DALTON An Akron woman is feeling happiness and relief from being able to bring some closure to a family history mystery, and also from experiencing the kindness she was shown – especially in Dalton – as she pieced the puzzle together.
A new gravestone was placed in the village cemetery last month following a journey through time that took Kathy Musser Henson back 100 years to when her grandmother was a young woman.
Since this spring, Musser Henson developed a newfound respect for her beloved grandmother, Erma V. Musser.
A request by a nephew seeking military service records and more information about the name William, which ran in the family, prompted Mus-ser Henson to sort through a box of photos and family documents she had inherited in 1995 when her grandmother passed away at age 92.
Musser Henson found a deed from the Dalton Cemetery in her grandmother’s name dated Dec. 30, 1921. This was a surprise because Erma Musser is buried in Clinton Cemetery next to her second husband, Wayne.
Born Erma Horst in 1902 in Dalton to Jacob and Mary Horst, Erma grew up in a large Mennonite family of 10 children and lived most of her life in Wayne County.
Musser Henson began to do some research online and discovered her family has a stronger link to Dalton than she previously thought.
Happy childhood memories float to the surface of Musser Henson’s mind when she thinks of her grandparents. She recalls family reunions, going to church with her grandmother and visits to Dalton, Kidron and Marshallville. At the same time, she also knew the strong faithful woman had experienced much heartbreak a century ago as a young mom. The family long had been aware that Erma had lost two infants. She had raised two other children to adulthood: a son, Vernon, who was Kathy Musser Henson’s father; and a daughter, Patty. So as she dug into her family’s past,
Musser Henson was surprised to learn that her grandmother had endured even greater loss that neither she nor other family members talked about. Musser Henson discovered her grandmother had lost a total of five children as infants, and they are all buried in the Dalton Cemetery. Three died from pneumonia and a twin daughter and son were born prematurely and lived only a few hours. Musser Henson and her mother, Gladys, made the trip a few months ago to Dalton to see the two headstones for two of the babies, William and Warren.
Musser Henson became determined not only to find out as much information as she could about her family so she could fill in her family tree and pass along accurate information to future generations, but also to honor the relatives who would have been her aunt and uncles by giving them proper recognition with a grave marker. Musser Henson acknowledged a mystery remains about why her grandmother didn’t erect gravestones for the other three. Was the reminder too painful? Was it too costly?
“We’ll never know,” she said, “but we know they were here. We know they existed. Part of the story is better than none of the story. … the babies have a marker and my grandparents are recognized as their parents and that’s nice. For all that my grandparents did for my brothers and I when my dad passed away … It’s just a small thing I can do to say thank you to them. They meant the world to us and they still do.”