Death & Funeral
Elmira (Reser) Shedden

Elmira (Reser) Shedden
Elmira (Reser) Shedden

Grandmother of
Sana (Shedden) Gillett

The following comes from a letter written by Clair Mann to his wife, Bonita, after attending the funeral of his grandmother, Elmira (Reser) Shedden.

Elmira died January 7, 1929, in Dundee, Illinois. Clair was in Iowa City, Iowa studying for his Doctor's degree in engineering at Iowa University. He was 44 years old at the time. His wife was living in Rolla, Missouri, where Clair was teaching.

At the time, Elmira had the following direct descendants:
           Children - 6 with only one still living - Leonard Shedden
           Grandchildren - 15 with 12 still alive
Only her son and four grandchildren were able to attend the funeral because of either distance, time or costs. Those attending: Leonard Shedden and three of his children, James, Warren and Bernice with Clair Mann (the only one of the Kansas branch that stayed in Kansas).

Clair Mann's Account of the Death & Funeral

I left here 2:40 PM Thursday. Got into Chicago late - should have been there 9:09, got there 10 minutes to 10. Had just a minute left after getting over to the Wells St. station of the Elgin electric line, getting ticket etc. Got to Elgin at 11:30, and decided no one would want me calling them up that late. The last car for Dundee had gone, so I stayed at the Fox Hotel. Got a nice room for $2.50 - all they had. I tried one of the two other hotels, they were full up. I got supper before retiring. Next morning was up at 5 AM, left after breakfast an 6:00 AM car for Dundee. Got there 6:30 AM. Asked bearings, and soon was at the house of Uncle Leonard. The thermo had dropped to the near zero level. Got to the house just after 7, and found Aunt Jenny, Uncle Leonard, James, and Bernice. The latter two were just getting ready to drive their small overland car into Chicago to get Warren Shedden (his brother), his wife, Alma and. their two children (Katherine, about 4, and. Donald, 4 months). They had. a very cold, disagreeable drive.

Well, after Uncle had greeted me, and we had talked a bit, we had breakfast. To dispose of that, I stayed with them for dinner, supper, breakfast, and dinner on Saturday. Bye and bye Aunt Jenny's oldest sister from Rockford came in. After breakfast Uncle and I went to the Congregational Church, where he is janitor. He is not working anywhere now - the malted milk company he last worked for pensioned him for $40 a month. This he supplements by the janitor work. James and Bernice stay at home. I stayed there overnight Friday. They seemed to like to have me - tho I know it was something of a sacrifice. I was all that was left of Grandmaís family that came. I represented mama to them all, it seems, as well as the other boys and the members of the families of other of Grandmaís children.

I learned that Grandma had been up and a round before Christmas time. It seems that she was in bed from January 5, Saturday, on. No cold, just gradual failure of the heart and possibly internal metabolic functions, stomach disordered. Aunt Dana was there with Miss Adams, her housekeeper. This Miss Adams has been there 7 months, and. was most congenial to Grandma. Miss Adams was single, I guess 50 to 60 years old, quiet, industrious, efficient. She did take care of the house and Grandma well - and everybody says so. We can all be glad Grandma had such good care. Grandma paid her $6 a week.

Aunt Dema found this woman in Elgin - wanting a home and just that kind of a job. Now on Saturday this woman and Aunt Dana were changing the bed clothes. As I understand, possibly grandma tried to get up long enough for that, or made an effort to rise enough to permit change of the sheets. It brought on a bad "spell" with her heart. Seems she had been having such spells, not so severe, at times before. This time she asked to have the Doctor come - he did, and prescribed for her. She asked Aunt Dema if the latter thought she would live through this spell. On Sunday she seemed a bit drowsy, and had to be roused when time to give medicine. The minister, who liked her, and of whom she thought much, called on her at 5 PM Sunday. She wanted to know why he was there so early - she had lost her sense of time. She told the minister that "if I get well, it is all right - if not, then it is better".

