News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mike Lunsford

August 6, 2013

MIKE LUNSFORD: Searching for Beulah Jane

Part II: The quest for a forgotten grave

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Mike Lunsford column is the second in a two-part story on his search to solve a family mystery. Part 1 was published in Monday’s Tribune-Star. Both are available at

The cicadas were singing in typical Hoosier summer refrains as my daughter, Ellen, and I stood waist-deep in the sweaty itch of a Putnam County cemetery’s orchard grass and sumac. We were searching for the grave of my grandfather’s first wife, Beulah Jane Lunsford, who died in 1926.

We had already had a long day when we found that tiny burial ground two weeks ago. With little more than the name “Fertic” and the faint recollections of a trip my brother took with my grandfather decades ago, the two of us were trying to get some closure to a quest that had started that morning in the quiet of the Clay County Clerk’s office. We wanted to carve a small notch in our family’s genealogical tree and along the way discover as much as we could about this girl who died at 18 and remains with us only through a single, faded photograph.

We arrived at the cemetery in a roundabout way. A dozen fruitless Internet searches and blank GPS screens behind us, we were awaiting a call from the Putnam County Health Office as to a possible location.

Rather than sit still, we were using some of John’s misty memories as coordinates of sorts, so I turned south off U.S. 40 in the quiet little burg of Manhattan. I had visited my grandfather’s sister, Alice Allen, and her husband, Everett, there many times, going to their farm on John Grey Road to camp and fish on Deer Creek. The roads, no longer bearing the names of people or geographics, were now numbered and impersonal. Yet, we found the Allen place, then drove on across Interstate 70, all the while rubbernecking for even a glimpse of a churchyard or family graveyard. Miles later, already frustrated from dead ends, roundabouts and a maze of 425s and 1100s, we arrived back in Manhattan somewhat hopeless. Our long-awaited return call confirmed that there was no Fertic Cemetery in the county, but that it was possible that not all of the county’s graveyards had even been mapped and marked. It was also possible that Beulah didn’t even have a headstone.

We found hope at Krambo’s Kustom Kolors, a busy motorcycle shop in Manhattan, its sliver of white rock serving as a temporary home base. Beth Broadstreet, who covers the counter at the shop, must have taken pity on me as I warily eyed the chops of the rather large bulldog that watched me when I walked through the door. She immediately tried to help by taking me across the street to a man often called the “Mayor of Manhattan”; the mayor was out. Beth then called Gerald “Mac” McClure, a retired county highway employee, who sent us southward into the country again, where, eventually, and in agreement with my brother’s memories, we found a covered bridge, a long, winding hill and a cemetery located not far behind a small, white house. We thought we had found Beulah, too, but we hadn’t.

The graveyard we searched was actually Matkins Cemetery. We got to it by wandering down a lane to the home of Joe Fox, just in time to catch him and his wife near their barn, moving horses from one pasture to another. Joe said he knew there was a cemetery on the back of his property, told us we could park in his yard, then volunteered to take us through a few gates into the woods. As we waited near a small concrete bridge that spanned a mushy ditch, we spotted Joe’s work cap bobbing through the weeds as he poked around for a way to the graves. Forty-five minutes later, leery that we’d caught poison ivy, and scratching a few fresh mosquito bites, we were back in Joe’s yard, he on the phone to his father, then his grandmother, then a good friend. We soon had directions south, then east, to Salem Cemetery. Despite some speculation that Beulah may have been buried with the Allens (that cemetery had an Allen plot), we came up empty-handed again.

Using the GPS, we now headed north, thinking that perhaps the covered bridge we had found on a map near the Boone-Hutcheson Cemetery, on the other side of Manhattan, was the marker John had in his head. We found the graveyard easily enough; it was perched high upon a steep hill, the view of the bridge and the cornfields below through the neatly trimmed headstones a beautiful one. Ten minutes after leaving that graveyard, which holds Moses Boone, son of the famous Squire Boone Jr. and nephew of the famous pioneer Daniel Boone, we literally stumbled upon the Manhattan Cemetery, unmarked on our map. We walked it stone by stone for most of an hour; there were Allens buried there, too, but no Lunsfords. Nearly 9 o’clock by then, a bit shy of patience and light, we decided to head home.

