Gateway to the West: Visiting St. Joseph, Missouri’s Mount Mora Cemetery (Part III)

Last week, I shared some stories about the residents of Mount Mora’s Mausoleum Row. With 30 mausoleums total on the property, it’s difficult to narrow it down to a smaller list. But the Burnes mausoleum deserves to be included on it.

Led by James Burnes and his wife, Mary, the Burnes family left Indiana after their son, Lewis, returned from an exploratory expedition of the Platte territory in Northwest Missouri. James served as a circuit court judge in Indiana and hoped his sons would work together in Missouri. Three of them attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Of James and Mary’s children, James Nelson Burnes made the biggest splash. After graduating from Harvard Law, he was Attorney of the District of Missouri in 1856 and served as judge of the court of common pleas from 1868 to 1872.

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James Nelson Burnes was a lawyer, capitalist and a Democrat.

James Nelson Burnes also financed and built the Chicago & Northwestern railway from Eldon, Iowa, to Leavenworth and Atchison, Kansas in 1870 and 1871. During the same years, he started construction of railroad bridges across the Missouri River at both places. In 1873, he settled in St. Joseph. With his brother, Calvin, he established the National Bank of St. Joseph and the city’s waterworks.

In 1883, James Nelson Burnes was elected as representative of Missouri’s Fourth District to the 48th Congress (and elected to the 49th and 50th as well). He was re-elected to the 51st Congress, but died in Washington, D.C. on January 23, 1889, before the start of the congressional term.

The architects of the Burnes mausoleum were Harvey Ellis and George Mann.

The architects of the Burnes mausoleum were Harvey Ellis and
George Mann.

James Burnes’ son, Daniel Dee Burnes, also got his law degree at Harvard and practiced in St. Joseph. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became Fourth District representative for the 53rd Congress in 1893. He only served one term, returning to Saint Joseph to resume his law practice.

Both James Burnes and Daniel Dee Burnes, and their wives, are buried in the Burnes Mausoleum. Several other Burnes family members are interred within it as well. Built in 1889, the architects of the Romanesque Revival tomb were Harvey Ellis and George Mann.

What sets the Burnes mausoleum apart from its neighbors is the unusual facade, rising above and beyond the mausoleum crypt masked behind it. Made of dressed limestone, the structure sweeps from the base to a parapet gable with a simple cavetto cornice. The grill work of the gate is simple, close to an Art Nouveau style.

The Owen Mausoleum, while not particularly notable in appearance, is worth mentioning. Three of attorney James Alfred Owen’s daughters would never marry but their lives were by no means ordinary.

Mary Alicia Owen, the eldest Owen child, gained attention as a folklorist by collecting and recording old African-American and Native American folk tales. Her earliest publication was Old Rabbit the Voodoo, and other Sorcerers. In an era when most young ladies married and had children, Mary Alicia set her own course.

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Mary Alicia’s reputation as a noted folklorist was unusual at that time for a woman.

In 1906, Mary became one of the founding members of the Missouri Folklore Society.  Owen also helped organize the St. Joseph Folklore Society and started the Mary Alicia Owen Story Teller’s League to encourage women to write fiction.

Luella Agnes, the second Owen child, focused her interests on spelunking and geology. As a child, she loved to roam the outdoors, dig in the dirt, and explore the caves along the bluffs of the Missouri River around St. Joseph. Not exactly the habits of a debutante! Her parents were less than thrilled.

After her father died in 1890, Luella felt free to go on trips with fellow spelunkers (people who explore caves and caverns). She often wore a long, split skirt that skimmed the tops of her boots. Between 1890 and 1900, Luella reportedly explored hundreds of Missouri’s estimated 3,500 caves. In 1898, Luella’s book, Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills, was published to much acclaim.

It's been reported that some cave guides would not take Luella Owen into caves because she was a woman and they thought it was too dangerous.

Some cave guides would not take Luella Agnes Owen into caves because she was a woman and they thought it was too dangerous for her.

Fascinated by the loose, yellowish soil she saw along the Missouri River bluffs, Luella discovered that this loess was very fertile and only exists in a few other areas in the world. In 1900, she traveled to China and Germany to explore their loess soil sources and wrote scientific papers about it. She also traveled around the U.S., sharing her geologic information and insights.

The youngest Owen daughter, Juliette Amelia, became an ornithologist (bird expert) and artist. She was especially inspired by the work of artist John James Audobon. She drew all the illustrations in her sister Mary’s first book, Old Rabbit the Voodoo, and other Sorcerers.

Juliette Amelia Owen was the youngest of the Owen children and thought to be the prettiest.

Juliette Amelia Owen was the youngest of the Owen children and thought to be the prettiest. Photo source: Missouri State Archives.

While all three Owen sisters did a fair amount of traveling, much of their time was taken up with tending their invalid mother (who died in 1911). They all lived together in the same house they had known since childhood on the corner of Ninth and Jules Streets. Luella died in 1932, Mary in 1935, and Juliette in 1943.

That's Christi standing at the Owen Mausoleum door. For some reason the front bronze grille door was open (but the inner doors were not).

That’s Christi standing at the Owen Mausoleum door. For some reason the front bronze grille door was open (but the inner doors were not).

Built in 1891, the Owen mausoleum is another one in the Victorian Eclectic style. The architects are unknown. Composed of two parts, the larger element was built as a chapel, with a smaller building containing the burial vaults appended to the rear.

The last two I’m going to talk about today are the Crowther and Self mausoleums. Built only a year apart, they’re almost identical in appearance and are of the Victorian Eclectic style. The architect is unknown but it’s almost certain he designed both.

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

George Crowther and his family emigrated from Lancashire, England to the U.S. in the 1850s. He had trained as a machinist as a young man. The 1860 U.S. Census indicates George was a molder so he was experienced in the iron trade.

After spending years in New York, Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska, the Crowthers settled in Saint Joseph and George helped start the iron manufacturing firm of Burnside, Crowther & Rogers. After his death, his sons George, Thomas, Enos and James ran the firm, which changed names to Crowther & Rogers.

George and his wife, Harriet, had several children but not all had long lives. Ira, who died of typhoid at 18, shares his parents marker at Mount Mora. The Crowther mausoleum appears to have been built after the death of Thomas Crowther, the oldest son, in 1892.

The Crowther and Self Mausoleums both feature (above the columns) elaborately designed corners above the doors with rosettes and oak leaves. They also feature small, narrow stained glass windows on each side.

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This is the left corner above the doors of the Crowther mausoleum.

In addition, both have a polychrome encaustic tile floor (don’t ask me what that means) that begins at the exterior porch and extends into the interior of the mausoleum. A brown tile border with a pattern of multi-colored tile work borders a field of gold tile with inset diamond-shaped tiles.

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For being well over a hundred years old, the tile work of the Crowther mausoleum floor has held up well.

Unfortunately, I could find out little about the Self family. There’s nothing on Find a Grave beyond a handful of names and none died before 1914. Born in 1852 in Missouri, James A. Self was (according to the U.S. Census) a carpenter, brewery president and a real estate executive over the decades. His wife, Josephine Gaughan Self, was from Chicago. I can find no record to indicate if she’s interred with her husband or not.

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The Self mausoleum received a deep cleaning in 2014, thanks to the efforts of Wesley Slawson as part of his Eagle Scout project. Years of sap and grime were washed away, leaving it in much better condition.

The main difference that you can see on the Crowther and Self mausoleums is that the Crowther mausoleum has the Masonic and Odd Fellows (the three-linked chain) over the name above the door. The Self mausoleum has twin columns of red granite while the Crowther ones are limestone like the rest of the tomb’s stone. The bases of the two pillars on both mausoleums differ as well. The Self mausoleum has a small tower with a rosette carved into it above the date while the Crowther mausoleum does not.

I’m not done with Mausoleum Row just yet, so come back next week for Part IV. There’s much more to see.

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Gateway to the West: Visiting St. Joseph, Missouri’s Mount Mora Cemetery (Part II)

Since writing Part I about Mount Mora Cemetery, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to add about its origins. To do that, here’s a little history lesson on how Saint Joseph began.

In its early days, Saint Joseph was a bustling town, serving as a last supply stop and jumping-off point on the Missouri River toward the West. It was the westernmost point in the U.S. accessible by rail until after the Civil War.

In 1843, successful fur trader Joseph Robidoux chose Frederick W. Smith and Simeon Kemper to help fully design Saint Joseph’s layout. Under Kemper’s plan, the town was to have been called Robidoux, a feature Kemper thought would appeal to his boss. However, Robidoux liked Smith’s plan more because it featured narrower streets and would leave more land for Joseph to sell in the form of lots.

As is often the case, the pocketbook won over the ego. The main east-west downtown streets, however, were named for Robidoux’s eight children and his wife.

