They're Only Stones

A couple of stories about the local cemeteries and the importance of preservation.

Who's Henry?

A 47-year-old question.

The Forgotten Ones

Preserving our history.

WCCPS Invited to Seneca County

Assisting other groups.

Mike McCann Documents and Confirms Information He Finds on Area Graves

Success in Medina County by WCCPS member.

Students Looking for Graves

Positive association with the College of Wooster.

Graveyard Preservation

Some suggestions by Lynette Strangstad.

Please, Please, Please Treat Cemeteries with Respect

Up Front with NGS

The Rest of the Story: Knoxes answer 47-year old question: "Who's Henry?"

Paul Locher
6 March 2006
Wooster Daily Record

Larry Knox kneels beside the old cemetery tombstone that was discovered during dismantling of Student Union on College of Wooster campus.

Bonnie and Larry Knox of the Wayne County Cemetery Preservation Society have often thought of themselves as amateur detectives in genealogy. During February of this year, smiles came across their faces and an exclamation of sudden enlightenment issued forth as the final piece of a 47 year old puzzle slid into place.

The final clue entitled “Who’s Henry? Riddle In College Observatory History Stumps All” came from an Elinor Taylor article that had appeared in the Daily Record way back on October 20th 1960. The newspaper clipping, complete with a photograph, had been resting in the back of the WCCPS files along with many other old write-ups regarding Wayne County cemeteries.

According to Elinor Taylor, the puzzle began when a 107 year old marble tombstone was found embedded in the second floor wall of the old part of the College of Wooster’s Student Union Building. The top of the stone had been sawed off to allow it to fit into the wall space just under a window. Since the top was missing, only a part of its owner’s name was still visible. What could be read was “Henry” and “rman.” The rest of the marker was easy to read. Henry died on September 13th 1853 at the age of 57 years, 9 months and 8 days.

The old part of the Student Union Building on the northwest corner of Beall Avenue and University Street that was being torn down by a Canton based construction company had been built in 1876. The building had first been used as an observatory beginning in 1877 and the second floor rooms had served as living quarters for a custodian and his family until 1940 when the building became the home of the Student Union.

Much speculation and research resulted from that unusual discovery. Inquiries were made by Joe Kepes, an engineer with the construction company. The Daily Record ran an article called “Who’s Henry” and others searched early maps for old cemeteries, but all efforts only resulted in more questions. James Rahl, the superintendent of Wooster Cemetery in 1960 could find nothing in his files matching the name and dates on the mystery stone. He then speculated that the tombstone could have been brought to the college along with fill dirt. Back in 1954, excavations had been done at the Wooster Brush Company and some tombstone fragments had been found mixed in with the soil when it was delivered to the College of Wooster.

Two cemeteries had existed in early Wooster on either side of Madison Avenue. One was used jointly by the Associates Church and the Baptist Church. It was located at the present site of the Brush Company. The other was the first Saint Mary’s Cemetery that had been located on the east side of the railroad tracks, adjacent to the original Saint Mary’s Church that was on the west side of the tracks.

Others suggested that the stone had been placed in the wall by College of Wooster students as a prank since a US Geodetic Survey Marker had been found in another wall, but according to Mr. Kepes of the construction company, evidence pointed towards the gravestone being placed there by the original construction workers. The stone had been cut to fit perfectly in the space and it had been painted over to match the rest of the wall.

Henry’s last name was a mystery. Since no information could be found to reveal his identity, someone gave him a name. Our mystery man became known as Henry Herman. Now, “Henry Herman” had become more of a real person.

Before the “Who’s Henry?” investigation quieted, a new inquiry arose. Henry’s tombstone had been placed against a tree on the campus for everyone to see. On the day following the appearance of Henry’s marble marker, it vanished. College of Wooster students were blamed. Now, the cry was “Where’s Henry?”

A few days later, Henry Herman’s stone reappeared on campus as part of a Sadie Hawkins Day Celebration. The Daily Record once again came forth with a photo of Henry’s stone and a caption stating “Henry’s Stone Is Back; Now, Who Took Student Union Building?” This time the photo showed the stone surrounded by a host of students who were promoting our Henry Herman as a candidate for “Dogpatch King” for their celebration. After that last article, Henry’s stone once again dropped out of sight.

As was stated earlier, this 1960 newspaper article has been the “last piece of the puzzle.” It was the “Question” presented by Elinor Taylor of The Daily Record in hopes of someone out there having an answer. Although the other pieces of the puzzle were placed together during 2004 by WCCPS, they just didn’t know yet that they were holding the “answers” to the question set forth way back in 1960.

The first parts of the puzzle started coming in during November of 2004 when WCCPS received a call from Wayne County Historical Society member Wayne Schmid who informed them of a tombstone that the Historical Society had in their possession. During excavations on the grounds, “Henry Herman’s mystery stone had been found underneath the sandstone block barbeque pit. When WCCPS arrived, the stone had been placed against the wooden fence at the rear of the property. Except for the top being sawed off and a corner broken at the bottom the 151 year old stone appeared to be in very good shape. The excellent preservation of the old marker was a question that would eventually be answered when Elinor Taylor’s article was found in 2006. Photos were taken and two weeks later, Henry’s tombstone ended up in the garage of Bonnie and Larry Knox.

Research began immediately to discover the identity of the newfound stone’s owner. Of course, the name Henry Herman was never entertained, because no one remembered reading the 1960 article. Since that time the genealogical records of Wayne County have been greatly improved upon and they have also been made much more accessible to the public because of the efforts of the members of the Wayne County Historical Society and the Wayne County Genealogical Society. So, by 2004 the discovery of Henry Herman’s true identity was now a possibility.

As work continued, the answer to Elinor Taylor’s question of “Who’s Henry?” was finally found. Henry’s death date was matched up with his will and estate record that was filed in Wayne County’s Probate Court. Henry had died and been buried in Chester Township and his last name was Zimmerman! A trip was made to Eight Square Cemetery that is located next to the Chester Township Grade School. When his grave was located, many more pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

Henry Y Zimmerman already had a tombstone. In fact it was a tall and slender obelisk type of marker and all four sides contained an inscription. Listed on it was Henry, his wife Fanney and two of their sons. Henry died in 1853. At that time, the original “Who’s Henry?” stone had been cut and placed on his grave. Fanney died in March of 1876. This date would later prove to be very valuable in solving the placement of Henry’s first stone. If you remember, the observatory at the college was built in 1876.

Two of Henry and Fanney’s children had died before 1876 and all four of their names were cut into a new replacement stone by Gray and Rhoads, stonecutters of Wooster, before it was set in the middle of all four graves. Henry’s old stone was then removed and brought back to Wooster where it would be free for insertion into the wall of the college observatory.

Two remaining questions are; how did the stone get from the Gray and Rhoads property to the observatory at the College of Wooster and how did it get from the college to the underside of the barbecue pit.

The whole puzzle finally came together when the two genealogists realized that the picture of Henry’s stone in Elinor’s article looked familiar. Henry’s stone had seen a lot of “travel” before it was rediscovered leaning against the wall in the Knox’s garage.

It is regrettable that it took so long to discover the answer to Elinor Taylor’s big question, “Who’s Henry.” She would have been pleased to learn that “Henry Herman” was really Henry Y Zimmerman of Chester Township.

Oh, by the way, one of the witnesses to the signing of Henry Zimmerman’s will on August 19th 1853, was none other than Henry Herman!!