The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa on August 24, 1975 · Page 146
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August 24, 1975

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Des Moines Register from Des Moines, Iowa · Page 146

Des Moines, Iowa
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 24, 1975
Page 146
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Page 146 article text (OCR)

Memories of a family's cemetery By LORAINE SEAMER/photos by FRANK S. FOLWELL Catherine (Kate) McCUmon tells grandson Robert Bormeister, 9, stories abort their family in Iowa. At right, are headstones of Hughes children in St. Colnm- sklU's Cemetery. A visit to a cemetery can furnish documentation for many little known stories. Two stories emerge from St. Columskill's Cemetery atop a windy hill in Grant Township in Clinton County. One is a story of generosity, the other a a chapter in tragedy in the history of one family. Several families in what was then Berlin (pronounced Berlin) Township, wanted a place to worship near their homes. Richard and Esther Hughes donated land for a church. Richard's father, also named Richard, gave a plot nearby for a "burying ground." The cornerstone of the church was laid on May 18,1869. Richard Hughes III and his wife Margaret became parents of five children, Esther, Edward, Mary, William and James. A son Francis died in infancy. In the late 1800s, an epidemic of diphtheria swept through the United States, including Berlin Township. At that time, little could be done for those who contracted this disease. On February 14, 1893, Richard and Margaret Hughes tost three of their children, William, Mary, and Edward within a 24-hour period. All the grieving father could do was to haul their small bodies in a wagon to the graveyard and bury them in the evening of that same day. So great was the fear of contagion that no committal service could be held. James, who had been sent to live with his grandparents, came home in late summer for the opening of school, and he, too, contracted diphtheria which had claimed his brothers and sister and he died, on August IS, 1898. It was believed that James played with and wore some of his dead sister's and brother's clothes that had been stored in a granary, and that this was how he had contracted the disease. It was thought best for Margaret Hughes, who was pregnant, to stay with her parents-in-law, while 10-year- old Esther remained with her father. On October 7, 1893, baby Catherine (Kate) was bora. The Hughes became parents of six more children, and one of these, Mar- garet, bora in 1900, was attending Our Lady of Angels Academy in Clinton in 1917 when she became ill. Her illness was diagnosed as diphtheria. By this time, treatment was available. She was placed in the school's infirmary, and her mother came to nurse her and she recovered. Knowing her previous experience with the disease, one wonders what her thoughts were. Kate said that her mother never wanted to talk about the four earlier deaths. The Hughes family had yet another tragic loss to endure. In 1908, two- year-old Aloysius was scalded to death. In century-old St. Columskill's, six headstones in a row confirm these facts. Esther became Mrs. Joe Sullivan, reared a family of three and died in her 80's. Kate became Mrs. Catherine McClimon (now 82) of Welton, and it is she who relates most of the details of this story. Lorraine Seamer is o freelance writer from Conetvitte. 12 • DCS MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER/AUG. 24, 1975 1O • Uts ,f w y j Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health. Start the day bright with DON KAUL'S four times weekly in Stye JU£ Pained DES MOINES SUNDAY REGISTER/AUG. 24, 1979 • 13

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