A mysterious gravestone inscription in Oakdale Memorial Gardens has sparked countless queries and discussions among visitors. Located in the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans section of the cemetery, a modest gravestone at the end of a long row simply reads, Limb of Unknown Child.

Davenport Public Library
Davenport Public Library

What we do know from Oakdale’s interment records is that the limb belongs to a boy. It’s listed as a leg. However, no other details such as a name or date are recorded. A disparity between the internment records and the actual location of the burial also adds another layer of enigma to the tale.

Where It Is Located

While the records cite the burial spot as T-F, the headstone is found in section T-E. Both sets of records indicate the same grave number, #001. Neighbouring this mystery grave are the headstones of Jessie Rodecker (T-E #001), who died in 1883, and Dorothy Birch (T-E #001A), who died in 1949. It's interesting to note that none of them seems to be the original owner of the limb.

Davenport Public Library
Davenport Public Library

The puzzle further deepens as an extensive search through newspaper records doesn't yield any hints of an orphan's leg (or any other limb) amputation. Equally baffling is the fact that none of the causes of death among the orphans buried in this part of the cemetery point to any limb amputation.

Why Burry Just One Limb?

Many visitors often wonder why a limb was buried separately. It's a legitimate query, and though it raises another enigma, there's some explanation. Historical records tell us that Iowa had regulations mandating the burial of limbs that were amputated above a specific point instead of mere disposal. Certain religious customs also demand the burial of detached limbs.

A Spooky Story From The Library

According to the Davenport Public Library, they also don't have much information about the Limb of Unknown Child. But they did share this story.

To add a spooky layer to this post, we have one final note: We have blogged before about the rumors of people hearing children crying in the Orphans’ section in the dark of night. As our staff member stopped by the cemetery on a lovely fall day to take pictures for this blog,  the area was nearly deserted, save for one or two visitors and a few cemetery workers in the next section over, mowing and leaf blowing. Above all the noise of machinery, our staff member heard the sound of children’s laughter. No children were seen in the area.

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