|Mina Etta "Ettie" Russell Humphreys (photo: J. Rubio)|
Ione, California is famously known for its archaic structure that towers above the small town, up on the top of the hillside known as Preston Castle. Years ago, I wrote a book on some of the famous and infamous events that took place at that castle as well as early history that had been long forgotten.
Well, it turns out that the castle isn't the only thing in town made from that dark red sandstone, which is the same color of the red clay hills that surround the area. There is one headstone in the Ione Public Cemetery that bears the same color and stone, too, which Preston Castle is best known for.
The stone was a mystery to many who would visit the cemetery. At first glance it appears that either time and the elements had washed away grooves into the stone, wiping the name and dates etched in the marker. It also appears that this could have been done by a person, too, but I hope that was not the case. Nevertheless, the identity of this grave had elluded many searching for it.
It was a hard thing, the first letters of the first name appear to be "ET" while the last letters of the last name read "WS" (or so we thought!) One thing clearly visible was the year of death, 1906. I searched the death records for Amador County based on the year, to no avail. I even did a search in the Find-a-grave database for the cemetery and the cemetery index for any person whose name matched those letters, in both first and last names. Still nothing.
It was after posting the photo above on Facebook that a few of my friends got involved to help me figure out this mystery. Robert Mitchell, who is a historical researcher out of Louisville, was able to figure out that her name was Ettie Humphreys (although the cemetery had it under the name Humphries).
I almost kicked myself when I saw the name, as I had come across that memorial on Find-a-grave during my initial search and disregarded it based on her last name not matching the letters on the headstone and because there was no biography posted about her. (If you visit her memorial now you will see that the contributor has since added a bio for her, which was after I posted my blog.)
Upon further research into the archived newspapers, the May 11, 1906 edition of the Amador Ledger reveals her tragic story.
|Amador Ledger, 5/11/1906|
Ettie married George Humphreys in Amador County on February 23, 1890. She was 19 years old and he was 31. George had two sons from his previous marriage, Miles and Jimmy, (both were born in 1882 and 1884). By 1900, the Humphreys' were living in the Consumnes Township of El Dorado County, and her legal name was stated as "Nina E. Humphreys." It is unknown when she moved back to Amador County.
According to the Amador Ledger article, Ettie was a "noble woman, always ready and willing to led a helping hand to those in need, and a loving mother, her first thought being of her boys." This is very telling, especially since the two boys were not her biological children. Her heart must have been extremely loving and open, because she died on her way to help those who were affected in the Great Earthquake of 1906. In fact, it was only three days after the earthquake that left the bay area devastated with destruction, that she was determined to go and help locate friends and family who were displaced after their homes were destroyed.
"On the evening of her death, Ettie, as she was known by all her friends, was accompanying a friend to East Oakland that they might obtain a pass to San Francisco, to locate relatives who had lost their homes during the disaster, but as she neared her destination she rose from her seat on the outside of the car while in motion, and was thrown to the sidewalk, striking her head on the pavement, which resulted in almost instant death."--
The "car" as it is mentioned must have been a street car or trolley of some sort. The article goes on the state that her body was brought to Ione, California for interment to be next to her mother, Eliza Jane Russell. The Rev. Hinkson of the Presbyterian Church conducted the services.
|Visiting Ettie's grave|
What is really neat about Ettie's grave, despite the fact that it is worn so badly you cannot read it, is that hers is the only red sandstone marker in the entire cemetery. Not only that, but in all the years I have been roaming cemeteries I have never come across a red sandstone marker like hers. That alone is a truly unique thing!
In ending, let us remember Mrs. Ettie Humphreys, a kind and caring woman who died on her way to help others. She was only 36 years old, and a mother of two boys. After learning of her life and death, I felt that I could relate to her in many ways, as I am about her age and also a mother of two boys. I can only imagine that her last thoughts were of her husband and those two boys.
To Ettie Humphreys, may you never be forgotten ever again!
|Ettie is buried next to her mother, Eliza Jane Russell (photo: J. Rubio)|
Originally published on Sept. 14, 2016 on my Dreaming Casually Blog,
Thank you Rob Mitchell for all your help!
1870 Census, Ohio
1900 Census, Amador County
Amador Ledger, May 11, 1906
California, Amador County Marriages 1850-1952