection which can be cured by antibiotics if taken continuously for 6-8 months. It was thought TB would be eradicated by 2010, but many patients do not complete the drug regimen, which allows the bacteria to mutate and become drug-resistant. Poverty and AIDS have also caused a resurgence.

The odd thing on top of the stone looks to be a bird whose head and head are missing, either from weather or vandalism. 

READY? No really, that's their name...

l-r: Viola Grace Ready, Alice (Stapleton?) Roberts, Sarah (nee Stapleton), Irena Agnes Ready, John Wesley READY.
l-r: Viola Grace Ready, Alice (Stapleton?) Roberts, Sarah (nee Stapleton), Irena Agnes Ready, John Wesley READY.
Alice (Mrs. John) Roberts, granddaughter of John Wesley Ready & Sarah Stapleton Ready, is second stone from the left.
Alice (Mrs. John) Roberts, granddaughter of John Wesley Ready & Sarah Stapleton Ready, is second stone from the left.

John Wesley READY and Sarah STAPLETON were married in 1855 in Macon Co, IL. One daughter Sarah K. was born before John went off to the Civil War in Co. G, 41st Illinois. After the war, they relocated to Kansas, where he was a carpenter. His father Gideon Ready, also moved to Kansas. Viola Grace and Irena Agnes were two of John and Sarah Sr's daughters who died in childhood.

Alice, who died at the age of 21 as Mrs. John Roberts, was a daughter of Sarah K.. With one exception, censuses show Sarah as a Ready even after she was married and a mother. The exception was a census that listed her as "Kate Stapleton", therefore Alice's maiden name may have been Stapleton.

Alice died on June 30, 1906 "of neuralgia of the heart after a short illness". We now call it angina pectoris, which is treatable with a regimen of pain killers and other drugs..

Former president Rutherford B. Hayes died of neuralgia of the heart on January 17, 1893, and like Alice, after an illness of several days duration. However President Hayes's illness was a series of less severe attacks of the condition that finally felled him, whereas Alice's most likely was influenza, which is now known to sometimes leave bacteria in the heart muscle which acts like a poison that causes a fatal heart attack.

======================================

So there you have it, the things one can learn by switching gears on a sunny afternoon in a normally spooky cemetery when the trees are bare of leaves. Isn't this a bit more interesting than sitting there with your blood racing while reading about the ghost of a woman who wanders around looking for a child many people say never existed???

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Comments 61 comments

C. C. Riter 7 years ago

I will return to finish this. i love cemetary's???? I'm gowderdown tired g'nite dear


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

G'nite, C.C.! Thanks for dropping by! C-ya!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Oh Jama - you've woven this into such a readable treat! Way more enjoyable than an albino ghost - but I bet you got a real bad start when that branch curled back to hit you!!


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

JG - I found your information about the depressions in the earth where leaves gather and your brush with the ankle-grabbing granny at least as scary as Albino woman! I love cemeteries and it was nice to see this fine old place and meet its inhabitants. Thanks!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hey Shalini!  My next hub will be on how to write fun hubs about cemeteries.  lol!  Thanks for the kudos!

Meg, you're most welcome!  I'm anxious for the trees to leaf out so I can post pics of how ancient and British this cemetery can feel.  TTFN ;}


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Hi JamaGenee: I too am a big fan of old cemeteries, and I have spent a lot of time in them - in my early years, not so much now. Although, while in Belgium, we found ourselves walking through quite a few of them. I think many people have an interest and curiosity about old cemetaries.

Thanks for taking me through this one. it was an enjoyable read. The "branch-hand" would have scared the bejesus out of anybody!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Christoph! I'm finding out it's not just Europeans who like to poke around old cemeteries. Rochester reminds me - in a very tiny way - of Highgate Cemetery in London. Too full of history to be forgotten from one Halloween to the next.


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Jama, this was a delectable read! I'm fond of cemeteries and the history they keep, I love to read old tomb stones and wonder about the lives of whoever lays there. The flora and fauna of cemetery grounds is also very telling, and tends to change between countries and regions. Here in Spain you barely see a cemetery without a cypress tree. Actually, seeing cypresses in the distance immediately puts everyone in mind of a cemetery. Lovely, just lovely!


robie2 profile image

robie2 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

Hi JG--I have to admit I'm a cemetary fan too. I find them very calming places( go figure) and I love to read the inscriptions on tombstones....especially older ones from the 18th and 19th centuries--somehow the tombstones offer a connection to the people.

Oh yes and I loved the tidbits of Topeka history too and the nineteenth century medical terminology. thumbs up!


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Cemeteries are like old photographs or diaries -- I love how they tell us snippets of stories, and we have to fill in the rest with our imaginations. Neat hub.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Why, thank you, Teresa!  I never thought of the old photograph and diaries aspect!

robie, so nice to see you here! I wasn't the only one who'd never heard of Christ's Hospital. People I know who were born and raised in Topeka hadn't heard of it either!