Simeon Kemper was not only instrumental in designing Mount Mora Cemetery but the town of St. Joseph itself.

Simeon Kemper was instrumental in the initial design of Mount Mora Cemetery and the town of St. Joseph.

Believing a cemetery might become a lucrative business opportunity, Kemper and his wife, Jane Ann, deeded two-thirds of a 20 acre plot on their farm to Israel Landis (who is mentioned in Part I) and Reuben Middleton. The land covered a scenic hilltop approximately a mile west of the Buchanan County Courthouse.

Sadly, Kemper had a personal connection to the property. The Kempers’ three-year-old daughter, Susan Jane, died in 1847. Nine days later, the Kemper’s infant son, 10-month-old Simeon Love, was buried beside her. The Kemper family plot is on top of the hill of Mount Mora.

By 1870, people were complaining that livestock was roaming the cemetery and hogs were rooting up the graves. Town trustees hired prominent architect W. Angelo Powell to draw up and implement a master plan that eventually transformed Mount Mora into a rural cemetery with a park-like feel.

Most burials at Mount Mora occurred between 1851 and 1930. About 15,000 people are buried there, with approximately 8,850 stone markers. So half of the graves aren’t even marked.

MoraSignDuring the post-Civil War period, Saint Joseph experienced a sort of golden age that gave rise to the construction of some exceptional tomb architecture. Mausoleum Row and the others scattered throughout the cemetery pay historical tribute to turn-of-the-century Saint Joseph.

Consisting of 21 mausoleums, Mausoleum Row also reads like a “Who’s Who” of St. Joseph’s economic and social elite, competing with each another to build magnificent homes and impressive burial tombs. It’s clear that the city’s creme de la creme had money and wanted to show it off, even in death.

Mausoleum Row consists of 21 mausoleums but there are a total of 30 on the cemetery grounds.

Many people think W. Angelo Powell is buried in the Powell mausoleum but he’s actually buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery (also in Saint Joseph) with his wife, Cecelia. However, Powell’s son William (also an architect) and his wife, Gracie, are buried in the Classical Revival-style mausoleum at Mount Mora. It’s likely William’s brother, Grey, designed the limestone tomb. William’s ashes are in an urn placed next to a portrait of Gracie, which I could not photograph well through the door glass.

Oddly enough, Mount Mora's main architect W. Angelo Powell is buried in a different cemetery in St. Joseph.

Oddly enough, Mount Mora’s main architect W. Angelo Powell is buried in a different cemetery in Saint Joseph. But his son, William, and wife, Gracie, are interred within it.

Built in the 1930s, the Townsend Mausoleum was designed by the firm of Eckel & Aldrich, who designed a number of St. Joseph structures. It is the centerpiece of Mausoleum Row and features an Egyptian Revival tomb with the influence of the modern Art Deco period (during which it was built) and lacking the ostentatious decoration found on the earlier Victorian mausoleums. Two sphinxes flank the front doors. Notice the winged disc/double cobra symbol at the top of the building, which I talked about at Omaha’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

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The roof of the Townsend Mausoleum weighs 24 tons!

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The Townsend Mausoleum is flanked on each side by Egyptian Sphinxes.

Robert and Mary Townsend are interred within the mausoleum. Townsend & Wall (officially known as Townsend, Wyatt and Wall) at 602 Francis Street was the principal department store in downtown St. Joseph from 1866 to 1983, founded by Robert’s father, John Townsend. Designed in 1909 by Walter Boschen, their last building was converted into loft apartments and is still in use today.

MoraTownsendDryGoods

What was once the Townsend and Wall Dry Goods store is now loft apartments in downtown Saint Joseph.

Amazingly, the roof alone of the Townsend Mausoleum weighs a whopping 24.5 tons according to Mount Mora historian Suzanne Lehr. She said in a recent article, “Because of the great weight on the granite walls, the mortar between the granite slabs has oozed out.” A multi-thousand dollar project will be completed to repair the steps of the mausoleum and to re-mortar it.

Two deeply intertwined families have mausoleums at Mount Mora, the Nave and McCord families. The McCord Mausoleum (which is to the right of the Townsend Mausoleum) also features an Egyptian-style of a winged disc (no cobras) above the door. Built in 1909, it’s not surprising that it was designed by Eckel & (Walter) Boschen, whose names we’ve seen already.

MoraMcCord1The cobras, however, can be found on the doors’ knockers. I’m not sure why a mausoleum would need them since the occupants within are deceased but who am I to question it? The Fairleigh Mausoleum features the exact same knockers on its doors.

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Knock, knock. Anybody home?

In addition to the Egyptian motifs, the McCord Mausoleum has a variety of flowers woven through the bronze work of the front gates that cover the doors. It makes for an interesting contrast.

MoraMcCordflowersJames McCord and Abram Nave were connected by marriage when Nave married McCord’s sister, Lucy Jane. They became business partners and the result was several successful endeavors too many to list here. The best known in Saint Joseph (and founded there) was the Nave & McCord Mercantile Co., a major pioneer mercantile chain of stores in the Midwest from the mid-19th century through the early 1930s.

An ad for cherries one could purchase through the Nave-McCord Mercantile Company. Photo source: eBay.

An ad for cherries one could purchase through the Nave-McCord Mercantile Company. Photo source: eBay.

The Nave Mausoleum is actually not located on Mausoleum Row but elsewhere in the cemetery. The style is Victorian Eclectic and the mausoleum is made of dolomite limestone. Black granite columns flank the doors. The words “AD MAJOREM GLORIAM” are above the doors, which means “To the greater glory of God.”

The Nave Mausoleum is much more traditional than the McCord one.

The Nave Mausoleum is much more traditional than the McCord one.

Lucy McCord Nave died in 1853, only 10 years after she and Abram married. They had seven children together, several of whom died in infancy.  He would marry twice more after that. While Lucy is buried in a different cemetery, Abram and his other two wives are interred in the Nave Mausoleum.

Another Victorian Eclectic-style mausoleum is next to the McCord Mausoleum. The Marlow Mausoleum only has two occupants, George Marlow and his wife, Arcadia Perry Marlow. Built in 1893, the architect is unknown. The rectangular-shaped structure is constructed of dressed blocks of gray granite. A broad projecting pavilion, deeper than any other on the Row, dominates the facade.

Marlow, a native of Virginia, headed to St. Joseph after the Civil War to open a shoe and boot business called Elephant Shoe Store that was quite successful. Arcadia Perry Marlow was the daughter of a prominent St. Joseph businessman. They married in 1886. A long-time bachelor, Marlow was 48 and Arcadia was 30.

MarlowMora Sadly, their story did not end happily. On Nov. 16, 1893, Marlow arrived at his store as usual and went up to the third floor to do some work. One of the shoemakers found him a few hours later, laying on the floor dead. He had shot himself in the head with a pistol.

Marlow left two letters, one for one of his clerks and another for Arcadia. According to a newspaper article, the letter to the clerk said he was “racked with pain, was unfit for business, and did not desire any longer.” Apparently, Marlow had been miserable and told his wife several times that his head felt like it was “on fire.”

Arcadia never remarried but chose to live with her sister in St. Joseph. She died in 1937 and her ashes were interred in the Marlow Mausoleum with her husband. They never had any children together.

Next time, I’ll have more stories to share from Mount Mora’s Mausoleum Row in Part III.

MoraBasic

 

 

Gateway to the West: Visiting St. Joseph, Missouri’s Mount Mora Cemetery (Part I)

I visited several cemeteries during my visit to Nebraska in September 2015. But one of them was actually in Missouri.

We drove down to St. Joseph, Mo. to visit the Glore Psychiatric Museum. It chronicles the 130-year history of what began in 1874 as “St. Joseph’s State Lunatic Asylum No. 2” along with centuries of mental health treatment. It’s located on the adjoining grounds of the original state hospital. I won’t go into what all we saw at the museum but if you happen to be in St. Joseph, it’s worth stopping by to visit (but kids might find it a bit frightening.)

My other aim for visiting St. Joseph was to visit the city’s oldest and grandest cemetery, Mount Mora. Established in 1851, Mount Mora is on the National Register of Historic Places. I couldn’t find out what the current acreage is but it was originally 20 acres.

Mt. Mora was established in 1851 and originally covered 20 acres.

Mt. Mora was established in 1851 and originally covered 20 acres.

I didn’t do a great deal of homework on Mount Mora. By this time in my trip, I’d visited so many cemeteries that I wanted to amble through the stones and simply enjoy being there. But I did look up the people whose graves I saw later.

One thing I noticed when I got up to the top of the hill was that Mount Mora has a lot of white bronze (zinc) markers, some the largest I’ve ever seen. It was a delight to see so many in once cemetery.

Abbott Porter Goff, a native of West Virginia, was a successful merchant in St. Joseph.

