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Posts Tagged ‘cleveland history’

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Gretchen Dorn was 10 years old when she perished in the Collinwood School Fire. Her stone shows signs of severe weathering, and I don’t know that I would have recognized it for what it was if I didn’t already know that she was buried in Woodland Cemetery not far from the Swanson children who died in the same tragedy. Gretchen is one of the children that we have a surviving photograph of, which is uploaded to her Find A Grave entry.

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Ness Monument

One of the most nationally famous monuments in Lake View Cemetery is for Eliot Ness. When I first spotted it, I made a mental note of how new it looked, wondering why. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Eliot Ness didn’t come to Lake View until about 40 years after his death.

I admit that the image of Eliot Ness I grew up with was Kevin Costner in The Untouchables. For my mother’s generation, he was linked with Robert Stack, kicking ass and taking names of gangsters on tv. Eliot Ness was larger than life, heroic.

But in Cleveland, Ness’ legacy is more complicated. After his victory (or at least his association with the conviction of Al Capone), Ness ended up in Cleveland as the Public Safety Director. He cleaned up the police and fire departments and shut down many of the notorious illegal gambling venues and gangs. He even improved traffic safety. But he wasn’t able to solve the most famous case of his Cleveland career – the Kingsbury Run murders. Someone in Cleveland was murdering and butchering people and leaving their remains in a poor section of town frequented by vagrants. Only two of the dozen or so victims (there are debates about exactly whether some murders should be included) were ever identified. As the number of killings attributed to the mysterious murderer increased, Cleveland’s citizens demanded that Ness and his police force do something – but what? With incomplete and mutilated corpses that often couldn’t be identified and forensic investigation still young, the police didn’t have a lot of leads. Serial killing like this wasn’t well understood They tried, but Ness ended up resorting to ineffective strategies like arresting the homeless and then burning the shanties that lined Kingsbury Run. The actions may have deterred the killer temporarily, but they didn’t lead the police any closer to figuring out who he actually was. It does appear that Ness and his men finally identified a possible suspect in one Dr. Frank Sweeney, but there was only circumstantial evidence, the doctor was too well-connected, or both. Officially, the murders remain unsolved. After a period of time, the bodies stopped turning up, and the “Mad Butcher” appeared to have moved on or stopped.

Ness eventually resigned as Public Safety Director. His life began a slow decline – he tried his hand and business, but he did not have the knack for it that he had for law enforcement. He ran for mayor of Cleveland as an independent but lost to the popular Democratic incumbent and spent most of his savings on the campaign. The one bright spot was his marriage to third wife, Betty, and their adoption of a son, Robert. Ness died of a heart attack at home in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, in 1957.

This brings us to the travels of Eliot Ness after death. Ness was cremated, his ashes provided to his wife and son, and for forty years he had no monument or grave marker. Son Robert died of leukemia at a relatively young age in 1976 and wife Betty passed away 1977. For the next twenty years, the ashes of one of the most famous Treasury Department agents in history, his wife, and son passed from relative to relative. No one seemed to know what to do with the earthly remains of the Nesses. Eventually, someone doing research found out about this situation, and a local monument company paid to erect a monument to Ness and his family. In 1997, Ness received a full police funeral and his and his family’s ashes were spread over the pond in Lake View Cemetery, an honor not generally permitted.

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I don’t often encounter anyone else at all when I am visiting smaller cemeteries to explore and photograph – large cemeteries that encourage tourist traffic are different. Sometimes there will be mourners visiting a particular gravestone or family plot, but most of the time I find myself completely alone. Occasionally, though, I will see evidence that someone else has been here before, motivated as I am to preserve the past and the memory of the dead.

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An unknown person took the time to create this sign, marking Morrison J. Cannell as a Civil War soldier. Private Cannell had only been in the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry for five months and one week when he died at Newburg, Ohio, according to A History of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. If the information on this site is accurate, he was 20 at the time he enlisted and was part of Company A, the Cleveland Zoave Light Guards, which would have put him under the command of William Creighton and Orrin Crane, the two highest ranking Clevelanders to die in the Civil War (buried side by side at Woodland Cemetery). That he was in Company A is verified by the placement of his name on the 7th OVI monument in Woodland Cemetery(possibly misspelled). There are no notations in the records I have seen that reference his death as resulting from a particular battle, and the personal site dedicated to the history of the 7th OVI attributes it to disease.

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Cudell Monument

This post started because I was trying to source the epitaph on the monument: “Our goal must be to attain perfection through spiritual beauty.” I wasn’t successful, but in the process, I discovered that F.E. Cudell was a prominent enough figure to have his own entry in Case Western Reserve University’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Born Franz Cudell in Germany, he immigrated to the United States as a young man and was known as Frank. He partnered with fellow architect John Richardson to create the firm Cudell and Richardson and they designed a number of significant Cleveland buildings, including churches, the Jewish Orphan Asylum, the Tiedemann House (now infamous as Franklin Castle), the Root & McBride-Bradley building (now the main office of my husband’s employer, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority), and the Perry-Payne Building (a photo available on this page).

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Chief Thunderwater

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Rodolphus Edwards was a member of the 1798 Western Reserve surveying party who remained in the Cleveland area. Rodolphus originally built his log cabin on what would become Superior Street in Cleveland, but moved to Doan’s Corners to avoid the diseases (mostly malaria) associated with the swampy land. His father, Adonijah, a Revolutionary War veteran, came to live with the family and eventually died with them in Cleveland at the advanced age of 92, and his son (also Rodolphus) became a prominent Cleveland citizen.

Sources:
Annals of the Early Settlers Association of Cuyahoga County, Volumes 1-2, Cleveland: Mount & Carroll, Printers and Stationers, 1880.

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