Tales The Tombstone Tell Columns
from the Republican Observer
Written by S. W. Fogo
Page 31
A Bit About Mr. McKinney

 Among the early comers to Richland county, was John McKinney, father of J. S., who came from Grant county in 1852, and made for himself and family a home in a rude log cabin about two miles northwest of what is now Port Andrew. There the pioneers lived in a land mostly populated by Indians and wild animals. They were accompanied by their son John S., who was then five years of age, born near Lancaster, September 1, 1837. When John McKinney came to this county there were but three other families residing there. It was in Richwood that John S. McKinney grew up. In 1862 he was married to Maria Parrish and the next year he purchased 40 acres of land about one mile east of Excelsior. Later on he purchased 220 more acres. This farm is now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Miles Randall, Mrs. Randall being a granddaughter of, J. S. McKinney.

 Mr. McKinney was a good carpenter and he was called upon in the early days to make coffins. In 1864 diphtheria visited the neighborhood and caused many deaths. Seven children in a family of eight died within a few days and Mr. McKinney was compelled to work night and day for a time. The present school house in Excelsior was built by him and many of the homes and farm buildings in the Excelsior area were also erected by him.

 Mr. McKinney passed on March 14, 1927, at the age of 90 years. He was laid to rest in his own cemetery.

S. F.

What the Mail Brings

Recently under the heading "Tales the Tombstones Tell" we had an item concerning James Yancey, a Confederate soldier, who is buried in the Richland Center cemetery. A bit of information was asked for and as a result we received several answers, two of which follow:
 Dear Mr. Fogo:
  I am writing to you, having read your interesting article,
  "Tales the Tombstones Tell", I noticed yon were asking about
  the James Yanceys.
  Do you have in your files the information about the
  Schoonovers coming from West Virginia? There may be a
  connection. John L. Schoonover Jr. was my father. It seems
  to me that a group came together. If I remember correctly
  one of the families was named Murphy. My grandfather John L.
  Schoonover was a Confederate. My mother was a strong Yankee
  so I know they used to have some strong conversations when I
  was a child. He didn't, for some reason, have to go to war.
  I remember my mother telling me "If he thought the south was
  in the right why didn't he fight for it?"
  Well, we hope there never will be such an affair again but I
  wonder. The way looks dark with the arguing over the Negroes
  at the present time. Russia was supposed to have said,
  "America's headache is an inside job." It sure looks like it
  was forming.
  Hope you received the information you wish to obtain. Will
  close by saying I enjoy your writings very much.
     Many thanks for them,
      Mrs. Mae Kenyon, Richland Center.

Page 32 

Tales The Tombstones Tell - Republican Observer - April 12, 1956

"Buried at Duncans Mills, California"
 So it reads on a tombstone in the Sextonville cemetery. But say tales from Duncans Mills the tombstone is not correct. The story is an odd one, and concerns Van Buren McCollum and was written by Joseph Schafer, was principal of the Sextonville schools back in 1891-92 and later became head of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Assisting Mr. Schafer in preparing the story was Charles McCollum, a nephews of Van Buren McCollum.
 The stone in the Sextonville cemetery reads: "Van Buren McCollum, born June 7, 1835, died June 7, 1899. Buried at Duncans Mills, California." That is the short and simple inscription upon the stone. To learn if he was buried at Duncans Mills or not the pages of time are turned back over the years.
 From now on the story is written by Mr. Schafer and Charles McCollum: "Many of the McCollum family came to Sextonville and Twin Bluffs away back when. There was however one exception. Sometime in the fall of 1891 the sleepy little community of Sextonville awoke to the presence within their midst of a genuine adventurer. He was a stocky bearded man, who already seemed old to us young people but who could not have been over 45 years. He was referred to as one of the McCollums who for many years had lived in distant and little known foreign land and who was now making a first visit in a generation to his parents and kindred in his old Wisconsin home. Friends called him 'Van', his full name was Van Buren.
 The adventurer remained in the Sextonville community during the winter and in the spring went away, we assumed to his island home in the South Pacific among the Polynesians and a few French, who made that region their home, or at least their stopping place. Forty-eight years later this writer (Joseph Schafer), recalling some of the tales then heard about Van McCollum, wondered if his story could be resurrected for the benefit of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. A letter to Elmer McCollum, of Richland Center, a nephew of Van's, was relayed to Charles McCollum, Elmer's older brother, brought results and he supplied the sketch which in part follows:
 "Van Buren McCollum, the eldest son of Dr. Asa and Hodossah McCollum, was born in Leicester, Mass. He commenced his schooling in the public schools where some of the time Miss Clara Barton was the teacher. He applied himself to his books and became a great reader. This probably combined with his adventureous, roving disposition caused him to wander away (from Sextonville, his home from his 16th year) toward the setting sun, no more to see the home of his youth and friends 'till 30 or more years had passed by. He headed west to the Pacific coast.
 "He was a wonderfully interesting letter writer and I (Charles McCollum ) was the official letter writer for the family.  Not strange that my first correspondent was this far away uncle, to me so endowed with romance and mysticism. I was always happy to write to him and I never lost my childhood interest in him and we kept up a correspondence until his death. When my letter writing days were at hand he was located at Tar-o-hae, Marquesas islands. These are the islands so rapturously sung by poets, were a fitting abode for my poet uncle, and he was very happy there.
 "During a South Sea Island cruise by Robert Louis Steverson, the two exchanged poems and Stevenson sent my uncle a poem describing him as 'Bard McCollum.'
 "In 1891 Van visited his parents, sisters and brothers, whom he had not seen for 30 years, at the old Sextonville home. It was a happy reunion and all the family rejoiced over the wandered's return. His father died that winter of influenza. Van contracted the disease, and it left him with a bronchial infection from which he never recovered. In the spring he returned to his beloved islands, feeling sure the balmy climate would restore his health, but it failed to do so completely. He stopped over at Duncans Mills, California, among the redwoods and went on to the island. In 1899 he was so ill that he decided to return to Wisconsin where he would be with his relatives. When he reached San Francisco he decided to go to Duncans Mills again. There he died June 7, 1899, on his 64th birthday. The kindly old man had made many friends at Duncans Mills and he was shown great respect.

