The tombstone(s) featured for tonight's edition of Tombstone Tuesday really aren't tombstones at all. There aren't any of John Coleman McConnell and his wife Rachel Browning. Their burial location -- in the tiny, mostly-hidden McConnell cemetery right outside of Tippecanoe, Harrison County, OH -- lies directly behind that of their son Theodore McConnell, the stone that is seen in the picture. We know this because Theodore directed that he "be laid at the feet of his sainted mother," and Rachel's will dictated that she be laid beside her husband.
Rachel's husband John Coleman McConnell was the son of Robert MConnell and Prudence Coleman. John was born 1 January 1807 in Belmont Co., OH and died 18 July 1873 in Harrison Co., OH. Rachel was the sixth child of Samuel Browning and Margaret Markee and was born 25 January 1825 in Athens Twn in Harrison County, OH. She died in November of 1902 in Washington Twn. in Harrison County. John and Rachel were married by R. K. Price, JP in the county on 9 April 1848.
I located the McConnell Cemetery and took this picture during my first trip to Harrison County last August. It was one of the two highlights of the trip for me. Of the thirteen children of Samuel and Margaret, one of Rachel's sisters moved to Kansas and a brother to Indiana but Rachel was the only one to choose to stay in Ohio with her husband. The other ten moved to Crawford County, IL, with their parents and cousins.
I imagine sometimes how hard that must've been, to watch your entire family ride away. I know they kept in touch -- one of Rachel's sons went to Kansas to work a summer on his aunt's farm and one of Rachel's Illinois nieces came to stay a while with her and her husband John -- but for the most part, Rachel was alone; bereft of her Browning kindred. She did, however, have nine children and a husband to keep her busy!
The story of finding the cemetery is what I'm here to tell today, though. I'd done the research to ascertain its location before going to OH. My parents and daughter and I drove around the backroads for a few hours and during one go-round I happened to see a farm with a sign that said "McConnell" on it. We got out and knocked on the farm door but no one answered; it looked abandoned. Adjacent to the farmhouse was a ramshackle building made of hand-hewn wooden beams that looked like it might've once been an old home. I walked around to the back and took a picture of the building before heading back to the car.
We drove around another hour up and down the road the cemetery was supposed to be on without any luck. Finally, as we again passed the farm with the building, my father said, "Let's just go up the hill here and stop and ask at the first house we see." It sounded like a plan. We pulled in to the first house on the hill and I got out, knocked on the door, introduced myself and explained that we were looking for the old McConnell cemetery. The lady looked surprised and asked me to tell her who we were looking for. I told her Rachel Browning and her husband John McConnell. The lady just shook her head. "Well, I reckon I know them. John and Rachel were my husband's great-great-grandparents."
Holy cow, I was flabbergasted! Talk about serendipity! She invited us in and she showed me a xeroxed copy of an old picture of John Mcconnell. She said the original was in the hands of another McConnell and it was in an oval frame and couldn't be removed for fear of damaging it. She gave me his name and number as well as the name and number of yet another McConnell researcher. Then she told me her husband was the caretaker of the McConnell cemetery and she'd direct us to its location.
When we got there we saw why we hadn't seen it and would've never seen it if we'd never taken a chance and stopped and asked. The cemetery was tucked way back in the woods and practically invisible from the road. A 'fence' made of blocks ringed its boundaries. My daughter and I climbed the hill. It was too steep for my parents so they rested in the car while I took pictures and sat amongst the leaves for a while. I was thrilled beyond belief to be at the resting place of another of Samuel and Margaret's children.
Counting Rachel I've now stood in front of seven of them (James, Elias, Julia, Rachel, Sarah, Ezra and Edward.) I have pictures of one other (Susannah) and I know where two others (Absalom, Samuel J.) are possibly buried. The resting places of the last three (Margaret, Asbury T. and John Wesley) are currently unknown.
Before I left my cousin's home to go in search of the cemetery she said one more thing to me. She told me to go back down to the McConnell farm and take a look at the old building. I said I had, and she said, "Good. That's where John and Rachel lived. John built it with his own hands." I was so glad I'd taken that picture! The picture above and to the left is the house.
To think.....what if we'd never went and knocked on that door? I wouldn't have found Rachel's resting place. Wouldn't have known I was looking at her home. Wouldn't have been able to see a picture of her husband. And on my next trip next month....I wouldn't have new cousins to meet!
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