On Saturday she had been like her old self, and told funny stories. Aunt Dema says that when she was there Saturday, Grandma took two spoonfuls of Bordenís sweetened milk at one time, and some beef juice (raw) at another. I think she took also the same Monday morning, for at that time she told Uncle Leonard and Miss Adams a funny story about the Scotchman who, asking for cookies, and having a whole dish full of them set down by his plate, had remarked that he now "had enough to last him the day" - her way of saying she had enough to eat for that last day. She was now gradually sinking into drowsiness. Monday afternoon she asked to have her shoulder rubbed, and insisted that Miss Adams should do it, as she knew how Uncle Leonard stayed there and sat in the dining room where he could look into her door and watch her. Monday afternoon she wanted to know if Leonard was there, and perhaps that was the last she said that was understood. Uncle Leonard, one hour before she died, lifted or pulled her up in the bed a bit for a more restful position on the pillow. She opened her eyes and. looked at him, but said nothing. After that she slept, breathing more and more shortly. She ceased to breathe at 9:10 PM, Monday January 7. She died peacefully, no pain.

She was born February 23, 1838, so she was nearing the age of 91. The obituary attached was in the Elgin Courier-News on January 9, 1929, at page seven. It says she had 4 boys, 2 girls, all but Leonard dead. There are 12 living grandchildren, 39 great grand-children. She was the eldest of a family of six girls and two boys. Both boys and the youngest girl, Ella, are dead. The others were all at the funeral. She was member of the Eastern Star, and Woman's Relief Corps.

Grandma had expressed the wish that they would not be in a hurry to bury her, and that she might not be taken away from the house at all. These wishes were complied with. Mr. John Ruhl was the undertaker, and his wife assisted him. They certainly were nice, and did all they could to make the funeral arrangements pleasant. Uncle bought a new style steel casket, that was most beautiful. It was a gray color outside. The upper (or head end) of the cover raised, exposing the body just to the waist. They succeeded in making Grandma look so nice. Her hair was white as the whitest snow, and so nicely dressed. It seemed fine as the finest silk thread. Her face looked more youthful than in years. The wrinkles were very largely out, and looking at her she looked so natural one almost expected her to open her eyes and break into her characteristic smile, which even in death played about her mouth. The dress was nicely trimmed with lace - a sort of gray color, but with some life in its color - it fitted so well into the whole to make all look so nice. The casket was lined with a white material like satin - leaves the impression of being like chiffon, tho I think it was a very fine white silk. It was so very beautiful, and I find it hard to do justice to the description. All who saw Grandma looked in wonder, and all said "Isnít Grandma beautiful?"

No one could have thought to have had these features improved upon. She lay in her own bedroom until Uncle Leonard and I went to the house about 11 AM. At that time the undertaker came, and together we moved her into the east room, or parlor, along the east wall, with head in northeast corner between the two windows (east and north). On the walls were Aunt Florenceís painted pictures - of the boy and dog. This was on west wall. On east wall, south side, was a "tree" scene, and on the south wall a picture of horse and the little boy sitting on a stump looking out to sea. The old organ used in Kansas stood at grandmaís feet, in the southeast corner. A davenport along the west wall. Presently the flowers began coming in. They were so beautiful. The sisters and cousin Nora Russell at Elgin (sisters Armina Lathrop, Dema Smith, Isadore Smith) sent a beautiful bouquet of dark red roses, like General Jaquenots. Mary Eberhart and Herbert had beautiful red, pink, and white carnations. Leo and Clair and families had a beautiful boquet of large pink roses - I think American Beauties - with ferns and several Easter lilies (callas). Uncle Leonard had a pillow made with words "Mother and Grandma". This was intended as coming from us all.

There was a most beautiful bunch of old rose color roses that Mr. Ruhl laid inside the casket over Grandmaís left shoulder. It, again, fitted so well into its place. There was a wreath from the W.R.C., and then many others that I did not look at close enough to remember. As a whole, there were many flowers and they were beautiful.

