This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Returning a 165-year-old gravestone marker back home

If you’re a history buff, like I am, and maybe have done your genealogy, you know that there are many things that are *priceless* and *valueless*. And thirty pounds of marble may have some monetary value in the market today, but thirty pounds of 165-year-old marble, with a name on it, is priceless.

Last year I got an email from a real estate agent who was coordinating the sale of a large property in Phoenix. Soon to be sold and subdivided into luxury estates, it used to be *way out in the country* and was filled with things that the previous owner had collected for all of his life. This property belonged to Gus Brethauer, and he had a salvage yard called *Somewhere Over the Rainbow*. And in his long lifetime, the property had become spectacularly valuable real estate. The stuff on it, which were treasures to him, was largely ignored. The most monetarily-valuable stuff was hauled away, or auctioned off. But just before the bulldozers arrived, a gravestone from 1849 was discovered. Priceless, but apparently valueless.

The reason I got the email is that I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them to the web. I don’t sell anything, I’m just a *hey, look at this* kind of person. And so many times when someone Googles something related to Phoenix history, one of my pages comes up. I have a professional web page (I’m a Graphic Designer) with a contact page, and since that’s where my new clients come from, I respond very quickly to everyone who sends me a message.

Of course I know how careful people are about privacy, copyrights, etc. when it comes to posting on the web. My background in Graphic Design makes me comfortable with this, but most people are so confused about what to do, that they, unfortunately, don’t do anything. And, unfortunately, this means that people choose to throw something away, or lock it up, rather than exposing it on the web. And since my field of expertise is helping my clients gain exposure, not protect privacy, I need the help of people who have that type of sensitivity. And that led me to the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association here in Phoenix, and +Bob Cox .

I’ve known Bob for a long time, and he is one of the few people I’ve met who seems to know how to balance sensitivity with privacy, and the promotion of saving priceless history. And I have to admit to having a very pessimistic attitude about the possibility of the gravestone marker being rescued. I was sure that it was on its way to the landfill, and nothing could be done about it.

But something could be done about it, and Bob did it. Arrangements are now being made for it to be sent back home, to Iowa, after 165 years. How about that?



Update September 10, 2014. The exact spot for Rachel's marker has been found in a little cemetery in Agency, Iowa. Note the jagged edges where the marker had been broken off. Some pretty sharp detective work from the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association of Phoenix, and especially +Bob Cox !

How it got to Phoenix, and when, remains a mystery, for now.
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