“Carved in stone” means that something is permanent or not able to be changed. However, in the case of Joseph Naper’s grave marker, this definition does not apply.
About 15 years ago, when I was in the earliest stage of researching the members of Euclid Lodge No. 65, I traveled to the Warrenville Public Library to see what I could find about Hiram E. Leonard, a Warrenville merchant and one of the earliest members of the Lodge.
I found that he had kept a personal diary, started when he first arrived in the area in 1843, and in which he fastidiously documented his daily activities and other events until his death in 1878. Warrenville historian, Leone Schmidt, had transcribed his hand written diary and it spans four large volumes.
Hiram’s entry for August 23, 1862, states, in part, “Capt. Joseph Naper died this morning at about 4 oclock, to be buryed tomorrow at 10 oclock.” His entry for August 23, 1862, also states, “Capt Joseph Napers Funeral was held at his house with a few remarks about 10 this forenoon, was buryed in Masonic order.”
As I drove home from the library, I was struck with the thought that the dates did not sound right to me. I checked the Fox Valley Genealogical Society book, “Naperville Cemetery, A History of a Town in Stone,” and found a photo of Joseph Naper’s grave marker, which showed his date of death as August 17, 1862.
When I returned home, I contacted Bryan Ogg, then-curator of research at Naper Settlement and told him what I’d found. I arranged to meet with him the following day and he had a volunteer pull the probate records they had in the archives, and we found Almeda Naper’s statement that her husband, Joseph Naper had died on or about August 22, 1862.
This discovery begged the question, how did the wrong date of death get carved into Joseph Naper’s grave marker?
In my later research, I found in the Masonic Lodge records, that Joseph Naper had died on August 23, 1862. I also found an obituary in the March 21, 1900, issue of the Naperville Clarion for Joseph Naper. The obituary was written by Charles W. Richmond, a Naperville teacher who wrote “A History of the County of DuPage,” and was transcribed from his diary by Hannah Ditzler Alspaugh. The obituary states that Joseph Naper died on August 22, 1861. Obviously, this was a typo, but still supplied evidence that the August 17, 1862 date was incorrect.
While I was busy doing my research, Bryan Ogg was also busy, trying to figure out how this mistake had been made. Bryan found that a reading had been done in the early 1950’s of the grave markers in the Naperville Cemetery by the Fort Payne Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The entry for Joseph Naper’s marker said that the marker was engraved with the date of death as August 17, 1862. Now we knew from where the incorrect date had come. Still a mystery remains as to who had the new grave marker made. The representative from the Naperville Cemetery was unable to shine any light onto that information.
The incorrect date has bothered me since the time we discovered it. About three years ago, the Naperville Masonic Temple Association decided to see if they could have a new monument made for Joseph and Almeda Naper’s grave marker that accurately showed Joseph’s date of death and his membership in the Masonic Fraternity in Naperville.
I was familiar with the policy of the Naperville Cemetery Association, requiring that only owners of a plot or the descendant family members could make any changes to an existing grave marker or place a new marker on a grave. We would need their permission to go ahead with our project.
In November 2019, I went back to my research and found four sisters, the oldest living descendants of Joseph Naper, and contacted them to tell them what the Naperville Masonic Temple Association wished to do.
In September 2020, we received permission from the four sisters to go ahead with having a new marker placed on Joseph Naper’s grave with the correct dates and Masonic membership.
I contacted the Peter Troost Monument Company, located in the Naperville Cemetery office and told them what we planned to do. Tom Roth, the representative for Troost, suggested that the existing marker could be modified at a much lower cost than a new marker. That way, we wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with the old marker.
I relayed this information to the four sisters and got their approval to move forward. Cemetery Letters of Authorization were sent out to the sisters for them to sign, have notarized and then return to the Naperville Cemetery for their approval.
With all of the necessary paperwork completed and approval given, the Naperville Masonic Temple Association had the existing grave marker modified by the Peter Troost Monument Company.
Joseph Naper now has his correct date of death on his grave marker along with the inscription added to the back, noting that he was a Charter Member of Euclid Lodge No. 65, A.F. & A.M. and Euclid Chapter No. 13, R.A.M.
August 23, 2022, marks the 160th anniversary of Joseph Naper’s death.
Memorial and Open House to celebrate Joseph & Almeda Naper
At 10AM Sat., Aug. 20, the Naperville Masonic Temple Association will hold a Masonic Memorial Service at the Naper gravesite in the Naperville Cemetery, located at 705 S. Washington Street.
An Open House will follow at the Naperville Masonic Temple, 34 W. Jefferson Avenue, from 11AM to 1PM. Light refreshments will be served, and tours of the Lodge will be given. The public is invited to attend both events.
I would like to thank Bryan Ogg, the descendants of Joseph Naper, the Naperville Cemetery Association and the Troost Monument Company for their patience and aid in helping to correct the grave marker of our Town’s Founder, Joseph Naper.