The Allens at Ellsworth Cemetery

I noted, in my entry about Ellsworth Cemetery last week, that I’d come to find the grave sites for Emeline Johnson, the daughter of Smith H “Prairie” Johnson and Ziba K Tompkins, my Great-Great-Great Grandparents, and her kin. Many of the graves at Ellsworth Cemetery have become difficult to read, but in the case of Emeline Johnson (Allen), she and her family have not yet faded away.

She married Nathaniel Chandler Allen, and they are both interred here:

Nathaniel and Emeline Allen

Curiously, the marker does not include her date of passing, which her obituary indicates was July 18, 1920. One presumes that the marker was purchased and placed some time following Nathaniel’s passing, and well before hers, and so the spot was left open to be completed when she died - this is a common practice, and you can readily find stones in modern cemeteries where this is the case. I do not believe, however, I’ve seen an example where the date of passing simply never got completed. All but one of Emeline’s five children preceded her in death, so perhaps the resources to have it completed were simply unavailable.

Most of her children are also buried here, either memorialized on the other sides of the family stone, or with their own marker. The youngest is heartbreaking:

Lula or Lulo

My records say “Lula", while the stone reads "Lulo", but in either case she lived only four days. Emeline would have been 39 years old at the time of her birth, so one wonders if (or suspects that) there were complications.

Her oldest, Cora, married Terry George Stevens. What can be pieced together about her history suggests that they lived in Shabbona, IL, for a time, and then moved out west. She had two children before moving - Roy Erwin and Guy Demmon Stevens, and a third in Montana - Bertha Myrtle Stevens (Brown). Bertha was born two years before Cora died, which would suggest that Cora passed away while living out west. This would mean that, despite living in Montana or, perhaps, Idaho (more on this in a moment), her body was returned to Illinois to be buried in this family plot:

Cora B Allen (Stevens)

From my modern perspective on the past, it seems like the effort of transporting a body back to Illinois would have been quite a chore in 1900. Perhaps this was a wish of Cora’s, or of her family being met by Mr. Stevens. Ironically, perhaps, it appears that, according to her obituary, Emeline also died in Idaho, while "visiting". One assumes this visit was with her grandchild Roy, who later died in Idaho, while her son-in-law and the other children had moved on to California.

Her son Rufus C Allen died in the Philippines while serving in the Infantry. His memorial on the stone indicates both the date of his death, and of his burial, no doubt to make a record of the fact that it took over a year for his body to arrive home for internment. This is also noted in his obituary.

Aranda Franklin Allen, Emeline’s third child, passed in 1919, less than a year before his mother, and is buried next to the family stone:

Aranda Franklin Allen

Clarendon Smith Allen, her fourth child, was born in 1872 and died in 1948, and is buried in Kaneville Cemetery in Kane Counthy, Illinois. Curiously, findagrave lists only one sibling for him - Rufus - and only as a half-sib. This seems unlikely to be correct.

Allen Family Mysteries

I’ve been listing the order of Emeline’s children numerically based upon the information that I’ve had up to this point, but it’s possible I’m missing some clues. The obituary of Aranda Allen is also available on Geneology Trails, and it contains some mysteries:

ARANDA FRANKLIN ALLEN - was born August 22, 1868, at Allen's Grove, and died September 24, 1919, at the old home where he was living. He leaves his mother, Mrs. Emaline Allen of Dixon; _two sisters, Mrs. Ed Davis of Glen Ferry, Idaho, and Mrs. James Bend of this place_; and two brothers, Clarendon and Adelbert, besides many other relatives and friends to mourn their loss. Services were held at the home, Rev. P. R. McMahan of the Methodist Church officiating. Appropriate music was furnished by Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Nangle, and the interment was in Ellsworth cemetery. (Emphases added)

The records that I have indicate only one sister, Cora, surviving into adulthood, and she had died before Aranda. Who are the other two women this obituary refers to? In the infuriating style of the time, they are referred to only in terms of their existence as a wife, and so their given names are not recorded here. And what’s more, while my records reflect Clarendon Allen, there is another brother, Adelbert, noted here, of whom I have no record. If this is correct, Emeline would have had eight children rather than five. This would have been consistent with family tradition - she appears to have been one of 10 children herself. But it demonstrates the limits one encounters when dealing with incomplete information in any database. does list a James Anthony Bend buried in Dixon, Illinois, who was married to Blanche M Allen (Bend), who is buried with her husband. They died less than a month apart, and while the site lists abundant information about James, Blanche has only her relationship to her husband to identify her. Being born in 1878 would have put her six years after Clarendon and five before Lula, which is feasible.

