February 9, 2011

Lettie A. Bishop - Wednesday's Child

This little tombstone doesn’t look like much these days. Not your big, well-carved monument designed to last the ages. It’s sunk into the ground so far that I could only make out the letters of the name by tracing them with my finger. L-E-T-T-I-E. When I was photographing the headstones of my husband’s Bishop ancestors in Freedom West Cemetery, in rural Freedom, Ohio, this little one puzzled me. Who was Lettie?

Fortunately, the cemetery markers were first read by Ernest Moore in 1927 on behalf of the Western Reserve Historical Society. His transcriptions were used to help decipher stones that had deteriorated by 1992, when the Portage County Genealogical Society set about compiling cemetery records. The stone, now virtually illegible, once read: “Lettie A. Bishop, died Apr. 7, 1864, age 14 mos, 18 days.”1

Ahhhh. This was somebody’s baby girl. But whose? I cast around the family plot for a likely candidate. Perhaps she was Albert & Augusta Bishop’s daughter. They were buried nearby, and the right age to have been her parents. But speculation won’t do in solving these little mysteries. And so one hot summer morning found me in the cool depths of Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna, searching the microfilm records of local newspapers. There, on the second page of the April 27, 1864 edition of the Portage County Democrat, I found the answer:

“In Freedom, April 7th, of congestion of the brain, Lettie A., daughter and only child of George and Mary Bishop, aged 14 months.
         'And is she gone? Oh, sudden solitude!
         How oft that fearful question will intrude.
         ‘Twas but a moment past when here she stood,
         And then without the portal’s front she rushed,
         To live again in Heaven.’”

What a world of sorrow conveyed in just a few words. Even from a distance of 146 years, I can feel their pain.  Neither George nor Mary is buried in Freedom. Lettie rests with her aunt, uncles, and grandfather. One day, no doubt, her little stone will be gone. But she won’t be forgotten.

1.     Portage County Genealogical Society, compiler, Portage County, Ohio Cemeteries, Volume IV: Freedom Township and Windham Township 1812-1992 (Ravenna, Ohio, 1993), p. 91.

Related Posts:
The Final Days of Fitch Bishop
Albert Bishop (1838-1865)
The Short Story of Walter H. Bishop
More Questions than Answers: Augusta Bishop
Walter F. Bishop, Aged 20 yrs.


  1. You've done a wonderful deed in keeping this young girl's existence from being completely forgotten.

    I'm so glad I found your blog! You have a wonderful voice and I plan to visit often.

  2. I checked on your blog because I, too, accepted the challenge to write this month. What a beautiful post! I love that you followed through to find out who Lettie was.

  3. Thank you, Missy and Kathy! Lettie's story really grabbed me, and I wanted to express it just right. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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