Susan Hadsell had an interesting life. She moved north from Louisiana to Ohio in the 1860s, lost her husband while he served in the Civil War and then married a former state senator and Allen County commissioner.
The stone marking her burial plot might have an even more remarkable story to tell, especially once it’s resting in peace where Hadsell herself is.
Kelly Hastings first saw Susan Hadsell’s name while visiting friends. They recently moved into that home at the corner of Wayne and McDonel streets in Lima when he stopped by in 1979.
“There was a homemade grill, about the size of a 55-gallon drum, and it had a stone sticking out of it to put your meat on it while cooking,” Hastings said. “The grill started falling apart, and I noticed a headstone was the bottom part.”
As Hastings tells the story, a bit of a motorcycling outlaw previously lived in that home. The man was a known character in town with a dark side, including using a coffin as an end table. He was a member of a biker gang with a reputation for thumbing its nose at the law in the early 1970s. A night of vandalism in a local cemetery might have yielded that grave marker.
His friends began throwing away the bricks used on that barbecue. Something made the then-19-year-old man decide to take the stone.
“I didn’t feel right that the thing would get thrown away,” Hastings said. “I thought, ‘Some day I will put that back where it belongs.’”
That began earlier this month. Hastings stowed the headstone in a semitrailer where he keeps other antiques he collected over the years. He didn’t look at it for years, but that name, Susan Hadsell, stuck in his head, even if he didn’t really know how to make it right.
Then, earlier this month, the antiques collector took his 1948 Studebaker to Faurot Park to take pictures of it, preparing to sell it online. The spots in Faurot Park just didn’t feel right, Hastings said. His daughter suggested taking the classic car to nearby Woodlawn Cemetery, near the pond, for a scenic shot.
“As I was leaving, I saw a woman standing by the window in the office,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not just ask?’”
He stopped to ask Linda Zinn at Woodlawn Cemetery if she had a listing for Susan Hadsell. She looked and couldn’t find the name in the cemetery records. She knew who would find her, though.
That’s when Hastings met Anna Selfridge, from the Allen County Museum. She’s one of those people who can take a small amount of information, like you’d find on a mysterious headstone, and turn it into a tale about someone’s life.
Selfridge found Hadsell’s obituary, from an 1872 edition of the Lima Weekly Gazette.
Selfridge told him about Hadsell’s first husband, Samuel Budd, who grew up in Allen County but moved with his brother to Louisiana before the Civil War, where he apparently met and married the former Susan LaCroix. They returned north to Allen County, where Budd enlisted as a private and rapidly moved up to corporal before dying of disease in Paducah, Ky., seven months later.
She later married Anson Hadsell in 1867, five years before her death. She was the third of five wives for the former schoolteacher and justice of the peace who became a state senator in 1845 and an Allen County commissioner in 1859.
Most importantly, she discovered that Susan Hadsell, 46 when she died, was buried in Perry Chapel Cemetery, where one of her four children from her first marriage was also buried. Selfridge urged Hastings to call Kevin Cox, a Perry Township trustee and a member of the Perry Township Historical Society.
“At first, I was kind of dumbfounded when he started telling me this crazy story,” Cox said. “What are you talking about? But as he kept on talking, it just made sense. He didn’t just make it up, I know that much.”
The headstone is in decent condition. Its years in a fire pit may have preserved it, Cox said, compared to the other sandstone markers at the cemetery that wore down through years of winds blasting through nearby fields.
Some of the pieces of the story came together. That cemetery is close to where a motorcycle club with a bad reputation kept its clubhouse, making Hastings’ story seem plausible.
Now the goal is to find the right place to put the headstone. Cemetery records from that era aren’t as specific as you might like, Cox said, but the trustees hope to find the proper spot to reunite the headstone with Hadsell’s remains. Selfridge’s mapping of the cemetery shows the stone wasn’t there in 1991 but had been there at a previous reading.
They do know where her daughter, Lavisa Budd, was buried at the age of 3, in the third row at the fourth stone at Perry Chapel Cemetery. Township crews hope to find a way to set the recovered headstone, which has a broken base, soon.
“As township trustees, we’re very appreciative that it’s been returned,” Cox said. “We’ll do our best to put it back as close as we can when we possibly find where it belongs. … It’s only the right thing to do.”