Genealogy Rule #1: The best ‘finds’ are the ones you were not looking for.
When I located the birth certificate at Ohio History Connection for Charles Haddock, my maternal great-grandfather, I discovered that his father’s name was Jasper Haddock, an ancestor previously unknown to my family. Then, in OHC’s newspaper microfilm archive, I found Jasper’s obituary in the 3/15/1905 Barnesville (Ohio) Whetstone, which mentioned that Jasper was a Civil War veteran!
Jasper’s military records revealed that he was one of the Ohioans who served in the heralded 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the unit consisting of the overflow of African-American recruits for the legendary 54th, featured in the 1989 movie, Glory. Jasper was wounded, 11/30/1864, in the Battle of Honey Hill, SC, a bloody engagement in which the 55th lost 1/3 of their soldiers in one afternoon.
After the war, Jasper returned home to Captina (aka Guinea /Flatrock), a settlement of freed slaves near Barnesville. Jasper died in 1905, and was buried at Captina A.M.E. Cemetery, a long-forgotten African-American cemetery not easily found on maps.
Undaunted, my husband, 95-year-old Mother and I traveled to the former site of Captina, in search of the cemetery, not knowing what we might find. On a dirt-and-gravel road, we managed to locate the cemetery. Many headstones were missing or broken. The A.M.E. church that once stood nearby was gone. And, we found no headstone for Jasper Haddock.
Disappointed, we briefly stopped in Barnesville to find the now-vacant Bethel A.M.E. church that my mother remembered attending as a child. As we stood in front of the church, a stranger greeted us with a friendly ‘Hello’. We told him we had just returned from an obscure cemetery outside of town, in search of a distant ancestor. He said, “You mean Captina Cemetery?”, and then asked, “What’s the person’s name?” When we told him ‘Haddock’, he just smiled and explained that he (Hiram Bowen) just happened to be the volunteer caretaker of that cemetery.
What were the odds?
Hiram then stunned us by stating that he could get a granite headstone for Jasper at no cost to us, if we sent him his military records. We were amazed. And 6 months later, Hiram called to let us know the headstone had been placed!
We rushed to Captina to see the new headstone and to perform an impromptu dedication ceremony. The resulting video is now on YouTube for all to see.
Deborah M. Tracy