A break came later that night. Restless and unwilling to go to bed, I found the cemetery listed on a website. Working on the premise that perhaps the name had been misspelled in 1926, I discovered a “Ferdig” Cemetery in northern Owen County, a stone’s throw from where we had been wandering. Beulah’s death certificate confirmed that she had been born in Owen County. Within minutes, I had the coordinates and driving instructions, so the next day I called my brother and daughter, and we made plans to take another drive.  

My wife joined us for the trip across curving Indiana 42 toward Poland.  Convinced that I had accurate directions to literally drive to the cemetery gates, we headed north out of town on County Road 850E only to discover that there was no cemetery nearby. Several dry runs up field roads and long driveways got us nowhere, and once again I relied on the kindness of strangers, this time coming in the form of Doug and Beverly Rolison. I had hoped we hadn’t interrupted the Rolisons’ supper when I pulled into their drive. Eager to help us, they first explained that we weren’t even in Owen County, we were in Clay, although both told me that I was within a quarter of a mile of where I could stand in any or all of three counties.

Doug said he knew of one graveyard nearby; he’d hunted near the property. So, he and Beverly jumped into their car and led us to it, or rather a place where, if I wanted to wield a machete and wear a pith helmet, I could have gone. Doug said he didn’t think the graveyard had been mowed for 40 years.

By the time we left the Rolisons in a cloud of road dust, Ellen had the GPS locked onto the coordinates I had written down. It took us just 20 more minutes, and Ferdig Cemetery appeared around the bend in a gravel road — Ferdig Road — and we knew then that we could find Beulah.  

She was buried near her parents, two infant brothers and a sister. Her father, Curtis, had outlived everyone in his family by nearly 40 years. Nancy, his wife, had died in 1918 — the year Spanish Influenza killed a half-million Americans — when she was 35 and Beulah was just 11. Two of their children, the first born in 1909 and unnamed, the other born in 1913 and named Robert E., lived just two days. Another grave, that for Elsie, 1919-1921, goes unexplained, unless Curtis remarried.

In the wooded peace of that place, we could hear only the sweet calls of an Eastern Phoebe that sat on a wild grapevine near the cemetery fence. Beulah’s gray granite gravestone marked an end to our search, and it is doubtful that we’ll ever know any more about her. We stayed a while, recalling stories about my grandfather and wandering among the markers for familiar names. We went home north through Manhattan and Brazil, my grandfather’s old haunts.

As we drove, I asked my brother about a brittle newspaper clipping I had found among photos at my mother’s; my great-grandmother Clara must have kept it. It described a fistfight that my grandfather had been in while working on a road construction job south of Greencastle. Apparently, Grandpa Roy, who couldn’t have been out of his teens, took the worst of the fight, but both he and his opponent were fired from their jobs by the crew boss. According to the article, my grandfather’s “older brother,” James, who also worked on the job, then tracked down the other boy and gave him a “sound thrashing.” Both he and my grandfather were fined.

We never knew my grandfather had a brother named James. Ellen piped in that there was a brother named Lee, too. We thought we had met all of Grandpa Roy’s brothers and sisters, besides Hazel, who died very young, and Albert, who died in the war. Neither James nor Lee had ever been mentioned. Who were they? Where were they?

The search goes on …

Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at, or c/o the Tribune-Star at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. You can learn more about his writing and speaking by visiting his website at www.mike His new book, “A Windy Hill Almanac,” will be released this fall.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Mike Lunsford
  • IMG_9352.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: One man’s trash is, well, another man’s trash

    Many people are growing weary of ecological doomsdayers, and if so, they are the folks most likely to tell us that Planet Earth isn’t in that bad of a shape, that it can repair itself, that new technologies just around the corner will solve our carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and oil consumption and the ever-growing pile of plastic in which we are drowning.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Inscription 3.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: A book inscribed is surely a book treasured

    I don’t think it’s a secret that I value books as one of life’s great joys; “I am, therefore I read,” could be a T-shirt-worthy motto of mine.

