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Headstone from 1800s unearthed outside Chatfield business

CHATFIELD, Minn. (KTTC) – A piece of history is uncovered during a major road construction project. A headstone dating back from the late 1870s.

Work crews discovered the headstone on September 5th in front of the Chatfield Body Shop.
They were doing concrete paving there as part of a project along Highway 52.

The unearthing of the estimated 200 pound stone block surprised those who saw it that day.

“This is how they found the stone when they came in to get us,” said Chatfield Body Shop owner Bill Burk.

The inscription shows it belonged to Almira Caw, who was married to Joseph Caw. The Caw family was among the early settlers of Chatfield.

“We went out and said it’s hard to believe that there was something like this out there,” said Burk.

But the big question is, how did it get from a cemetery to roadside? Chatfield Cemetery Board member Kurt Dudek had an idea about that.

“My guess is that she probably died earlier, because you notice the date, her death date was 1879 which is long before any of [her family members]”, said Dudek. “So they probably had her at a very, very rural cemetery or someplace that there wasn’t a lot of graves.”

Dudek estimates that it might have been in the late 1880s that the Caw’s bought a family grave site and moved Almira to her final resting place. After that, the original headstone was used for something else.

“It was just used as fill,” said Dudek. “The stone was just discarded and used as fill and that’s how it got there. There wouldn’t have had any need for it.”

Dudek is hoping to get the old headstone and have it permanently placed at Almira’s final resting place. Dudek also says cemetery records would be updated, giving Almira her own identity. Up until now she was known as Mrs. Joseph Caw, which was common practice back then.

Sarah Gannon

Sarah Gannon

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