Five children from the same family died within a week of each other and were buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. The following is a first-person description of the tragedy, as if told through one of the children:
My name is Julia Kircheis and I am nine years old. My parents were grief stricken at my death, but even more so when four of my siblings, including my twin brother Haupold, also died. All in the same week. It was May of 1862.
First my 15-year-old sister died on May 9. Her name was Erana. I died two days later. The next day my twin Haupold and my sister Rosa died. Rosa was 11. On May 15 our baby brother Ichan died; he was only four years old.
Even though we were laid to rest in this spot more than 150 years ago, nobody could find our headstones and footstones because they were covered by overgrowth and hidden from view. This cemetery had fallen into disrepair and was neglected after the more formal Milford Cemetery was established along Route 209 in the 1870s.
Recently a Forest Service intern was doing research in this cemetery and she discovered our headstones and footstones. The information on our stones shows that a shocking tragedy befell our family, but no other information about us exists.
You can see that someone, perhaps our parents, though grief-stricken, took great care to add symbolic art to our headstones. On mine and Haupold’s, you see a lamb in repose. Lambs are used at the graves of infants or children, as they represent innocence and purity.
A broken rose engraved on the headstones of my oldest siblings, Rosa and Erana, represents love, beauty, hope and unfailing love. The fact that it is broken means their lives were cut short. I don’t know what the willow tree on Ichan’s headstone represents.
Deaths of entire families was all too common during this time, as diseases and accidents often claimed the lives of children. We wish we could share our stories. Discoveries like these often leave the future generations with more questions than answers. What happened to us? What about our parents? Though our lives were brief, what can you learn about us and from us?
Visit the Kircheis plot in the Laurel Hill Cemetery.
We thank the mysterious donor who leaves seasonal trinkets at the children’s graves. It’s nice to know they are remembered.