A reverence for the past

Oakland Cemetery Walk returns with a twist: a focus on tree-shaped memorials and those who lie beneath those trees

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ruth Bennett, at left, who portrays Elizabeth Simmons, keeps an eye on Garrett Savery, who will portray Francis Hoyt Crosby as he makes a ghostly shoe repair in Oakland Cemetery. The pair are two of the local historic figures that will make an appearance during the annual Oakland Cemetery Walk.

Among all the gravestones of various shapes, sizes and styles dotting the hills of Oakland Cemetery are tree-shaped monuments that mark the final resting places of some people.

The folks whose graves are marked by those trees will be featured in this year’s Oakland Cemetery Walk. But this year’s walk won’t require anyone to stroll through the Fort Dodge cemetery.

Instead, costumed performers will offer two indoor presentations.

The first of those will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Tompkins Celebration Center at Friendship Haven, 420 Kenyon Road.

The second will be at 3 p.m. June 10 in the Opera House at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ruth Bennett, at left, who portrays Elizabeth Simmons, takes a walk around Oakland Cemetery with Garrett Savery, who will portray Francis Hoyt Crosby during the annual Oakland Cemetery Walk.

Tickets will cost $7. Children under 10 will be admitted free.

Re-enactors will portray these 10 people memorialized at Oakland Cemetery.

Peter and Elizabeth

Vincent Simmons

Peter Simmons was born in 1805 in Ontario, Canada. He and Elizabeth Vincent were married in Canada in about 1828. They immigrated to the United States, living first in Cleveland, Ohio, before settling in St. Charles, Illinois. When the Civil War began in 1861, he enlisted in the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. He was taken prisoner by the Confederate Army in Virginia. He was released in a prisoner exchange, but died on March 6, 1863.

-Submitted photo
A tree-shaped stonemarks Volney Patchen York’s grave at Oakland Cemetery.

Elizabeth Simmons was born in 1805 in upstate New York. In November 1863, she moved to Fort Dodge, where one of her daughters lived. She died Dec. 4, 1882.

Mary Catherine

Luther Marshall

Mary Catherine Luther Marshall was born Nov. 3, 1811, in New York. She married Robert Marshall on March 30, 1828, in New York. In 1860, she, her husband and their family moved to Fort Dodge. They settled near the border of Webster and Humboldt counties and started a farm.

One of her sons, John L. Marshall, was the first dentist in Fort Dodge.

She died on Oct. 7, 1899.

Susie Hardin


She was born in 1859 in Ohio. She got a job with the Leisenring Gallery, a photography business in Fort Dodge. She later became partners with Mrs. A.K. Drake, of Lehigh, in a photography business. She died of tuberculosis on Aug. 21, 1887, at age 27.


Patchen York

Volney York was born on March 25,1853, in New York City. His family moved to Michigan and later, Fort Dodge. At the age of 17 he was working as a tinner at Prusia Hardware. He also was a taxidermist. He married Jennie Watkins on Aug. 19, 1873.

He eventually took to drinking and gambling. His wife filed a lawsuit against three saloons for selling him alcohol, seeking $5,000 in damages.

He died on Sept. 9, 1875, of typhoid at age 22.

Azariah S.


Azariah White was born on March 26, 1831, in Baldwinsville, New York. In 1850, he moved to San Francisco, California, where he was in the newspaper business.

In 1856, he moved to Fort Dodge, where he established the first newspaper published in Webster County. It was called the Fort Dodge Sentinel. He sold the paper in 1860 and bought a farm west of Fort Dodge. He served as a Douglas Township supervisor and as a deputy sheriff.

In 1868, he moved to Indiana. He died on March 2, 1870, in Aurora, Illinois. His body was sent to Fort Dodge.

Francis H.


Frank Crosby, as he was called, was born in New York in 1836. The family moved to Fort Dodge in 1857. His brother, Daniel, set up the first shoe business in Fort Dodge, and Frank Crosby worked there.

In 1868, he became the clerk on the Mississippi River steamer D.W. Hewitt. He was killed on Jan. 16, 1868, when a steam pipe exploded in the ship.



James Grimshire was born on March 18, 1820, in Malton, England. He immigrated to the United States and worked in mines in the eastern part of the country. He later began working for railroads, and moved to Fort Dodge when he got a job with the Illinois Central Railroad.

He died on Jan. 16, 1906. Funeral directors and local authorities had a difficult time finding his relatives or any information about him.

John E.


John Hardin was born in Paris, Illinois. His family moved to Clare, and then to Fort Dodge in 1878. He worked as a cabinetmaker and night watchman at a gypsum mill. He then moved to Texas to work on a railroad. He returned to Fort Dodge and worked as a locomotive fireman on the Illinois Central Railroad. He died of typhoid on Oct. 12, 1888.

John H.


John Thomas was born on Jan. 22, 1841, in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. In 1873, he and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Fort Dodge, where he worked at Arnold’s Flour Mill. He later became a machinist for the Fort Dodge Sentinel newspaper. In 1885, he opened a meat market on what is today’s Central Avenue. In 1894, he sold the market, but in 1895 he returned to the meat business as head butcher for a shop owned by G.W. Corey. He died on March 21, 1921.