When New Carlisle Historical Society member Dave McWhorter comes to me with a historical story idea, I’ve learned well enough to bite, as the man is literally always on the hunt to unearth some interesting fact about this city and its past residents. This weekend, he approached me about writing something on “Aunt” Judy Small, a former slave and New Carlisle resident who became a well-known and loved figure in town even during an age when the nation was less-inclined to enact racial equalities.
Despite her almost iconic status in town, Small’s final resting place went unmarked for nearly thirty years before receiving a tombstone. She was born in Casey County, Virginia on July 20, 1848, making her a girl of just 13 years-old when the Civil War began in 1861.
After Small’s emancipation at the end of the war, she eventually settled in New Carlisle, where she remained until her death in February of 1946 at the age of 98. In July of 1945, Small was featured in the “Oddities” page of the New Carlisle newspaper, which listed her as the city’s oldest living resident.
An article written by Audrey Mueller for the New Carlisle Sun reported that Small finally received a grave marker around Christmas of 1970, some 24 years after her death. The decision to posthumously honor Small with a tombstone came from one of her former neighborhood newspaper boys who grew up to be a member of the New Carlisle Cemetery Board.
Small’s last name was incredibly fitting, as those who remember her said she stood no more than five feet tall--a mere wisp of a woman.
Mueller’s article noted that Bud Weinland, who remembered Small from his childhood paper route, suggested to fellow Cemetery Board members in 1970 that she deserved to be remembered with a grave marker. Mueller also stated that Small stuck out in Weinland’s mind because even though she was not a paying customer and had a very difficult time of making a living, she always had cookies, apple pie, or sassafras tea for the neighborhood papers boys, so he would often sneak her a free newspaper.
Weinland described his tombstone for Small as “a Christmas gift to ‘a page out of history’ from a group of grateful ex-newspaper boys,” as recorded in Mueller’s story.
Small’s grave is marked by a simple stone bearing her name in the New Carlisle Cemetery.