Similarly, there is an Edward C Davis buried at Glenn Rest Cemetery in Glenns Ferry Idaho (and he appears to be the only Ed Davis buried in the county), as is his wife, Nettie E Davis. Findagrave indicates she was born in 1864, and died in 1939. Being born in 1864 puts her at two years after Cora and two years before Rufus, which, again, is feasible.

Adelbert, well, he remains a mystery. You’d expect a name like Adelbert to be easy to track down. There are only three identified in all of Illinois on findagrave. However, one was born the same year as Lula, which is clearly not feasible, and the other two were born in 1855 and 1857, when Emeline would have been 11 and 13 years old, respectively. A nationwide search finds fully 40 people by the name Adelbert Allen (seriously!). Most of these can be ruled out by year of birth alone, and others by the identification of parents on the site who are not Nathaniel and Emeline, or a birth location that is not northern Illinois. However, there is one possibility:

Adelbert R Allen was born in 1875 (which is feasible for a child of Emeline) and, while location of birth is not identified, he is buried in Glenn Rest Cemetery in Glenn’s Ferry Idaho, the same place as Ed and Nettie Davis. Perhaps he traveled west with his sister and brother-in-law?

The final mystery is the "correct" spelling of Emeline’s name. Her obituary spells it as I have done here, but her grave stone uses an "a" in the place of the second "e": "Emaline". It’s spelled with the "a" in Aranda’s obituary, but with the "e" in Rufus’s. It’s certainly the case that spelling was more fluid in the 1800’s, but you’d think she might have had a specific preference...


I don’t typically delve quite so far into the details of doing genealogical research here, but I thought I’d leave this as a nice example of what the process looks like. One can spend a fair amount of time searching for information, only to find twists - like three additional family members - around the next corner. And then we land on only partial clues, as with Adelbert and Nettie, where the connection is suggested, but where anything more tangible is likely to remain out of reach.

Ellsworth Cemetery

Ellsworth Cemetery is a small plot located a little northwest of Paw Paw, Illinois. As with all of my graveyard quests, I came here in search of ancestors. In this case, I was seeking out the grave sites for Emeline Johnson, the daughter of Smith H “Prairie” Johnson and Ziba K Tompkins, my Great-Great-Great Grandparents.

The cemetery itself is a small plot, maybe half an acre or so. It is still tended to, in terms of being mowed, and has a flag raised in the center. The entry is right off of Paw Paw Road and it’s not at all hidden; it’s easily seen from the road. It’s a curious site, because the name - Ellsworth - is a family name, suggesting this was a family plot. There are, in fact, some Ellsworths buried here, but they are significantly in the minority. One wonders if, perhaps, this was originally a family plot and then perhaps given over by family to the township or county for more general use.

The stones here date back to at least the 1870’s:

William Miller, May 1878

And they range from the very simple:

Aranda F Allen, September 1919

To the comparatively grand:


As is so often the case for these smaller plots, there are many markers in various states of disrepair.

fallen stones

fallen stones

fallen stones

As is also common for these sites, there are blank spaces in-between groupings of stones. It’s always possible, of course, that these spaces are simply empty and unused, that the interest in the use of this particular cemetery faded away before it was filled up. But then one comes across something like this:

Yielding to the earth

...And one realizes that its also possible that some, or all, of those blank spaces are also occupied, but have since had their markers yield to the Earth. This would mean that somewhere, a few inches down, there may be stones identifying other occupants, ancestors since forgotten and fading away, at least in terms of their final resting place.