This is a story of two gravestones that somehow made their way out of their cemeteries and into the hands of the Ohio History Connection. Many people love cemeteries. There is even a term for it: taphophile. Ohio has plenty of cemeteries to keep you busy with over 14,600. What people love most about cemeteries, and why people go out of their way to visit them, is the gravestones. Gravestones are fascinating for so many reasons, from their symbology and intricate carvings to the meaningful and moving epitaphs. In an effort to restore the two gravestones to their rightful place, we have undertook research efforts to learn about the individuals and locate their original burial place so the stones can be re-erected. This blog will discuss the gravestone of little Emma Kearnes who died in 1857 at only 25 days old.
The Emma Kearnes stone was donated to the educational collection of the Ohio Village by a volunteer who found himself in possession of the stone after it was left in his yard. Unsure if it was real, he donated it to the Ohio History Connection for safekeeping.
It can be difficult to know if a gravestone is real when it has been removed from its context. Aside from historic research, which will confirm if a gravestone belongs to a burial, some other indicators include stone type, wear, carving style, and condition. Emma Kearnes gravestone definitely hits all these indicators. It is a worn marble marker, carved with text and symbology of the era, with dirt stains indicating the stone had been buried at some point. Little Emma’s gravestone says:
Nov. 19, 1857
Aged 25 ds.
Suffer little children
come unto me.
Emma I. Kearnes was only 25 days old when she died November 19, 1857. When we began this research, we did not yet have the full names of her parents, only initials. The easiest way to quickly check cemetery and burial records is through the Find A Grave website. Find A Grave uses crowdsourced information from historians, researchers, and taphophiles (like you!) to compile information on cemeteries and burials across the world. Since displaced gravestones oftentimes are not recorded on Find A Grave, we did not expect to find Emma Kearnes burial information right away. Surprisingly, Emma showed up immediately, with her burial recorded in Clover Cemetery, Prairie Township, Franklin County. There was no photograph of her stone in the cemetery and her middle initial was incorrected recorded as “T”, but the death date and age at death were correct.
Our suspicions were confirmed when we researched the Franklin County, Ohio Cemeteries, Prairie and Franklin Townships, Volume VIII by the Franklin County Genealogical Society ©1984 from the Ohio History Connection’s Archives & Library. Emma “T.” Kearnes is recorded in the Clover Cemetery burial list, which notes it was compiled from 1958, 1974 & 1982 gravestone readings. It also notes a “Viola Kearnes” just under Emma’s name, who died 3 months before with the same parental initials. This information not only confirms Emma’s burial place, it also tells us her gravestone was in the cemetery sometime between 1958-1982.
After confirming Emma is buried in Clover Cemetery, we switched to genealogical research to learn more about her and her family. Emma was the second born child of Millia Jane Clover Kearnes/Karns (1837-1915) and Pvt. John M. Kearnes/Karns (1831-1912). The surname spelling changed over time, and Emma’s parents are buried under the surname Karns (though her father, who served with Company G of the 185th Ohio Infantry during the Civil War, also has a military gravestone with the surname spelling of Kearnes). Both Millia and John are buried just down the road from Emma in Alton Cemetery, Prairie Township, Franklin County. Additional research at the OHC Archives & Library led us to The Clover Family of Franklin County, Ohio, Solomon/Orris Family History, Vol. 3 by Mrs. Judy (Orris) Soloman © 1997. Interestingly, little Emma (I.) does not show up in the family’s birth records. It was common for families to name children after deceased siblings to honor their memory and we see that in the family tree with Emma May (1870-1945), Millia and John’s seventh and last-born child. This documentation also proves Viola, the other Kearnes baby recorded in Franklin County, Ohio Cemeteries, Prairie and Franklin Townships, Volume VIII is Emma’s older sister.
Millia and John are documented as having least four additional children, Ida (1859-1924), Irena (1861-1939), John (1863-1932), and Jennie (~1867-unknown). We know through census records Millia and John’s last five children all lived to adulthood.
Viola V. Kearnes was only 19 months old when she died August 6, 1857, only 3 months before her little sister, Emma. The story of Millia and John’s first two children is a sad one, with a mother losing her first-born while pregnant with her second, and losing her second born just 25 days after birth. The subsequent deaths of Viola and Emma actually help identify Emma’s exact burial location in Clover Cemetery.
Viola’s gravestone is located by a tree in the northeast corner of the cemetery. The two sister’s gravestones are very similar, both in size and in carving style. The marble gravestone sits in a slotted base, a common gravestone style of the time. When slotted bases were carved, they were made to the exact measurements of the gravestone. When a gravestone and slotted base are brought together, they fit together like a puzzle. During a visit to the cemetery in November 2022, another gravestone lay beside the empty slotted base beside Viola’s gravestone. An attempt was made at some point to erect another gravestone into the slotted base, with evidence of resetting material both on the marker and on the slotted base. We are able to measure the slotted base keyhole and the bottom of Emma’s stone and confirm they are a match. Emma was buried right beside her sister Viola.
The Ohio History Connection is working with Prairie Township on the resetting of Emma Kearnes gravestone, which will take place this spring after the weather improves. We may never know why Emma’s stone was removed from the cemetery, but thanks to a dedicated volunteer who cared for the stone, the Ohio History Connection can now ensure little Emma Kearnes gravestone is properly reset at her final resting place.
Please return for Two Gravestones Out of Place: Part 2 of 2 where we explore the journey of Michael Brucker’s gravestone (1831-1875). If you have any questions related to Ohio cemeteries or gravestones, please contact Krista Horrocks at the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office at [email protected].
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 8475446, Pvt John M Kearnes (1831–1912), created by "Dave M"; citing Alton Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 21086978, Milly Jane Clover Karns (1837–1915), created by "Dave M"; citing Alton Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 121234995, Viola V Kearnes (1855–1857), created by "Dave M"; citing Clover Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 121234976, Emma I Kearnes (1857–1857), created by "Dave M"; citing Clover Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 21336455, Ida Alice Karns Holtsberry (1859–1924), created by "Dave M"; citing Alton Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 14440431, Irena Karns Story (1861–1939), created by "Dave M"; citing Galloway Cemetery, Galloway, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 74042320, John Delano Karns (1863–1932), created by "Sarah Hayes Sommer"; citing Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com), Memorial Page 21086564, Emma May Karns Sealock (1870–1945), created by "Dave M"; citing Alton Cemetery, Alton, Franklin County, Ohio, USA.
Ohio Genealogical Society. Franklin County Chapter, and Franklin County Genealogical Society. Franklin County, Ohio, Cemeteries. Chapter, 1980.
Solomon, Judy Orris. The Clover Family of Franklin County, Ohio. J.O. Solomon, 1997.
U.S. Census Bureau (1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910). Prairie Township, Franklin County, Ohio. Retrieved from (http://www.ancestry.com).