Page 33

 "Realtives who visited his grave found it covered with calla lilies. However, death did not stop his travels, for eventually his grave, was found open and the body gone. He had been regarded with much love by the native islanders and a party of them came searching for the grave. They learned where he had, been laid to rest and it is thought that they opened the grave and took the body back to the palm studded islands. But this will never be known. It would be a fitting end to the story if we could record that the kindly old man was taken back to the isles he so dearly loved and laid to rest among the people to whom he had endeared himself."
 There the story ends. The tombstone in the Sextonville cemetery says he was buried at Duncans Mills, yet the grave contains no body and the island natives won't talk.
 As Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote a poem for Mr. McCollum it might be possible that, besides himself, he had Van in mind when he wrote this:
  "Under the wide and starry sky,
   Dig the grave and let me lie.
   Glad did I live and gladly, die
   And I laid me down with a will.
   This be the verse you grave for me:
   Here he lies where be longed to be;
   Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
   And the hunter home from the hill."

Another Mystery
 The Sextonville cemetery contains another mystery of why some carvings are put upon monuments. On the stone which stands upon the grave of a woman is inscribed these words:
  Charlotte, wife of W. H. Atwood, Died April 15, 1864,
  aged 46 years.  Slighted on Earth but Accepted in Heaven
 It is the last seven words that cause wonderment. They mean
something but why were they put upon the stone? Do you know the story; if you do let us know.
S. F.

LETTERS - Republican Observer - March 15, 1956

     Beloit, Wis., Feb. 29
Dear Steve and Staff:
 Enjoy your articles on "Tales the Tombstones Tell" and was very interested in the tale of the "Yanceys."
 James and Margaret Yancey were friends of my grandmother, Jeminia Stout. When she was a young lady she taught school and boarded with the Yanceys, who lived in what we always called "Schoonover Hollow, (now Fiddier's Green). I think Kelley Cooper lives on the farm now. I have enjoyed so many good times at that home; as a child we lived "just over the hill" from them and my mother often visited there.
 Mr. Yancey died very sudden, in fact he arose one morning to start the kitchen fire, on hearing a thud Mrs. Yancey ran to the kitchen where he lay dead.
 She lived a widow for a few years, afterwards married Wm. Francis who was Mrs. George Beatty's father.
 Aunt Margaret, as we always called her, never had a family, and as to why they came to Wisconsin I am not able to tell. I am not sure that Mrs. Yancey wasn't an acquaintance of my great grandparents as they too came from Gilmer county, West Va. Their names were McNamer, my great grandfather's name was Philip McNamer.
 Hope this bit of information will help you a little.
 Enjoy the home paper, couldn't be without it though so few one remembers after the years have passed.
    Pearl LeMoine Larson,
    2125 Forest Ave., Beloit

Page 34

Tales The Tombstones Tell  -  Republican Observer  -  May 3, 1956

The Aristocrat of Tramp Printers

 Perhaps the most famous and most colorful of traveling printers back in the days when all type was set by hand, was Colonel Ike Busby. Some of these printers were called "tramp printers," "printers on the move." They were never long in one place; some were shiftless and could not be relied upon. Col. Busby was a good printer, smart as a whip and
was a welcome visitor at printing offices in the smaller towns.