Abbott Porter Goff, a native of West Virginia, was a successful merchant in St. Joseph.

I couldn’t find out much about Abbott Porter Goff but he was a successful merchant in St. Joseph, having been spent his early life and marriage in West Virginia. He and his wife, Susan, had eight children.

A bound wheat sheaf with a sickle is a common motif on white bronze (zinc) monuments.

A bound wheat sheaf with a scythe is a common motif on white bronze (zinc) monuments.

Their monument is a nice example of white bronze monument, complete with a bound wheat sheaf/scythe on the side. I see this often on white bronze markers, signifying a long and fruitful life in many cases. Since Abbott lived to 70, that makes sense. It also has Biblical overtones as a symbol of Resurrection.

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The Hutchinson/Ashton monument is one of the few white bronzes I’ve seen with a statue perched on top of it.

The Hutchinson/Ashton monument is another rare white bronze because it has a statue on the top. Sarah Aspinal, a native of England, married William Ashton (a cloth manufacturer) and came to America in 1824. Ashton died in 1829, leaving her with two children.

Sarah married William Hutchinson in 1832 and they eventually moved to St. Joseph. In her obituary, her son Thomas Ashton is referred to as “Col. Ashton” although the military records I found on him indicate he had a physical disability that prevented him from serving.

The flower border on the Ashton/Hutchinson monument is a nice detail.

The flower border on the Ashton/Hutchinson monument is especially lovely.

A smaller white bronze monument got my attention because of some of the more uncommon symbols on its sides.

The white bronze monument for William Strop has some uncommon symbols on it.

The white bronze monument for William Strop has some uncommon symbols on it.

A native of Kentucky, William Strop was the son of German immigrants. He served in the Union’s Fifth Regiment, Company L of the Kentucky Cavalry during the Civil War. By 1870, he and his wife, Carrie, were living in St. Joseph and he was earning a living as a brick mason. In 1880, he and Carrie had a son and three daughters. For reasons, unknown he died in 1881 at the age of 35.

William Strop's monument has both the symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Ancient Order of United Workman (AOUW).

William Strop’s monument has both the symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Ancient Order of United Workman (AOUW).

The three-link chain in the photo above represents the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is one I see on markers everywhere. The three links represent “Friendship, Love and Truth.” But the symbol below it was new to me.

I learned that the AOUW was the Ancient Order of United Workman. The AOUW predates Modern Woodmen of America, established in 1868 by John Jordan Upchurch, a mechanic on the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad. His original idea was to create a fraternal order that might unite the conflicting interests of capital and labor, but he became more interested in improving working conditions for members and establishing an insurance fund.

The emblems and symbols used by the AOUW have roots in Free Masonry, featuring the All-Seeing Eye, the Holy Bible, anchor, square and compasses, over which the motto “Charity, Hope and Protection” are displayed. By 1885, its membership numbered in excess of 318,000.

William Strop may have had a child die in infancy.

William Strop may have had a child die in infancy.

Another panel on this monument features a cherub. I suspect William and Carrie may have had a child who died in infancy. Census records indicate that the four children I saw listed lived well into adulthood but it’s highly possible there was one who died at birth or within the first year of its life. I’ve never seen a cherub on a white bronze monument, however.

Many gravestones feature an anchor, which symbolizes hope or eternal life. It’s also a favorite on Mason graves, meaning well-grounded hope. However, once in a while I spot an anchor on an actual Navy or Marine veteran’s grave.

Commodore Francis Sherman's last post (as a Lieutenant Commander) was on the U.S.S. Montgomery, stationed in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Commodore Francis Sherman’s last post (as a Lieutenant Commander) was on the U.S.S. Montgomery, stationed in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Commodore Francis Sherman retired as one of the Navy's last Commodores in 1901.

Commodore Francis Sherman retired as one of the Navy’s last Commodores in 1901.

Francis Sherman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy as a mid-shipman in 1871 and served as an officer in Navy War Department. During the Spanish American War of 1898, he was a Lieutenant Commander in the North Atlantic Squadron in command of the U.S.S Passaic. Afterward, he served as adviser captain on the Navy Flag Staff and retired in 1901.

One thing that’s particularly interesting about St. Joseph itself is that it was the starting point of the Pony Express, which only lasted 19 months in 1860 and 1861, and covered 2,000 miles. Mount Mora is the resting place of not only two Pony Express riders (Charlie Cliff and John Benjamin Harrison), but Israel Landis. He is often credited with helping create what’s known as a mochila, the leather mail pouches so critical to the Pony Express.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall seeing Israel Landis’ grave because I’ve since seen a picture of it. What I did see (and photographed) was this stone with an iron hitching post in the shape of a horse’s head. In my research, I saw a mention of this being a memorial to Pony Express riders. The one grave that’s next to it is of Lawrence Weakley, who married Israel Landis’ granddaughter, Jeanette Landis Weakley.

I'm not sure which Landis this marker memorializes.

I’m not sure which Landis this marker memorializes.

The last thing I’m going to talk about is the Maud Vanderlinde mausoleum. Mount Mora has 30 mausoleums, many of them ornate and glorious. I’ll get to those in future weeks. But Maud’s is so shrouded in legend that I feel the need to mention hers here.

The popular story behind Maud’s death was that she died while she and her husband were passing through St. Joseph on their way west. She supposedly died in childbirth. Her husband was said to have asked a Native American chief to perform some kind of ceremony over her body to keep it preserved before placing her in the red brick mausoleum he had made for her eternal rest.

Word around town was that if you peered inside the window of the mausoleum, you could see Maud’s casket resting on two sawhorses, her remains visible for everyone to see.

Maud Vanderlinde's romanticized death is no less sad but much less dramatic.

The truth behind Maud Vanderlinde’s death is no less sad but much less dramatic.

Thanks to her obituary and some digging on Ancestry.com, I was able to find out the real story. Maud (or Amanda as the 1880 U.S. Census indicates) was the daughter of John and Susan Vanderlinde, who married in 1869 in St. Louis, Mo. John was a surveyor for the U.S. Customs Office in St. Joseph.

Maud was the only daughter of the Vanderlindes and contrary to the legend, she never married. She died at the age of 23 after a lengthy illness, a much beloved member of the community.

The mausoleum underwent some repairs in recent years and its doorway is now bricked up. The legend of her death as a young bride and expectant mother, however, has persisted over the years.

In my next post, I’ll share the stories of Mount Mora’s Mauseolum Row. You won’t want to miss it!

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Easy Being Green: Visiting Honey Creek Woodlands’ Natural Burial Ground

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve had several people ask me about “green” cemeteries. These are cemeteries that are more environmentally friendly than traditional ones. I didn’t know much about them so I had a lot of questions.

Georgia currently has two green cemeteries, Honey Creek Woodlands (a natural burial ground) outside of Conyers and Milton Fields in Milton, a suburb of North Atlanta. My friend and fellow “Church Chick” Sarah told me she had been to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit while on a ride with her cycling group. The Monastery (officially called Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery) owns and operates Honey Creek Woodlands, which is right across the road.

A few months ago, Sarah and I invited another Church Chick, Megan, to join us on a sunny January afternoon to visit the Monastery, then explore Honey Creek Woodlands and find out more about “green” burial.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located outside Conyers, Ga., about ? miles east of Atlanta.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located outside Conyers, Ga., about 25 miles southeast of Atlanta. On the far left is the Abbey Chapel.

Because Honey Creek Woodlands is owned by the Monastery, you can’t tell the story of one without the other. In 1944, 21 Trappist monks left Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to found a monastery in rural Conyers, Ga. At the time, the diocese was centered in Savannah and only one Catholic family lived in Rockdale County where Conyers is located.

The monks lived in a barn while building the concrete Abbey Church, which took 15 years to complete. A museum that shares the history of the Monastery is inside that original barn today, which we walked through during our visit.

The Abbey Church is open to visitors who are encouraged to witness mass, mid-day prayer or vespers.

The Abbey Church is open to visitors who are encouraged to witness the monks during mass, mid-day prayer or vespers.

In addition to a visitors’ center that opened in 2011, the Monastery has the largest Christian bookstore in the state on the grounds. The monks grow and sell Bonsai trees in their garden center, in addition to baking delicious breads that they sell. Stained glass made on site is sold. They also host onsite retreats on topics from prayer to photography.

Over the years, the monks tried their hand at growing hay and farming various crops but were unable to find a reliable source of income in addition to their other efforts. Starting around 2006, the monks began looking into other options to raise funds while being good ecological stewards of the 2,200 acres they own.

Amid that land, almost 1,000 of those acres are under permanent protection as part of the Mount Arabia Heritage Corridor. Within these protected acres are the green burial grounds of Honey Creek Woodlands, which was once part of an old terraced farm area that probably grew cotton and other bare-earth crops. The first burial took place in 2008.