Uncle and I now went to dinner. After a time Clarence and his family came, and we ate dinner at Uncle Leonard's. It had been planned to have the family meet at the home for a first service, brief, after which further service was to be held at the Methodist Church. At 12:30 we went down to the house, and, then the folks from Elgin began coming in. Aunts Armina Lathrop, Dema Smith, and Isadore Smith (from Tiffin, Ohio); my second cousin Ella (Reser) Wagner and her husband and daughter (about 15), who live in Elgin; Aunt Morilla (Rill we call her) and Uncle Charles Lewis, and their daughter, Ella. Also a number of friends of the family. The immediate family took seats in the east room where Grandma was. Ray E Bond, pastor of the M.E. church, read from Psalms; also read the hymn "Lead Kindly Light" and another in the M.E. Hymnal about going down to get gold. The Congregational minister, Edward Koster, whom Grandma best liked, was also present and said prayer. After this the family took their last intimate leave of Grandma, There was no great break down on the part of anyone. To me, it seemed that here was one of the greatest women one could know. The fine silk flag of the W.R.C. draped over the lower end of the casket proclaimed her a patriot and pioneer of the first order - a woman for whom men would fight with all they had, in a war, and a woman who would be at their sides bearing her full part, and helping to share anotherís. The faces of all round her bore mute testimony to the love she had borne them - and for most all whom she met. In her they also saw exemplified the highest type of Christian character, joined to Christian service in a practical every day life. Everybody loved her, and had only the finest things to say of her. She was mother to me, and grandmother as well. My leave of her was to lay my hand on hers and gaze into her dear face - which seemed so ready to turn and look at me.

The grandsons had been asked to serve as pallbearers. I did not know if I could stand that, but got on very well. Besides me, there were James and Warren. Ella (Reser) Wagnerís husband assisted us, as did two others I forget. Both Will and Harry Lathrop (sons of Armina) were there, and I think Will assisted, and perhaps Harry.

Next we went to the church. There were probably 100 there - the day was so cold it kept away many who wanted to come. Aunts Mary Shearman and Harriet Armstrong and Uncle Eben did not come for that reason. We grandsons carried the flowers in, carried the casket to the door, then followed it to the front. The family, save Uncle and Aunt Jenny, who preceded us - followed. We sat together at the front. Mrs. Fern Kumlein and Mrs. Wallace sang after the organ stopped. (it played while we were coming in, and until the undertaker had all the flowers rearranged). First they sang as a duet "Lead Kindly Light", then the pastor (M.E.), Mr. Bond, read several Psalms, among them the 23rd, 91st, and others. Also read from Revelations "And there shall be no more night", etc. Mrs. Kumlein sang solo, words of the Psalm "He that dwelleth in the secret places of the Lord" etc. After that, a brief sermon, contrasting the lives of worthless folk to that of Grandma - made her life stand out so clearly as one of deep Christian faith, life, worth, and service. Said it was so rare to find such a life these days, when so many were decrying Christianity, and when we were discouraged because of the war and because folks do not generally love so, it was an encouragement and inspiration to us to know that such a life could be lived, and that she could joke and jest even tho her heart was sad with the loss of so many of her own children. Mr. Koster, Congregational minister, gave the closing prayer - in which he also paid like tribute to Grandma.

The family valued his part in the service so much, because Grandma had liked him, and because he had spent whole afternoons there with her, which she so keenly enjoyed - and he did too, because she talked so intelligently on many subjects, and always had a word of cheer for him, or a funny story to tell. Last was a duet - Jesus Lover of my Soul - a song I had suggested to Uncle, because Grandma used to play and sing that for me on the Kansas farm whenever I asked her to sing for me. I never heard her play or sing any other song that I remember, save this one, on such occasions. She used to sing in the Reserville choir, however, and was the outstanding alto singer of the community.

The church service over, we carried her again to the hearse - a new style one, looking like a very large Packard car. The casket rested on a swivel. The doors on both sides opened - we placed. the casket crosswise of the car, then turned it on the swivel until it was lengthwise. Then the flowers were put in. It was fiercely cold, below zero. There were about 10 cars, I think, that went to the Udina Cemetery. I should first mention some that were at the church - as Sam Shedden, son of Grandpa Sheddenís brother, of Elgin; and Mrs. Sarah McDonald (nee Rosborough), daughter of Grandpa Sheddenís sister, Mary, together with Mrs. McDonaldís sister, Mary. There was also present an aged couple who were formerly school pupils in a school Grandma taught at Plato Center.

