Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Saved from Potter's Field Burial at the Last Minute

In the process of our search for obituaries for people buried at Centerville cemetery researcher J King found the following brief notice in the Vincennes Sun commercial dated September 1, 1900.

“Hamilton Williams of Wheatland, has been appointed administrator of the estate of Benjamin F Fry, who was killed on the Evansville and TERRE HAUTE railroad in the city last week. Hon. W. A.Cullop  and Harry R. Lewis are Mr. Williams’ bondsman.”

Hoping to find more information about the accident and an obituary to confirm that Benjamin F Fry was the individual buried at Centerville, John continued his search.

In the Indianapolis News on August 24, 1900 a week before the administrator was appointed the following article was found:

Sullivan Indiana August 24:  The unknown man killed by a train at Vincennes yesterday morning has been identified by W. H. Lucas, of this city, as B. F. Fry, a farmer of Wheatland, Knox County. Fry was in the city Wednesday on real estate business, and hired a rig of Mr. Lucas. He returned to Vincennes Wednesday night on the train by which he was killed. Before leaving he borrowed a small amount of money from Mr. Lucas, and gave the name of J. D. Anderson, of the city, as reference. Mr. Lucas gave him the delivery firm’s card, which was found on his body. His actions while here were somewhat peculiar, he appearing downcast and in a deep study.

In the process of searching for the obituary, the research got even more interesting .

The Interocean newspaper of Chicago Illinois August 25, 1900:
Vincennes:  The body of a man killed by the Evansville and Terre Haute train on Wednesday morning was identified today as that of Benjamin F Fry, a farmer of Wheatland. The body was about to be buried in the potter's field when  the funeral was stopped on the way to the cemetery by the family of the deceased, and by a committee lodge men, for the purpose of viewing the remains to make safe the dead man's insurance policy.

Still unable to confirm if this was the Centerville Ben Fry,  John checked the tombstone. The tombstone on one side was carved Clara L Fry birth Feb  22 1873. No date of death was given. On the other side of the tombstone was Benjamin Fry born October 30, 1866 and died August 23, 1900. The date of death matched the Wheatland Indiana Ben Fry. A marriage record for Lawrence County indicated that Benjamin F Fry had indeed married Clara Ella Tilly on September 13, 1891.

The 1880 census for Lawrence County Russell Township confirmed that Benjamin Fry age 12 was living with his parents Morris and Elizabeth Fry, both of whom are buried at Centerville. So while no one obituary has been found to date the cemetery committee is going to add these records to the database for the Benjamin Fry who is buried at Centerville, based on the fact that the date of death is the same on the tombstone, Benjamin Fry's parents are buried at Centerville, and he and his wife were married in Illinois.


How fortuitous it was that the widow Clara Fry began looking for her husband and found him just as is body  was about to be buried at Potters Field in Vincennes. And does anyone else find it interesting that she took the lodge men with her to view the remains for the purposes of the insurance policy proceeds? Did she not choose to identify the body of her husband before that or did she realize at some point, that proof of death was necessary to collect on the policy?