The Rockdale River Trail, which is used by many cyclists, rolls past the Monastery and Honey Creek Woodlands.

The Rockdale River Trail, used by many cyclists, winds past the Monastery and Honey Creek Woodlands.

Sarah had already made an appointment for us to meet with Joe Whittaker, who has a lot of experience with green cemeteries. He previously worked at Ramsey Creek in Westminster, S.C., the first conservation burial ground in the U.S. The original 33-acre site opened in 1998. While Joe is not a monk, he enjoys working with them and helping people explore their green burial options.

The road into Honey Creek doesn’t look like what you see at a traditional cemetery.

Honey Creek does not have a chapel yet to hold funeral services in, but that’s coming soon. They do have an area in their main building (where the office is located) where you can host small receptions afterward. The monks do not take part in any of this but they do offer up prayers for everyone buried at Honey Creek.

Meeting with Joe (the only full-time employee) reminded me of how different green cemeteries are. At a traditional cemetery or funeral home office, the environment can seem stiff and formal. At Honey Creek, Joe was wearing jeans and a ball cap and we were dressed casually as well. He spoke respectfully but frankly with us. I’ve also never been to a cemetery office that had it’s own cat.

Sarah, who was the one seriously looking into green burial, enjoyed having the office cat jump into her lap.

Sarah, who was the one seriously looking into green burial, enjoyed having the office cat jump into her lap.

Honey Creek does not allow embalming. That surprises most people, who are used to traditional cemeteries that tell them it’s required by state law (it is not). So what if you can’t have the burial within 24 to 48 hours? No problem. Dry ice or refrigeration at a local funeral home can extend that time to three or four days.

The body is wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable container, such as a wicker or simple wooden casket. It’s then buried in a shallow grave, about three and a half feet deep, where microbe-rich soils break down the body naturally. The distance between graves is at least four feet. A concrete vault is not required.

HoneyCreekBurialSignThe monks at the Monastery do not make caskets but the Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey in Iowa do. They make them by hand, from the simplest pine to more grander styles. You can order one and have it shipped to you.

Above ground, two to three feet of topsoil is mounded on top, and the grave is marked with something like a tree, wildflowers or some type of inconspicuous ecologically functional marker. The small flat stone markers that Honey Creek sells range from $200 to $400, and you can inscribe as much or as little as you like. Any marker brought in from the outside has to be pre-approved. No obelisks or towering bronzes.

One question I had was if you have to be Catholic to be buried at Honey Creek and the answer is no. All religions (or none at all) are welcome.

So how much does this cost? Joe explained that one key factor can determine that: body burial or cremated remains (cremains) burial. Body burial is more expensive due to the cost of the container and labor involved in digging the hole (which is done by hand, not with a backhoe). Unlike most traditional cemeteries and funeral homes, Honey Creek posts their prices on their website.

An unmarked grave in the Meadow area.

An unmarked grave in the Meadow area.

Plot costs vary depending on what area you want to be buried in, with the Meadow area as the cheapest ($2,500 for body burial, $950 for cremains burial) to the Hilltop area ($4,500 for body burial, $2,000 for cremains burial).

One of the most appealing aspects of green burial (aside from the environmental benefits) is that families and friends are encouraged to take part in any burial ceremony or funeral service at the graveside. That can range from signing one’s name on a wooden casket, singing songs or laying flowers/mementos at the grave.

A recent burial at Honey Creek. I think we were in the Hilltop area.

A recent burial at Honey Creek Woodlands. I think we were in the Meadow area.

Joe said that on occasion, clients have asked if they could dig the grave themselves in homage to their loved one. But it’s such a labor intensive job, few are able to complete it. One exception was a case in which a young college student was killed in a car accident. His friends took turns one at a time digging his grave to honor his memory.

An angel, signed by a friend or family member, is left at the grave.

An angel, signed by a friend or family member, is left at the grave.

Two options not usually available at traditional cemeteries is having a dove or butterfly release at the burial ceremony/funeral. In case you were wondering, the doves are locally owned and are trained to fly back to their owner’s home (wow!). Butterfly releases are a bit cheaper (and once released, they’re gone).

HoneyCreekPath

The path through the Meadow area.

To get to the burial sites, we went on foot down the gravel road. If you aren’t physically able, golf carts are available for that purpose. Walking is the best way to get a feel for the place. As we trekked through the Meadow area, I noticed how incredibly quiet it was. You could hear the birds and the breezes but little else. It’s just you and nature.

An example of a grave stone at Honey Creek. They all lie flat, not upright as in traditional cemeteries.

An example of a grave stone at Honey Creek. They all lie flat, not upright as in traditional cemeteries.

If you look closely, you can see that the "petals" of the flower are actually oyster shells.

If you look closely, you can see that the “petals” of the flower are actually oyster shells.

One question I had for Joe was if someone doesn’t have a stone marker placed at their grave, how do they keep track of who is buried where? What happens when a visitor wants to pay their respects? The answer is that they enter data into a GIS (Geographical Information System) database for individual burials, based on reference markers along the trails, which are archived electronically and on paper. So they know where everybody is at all times and where not to dig.

This is a Forrest area of Honey Creek.

This is a Forrest area of Honey Creek.

According to Joe, the first year Honey Creek Woodlands was in operation, they had 12 burials. In 2015, there were 140. They’ve been averaging about five burials per week. With enough room for 16,000 burials, Honey Creek has plenty of room for many more.

I’m not sure if I would ever choose to buried at a green cemetery. But after visiting Honey Creek, I’m certainly impressed by how it’s operated and the less expensive options available. It’s definitely food for thought. This kind of burial truly allows one to return to the soil without the use of toxic chemicals in a peaceful, natural setting.

HoneyCreekbench

Rest in peace, Jerry.

 

Generation Unto Generation: Stopping at Glenrock Cemetery

You might think that after visiting a large cemetery like Wyuka or Forest Lawn Memorial Park, going to a small rural cemetery would be a let down. In truth, I find them a bit of a relief.

Instead of trying to take everything in and not miss anything, I can wander a smaller cemetery without rushing and just enjoy it for what it is. Another genuine pleasure  cemetery is seeing several generations of the same families buried close to each other.

On my last day of my September 2015 visit to Nebraska, Christi and decided to go to St. Joseph, Mo. to visit Mt. Mora Cemetery. On our way down, Christi wanted to stop at Heart United for Animals, a no-kill shelter near Auburn. It’s out in the country so I looked on the Find a Grave phone app to see if there was a cemetery nearby that we could visit afterward. And indeed there was one only two miles away.

Like many Nebraska cemeteries, Glenrock Cemetery is in a corn field.

Like many Nebraska cemeteries, Glenrock Cemetery is in a corn field.

Glenrock Cemetery is easy to spot along the rough rural road that’s carved amid large cornfields. We were kicking up enough dust to choke a horse but I was just glad we didn’t have to drive into a cornfield to find it. You can see right away that someone is taking good care of it.

Thanks to a very helpful website created by Mary Beth Lavigne Kernes, I found out quite a lot about Glenrock Cemetery. Every grave is documented and photographed on the the site. I am always grateful to those helpful souls who provide details of a cemetery’s history.

According to the site, Salathiel J. and Eulala Good sold a little over an acre of land to the trustees of the Glenrock Burial Lots. Dated February 3, 1874, the deed stated that the land was to be used “solely for the purpose of a burying ground, and no other.” Mrs. Good gave up her “dower rights” to this land when it was deeded to the trustees. Unlike other early cemeteries in Nemaha County, Glenrock never associated with any other organization such as a church.

Welcome to Glenrock Cemetery!

Welcome to Glenrock Cemetery!

The town of Glenrock was platted and dedicated on September 8, 1857. That’s 10 years before Nebraska became a state. Of the eight Nemaha County towns proposed in that same year, only Nemaha and Peru still exist.

Records of the oldest section of the cemetery (to the left of the front gate), were lost in a fire. Stones still mark many of the graves there. According to Ms. Kernes, stories handed down through the generations mention Native American graves, as well as Gypsy graves from families who camped along Rock Creek, east of the cemetery.

The older section is to the left as you enter, with more recent burials to the left.

The older section is to the left as you enter, with more recent burials to the right. But many of the surnames are the same across the acres.

A second purchase of land from Oliver Good (Salathiel and Eulala’s bachelor son) in November 1895 secured the middle section of the cemetery (south of the original purchase). A third parcel of land south of the others was purchased from Tom and Eleanor Adamson in October 1963. This completed the land purchased, making the total area of the cemetery about 3.25 acres.

Records show that for many years lot owners were assessed $1 per year for upkeep. In 1908, Lettie Higgins collected $102 for building a fence. This section of fence is apparently still in place!

