DARKE COUNTY – Each Christmas, Gary Foureman of Foureman’s Sand & Gravel places a special wreath on what he came to know as an unclaimed grave.
But that all changed over the course of his lifetime.
Foureman first discovered the grave-site early in his life while walking to school through a nearby field. Eventually he purchased the farm where the gravestones were located, but only one stone remained with heavily worn lettering.
Although Gary could make out some of the words, he still couldn’t pin down the grave’s occupant despite looking through county records.
As fate would have it, 10 years ago the Fouremans were approached by their pastor at Coletown Congregational Church. He informed them that a visiting family from Iowa stopped at the church while researching their Darke County family tree.
The Iowa family claimed that their great grandfather had started Coletown Congregational Church, and asked if anyone knew the burial location of their great grandmother, Charlotte Keen Williamson, which they guessed was in the area.
Although the family returned to Iowa, they left a copy of their family history for the Coletown Church’s pastor for anyone with any knowledge of the grave, which was then passed onto the Foureman family.
The family’s grandfather, Rev. Elijah Williamson was born in 1804 in North Carolina, where he bitterly opposed what he considered the “unreasonable opposition of slavery which was growing more severe,” according to his autobiography.
Consequently, he moved with his wife, Charlotte Keen, and two children to Darke County in 1833, and purchased a modest farm northwest of Greenville to sow wheat and oats while building his parish.
Rev. Williamson constructed four churches around the Greenville area, including one named “The Church of Coleville” and another named “Brand Church.”
It didn’t take long for Foureman to match the name of the family’s great grandmother with that of the name of the gravestone, and he finally solved one of the longest standing mysteries of his life.
In January of 1854, Charlotte Keen passed away, which her husband described as “the hardest trial I ever had.” Rev. Williamson then emigrated to Iowa in September of 1856 to be with his children, thus displacing tehm from the grave-site of their mother.
Upon finally assembling all the pieces, the Foureman’s invited the family back to visit their great grandmother’s grave-site, which they eagerly accepted on two separate occasions.
“It was very interesting. A lot of people didn’t know the history,” said Foureman. “The family was very thankful.”
The Williamson family then began sending money each year to the Fouremans which they would then use to purchase and place a Christmas wreath upon the grave-site every season.
The Fouremans still carry on the tradition to this day.
And with respect to the remaining grave, the Fouremans poured a concrete pad for the gravestone to rest upon, and repaired a large crack in its center.
“Hopefully it will never be destroyed and will be there for a long, long time,” said Foureman. “I wanted to get it to where it would stay in good condition and so people could see it.”
Unfortunately, Gary and his family remain unsure about the identity of the second gravestone, however they speculate that Rev. Williamson’s son was buried beside his mother.