Mystery of the 'unknown child' is not forgotten

Monday, June 20, 2011
Rural Bloomfield resident Brenda Combs places some toys on the grave of an unnamed infant at Fairview Cemetery. Combs has been decorating the grave for several years. (By Nick Schneider)

There's plenty of mystery surrounding the grave of an unnamed infant that is marked with a simple small stone at Linton's Fairview Cemetery.

For years now, many have wondered about the identity of the infant who's buried in a plot in the "Babyland" section of the cemetery.

The stone reads: "Unknown child that will not be forgotten."

Rural Bloomfield resident Brenda Combs is one who's saddened that this baby isn't identified.

She's a regular visitor to the grave site -- seasonally decorating it with flowers.

On Thursday, she was there placing artificial red roses, and a variety of children's trinkets and toys like a small dinosaur, a baby rattle, a yellow plastic duck, plastic animals and a tiny pair of flip-flop shoes around the small headstone.

"It has always bothered me. I've got some other friends buried in here. I've been seeing it (the grave) for at least four years and started decorating it. I don't know the story behind it. I would like to find out. I think that it is awful. I decided to start decorating it just because I see all of these other little kids and they've got mommies and daddies and families and this is one (grave) that nobody ever attends too. This baby has got to belong to somebody. I just think somebody needs to take care of it. ... Actually, this just breaks my heart," Combs said.

Cemetery caretaker Larry Fulford, who's been on the job for the last 19 years, is another person who has not forgotten about this baby.

He has spent time combing through some of the old records of nearly 12,000 grave plots trying to piece together the scenario that led to this unsolved dilemma.

Fulford explained that there were three burial plots purchased years ago in the "flag pole section" -- probably in the 1930s -- by a Linton family, who has since moved to Illinois.

In more recent times -- four or five years ago -- there was a death in that family and when the cemetery workers opened the grave site for the burial, they discovered a small handmade wooden casket was already in the plot.

The casket and its contents was in a decomposing state -- literally falling apart, according to Fulford.

The family that owned the plot told Fulford they were unaware anyone was buried there.

"When we went to dig we found a baby in a wood box," Fulford said.

Some time passed and the three grave sites were sold to other family members.

There used to be a headstone, but Fulford said when the family moved way they came in and moved the stone.

"This (Linton) family bought the spaces thinking they got all three spaces that were empty. But it wasn't. So we moved the baby," Fulford recalls. "Still nobody knew who it was. The ones that owned the space said they wanted it (the baby) moved ... they (the family) denied knowing who it was ... I think they didn't want to pay to get the baby moved."

The remains were then moved and buried again at the city's expense to their current final resting spot that is marked by a gravestone that was purchased by a woman from the Linton area, who wants to remain anonymous, Fulford explained.

There was no vault.

"They didn't start making baby vaults until much later. They usually just buried them in wood boxes," Fulford said.

The cemetery caretaker says he doesn't want to identify the family that owns the plot sites, who still has relatives living in the Linton area, because he's still looking into the matter.

Fulford has a theory.

Fulford doesn't necessarily think there is anything sinister or criminal involved, but he added, "I can't find any record of it. I've been sifting through some old records."

The caretaker said the couple that used to own the plot were born in 1911 and 1915, so he thinks the baby could have died in the 1930s.

"They (the family) know who is there, but they didn't want to pay to get it moved. It was a family thing ... they all moved to Illinois and didn't want to pay to move that baby," Fulford noted. "It was their grave spaces and they wanted the baby moved and they gave me permission and I moved it. It was their lots and nobody else wanted to claim it."

Fulford estimated it might have cost about $300 to move the body to another grave site.

Fulford said there are many other unmarked graves on the north side of the cemetery, which dates back to 1898.

The cemetery was established on the old Letterman Farm, who was operated by family members of current television talk show celebrity David Letterman.

"His family is buried up on the hill," Fulford commented.

"Back in the 1930s during the depression these families didn't have the money for monuments. And a lot of the Civil War veterans don't have markers," Fulford said in pointing out that he does have records for nearly all of the unmarked graves. "I can find them if they have been put in the book."