It's a safe bet that if you're in an old cemetery, odds are you'll find Stewart Iron Works fencing somewhere.

It’s a safe bet that if you’re in an old cemetery, you’ll find Stewart Iron Works fencing somewhere.

I’d noticed (as any seasoned “hopper” would) that like many other cemeteries’ fencing, Glenrock’s front section of fence is from the Stewart Iron Works of Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find their work in almost every state. I wrote about the Stewart Iron Works last year if you want to know more about them. If this is the fence Mrs. Higgins bought, she spent her money well!

I spent most of my time in the older section. It has a wide variety of different gravestone styles and varieties of materials.

In the picture, you can't really tell whose name it is but in person, it's much easier.

In the picture, you can’t really tell whose name it is but in person, you can see the name of Oliver Good.

This is what I can only describe as a large hunk of rock. I don’t know what kind or why it was chosen. It’s for Oliver Hazard Perry Good, the Good’s son who sold some of his land for the cemetery. He’s one of several Goods buried at Glenrock.

Little Evet Good didn't make it to his fifth birthday.

Little Evet Good didn’t make it to his fifth birthday.

Not far from Oliver’s grave is that of Evet Elsworth Good, who died at the age of four in 1879. This is by far the largest lamb I’ve seen on a child’s grave marker. Most lambs on gravestones are fairly small and many are damaged. This one looks to be in very good shape for its age.

DennisHiggins1

The shadows make it difficult to see but the angel is playing a harp.

Another child’s grave is this one belonging to Dennis W. Higgins, who died in 1871 before he reached his second birthday. His parents, Jonathan and Mary Fletcher Good Higgins (she was another of Salathiel and Eulala Good’s children), had 12 children. Of that number, five died in infancy or childhood. I’ve not seen an angel playing a harp like this one before on a grave marker.

Elbert A. Starr was one of two of William and Catherine Good Starr's children.

Elbert A. Starr was the son of two of William and Catherine Good Starr’s children.

The weeping willow is a common mourning theme on grave stones but this one has a lamb beneath it, indicating a child is buried there. Elbert A. Starr, who died at the age of four in 1903, was the son of William and Catherine Good Starr (another daughter of Salathiel and Eulala Good).

Clarinda Cooper's marker is a bit more roughly made than others.

Clarinda Cooper’s marker is unique among all the others.

Then you have Clarinda Cooper’s marker. It looks to be made out of concrete but I’m not sure on that. She was 51 when she died in 1906, and she was the husband of R.W. Cooper. He’s not buried at Glenrock.

Despite harsh winters and hot summers, Clarinda Cooper's name plate has remained intact.

Despite harsh winters and hot summers, Clarinda Cooper’s name plate has remained intact.

The nameplate on the marker is possibly slate or some kind of metal. It’s rusted a good bit but you can still read the inscription.

Baby Reimers lived a very short life but this baby had a fine marker to remember it by.

Baby Reimers lived a very short life but this baby had a fine marker to remember it by.

The grave of Baby Reimers struck me as odd yet interesting. It’s shaped almost like a spool of thread and is made of a highly polished stone. There are other Reimers buried at Glenwood (August Reimers was one of the original trustees) but the date doesn’t seem to match up with any of them. It’s a particularly fine marker for such a short life.

The last grave marker I’m going to talk about is a bit of a mystery. I had seen the name “Marchand” on a handful of the graves, indicating French ancestry. The one I photographed of Pierre Marchand, in fact, has an inscription written in French. He died at the age of 72 in 1878.

I learned later this part of Nemaha County was where many French immigrants settled even before Nebraska became a state. The first were trappers or Indian traders who were some of the first Europeans to settle there. More French settlers (who intended to make Nebraska their home) cam in the 1850s and the years after.

Is Pierre Marchand actually buried here?

Little is known about Pierre Marchand.

One of of their settlements was at the village of Julian, which had a station on the Missouri Pacific railroad. Julien Bauhuad, one of the first settlers, was the source of the town’s name because the railroad company could not pronounce the Frenchman’s last name. Julian’s still on the map but it has a tiny population of about 60 now.

In 1899, Julien Bahuaud (who lived alone on his farm) was robbed and murdered. The crime went unsolved for 14 years until one of the men suspected of the crime had heatstroke while in Kansas. Told that he was dying, he confessed to his part in the murder. To his chagrin, the suspect recovered and was brought back to Auburn for a trial. Convicted, he spent the rest of his life in the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Julian Bahuaud is buried in St. Bernards Catholic Church’ cemetery in Julian.

The puzzling thing about Pierre Marchard is that when I tried to research his name, I discovered a website that indicated he was actually buried at St. Bernard’s. Not at Glenrock. There are a few other Marchands buried at Glenrock but Pierre doesn’t appear to be directly related to any of them. I couldn’t find much about him.

Because we were headed to St. Joseph, we couldn’t linger at Glenrock for long. But this cemetery is indicative of many I’ve seen in Nebraska. It’s well cared for and the people who settled the area have descendants still living there today. Their children who died young are remembered with love.

Generation unto generation.

Glenrockasis

OMAHA!: Visiting Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Part III

If you’ve ever flown into Omaha or seen the movie About Schmidt, you’ve seen this building.

The Woodmen Tower was built in 1969 and is 30 storeys high.

The Woodmen Tower was built in 1969 and is 30 storeys high.

So what does that have to do with cemeteries?

If you’ve spent any time ambling among the grave stones, you’ve probably seen the Woodmen of the World (WOW) seal on a number of markers. I talked about WOW a little in my post on Wyuka Cemetery. But because WOW’s founder Joseph Cullen Root is interred at Forest Lawn, I’ll share a bit more about it.

Root1

Joseph Cullen Root and his wife, Louisa Inslee Root, are interred in the Root mausoleum.

A native of Massachusetts, Root was born in 1844. In 1865, he graduated from Eastman Business College in Poukeepsie, N.Y. He operated a number of businesses, including a mercantile, a grain elevator, and two flour mills. He sold insurance and real estate, taught classes in bookkeeping, managed a lecture bureau, and practiced law. Needless to say, he kept busy!

The door of the Root mausoleum.

The doors of the Root mausoleum.

Root was a strong believer in membership in fraternal organizations. Along with being a Mason, he was a member of the Knights Templar, the Knights of Pythias, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

A member of several fraternal organizations, Root likely borrowed from many of them when creating Modern Woodmen of the World.

A member of several fraternal organizations, Root likely borrowed elements from many of them when creating Modern Woodmen of America.

In July 1882, Root heard a sermon by the Rev. Sidney Crawford about “pioneer woodmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families.” This inspired him to to organize Modern Woodmen of America as a society which would “clear away” problems of financial security for its members.

This is a group of men who belonged to a Modern Woodmen of America camp in the Renton, Wash. area around 1909. Photo source: Renton History Museum.

This is a group of men who belonged to a Modern Woodmen of America camp in the Renton, Wash. area around 1909. Photo source: Renton History Museum.

On January 5, 1883, Root established Modern Woodmen of America. He served as the first Venerable Consul of Pioneer Camp No. 1 and the first Head Consul of the new order. In 1888, the Royal Neighbors of America was established as a ladies auxiliary, with a relationship to the parent order similar to that of the Order of the Eastern Star to Masonry. By 1889, there were 42,694 Modern Woodmen.

The stained glass inside the Root mausoleum evokes an Art Deco style.

The stained glass inside the Root mausoleum evokes an Art Deco style.

In 1890, conflicts within the order’s hierarchy compelled Root to resign and move to Omaha. On June 3, he organized Woodmen of the World. The name resulted from his desire both to maintain the name “Woodmen” and to build an order international in scope. They also offered insurance benefits to their members.

In 1913, Root attended Woodmen of the World conventions in Florida and Ohio, and visited camps in Southern states. He died in Hendersonville, N.C. on December 24. His body was returned to Lyons, Iowa where a ceremony was held in the Congregational Church before his interment at Omaha’s Forest Lawn.

Plaque honoring Joseph Cullen Root.

This plaque honoring Joseph Cullen Root is in front of his mausoleum.

When Root died, Woodmen of the World had nearly 700,000 members and over 10,800 camps. Insurance in force amounted to over $927,000,000. Through 1913, the society had paid $553,004 to beneficiaries. More than 45,000 Woodmen monuments could be seen above the graves of members throughout the country. Women of Woodmen was a group that also arose out of WOW.

As a fraternal order, WOW is pretty much gone but as an insurance company it is going strong. Now called WoodmenLife, it provides financial services to approximately 800,000 members. The Woodmen Tower (WoodmenLife’s central office) was once the tallest building in Omaha until 2002. It’s featured prominently in the movie About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson, who plays the role of a retired Woodmen insurance agent.

Forest Lawn has its fair share of amazing statues. I know I didn’t see them all but I’d like to share a few. The Barlow monument is one of the first I saw. It was created for prominent banker, Milton T. Barlow.

