Mystery of Berryman B. Wood Becomes Less Mysterious

The mystery of Berryman B. Wood has become less mysterious thanks to a discovery by his descendant Tessa Rasnick. One of the big mysteries has been when did Berryman B. Wood die?

When he died no marker was set. Perhaps they couldn’t afford one. They buried him by his wife, Sarah Catherine Lucas Wood, and she had a stone. Perhaps they meant to add his name. Whatever, it never happened.

At some point Wilford Ryan, a grandson, poured a concrete stone and, using a stick, wrote his name and date of death. Various cemetery walkers have said the now worn stone said 1911 and 1914.

No death certificate has ever been found. They weren’t mandatory in Illinois until 1916.

Someone pointed me to a note that indicated he died February 8, 1908. There was no source but I liked it because it fit my theory that if one was born or died in the winter there was less likely to be a record prior to 1916. (Yes, I know of many exceptions to my theory.)

Tessa was hunting for obits in old newspapers when she looked up John Allen Wood, a son of Berryman. John Allen is her third great uncle. This is what she found in The Decatur Herald for May 20, 1909.

“John Allen Wood Dies
“John Allen Wood, living eight miles southwest of Mt. Pulaski, died at his home at 9:30 o’clock Tuesday night from heart trouble, having been a sufferer for many months. He was born south of Mt. Pulaski, and was the son of the late Berryman Wood. His age was 43 years, 11 months and 30 days. Mr. Wood married Isabelle Jones, daughter of Mrs. M. M. Howard, of this city, July 10, 1890, and he is survived by his wife and three children, Emery, Herman and Stella, also five sisters and four brothers. Funeral services will be held at the Copeland church, six miles southwest of Mt. Pulaski, at 11 o’clock, Friday morning conducted by Rev. Gilbert Jones, pastor of the Christian church of Mt. Pulaski. The remain (sic) will be buried in Mt. Pulaski cemetery.”

“Son of the late Berryman Wood.” (emphasis added) That pretty much eliminates 1911 and 1914 as death dates. It also explains why he cannot be found in the 1910 census.

We still don’t know for sure exactly when he died but the 1908 date looks a lot more likely.

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