Ole Larson's Folks

cemetery signNo, folks, “1777” isn’t the address, it’s the date the cemetery was established.

On the grounds of the cemetery stands the Methodist Meeting House.Meeting House The oldest existing building in the Wyoming valley, it was built in 1808. It is tastefully restored, and registered as a National Historic Place.

Predating even the Meeting House is the grave of my aforementioned 5th great-grandfather, Thomas Bennet (1720-1796), great-grandma Martha Jackson (Bennet), and their son Andrew.1798 Thomas et al stoneThis monument appears to date from the late 20th century. I did not see individual headstones for any of the three persons named, raising the question whether this is the original grave location. Charles Myers’ book states that the flood of 1972 came up to, but did not wash away, Bennet’s grave.  But Charles’  son  Fred was  doubtful  on  this  point.1798 Thomas and othersTo the right of the large monument are two stones for daughters of Thomas and Martha (apparently unmarried), and on the left, their third great-grandson(!)2006 Charles stone…the aforementioned historian, author, and father of cousin Fred. The two are quite distant cousins, biologically, from the Stephen B Myers line. The placement and age of the Bennett monuments further my suspicion this is not the original gravesite.

The connection is through Thomas Bennet’s daughter, Martha Bennet Myers and her husband Philip Myers, whose monuments are a short distance away.Philip Martha stonesTheirs are two of five matching stones in a neat row (date unknown, but apparently after 1972, when hundreds of the oldest graves were destroyed by the above-mentioned flood). The others include two of Philip’s three brothers. The eldest, Lawrence Myers (1754-1810), was the original namesake for so many males in the Myers family, despite having no children of his own. Almost nothing is known of Henry Myers (c. 1757-1816), except for the inscription on his stone: “Died Mar. 3, 1816, aged 59 years.”

The fifth stone in the group commemorates a daughter of Philip and Martha, Martha A Myers (Castle), who died at age 24, and her infant son Thomas, who died a month later. Of these six individuals, only the infant’s original headstone is still standing.1828 Thomas Castle stone

Philip’s third brother was Michael Myers, whose grave we visited in Frederick, Maryland, in earlier posts. You may recall that one of Michael’s sons, Madison Fout Myers (1810-1859), moved to Pennsylvania, and married his cousin (Philip’s daughter) Harriet Myers.Madison Harriet monumentTheir monument is quite impressive, and appears to be considerably older than the simple stones of Philip and the others shown above. But it is probably not older than 1914, the latest death inscribed on it. (This is not a certainty; sometimes death dates are added after a monument is in place.) Besides Madison and Harriet, two of their sons are there: Philip Thomas Myers (1839-1878), and Frederick Benham Myers (1845-1906), along with Frederick’s wife, Naomi Mott (1848-1914). Several others are commemorated on individual stones nearby.

Two notes on Frederick Benham Myers: First, the inspiration for the first name in not known, but perhaps it is a nod to the Myers’ previous home, Frederick, Maryland; and second, it is the exact same name as his great-grandson, whom I met and pictured in the previous post, “cousin Fred.”

There are several dozen more Myers graves at Forty Fort, including the family of the third “Lawrence Myers,” explored in the blog some months ago. But I will show you just one, before we head back to the west. Another daughter of Philip Myers, Mary Myers (1796-1881), married a prominent Methodist minister, the Rev. George Peck. Their monument is just a short distance from Madison’s, visible in the background.Peck stonePeck stone closeDr. Peck was a noted author as well as a clergyman. One of his books is a history of the Wyoming Valley, one of three such histories published in the early to mid-1800s. Of perhaps more interest today, a grandson of the Pecks was Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage. Crane is today considered “one of America’s most influential writers,” mostly due to that one novel, but also because of an even more realistic novella depicting slum life in New York city, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. “Most influential;” not bad for a writer who died at age 28. And a cousin of mine to boot.

One final note on the cemetery: In 1972, a major flood breached the dike and wiped out 2500 graves in a four-acre area. I have not yet found any listing of the graves lost. It is possible that the five matching stones of Philip, Martha, et. al. are cenotaphs, erected after the original graves and markers were lost in the flood.

I am beginning to think the same of Thomas Bennet’s grave, although Charles Myers denies this in his book. The monuments at that site could also be from as late as the 1970s.

Pennsylvania Pioneers
Chicago Cousins