Milton T. Barlow was president of the U.S. National Bank.

Milton T. Barlow was president of the U.S. National Bank.

I couldn’t find out anything about who made this bronze, but the shrouded figure motif reminds me of the Wasserburger monument and the Graves monument (“Eternal Sience”) by Lorado Taft (at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago).

Barlow2The next bronze I saw was equally lovely but this time, I was able to find out more about the family it was made for.

This bronze angel was made for Myron and Mary Learned by Nellie V. Walker, a noted Chicago sculptor.

This bronze angel was made for Myron and Mary Learned by Nellie V. Walker, a noted Chicago sculptor.

A prominent lawyer in Omaha, Myron Leslie Learned was married to Mary Poppleton Learned, an author and music critic. Her father, A. J. Poppleton, was one of Omaha’s pioneers as the city’s second mayor and a member of the First Territorial Legislature.

The Learneds owned a large estate up in the hills past Florence, where the oldest grist mill (which I visited) in the state is located. It overlooked the Missouri River and was called Walden Woods (echoing Thoreau).

The Learned bronze appears to be weeping.

The Learned bronze appears to be weeping.

Myron died in 1928 and Mary commissioned up and coming Chicago sculptor Nellie V. Walker to do a bronze in his memory. The daughter of a monument maker, Walker couldn’t afford to go to art school and worked as a legal secretary for six years before she could afford to attend the Art Institute of Chicago.

Despite her small size, Nellie V. Walker made a big splash in the art world. She lived to the age of 99 and is buried in Colorado.

Despite her small size, Nellie V. Walker made a big splash in the art world. She lived to the age of 98 and is buried in Colorado.

Interestingly, Walker worked and was good friends with Lorado Taft (who created “Eternal Silence”). Only 4’8″, she was known as “the lady who lived on a ladder.” One of her best known works is of Iowa senator James Harlan in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.

in 1931, Walker visited Omaha to see the finished work at Forest Lawn. She continued working for many years after that and settled in Colorado, living to the ripe age of 98.

I was more captivated by the hands than the feet with this sculpture.

I was more captivated by the hands than the feet with this sculpture.

Over where there’s a long row of mausoleums and monuments, three members of the Swanson family are represented. Yes, the company that invented the TV dinner began in Omaha.

Carl A. Swanson, a Swedish immigrant, arrived in Nebraska in 1896 to work on a farm near Wahoo. He moved to Omaha, where he continued studying English, business and accounting. After teaming up with John Jherpe and Frank Ellison, he eventually grew a successful business. During World War II, C.A. Swanson & Sons became one of the largest suppliers of poultry, eggs and powdered eggs to the military.

C.A. Swanson & Sons was better known for its butter production before 1950.

C.A. Swanson & Sons was better known for its chicken and dairy products before 1950.

Carl’s two sons, Gilbert and Clarke, took over after Carl died in 1949. There’s a story that the overpurchase of 500,000 turkeys that were sitting in 10 refrigerated railroad cars led to frantic Swanson executives scrambling for a way to keep them from going bad. According to Swanson executive Gerry Thomas (now deceased), the actual facts were a little different but nonetheless, the company had a lot of turkey it needed to sell quickly.

Monument for Gilbert Carl Swanson.

Monument for Gilbert Carl Swanson.

Thomas is credited with perfecting an aluminum compartmentalized container with turkey, cornbread dressing and peas (sold in stores for 98 cents). Pan Am had been using a similar method for in-flight meals since 1944. Because the box design looked sort of like a rectangular television screen, the product was dubbed the TV Dinner.

Here's what a Swanson TV dinner looked like back in the day. I confess, I liked them as a kid.

Here’s what a Swanson TV dinner looked like back in the day. I confess, I liked them as a kid.

Unsure of success, Swanson produced 5,000 of the meals and they instantly sold in the first year. The second year, a jaw dropping 10 million were sold.

TV dinners are now produced in microwavable-safe containers instead of aluminum trays. The Smithsonian Institute inducted the original Swanson TV dinner tray into the Museum of American History in 1986.

Carl Swanson and both of his sons, Walter Clark and Gilbert, are located close to each other at Forest Lawn.

Carl Swanson and both of his sons, W. Clarke and Gilbert, are located close to each other at Forest Lawn. This is the W. Clarke Gilbert monument and bronze.

The monument for Walter Clarke Swanson is definitely unique. Thanks again to Marta Dawes of Graveyards of Omaha.com, I know that it’s signed “”Bruno Innocenti, 1963.” Innocenti was an Italian sculptor. Honestly, the first thought that popped into my head was “Touchdown Swanson” when I saw it.

I don't know what inspired this bronze but it's definitely different.

I don’t know what inspired this bronze, only the Swansons do.

The Swanson name lives on in Omaha through the W. Clarke Swanson Public Library, Swanson Elementary School, Creighton University’s W. Clarke Swanson Hall, and the Durham Museum’s Swanson Gallery.

I could write much more about Forest Lawn but it’s best experienced in person so if you’re ever in Omaha, don’t leave without stopping by.

I also recommend a trip to nearby Glenn & Flav’s Alpine Inn, which serves some of the best fried chicken in a relaxed setting. We headed there after we left Forest Lawn.

Be sure to say howdy to the raccoons if you go.

Be sure to say howdy to the racoon dining outside the windows if you go.

OMAHA!: Discovering Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Part II

Heading into Part II of my series on Forest Lawn Memorial Park, the first grave I want to talk about is one that may be the most talked about monument. You wouldn’t expect to see this type of bronze figure in a cemetery.

A lone shrouded figure sits awaiting visitors at the Wasserburger gravesites.

A lone shrouded figure awaits visitors at the Wasserburger gravesite.

The monument was built for Joseph Josiah Wasserburger and his wife, Alma. Josiah was a manager for Household Finance (formerly Omaha Finance) and became quite wealthy from real estate investments. He and Alma had no children but lavished their love on their dogs. This well-written article can tell you more about them. Marta Dawes’ comprehensive Omaha cemetery web site provided me with much of the information you’ll read in this post.

The sun was quite bright on the day we visited so the face isn't easy to see. People frequently leave a flower in the statue's hand.

The sun was quite bright on the day we visited so the face isn’t easy to see. People frequently leave a flower in the statue’s hand.

Made by J. F. Bloom & Co. of Omaha, the monument is fashioned from Balfour pink granite (which you can also see at Wyuka). The company has been in business since 1879 and still operates today.

Josiah Wasserburger purchased the monument for $3,500 in 1938, 18 years before he and Alma died. This amount of money, in 2015 dollars, would be approximately $70,000. It’s certainly curious that they planned their memorial almost 20 years before their deaths.

Getting a decent closeup of the figure's face wasn't easy in the bright sunlight.

Getting a decent closeup of the figure’s face wasn’t easy in the bright sunlight.

The figure instantly reminded me of Lorado Taft’s ominous “Eternal Silence”, the sculpture at the grave of Dexter Graves in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery, which was made 30 years before the Wasserburger one. The Marian “Clover” Adams memorial sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Washington D.C. is also similar.

After Josiah retired in 1935, the couple did a lot of traveling. When they died, they left an estate valued at $100,000 in cash, and $25,000 in real estate. They donated the cash to Childrens’ Hospital, the Omaha Home for Boys, the Immanuel Deaconess Institute, and their church. The real estate estate proceeds went to family members. Josiah died in 1956 at the age of 84 and Alma died only five days later. She was 81.

I wandered over to the Gottlieb Storz mausoleum, one of two Storz mausoleums at Forest Lawn.

GottliebStorzmausoleum

This is the first Storz mausoleum. I tried to photograph the stained glass through the doors but failed miserably.

A German immigrant, Gottlieb Storz came to Omaha in 1876 and worked as a foreman for a local brewery. With skills learned in his native country, Storz’ reputation as a master brewer grew. Eventually, he opened his own facility in 1891 and over the years, Storz’ beers won prizes in international competitions.

n 1891 Storz founded the Omaha Brewing Association, with himself as president.

In 1891, Gottlieb Storz founded the Omaha Brewing Association, with himself as president. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

While there was a dog’s face on the Jacobs mausoleum, this one has stunning twin angels and lions on them.

Storzdoors1

I’ve seen a variety of things on mausoleum doors but these two angels rank among the most lovely I’ve seen.

Like the Wasserburgers, Gottlieb Storz made his final wishes known long before he died at age 87. He wanted to have a funeral service at his home with his body lying in state.  He also wanted his fellow Elk lodge brothers to sing at the service. All of his wishes were granted before he was interred in this mausoleum. His wife, Minnie, is buried with him.

Storzdoor2

An angel of peace watches over the Storz family.