However, a 1972 fire did destroy some of the cemetery records, so Fulford is now trying to piece together the history of this small baby.

"I've seen it in the past. They forget to write something down and that might be it. I've got the family name and I'm going to call the courthouse (health department office) and see if they've got anything on file about an infant," Fulford said. "They would have to have a death certificate."

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  • I have buried an infant and know what it is like to lose a child. I hope for the sake of the infant and the family that you can find out who the child is and who he/she belongs to. God bless the family who did not claim the lost child. I will keep that child in my thoughts and prayers.

    -- Posted by fjkbwa1996 on Fri, Jun 17, 2011, at 4:01 PM
  • I pray the name of this child will be revealed - and he or she can have a proper headstone! Rest in peace unknown child....and thank you to the unidentified woman who owns the burial plots.

    -- Posted by cruella on Fri, Jun 17, 2011, at 7:55 PM
  • I also buried a baby and know firsthand the heartache I can't imagine why someone would not want to claim that precious baby.

    -- Posted by vanilla on Fri, Jun 17, 2011, at 8:02 PM
  • It sounds as if the family thought that public knowledge of the child may have brought shame to their family name for some reason.

    Although we might never know who is buried in that grave of the circumstances surrounding their life and death, God knows exactly who they are. That innocent child was welcomed into heaven and has never been neglected or forgotten since.

    -- Posted by wesa0923 on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 2:00 AM
  • our heavenly father knows and truly it is all that matters, and the concerns and prayers of many who care, He sees your heart. bless the young woman that attends to this burial site...

    -- Posted by sueson on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 3:01 AM
  • God bless Brenda Combs...

    -- Posted by les-y on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 9:29 AM
  • I buried my son to he died at birth and i really hope they can find out about this baby he/she deserves to be identified and God bless Brenda for taking her time to care for this childs grave...

    -- Posted by My business on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 3:03 PM
  • God has this little baby in Heaven! Thank you, Brenda, for caring enough to take care of the gravesite. That's awesome!

    -- Posted by charsellsavon on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 3:50 PM
  • I lost an infant son and it is a pain you never forget and then lost another son some years later and if that poor little baby still has family around they should not it was born. That many years ago most likely aren't any family around that know it was here on earth for such a short time .

    God Bless Brenda caring for the little grave.

    She is a wonderful person .

    -- Posted by on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 5:51 PM
  • This story surely stirs the emotions of many readers. Perhaps it will also prompt us to put compassion into action toward those around us who are neglected. The effort it requires will pale in the blessings for having done so. (Matthew 25:31-46)

    Thank you, Brenda, for letting your light shine--not only in this act of love--but in the many ways your kindness is an example worthy of following!

    -- Posted by Kay Morrison on Sat, Jun 18, 2011, at 9:21 PM
  • How old was the infant? Was it small enough to be a newborn? If that's the case, it may have been that the child was stillborn. A very sad thought, but it the baby wasn't born alive, then there wouldn't be a birth certificate. I also think that if a child is stillborn, there is no death certificate either. I might be wrong about the death certificate, but do know that stillborn babies are not given birth certificates. Very sad... :(

    -- Posted by GirlyGirl21 on Mon, Jun 20, 2011, at 3:29 PM
  • I am so sad to see such a thing in our town of Linton. The death of a Baby is so hard and not to know who this baby is hurts my heat. We should have a prayer and I think someone can help put a name on this Baby. God bless this BABY.

    -- Posted by NewHouse on Mon, Jun 20, 2011, at 11:47 PM
  • I am proud to say I am a friend of Brenda Combs and you have captured a small sampling of the kindness and loving nature that she exemplifies. Her love is boundless and her reward, though she would never expect one, will be in her crown in Heaven.

    -- Posted by Dana Fulton on Tue, Jun 21, 2011, at 8:01 PM
  • Why could a trade for other lots not be negotiated in this case so as not to disturb the unknown child's place of rest. Why do we put "ownership of property" above human decency.

    -- Posted by Timothy E. Jones on Wed, Jun 22, 2011, at 9:42 AM
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