Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Kresge Monument

The Kresge Monument
Salem Church Cemetery, Gilbert
A couple years ago I had stumbled upon the old Salem Church Cemetery, located on the northern edge of the small community of Gilbert. I had turned onto Gilbert Road looking for a place to turn around when I spotted the cemetery a short distance away at the junction of Gilbert and Long Mountain Roads.

Always curious when it comes to cemeteries, I immediately spotted a large monument next to Long Mountain Road that caught my curiosity. The large stone towered over the other stones on this sacred piece of land. After parking in the dirt lot on the opposite side of the road, I crossed it and entered through an old gate.

I carefully walked among the old stones toward the monument. At the base of the monument, on the backside of it, is a row of old stones. Studying the stones, I noted they were in a foreign language, one that I recognized as German, but had no clue exactly what was chiseled into them.

What I did find interesting is the different spellings of the same last name on the stones. The family name was spelled Kresge, Gresie, and Kersi, until the spelling of the name was settled on as Kresge.

Stepping to the front of the memorial, I was taken in by a magnificent carving of an Indian stalking a man and young boy, which I immediately interpreted as being father and son, with the father cutting down a tree. An inscription at the base of the monument reads

In memory of Conrad Kresge and Family
Pioneer settlers of Monroe County.
By their descendants in America.

Below the inscription was a row of brass plaques set into the base of the monument. I quickly realized that these plaques held the translation of German wording on the old stones at the rear of the memorial. While the main monument was dedicated on August 19, 1915, these plaques and the stone that they are set in were added in 1971. I learned that the old stones were originally located in front of the memorial, but at some point (I’m assuming it was in 1971 when the plaques were added to the memorial) they were reset at the rear of the memorial and the plaques were added.

The historic stones at the back of the Kresge Monument
Conrad settled in the region around 1745. He would marry Anna Margarethe Kohl and they would settle in the area of present day Effort, which is located a short distance north of Gilbert. Margarethe’s stone states she bore twelve children, lived to see eighty-three grandchildren and seventy-five great-grandchildren. 

A note about Anna Margarthe: I found it interesting that while her stone lists her name as Margarthe, many histories and official documents list her name as Anna Margarthe. I will refer to her as Margarthe in this entry due to it being the name on her tombstone.

I found it interesting that Conrad does not have a stone at the family monument. Digging into the family history, I discovered that this is because he is not buried within the boundaries of this cemetery. In fact, it is not known exactly where Conrad is buried. Most sources believe he rests in an unmarked grave at the cemetery in Effort, which was closer to the family homestead. Some other places state he may have been buried on the family homestead.

The life Conrad and Margarthe lived in the wilds of the Pocono Mountains was a harsh and trying one. They, like all of the settlers within this rugged terrain, dealt with attacks from the Delaware and Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War and then by the Iroquois Indians during the Revolutionary War.

The Kresge Monument
Note: Sebastion Kresge's mausoleum in the background
The scene on the front of the memorial tells the harsh reality of pioneer life. Conrad and Margarthe would lose their first child, daughter Anna, in infancy. Their next child was John, who was born in 1764. Sadly, John would not reach adulthood either.

In 1776, Conrad Kresge set out one morning to cut wood near the family homestead. On this particular journey he was accompanied by his twelve year old son, John. It happened on this day that a band of Indians would sweep through the area. One of the victims was young John Kresge who was shot and killed by an arrow; his lifeless body was scalped by the raiding party. According to family tradition, Conrad escaped by deflecting the arrows and tomahawks by using the axe he carried.

Wounded during the attack, Conrad was not able to join the party that went in search of the raiding Indians. According to family tradition, these wounds would actually save his life, as the party was ambushed by the Indians and massacred.

Sebastian S. Kresge, one of Conrad’s great-great-grandsons, is buried in a large mausoleum within the borders of the Salem Church Cemetery. His burial spot is the only mausoleum in the cemetery and is a short walk from the family memorial.

Sebastian would make his mark on the American landscape. A businessman by nature, in 1899 he founded the S.S. Kresge Company, which operated a number of five-and-dime stores with the first being opened in Detroit, Michigan. When the company was incorporated in 1911, it had grown to 150 stores. These stores would undergo a name change in 1962 becoming the national retailer K-Mart, the first mass market stores in America.

Interestingly, the monument for the Kresge family was completed by the Wenz Monument Company who also did the memorial for Aq.uila Henning. The story of his memorial can be found here: Aquila Henning  .

I paid my respects to the Kresge family, along with the other early pioneers of Monroe County, before leaving them slumbering for eternity. As always if you choose to visit the memorial, please do so with the respect this piece of land and those resting here deserve.

An undated postcard featuring the Kresge Monument
Post a part of the author's personal collection
A genealogical note: I’ve discovered that a number of newspaper articles about Sebastian. In many places he is listed as being the great-great-grandson of Conrad and Elizabeth Kresge, not Conrad and Margarthe. He is the great-grandson of Conrad and Elizabeth – this Conrad was the son of Conrad and Margarthe.

A note about the Salem Church Cemetery: I found two different sources that mention that the monument marking the graves of the Kresge Family, and many of the stones in this section of the cemetery, may not be located at the correct spot. The cemetery had undergone many years of neglect and many of the stones had been discovered resting along the edge of the cemetery. Donations had been taken and the stones were reset in the area it was believed they once stood. I have not been able to find an official statement if this is true or not.

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