    March 30, 2014 6 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: Something to crow about, as our neighbors return

    It is in the spring, I think, that I notice crows the most. They are noisy neighbors year-round, but they come calling (I resisted saying “cawing”) in early March in earnest, and they do so before the frogs on our pond and the buds on our trees make the new season official.

    March 16, 2014

  • Sworn In.jpg Author visits birthplace of Calvin Coolidge

    Editor’s Note: Today, in this seventh and final installment of Mike Lunsford’s “New England Journal,” the writer visits a small town in south central Vermont, birthplace of the nation’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge. Be sure to look for Mike’s regular column in Monday’s edition of the Tribune-Star.

    March 16, 2014 12 Photos

  • Waiting for Spring.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The long goodbye to winter

    I have no idea what the weather is to bring to us on the morning this story runs, but on the day I write most of it, the sun is shining, and we have just come off a weekend of pleasant warmth and cloudless skies.

    March 2, 2014 16 Photos

  • The Inlet at Thunder Hole.JPG Heaven on Earth: Writer gets lost — both figuratively and literally — at Acadia National Park

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day hiking the Atlantic shoreline and the trails of Maine’s Acadia National Park.

    February 16, 2014 9 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’

    I’ve been thankful this winter for a full propane tank and ample cold cranking amps and school snow-delay days that have kept me off the roads until the sun is up on the most frigid of these mornings.

    February 3, 2014

  • MET010714 lunsford art.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The night the snow fell

    You would think that the cold winds and deep snows that we endured two weeks ago would be old news by now, but as I stood in the checkout line at a grocery store just a few days back, a gallon of milk in one hand and a quart of orange juice in the other, a customer just ahead of me appeared to be stocking up to make a run for the Donner Pass, and all she could talk about was the storm.

    January 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET010414 lunsford 2.jpg THE OFF SEASON: Seeing the miraculousness of the ordinary

    It was just a few nights ago that I announced to my wife that I was headed outside to watch the International Space Station pass overhead.

    January 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Millay at Steepletop.jpg ‘Afternoon on a Hill’: The formal poet who led an informal life — Edna St. Vincent Millay

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of an afternoon exploring the rural gardens and home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay near Austerlitz, N.Y. Join Lunsford in February for the sixth installment of this series as he wanders along the wooded shorelines of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.

    January 5, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET121713 lunsford radio.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Lying by the warm radioside

    I am writing this piece well before Christmas Eve, although you wouldn’t think that it can be far away by the look of things out my windows tonight.

    December 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • MET120713lunsford.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘The mind is a dark forest’

    If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.

    December 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beach Roses.JPG Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio

    Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.

    December 1, 2013 8 Photos

  • MET100913 woolybear.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Inching on toward a cold winter?

    I’m not ready for snow and ice and the daggers of a north wind, but I have finally accepted the fact that winter is nearly here.

    November 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • B Plot at Epinal France.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘I’m going simply because I’ve got to … ’

    Late in the year 1944, the great Hoosier war correspondent Ernie Pyle, mentally and physically exhausted from his months reporting from the battlefields of Europe, came home for the last time. He was scrawny and gray.

    November 11, 2013 4 Photos

  • Black Cat.JPG MIKE LUNSFORD: Pumpkins: Good for the fork and the (carving) knife

    My wife and I are fairly frugal; we are budgeters and planners. In the fall, we set aside what we’ll need to heat the house and pay the doctor and buy sensible shoes for school. I think we’re going to have to open an account for pumpkins, too.

    October 28, 2013 3 Photos

  • Stephen Kim 1.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Déjà vu, courtesy of violinist prodigy

    It’s been said that the longer married couples stay together, the more they begin to think alike. I can’t refute that, although, for my wife’s sake, I hope a similar theory — that they begin to look alike, too — is far from true.

    October 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Harry Evans Bridge II.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: The beauty, spirit of a ‘lonely’ bridge

    It was the best kind of day a few Saturdays ago: not quite 70 degrees, a slight breeze from the northwest barely pushed flat-bottomed white clouds around in an otherwise blue sky.