Elena, thanks for the high praise!  Funny you should mention cypresses being symbolic of Spain's cemeteries. There's a certain type of evergreen commonly planted along the edge of graveyards here.  Makes it easy to spot old cemeteries out in the country, because they'll be the only evergreens for miles.


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

A most captivating hub! I definitely will return for the next installment. Love the history. I think I would have had to change if I had stepped on the branch!


Kscharles 7 years ago

What an intriguing walk through the past which belongs to every one of us! A liesurely stroll through an old cemetery on a warm day is a communion with our spirituality...our past, our understanding and questioning of human strivings and dreams, of new beginnings, and overcoming heartaches and heartbreaks and failures. If only those gravestones could reveal their stories! Perhaps that is the "spirituality" of old cemeteries: that we are one with those who have passed before us and those who will follow in the future. I read long ago (loosely translated), "One never dies until the last person speaks his or her name." Is this a form of immortality? I think yes!


Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

I feel a day long cemetary ramble coming on - been a long time since we've been on one! I'll bring the crayons and rubbing paper, you get the lemonade.

Great hub!


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Great read dear. I finally came back and enjoyed it geedily. We had a tour of one of our cemetries here last year and at each stop an actor or actress stood and told about himself/heself in a very entertaining way. I really liked that. Well, watch out for granny now. haha


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nice to see you here, SF! No rambling here for awhile - it's supposed to snow any minute.  )-:


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Good morning, C.C.! Thanks for the kudos; glad it was worth the return trip! As for the cemetery tour you went on, what a novel idea to have actors/actresses play the Dearly Departeds. btw, I like the new avatar.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Thanks for liking my avatar, good job on this


MellasViews profile image

MellasViews 7 years ago from Earth

Wow, this was cool. You even dug up some history and everything to go with it. Loved it. ON LI weve got this one really old forgotten graveyard that has stones dating back to the 1700's. Its too scary to even visit. lol. I have visited a few times, but never took pictures. Something about evil things getting captured in film and following you...and all that nonsense... plus Im gullable.. so... I steer clear. lol.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Mellas, sooo glad you enjoyed this!  But remember any spirits that haven't crossed over usually hang around the place the person died, not in the cemetery where the remains are buried.  I've experienced more ghosts in the houses I've lived in than any cemetery.  Meaning the chances of evil things getting captured on film and following you are slim to non-existant, despite all the books and movies to the contrary! 

On the other hand, I steer clear of cemeteries on dark and stormy nights, but only because I don't leave the house on such nights for *any* reason, not to mention I avoid open spaces like that where I'd be a target for lightning in a storm!  


laringo profile image

laringo 7 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

I really enjoyed this walk with you through Rochester Cemetery. I felt like I was there with you the whole time. A throughly enjoyable read with great historic value.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Happy to have you along, Laringo! Glad you enjoyed it!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Thank you so much for the tour of this interesting cemetery. Like laringo, I felt as though I were accompanying you on your walk through Rochester Cemetery also. Your history of the people and Christ's Hospital made it even more enjoyable.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Peggy, being a cemetery buff yourself, you know what interesting places they are! So much history! This is my first attempt at writing a "fun" hub about cemeteries, so I'm thrilled to know you (and laringo) felt like you were there with me!


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

I cannnot imagine being grabbed by the ankle by grandma who is SUPPOSED to be at least 6 feet under. I would have needed a change of clothes *and* a defibrillater. I don't imagine either would be handy in an old cemetary such as this.

I appreciate your "old cemetary" hub, because it's the only way I'd ever get to see any of this. You're a bit more adventurous than I.


TheSandman 7 years ago

Incredible, and I'll have to read it several more times


The Captain profile image

The Captain 7 years ago from The Carribean

I have put a lot of bad pirates in the cemetary. I feel bad about it but it's my job.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Captain, no need to feel bad if *they* were bad. So far I haven't come across a 'bad pirate section' in any cem, but if I do, I'll be sure to look you up for the stories of how the blokes got there. Thanks for dropping by!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Sandman!  Come back any time!

LM, it was just a branch that *felt* like a hand grabbing my ankle, but the effect was the same.  Cemeteries (usually) aren't scary in the daytime.  Shall I come by and take you on a tour??


Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

remember the end of the movie "Carrie"? mwahahahahaha


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Yes, but also that it'll be sunrise soon and you'll crawl back into that crypt of yours 'til sundown.  lol!


Silver Freak profile image

Silver Freak 7 years ago from The state of confusion

Nah, the crypt is closed for renovations, we're getting new cobwebs and some nice dank dripping water piped in. Besides, I saw the sun rise (as much as I could with the clouds in the way) 4 times this last week. Nanner nanner


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

You just got 10,000 page view medal, congrats, yaaay!

