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Graveyard Stories

The B&B in Kalamazoo was directly across the street from Mount Hope Cemetery.  Darwin and I love graveyards, so we decided to wander over and poke around.  Aran and Maksim weren't interested, so they stayed at the inn.

Darwin and I thought we'd wander through the cemetery just a bit and then check out the old houses in the neighborhood.  We should have known better.  See, Darwin and I both get lost in figuring out everything we can from a set of gravestones.  I like to figure out the stories of the people, and Darwin wants the history.  This all takes =time.=

For example, the family plot on the outer corner of the graveyard where we entered was for the Orcutt family. It consisted of a series of graves sprayed around an impressive central spire.  According to the inscription on the spire, the stone was erected by the citizens of Kalamazoo in the name of Benjamin F. Orcutt because they thought he was a fanastic and lovely person.  (I'm paraphrasing slightly.)  Ben Orcutt's grave was a few feet away, and the actual stone said he served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, but he didn't die in the latter.  He died two years AFTER the Civil War ended.  His wife was buried next to him, and she died many, many years after he did.  Two more graves, clearly those of his sons, also sat nearby.  They had died as old men, but they had been very small when their father died, and neither of them was buried with a wife or children nearby.  What the heck had happened here?

On a whim, I looked up "Benjamin Orcutt Kalamazoo" on my phone on the off chance there would be something about him on a history site, and voila!  I got this: http://www.odmp.org/officer/10213-sheriff-benjamin-franklin-orcutt  The short version is that Ben returned from the Civil War and was elected sheriff of Kalamazoo.  His house was next door the jail, and one night a disturbance woke him. He ran over to the jail and found a bunch of guys trying to break into the jail to free someone.  When Ben tried to stop them, one of the guys shot him several times in the chest.  Ben managed to drag himself home to his shocked wife and frightened children, and it took him nine days to die.

The miscreants fled, and they were never caught.  The inmates at the jail were questioned extensively, but none of them confessed to knowing who tried to break in.  The case was never solved.

This is my and Darwin's supposition: The citizens of Kalamazoo were outraged and upset.  Here was a two-time war hero who returned home to serve his town, only to be murdered in cold blood while his wife and small children looked on.  His two older sons were either told they had to take care of Mother, or they decided this on their own, and they never married as a result.  His third son, who was only a baby at the time, moved away when he grew up and wasn't buried in Kalamazoo.  The spire tells me that someone also took care that the Widow Orcutt had enough money to get buy.  Certainly someone was able to buy her and her unmarried sons grave markers.

See what I mean about the stories?


I did some digging.  My and Darwin's supposition was largely correct.  The citizens of Kalamazoo were upset and outraged and saddened at Ben Orcutt's death.  The funeral was huge.  The courthouse was draped in black bunting, and the county paid for the funeral spire. There was also an attempt to use tax money to give his wife Emily an annuity, but I can't tell if it passed or not. One account says it failed, but a law book from the time period marks the necessary legislation as passed, so I can't quite tell.  There's a detailed story here, including the very thrilling story of Ben Orcutt's attempt to catch the jailbreakers and how he died: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=30712467


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