Unearthed: McClanahan & McClanahan

It was lilac season, so of course we went to Graceland Cemetery.

My husband knows I’m a sucker for lilacs, and how much I look forward to that moment in spring when the bushes foam over with good-smelling blossoms. Graceland provides a particularly nice array of lilacs in season, so he suggested we take a walk through the cemetery on a Sunday morning this past May.

That’s where I spotted Archie. I was drawn at first to the fragile little flowers scattered on his cool grey stone. I took the photo for that, and because I’ve been trying to take more cemetery pictures of people who lived long lives. They leave more records, which makes my research easier, and they are more likely to die of natural causes, which helps my mood.

I’m also a sucker for father-daughter stories, and as it turns out, he has one.

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Unearthed: Dorothy Eagles (Pt 1)

Friend to the friendless.

I’ve been dying to write this one.

Dorothy Eagles’ name was in those scraps my husband brought home, and this was the first photo I found of her.

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Cora: Anna and Thomas (4)

The farmer takes a husband.

Anna
Whatever path Cora Stallman followed into Coles County, Illinois, it was her older sister Anna who had cleared the way.

Anna must have been formidable. I’ve only found one photo of her, and you can barely see her face. At Cora’s inquest in late August 1925, she told the news photographers not to take her picture — and they obeyed.1

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Cora: People Are Talking (3)

More evidence than answers.

Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 3-4, 1925. Mattoon, IL.

Cattle and crops can’t go untended, so it didn’t raise eyebrows when Anna and Thomas Seaman returned from Cincinnati immediately after Cora Stallman’s funeral. She was buried on Monday afternoon, Aug. 3; they were back in Mattoon that night.

Perhaps more unusual: Once they returned, Thomas took to his bed.1

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Cora: Her Life Before (2)

Cora Stallman died on a farm, but she lived most of her life in the city.

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Meet Cora Stallman

Cora is a book I haven’t opened in years. She is a box with a dusty lid.

cora yearbook portraitAnd yet, when I recently told a friend I was planning to write about Cora, she immediately answered: “Oh, I think about her a lot. I’m so glad she’s getting remembered.”

Cora stays with you.

For Cora, I pestered a medical examiner, and joined the historical society of a county I’ve never visited. I spent about two years of scattershot research on her. At the end of it, for a lot of reasons, I put her away. Maybe now it’s time to reopen the book, to blow off the dust.

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