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Cemetery Stories Oct 12, 2019

Blanche Lanning The Great Flood of 1947

Good Evening Folks,

My name is Blanche Lanning. I was born May 31st 1886 and passed away at the ripe old age of 86 on Dec 11th, 1972. I lived in Carlisle all my life and took a very active interest in all the small town goings on. As matter of fact I passed my love of community on to my son Ewing and when he passed away he left part of the money that was used to purchase The Randleman House. That is how important history was to us!

Anyway, I kept scrap books and journals about everything under the sun, but tonight I want to tell you about one very interesting summer.

The great flood of 1947!

Our family owned a small farm just east of North park, quite near North River. Most of the time the river was just a little stream that meandered by our place but that year was different.

As I went to the cow barn to milk on Wednesday evening June 3rd it started to rain. We had a terrible rain. In a matter of two hours it rained 4 inches. We had hail and then the lights went out. As I walked back to the house the river was out of its bank and I walked through water ankle deep. The next morning at nine o’clock I stood in shallow water at the mail box to mail a letter. The mail man did not come! At 10:30 the water was up to the chicken house so we raised it up on blocks about 6 inches. At 10:30 the calves in the barn were belly deep. We swam them out of the barn behind a boat. By noon the chickens were in trouble again so we drove all 295 of them out of the chicken house to the corn cribs. A few broke out and we herded them to the West porch of the house. There they stayed until June 8th and did they stink!

All around the house there was about 10 feet of land out of the water. The railroad acted as a barrier and helped keep the house dry.

No one ever saw such a flood. Cattle stood day and night in water knee deep. Motor boats ran up and down the fields trying to rescue people and animals. William Warren almost drowned getting his horses out. Bob Killen grabbed a rope and swam out to help him. The current was so strong that it ripped the seam of his overalls. June 13th more rain. The water got even deeper.

The bridge over North River to the west of town was completely washed away. Folks had to use row boats to leave town. The Burlington tracks were washed out near Clarkson (East of Carlisle) and another train did not go through until July 5th.

What a horrible summer that was. Rain and mud everywhere! It made me think of the original flood that washed away the town of Dudley and started the beginnings of Carlisle, but you have heard that story before.

Thanks for listening.

Harry Johnson Wright

Hello Folks! My name is Harry Johnson Wright. I’m so pleased you stopped by this evening to chat. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about my life here in the town my parents, my kids and myself called home. I can only hope you find this to be “The Most Profitable walk in Iowa”… Hey, I kinda like that phrase…Maybe someone can use that in the future. I was born on a farm just east of Avon Lake in 1897. Actually, if you just took what is now Army Post road over the levy about a half mile you’d be on the farm my dad, Johnson T. Wright farmed. When I was quite young, we moved to Carlisle and my father worked as a grocer before he became the Postmaster. I went to school in Carlisle and graduated from Carlisle High School in 1915. After High School, I decided to head to Ames to attend Iowa State College. I went there until 1917. Then when the United States entered World War One, in April 2017 I answered the call to arms and joined the Army. Now if there was one thing I had a natural talent for, it was mechanics. The Army was going away from the horse cavalry…they had trucks, automobiles, motorcycles and think of it, AIRPLANES. I enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant and joined the Army Air Corps. So, off I went to Flight School in Texas. After a few short weeks of training where I learned to fly in Curtis “Jennys” and Wright “Flyers”. I learned to Barrel Roll, Loop the Loop, Dead Stick and Fly in Formation …all the combat tactics. I got my wings. Well, I must have shown an aptitude for flying as I became part of the Flight School Instructor Cadre. That was quite a responsibility as well as an honor. Teaching these boys the skills they would take to combat in France was a life and death proposition. The need for combat flyers was great as the life expectancy for newly arrived flyers once they were in combat was measured in weeks…not years, not months but WEEKS! I was stationed at several air fields in Texas and the Southwest. I trained a lot of Flyers including several who would eventually become well known from their Air Corp exploits in World War 1 as well as World War 2. My military service was not without risk. There were all levels of capability in the flight cadets. The planes we trained in were open cockpit, biplanes with the student in the fore cockpit and the instructor in the aft. I had one student who had the stick…He froze up at the wrong time…we couldn’t pull out of the dive and plowed into the unforgiving red Texas soil. The student was killed and I was injured. I actually retrieved the propeller, or what was left of it and it is still here in the possession of our family in Carlisle. When I was in Chandler, Arizona I met a pretty Iowa girl named Marian Sanders who was a nurse. We married and moved back to Carlisle. We started our family and had three kids: Harriet, George and David. Harriet moved away and lived in Arizona. George was a Surgeon who lived in Carlisle and practiced in Des Moines. David also lived in Carlisle and took over my Chevrolet business here in Carlisle. Speaking of business. My business career started as a garage owner that was located in the building LaVilla Restaurant currently occupies. That was in 1934. I partnered with Harry Conant and we got a Chevy dealership around that time. I eventually bought Harry out and stayed in the Chevy repair and sales business. The dealership moved to the building that the School Street Pre-School occupies. That location was a gathering place for loafers from around the town. The exchange of stories, gossip and jokes was a daily occurrence.

