BARNESVILLE, Minn. — A Minnesota family has followed through on a longtime wish to give a loved one the tribute they deserve, 85 years after the fact.
Ever since her death in 1936, Margaret “Maggie” Griffin’s grave in a Barnesville cemetery has been unmarked.
Next to it, the grave of her first husband, James Griffin, who died 30 years before her, was adorned with a modest, blue granite headstone.
But Maggie Griffin’s death occurred during the middle of the Great Depression, when financial means for most were incredibly tight.
“It would have been hard to collect pennies and get a headstone,” said Patrick Hines, one of Griffin’s great-grandchildren.
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Patrick Hines, 73, of Cottage Grove, Minn., figured family members probably planned to get one when the hard times passed but it never happened.
Mike Hines, 69, of rural Randall, Minn., and Patrick's brother, said he was reminded of the omission, often.
“It always bugged my mother,” Mike Hines said.
Louise Eleanor Hines, who everyone called Eleanor, died in 2001. She was always distressed by the fact that her grandma Maggie didn’t have a proper headstone.
Margaret Griffin had to endure a lot during her 62 years, including the deaths of James and two of their children, all in the same month.
She and James, who was a railroad foreman, had eight children together before his death at age 45.
Maggie gave birth, in order of oldest to youngest, to Thomas, Mary, Helen, Louise, James, Johanna, Johnnie and Timothy.
In 1906, multiple tragedies struck the family.
Sixteen-month-old Johnnie died on Oct. 3 and 1-month-old Timothy on Oct. 17, the couple’s two youngest children.
The death of their father James followed on Oct. 24.
James Griffin was believed to have died from “quick consumption,” another term for a rapid death from tuberculosis.
It’s believed the children died from either tuberculosis or typhoid fever. Their names are engraved on the back of James Griffin’s headstone.
In 2019, Mike Hines decided it was time to properly honor their great-grandmother, and brother Patrick was quickly on board.
They used a type of carbon paper to copy the design of their great-grandfather’s headstone, and Patrick Hines took all of the measurements to make a replica headstone.
He and Mike made a down payment on the headstone at Little Falls Granite Works, which acquired the granite slab from somewhere in Europe. Other family members chipped in as well.
“It wasn’t a money thing, it was just a ‘get ‘er done’ thing,” Patrick Hines said.
The new headstone was supposed to be placed in the summer of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that because no family members wanted to get together.
On July 17, 2021, family gathered at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Barnesville to finally do the honors.
Patrick Hines, a civil engineer, excavated for the headstone base while brother Mike set the form for it. Another brother, Jerry Hines, mixed the concrete and troweled it smooth.
Patrick Hines made sure the two slabs were lined up parallel, at the right elevation and at equal height.
Afterward, the group had a potluck meal in a Barnesville park that included Eleanor Hines’ favorites, Navajo beans and cinnamon rolls.
Someone suggested that for the next project, the family take a group vacation to Ireland, where their great-grandfather was born.
“I’m on board,” Patrick Hines said.