Oakridge Cemetery Tour in Goshen, Indiana: Presented by the Elkhart Civic Theatre Part Two

As a child I remember driving by the Kunderd Gladioli Farm with my family. There were a 100 acres of gladiolas. They were beautiful. As a child I really was not interested in where or how they came to be. I found out in this cemetery tour that it was Amos E. Kunderd who was born in 1866 and died in 1865, that started the gladioli farm.

Kunderd was a horticulturist who loved working with his gladiolis. He created two new races of gladioli, the ruffled and the lacinated. He shared that he sold one bulb for a thousand dollars. That was a lot of money back in his day. It is a lot of money in my day too. He said he only sold 7 of them, but that is still quite a profit.

He lost his beloved wife and mother whom he was also very close to but continued to live until he was 99 years old. John Shoup portrayed Amos Kunderd. I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he knew that William Cobbum was in the Oakridge Cemetery. I am sure that we are shirttail relations as he was also born in this area. Because he was a gentleman, he even gave me one of his gladioli. I told my husband that a strange man gave me a flower, but that he didn’t have to worry, because he was dead. Ha.

Colonel Ruel Johnson was born in 1836 and died in 1901. He was a bit stuffy but Jerry Scott did a great job of portraying him. He was in full uniform and stood at attention the entire time that we were on the tour. He was a Civil war Medal of Honor recipient because of his bravery at the Battle of Chattanooga. He later became a lawyer.

I saved the last two for last, as they are the saddest. Melvin Bartles was born in 1910 and was only 13 years old when he died. Paxton Manly portrayed Melvin. He started out by saying that it is a Boy Scout’s job to serve and protect. In an accident where a car plunged into the Mill Race in Goshen, one of the twin sisters that was in the car was able to swim to safety. Melvin jumped in to safe the other one. He tired by the time he reached her and didn’t realize that she was bigger than he thought. He bravely tried to save her but they both drowned. There is a monument honoring his valiant effort to safe little 7 year old Margaret Hutchinson.

I was talking to a friend who had been telling another friend about Melvin. She found out that this lady was a niece to the surviving twin that had been in the same accident. What a small world that we live in.

Cebenka Miller was born in 1888 and died in 1914. I found a little more information on Cebenka. She was also known as Rosa and was married to Eli Miller. All Miller’s around this area are probably related. There are a million of them and this is probably not much of an exaggeration. Cebenka (well at least Karen Hoover, who portrayed her) said that her gypsy tribe was staying on the Bechtel farm. She heard a man trying to have sex with her sister-in-law in a tent. She tried to protect her from the culprit. She was in the middle of two men when Antonio Mendes shot her with a shotgun. She was taken to the Goshen Hospital where she and her unborn baby died.

Her father turned her funeral into an honorable affair. They dropped gold coins in her grave on top of her coffin and drank champagne. She was buried next to the Chief of the gypsy tribe. She was of Spanish descent. Her parents survived her, living in Texas. She was also survived by her husband Eli Miller and three children.

This story especially fascinates me. My great-grandmother was Katie Miller, married to Daniel Chupp whose mother was Veronica Miller. They lived East of Goshen. This happened West of Goshen. My grandmother was afraid of gypsies. She said that they would steal their chickens and whatever else they could get their hands on. She was afraid of them. My grandmother was born in the late 1800’s and I bet she knew about this story. I never heard about it from her. I thought that this was the saddest story of the ones that were portrayed on the Oakridge Cemetery tour.

I plan on going on any other cemetery tours that they have in the future.

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