October 2010 research trip report

Early in October, I made a genealogical research trip to central Illinois and eastern Indiana.  The goal of the trip was to view some pertinent records in a university archive and then to visit one of the family graveyards - after all, what better activity is there for the haunting month of October?
The short story is that the trip was a success.  Now to tell you the longer story...

This research trip actually started over the summer while I was looking up a few records to verify some information on my Meharry line.  In mid-August, I came across a sentence in H.W. Beckwith's History of Montgomery County, Indiana (Chicago, HH Hill, 1880).  It said:
[Hugh Meharry] endowed a $10,000 chair in the Bloomington (Illinois) Wesleyan University...
With such a large dollar amount in the later half of the 19th century, I figured there had to be a record of this donation somewhere.  Even today, a donation of that size merits some mention in official records.  So, I looked up the website for Illinois Wesleyan University.  I thought about where this record would most likely be kept, and tried following a few of the links on the site for historical information.  The school's history page said that the university was founded in 1850; so my theory was strengthened a bit knowing that the donation was made within the school's first three decades.  Further poking around wasn't very successful.  I then thought about who would be the best person to contact for help with this question.  The only contact details that I could find that might be helpful was for the IWU Alumni Association.  Without any indication of what they might be able to find for me, I sent the Alumni Association an email with my question.  I wrote:
I'm doing some genealogical research and found a connection to the university that I would like to research further. According to H.W. Beckwith's "History of Montgomery County, Indiana" (Chicago, HH Hill, 1880), my 3rd-great granduncle, Hugh Meharry endowed a $10,000 chair at the university. Hugh's biographical entry in this book is reprinted online at the Montgomery County, Indiana, US GenWeb website (http://ingenweb.org/inmontgomery/bios/m/meharry-hugh.htm).
I figure that with such a large amount in the first few decades of the university's existence, there must be a record of the donation somewhere in the university archives. Can you point me to the correct person to contact to verify this donation and possibly to obtain a photocopy of the record? Thank you in advance for your time.
The first reply that I got back was from the association wondering if perhaps I had misinterpreted what I read and if maybe my request should go to the Indiana Wesleyan University instead.  Rereading my original question today, it's pretty easy to see where the confusion might lie.  When I replied to verify that it was the Illinois university that I was interested in and included a copy/paste of the text from the book (as is shown near the top of this post), my question was forwarded to Professor Meg Miner, University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian.  On August 31, she sent me a note to say that they had found a record of the donation in the 1875 Alumni Journal and sent me a link to a typewritten transcription of the original document.  She also mentioned that there were a couple of other notes in the original documents that related to Hugh Meharry.  After a little more correspondence, we set up an appointment on Monday morning October 4 for me to see and photograph the original records.
When I arrived at the archive room, I found that the original tome containing the records I was interested in was already laid out on the reading table for me.  Professor Miner told me then that she had her student help read through the book to find as much as possible that would relate to my research.  The first page that I photographed was a resolution from the university board extending their sympathy to the Meharry family following Hugh's death.
It reads:
Resolutions on death of Father Meharry:

Rev Peter Wallace presented the following which was adopted
Whereas, Hon Hugh Meharry a warm friend and liberal patron of the University departed this life Dec 25th 1880 in Bement Illinois therefore,
Resolved - that we express our high appreciation of his sterling Christian character and his generous gifts to the cause of education and the Church
Resolved - that we extender to the bereaved friends our heartfelt sympathy and prayers commending them for true consolation to the Father of all our Mercies.
Resolved - that these resolutions be spread upon the minutes of the Board of Trustees and Visitors. That copies be furnished the city papers and a copy be sent to the bereaved family.
The following page consists of a motion by Brother Kumler to form a committee to handle the disposition of the Meharry farm in Kumler, Illinois, which is about 30 miles to the southeast of Bloomington and of about 40 acres of land in Belleflower Township.  After some improvements were made, the lands were rented to different tenants by the end of 1885.

After photographing all of the pertinent pages of records, I asked for one last photograph of my host for this visit, Professor Meg Miner.
After I left the library, I pointed my truck southeast and drove about two hours to Wingate, Indiana.  Just north of the town is the Meharry Cemetery, where Hugh was buried.

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The marker above Hugh's grave was one of the larger memorials in the cemetery. Each of the four sides of the memorial listed different members of the family with smaller headstones surrounding it denoting the grave locations.
Photographing the etchings on gravestones is exceptionally difficult without the right lighting gear and assistance, so I had to accept that I was only going to get tourist-type snapshots of most of the stones there.  Also, Hugh wasn't the only family member of mine buried in the Meharry Cemetery.  Just a little ways away from Hugh was the stone for Jane Francess (I had her surname spelled "Francis" in my notes, so this gives me another clue to continue researching this line), Hugh's mother.  While her stone had the most explicit family story, much of the story was nearly impossible to read due to weathering.
I sat down in front of her stone and tried to read the story.  There was so much deterioration in the lower half that I tried reading it aloud to my MP3 player which also has a microphone for recording ambient sounds.  But this strategy didn't really gain me much information, so I'm left with trying to find a transcription from some time ago before the writing was worn away.  The next grave in my direct line that I was interested in was that of Jane's daughter, Mary Meharry.  She married Nathan Beach, and they are both buried together in this cemetery.
Their marker is toward the eastern edge of the cemetery, and I learned later that afternoon that the farm seen in the background of this picture was also owned by the Meharrys and was one of two in the area that still remained under the Meharry name.  Continuing down in the direct line that I am most interested in, their son Josiah Nathan Beach is also buried in this cemetery.
Josiah's wife Elva is also buried nearby.
I spent a little more time looking at the grave markers there finding many more names that were siblings of my direct ancestors or were on ancillary lines.  I came to the conclusion that in some way I can find a family connection to the majority of people that are buried in the Meharry Cemetery.

As I was putting my things away and preparing to leave, another truck with a small excavator pulled in to the cemetery.  I had been alone in the cemetery for most of my time there, but was a little wary of every vehicle (including the department of transportation truck that was working on filling potholes) that drove by and/or stopped just outside the cemetery for whatever reason.  My mother had told me that when she visited this cemetery a few years ago, the caretaker was a bit protective and wanted to ensure that visitors were family relations and not vandals.  I had come prepared on this trip with printouts of pedigree and descendancy reports showing my direct connection to several of the graves in the cemetery.  So, with this evidence in hand, I walked over to the newly arrived truck and introduced myself.

I met Roger Kunkel who was getting ready to dig a fresh grave for a burial on October 5, the day after I was there.  I'm very glad that I made the time to greet him, as he had a few more family stories for me.  Now if only I had thought to turn on my MP3 voice recorder before I introduced myself...  Oh well.  Roger asked me if I knew about Meharry Grove.  I had heard about it before, and written about it here on this blog a little over a year ago, but I haven't been able to pin down exactly where it was.  He wasn't sure either but pointed to a few locations where some people thought it might be.  Toward the end of our conversation, he mentioned that he had found a large stack of newspapers from right around the turn of the century and rather than throw them away, the newspapers were taken to a couple of local historians for safe keeping.  Those historians had transcribed many of the stories within the papers and printed a book from them titled According to the Record: Selected articles from the New Richmond Record 1903-1904 (2006, Twin Publications, West Lafayette, Indiana; ISBN 978-0-9723558-2-7).  Roger said that I could have a copy for $21, so I made sure to get his mailing address and forwarded a check after I got home.
The book arrived today, and a quick skim through showed me a lot of stories that I want to go back and read in further detail, so I know what I'm going to be doing for the weekend.

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