This past August, we ran a feature on the tiny cemetery at the southeast corner of Kessler Boulevard and Keystone Avenue. Its purpose and origins had been something that had intrigued me for ages, though I never acted upon the impulse to pop out of the car and take a peek until this year. Judging by the response, I wasn’t the only one curious about how such a tiny but well groomed grave ended up next to such a highly trafficked intersection. However, as is sometimes the case when one goes trudging through the history of other peoples families, there are other sides to stories, perhaps more factual sides.
One of the main sources for August’s feature was an 1998 Indianapolis Star article by reporter Bill Shaw titled “Last Rights” where Shaw travels to Kokomo to interview then 81 year-old Dorothea Woods Sargent, the driving force behind the marker in question. Dorothea married John Jacob Sargent after his first wife, Henrietta, passed in 1972. While the two were married, John told her of an ancestor of his that fought in the American Revolution. From the Shaw’s article:
While she was living on Sargent Road with John Sargent, he told her about his ancestor’s graveyard at Kessler and Keystone. It was a weedy vacant lot, and this offended Dorothea. The dead should be honored, she believed, setting forth on a mission to correct an injustice.
It’s around here that the story gets a little convoluted. As the story goes, Dorothea raised $3400 from “fellow” members of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1984 to erect the memorial. There is a headstone and military marker for Robert Dickerson and family, a marker for her husband John, who passed in 1991, and a plaque.
According to two granddaughters of John’s older brother Walter Sargent, this plaque is almost entirely a fiction. While the first two sentences are true, the link between the missionary John Sargeant of Norman Rockwell fame and the Sargents of Indianapolis is not. The family says there is no evidence that he’s remotely related to John Jacob. For the record, Bill Shaw never links the two in his article, though states that Dorothea mentions it as she drifted from story to story.
While Sargent Road is in fact named for the family and Walter Sargent’s farmhouse still stands at 9565 East 82nd Street, there is no Sargent Stream and the only thing remotely resembling an airport was a bumpy, dirt landing strip near the farmhouse, long since developed.
Earlier, I mentioned Dorothea raising money from “fellow” Daughters of the American Revolution members. There’s a bit of discrepancy there on two counts as well. Though by accounts, Dorothea very much wanted to join the DAR, as with many of life’s exclusive groups, one must be born into it, not marry into it. She was disappointed to find this to be the case and further disappointed to raise no money at all from the DAR for the monument. What is there now was funded by she and John (who was reportedly not thrilled with the expenditure) and Washington Township, with a small sum tossed in by a distant Dickerson decedent. From Walter Sargent’s grand-daughter Phillis Jo Dean:
The DAR connection is nothing more than a tremendous desire that Dorothea had, to be a member of the DAR. After she did the research to find proof of Robert Dickerson’s Revolutionary War service, she the learned that the DAR connection must be through lineage and not marriage. She was deeply dissapointed and informed me of her disappointment in 1974 when I was visiting Uncle John (Jacob). The strange thing about researching Dickerson is why she did not soon discover the other GGGreat grandfather on the maternal Sargent side, Jacob Ringer, who is buried at Ebenezer Cemetery (now a part of Fall Creek Union Cemetery) and has a Veteran’s headstone describing his service.
Finally, though the marker at Kessler and Keystone may lend one to believe that it is the final resting place of John Jacob, he, his first wife Henrietta and Dorothea are all buried in Fishers, on the other side of Oaklawn Memorial Gardens from fellow RWAV feature Francis Farmer.
History is a delicate thing. A woven web of stories, hearsay and memory. Sometimes a few nuggets of fiction get sorted into the mix of facts and they become permanently intertwined, gaining credibility with each retelling. A quick thank you to the family members who reached out to make this site that much more accurate and I’ll try to remember in the future that just because there is a plaque, doesn’t necessarily make it so.