    September 30, 2013 6 Photos

  • MET0909113goldenrod.jpg Mike Lunsford: The golden rods of September

    The sunflowers that are framed in my cabin’s eastside window are soon to become things of the past, for no matter how much I water and weed, the time has come for them to go.

    September 16, 2013 2 Photos

  • MET083013lunsford squirrel2.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: It isn’t the end but it is the beginning of the end …

    I had every intention of writing about Labor Day today; it has become a tradition of sorts for me because it seems as though my column and the holiday have an annual convergence. But as I thumbed through a number of other stories I’d written on the subject, I felt I had nothing new to say.

    September 2, 2013 1 Photo

  • tslunsford MIKE LUNSFORD: A long day’s journey into night

    We arrived at the sprawling hulk of a motel well after dark, the parking lot pitch black except for a few spots illuminated by flickering blue lights that hummed a monotonous tune.

    August 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • Beulah Gravestone.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Searching for Beulah Jane

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s Mike Lunsford column is the second in a two-part story on his search to solve a family mystery. Part 1 was published in Monday’s Tribune-Star. Both are available at

    August 6, 2013 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: The girl who wasn’t my grandmother

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We travel this week with Mike Lunsford on a journey across miles and memories, as he seeks answers to a long-ago family mystery. Today’s column is the first of a two-part story. Part II will run Tuesday.

    August 5, 2013 1 Story

  • A Sailboat on the Lake.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Once more to the lake…’

    We are heading home today after spending a few days on Lake Michigan, and I am a bit sad for the leaving. We have made it a habit to come here every year, dragging weary bones and beach towels and enough breakfast food to last us a week. And, as expected, when I turn my back on the cool blueness of the lake for the last time this afternoon, I’ll know that another year has gone by, and there’s no getting it back.

    July 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Frost Writing C…Near Ripton.jpg Poets at heart, writer, wife walk paths that Frost walked

    A few summers ago, my family traveled to New England to see what we could see. Along the way, we dipped our toes into Walden Pond, holy waters to those who have read Henry David Thoreau. My wife and I returned to the region last month to seek shrines that poets at heart revere: the Vermont homes where Robert Frost wrote magical words.

    July 21, 2013 7 Photos

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: Mice really do play when the cat’s away

    I am rarely away from my place much in the summer. I like the quiet here and don’t yearn to be gone for very long at a time. To me, a vacation often means that I don’t have to start my car for days on end, or put on socks, for that matter. But this year has been different; my wife and I took a two-week driving trip through New England, the longest vacation we’ve ever had without our kids along for the ride. We had a great time, but when we got back, we were surprised to learn that all kinds of things had been going on in our absence.

    July 8, 2013

  • MIKE LUNSFORD: A New England journal begins …

    BAR HARBOR, MAINE — I am beginning this story before I can possibly know how it ends. The view from my window isthat of a green Maine countryside on a Thursday morning, so I felt compelled to get started, knowing a deadline looms. It is difficult work, not because I have so few ideas from which to draw, but because I have so many. …

    June 24, 2013

  • tslunsford MIKE LUNSFORD: We’ve created a honey of a problem

    The Dutch clover is making its appearance in my yard this week. A cooler-than-usual spring has slowed its arrival by a few days, but it is here for now, bringing the honeybees and bumblebees with it.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo

  • Green Heron3.JPG A walk in the woods

    I went for a walk in the woods one day last week after work. It was a warm and green afternoon, and a fresh blue breeze blew in from the west like a new spring friend.

    April 28, 2013 5 Photos

  • MET041013dowsing.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: ‘Dowsers’ provide hope more than science

    My grandfather was a man of God. Many times I saw him, his right hand held high in the air at his Wednesday night “prayer meeting,” praising the Lord before weeping at the altar on his knees. And yet, he was a “dowser,” a “diviner,” a “witcher” who, as a favor, would grab a forked sassafras stick and find water for some poor unfortunate whose well had gone dry.

    April 15, 2013 2 Photos

Latest News Poll
AP Video
New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Royal Couple Visits Australia Mountains Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1 Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Raw: Urinator Causes Portland to Flush Reservoir New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Ex-California City Leader Gets 12 Year Sentence
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010