The Storz mansion, a beautiful Victorian home, was built in 1905. Built in the Jacobethan Revival style with beige brick and limestone trim, the mansion features a red tile roof, steep gables, rectangular windows, transoms and a symmetrical facade. Architects George Fisher and Harry Lawrie designed it.

Gottlieb_Storz_House_from_SE

The Storz Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and was the site for many parties for Omaha’s elite over the years.

The home is no longer owned by the Storz family, but was donated to Creighton University in 2002. The school sold it to a private family in 2007 who had plans to restore it.

Gottlieb’s younger son, Robert Herman Storz, has his own mausoleum not far away. He’s buried there with his wife, Mildred, and son, Robert Todd Storz.

The second Storz mausoleum is more modern in style but the effort to make the door look unique is shared.

The second Storz mausoleum is more modern in style but the effort to make the door look unique is shared with the first one.

Robert Howard Storz’ interests included raising prized cattle, serving on community boards for the Chamber of Commerce and Ak-Sar-Ben, spearheading the building of Clarkson Hospital and developing Memorial Park, whose dedication President Harry S. Truman attended. He donated millions to the Joslyn Art Museum and the Omaha Community Playhouse.

But it’s Robert Howard Storz’ son Robert Todd Storz (who went by his middle name, Todd) who is probably better known. In 1949, he and his father purchased Omaha radio station KOWH, which anchored Storz Broadcasting Co., a chain of radio stations. Todd was the station’s general manager.

Todd Storz, who helped pioneer the Top 40 radio format, died at the young age of 39.

Todd Storz, who helped pioneer the Top 40 radio format, died at the young age of 39.

Todd noticed the enthusiastic response certain songs received from the record-buying public and compared it to the way certain selections on jukeboxes were played over and over. Out of that observation came the origins of the Top 40 format that we know today. Many stations went on to copy it, making it a great success.

The Robert Howard Storz mausoleum is located among a row of the more modern ones.

The Robert Howard Storz mausoleum is located among a row of more modern ones. Instead of twin angels, Jesus stands at the door.

Sadly, at the height of his career, Storz died of a stroke in 1964. He was only 39. But his legacy has lived long after him at radio stations across the country.

The last mausoleum I’m going to talk about is notable for its Egyptian Revival-style motifs. The Bostwick mausoleum is where Henry “Harry” C. Bostwick, a wealthy banker, is interred.

The Bostwick mausoleum features Egyptian motifs such as the winged disc and cobras.

The Bostwick mausoleum features Egyptian motifs such as the winged disc and cobras.

I did a little research on the winged disc/cobras motif because I’ve seen this before on other mausoleums. It suggests that someone interred within was a Freemason. I’m guessing it was probably Harry since prominent residents of cities like Omaha were often involved in Masonic groups.

In Ancient Egypt, the winged disk was a combined emblem of the sun, a double-headed cobra and eagle or vulture wings. The cobra and the vulture represented Upper and Lower Egypt, in the geographical sense and in the sense of a Celestial Egypt and a Terrestrial Egypt. Such symbols are also associated with the Zodiac. Somehow, it all ties in with Freemasonry but it’s a lot more detailed than I can share here.

The symbols of the winged disc, cobra and wings are connected to Freemasonry.

The symbols of the winged disc, cobra and wings are connected to Freemasonry. I was able to get a nice closeup of it.

Born in New Jersey, Harry Bostwick moved out to Montrose, Colo. sometime in the 1870s. He helped develop a large fertile piece of land for growing potatoes. The area still bears a trace of his name, Bostwick Park Road.

After experiencing irrigation woes in Colorado, Harry headed for Omaha where he decided to enter the banking business. He found success, becoming president of the Stockyards Bank. Having never married, Harry died in 1920 and his estate passed to his niece and her daughter.

Next week, we’ll visit some more notable monuments and mausoleums. There’s much more to see at Forest Lawn next week in Part III.

ForestLawnview

OMAHA!: Discovering Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Part I

After returning to Omaha from Wahoo, it was time to focus on the city’s largest and best known cemetery: Forest Lawn Memorial Park. The cemetery is located a good bit north of the where Christi lives, so it took us a little while to get there.

Forest Lawn opened a bit later than Wyuka (in Lincoln), established in 1885 by 10 men. At 346 acres, it is a non-profit cemetery.

Forest Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park opened in 1885.

Forest Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park opened in 1885.

The cemetery web site shares the history of Forest Lawn’s crematory, something I rarely see included. It notes that Forest Lawn performed the first cremation in Nebraska in 1913.

Built and designed by the Jarvis Engineering Company of Boston, the firebrick of Forest Lawn’s crematorium was molded from Western Pennsylvania clay. The large retorts (cremation chamber into which the body is placed) were originally oil fueled but were later converted to gas. The original retorts were retired from service in February 1996.

Forest Lawn’s office is thoroughly modern and welcoming. They didn’t have a detailed guide book like Wyuka’s, but they did provide a map that highlighted the locations of a number of famous Nebraskans’ graves. They also give tours if you call ahead of time to arrange one but as usual, we chose to explore on our own.

One of the more modern monuments we saw on the way to the chapel was for Jack K. Harvey. I couldn’t find out much about him online beyond the fact he had spent most of his life in Omaha and died at the age of 65. But the stained glass cross was definitely unique.

Jack Harvey's monument, featuring a stained glass cross, is a colorful addition to the landscape.

Jack Harvey’s monument, featuring a stained glass cross, is a colorful addition to the landscape.

Forest Lawn’s chapel is located on the far east side of the property. Architect John McDonald and general contractor Walter Peterson were responsible for its design and construction. McDonald designed several Omaha buildings, including the home of George and Sarah Josylyn, which became known as Joslyn Castle. It still stands today.

On December 27, 1911, the Masonic Grand Lodge of Nebraska laid the cornerstone pf the chapel, which held a copy of the proceedings of the last meeting and history of the grand lodge of Nebraska Masons.

The Colorado Yule Marble Quarry created the exterior, including the front of the receiving vault, made of St. Cloud granite with green tile roofing.

Unfortunately, the chapel was locked up when we were there and nobody was around to ask to open it for us.

In 1990, the chapel underwent a major renovation costing over half the price of the original chapel. The stained glass windows were releaded and new external plate glass windows were installed to protect the designs.

In 1990, the chapel underwent a major renovation costing over half the price of the original chapel. The stained glass windows were re-leaded and new external plate glass windows were installed to protect the designs.

From pictures I saw on the cemetery web site, the inside is quite ornate.

The doors and frames for the art glass windows are made of bronze with mosaic inserts of gold and mother of pearl. The main walls have tableaus suggestive of the Tree of Life. Photo source: Forest Lawn Memorial Park web site.

In the main auditorium is a frieze in high relief pure gold, designed in two-fold form, so it can be read upon entering and leaving the chapel; “Until the day break and shadows flee away”.

The windows are treated in an architectural scheme of classic detail to give abundant light to the interior and enhance the rich wall decor. The highlight of which is the four angel figures on the transept wall, created by J & R Lamb of New York. Photo source: Forest Lawn Memorial Park web site.

The windows are treated in an architectural scheme to flood the interior with natural light and enhance the rich wall decor. The highlight is the four angel figures on the transept wall, created by J & R Lamb of New York. Photo source: Forest Lawn Memorial Park web site.

The lower level of the chapel contains the original crematory (no longer in use) and 50 glass-front door niches for cremated remains. A columbarium is also attached to the lower level with 24 temporary receiving vaults (which are no longer used).
The first funeral service held in the chapel was Mr. A. J. Manderson, a railroad worker and brother to General Charles F. Manderson on September 15, 1914. The first wedding service was held there in June 1984. It seats 75 guests and is available for other events such as family reunions and parties.

Our trip was not all sight seeing. We did have a mission to locate a few graves for Find a Grave photo requests, having gotten the locations from the office staff. Once our work was done, we drove up toward the center of the cemetery where the larger, older monuments were located. After getting out and wandering around a bit, I caught sight of this fellow.

This is the Elk Lodge #39 monument at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

This is the Elk Lodge #39 monument at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

This large and majestic elk statue is perched atop a hillside boulder. Buried around it are various Elk Lodge members who wanted to be near each other. Apparently, several cemeteries across the country have one of these “Elks Rest” areas where members may be buried. Omaha’s Elk Lodge #39 installed the statue in 1922.

Elk profile against a September sky.

Elk profile against a September sky.

Forest Lawn has so many mausoleums, I’m sure I didn’t see them all. But I tried to look through the windows of as many as I could. The Jacobs mausoleum was one of the first and I found myself incredibly curious about the family.

The Jacobs mausoleum has four people interred inside but only one is a Jacobs.

The Jacobs mausoleum has four people interred inside but only one of them is an actual Jacobs.

