Hand-drawn map -- and a machete -- lead to lost grave near O'Fallon

News-DemocratSeptember 16, 2013 

When descendants located the grave marker of Johann Rudolph Ochs and Rosina Muller Ochs in 1986 a woodsy grove just east of O'Fallon, a story in the Okawville Times noted that they marked the graves so they never would be lost again.

Unfortunately, their idea of marking the grave was a hand-drawn map, which was of little help Monday when relatives came searching once again for the grave site.

I went along because, well, it sounded like my kind of fun.

The earlier story noted that the people farming the land around the large patch of brush containing the graves had cut a path to the graves.

But paths grow over with brush, and ditches can change in 27 years. It took an hour to find the grave marker when I accidentally stumbled upon it somewhere in the couple of acres of thick brush.

It took everyone else about 10 minutes to work their ways through the brush to join me.

Then the family posed for pictures with the marker and we spent another 20 minutes or so cutting our way back to civilization, thanks to Kevin Ochs and his machete.

There waiting for us was 102-year-old Nola Ochs, historian and matriarch of the family. She had been a big part of the hunting expedition back in the 1980s but couldn't go into the brush this time.

She brought along her son, Marion Ochs, and grandson Jim Ochs of Jetmore, Kan.

Nola, who also lives in Jetmore, Kan., has done quite a bit of family research. She said Johann and Rosina immigrated to America from Germany in 1835 and settled on a homestead near what is now the intersection of U.S. 50 and Illinois 158.

She said Johann was a portrait painter who had trained at the Sorbonne in Paris. He would walk to St. Louis to paint portraits.

Johann died in 1879. Rosina died in 1895. Some descendants remained in the area, but others traveled west.

Nola also has quite a history. She gained fame by graduating from college at age 92 and then getting her master's degree in history a few years later. She started on a doctorate degree but said she now is a dropout.

Ron and Sandy Pannier of Belleville were along, as was Richard Ochs and his son, Kevin Ochs of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The granite marker at the graves was placed there some 50 years ago, the relatives thought. It is surrounded by four stone posts from quite a bit earlier.

There also are Ochs relatives buried in a cemetery in Okawville.

The family was so happy to find the grave site that it made it worth the scratches and bruises (I didn't see that one knee-high strand of barb wire in the woods.)

Monday evening the family gathered at a local restaurant to talk before splitting up to return to their various homes and lives.

But this time they can be certain there will be no losing the graves. Kevin pinpointed the location via the GPS on his phone.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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