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Surprise! Home renovation work turns up tombstone for Civil War veteran

This Civil War tombstone for Samuel Nobel was found under the floor at a house in Detroit Lakes. (Photo by Pippi Mayfield.)1 / 2
REUNITED AT LAST: This grave marker will soon be back at Oak Grove Cemetery. It has been missing for many years. The only real damage is a broken bottom corner. (Photo by Pippi Mayfield.)2 / 2

Detroit Lakes, MN- When new homeowners Jamie Pollock and Robby Haataja started a flooring project in their Detroit Lakes home, they never imagined they would find a piece of history under the floor.

 

“We tore up a floor in our entryway and it’s dirt underneath there,” Pollock said. “My boyfriend had to move a big piece of granite in order to put down new floor joists.

“At first we were joking that now we wouldn’t need to buy headstones because we had one, we just needed to put our names on it,” she said with a laugh.

That’s when Haataja turned the piece of granite over and found it was already someone else’s headstone. It belonged to Samuel Noble.

“It really freaked me out at first,” Pollock said. “I thought, ‘don’t tell me there’s somebody buried underneath our house.’”

Not knowing what to do with the headstone, they called the Becker County Historical Society and Museum.

Come to find out, Noble’s headstone had more than likely been stolen and thrown under the house. Noble is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, north of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59.

“So for Thanksgiving, this guy finally has his headstone back,” Pollock said.

Museum staff member Becca McCollum said the headstone weighs more than 200 pounds, by her calculations, and must have been under the house for quite some time because it is in great condition compared to other headstones that age.

The white piece of granite has a piece missing from the bottom corner, but other than that, looks in good shape.

Pollock’s call brightened up an otherwise slow Wednesday at the museum, and by the time Pollock and Haataja brought it in, staff members had already found information on Noble.

“It was just kind of fun, and they were so excited,” McCollum said of taking in the item.

She also pointed out that anyone who finds interesting pieces of history like Pollock and Haataja did should bring it to the museum, because they can possibly research the story and person behind the belonging.

By the sounds of it, Pollock and Haataja’s house seems to be filled with treasures. She said the people who owned the house before her and Haataja gutted the house and found a 1906 rifle hidden in the wall.

“I don’t know if that was a stolen item, too, that they put in the walls or what,” Pollock said. “We didn’t find anything else, but I was wishing we’d find money,” she added with a laugh.

With a little bit of research, museum staff found quite a bit of information on Noble.

According to his obituary, Noble was born on April 20, 1837, and grew up in Berwick, Maine. On Sept. 15, 1858, he married Lovina Clay, and they had one son.

In August of 1861, Noble volunteered for the service and was assigned to Company F., 4th New Hampshire Voluntary Infantry. After more than two years in the service, he was honorably discharged due to health and disabilities incurred.

Noble and his family moved to Detroit Lakes in April of 1872, where they lived for two years before moving to Cormorant. They lived there about seven years before moving to Audubon.

In his obituary, Noble was described as “a man of unswerving honesty, and kindly charity, with malice toward none, he moved among his fellows, loved and respected, desiring, and in all things seeking the will and guidance of his God…”

He died April 13, 1892, in his home. (His obituary says he died at the age of 56, but doing the math, he was actually 54 years old.)

As far as records show at the museum, Noble was buried in Munson Lake Cemetery in Lake Eunice Township. The cemetery though fell into disrepair and was not kept up for many years.

Many of the people buried in Munson Lake Cemetery were moved to Oak Grove Cemetery. One of those people was Noble.

McCollum said they contacted Steve Early, who is the sexton for the cemetery, and he said they would pick up the tombstone next week and return it to Noble’s grave.

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