A decade-plus search to unite a century-old stone, believed to be a crypt door, with the family of the late Jane (Dooley) Leeson, came to a successful end Friday when her great-great-great-grandson received the stone during a ceremony at Urbana Monument Company, 113 E. Church St.
Matt Leeson, of Elwood, Indiana, said he learned of the stone bearing his great-great-great-grandmother’s birthplace, birthdate, date of death, husband’s name and place of burial, through the website findagrave.com.
According to Leeson, Helen (Crowley) Liskowiak, owner of Urbana Monument Company, sought help from a friend in 2004 in hopes of one day handing the stone over to the Leeson family. Over the next 11 years, the stone and its inscription was posted on three websites (genealogy.com, findagrave.com and rootsweb.com), but no family members discovered the Internet postings until after Leeson registered to assume administrative control of his great-great-great-grandma’s memorial page on findagrave.com.
On April 15, 2014, he discovered the stone’s existence through an email from a findagrave.com contributor.
“Apparently, the stone was originally in a mausoleum prior to someone removing Jane’s body for burial in Indiana,” Leeson said. “Someone from this monument company (known as Bunnell Monument Works at the time) took the stone because it was a piece of flat white marble, but they never used it. It was probably a temporary stone, and they were going to re-sand it and use it again.”
Kathy Yontz, daughter of Mrs. Liskowiak and the late Edward Liskowiak, said her mom told her that in the early 1970s, the stone was discovered by a high school student hired to help clean out the basement of the business.
“He brought up a filthy, black-stained white marble marker that was covered over with dirt,” Yontz said. “Dad had him clean it up, and it has been sitting in the showroom ever since.”
Leeson said he was told the stone served as a conversation piece in the showroom for decades since the date of birth on the stone is 1793.
Not the first Leeson stone to be discovered
Friday’s stop was deja-vu for Leeson, who made a similar trip to Urbana over a decade ago after a similar stone/crypt door, belonging to Jane Leeson’s husband, the late Col. Richard Largent Leeson, was discovered.
In May 2004, Leeson arrived at the former location of Boldman Printing, 122 S. Main St., to pick up the stone bearing his great-great-great-grandfather’s birthplace, birthdate, date of death, burial place and service record (lieutenant in the First Ohio Militia during the War of 1812 before attaining the rank of colonel in the Indiana Militia in 1831).
The colonel’s stone, Leeson said, was discovered in 1979 by Doug Boldman, owner of Boldman Printing at that time.
Boldman told Leeson he believed the backside of the stone was used for decades as a place to mix printer’s ink. After he discovered the stone’s inscription, Bowman said, he placed it in the attic of his office building, where it remained for over two decades until Ben Peshek rediscovered it in early 2000 while cleaning the upper floor of the building.
In 2003, while searching through his mother’s attic, Leeson found a newspaper article telling of Boldman’s discovery. After a few calls, Leeson tracked down Peshek, who happened to still have the stone, which he had stored in his barn after claiming it while cleaning up Boldman Printing.
Original purpose of stones
Leeson said he has yet to come across a definitive answer as to why the stones were made, but his best guess is that his great-great-grandfather, also named Richard Leeson, had Bunnell Monument Works make the two stones to be placed in one of the Leeson family’s mausoleums.
“Richard’s stone actually has militia spelled wrong, his date of birth is off by two days and his date of death is off by 10 years,” Leeson said. “I believe another stone was going to be made to replace it, but time went by, family passed away and my second great-grandfather’s mausoleum (built in 1897) got full because two grandchildren had passed, which left no room for the stones.
“Richard’s stone then somehow found its way to the print shop, while Jane’s stayed at the monument company,” he added.
Leeson said his great-great-great-grandmother’s stone will be placed alongside her husband’s stone in their son’s mausoleum in Elwood, Indiana.
“I will have Richard’s stone corrected,” Leeson said. “Eventually, I’m going to have a tombstone made for both stones, and it will be placed outside the mausoleum.”
History of monument company
Christine Roby, manager of Urbana Monument Company, said for the past 147 years, a monument company has operated continuously at 113 E. Church St.
“In 1868, Daniel Bunnell began Bunnell Monument Works at this location, selling and manufacturing memorials, mausoleums and other works of art,” she said, noting the Bunnell family sold the business to the Enright family, which then sold the business in 1948 to the current owners – the Liskowiak family. Since March 2014, Roby Memorial Design & Lettering in London has been managing the business operations.
In regards to the origin of the Leeson stones, Roby said, Urbana Monument Company has the original paperwork in which the Leeson family contracted with Bunnell Monument Works in the early 1900s to construct a mausoleum and statuaries following the passing of DeEllery Leeson, grandson of Richard and Jane Leeson.
This contract between the Leeson family and Bunnell Monument Works, Roby said, explains why both stones were found in Urbana over a century after they were believed to have been made.
Joshua Keeran can be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.