Old washing machines. Garden tools. Overworked water heaters.
These are some things that one might expect to find in the basement of an average multifamily unit in a place like Allston-Brighton. I was born and spent most of my life in the Boston neighborhood, and I’ve been in more than a couple of cellars. None of which prepared me for what I stumbled upon on a fall night last September.
While moving friends into a unit of the Allston home I’ve spent the past four years in, I came to find a crawl space to a closet tucked under a staircase in a section of the basement once occupied by former tenants. Out of curiosity, I opened the door and discovered what looked like an excellent Halloween prop for the upcoming season. After taking a closer look, though, the find proved to be far more interesting. Sitting on top of an old bag of concrete was the tombstone of a child who lived from 1889-1893. The inscriptions on the stone featured a resting lamb at the top and read:
T.N. & I.C. FEEZOR
Feb. 7, 1889
Aug. 30, 1893.
After setting aside my initial amazement, I began researching former homeowners and city records of past residents. Interestingly, I found that the house I live in was not approved for construction until 1905—12 years after Claudie’s passing. With no record that a Feezor ever owned the place, and a discrepancy in dates, I started searching on ancestry sites.
Hours of searching led to a man named Thomas N. Feezor, who married one Ida C. Waldrop in the 1880s just outside of Paducah, Kentucky. Though the initials T.N. and I.C. could have been a coincidence, I dug deeper. Listed descendants of Thomas and Ida were Elgie, Ivy, Odus, James, and Rubie, but no Claudie.
Initially disheartened by an apparent dead end, I began searching for records of the listed children of Thomas and Ida. From there I discovered that all of their children died young, leading me to believe that there still may be a link to my basement.
Continued searches yielded photographs of the burial sites of the Feezor children located in a small cemetery in Graves County, Kentucky. To my amazement, I found family stones that were identical to the stone in my basement—right down to the engraved lamb.
With a fair degree of certainty, I continued to research this particular Feezor family—poring over census records, pulling death certificates, contacting historical societies. As I expected would happen, most people were skeptical of my asking about a tombstone found over a thousand miles from the speculated burial site.
In an effort to link Claudie to Thomas and Ida, I tried pulling the 1890 census records for Graves County, the only such public report he would have appeared in. To my disappointment, the 1890 Graves County census was destroyed in a fire in 1921. Dead ends continued to arise.
On a whim, while discussing progress in my mission with a friend, I joked that I should go to feezor.com to find the source of the stone. Following a hunch, I found that the domain was unclaimed. Yet to my amazement, feezor.org was not.
The website featured an extensive list of descendants—two of which were Thomas N. and his spouse, Ida C. Unlike the initial research from ancestry sites, this family tree listed Claudie as having been a son of Thomas and Ida, the first such link to the family I had been researching.
I reached out to the creators of the website, but inquiries went unreturned. Countless emails and Facebook messages were sent to possible family members, all of whom I tried to assure that my outreach was not ill-willed or nefarious.
In time, I was finally able to make contact with a Feezor family member—a woman named Linda who had done some research on her ancestral history. Several calls with Linda helped to shed light on her family, and most importantly, led to the discovery of the likely location of Claudie’s burial site.
With questions still open about how and when a tombstone from a Kentucky made it out to Allston and into a basement, some of the surface mysteries were coming to a close. In our conversation, Linda detailed a visit she took in 2007 to a private family cemetery. It was the first time she had been there in decades, and while looking over the stones of her relatives, she took special notice of the graves of several Feezor children who passed at a young age. At the end of a particular row of those graves, she said, was the base of a stone where a headstone had clearly been removed. Given the visible aging of the other monuments, Linda assumed that the missing piece had deteriorated.
As a result of our discussion, Linda now believes this is the location of Claudie’s burial site. And there’s much more background: Linda’s grandfather was Thomas N. Feezor, the father of Claudie. In 1912, Ida passed away, leaving Thomas widowed along with two children—Ivy (15) and Odus (9). Shortly after Ida’s death, Thomas married Mary Kelly, Linda’s grandmother. Thomas and Mary had two children who lived into old age and themselves raised families just outside of Paducah.
In addition to identifying the likely location of Claudie’s burial site, Linda also shared that in her extended family’s possession is a Feezor family bible handed down from Thomas. Scrawled on a page in the book is a list of Thomas’ ancestors and descendants. Claudie is listed as having passed in 1893.
While I am relieved to have identified the location of Claudie’s burial site, I’m still perplexed as to how his headstone wound up in my basement. After months of researching, calling experts, and finally speaking with a member of the family, I was able to mail the stone back to Kentucky, where it was returned to Linda. She plans to have it reaffixed to the base when the weather warms up.
Though the whole backstory may never be known, I’m still obsessed with the travels of the sacred slab. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit researching it already, from looking into the origins of my house and scouring each and every inch of the basement for additional clues, to taking days off from work to check old city records at the BPL with the hopes of finding links to Kentucky.
Was it the result of a college prank? Something more sinister? It’s possible that nobody will ever find out how a 19th-century child’s tombstone would up in my Allston basement. For now, I’m just glad that it’s back home where it belongs.