8.55pm


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, C.C.!  I was gone most of the day (photographing another part of Rochester!) and just saw the medal.  YAY!!!  Applause!


MarkHall profile image

MarkHall 7 years ago from Australia

You have some many wonderful hubs - a guy could spend months with you.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

MarkHall, I say the same about you and your hubs! ;D


Updownside profile image

Updownside 7 years ago from Southern California Coastal

I guess *Rest in Peace* doesn't mean much to you.


Me 6 years ago

Your comments obout the cemetery are interesting. The pictures you have posted are of the County area. Not a good representation of this wonderful cemetery. The white lady is a folk tale and nothing more.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

The photos are of the southeast side of the cemetery. I wasn't aware that section is known as "County". The day these were made, I was only looking for very old graves. Other hubs in my Graveyard series include pics of the prettier parts of this wonderful cemetery.


kaja_mel profile image

kaja_mel 6 years ago from Saraland, AL

Great hub. I've been writing about ghost stories in my state of Alabama. I enjoyed this reading.Thanks


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

kaja_mel, glad you enjoyed it. I'm guessing Alabama has some interesting ghost stories!

Rochester Cem, btw, was vandalized recently, but I've not gone there yet to view the damage.


lxxy profile image

lxxy 6 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

Now how did I miss this gem? Awesome article, great photos!

I've been to cemeteries before, but can't say ever 'for fun,' unless you count a bunch of us driving up to the family plot in the hollers of Panther West VA. =)


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, lxxy! Glad you finally found it! Wow, I've researched ancestors all over WV, but had never heard of Panther until now. With a name like that, I'll definitely have to find out where it is! ;D


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, this was great! and I couldn't help but laugh at the branch! I would have run so fast my legs would have never hit the ground! ha ha


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks! Running in Crocs on bumpy ground is never a good idea, so these days I'm super-aware of fallen branches in cemeteries! ;D


justme 4 years ago

What a crock. I don't care what this story says. If you check things out you will find out the first known burial in Rochester was in 1848. Don't believe everything you read online.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

justme, please re-read this hub. **Nowhere** in it do I state there were NO burials in Rochester Cemetery before 1854, or before 1850 when it was *formally* established as a cemetery.

Since settlers from the East are known to have been passing through the area since 1821 and Rochester itself is on "high ground", there were no doubt *many* burials in this piece of land from 1821 on, meaning the 1848 burial was the first to be **recorded**, but NOT necessarily the THE first ever.

For the record, I don't believe everything I read online, but neither do I confine my reading to looking for "errors" that aren't even there for an opportunity to label an entire hub "a crock". Have a nice day.


robie2 profile image

robie2 4 years ago from Central New Jersey

Hi Jama-- great hub as usual. You have a way of bringing the long dead back to life in a most engaging way.

Pay no attention to trolls-- "justme" is probably back under the bridge scaring billygoats on their way to pasture by now. What a jerk!!!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Robie2, for the lovely comment. Much appreciated. "Scaring billygoats on their way to pasture"? Yep. Probably. lol! ;D


Nancy Eddy 4 years ago

Thanks for the wonderful stories. I too am long time fan of old cemeteries. I've been home bound for a number of years and had to give up the hobby. However, here are some stories I think you might enjoy. I was told the albino lady stories by mother, who as she stated all are people are buried at Rochester. Not true but she heard heard the story from her mom . Grandma Catron moved to Topeka sometime in early 1902. GrandmaC heard the story from her mom. Now Anna Plumley was born in Levenworth in 1863, and so on.:) I think you get my drift. Now the area you spoke of with the small mounds of leaves, I was told was used to bury the folks from the poor on NW45th. I've never taken the time to check it out. Now if you have ever gone to Rochester at sundown sometimes the headlights will reflect off the stones, beware of the eyes that guard the cemetery. I.ve got more if you care to know them. One more if you do tombstone rubbings they make interesting pics when framed. Thanks again for your great stories.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nancy Eddy, thank you for YOUR stories! No, I never went to Rochester at sundown. It was spooky enough one sunny day I was there late in the afternoon and didn't notice the groundsmen and the lady in the office had gone home for the day until I looked around and realized I was ALL ALONE! Yikes!

No, I personally have never done rubbings, but they do make interesting pictures when framed.

Considering Rochester used to be out in the country (and more or less, still is), I wouldn't be surprised if the poor who lived along NW 45th were buried there in graves marked only with wooden crosses that have long since disappeared. Nowadays, though, most cemeteries of any size periodically use a device similar to an X-ray machine to scan empty spaces on the grounds to detect remains that may not be in their records. No idea what they do if they find any.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! ;D


tooshort0430 4 years ago

Dear JamaGenee,

Thanks for the story about Rochester Cemetary my great grandparents are buried there along with lots of other family I dont know about.But across from my great grands stands out a lonley grave marker the name is Minnie Cooper she was born in 1867 and died in 1919 i put flowers on that grave every time i go see my greatgrands..I have looked up that name to no avail to find out infor on her..Can you help..I like to find out a little about her..to have a since of knowing who she was..if she has family left...i like to read old headstones to....


