The Stiltner Family Genealogy

Mystery - Who was Tommy Stiltner?

Just received the following from a newspaper in Roanoke Rapids, NC. Anybody have any information? If so, please contact us via the reader response page.

Mysterious headstone leaves Littleton residents puzzled

By Lance Martin, Herald Staff Writer, 3/28/02.

LITTLETON -- Who was Tommy Stiltner? Where was he from? How did he die? Why was his headstone unearthed in Littleton when no records of his birth or death in North Carolina seem to exist?

Littleton residents are trying to answer these questions after a contractor for the town dug up the mystery headstone Friday. The contractor was working along an embankment behind Main Street for a beautification project.

What they found was the perfectly preserved headstone of 14-year-old Stiltner, the son of L.H. Stiltner. The 14-year-old was born Dec. 1, 1922 and died July 1, 1937.

Checks with register of deeds offices in Halifax and Warren counties show no person by that name was ever born on that date or died on that date, said Wyatt Pegram, an employee of Blaylock Funeral Home in Littleton.

Pegram said further investigation through the state's vital records branch gave no clues. "There is no person (by the name Tommy Stiltner) in the entire state who died on that date or was born on that date," he said. "Everywhere I turn I run into a brick wall."

The stone is what funeral directors call a slant face marker, Pegram said. Today, the stone, with flowers engraved in it, would cost about $500. Pegram estimated the stone probably cost around $100 when Stiltner died. He said the Stiltners were probably a wealthy family.

The stone was in excellent condition and only needed dirt washed off when it was found on a hill between the old railroad bed and what used to be the main highway near Casa Mia's Italian restaurant on North Main Street.

A railroad once traveled through that section of town which led some people to believe it could have fallen off a rail car. There is also an unconfirmed report of a train derailment either in Littleton or Thelma during the steam engine era. "It looks like to me they would have found it at that time," Pegram said. "If the person died here there would be a record of the death."

Littleton Mayor Mason Hawfield said there are no records to indicate Stiltner was buried in the town cemetery.

Matt Johnston, a local historian, said he was not familiar with the name and had no information on the derailment.

Littleton Town Commissioner Betty Willis said Internet checks show the name Stiltner is prevalent in Virginia and Georgia. "I can't help but think it fell off a train," she said.

Willis said the town will continue to seek information on Stiltner. She said if no information is found she will recommend the stone be used as a memorial to the boy. "If it was my child, I would want that out of respect for the departed," she said. "For over 65 years that's been laying in the ground and no one ever inquired about it to anyone's knowledge."


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