When I was in high school and started getting into genealogy, my Uncle Ralph gave my dad a paper outlining our branch of the Tallman Family. Tallman was my dad’s mother’s maiden name. The paper started with Peter Tallman, the original Tallman immigrant at about 1650 and ran down through the generations to Benjamin B. Tallman, my great, great grandfather, but had practically no information on him. His son, Miller Mathias Tallman, was my uncle’s grandfather (and my dad’s of course). Ralph retyped the paper and added on to it from Miller down to my dad’s generation. When I started doing genealogy myself, this paper was one of my first areas of interest. I discovered that a lot of the information my uncle had gathered was close but not quite accurate, not surprising due to the lack of information then available. I knew that Miller was married in Western, Iowa, and that the family owned land in that area. I discovered that Miller’s mother Romancy Tallman, was buried in the Rippey Cemetery in Greene County, but not Benjamin. Strange. I suspected that he my have died in Western and when I called the trustee for College Township, Linn County, Iowa, I discovered this was the case. He was buried in the Western Cemetery in 1881. Our family moved to the Cedar Rapids area in 1960. Most of the Tallmans had moved away by 1880 or 1890. By strange coincidence, we happened to move back to the same area they left.
I drove to the cemetery and found the gravestone. It was an elaborate affair as you can see. It looks like they left room for an inscription for my great, great, grandmother, but when her husband died she lived with one or the other of her daughters. They moved to the Rippey area so when she died in 1911 she was buried there and not shipped back to spend eternity with her husband. I took pictures of the gravestone and shared what I had discovered with the rest of the Tallman family in an article I wrote for the Greater Tallman Family Newletter.
A couple of years ago I discovered another internet genealogical resource, the Iowa Gravestone Photo Project. Naturally I checked the gravestones of relatives buried here in Iowa. Some had been entered and others needed to be. But to my shock when I looked at the entry for Benjamin Tallman I saw that his gravestone had been toppled. I drove out there immediately. By looking at the historic pictures I noticed that there had been a sizable tree directly behind his grave and that there was a stump. By the time I got there, the stump had been chipped away so unless you had seen pictures, you would never know there had been a tree there at all. My theory is that when they cut down the tree, it fell the wrong direction and broke the stone. Since Ben was buried in 1881 there was no way they would be able to contact the next of kin. They just left the pieces of the gravestone neatly stacked next to the base which was not toppled but was slightly tipped a degree or two.
I was determined to restore the monument but since it was winter, the pieces were hard frozen to the ground. I put an entry in my calendar to come back in the spring. When I could move everything around I discovered that while the marker was in pieces, many of them were beyond my ability to move by myself. I contacted my son and nephew to see it they could help me re-erect the memorial. Schedule conflicts and forgetfulness kept the project from being completed last summer but I did manage to get some of the preliminary steps completed. I talked to a gravestone manufacturer who advised me to use silicon glue to stick the thing back together. I was also able to remove many of the old steel pins that kept the individual pieces lined up. The old ones had been bent by the force of the tree falling on them. I replaced them with new, stainless steel ones where I could.
The winter came again before it could be finished but this Mothers’ Day when both Lance and Seth came to dinner we were determined to get the job done. Before everyone arrived at our house for the celebration, Seth and I drove out to the cemetery and Lance came later from Iowa City.
We had managed to get a couple of the smaller stones in place by the time Lance got there but we needed his muscle to put up the larger ones. To make matters worse, the left column had been broken in two. Luckily, it was a pretty clean break and fairly horzontal so it didn’t look like it would slip when it was restacked. The worst stone to put up was the arch at the top. It is quite heavy and we had to use ladders to get high enough. Our plan was for Seth to get up on one ladder, then Lance and I would pick up the stone and he would take one end. I would then take Lance’s end while he got up on the ladder. I would hand him his end and the two of them would lift it into place. Good idea but we situated the ladders the wrong way and we almost dropped it, RIGHT ONTO ME. I had to hold up the entire stone for a few seconds all by myself till they could get off the ladders and releave me. I ached like crazy all the next day. We reoriented the ladders and tried the operation again, to great success. Here is a picture of a job well done complete with the genealogical heroes.
I drove back out there a couple of days ago to see if the thing was still standing. It was. I took a couple of minutes to trim away some of the vinyl adhesive that had oozed out of the cracks. One funny thing. While you can’t see it in the photos, the arch at the top has an inscription on it. I only noticed it because on one visit, the stone was oriented exactly right for the sun to glance across the letter which are very faint. They say, “Father and Mother”. I believe I had never noticed them before because they had been set up on the back of the monument by mistake. When we put the marker back together, we had it face forwards.