Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 28, 2002

Revisiting the local legend of 'Hanah's grave'

By Ryan Gueningsman

It has been 120 years since a two-month-old girl named Hanah Easterling died in Woodland Township. Today, although the grave stone is no longer at the site ­ her legacy lives on.

'Hanah's Grave,' as it's called by the locals, was a popular hangout spot for youth. Hanging out at a grave is not a common thing ­ unless there is a story behind it.

It seems that a long time ago, a ghost story was told among some high school students about a mother killing her children and putting them in a common grave. Someone later killed her and she was put into the grave with her children.

Supposedly, at midnight, the windmill on her farm would begin to turn ­ breeze or not ­ to let people know her ghost was there. People said the mother's name was Hanah.

In actuality, the mother's name was not Hanah ­ it was Mary. Mary (Holbrook) Easterling and her husband Stephen were married Sept. 7, 1867 in Carter, Ky.

They moved to Woodland Township near Waverly in 1883 with their daughter Malissa. After they arrived, they had at least six more children, one who was named Hanah.

Hanah was born Nov. 28, 1881 and died two months later Jan. 12, 1882.

There was a gravestone at the burial site that had writing on four sides. One side read "Children of Mr. and Mrs. S. F. Easterling; Gone from our home but not from our hearts." On the other three sides was the names of four children ­ Hanah, Lara, Levi, and John.

"It's just a wild guess," neighbor Barb Bakeberg said. "but I think the kids probably had the Rh blood factor, which was hereditary, and died from that."

There were probably more graves at the site, but some were moved to the cemeteries in Howard Lake, Waverly, and Winsted.

It is not known if the stones are where the homestead was. The stones have since been removed and very little actually remains of where the graves are.

"Some of the markers were made of wood, and those deteriorate over time," Bakeberg said.

She recalls that since the legend started back in the late '50s or early '60s, she has seen everything from a car being set on fire, to parties, drinking, and even sheets being placed in the trees to scare people.

"Sometimes, guys would bring their girlfriends there to scare them," she said. "One time, a girl got so scared she broke into a house ­ she was hysterical.

"Someone also got ahold of a dummy and tied it to the bridge, which used to run over the road right before the graves.

"People would also hook their cars onto the bridge and try to pull it ­ that's one of the reasons they got rid of it."

The windmill, which stood just down the road from the graves, has also since been taken down.

"They took that down two or three years ago," Bakeberg said. "Now that they took that down, it's died down a lot out here."

One look back

(As told by Bernie Reardon to Suzanne Atkinson for a Howard Lake-Waverly Herald student feature Nov. 12, 1986.)

Back in the 1960s, students would use an abandoned barn located by the windmill as a hangout, because it was down a long driveway and completely surrounded by cornfields.

The parents of one of these kids saw a great opportunity for a practical joke. Knowing the students hung- out there, they told the students that a man had killed his wife on that farm.

At midnight, on a full moon, she would come back looking for something. People could tell she was there because the windmill would turn and the pump would start up.

The parents rigged up a motor and a timer to go off at exactly midnight, starting the pump and making the windmill turn.

As soon as that happened, the kids tore out of there, scared out of their wits. Although the story wasn't true, the parents sat on the road laughing at the great joke they had played on their children.

However, that didn't solve anything. It just started a legend that has lasted more than 20 years.

Another version

(As written by Traci Hertzog for the Trinity News Tribune, April 1989. Spelling was left the same as original article.)

Is Hanna alive?

Hanna's grave. You know the name. The desolate field, the lone and unpredictable windmill, the patch in which Hanna lies ­ or does she?

Maybe you don't know the story, or at least not all of it. Does anyone really know the whole story, or is there even a story to tell?

Over the years the legend of Hanna (the albino lady) has been told and retold, and each time there seems to be something different about the story from the last time you heard it.

Some stories mention Indians; others tell of a disease or sickness, and so on. Each teller has his or her own version, and here is mine:

The year was sometime in the early 1900s. It was a time of disease and war. Hanna and her three children lived up by the mill, when smallpox hit the area and Hanna's children were infected with the disease.

At the same time, there was an Indian uprising that started. At that time, Hanna killed her kids and threw them down the well so the Indians wouldn't get them.

As the legend continues, Hanna was raped by the Indians, who killed her and cut up her body. Legend has it that at midnight, the old pump emits blood. But, since the pump has been broken down, I don't know what happens.

It seems that about 10 years or so ago, Hanna made a rare appearance. It was late at night when a carload of kids was driving by the grave. They saw an albino lady walking on the side of the road.

She seemed to be hurt, so they picked her up and brought her into St. Mary's Hospital, where she was checked in.

Later on that night, when the nurses went to check on her, she was gone ­ just disappeared.

So that's the legend as I've heard it. Maybe it's true, and maybe it's just a campfire ghost story.

The truth about Hanah

Letter to the editor, from Gladys (Mauk) Triplett, Howard Lake
Nov. 4, 2002

I would like to respond to the article of Legend of Hanah's grave that appeared in last week's paper.

Hanah was an ancestor of mine (great aunt) so I feel I would like to take this opportunity to set the records straight as best I can.

My great grandparents Stephen and Mary (Holbrook) Easterling were married Sept. 7, 1867, in Carter Co. Ky. They moved to Minnesota in about 1885, bringing seven children with them. They were Sarah, William, Malissa, Elizabeth, Julia, Laura, and Charles.

My grandmother was Elizabeth (Mauk) to whom two sons still survive her. They are John of Howard Lake, and Archie of St. Louis Park.

My great grandparents had five more children after moving to Minnesota living near Waverly.

They were Hanah (b. Nov. 28, 1886, d. Jan. 12, 1887), Minnie (b. Dec. 8, 1887) and moved to Kentucky, twins Levi and John (b. Dec. 24, 1890; Levi d. Jan. 23, 1891, John d. Jan. 24, 1891, and Millard (b. Sept. 6, 1892, d. Nov. 26, 1892).

Also deceased were Laura (b. June 14, 1881, d. Feb. 23, 1892), great grandmother Mary (d. Sept. 9, 1893), and Malissa (LeMasters) (b. Dec. 8, 1872, d. Dec. 8, 1895).

All were buried in a pasture by the side of the road that is now known as Ruckle Cemetery. When and how the cemetery was named I have no knowledge.

Hanah died from a contagious disease so she wasn't allowed to be buried in the public cemetery. As other members of the family passed away, they naturally were buried by her so it became the family plot.

There was one monument, as was mentioned in the article, with the names of Hanah, Laura, Levi, and John. Then in Oct. of 1949, my grandma ordered markers for Millard, great grandmother Mary, and Malissa. These were erected by Archie, as he was employed at the time by Gilmer Monument Works.

We believe others are buried in the cemetery, but have no proof. None of my ancestors that were buried there have been moved elsewhere.

Yes, it's true there are no markers here any longer. They have been removed by person(s) unknown to the family, and certainly without permission.

Charles Rieland of Delano is helping to get the cemetery surveyed and hopefully the markers can be located and again placed on the final resting place of all family members. My uncle has failing eyesight but he remembers where each of the markers should go.

If there is a ghost out there in this cemetery, I would like to think it is my great grandmother looking over and trying to protect her family as best she can, while waiting for the day the cemetery is back as it should be with her family's graves all properly marked, enabling them all to rest in peace after 115 years.

The ancestor research has been done by my sister Margaret (Mauk) Noyed.

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