Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Journey to an Unmarked Grave
Exciting times lately, friends. Last weekend, I went with my cousin, Chalk, on a journey to find the gravesite of his great grandmother, Elizabeth (Barnabe) Newman Allen. He had found her death records and discovered she had been committed to Eastern State Hospital in 1898 at age 58 years. She was said to have suffered from melancholia. Her death record stated she also had TB. Elizabeth was the mother of eight children by her first husband, William Newman. Their large farm occupied the northeast end of Newman Lake (named for William) near Spokane, Washington.
All we had was the number 66 to indicate where Elizabeth had been buried. ESH is near Medical Lake, Washington, about 40 miles from Newman Lake, where Elizabeth's family lived. We doubt, after her committal, that she ever saw any of her family again. No one claimed her body when she died. Her children were sent to live with their uncle and aunt, Daniel and Mary Courchaine; later, they lived with another uncle and aunt, Stephen LaLiberte and his wife, Christine. Christine LaLiberte, Mary Courchaine, and Elizabeth Newman were full sisters, daughters of Joseph Barnaby, and, probably, more than half Indian. All three families were among the earliest settlers of the Spokane River Valley in eastern Washington state. Liberty Lake, Washington, was named for Stephen LaLiberte, it's earliest settler.
A security officer at the facility escorted us to this wide, sloping field near West Medical Lake. There are probably more than 900 burials here, made between 1892 and 1942; but no grave markers are showing because they consist of numbered cement slabs set flush with the ground. We saw only one or two with names on them. The records of the burials are available online, thankfully, so people can still find the burial places of persons who died at the hospital.
After much walking, we located the burial spot in the lower part of the field. Here's Chalk standing behind Elizabeth's marker.
A close-up of the marker number. We wondered if any family members had ever stood here and viewed her resting place. Possibly, hopefully, some made a pilgrimage there, but what a sad and lonely place it seems to be. We said a prayer for Elizabeth and her posterity. We know she is with her children and family, now; and, hopefully, can be with them forever.
West Medical Lake recreation area for hospital inmates and personnel. Very pretty.
Later, we visited with Thelma (Courchaine) Fitzgerald at her home in Greenacres, Washington. At 98, she's still on her own, caring for her own lovely place and doing well. Here she is with Chalk. Thelma is Elizabeth's grandneice (daughter of Daniel and Mary Courchaine). Years ago, when I worked as a professional genealogist, I was privileged to research and establish Thelma's line back to Yamaska, Quebec. Her family lived near mine and Chalk's French Canadian families. My family was at St-Michel, Yamaska; Chalk's and Thelma's were in the same general area.
Interestingly enough, Chalk's surname is Courchane (a little different spelling from Courchaine). We figured, years ago, that he was somehow related to Daniel Courchaine, but didn't know exactly how. We were able to discover the common ancestor with my research. (Daniel Courchaine and David Charles "Chalk" Courchane are 4th cousins 2 times removed. Their common ancestors are Jean Baptiste Francois [dit Courchene] Foucault and Marie Marguerite Bergeron.) In the lineages leading up to today, the Courchanes and my Indian family are almost related about 50 different ways, through cousin marriages. We haven't discovered any blood relationship yet, back as far as about 1800, but feel as though we are cousins, nonetheless.