Monday, October 19, 2015

The Drinkwater and McCain Family Reunion

Henry Charles Drinkwater
About two years ago, I learned that my great great grandfather, Henry Charles Drinkwater, died in 1925 but was never buried. 

I had found a Find A Grave memorial for him in Minneapolis's Lakewood Cemetery, and as is my custom when I find one of my ancestors on that site, I contacted the person who had set up the memorial and asked if he would transfer the management to me so that I could easily edit it. He did so, but he also advised me that Lakewood’s records state that the final disposition of Henry’s ashes, who had been cremated according to them, was “Storage - Hold, Section 313, Tier 1, Crypt F, Garden Wall Crypt”. This was how I found out that my ancestor's ashes, or cremains, had been in storage for almost 90 years.

After learning this astonishing news I shared the information with Susan Drinkwater Wrasmann. I had been corresponding with her over the last few years about our Drinkwater ancestry. She is Henry's great granddaughter through his son William Downs while I am descended from William's sister, Lily Drinkwater McCain. 

Knowing that Henry's wife Emma had died and been buried in Jackson, Wyoming I had a desire to reunite them, but knew it would be too costly for me to do alone. I told Susan that I would like to canvas his other descendants to see if any would be willing and able to help with the associated costs of obtaining and properly burying Henry's ashes in Jackson. It would satisfy my desire and give substance to my belief that everyone should have a proper burial.

Susan liked the idea. We appealed to Henry's descendants who responded generously. This gave us the impetus to plan further. After some of his descendants told us that they had seen Henry's death certificate, and believed that he was buried, we scrutinized that document. While it did have a date of burial, we noted that box 19 was confusing because it indicated that Henry was cremated. It also said "over" and to our knowledge none of the family had ever seen the back.  

Wanting to be sure Lakeside was correct, and that we didn't bury the wrong person, Jon Freshouranother cousin (Lily's descendant), called the state of Minnesota and obtained the back of Henry's death certificate. It, we felt, was definitive. 

Now that we knew that the cemetery was correct, Jon, Susan, and I all called them to find out how we could obtain Henry's cremains. We found it was a matter of paying them after which they would ship the ashes anywhere we wanted. We paid them with donations from Henry's descendants and they were shipped to Susan's brother Mike Drinkwater's home in Utah. There they awaited a proper burial with Emma while Henry's descendants worked on "part two" of the plan.

We wanted to be sure that Aspen Hills Cemetery in Jackson would agree to our idea. Susan contacted the manager, Al Zuckerman, who not only agreed but suggested that we bury Henry's ashes in Emma's plot. Susan then contacted Hunter's Idaho Falls Monument, who designed and created a headstone that matched Emma's as closely as possible. They also mounted it with Emma's on a new granite slab.

From the beginning, we wanted to have a reunion of the descendants who could come to Jackson. Susan, Mike, their sister, Kay Coates and Mike's son Gregg, generously hosted us at a beautiful and spacious house in Teton Village rented for this historic occasion, held on September 12, 2015. I'm happy to say that descendants of all of Henry and Emma's three children who lived to adulthood (Charles Henry, Lily McCain and William Downs) were able to come to the reunion. Some had never met one another. Some had never realized that they had so many cousins. All of us were thrilled to find and be with one another.

Those who came - Back row, L-R: Kay Coates, Brent Miller, Ed Wrasmann, Susan Wrasmann, Connalu Drinkwater, Mike Drinkwater, Gregg Drinkwater, Aaron Moulton, Bruce Burrows. Behind the couch: Carma Miller, Chris McCain Miller, Kristin Burgoyne, William Seeley,  Kathleen Schofield, Paul Schofield. On the couch: Dana Drinkwater Falkner, Kathi Reynolds Seeley, Carol McCain, Mary McCain Moulton holding Shaylieann Moulton, Robin Miller holding Annaleisha Moulton. In front of couch: Laura Koehnen (leaning on Dana), Jill Miller Hayes, Averi Hayes.

Wanting a lasting keepsake of the reunion, Susan put together a compilation of writing by herself, myself and Jon Freshour in a book titled Drinkwaters and McCains, telling the ancestry of this remarkable family that came together to honor and bury our long departed grandfather. The foreword is so applicable: "In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future" - Alex Haley.

If you would like a copy of the book, please let me know, and I will obtain one for you. Here is a link to the chapter about Henry and Emma's life, starting in England, and ending with his death: Henry Charles Drinkwater, A Restless Soul, by Kathleen Ellen Schofield:

Henry Charles and Emma Hall Drinkwater

I believe that I can speak for the Drinkwater and McCain families by saying, may Henry finally rest in peace.

Henry and Emma reunited. We decided to allow Henry's stone to age and darken as has Emma's.
It shouldn't take long under the pine trees of Aspen Hill.

All photos courtesy of Kathleen Ellen Schofield
Postscript: our cousin, Jon Freshour contributed much to this whole process. Unfortunately, his health prevented him from traveling to Jackson. We missed you, Jon, and we appreciate all you have done.

No comments:

Post a Comment