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Who's buried in The Great Maro's tomb? St. Charles man finds out
By Dave Heun | Daily Herald Correspondent

The giant boulder that now rests on the grave of "The Great Maro" arrived by wagon to St. Charles in 1908.

 

Courtesy of St. Charles Heritage Center

Terry Evanswood looks over the plaque Thursday that he was hoping to find beneath the large boulder in the North Cemetery, marking the grave of "The Great Maro," a magician with ties to St. Charles.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Terry Evanswood, left, and his father Bob Hoge watch as the boulder atop the gravesite of "The Great Maro" is moved Thursday at North Cemetery in St. Charles.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/17/2010 12:01 AM

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It might seem odd that a famous magician who lived in St. Charles in the early 1900s would request that a 3-ton boulder be moved from property at his childhood home in Michigan all the way to St. Charles to mark his gravesite.

If that seems odd, try this one:

Another famous magician from St. Charles, more than 100 years later, decided he wanted to raise that boulder to better preserve the name of the magician at his gravesite in North Cemetery on Route 25.

You have to back up to 1993 to start to understand why magician Terry Evanswood, a 1988 graduate of St. Charles High School, was back in town this week to seek help in raising the 6-foot solid-rock grave marker.

When the Dunham Hunt Museum was staging a Cemetery Walk at North Cemetery in 1993, they asked Evanswood, an aspiring magician, to portray Edward Maro, known as "The Great Maro."

Evanswood had never heard of Maro before that event.

"I didn't know a famous magician even lived in St. Charles, so I got really interested in the character," Evanswood said.

In his research, Evanswood learned that Maro was born in Leland, Mich., as Walter Truman Best in 1868 and he met a girl named Allie Kaiser during a performance in St. Charles and fell in love with her. Because he traveled so much, Maro couldn't really declare any particular location his home, Evanswood said, but he and his wife determined it would be just as easy to move to St. Charles after they were married and make that his "base."

When Maro died of typhoid fever after his last performance in Philadelphia in 1908, his last requests were to be buried in St. Charles and also have a 3-ton, 6-foot-high boulder that he remembered from his childhood brought to St. Charles via train and wagon train to be his grave marker.

"I read about this 6-foot boulder standing upright with plaques on it, and I went out to the cemetery, and couldn't see it anywhere," Evanswood said. "I finally saw this huge boulder, laying flat on the ground, with the name Kaiser on it.

"There was a smaller rock with Maro's name on it nearby, but I thought there had to be a plaque for him on the underside of the boulder, that maybe it had been knocked down by weather, or vandals, or something."

Evanswood said the thought that Maro's gravesite wasn't the way it was originally intended bothered him ever since.

"I promised Maro and myself that once I had the wherewithal to do it, I would make it happen that we would raise the boulder and find that plaque."

Evanswood took some time away from his home in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and his magic performances at the Wonderworks Theater there to organize the boulder-raising effort with his brother, Mike Hoge, a masonry contractor.

"This was the perfect time for me to do this, with my father Bob Hoge's connections, my brother's abilities and my passion all coming together," Evanswood said.

Family, friends and members of the St. Charles Heritage Center watched with interest Thursday morning as a three-man crew from Driessen Construction used a forklift and straps to maneuver and lift the boulder enough to reveal the plaque, stating "E. Maro - Walter Truman Best (1868 - 1908)."

"I am very happy about this because it was on my mental rotation for 17 years now," Evanswood said. "But this was my brother's magic this time."

Even though the task took about an hour, Mike Hoge didn't view it as a difficult job.

"Terry had asked me about this, and I talked to Joe Driessen, and we just said it would be no problem," said Mike Hoge, who added that they had actually moved the boulder enough on Wednesday to get a glimpse of the plaque, so as to be certain to continue with the project.

"I actually crawled under there and took a look (after the boulder was slightly lifted)," Hoge said.

When the raising project started, and it was evident how difficult it was going to be, Evanswood joked that maybe it was "Maro's last trick" that the boulder wouldn't be moved.

Evanswood's father, Bob Hoge, was on hand and was amazed at what must have took place 100 years ago.

"We have a lift truck and four guys, and they brought that thing in with four horses and two wagons," Bob Hoge said. "It's just amazing."

Mike Hoge was to set the boulder in a concrete foundation later in the day, and the plaques would be cleaned at a later date.