We drove first to Elgin, down the Fox River Trail, then west to Plato or Udina Cemetery. The grave was improperly dug - only about 4-1/2 feet deep, and so small the rough box had not yet been put in, and would not go in. It was bitter cold, and on that hill the wind had a clear sweep. We had the folks wait in the cars until Mr. Ruhl trimmed the hole with an axe and got the box in. It was a dirty shame - we should have insisted on having Grandma taken back to town until the grave was dug a full six feet deep. The box and casket were finally lowered in the east grave, Grandpaís next west. I think I remember Uncle Willieís is next west, and finally Aunt Florenceís. Each grave has a head marker, and the family monument has the names of the first three deaths recorded. Both ministers were at the grave. Rev. Bond read the Methodist ritual, offered prayer, and it was over.

We took a few of the flowers to keep, and returned to Elgin. Going out and in, I rode with Uncle Leonard and Aunt Jenny, Miss Adams and Bernice. We next had supper at Uncle Leonard's - after which I drove with James in to Chicago to return Warren and his family to their home. Warren is a telephone salesman of paper. They have a nice little cottage, new, which they showed me before I left. James and I had a cold ride back to Dundee, arriving at 8 PM. After that I visited with Uncle Leonardís family, and stayed there that night. James was in the 95th division, 6th regiment, U.S. Marines, in action June 8, 1917. Clarence was with him. Warren was in action also, on dispatch or "orderly" duty, also a marine. Harold, the eldest boy, was not able to come from Neillsville, Wisconsin for the funeral. Neither was Aunt Theresa.

Saturday morning Uncle Leonard and I went down town for a few errands, then to Grandmaís house, where we met Aunt Isadore, and I had a short visit with her. We also went to the home of August Eggler, husband of Ella Lewis, where we visited with Aunt Rill and Uncle Charles, who now lives there. Their eldest girl, Sue M. Church is now at Sterling, Illinois. While at Grandmaís house, Miss Adarns brought out grandmaís last piece of finished, work - a pieced silk quilt she had made expressly for me, and had not had the strength to send it to me at Christmas time. They gave it to me. Next after that, we went to Uncle Leonardís house for dinner, after which Uncle produced Grandmaís will and read it - handed it to me to read - seemed anxious that I should know how it was, Uncle Leonard is to have the furniture. He holds a $700 mortgage on her home, which he took up from the old holder, Mary Reuchauber, so Grandma would not have to pay further interest. The residue of the estate is to be sold, divided into 3 parts.

One part to be divided equally among the children of her daughter Margaret (Mama); a second part to go to the children of her eldest son George (Uncle George); and the third part to go to Uncle Leonard, and after his death to his heirs. Uncle Leonard is the administrator.

After this, Uncle Leonard and I took the car to Elgin, to see Aunts Armina and Dema, who live together with Aunt Arminaís daughter Nora Russell, who was Mamaís most intimate friend among all the relatives. Nora's husband got struck on a younger woman and got a divorce. Nora is a very fine woman, just Motherís age, but in far better health. Does not look a day over 50. I stayed with them for supper, overnight and for breakfast, and had such a very fine visit with them. They seemed greatly delighted - they all knew Mama and all the rest of the family so intimately. They knew you and asked all about you and the children - and all I knew about anybody else. They had me say grace at the table, and seemed to enjoy that. After supper I went to see Aunts Mary and Harriet, and Uncle Eben. They have not changed a bit since we saw them in 1920 - if anything they look younger and in better health. I stayed there until 9 PM. Aunt Mary said that Mrs. McDonald (Sarah Rosborough) had asked over the phone if I was there, and wanted to see me, so Aunt Mary called her and said I would come over if she would see me then. She said OK, so I walked the two blocks and called on her, her mother and sister Mary. She is a most estimable woman, highly intelligent, highly refined, very frank and approachable - just the finest sort of a woman one can imagine. The sister is unmarried. I had a most enjoyable visit with them, tho I had never seen either of them before. However, Mama had always talked so much of them, and had their pictures in the album. I was no stranger - and they knew all about me. While there, Hoover talked over the radio at the opening of Cascade tunnel.

