Updated: December 5, 2012 6:34AM
The story of Hattie Prescott is less mysterious than it was a few days ago.
For that, we thank human curiosity, the passion of genealogists, cyberspace and the allure of a detective story that even Sherlock Holmes would find intriguing.
Hattie died at 20 months on June 18, 1891, according to her headstone, the discovery of which last year in Crete Township began a search for her grave — resulting in a stunning answer.
Richard Stone found the gravestone in plain sight under a utility pole as he walked by railroad tracks west of Balmoral Park Racetrack near Crete-Monee Road.
Stone and his brother Ron took a crack at the mystery, aided by local records and historians, for several months and came up empty. So last month they turned it over to Will County sheriff’s police. Maybe professional sleuthing could crack the case.
Police Lt. Mark Rojkowski and Sgt. Brad Jerkatis teamed up, mostly on their own time, searching more records and even walking through local cemeteries in search of Hattie’s grave. Despite their admirable effort, no luck. So they contacted us, hoping a story would help. Who was Hattie Prescott and where is she buried? Newspapers are suckers for mysteries.
Our story caught the eye of genealogists, who used their skills and the Internet to learn in a day that Hattie’s headstone belonged in a family plot in Winding Hill Cemetery in Aroostook County, Maine. That’s about 1,360 miles away.
How did the stone get to Crete Township? That’s a mystery that might not ever be deciphered, but we’re sure someone will try — possibly assisted by the prominence of the Prescott name in New England. At least 10 presidents have had Prescott DNA coursing in their veins. Col. William Prescott led the Colonial forces at Bunker Hill, where he shouted his famous command: “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes.”
As to why Hattie died, no direct evidence exists. But of every 3,600 Maine births in 1891, just more than 10 percent died in childbirth and another 10 percent before age 2.
Hattie’s stone will be returned soon to its rightful place. We’re happy about that and glad we were able to help.