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STRANGE GH: Who’s buried in Frank Jasper's grave?

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

A body that washed ashore near Rosy Mound before noon on April 2, 1902, was identified as one Frank Jasper by a brother — but a neighbor's viewing of the corpse and coroner's examination stated it was anyone but the man.

Frank Jasper, a resident and farmer in Allendale, was last seen walking out of the Grand Haven courthouse with another man, whose identity was unknown, at about 10 a.m., Nov. 7, 1901. Jasper had been boarding at the Riverview Hotel while in town serving as a juror in a trial. When court reconvened that afternoon, Jasper did not report. He had complained of having a fever, which concerned some others.

Sheriff Henry J. Dykhuis began to look into the matter and a $100 reward was posted for information regarding Jasper's whereabouts. The Grand Haven Tribune published a description of Jasper provided by his family. The information stated the missing man “was 40 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, brown hair, weight at about 175 and wore a suit of dark gray, check clothes.”

Frank Jasper was born Aug. 2, 1860. He was a single farmer who lived with his father and several grown siblings at his father Anthony's farmhouse in Allendale. Relatives also contacted lived in Spring Lake, Muskegon and Coopersville. Many in the Jasper family, including his father, believed 41-year-old Frank had been murdered as a result of a robbery.

A cap belonging to Jasper found floating in the Grand River near the old electric light plant fueled rumors he had committed suicide or fallen into the water, drowning.

Some theorized Jasper's disappearance was related to him serving as a juror, and that the man had become frightened and gone into hiding. However, this notion wasn't advanced, as the case he served on, People v. Charles Dykema, involved a liquor violation, nothing serious enough to warrant lethal retribution.

Also, sightings of Jasper, reportedly seen wandering Lake Forest Cemetery and the beach at Highland Park shortly after he vanished, were investigated and dismissed.

Then on April 2, 1902, more than four months after Frank Jasper was last seen, two men walking the frigid shore of Lake Michigan, Harry Holcomb and Willard Strickney, came upon the remains of a man lodged in the ice. Albert Kiel, undertaker and coroner, was summoned and the body was retrieved and examined. The cause of death was determined to be drowning.

The coroner's description of the deceased was published in that day's Grand Haven Tribune. The dead man was described as “a young man, fully 6 feet tall, (fit) and well-proportioned.” Hair upon the head was said to be black. Most of the clothing had been torn away by waves and ice, but some traces remained, including fragments of a black pair of trousers, size 8 shoes, cheap socks, and a fine blue shirt. A pocket book containing three pennies was found on the body, and a handkerchief.

But, there was “no mark to identify the body by.”

“The body is not believed to be that of the missing Jasper,” the Tribune reported. “Parties who knew the missing Frank Jasper viewed the remains but declared the body not to be his.”

One of the men to view the remains was Ottawa County Treasurer Frank Fox, who was an old neighbor of Frank Jasper. Fox stated he “could not find the least trace of resemblance to that of Jasper.”

The body was buried in the potter's field area of Lake Forest Cemetery the evening of April 3, 1902. Kiel stated no inquest was necessary and the case was closed. Until April 5, that is, when Warren Jasper came to town.

Warren Jasper, born Dec. 4, 1871, was a younger brother to Frank. He had read the Tribune articles concerning the finding of a body near Rosy Mound and came to Grand Haven to investigate. Upon his urging, the body of the unknown man was exhumed and Warren was said to “positively identify” the remains as his brother, Frank.

Warren had also brought shoes and a shirt belonging to his brother that were said to match items found on the corpse. Warren also pointed out a broken leg on the body, similar to an injury Frank had suffered years ago.

With some reluctance, the matter was closed. Warren placed the body in the custody of undertaker John Boer, for reburial in Allendale Cemetery. And whether it was Frank Jasper, or not, coroner Albert Kiel decided again not to hold an inquest as to how the man had died.

The description of Frank Jasper provided by the family, published in the Tribune when he went missing, didn't appear to match the body that was recovered. County Treasurer Fox and several others who viewed the remains said it wasn't Jasper. His brother did, even with the age, height and weight discrepancy.

The mystery remains. If it wasn't Frank Jasper, then who is buried in his Allendale grave?

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