At 10 I was on my way back to Aunt Armina's, and after that we sat talking until 11:3O, then I slept in Aunt Demaís room. Three things in particular I noted - a picture of all the girls - sisters - in the Reser family; a girlhood picture of Aunt Dema; and her husband's picture, beneath which hung a picture of Aunt Armina's grandchild's baby. In another place was a poem written by some woman to all girls of 14 to 18 or so - which contained sentiments I heartily endorse.

These women were first of all homemakers. They believe in home, and in their place in it as a religious duty. Aunt Armina expressed that sentiment - said the man had to work, and always was hungry. For herself, she thought it a religious duty always to prepare nourishing meals, and have his breakfast always ready. Then to minister to him and to the rest of the family as they needed. Every one of them have lived that sort of a life - and here they are, all living, at advanced ages. They have all had a saving sense of humor, It was so interesting to talk with Aunt Isadore. She showed in her face all her old "cut-up" wit and mannerisms. She was the 'dickens" of the family, always teasing Father, for instance laughing at his neckties. She is the same now as ever, just a bit heavier and full in the face. I havenít seen her in close to 28 years, but would have known her instantly in a crowd. While she talked to me, her face broke into the old smiles and she laughed in the old care-free way she used to. She is fine. Well, they served the meals in just that old way - I felt as truly a part of the family as tho I was there with Mother, and I was proud of them all.

I left there at 8 this morning, went to the 3rd rail intending to go thru Batavia and then back to Geneva (3 miles ) and catch the Northwestern going to Cedar Rapids some 30 miles north of here, then come down here on stage. At Batavia I intended to call on Uncle Eugeneís children, Harriet and Carl, I bought my ticket that way, asked the conductor if his car went to Batavia, and got on. He said I would transfer at Wheaton. I didn't stop to think that car was not the right one - the Batavia car does not go thru Wheaton, and I knew it. But he had not told me I was on the wrong car - so off we went, to find I was on my way in to Chicago. I then decided not to get off at Wheaton - which I still could have done - and to omit the Batavia trip, which would have cost me no more than going in to Chicago. In Chicago, I had an hour to wait for the Rock Island 10:30 AM train to Iowa City, so I got some lunch for noon, and finally boarded the train. Got to Iowa City about 4, and to B-179 about 4:30. Well, thatís the story in considerable detail. You can read. what you like, and omit the rest, but please save the letter for the record it contains. If you feel like it, you can put it in the box - letter file - upstairs marked "Mann Family".

As to Grandmaís estate, I do not anticipate there will be much left after funeral expense and street paving assessments and taxes and mortgage are paid off. So I do not look for much of anything from the will. I feel that Uncle Leonard is the one who needs it, and would assign it to him but for the fact that Grandma apparently knew what she wanted done with her estate and only recently - since Uncle Lantie's death - altered her will to read as it now does. It strikes me that wills often express the grudges of those making them, and leave hard feelings after the writer dies. I donít like that. The way things are in Missouri, one should not die without a will, for it would mean tying up a property for good. I have no will at the present time, so wish you would go to W.D. Jones office and ask if they have a standard blank on which a will can be written for Missouri use - send me two such blanks if you can get them. It ought to be done at once. I can, of course, write a typed one here and send it for you to file in the bank box.

I think you ought also to write a will, and together we should decide just what disposition should be made of things in the event of the otherís death. A usual stipulation is that the property held shall be sold to pay off the debts against the estate. I do not want to put that in - only of course the mortgage would have to be remade in the event either of us died, I would think that either will should make the other of us administrator; should make provision for division of the property among the children after death of both of us; and should make whatever disposition of personal effects among the children we choose to make or agree on. Please write me what you think about this. The will, in my case at least, ought to be on file, for without it you would find the property tied up and in such condition you could not do a thing with it for two years. At best, it canít be settled up until a year after probate of the will, by reason of Missouri laws.

Well, I must bring this to a close, and get to bed. It is now 10:40 PM. I wish you could have gone with me to the funeral. Leoís $30 covered the expense - I have $.10 to pay the taxi man tomorrow morning that it did not cover. Got Paulís letter - your statements of disbursements, and the letter Bernice wrote, which I attach.

Note: Leo is Clair's brother and since he could not go on to the funeral he must have paid $30 to help on the expenses.