‘Waiting for Maud,’ Oak Hill Cemetery

"Waiting for Maud" gravestone, Oak Hill Cemetery (SCHS photo)

“Waiting for Maud” gravestone, Oak Hill Cemetery (SCHS photo)

A gravestone at Oak Hill Cemetery east of Springfield pays tribute to a dog that, according to folklore, never recovered from the death of its young owner.

Maud Rodgers, who lived with her parents in the Riverton/Clear Lake area, died June 26, 1888. She was 17 years old. (Ancestry.com suggests her full name may have been Ellen Maud Rodgers; if so, though, she clearly was known by her middle name.)

The Illinois State Register reported on her funeral the following Saturday.

Miss Maude (sic) Rodgers, daughter of Samuel and Emma Rodgers, died at 11 o’clock Tuesday evening. She was sick only a few days, and up to a few hours before her death was not considered dangerous. Her loss to the family will be felt for many a day, as she was the pet of the household as well as the entire community. She was interred at Oak Hill cemetery at 10 a.m. Thursday. A large number of sorrowing friends followed the remains to witness the last sad rites. Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers have the sympathy of the whole community in their loss.

Although no cause of death was reported at the time, local legend, as reported in a 1974 State Journal-Register photo caption, says the young woman died of acute appendicitis.

As the story goes, Maud’s dog, said to be a water spaniel, laid down at the gate to her house when Maud fell ill and refused to move until it, too, died. The Rodgers family then had a stone depicting the dog’s vigil installed at Oak Hill.

schs-logo-2Although the folklore can’t be confirmed today, the stone and its inscription – “Waiting for Maud/1870-1888” – suggest the story is essentially true.

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10 Responses to ‘Waiting for Maud,’ Oak Hill Cemetery

  1. Cj Sarff says:

    The italicized paragraph says Maude “…was the pet of the family, and indeed the whole community.” Don’t you think it’s possible the “folklore” took a wrong turn in that “Ellen” Rodgers may have been the daughter, and “Miss Maude” was the pet they considered part of the family, and had plenty of money to mark the grave of the “pet… of the community…”? Myself, I find it far more likely a wealthy family would call their daughter’s adorable pet their (other) daughter (as any dog lover knows is not rare), than I can believe that the human teen would be called “…the pet of the family…and the whole community..” Look that article over, again. It is still nice, however.

  2. Cj Sarff says:

    Addendum: Near the end of the italicized paragraph it also reads that a “…a large amount of sorrowing friends {no relatives ?} followed the remains {one wouldn’t expect this verbiage for a teen girl’s funeral} …for the last sad rites.”
    This sounds like it was written about a popular dog. Perhaps Ellen Maud Rodgers (human child) named her dog “Maud”, later died young, and was said to be waiting (in Heaven) for Maud, who did die later, at age 17 (a typical dog’s lifespan) and had the pictured stone and obituary. ;)

    • editor says:

      Cj: It’s an interesting theory, and it had occurred to me that the dog might be buried under the stone. But I was thinking the dog could have been buried with Maud, not instead of her. It’s a stretch to believe the obituary was for a dog rather than a human; I think the newspaper would have made that clear. Also, I was able to see the original cemetery burial record when I visited Oak Hill; the one for Maud Rodgers reads just the same as for everyone else buried about that time. There’s simply nothing to suggest that the burial was that of a dog rather than a person.

      One other small mystery is her first name. The U.S. Census for 1880 reports that Samuel and Emma (Emeline) Rodgers of Riverton had four daughters at the time (there would be a son later), including Maud, age 9. The census does not call her “Ellen,” and I have no idea where the Ancestry compiler got that name; at any rate, I certainly don’t see a connection with the Ellen Rodgers who died in Ohio the same year.

      Finally, I couldn’t find any mentions after 1888 of our Maud Rodgers in other documents on either Ancestry or in the Springfield newspapers. That again buttresses what I think is the reasonable conclusion: Samuel and Emma’s daughter Maud died in 1888 and is buried at Oak Hill, and the gravestone, therefore, recognizes the dog’s devotion. (Just to confuse things, two other Maud Rodgerses, both slightly younger, do show up in census records, city directories and Springfield papers in the late 1800s/early 1900s; however, those women lived, went to school and worked in Springfield, and their fathers were Henry and Ambrose Rodgers, respectively.)

      Thanks for the comments, though; this kind of discussion is fun. Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll go back to Oak Hill and scour around the Rodgers family plot with your ideas in mind. If I find anything new or intriguing, I’ll follow up this conversation.

  3. Cj Sarff says:

    Thanks. But, why does the obituary say she was a family “pet” as well as a “pet of the entire community”, and say “friends” followed the “remains”, instead of “family and friends ” ; “followed the funeral procession”, or something more human-sounding? The remains, and not family members? “PET”? It does say pet twice. If they condidered the daughter a pet, and the whole community did, that’s more than odd. LOL. I thought the dog statue was maybe placed there waiting for the daughter to pass away but she, Ellen, maybe married and moved with husband to Ohio so was buried there instead. Or the dog statue was a topper of Ellen’s stone, and got moved either on purpose or fell off, and doggie’s remains were buried by daughter. PET? Remains? Unsettling verbiage for an obituary. LOL. ;) Thanks.

    • editor says:

      Cj: Well, findagrave says the Ellen Rodgers in Ohio was 3 1/2 years old, for one thing. Whatever happened, she wasn’t involved. And people can certainly die after brief, seemingly unthreatening illnesses. I understand your wondering about “pet,” but I still think the evidence that Maud Rodgers, daughter of Samuel and Emma, died at age 17 in 1888 is pretty solid.

  4. Cj Sarff says:

    “Her loss to the family will be felt for many a day”…not forever.
    Did obituaries in 1988 go into lengthy details about how humans died suddenly after hours of not thinking it was serious? When dog’s stomachs twist they act sick a couple of days and then suddenly die. A very oddly worded obituary in so many ways, indeed.
    The Household pet,
    Cj ;)

    • Sammi says:

      When you have appendicitis you are sick for a few days, if left untreated you die. I agree it’s weird that it says “pet” but I highly doubt they did pet obituaries back then, especially considering they don’t even do them now and dogs are considered family members now, back then yes they were loved but they were property or tools, especially to anyone who lived in a rural area

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