 Col. Busby is buried in the Richland Center cemetery and perhaps there are less than two dozen persons living in Richland Center today who ever seen or heard of him. He made infrequent visits the city in the days long gone. He came to visit his sister, Mrs. F. P. Bowen, and his brother Harry. He mingled but little with the citizens of the town, spent the greater share of his time at the newspaper offices reading the exchanges and daily papers, or at his sister's home reading rare books. He was well posted on all subjects. He wore a high plug hat and carried a gold headed umbrella.

 Mr. Busby was born in Sparta, New York, and started to learn the printers trade in Angelica, New York, when he was 16 and began his life as a "wandering journalist" some three years later. He came to Wisconsin, worked on daily papers in Milwaukee, the Sentinel being one of them. About 1856 he was located at Beaver Dam when troubleous times commenced in the south and spread to Kansas. Men from New England, the middle west, all upholders  of the starry banner of the free, hurried to Kansas where the south was sending the slave holding element to contest with freedom for the mastery. Mr. Busby was one of these who went to Kansas in 1856 to help made it a free state.

Meets John Brown

 In company with other kindred spirits he fitted out a couple of "prairie schooners" and set sail for "bleeding Kansas." The party landed at Lawrence, in Douglas county, the mecca of all Free State men then going into the territory. Here he formed the acquaintance of John Brown who became known far and wide in song and story. You have heard of him through the song which went something like this: "John Brown's body lies a moulding in the grave, but his soul goes marching on," or

    "We'll hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree;
     We'll hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree
     We'll hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree
     While his soul goes marching on."

 Busby was on the firing line with Brown, slept with him under the same blanket when history was rapidly being made. In those times it was necessary for printers in Lawrence to keep their long-barreled rifles leaning against their type cases.

 At the outbreak of the Civil War, Busby joined the 1st Kansas volunteers. He participated in the battle of Wilson Creek and was a member of the bodyguard of General McPherson when the general was killed before Atlanta. He served four years in the war and was appointed major of the regiment in 1864 by the governor of Kansas. At the close of the war he was breveted lieutenant colonel by President Johnson.

 Page 35

 Following the Civil War Col. Busby took up his printer's stick, donned his silk plug hat, his broadcloth suit and took to the highways, making the rounds of newspaper offices. He denied being a tramp printer, saying he either paid his way or walked, wherever he went. Nor would he mingle with the tramp printers, holding himself aloof.  But the members of the wanderers fraternity claimed him as one of their own, conceding that he was an aristocrat of the nomads. He would stop on his travels at country churches to deliver a sermon or a lecture. One of the noteworthy incidents of his career as a traveling printer occured at the time of the death of President Garfield. He had drifted into the office of a small Indiana weekly just before the paper was ready to go to press. He noted no editorial expression upon the death of the president, went to the printer's case and set in type an editorial that was copied by leading papers and magazines throughout the United States.

 His visits to Richland Center were not frequent. He would come to town, go to the home of his sister Mrs. Bowen, and to the home of his brother.  Most every day during his stay in Richland Center he would visit the newspaper offices. His stay in town would vary from a week to two weeks at which time he would again take to the road. He never announced his coming or going; just disappeared, to be absent for several months.

 There was one man in Richland Center of whom he often spoke and would inquire about when he came to town. The man was A. B. Weigley, who for many years conducted a store here. Mr. Weigley, a likeable gentleman, was one of those old time merchants who "kept store" in the smaller towns and endeared themselves to the general public. Ike's relatives often wondered why he should inquire about Mr. Weigley; but Ike was close lipped in all his affairs but his relatives came to the conclusion that the reason was because Mr. Weigley, like Ike, wore a tall plug hat, an exact duplicate of the one worn by Mr. Busby. The later years of Mr. Weigley's life were not easy ones. Misfortune overtook him and finally his plug hat, one of his prize possessions of his life in the days of prosperity, wore out and he was unable to buy another one.

 Mr. Busby had passed on some years previous and his high silk, plug hat, in perfect condition, was presented to A. B. and life for him was again at high tide and he again appeared upon the streets and at his regular haunts about the town all dressed up. The hat gave Mr. Weigley much confidence and restored some of the pleasure lost. When Mr. Weigley, passed on he still had the high silk hat in his possession and all was well with the world.

 Mr. Busby's wanderings took him to Forest City, Minnesota, in 1906 and while employed by the Winnebago County Republican he wrote an article which was published in that paper July 4, 1906, and was probably the last he ever wrote. From that article a bit of the material for this story was taken.

 Then came the day in the summer when he paid another visit to the city. He sickened while here and entered a hospital in Madison where he died on October 19, 1906. Col. Busby is buried in the Richland Center cemetery, where his grave is marked by a simple G.A.R. emblem. Perhaps his soul, like that of his friend, John Brown, goes marching on. Taps were sounded for Col. Isaac Busby and he was laid to rest on the same lot with his brother, Harry.

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