Link to Original Article: “What will be the Fate of the 101 year-old Grave of August Boness?”
Since I published my last two articles I have been hard at work to discover a little more history on the mysterious August Boness (Bonas) who may or may not be buried in Bethania Cemetery in west suburban Justice, IL. Please see the links at the beginning and end of this article for the background.
As I mentioned before an” Uncle August Bonas with a birth date of October 15, 1888 and a death date of March 26, 1915 is inscribed into the grave marker of Ferdinand Schultz and his wife Ernestina who both died in 1960. A son of Ferdinand and Ernestina who died in 2001, Rudolph, is in the same plot and on the same stone. This name and dates of birth and death for August Bonas match exactly the mysterious stone that had been sitting under the bushes as the apartment building at 7889 Archer Avenue. It also makes sense because Bonas is Ernestina’s maiden name. The cemetery says there has never been a burial of an August Bonas or Boness in the cemetery and the land around 7889 Archer Avenue has never been a burial location although it had once been owned by Bethania but sold to a Kuelke family in February of 1916.
At the end of my last article I mentioned that I was going to try to do some reverse genealogy and attempt to contact living descendants, of which there seem to be many according to obituaries, but I felt like I needed to do a little more research into “Uncle August” before I start bothering living relatives.
As luck would have it, I was contacted by Dale Kaczmarek who is President of the Ghost Research Society and had been following my articles.
In the first article of this series I had mentioned that the supervisor of the cemetery had told me six years ago that the mysterious grave marker of August Boness in the parking lot of 7889 Archer Avenue was a hoax perpetrated by the producers of a television reality show called “Sightings”.
Well it just so happened that Dale was part of that show and confirmed that neither he nor anyone he was aware of from the segment had moved the stone and in fact he was not aware of the stone until the segment was being filmed in the 1990s. Mr. Kaczmarek told me that a woman by the name of Valerie Kolecki was living in an apartment at the building when she started having what she believed to be paranormal experiences. There were some strange things with her lights as well as her cat would constantly acting as if it was seeing something outside her window. When Dale and his investigative team were checking the outside within sight of the window he found the grave marker under the bushes. He invited me over to his home and had a video-taped copy of the show. That more or less dispels the hoax theory.
As I looked further into the Schultz family I found that Ferdinand and Ernestina (Bonas) Schultz had come into the U.S. between 1906 and 1908 had resided at 3023 Broad Street in Chicago from 1910 through at least 1940 according to the Federal Census records of those years. They were Russian Germans and appeared to have been married in Russia around 1899. Ferdinand was doing various odd jobs to sustain the family here in the U.S.
I decided to check Chicago City Directories from about 1913 forward to attempt to locate August Bonas somewhere near or living with the Schultz family. I didn’t find him but did find an interesting couple of entries.
The Bonas Family in the Chicago Directories
In the 1913 Chicago City Directory there was a Natalie Bonas who was listed as the widow of William Bonas and lived at 3332 Archer Avenue. This was about one half mile directly west on Archer Avenue from where the Schultz’s lived. It could have been a coincidence but as I traced the directories forward through 1917 she ceases to be the widow of William and becomes the widow of August in 1915! To be more specific it actually lists Augusta as the widow of August in the 1915 directory at 3332 Archer Avenue but I believe that could be a typo since she is listed again as Natalie at the same address being the widow of August in 1917. Also in 1917 her son Arthur shows up on the directory as living at that address. (One usually had to be working age to be listed in the directory)
I decided to look into William Bonas a little further and found his death certificate (Actually Coroner’s Certificate) from July 25, 1908. He also has a probate file at the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Archives which I have ordered and am waiting to review. This usually meant that the person in question died in an accident and that the probate was generated due to pending civil litigation. (I will update the story when the file comes in.)
I had always tried to find August Bonas coming to the U.S. and had been previously unsuccessful. My guess was that he was only in the country for a short time and that is why he never showed up on a U.S. Census. Luckily Ancestry.com has continued to add new information and I found an August Bonas listed as 25 years old leaving Hamburg Germany on 31 May 1913 headed for New York City. He was single and a Russian German.
The problem was he doesn’t show up on a U.S. Arrival list on Ancestry.com as he should. I decided I had to do this the old fashioned way in case there was an error in the computerized index. I went to see some friends at the Great Lakes Region of the National Archives on Pulaski. I wanted to see if they had any microfilm indexes to the original ship manifests in an attempt to confirm August Bonas’s arrival.
They actually had a few rolls of the index and the research gods were on our side. I found an index reference to an August Bonas who was a 25 year-old male. The index gave me a reference to a volume number, page and line number on the original manifests. At least I knew that he did arrive but when and where was he going?
Tracing August Bonas Through Ship Lists
There is a website that genealogists are all too familiar entitled, “One Step Pages by Stephen P. Morse”. The pages were created by a uber-geek turned genealogist (He actually was the architect of the Intel 8086 chip) and it allows one to search multiple genealogical websites at one time and, in the case of what I was looking for, a direct link to the Ellis Island Passenger Lists by volume and page number as opposed to relying on the links set up through Ancestry.com.
With the information from the index provided by the National Archives I found Mr. August Bonas! Just as the index referenced, he was in volume 4758, page 40, line 18. He arrived at the port of New York on 11 June 1913 and was a Russian German. His father was Christoff Bonas who still resided in Russian and he was on the way to visit his brother-in-law, Ferdinand Schulz who lived at 3023 Broad Street in Chicago! Hello Uncle August!
So the story of August Bonas is starting to come together. It appears that Natalie Bonas was the wife of William Bonas who was more than likely (still not proven) the brother of August Bonas. My theory so far is that after William died his brother August came to the U.S. and stayed with his sister Ernestine Bonas who married Ferdinand Schultz in Russia and were living at 3023 Broad Street. He originally stayed with them but probably was helping out his brother’s widow and may not have had the time to marry her but was at least helping out for a while before his untimely death in 1915. (The details of his death on March 26, 1915 are still a mystery) This would help to explain why Natalie was listed as the widow of August in 1915. I could not find a marriage record for August and Natalie but the directory may have assumed them to be married because they had the same last name.
As I was writing this article I noticed that Natalie Bonas's husband William did not appear in Bethania's online grave search but after a couple alterations of the last name I found him buried in the same plot as Natalie under the name William Bonnes. They are both buried in Lot #41, Section #1, Division E. I thought to myself, "Self!?, What would be the odds that Uncle August has a simple name transcription error that could be causing years of conjecture?"
After several different possible spellings I found Uncle August! August Barnas, buried on the 28th of March in 1915 in the exact same plot as it shows on the stone. He is alongside his sister Ernestina Bonas, her husband Ferdinand and his nephew Rudolph in Lot #21, Section #8, Division E.
The explanation for all the confusion is simply that prior to the death of Ferdinand and Ernestina in 1960 August's mysterious grave marker (now purportedly in the hands of a local historical society) was inside the gate of Bethania Cemetery where it had been since 1915. In 1960 when Ferdinand and Ernestina passed away a newer stone was installed with the names of August, Ferdinand and Ernestina and since there was no room on the plot for both stones, the stone was discarded and somehow ended up across the street. Rudolph's name was added when he passed in 2001. We can all rest easy now that we know that Uncle August is resting easy now. I will have to drop this information off at Bethania Cemetery so that they are aware that they do have the person listed on the stone, that it is merely an old stone that used to be across the street and that he is resting comfortably with his family.
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