Found on river barge, baby given love, burial in Lacon

By: By Tom Dermody

LACON — Next to nothing is known about Baby Moses Doe, but visitors to Immaculate Conception Cemetery here will remember the tiny infant for generations to come.

The 20-week fetus, whose skeletal remains were found on the edge of a river barge on Sept. 2 as gravel was being loaded in Henry, now rests in sacred ground within yards of deceased members of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi.

While speculation is the baby’s mother may have tossed her stillborn child off a Chicago River wall in late August — the barge had traveled from Chicago to Peoria and back north to Henry — the deceased little one found friends in the river communities of Henry, Lacon, and Chillicothe.

A Catholic burial was arranged Oct. 16 by the Lacon Knights of Columbus, Eugene Dunn Council No. 8321, after member Earl Sheets learned of the baby from Marshall County Coroner David Lenz Jr.

Lenz had called the baby “Moses Doe,” recalling Moses’ trip down the Nile River in a basket as a baby. A gender could not be determined.

About 25 people attended the 9 a.m. burial rite, with Father Harold Schmitt, council chaplain, presiding.

“I was surprised how many people were there,” said Father Schmitt, who offered prayers and sprinkled holy water on the grave site donated by the cemetery. Father Schmitt is also chaplain of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon.

Among those attending were several members of the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi, which operate the home, as well as parishioners and non-Catholics from the area.

Sheets himself dug the grave. Only a small hole was needed to bury Baby Moses Doe in a shoebox-sized container normally used for cremated remains.

“Later in life that child could have been the president of the United States,” Sheets reflected during an interview with The Catholic Post this week. “Or maybe a nun. All we wanted to do was give it a place to rest. It’s a corporal work of mercy.”

“It was magnificent to see how many came to express concerns for a baby no one knew,” said Deacon Bob Murphy, who serves Immaculate Conception Parish in Lacon as well as St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s parishes in Henry. He also attended the burial.

“Life is precious,” added Deacon Murphy, who knows that truth well. He and his wife Sharon lost a son from leukemia at age 14.

The coroner told Sheets of the baby because he thought the Knights would want to know and help.

“Without a doubt,” Sheets answered Lenz. The council confirmed that agreement at its regular meeting, covering the costs of the burial. Otto’s Monument Company in Chillicothe donated a marker stone, and the Knights are paying labor costs to have it inscribed.

Sheets said the council has heard many positive comments about the action, but said respecting life and serving the community “is what we do.”

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