One day we did generate some excitement with those fellows on the loafers’ bench. I had a barrel of solvent to clean greasy tools as we did our auto repairs. Occasionally the barrel needed emptied. Well the best time to empty was during a heavy rainstorm as the flow off the roofs along School Street emptied onto the alley behind the garage. Well during one summer downpour I got the boys off the loafer’s bench to help dump the barrel and head the highly flammable solvent flowing down behind Jarvis Owen’s grocery store (now Coco And Nini’s) towards the lumber yard (now James Oil). As luck would have it, a couple of the workers at Jarvis’ store stepped out back to have a smoke and flipped a lit butt into the solvent tinted runoff. The effluent erupted in a ball of flame and one of the smokers got his eyebrows singed. Ah, another day in downtown Carlisle.

Well, I should let you know my wife, Marion died at age 38. My son George died in 1969. My Daughter Harriet died in 1995. My son David still lives here in our lovely little town. A town where our roots are deep and our family is still a part of what makes our community interesting.

Oh, as for me, I died in 1956 at the age of 59. Thanks again for stopping by and letting me share my story.

Deacon F E Scoville

My name is Frederick Ely Scoville. I was born in Connecticut in 1833. I moved to Illinois after 1860. I enlisted in the Union Army on the 7th of September 1861 and re-enlisted in May of 1864. I spent 4 horrible years fighting in the Civil War. I was taken prisoner at Wilderness, Virginia in May of 1864 and interned at both Andersonville and Florence Prisons. I suffered the rest of my life from ailments related to the prisoner of war camps and after filing three times I finally received a pension of $12.00 per month.

My wife Sarah and I had seven children but only two lived into adulthood. Sarah died in 1879. My sister Sarah Hargis and my sister-in-law Lucie Deets helped me raise the last three children, Henrietta, Alice and Arthur. Sadly, Arthur passed shortly before the 1880 census.

During my time in Carlisle I became one of the founding fathers of the Carlisle Christian Church. We built the original frame church building in 1869 at a cost of $643.25. The building committee members paid for the work.

I joined the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) which was a brotherhood of Civil War veterans and attended several of their conventions. I was also involved with the Iowa Ex Union Prisoners of War Association. It was during a GAR convention in Chicago in 1905 that I passed away from “illuminating gas”. You see, actual deadly gasses were piped into rooms and set alight before electricity was available. Many died from fumes and explosions. No one ever knew for sure if there was a faulty valve or the gas was turned on accidentally. My sons-in-law traveled to Chicago to bring me back to Carlisle where I am buried in this very spot.

Thank you for remembering me.

The Strawstack Victim

No one knows my name. No one actually knows where I am buried. I might be here in some forgotten corner or maybe not. I was a victim of a horrible crime. A crime that has never been solved! In August of 1925 my remains were found in the ashes of a burned straw stack. A few people remembered seeing a fire on July 24th so they know that is the night I was murdered. The place was called Watts Hill. Just a couple miles East of town where you cross the bridge and turn to the left up a long hill. There was a moonshine shack nearby and that may be what drew my killers and I out to the remote area. Some say they saw a stranger in a Ford roadster. A bottle of ginger ale and the remains of some sandwiches were found at the scene. Looks like the evening started out as a picnic.

My remains and other clues were brought back to Carlisle by the Warren County Coroner, J. E. De Ford. He also happened to be the local druggist. I was determined to be a young woman about 5 foot 4 with auburn hair. My skull has been struck 4 times with something heavy and sharp. A pickaxe with blood and hair was found nearby and determined to be the murder weapon.

The clues were put on display in a case at the drugstore and guarded around the clock. As a matter of fact, this piece of wood is a part of that very case! On display were my skull, teeth and bones, the pick axe, bits of clothing, a lock of hair, a necklace of imitation pearls and a butterfly brooch. A count of visitors was kept and over 40,000 people came through Carlisle to view the contents of the display case. It sounds macabre but this was the only hope of finding my identity. No one recognized my belongings. No one reported me missing. The investigation reached a dead end. Time moved on. Eleven years later a man in California bragged about killing a girl in Iowa and burning her body. After two days of questioning it was determined that he was not in Iowa at that time. That was the last lead in my case. Nearly a century later the murder still remains a mystery. Over the years there have been dozens of theories and suspects but whoever knew the truth took those secrets to their grave. My murderer might be buried in this very cemetery or they could have been a complete stranger to these parts. We will never know.

Good Night

Margaret Church Hull

Hello Folks. My name is Margaret Hull

I am the only child of Jeremiah Church. My father was the founder of the town of Carlisle, as well as many other pleasant communities across the country. But enough about him, we are here to talk about me tonight!

