One of my favorite things to do is taking a road trip. Just hitting a road and visiting places you haven’t been to yet. On the last day of January, I got to do just that. For the last couple of weeks I had been corresponding with Miss Kay Murphy, who is the Great-Granddaughter of Bertha Gifford and the author of Tainted Legacy. (Which is a great read and is available through Amazon.com) She in turn introduced me to Ginger Justus who is a well-known historian and “cemetery-hopper.”
When Ginger found out that I was planning on visiting Bertha, she had asked me to let her know when I would be going so she could visit as well. We made plans to meet up at the cemetery where Bertha is buried in Morse Mill. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, so let me back up.
I stayed up the night before due to the fact that I’m a night owl and usually don’t go to bed until four or five in the morning. Working the second shift affords me the situation which I do like. Me and my mom, with my four year-old niece Jayden had to to go Warrenton to pick up Max and then head back down to Bonne Terre but with a few short stops along the way. (We also brought Jake and Maxie which we thought would be enjoyable but turned out to be a disaster. Never again.) I was on edge pretty much the way up to Warrenton because of the dogs because I had planned to take a nap and couldn’t.
After picking up some food and soda for the trip we headed towards first Washington, Mo (hate crossing that bridge) and then to Pacific where I stopped at Brush Creek Cemetery to visit the graves of Ed and Ludelphia Brinley. (Ed was the last known victim of Bertha) After wandering the cemetery for a few minutes, I finally did find their graves. It was a surreal moment because it was the first graves of someone connected to Bertha I had found outside of the Stuhlfelders who are buried at St. Patrick’s Church, where my son Gregory is buried.
After leaving the cemetery we headed into Pacific where I discovered the Diamond Inn Restaurant was torn down. (It had been closed for several years) Going past D’Angelo’s brought back fond memories working at that place . It’s where I learned to wait tables and also ate toasted ravioli for the first time. We then parked alongside St. Louis Street and I made my way up the street taking pictures of some of the older buildings. I couldn’t tell you how many times I visited and walked down that sidewalk and not thought of the history of that road and never understood who exactly walked where I did. I finally came to the little grocery store called “Pacific Foods” where it’s rumored “Uncle” Jimmy Powers pharmacy once stood, right across the street from the old movie theater. I then turned around and walked back towards the van and soon finding out another old building (and haunted at that) had been torn down, too.
Knowing that it was starting to get late we then proceeded to St. Patrick’s Church where Gregory is buried. I hadn’t been there since February of 2009 and it was another surreal moment for me as I sank to my knees and visited with my son. It’s sucks and a damn shame I didn’t get to share life with him but I love him far more than anyone can possibly realize. Mom, Max, and jayden visited as well but left so I could mourn by myself.
I then went to visit the Stuhlfelders and that was when it got interesting. There are three graves I know of that are marked. Mary Catherine Stuhlfelder, George Stuhlfelder, and Bernard Stuhlfelder. (George and Bernard’s were relativly knew stones) There was also one marked as Baby Stuhlfelder and I don’t know who’s that was. The two little girls Margaret and Irene are supposedly buried by their grandmother. (Mary Catherine) As I was visiting, Jayden came up and asked me who these people were. I told her and she walked away. I then heard the whisper of a little girl saying, “Where is she going?” I replied, “Back to her grandma.” The little girl (who was joined by another small girl, both presumably the Stuhlfelder girls) then told me to tell her bye and ask her to come and visit again. I walked over to Jayden and told her. Jayden asked where they were at and I told her over by the fence and told her they were waving at her. Jayden smiled and waved back. The two little girls smiled themselves and disappeared. After telling my mom, she kind of freaked out but I told her it was okay.
It was finally on to Morse Mill Cemetery. After texting Ginger to let her know I was on my way there, we left St. Patrick’s and headed down Highway FF down to Highway 30 where we crossed over to Highway B. Within five minutes, we were in Morse Mill. Not ever seeing the cemetery before we passed it and ended up finding the Morse Mill Hotel where Bertha and her first husband Henry Graham once operated. Finally after getting directions we found the cemetery. I quickly found Bertha’s grave.(I think she led me there) After visiting and introducing myself I felt a gentle warm breeze of acceptance and then proceeded to take some pictures. (I never did find Sherman Pounds grave)
Finally Ginger arrived and after introducing ourselves, we finally walked to see Bertha together. It was a real surreal moment for me. The only thing that would have made it better was if Kay had been there. (I hope to get to visit with Kay this summer and visit with Bertha together) Me and Ginger talked for quite awhile about many things; about Bertha, Kay, some ghost stories, spiritual encounters, and more remarkably she explained what a certain dream that keeps recurring for me. She then took a picture of me by Bertha and then I had Max take one of me, Ginger, and Bertha. As it was getting late and my travel companions were getting restless, me and Ginger parted ways with plans to do some cemetery hopping in the near future.
As I left Bertha, I thought and realized what this journey into her life has meant for me. It started out as a curiosity and along the way I’ve been pulled along a path that has led me to meet some very interesting people and visit some really cool places. I was naive of everything at the beginning but as I’ve searched and learned why I’m involved here. It’s not an accident. Bertha wanted me in it and she wanted me to meet both Kay and Ginger. I have no doubt of that. She has something planned up her sleeve and it’s going to be fun to figure out what it is. And as for Kay, to have her blessing on the website and her enthusiasm for my trip into Bertha’s life means all the world to me. Words cannot express all the gratitude I have for her. She is an amazing woman.
Sitting here typing all of this has been an achievement . This is my longest post so far and probably the one I’m most proud of. I can’t wait until I get to write something like this again.
Oh and I can’t forget to give a shout-out to my team, The New England Patriots who I will be rooting for later today as the face the New York Giants in the Superbowl. GO PATS!!!!!!
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