‘Moses was buried here’
ASHLAND — When Moses Quesenberry died in 1911 at the age 93, he was thought to be one of the oldest residents in the city at that time. But his family did not include a spot to mark where he was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.
But on Sept. 30, 2021, exactly 110 years after his passing, Quesenberry’s third great grandson, Will Brake, stood before one that he had specially made to honor the relative he never knew.
“Moses had lived through 23 presidents, three American wars, and so many personal losses,” Brake said in a statement read aloud to family and friends at the cemetery. “May he continue to rest in peace in this beautiful setting … in Ashland. May this stone honor his family legacy and the long life he lived.”
And what a life it was. Quesenberry, born in Kentucky in 1818, lost his father when he was 2 years old after one of his father’s slaves poisoned him, according to a court deposition Brake found.
“That was a fascinating piece,” he said, adding Quesenberry did not appear to own slaves, according to census records.
Quesenberry was instead a simple man — a farmer before becoming a master carpenter, who got married and had several children in his home state before moving west to Missouri and later, California.
In his latter years, Quesenberry lived with one of his daughters, Mary, until she died in 1910 — when he was 92 and she was 70. That’s what brought Quesenberry to Ashland, where he lived with his grand-daughter in a house on Iowa Street that still stands today.
At the time of his death of old age, Quesenberry had outlived all of his family members.
“So many of them died in their 30s — that was younger than the typical life expectancy even back then,” Brake said. “He saw the loss of a lot of younger people, not just those making it to 50 or 60.”
Brake knew a relative who knew Quesenberry, but never talked about him. The best Brake can tell is, “he just looked like such a kind man.”
“Just looking at his picture, it’s comforting,” Brake said.
Brake found out he was related to Quesenberry after initially researching his second great grandmother. He thought her last name was “Qeensberry,” but after finding a document tied to her, Brake found the correct spelling. He was then able to find her parents, Moses and Mary Ellen Quesenberry, and confirmed his the Quesenberry family line through DNA testing.
When Brake discovered he had a third great grandfather who lived in the valley, he was surprised, since he did not have family ties to the area.
“I started research and I said, ‘we should go out to the grave and see it,’” he said.
The sexton helped Brake find the exact spot at the cemetery where Quesenberry was buried. They discovered there was no marker to indicate that.
“I just felt that was not OK — somebody in my family should have a gravemarker, so I decided to have a grave marker made and place it,” he said.
The sexton played a role in that process, talking with Brake about specifications for a headstone. One option was to have a marker made of natural stone — something Brake thought was “a little more unique and fitting for the situation.”
The choice of stone was andesite, purchased at Leave Your Mark in Phoenix and engraved by Stonewyse in Sams Valley.
Finding information about Quesenberry proved tedious, since his last name was often misspelled. But by combing through the archives of the Jackson County Genealogy Library, Brake and his husband, Rich, who is a member of a local genealogy board, found their third great grandfather’s death certificate and obituary.
The couple used well-known online resources, including Ancestry.com and Find A Grave websites. What’s more, Will joined a Facebook Group called “Quesenberry Nation” for all descendants from the family.
“Knowing more about your past and your lineage, I think, is powerful,” Brake said.
Kim Thurman, president of the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society, attended the small memorial at Mountain View Cemetery this week. Though she was not directly part of Brake’s research, she has some idea of how he must have felt in the process.
“It’s amazing when I see people with a sense of discovery on their face when they find something,” Thurman said. “It is very fulfilling -- and obviously affected Will in a way that he chose to make sure that his third great-grandfather was memorialized here today; that everyone knows that Moses was buried here.”