I was born May 1st, 1835 in Lockhart, Pennsylvania. My mother Maria Mahan, daughter of the innkeeper Alexander Mahan, passed away a few months after my birth. My father stayed in Lockhart and took care of me for 10 years but thought he could make his fortune if he moved west. He left me in the care of the Valentine Hanna family. When he was established in Iowa he sent for me and I called Carlisle my home for the rest of my life. I married my sweetheart DR. William Sproul Hull in May of 1853 and we had six children. Tragedy struck in Sept 1885 when my husband was killed after being hit by a train. 1886 was another terrible year when my daughter Maude, just 16 , passed away unexpectedly. I can’t even tell you that story. It is too difficult to talk about but I do believe she was one of the stories in a previous cemetery walk. You can look it up!

We lived in a big old house on the corner of 1st and Market. Everyone knew Doc Hull’s house and many came to see him there. My father was a bit of a wanderer and went on further West to found new communities and discover his fortune. Of course, that fortune never happened. Jerry Church returned to Carlisle old and ill. He spent the rest of his days with my family and died in that very house. It was torn down in the 1970s and two new houses take up that space.

I lived on to the ripe age of 83. I left a huge family of descendants who still live in and around the area. I bet some of them are here tonight. If you are my descendant please raise your hand. I would love to see how many have come to visit me tonight. Why, my family met at the Randleman House just last year to tell our family story and dedicate a plaque to my famous father.

I was a homemaker, wife and mother for all of my life. At that time women were not encouraged to work outside the home and rarely accomplished notable things. I happen to think that raising a family and keeping a home is a pretty notable accomplishment!

Thanks for visiting me.

John Harvey Mehaffey

I am John H. Mehaffey. I was born in 1885 and was killed in action in France in WW1 on July 28, 1918. I was 33. I was a private in the 109th Infantry, Division CO. L. Many of my fellow soldiers were brought back from France to lie in their home town cemetery but I am not here. My body lies over 4000 miles away. Six local men were killed in the Great War. Five of them were brought back from France and honored by using their initials in the name of the Carlisle American Legion. PMCKS stands for the other five who were killed (Powers, Marsh, Conklin, Killen and Snelson) but I was never honored in this way. No one remembers why I was overlooked. Your being here tonight to hear my story helps right that wrong. Thank you!

I wrote often to my sisters about the places I had been and the things I had seen. I traveled from Camp Kearny, California across the country to Camp Merritt, New Jersey. I saw the Grand Canyon, the Great Salt Lake and the deserts of Southern Nevada. We spent one night in SE Iowa but there wasn’t enough time to visit family. When we came through New York City I got my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I wasn’t very close to it and I don’t think its high distance satisfied my expectations but it will look “just right” to all of us when we get back from France. I heard people say “Old Girl, if you want to look me in the face again you will have to turn around”. Unfortunately I never got the chance.

The third battle of the Aisne was part of the last major offensive by the Germans during WW1. It was an attempt to end the war before US troops arrived into France. It was also a diversionary tactic employed by the enemy to pull Allied troops from the Flanders area. There was fighting in the trenches in its most horrible form. In May of 1918 poison gas was dropped. When it cleared the British and French soldiers were taken by surprise and with defenses spread thin were unable to stop the attack. The German army advanced through a 40 kilometer gap in the lines. The French suffered over 98,000 casualties and the British around 29,000. German losses were nearly as great, if not slightly heavier. We Americans arrived in June and went on the counter attack halting the enemy advance at Marne proving ourselves in combat for the first time in the war. The 28th Company L was conducting an attack in the late afternoon in a wooded area near Croix Ridge Farm. We suffered heavy shellfire and I was killed.

Thank you for remembering me one hundred and one years later.


The origins of “Taps,” the distinctive bugle melody played at U.S. military funerals and memorials and as a lights-out signal to soldiers at night, dates back to the American Civil War. In July 1862, U.S. General Daniel Butterfield and his brigade were camped at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, recuperating after the Seven Days Battles near Richmond. Dissatisfied with the standard bugle call employed by the Army to indicate to troops it was time to go to sleep, and thinking the call should sound more melodious, Butterfield reworked an existing bugle call used to signal the end of the day. After he had his brigade bugler, Private Oliver Wilcox Norton, play it for the men, buglers from other units became interested in the 24-note tune and it quickly spread throughout the Army, and even caught on with the Confederates.

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Not long after Butterfield created “Taps,” it was played for the first time at a military funeral, for a Union cannoneer killed in action. The man’s commanding officer, decided the bugle call would be safer than the traditional firing of three rifle volleys over the soldier’s grave, a move which could have been confused by the nearby enemy as an attack. When the music replaced three traditional drum beats, soldiers referred to it as “Taps,” although this was an unofficial name. The bugle call was officially known as “Extinguish Lights” in American military manuals until 1891. Since that time, “Taps” also has been a formally recognized part of U.S. military funeral services.

Today at Berkeley Plantation, the historic estate located at Harrison’s Landing, there’s a monument commemorating the origins of “Taps” at the site. Berkeley Plantation also happens to be the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and William Henry Harrison, the nation’s ninth president.

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