ANNIE MARY'S GRAVE
In a remote area in southern Minnesota is a place called Albin Township and it here that you can hear the story of Annie Mary, her strange death, premature burial and ghostly afterlife. The place where her grave lies can be found on a farm, the old Twente Place, which is about eighteen miles southwest of New Ulm, Minnesota and a little West of Hanska. The current owners of the farm now tend to the grave and to the strange stories that have grown up around it.
Annie Mary was the six-year-old daughter Richard and Lizzie Twente. She died, or so everyone believed in 1886, of "lung fever". Before she died, she slipped into a coma, leading everyone to believe that she had died. In 1886, the death of a child was not uncommon and neither was her burial site, as many settlers buried their dead on their own farms.
No one knows for sure why Annie Mary's grave was first opened. Some claim that Lizzie began to have dreams in which her daughter had been buried alive. Others claim that Richard Twente's own peculiarities may have caused him to open the grave. Twente was always regarded as a strange man, although a brilliant and hardworking one. He sold trees and nursery stock from his farm and in 1918 published a book about planting fruit trees. He was also a very physically strong man who built a large, three-level barn almost single-handedly. He also built a granary that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places with a scale, a hoist and belt system and seven storage bins.
He also did some very strange things. Once he
forced his wife and daughters into a sled and started across the prairie with no
destination in mind, only turning back because they were in danger of freezing to death.
People were afraid of him because of his extreme strength and the fits of anger he
suffered from. On another occasion, he left his family and journeyed to Canada where he
bought a parcel of land. A short time later, he wrote his wife and asked to borrow $10 to
buy bread. He eventually died of a heart attack in 1920.
It is said that Richard Twente may have dug up his daughter's grave because he feared that someone may have stolen her, but whatever the reason, Annie Mary's grave was opened a short time after hear death. The inside of the coffin showed signs of a struggle and scratches covered the inside of the lid. Annie Mary's fingernails were torn and bloody and her face was frozen into a mask of terror.
The grieving parents now moved Annie Mary's body to another grave site, this one located on the highest hill overlooking the farm. Twente constructed a wooden fence around her grave but found that it didn't satisfy him and soon tore it down. He then installed a four-foot high wall of stone around the grave and placed a locked iron gate at the opening.
Legends soon began that the wall could not keep the girl's spirit from wandering. It is said that her restless ghost, wearing a white dress, could wander the hillside at night, attracting the attention of travelers along the nearby road. It was said that whenever the gate was open, the spirit would walk.
It has been said that car headlights will fail as people drive past the grave site. Others claim that cars will inexplicably stall on the nearby bridge and that years ago, horses would refuse to pass that way.
The tombstone itself has uprooted from its base and trees that Twente planted there have grown through the walls, cracking and causing it to lean. The gate is also now gone, although its iron hinges remain. Many believe that Annie Mary's ghost still gone because of the poor condition of her grave and the vandals who often visit there, showing their disrespect.
And I thought that was the end of the story... but thanks to the
help of a web page visitor named Keith Darnay, who works for a local newspaper called the
New Ulm Journal, published near where Annie Mary was buried, I learned that her
body was actually moved to a new grave in 1996. The story was written by Donna Weber, a Journal
staff writer, who described the event that took place in October of 1996.
" Robert Fischer has lost a legendary neighbor, but Annie Mary Twente has found a new resting place," she wrote. "The remains of the six-year-old girl whose grave was located in the corner of Fischer's farm in Albin Township near Lake Hanska for more than a century were disinterred Saturday. She was reburied Tuesday in a new casket in a cemetery plot next to her parents in northern Minnesota."
The reporter went on to describe the years of vandalism and desecration which had been heaped upon the burial site and the theft of her grave monument on many occasions. Fischer had not displayed the monument for several years and was finally convinced to allow the body of the young girl to be moved.
"The Twente gravesite will only live on in the memories of people," Weber continued, "the stone wall was demolished and removed and the trees cut down. The land will be returned to crop productions, planted, cultivated, harvested. Ironically, Richard Twente built the stone wall to protect the site. But, it stood out from the landscape, drawing attention to the plot and contributing to the fascination with the legend."
The removal of Annie Mary's grave marks the end of a legend... which is sort of a sad thing to me. Although I know that the girl will probably be happier, wherever she is now, and if that means the end of the ghost of Annie Mary's grave, then perhaps that is for the best.
Rest in peace.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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