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I’ve been in Waseca cemeteries hundreds of times over the years, but yet, there’s always something new to see.

On Monday at St. Mary’s Cemetery, I looked closely at two gravestones that I hadn’t read before.


Here we have three little girls–Ellen, Mary, and Bridget Dean. Ellen and Mary died in October 1862, both at the age of 2. No date is given, but I assume they died together. They could have been sick and by coincidence, died on the same day. But perhaps an accident would be a more logical conclusion. Bridget died at one year old in 1863, which means she probably had just been a newborn/infant when her sisters died. On the other side of this pillar monument are the names of the mother and father, who lived well beyond 1862-63. I didn’t see any other children listed on this gravestone, so if they had other children, they have separate monuments.


My sister thought there was a gravestone at St. Mary’s that referenced some type of ship accident. I hadn’t heard of this before, so we went searching. She found this gravestone of Michael Melvin. Like many others buried in the early days at St. Mary’s, Melvin was from County Mayo, Ireland. He’s from the parish of Ardagh (best as I can tell). We could read “Killed by explosion of steamer John Ramsey” and a reference to St. Paul.

Going on this information, I did a little digging and found this article from November 1864:

America's Historical Newspapers

As a history major in college, I’ve read a fair amount of old newspaper articles in my life. Aren’t the over-the-top drama and graphic descriptions something else?–the “mutilated bodies of the slain and the groans of the wounded…” Newspaper stories were a little more “real” back then–nothing was sugarcoated.

Stories like these are why cemeteries captured my imagination from a young age, and why I wrote the book that I did.