When Eleanor Rhoades decided to clear off a shelf inside the Historical Commission's second-floor office at , she had no idea she would uncover a tomb key left behind by a mystery donor.
"I decided that I was going to clean off a shelf in the office and the first box I picked up was filled with some very interesting stuff," Rhoades said.
Rhoades, the commission's secretary, said the small box contained several historic transcripts recording the marriages and deaths of town residents. Underneath, she found an aged envelope labeled: "Key to Capt. John Gilley Tomb, Green St. Cemetery, June 26,1892."
When the key was presented at the commission's meeting Tuesday morning, members expressed doubt that the tomb the key belonged to was still located at the cemetery. Wayne Butler, the commission's Collection Manager, noted that the "beehive" tombs that still exist have been cemented over and no longer have key-holes.
The key, they suspected, belonged to one of the cemetery's larger tombs, some of which had been relocated when the town decided to widen Creesy Street.
Curious as to whether or not the tomb still existed, I decided to take a walk over to the cemetery after the meeting adjourned to take a closer look at some of the "beehive-shaped" tomb markers. After a little searching, there it was, a tomb labeled "John Gilley, 1843."
When she heard Gilley's tomb was still on Green Street, Rhoades was elated.
"Oh my, that's so exciting," Rhoades said. "I'm going to get Wayne (Butler) to take a walk over there with me tomorrow."
When I reported the finding to curator Karen Mac Innis, she said in the past, the entrances to the "beehive" tombs would have had locked metal gates "like you would find on a ship."
"You wouldn't have been able to see into the tomb," Mac Innis said. "But the key that unlocked it would have been entrusted to the individual's family members."
Rhoades said commission member Bill Conly reached out to members of the town's Cemetery Commission to help shed some light on Gilley's plot and find out who the last person to have the tomb key was.
According to the Cemetery Commission's records, the tomb is currently occupied by the remains of Henry and Samuel M. Gilley.
Do you know anything about Capt. John Gilley? If you can help, let us know in the comments section below this article.