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Saturday November 18th 2017

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Great niece and husband honor relatives, who died in childhood, with words, flowers, and stone markers

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Until 2015 graves were unmarked for 140 years along with 2,280 others in “Potter’s Field”

October 15th was one of those perfect days in the Cemetery. The weather was glorious and the trees were at their most colorful. It was perfect in another way, as well. Linda Leraas Ray and her husband, Steve Ray, had markers placed on the graves of two children who died in the 1870s.

It took some effort to find those children since the Cemetery’s records were not accurate. The little girl’s last name was spelled Luirass instead of Leraas, and the little boy effectively had no last name at all—his last name appeared as Andreas which was his middle name. Linda and Steve were certain that the children were buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery and after a little sorting and re-sorting of our spreadsheet, we found them.

The children, Annie Mathilda Leraas and her brother Lars Andreas were the children of Linda’s great-grandparents, Ole Johnneson and Martha Larsdatter. Ole and Martha didn’t live in Minneapolis long—only from 1874 to 1878 but during those four years they lost two of their children. Lars died on July 23, 1874, from dysentery; Annie died the following year, on November 17, 1875, from diphtheria. Lars was eleven months old when he died; Annie was four.

Annie and Lars were buried in the Cemetery’s Potters Field along with approximately 2,300 other people. There are 92 people in that section of the Cemetery who were buried in 1874, the year that Lars died. Of those, sixty-one were infants and children under the age of ten. In 1875, the year that Annie died, there were 114 burials, 78 of them infants and children under the age of ten.

On her facebook page, Linda wrote: “I am humbled by the sacrifices my ancestors made and the many hardships they endured.” And her family’s hardships did not end with the loss of Annie and Lars. Over the years, Ole and Martha had 13 children, only six of whom lived to adulthood. The other children who died are buried with their parents in Grant County, Minnesota.

Of the 2,300 burials, only 20 graves had markers. That changed on October 16, 2015. Now there are 22.

In addition to the markers, Linda and Steve placed flowers on the children’s graves. Linda wrote:

“Anna and Lars, I don’t know if flowers were ever placed on your little graves before. These are only a few humble flowers from my garden, but placed with all my love.” Linda Leraas Ray, your great niece

Special thanks to Linda and Steve for sharing their story with us and for remembering two children who might otherwise have been forgotten.

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