Family Finds Special Hidden Gravesite


A gravesite belonging to a man who fought in the Revolutionary War and made his way to Montgomery County was found near Butler in early 2018. And in the early spring of 2019, an installation of a bronze marker to honor his service was finally completed.

About ten years ago, John and Eileen Manning of St. Louis, MO, found a passion for ancestry work and began working their family tree. John focused his attention to his maternal grandmother's ancestors on his father's side of the family and found a book titled "The Canaday/McCormick Families and Their Ancestors" by Lois Canaday Hupfer.

"It quickly became the primary source of information that we used to build our family tree," said John Manning. "The scope and depth of the material that she published was extraordinary, given the fact that when this work was compiled there was virtually no electronic communication widely used, such as email today."

As part of Hupfer's efforts as requested by her father, the late James Elmer Canaday, she distributed numerous letters to individuals across the nation to gather information. She published her family history in 1993, about a year before her father passed away.

"She was so pleased he was able to see the result of all of her hard work," said Manning.

In the spring of 2017, the Mannings made a decision to concentrate their studies on John Canaday's descendants that remained in Montgomery County after he died in December 1836. During that research effort, they found an obituary for Caleb Warren Canaday (1833 to 1901), grandson of John Canady, in The Hillsboro Journal. Caleb's obituary would lead them to find the burials of John and Mary (Shearer) Canaday on his land, locally known as the John Grassel farm, near Butler. 

Just a few months later on their way to the family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT, the St. Louis couple arranged to visit with Hupfer at her home in Colorado, where they spent two full days scanning material she retained from her research. 

"During our visit with Lois, we shared with her our research findings regarding the burial location of John Canaday and his wife Mary," said Manning. "She was most interested and wanted to be kept informed as we found new information."

Unfortunately, Hupfer passed away in September 2018, but that didn't hinder the Mannings from continuing their work. After several trips to Litchfield and Hillsboro and reviewing courthouse records of land purchases and sales, they determined that Caleb Canaday originally purchased land in 1836, which was later sold to the Grassel family in 1867.

"We were fortunate to become acquainted with two Grassel descendants, Ann Tindall and her sister, Marilyn Maccanelli," said Manning. Their maternal grandmother was Nina (Grassel) Ware, who was a niece of John Grassel, and owned a farm just north of the John Grassel farm. Manning added that Marilyn and her husband Mike still reside on that farm.

Manning said he met Tindall on Ancestry and how extremely helpful she was in providing information about the farm, including several pictures, one of which was taken in the 1980s. 

"This picture, along with Caleb's obituary, helped us narrow down the area in which John Canaday was buried," he said.

Also aiding in their efforts was Maccanelli, who contacted the present occupant of the house and arranged for the couple to search the yard.

"Marilyn told us that when she was a little girl, her grandparents used to talk about several people that were buried in the front yard of the John Grassel house," Manning said.

In their pursuit of finding Canaday's exact burial site, the Mannings hired Linda Hanabarger of Ramsey, who is well-known for her success in locating unmarked graves with her dousing capabilities. She immediately determined that there were two graves, confirming the research completed by the Mannings for the last two years.

A claim for Standard Goverment Headstone or Marker was submitted to the VA in the summer of 2018, requesting a bronze marker for John Canaday. Since Canaday was buried on private property, an approval of the property owner was required. Luckily for the Mannings, current property owner Denny Niehaus, who purchased the land in 1995, was very supportive of their efforts and has performed a lot of work to display the graves. 

"Denny has done a wonderful job," said Manning. "It was so nice of him to do that."

And finally, this past spring, the installation of the bronze marker was completed, along with a matching bronze marker that the Mannings purchased for his wife Mary.

A veteran of the Revolutionary War, John Canaday enlisted to serve in September 1781 and spent three months as a private. He re-enlisted in July 1782, at Cumberland, Old Court House, VA, where he was stationed until October 1782. After falling ill, he received a furlough to return home, where he remained until March 1783, where he performed garrison duty until he was honorably discharged around Christmas 1783.

Canaday and Mary Shearer married four years later, residing in Virginia and Kentucky, until they made their way to Montgomery County. According to Eileen, Canaday died within the first year of relocating to the area, with his wife following eight years later.

"Sadly Lois passed away before getting to see the bronze markers that have been placed," said Manning. "These markers are a result of Lois' hard work and we wish to dedicate these to her memory."

Thanks to the dedication of his family and a number of Montgomery County residents, John Canaday now has a proper burial site 182 years later.