Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hold on for Holden!

Heading north from Devils Den State Park, we would need to stop somewhere short of Kansas City. Looking at our Missouri map, we saw the small town of Holden, Missouri, beckoning to us. Why did it beckon? My father was born and raised in Holden, and he used to talk a lot about his hometown and his family there. We knew some of the family was buried in Holden, and wondered if there were any distant relatives still hanging around.

There are no RV parks in Holden, but there is a Coast to Coast membership park 20 miles north, so we set a course for Holiday Lakes Resort at Odessa, MO. Resort? Ask us about “resort” as it applies to RV parks. That’s a story in itself.

We drove the next day to Holden, hoping to find some link to my past. It was a good year to be looking, as the little town (pop. 2510) was celebrating its sesquicentennial. But where to start? We wandered a little bit, then found city hall. We talked to Sharon, the clerk in the front office, explaining we were on a quest to find family history and family graves. Sharon asked for names and we gave her “LeRoy” and my grandmother’s maiden name, “Wallace.”

Sharon said she knew of no LeRoys in town, but there was a Mrs. Luvina Wallace, a teacher for many years, who knew anyone and everyone. She gave us Mrs. Wallace’s phone number.

Sharon then showed us a copy of the town’s sesquicentennial history book, where we found some listings for a Wallace family (all posted bny or about Mrs. Luvina Wallace), but no LeRoys. Shharon also suggested the library, where we found two pieces of information. One was a list of locals who had fought in World War I, listing my uncle, Keith LeRoy, as fighting in France.

The second was a list of people buried in the Holden Cemetery, including Augustus Haywood LeRoy (my great-grandfather), Hannah Giberson LeRoy (my great-grandmother), and Victor Earl LeRoy, their son, my grandfather. Victor Earl was a surprise: he had abandoned my grandmother and their two young sons, heading out to San Francisco. He died in San Francisco in 1907, and we had assumed he had been buried there.

We took a drive through the old cemetery, just to see what we could find. Along one of the paths we found several Wallace graves, but none of the names were familiar. The cemetery is several acres, and a grave-by-grave search would have been fruitless.

Back at City Hall, Sharon suggested we visit one of the funeral homes. Maybe they could have a clue for us. There, Frances gave us the phone number of Dennis Smithson, the cemetery’s sexton for many years. Dennis met us back at the cemetery and led us to Section F21, where we found my three ancestors’ markers. One part of our quest was satisfied.
After several tries, we made contact with Mrs. Wallace. She came from a whole different line of Wallaces, so was no help, but she was delightful to talk with on the phone.

In two days in Holden, we visited the City Hall three times, the library once, Galle’s Grill for lunch (excellent barbecue), the Holden cemetery twice, the Bank of Holden, where we purchased a sesquicentennial coffee mug, the laundromat for nearly three hours, Sonic for a hamburger and limeade, and St. Patrick’s Church for Saturday night Mass. We struck out on finding Grandma Minnie’s relatives, but we found the LeRoys. Considering that these folks lived and died around the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, we thought we had accomplished a great deal on this weekend of … Our Life on Wheels.

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