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Journey to past reveals history PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carolyn Wallin   

Editor’s Note: In a quest to discover her roots, Carolyn Wallin of Lamar, Neb. took a journey to Iowa and Ohio that proved to be a fun trip into the past. She shares her story of discovery for readers to enjoy.


I was always fascinated with the story of my great-grandpa’s rescuing two white girls from Indians as he chased them into Kansas. His name was Reuben Harry Woodmancy, and he came from the area around Pottawatomie County, Iowa.

I knew the story was printed in the Council Bluffs Nonpareil on Nov. 13 around 1925. It had a bad image of a picture of him with the story, and I wanted to go to Iowa and see if I could get the actual article and reprint it to get a better picture of him.

I mentioned this to Aunt Laverne Brown of Holyoke and to my sister Edie Reiley of Central City several months ago. Edie and I thought we might go to Iowa last summer to do this, but it never worked out.

Then about three weeks ago, Aunt Laverne called me and said, “Why don’t you and I go and see if we can find that article, and maybe we can also find a large gravestone in a cemetery I would like to see.”

So I said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

In a journey to discover some unknown family history, Laverne
Woodmancy Brown visits the tombstone of her great-grandfather
John Reuben Woodmancy in Platteville Cemetery, Ohio.

After thinking about driving around Omaha, Neb. and into Council Bluffs, Iowa, I asked if it would be okay to have my sister Edie come along to help drive in the bigger cities, as I am not used to such traffic out here in rural Nebraska.

So she said maybe her daughter, Diana Lockwood of Golden would like to come too. That’s how the trip was started.

Edie and Diana came to Lavern’s house in Holyoke Sunday, Oct. 24, then I drove to Laverne’s early the next morning and we started on a very fun trip into the past.

We were only planning to travel to Iowa where the Nonpareil newspaper was located. And, in the Council Bluff’s library, we did indeed find that long ago article after going through several rolls of microfiche tapes.

We were really excited to find the article as it portrayed the only picture we have of my great-grandfather.

Originally, I thought the large memorial stone in the picture Aunt Laverne had was in the Platteville Cemetery in Iowa. Yes, there was really a cemetery by that name.

I had already found the cemetery on a map, and it was about two hours from Omaha, out in the country. But just before our trip began, I looked again on the picture and noticed it said “Platteville, OHIO” on the back! No, that was too far to go, wasn’t it? But by the time we got to Iowa, we were already almost halfway there. So we voted to go on to Ohio.

It turned out to be an exquisite adventure. On the map of Ohio that was close to the area my great-great-grandfather came from were several cities to choose from. I chose Piqua, Ohio because the Woodmancy family had lived there at one time.

When we arrived there in the late afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 27, we were very tired from the long drive, and we got our motel rooms.

The first place we went to the next morning was the Chamber of Commerce. They provided lots of information for us and told us how to get to the Platteville Cemetery about 11 miles from Piqua.

They also told us to walk just a block away to the Miami County Library and see if there were any records there. We found a wealth of information.

We found out my great-great-uncle John Nelson Woodmancy was buried there in Forest Hills Cemetery right there in Piqua in a mausoleum.

A wonderful professor of history there at the library also helped us to do some research on his office computer, which connected us to the information in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There, we found a daughter of John Nelson Woodmancy was related to someone who came over on the Mayflower. Her name was Louissa Woodmancy, and she was also related to James Wilson, who signed the Declaration of Independence.

After having a unique lunch at the wonderful library, we traveled to the Platteville Cemetery. As soon as we entered through the gates of that rural cemetery, we immediately saw the large Woodmancy tombstone that stood above all the others in the area.

It was very windy and cold that day, but we got out and took pictures of it and pictures of the smaller stones nearby.

We now knew who was buried at this cemetery. It was Laverne Woodmancy Brown’s great-grandfather John Reuben Woodmancy (1804-1887) and his wife, Harriett Platte Woodmancy (1811-1894). Also buried there are two of their daughters, which filled in some blanks in the family history, as we did not know their married names.

After leaving the Platteville Cemetery, we traveled back to Piqua and went to the mausoleum at the Forest Hills Cemetery where we found Laverne’s great-uncle John Nelson Woodmancy (1841-1939) and his wife Sarah Johnston Woodmancy buried in a vault inside.

John Nelson Woodmancy was the last surviving Civil War veteran living in Piqua. We found quite a story about him in the local archives.

We would have liked to spend more time searching for more relatives there, but we needed to get back home. So we headed home right after that and arrived back in Holyoke after being gone for six days on Saturday, Oct. 30.