Graveyard Blues: Finding Earl Fuller

I visited Earl Fuller’s grave today. I have been living in Lebanon, Ohio for two and a half years and Fuller’s grave is located about 10 miles from where I sit. Yesterday I did a major update to his Wikipedia page, and I may be moving shortly, so it seemed like the right time to make it out to Morrow to view his headstone.

Even though Morrow is not far from here, it’s about the easiest thing in the world to get lost getting there, and even though I’ve been there before, I did. I finally got on the right, winding road, knowing that I was getting near when I started seeing signs for the Little Miami canoes. That’s about the only reason anyone goes to Morrow; to rent a canoe to go down the Little Miami. It’s a small, sleepy town; 25 per cent of the population is under the age of 25, and you do see them — kids play in the street there, so you have to watch out for them. It is very remote and isolated.

The Morrow Cemetary is open dawn till dusk, but there’s no one there to speak to me when I go up the steep road past the gate. It was founded before 1865 but then bought by the I.O.O.F. and later deeded to the Township. There is an old stone I.O.O.F. structure built into the hillside that is very interesting, but I am none too curious as to what may be in there. I rolled up with James Reese Europe’s “Too Much Mustard” blaring on the CD player, thinking “Maybe Earl will realize there is a friend arriving, and not foe.”

I parked off to the side where there were no graves and walked up a path to a newer, garage looking building, but no one was inside. It was connected to an old shack, which I suspect must’ve been the caretaker’s cabin, but it was locked off with a hasp that had gone to rust. No attendant, and I’d hoped to ask where “section C” was as that was where Earl was buried. I knew that the main Fuller family plot was in “section A.” And you could hardly miss it, as the E.F. Fuller family plot is marked by a gigantic headstone, the largest in the lot. These may have been Earl Fuller’s grandparents; off to one end was Sophie E. Fuller (1860-1945), who may have been his mother. Or not, as there are two empty plots next to her — where is her husband?

I was looking out at all of the stones on the landscape and thinking “It will take forever for me to look at all of these stones to find Earl.” I took about four steps and I realized I was standing right in front of it.


Earl Fuller's Grave
Earl Fuller’s Grave


To the left of it was a flat stone with nothing written on it; perhaps that’s the resting place of Earl’s wife, and I didn’t lift the stone to see if there was anything on it. However, Earl’s stone held a surprise for me; his death certificate estimated his age at 50 in 1947, but the stone places his birth as “1885” which makes a lot more sense in terms of his career trajectory. He was born the same year as King Oliver.

I got back in the car and carefully made my way out of the cemetary. I passed Municipal Hall in Morrow, a strange building which looks like a cross between a little palace and an old garage. I thought of stopping to ask about how to contact the keeper of the cemetary, but it was obvious that there was no one inside. I continued up the hill and out of town, passing its only mall which contains a Subway, a Family Dollar and a lot of empty storefronts. I was surprised to find that my doctor, whom I will see tomorrow, has an office in Morrow.

The search for Earl continues. Perhaps the only appropriate tune to go with this post is his 1918 recording of “Graveyard Blues.” His final resting place is certainly a very lonely, unjazzy place for such an important jazz pioneer. — Uncle Dave Lewis

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