Solved The Mystery of Felder Cemetery

Livingston Parish, Lousiana

HOME                                                                                                          STORY INDEX
     Usually when a person dies, he is buried in a cemetery, and a gravestone is erected to tell about him. As genealogists know, every grave is different. Some graves have no markers. Some have elaborate ones. Some have names. Some tell a lot about the person. Some don't say much.  In my research for my OPDENWEYER ancestors, I discovered people with that name in Felder Cemetery in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. The large black stone marks the plot.

     The key to solving the mystery of the graves was understanding how the stone unlocked the secret.

     One of my BOWMAN cousins sent me a copy from the Edward Livingston Historical Society book on cemeteries in the parish.

cemetery.jpg (39352 bytes)
                                            "Felder Cemetery Record p. 219, row M., No.#"

                                                   "These inscriptions were copied in June 1978."

   Name From Book       Dates    Row     Actual Person Buried
H.D.D.Opdenweyer        29     Henry H. Denham
M.O. Opdenweyer        30     Mary Opdenweyer
J.F.R. Opdenweyer        31     James Felix Robertson
C.A.S. Opdenweyer        32     Cornelia Ann Spiller
L.R.S. Opdenweyer        33     Levi R. Spiller
S.D.R. Opdenweyer        30     Sarah R. Denham
Martha R. Opdenweyer 1869-1950      31     Martha R. Opdenweyer
J.W.O. Sr. Opdenweyer        32    John W. Opdenweyer Sr.
Thelma Opdenweyer Dutton        33    Thelma Opdenweyer Dutton 
F.R.O. Opdenweyer            34    Fanny Robertson Opdenweyer
F.D.S. Sr. Opdenweyer        35    Thomas D. Spiller Sr.
Lela Opdenweyer 1888-1978      17    Lela Opdenweyer
Robert A. Peiter 1889-1964      18    Robert A. Peiter
J.W.O. Jr. Opdenweyer        19    John W. Opdenweyer Jr.
Aunt Sylvy Opdenweyer        20    Aunt Sylvy  
C.R.E. Opdenweyer        21     Unknown
M.R.E. Opdenweyer        22     Unknown

     The Robertsons, Spillers, Denhams and Opdenweyers were all related.  These vaults appear a few inches above the ground. Caskets were under the vault with a lid. There is a slab on top of most of the vaults, then the plaque attached to the head. Some have said these graves had no headstones, but they do. They just don't say much. Why only initials were used is anyone's guess.

     Four children of William and Mary are not buried in Felder. They are William Henry,who moved to Oregon; Louise, who married James Heap, and who died in Oregon, Sophie, who probably died in California, and Charles E. who died in 1894 at age 15, in New Orleans.   And William Charles Opdenweyer, the postmaster, general store operator and sawmill founder, is not buried in Felder, nor is his wife, Mary Wugeley, who ran the sawmill until her oldest son, John Sr., could take over the reins.  William C. Opdenweyer was the older brother of my great-grandfather, Otto, whose burial site is still unknown.  On Aug. 22, 1998, I received the two death certificates for Martha and Leila Opdenweyer, who were mother and daughter.

     Martha was the wife of John W. Opdenweyer Sr., apparently, who was the operator of the Opdenweyer Brothers Cypress Co. in Sorrento and New Orleans, LA. Her maiden name was Robertson, daughter of Felix Robertson and Cornelia Ann Spiller.  Martha died on July 13, 1950, at 9:30 pm of a heart attack in Baton Rouge General Hospital. She was 81 years old, 1 month and 2 days old, having been born on June 11, 1869 in Port Vincent, Livingston Parish, LA. The certificate stated that her husband was J. W. Opdenweyer, deceased.  She had been a housewife, living on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge, LA. Two months before her death, she suffered a fractured hip, slipping at her home.

     Leila Opdenweyer was a daughter of Martha and J. W. Opdenweyer. She never married.  She was born Oct. 20, 1888, in Livingston Parish, LA. She was a retired music teacher at Louisiana State University. She died on Jan. 24, 1978 of influenza and congestive heart failure at the age of 89.  At her death, she was living at her mother's home at 4760 Airline Highway, Baton Rouge, LA.  The informant for her information on the certificate was furnished by Walter E. Busby of Baton Rouge. Another name that was scribbled  under Busby's was D. Ducote. The informant for Martha Opdenweyer was Felix R. Spiller.

     My thanks go to Lucille Bowman Cooper Denham, Claude Slaton, Lee Bowman and Brenda Felder who sent me information on these graves from February, 1998, when I started working on this. On June 11 and 13, 2000, I think I solved the mystery.