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

tooshort0430, I'm thrilled, even though she's no relation to you, that you put flowers on Minnie Cooper's grave each time you visit the graves of your great-grands. These are the stories I love to research, so I'll be happy to poke around and see what I can find about her. I'm guessing Cooper was her married name, but if she was in the Topeka area in 1915, she should be in the 1915 state census with a husband and children. Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by. ;D


tooshort0430 4 years ago

Hello JamaGenee,

Thank you so much for writing me back.I have been doing it for many years now.Just some thing about that name stuck to me..Guess since my fav car is the Minnie Cooper..LOL..Her grave marker is very small just has Minnie Cooper and the dates 1867 1919.And nothing else.I have offen wonderd why no one put any thing on her.Maybe no family to remember her.I know a little about my family history just by listing to my grandmother and her sisters talk.And now I ask questions my self because I want to know about my history...Maybe I should take a class on geneology..i like facts and history and the knowledge of people...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

ts0430, Minnie Cooper has fast become my new brick wall to topple. Yesterday afternoon I tracked several women named "Minnie Cooper" the same age as the one in Rochester Cem. Some had already died before 1919 and two were still very much alive in 1920 and 1930. I also looked at Topeka City Directories on Ancestry from 1900 to 1916 (at which point they jump to 1921 or '22). The Genealogy room at the Topeka public library has computerized all the published obits back to 1900. Apparently no obit was ever published for "our" Minnie.

The only sources I can't access online from 300 miles away in OK are

1) the microfilms of old Topeka newspapers at the KS Historical Research Library on West 6th (which MIGHT mention her death even if there was no obit, and

2) Minnie's death certificate at Vital Statistics in downtown Topeka (privacy laws prevent a non-relative from obtaining (or even looking at) a copy, but a kindly staff member will sometimes reveal important clues like the informant on the d.c. or the address where the death occurred).

Sometimes a cemetery's records will contain the name of the person who purchased the plot OR the tombstone, another important clue. Have you ever stopped in at Rochester's office to ask about Minnie?

Find A Grave shows her name as "Minnie S. Cooper". The middle initial was oftentimes the first letter of the maiden name. The FindAgrave memorial also shows her buried in Sec 12, Lot 982, but that designation is not specific to Minnie's grave. I found several others who are also buried in that Section and Lot number, so a sub-category would show the actual plot number. Would be interesting to know who's buried on either side of Minnie (or close by), something Rochester's records SHOULD show.

My personal theory is that Minnie was not a resident of the Topeka area at all, only visiting from somewhere far enough away that the cost to send her "home" for burial was prohibitive. 1919 was also a time when the Spanish flu was still raging, and if that's what she died of, quarantine laws may have prevented her body being shipped elsewhere.

Also, she was 52 at the time of her death, which leads me to believe she was either a spinster with no family, or a widow whose children (if any) had predeceased her. In either case, she could've been visiting a sibling or a niece or nephew in the Topeka area whose surname wasn't Cooper.

I used to live a mile from the KS Historical Society, and had I not moved 300 miles away, I would've been there the minute they opened today! There are records of Minnie's identity somewhere in Topeka, so I'm not about to give her up as a lost cause yet!

Oh, and I too can't help chuckling at the similarity between her name and that of the car, which showed up frequently when I googled her! ;D


tooshort0430 4 years ago

WOW you are good..next time I go there will have to stop in that office or call them with my story and see what info they give me...she indeed is very interesting to me...T


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

ts0430, it only makes sense if Minnie were from out of town, she probably didn't buy the plot herself. If the cemetery office can't provide any additional information then (IF you have time and it's a weekday) the KS Hist Society out past the roundabout at 6th & Wanamaker should be your next stop. The staff there are EXTREMELY helpful, especially since you have Minnie's date of death.

I'll keep looking, but please keep me posted! ;D


tooshort0430 4 years ago

Thank you for the infor..The history place where the big fountain is that it?


tooshort0430 4 years ago

Well just found out the Minnie Cooper was born in Kentucky and thats all they know about her at the cemetary..I called them...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Yes, KSHS is the place with the big fountain with an Indian on horseback in the center:

http://hubpages.com/family/Long-Walk-at-the-Kansas...

So Minnie was born in Kentucky! Great! That'll narrow down the search! But I wonder how the cem office knew THAT but nothing else. Interesting...... ;D


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

I find old cemetaries fascinating. the tombstones incite the imagination. Terrific site.

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