THE CASE OF THE FOUND TOMBSTONE

The tombstone simply read:

WILSON
December 20, 1856
7 Yrs. 8 Mos.

The case began when a local lady found a tombstone while cleaning out her mother’s house in Schaumburg Township.  The family moved here in 1965 and, in those early days, her mother enjoyed antiquing in the area.  Along the way, she must have added the tombstone to her collection when it piqued her interest.  Her daughter called Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian, and asked if it could be determined who the tombstone referred to.  Pat gave me a call and I began my search–a bit dubious because of the commonality of the last name and the fact that there was so little to go on.

I started with a wonderful website called findagrave.com.  Entering the name, death date and the state, I pulled up 48 Wilsons who died in that year in Illinois.  But none with the exact date.  It also occurred to me that if this tombstone had been sitting in a house for the past few decades, it’s almost certainly not going to be on a website of tombstones!

So, I tried another tact.  From the data given, I knew the young person had to have been born in 1849 which means they might possibly be listed in the 1850 census.  From there I went on the Ancestry database and made my way to the census for 1850.  This time I entered the name, the birth year of 1849, the last name Wilson and the location of Schaumburg.  I know from past research that, even though most of the area was occupied by farmers of German descent at that time, it was still early enough that the original English settlers could be found living in Schaumburg Township.  Plus, there were always other non-German families who made their way to the area and rented farms or worked as hired hands.

Unfortunately, there was no listing for a Wilson of that age living in Schaumburg Township.  I expanded the search and took out the year 1849 so I could see if there were any Wilsons living in Schaumburg Township at that time.  None.  I went back to the first listing and discovered a “Mary E. Wilson” born “about 1849” who was listed in Palatine.  The listing had one-year old Mary E. living with her parents Thomas F. and Mary A. Wilson along with her siblings:  Eliza, Alonzo, Elizabeth, John, Charlotte, Abigale and Osker.

Knowing that antiquing in the area in the 1960s, 70s and 80s would have had to have taken our local lady further afield than Schaumburg Township–not a lot of antique stores here–I figured Palatine might be a good possiblity for our missing person.

It was now time to call the Clayson House in Palatine to see if they had any death listings for that time period.  Fortunately Marilyn Pedersen, historian at the Palatine Historical Society, was there and she said the Wilson name was big in Palatine Township.  She also recommended a couple of books:  Pioneer Cemeteries of Palatine Township and Hillside Cemetery.  And, fortunately, our library owns both books.

The first book I looked at was Pioneer Cemeteries of Palatine Township and, amazingly enough, there was a listing for Mary E. Wilson on page 36 in the section on the Cady Cemetery.  From the two pages on the Thomas F. Wilson (pictured to the left) family, it appears that most of the information is from the bible of Mary Angeline Wilson.

“In flowing script she recorded the births of her nine children.  Because of this Bible record, we know that the Wilson who died in June of 1850 is Mary Angeline herself.  [Note this would have been after the census taker came to their home in the same year.]  Another hand took over the record and recorded her death as well as Thomas Wilson’s second marriage in October of 1850 to Adelia Stall.  She is the Adelia buried here (in Cady Cemetery) in 1857.  They had one child, Coraet, also buried here.  Her half-sister, Mary Emily, died five days later.”

I looked on page 35 and there, at the beginning of the entry on the Wilson family was a transcription from the tombstone of Coraet Wilson as shown below.  It reads:

Coraet Wilson
dau. Thomas & Adelia Wilson
d. Dec. 15, 1856
5 Yrs. 1 Mo.

Well, add five more days to that date and you have December 20, 1856, the death date of our missing Wilson family member.  Everything fell into place.  The Wilson name, the death date and the birth year.  Case solved.

Thomas F. Wilson buried members of his family in Cady Cemetery in Palatine Township on Ela Road although he, himself, is buried in Hillside Cemetery.  Cady Cemetery is in a bucolic spot and surrounded by a locked fence as seen above.  As a result, I could not search for the Wilson family and take photos of the tombstones.   I did find Coraet’s online and was able to post it.

Soon, though, another tombstone will make its way there to its final resting place.  Amazing to think that an 1856 tombstone has made it back home, thanks to great record keeping and electronic databases!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

The photo of Thomas F. Wilson is used courtesy of the Palatine Historical Society’s website.
The photo of the tombstone of Coraet Wilson was found on findagrave.com and is used courtesy of the Barrington Area Library.

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2 Responses to “THE CASE OF THE FOUND TOMBSTONE”

  1. David Olson Says:

    Great sleuthing! I was somewhat surprised there is a photograph of Thomas Wilson, though I suppose that may have been taken later in the 19th century. It implies he may have been a fairly important and/or wealthy person back then. Do you know when he passed away?

    • jrozek Says:

      Thanks David! Actually, Thomas F. Wilson was a fairly well known gentleman in Palatine History. You can read more about him here: http://palatinehistoricalsociety.com/photographs/
      According to the same book mentioned in the blog posting, Pioneer Cemeteries of Palatine Township and Hillside Cemetery, Mr. Wilson passed away on October 1, 1886.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

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