Monday, November 16, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday:A Love Story in A Umitilla Cemetery

Note: On a research road trip, I stopped at The Dalles Public Library. While waiting for the Archive Librarian to show up, I was perusing a book of old 1926 newspaper clippings, when I came across a picture of two grave markers, one wooden and the other marble. The names on the markers haunted me. I searched census reports, newspaper clippings, historical information about the area, people and times. Finally, this story that I couldn't let go, unfolded -- part true, part conjecture, but a pure love story.
Judge Markham, Lt. McCaffery, and Hiram Jones, the proprietor of Jones Dry Goods Emporium, stood beside the four members of the Portland Masonic Lodge as they solemnly watched the casket lowered into the dry, sandy earth of the now unused and desolate Umatilla Cemetery. Each had felt that they had done their duty to their fellow Mason, Captain Robert B. Randall.
Lt. McCaffery had been adamant that a proper Masonic burial be performed. Judge Markham had leant his standing as a judge to give added import to Lt. McCaffery’s plea to have the burial here in this outpost rather than in the Masonic cemetery in Portland. Runners dispatched by Lt. McCaffery from Umatilla to the Masonic lodge to which he and Captain Randall were members had brought the four lodge members from Portland. However, Hiram Jones was the primary key to burying Captain Randall in this old cemetery. He had been harangued by his wife, Cynthia “to do what’s right.”
It all began when, in 1859, Hiram told his wife that they were moving again. “Cynthia, the work on the Umatilla Rapids is going to make that area grow. It will rival The Dalles and certainly outshine Walla Walla,” Hiram said with characteristic enthusiasm.
Hiram, there is nothing out there, just Indians and hot dry sand. There are no trees, and nothing grows out there. That’s what Martha Kimsey said when she finally talked Marcus into coming back here to The Dalles.”
That may be how it is now, but the government and the army are planning on putting a lot of money and manpower into making the rapids passable all the way up to Walla Walla.”
Cynthia was still hesitant. “I’d miss my friends and the church. I’d miss my garden.”
There will be new friends and new gardens. In fact, Charlie Tucker and his wife are planning to go too.” As an added inducement, he added, “Old man Farley says he will stake me to my own dry goods store in Umatilla. He knows that I know the business, what with my 5 years working under him. My own store --- our own store.”
After the winter storms had abated, a small band of wagons, heavily loaded with dry goods and household belongings headed east from The Dalles, bound to the land of the Umatilla’s and, more importantly, to the military outpost. Even though it was a small outpost, but the men were sure that in a couple of years Umatilla would be thriving, as would they.
Hiram started his dry goods store out of one of his wagons, moved into a walled tent, and finally, in 1862 he opened the doors of “Jones Dry Goods Emporium.” During this time, Cynthia Jones and Emma Louise Tucker, being the only two women in that barren land who were anywhere near the same age, became very close friends. Cynthia told Emma about where she had been born and raised in Iowa. Emma described the lush green English hillsides above the town of Tendring, on the east coast of Essex.
As the friendship grew, each of the women confided more personal memories to one another. “My Hiram is a wandering kind of man. He came to Iowa and met me at a church meeting. He was exciting. He had so many ideas and plans for the future. Just swept me off my feet. My mother, too. She thought he was just a darling.”
Emma nodded and said, “My mam liked my first love too.”
Cynthia went on, “Well, my mother never thought we would leave immediately to go to Ohio, much less on to Missouri. She would never have believed that we would end up in the Oregon country.” Then she asked, “Emma, was Charles your first love?”
Oh no. My first love, my true love, was Robert. I was only 16, and he was a worldly man of 26, almost 27 years old. He was a seaman, and he brought me gifts from wherever he sailed. We had always lived next door to his family. He brought me my first bracelet, from India, when I was only 10. After that there were wonderful trinkets from wherever he sailed.”
Whatever happened to him?” queried Cynthia.
Oh, he was gone a very long time. I thought he wasn’t coming back --- and then Charles asked me to marry him.” Emma sighed. “I was 18, almost 19 –almost an old maid. My mam said it was high time for me to get married.”
That is sad,” murmured Cynthia.
It was worse than sad. Robert came back not more than two months after Charles and I were married. I was even relieved when Charles said we were going to America. At least I wouldn’t have to see Robert, and feel so terrible. I knew I had made the worst mistake of my life.”
I thought you and Charles were happy together. You seem to be very close to one another.”
Emma sighed, and said, “It wasn’t Charles’ fault, so I shouldn’t hurt him for what was my mistake.”
The next year the rains came early in the fall, continued throughout the winter, and late into spring. Emma had a cough that she couldn’t shake. She took to her bed some time after the new year of 1863 blew in with even more cold rain. She coughed her way through the spring and early summer. Cynthia was relieved when Emma seemed to rally when the hot days of summer finally came. However when the cold rains came again in late October, Emma was again consumed by her cough, deep in her chest. She languished through most of November, with her friend Cynthia ministering to her as best she could. Then in late November Emma Louise Tucker left this world.
Cynthia missed her friend deeply, but as Hiram had predicted Umatilla was beginning to grow. The government was sending military engineers, the railroad was pressing ever westward, and Hiram’s business thrived. The activity went on with increasing fervor, until 1874 when the military actually sent a corps to begin removing the obstructions to the Umatilla Rapids. Hiram was providing the provisions to the small corp of engineers, and grew to be friends with the Captain. “Cynthia, he’s an interesting fellow. He’s been all over the world, a mariner he says. For the last 20 years he has been a military engineer. He’s worked on the harbor at Crescent City and in Portland. Now he’s heading up this corp of engineers to work on our Rapids.”
Hiram, why don’t you ask him to dinner some evening,” Emma said, more as a command than a question. And so it was, the captain came often to their home. He many times brought Cynthia a trinket from his travels, and told exciting tales to Hiram. He was quite a bit older than Cynthia and Hiram, so it was rather like having a favorite uncle come to visit.
One November Sunday, after church, Cynthia asked the captain to go with them to place flowers on the grave of her friend. Cynthia led the threesome to the old cemetery and the gravesite that she kept tidy for her friend. There in the old unused cemetery with scattered yellow-blossomed sage here and there, she knelt beside the grave she had so lovingly tended for more than a decade. She placed the flowers in front of the wooden headboard with the black letters carved into the wood

