Grace Palmer Buell Carr
12 September 1870 – 1 October 1922
Grace’s story is as mysterious as her mausoleum which sits back in the hillside on Mausoleum Row at Forest Home Cemetery. Her life story has only a few random signposts to illuminate what I think must have been a pretty interesting life.
Grace and her older brother Willie (b. 1867/68) were born in Indiana to parents who’d moved there from the East Coast. Her father Grover was a carpenter, and both her father and mother (Mary Elizabeth “Lizzy” Frisbee) were born in New York state with Grover’s people hailing from the Binghorton, NY, area and mother Lizzy’s people from Connecticut.
By 1880, the little family had moved to Chicago but beyond that, we know nothing more about them. (A family genealogy record notes Mary Elizabeth’s dates as 1845 – 1895 but provides no citations nor any additional information about Lizzie or the rest of the Buell family.)
A marriage record from 13 May 1890 tells us that Grace married Fred Bert Carr who was about three years her senior, and again, that’s the last information we have about him. None of the Fred Carrs I could find matched Grace’s, and there are no intervening census records for the Buells or the Carrs until we find Grace in 1920, widowed at some point in the past. She is living alone, working as a real estate agent and shaving a few years off of her age.
In 1920, she lived in the Garfield Park neighborhood on West Madison at an address that is now a Divvy bike stand for Malcolm X College. It must have been a rather nice residential neighborhood though as her next-door neighbor had a live-in servant, and while she is listed as renting, she is renting an entire house rather than a flat.
There is no indication of any kind that Grace had children nor any record to explain what happened to her brother Willie, though I think we must presume he predeceased her. Her funeral notice lists only a fond aunt — her mother’s sister Minnie Spring (Mrs. Harry Spring) who was the last survivor of all her siblings and also doesn’t appear to have had children of her own.
But Grace’s life was, I think, quite exciting. Shortly before her death, she participated in a nation-spanning realtor tour that took her to Phoenix (where her name is listed as one of the 219 visiting realtors to take a lavish, day-long tour of the city’s charms and features) and on to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco where the touring realtors were to attend the National Realty Board convention.
Even her death — though sudden and premature — happened while she was living her best life, enjoying a holiday with friends at Tomahawk Lake in Wisconsin. She had a heart attack while battling to land a giant muskellunge and died a few days later without regaining consciousness. The news of her death ran nation-wide due to the highly dramatic and unusual nature of her death, particularly for a woman of the time period.
Yet another glamorous note came when her will was read and it left her not inconsiderable estate to her employers, a fact that also made the national papers. The article about this which ran in the Sioux City Journal on 19 October 1922 (and was possibly a newswire story as her obituary was) erroneously names her a Miss and makes no mention of her aunt but suggests a half-sister in Florida (which is very possible since we know pretty much nothing about the Buells after 1880 and forty-two years is a long time). Most importantly, however, it reveals that she worked as a secretary at coal firm. As it seems from the article that she worked there for many years and had a familial relationship with her employers, it is likely that her stated occupation of real estate agent on the 1920 census (and her fun westward trip earlier in 1922) was her side gig and possibly how she ended up with such a nice inheritance to leave her friends.
Though her Aunt and Uncle Spring were also buried at Forest Home when they, too, passed away a few years later, their headstones are comparatively quite humble. My guess as to her mausoleum is that it was a final gift from the employers she loved and who hopefully returned that affection. It seems likely to me that they purchased the elegant mausoleum out of the inheritance money she left them as a tribute to their friend and faithful employee.
Please visit my Instagram for questions or comments on this post.