Emma Louise Tucker

Born February 1830
Died November 1863.
The Captain stepped closer to the gravesite. He shook his head sadly and said, “I once knew a Emma Louise, back in England.”
Cynthia made a small sound of surprise. Of course, the sea travels, England, the trinkets from his travels --- Captain Robert Randall was Emma Louise’s Robert. Over the next year, Robert talked often to Cynthia and Hiram about Emma Louise and how they got separated. Robert told them that he had never married, never wanted to after he got back to Essex and found that Emma Louise had married. He often accompanied Cynthia when she went to tend Emma Louise’s grave.
Cynthia, I think when I die I would like to be buried next to my Emma Louise. We were never together in this world, but I would like to think we will be together in the next.”
Cynthia thought it was an old romantic fool talking and put the thought away. The work on the Rapids was progressing well during the early winter of 1875. Then one day, a young engineer rushed into the store, “Oh, a terrible thing has happened. A terrible thing.”
Hiram pressed the young engineer to tell him what had happened.
Captain Randall was all fired to sail across the rapids. He just kept a going, even though we told him the wind was picking up some. He just laughed at us, and told us that he was a mariner and knew about winds.”
Well, what happened, man. Just spit it out,” growled Hiram.
The sailboat capsized. Captain Randall was thrown overboard. We couldn’t find him. Ohhh, he’s gone.”
They searched for four days with no luck, and then several days later Captain Robert Randall’s body was pulled up in a fisherman’s net. Everyone knew that Captain Randall was a fervent Mason and would want to be buried with the Masonic rites, so they began preparations to ship his body back to Portland to be buried in the Masonic Cemetery with his lodges solemn rites.
When Cynthia heard of this, she cornered her husband, “Hiram, you have got to stop this. He has to be buried beside Emma Louise. Please Hiram, stop this plan to take his body to Portland. It’s only right that he be buried here.”
Hiram knew that when Cynthia really wanted something, she just never let up until she got her way. So he told Judge Markham and Lt. McCaffery the story of Robert and Emma Louise. Hiram was surprised at how quickly the Judge and the Lieutenant were able to change the plans, to send runners to Portland to get the necessary lodge members to perform the Masonic burial. And now, he and Cynthia were tossing a handful of sand onto Robert’s grave, which was next to his beloved’s.
Later that spring, Cynthia went to the old cemetery to tend the graves of her friends. She smiled as if she were meeting two old friends. Robert’s grave stone was finally in place. Now beside the slim wooden headboard of his beloved Emma Louise stood a marble slab with IOOF & Masonic symbols, a carving of the Umatilla Rapids, and inscribed

Captain Robert B Randall

Born in England 1819

Drowned in the Umatilla Rapids March 7, 1875.

Cynthia nodded with satisfaction. She knew that when the chilling winds of winter whirl the cutting sands over their last resting place and the searing summer sun dried all but the yellow blossomed sage, a love story that overcame time and place, would forever live in this desolate forgotten Umatilla cemetery.
* * *
(JGH Note: Although there was indeed a Cynthia who knew Captain Randall and Emma Louise Tucker who were buried side by side, the story is my creation woven around bits and pieces of research.)


  1. I loved this! I'd like to think that there is more truth than fiction to it.

  2. Apple, the basis of the story is as close to the truth as I could come. All of the characters were real people, although only Captain Randall and Emma Louise are portrayed by their real names.

  3. Joan,
    I'm putting this here because I don't see an option to email you on your blog. (Sorry if I'm missing it.)
    I want to make sure you know that on Saturday, November 14th, I nominated YOU for the Kreativ Blogger Award! I enjoy reading your blog, and appreciate the support you've given me on mine. :) Please visit my blog http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2009/11/my-first-award.html to pick up your award, and be sure to share seven new things about yourself when you post it.
    Happy blogging!