The first person to be interred in the Jacobs mausoleum was John G. Jacobs, Jr., the son of John G. Jacobs, Sr. and his wife, Lillian. A native of Pennsylvania, the elder Jacobs came to Omaha sometime in the 1870s and became an undertaker. He eventually opened his own mortuary and was quite successful.

According to the U.S. Census, John G. Jacobs, Sr. was still single in 1880. But by 1883, he had married Lillian and she gave birth to a son, John G. Jacobs, Jr., in early 1883. John Sr. died at some point later that year and I haven’t been able to locate his grave. Since Forest Lawn didn’t open until 1885, he is likely buried elsewhere.

Lillian married one of John Sr.’s business partners, M.O. Maul, and he took over managing the mortuary. By 1910, M.O. Maul had died, leaving Lillian a widow once again.

This is the door to the Jacobs mausoleum. You can glimpse the face on the front of it.

This is the door to the Jacobs mausoleum. You can just barely glimpse a face on the front of it.

John Jr. grew up and attended two different military academies. Upon graduation, he became a stenographer at his father’s former business while also managing a chicken ranch. He was well liked around Omaha and having inherited his father’s fortune, was headed for a bright future.

This is a portrait of James G. Jacobs from the Omaha World Herald

This is a portrait of James G. Jacobs from the Omaha World Herald.

Sadly, according to the Omaha Bee, John Jr. became ill with some kind of stomach ailment and died on January 22, 1910 at the age of 26. It must have been a devastating blow to his mother.

Why is the face of a dog on the front of a mausoleum?

Why is the face of a dog on the front of a mausoleum?

The Jacobs mausoleum has a dog’s face etched into the front of the bronze door. It took me quite by surprise, having never seen such a thing. I don’t know if it’s the face of a much beloved canine that belonged to John Jr. but that the only guess I have.

Not long after John Jr.’s death, construction was underway on the new University of Nebraska’s Omaha campus. Lillian donated a piece of land for construction of a gymnasium to honor her son. Jacobs Hall was a hub for campus activity for many years until the 1960s when it was torn down along with several older campus buildings.

Jacobs Hall was a gymnasium built in 1910 with $14,000 received from the sale of land contributed by Lillian Maul. The land, the first donation to the University, was near the present West Dodge campus of the university. It was the first new building constructed on the university campus.

I don’t know what happened to Lillian, she’s not buried with John Jr. at Forest Lawn. From records on Ancestry.com, I could see she had traveled a good bit after John Jr.’s death but the last mention of her is in the Omaha City Directory in 1923. She may have remarried, thus changing her name.
There’s a lot more to see at Forest Lawn but I’ll wait until next week to dive into those discoveries in Part II.

Back on the Road: Stopping at Wahoo’s Sunrise/St. Francis Cemeteries

After leaving Wyuka Cemetery, we were exhausted. And hungry. I saw that a local place called the Northside Cafe was on our way out of Lincoln so off we went.

While perusing the menu, I saw that they offered Stauffer’s pies. Stauffer’s Cafe is another eatery in town that apparently produces amazing pies and when the waitress pulled a sign over detailing the many varieties we could choose from, I knew we’d picked the right place. Delicious!

If you like pie, Northside Cafe is the place for you.

If you like pie, Northside Cafe is the place for you!

I also highly recommend the quesadillas and fried portabella mushrooms, which hit the spot after wandering all over Wyuka. Cemetery hopping is not for wimps!

I give the Northside Cafe two thumbs up!

We give Lincoln’s Northside Cafe two thumbs up!

Although we were heading back to Omaha, I wanted to stop in Wahoo to visit Sunrise Cemetery. I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit a town with a name like Wahoo?

Welcome to Wahoo!

Welcome to Wahoo, which is named after an Indian word that means “burning bush.”

We stopped at the Saunders County courthouse to check out some of the cool things they were doing to commemorate the U.S.S. Wahoo (a submarine that sank 20 Japanese ships during World War II before being sunk in October 1943). I also learned that famed Hollywood producer Darryl F. Zanuck was born in Wahoo. Then we headed for Sunrise Cemetery.

Wahoo’s cemeteries are intertwined in a complex way. Small Wahoo Cemetery, also known as Greenwood, is on the north side of town (there wasn’t time to stop). On the far Southeast side of town, on one side of County Road K, is small Sunrise North (which we also didn’t visit due to lack of time).

On the other side of the County Road K is Sunrise Cemetery (also called Knights of Honor Cemetery). Inside this cemetery, on the east side, is St. Francis Catholic Cemetery. We focused on these two.

The main reason I wanted to visit Sunrise Cemetery was to visit the grave of Ludmila “Lilyan” Fencl, one of Charles Starkweather’s murder victims. She was the maid for C. Lauer Ward and his wife, Clara Ward.

Lilyan Fencl grew up in Wahoo but spent most of her time working for the Ward family in Lincoln.

Lilyan Fencl grew up in Saunders County, but spent much of her life working for the Ward family in Lincoln.

According to a 2009 article in the Journal Star, Lilyan’s father was a farmer while her mother worked in a cafe. As one of four children, Lilyan was the only one who did not marry and leave home. Instead, she went to work for the Wards in Lincoln. According to her nephew, Robert Laudenback, they became a second family to her.

Lilyan is buried with her brother, Bohmer.

Lilyan is buried with her brother, Bohmer, who died two years after she was murdered.

He remembers his step-father’s sister as a timid soul, who didn’t have much of a social life and may have not completed high school. “She was seen and not heard most of the time. ”

Lilyan, who never married, was 51 when Starweather shot and killed her. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to murder a gentle, hard-working woman who had lived a quiet life. But to Starkweather, she was just another person who got in the way of his twisted rampage.

St. Francis Cemetery feels like it's part of Sunrise Cemetery because they blend together.

St. Francis Cemetery is managed by St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church.

Not far from Lilyan’s grave in St. Francis Cemetery was a grand monument that reminded me of many I have seen at Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery. It was made for Vincent and Marie “Mary” Simodynes.

The Siodynes monument stands out amid the other simpler graves around it.

The Simodynes monument stands out amid the other simpler graves around it.

The Simodynes were among the Saunders County founding families, having come with many other Czech immigrants starting in the late 1860s. Both Vincent and Mary were born in Nebraska to Czech parents. The Simodynes name appears often in U.S. Census records for the area and it looks like most of them were farmers.

Mary Simodynes died in 1920, at the age of 30. It’s my guess that the monument was made for her first. The Easter lily resting in the arms of the angel sometimes symbolizes youth and virtue.

It's hard to imagine that a farmer could afford such a grand monument but it's possible all the Simonydes living in the area contributed to the purchase of it.

Mary and Vincent had two children, Lloyd and Adeline. According to the U.S. Census, Vincent and the children were living in Los Angeles, Calif. by 1930. But by 1940, Vincent was back in Wahoo and had gotten remarried. Gennie Simodyne’s grave is nearby with other Simodynes family.

Mary’s maiden name was Koutny, so I’m sure this grave is of a child related to her. One of her uncles was named Lloyd and she named her first son Lloyd. In this case, Lloyd “Lloydie” Koutny did not live to see his second birthday.

Little Lloydie died in 1919, suggesting he may have been a victim of the Spanish Flu that swept the U.S. at that time.

Little Lloydie was clearly much loved by his family.

"Our Darling"

“Our Darling”

It’s hard to miss the huge monument to Antoniae Smejkal. It’s the largest one in the entirety of both Sunrise and St. Francis Cemeteries.

SunriseBigOneNameThis very large monument was not made for someone famous. But she was important to those who knew her.

The scene depicted is the Crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. I am not Catholic but it’s my belief that two of the three women are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene.

Here's a side view.

Here’s a side view.

Antoniae Smejka was a Czech immigrant. Except for 1930 (the year she died), every time I found her in the U.S. Census records, she was listed as single or widowed.

I also discovered that she was the housekeeper of the priest at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Father Matej (Matthew) Bor (also buried at St. Francis). Father Bor led several pastorates in the area starting in the 1890s. St. Wenceslaus, which manages St. Francis Cemetery, still has an active membership today. Her mother and three siblings are also buried at St. Francis, but not with Antoniae.

Father Bor pastored a number of Catholic churches in and around Wahoo over the years.

Father Bor pastored a number of Catholic churches in Saunders County over the years.

SunriseBigOneCryI can only guess that Antoniae’s many years of devotion to Father Bor was honored by parishioners with this grand monument. Like many monuments I find so amazing, I took many pictures from several angles.

Looking up into the face of Jesus on the cross took me aback for a few moments.

Looking up into the face of Jesus on the cross.

The only mausoleum in the entire place belongs to the Kirchman family, headed by successful banker Wencl C. (W.C) Kirchman.

The Kirchman mausoleum is the only one in St. Francis or Sunrise Cemeteries.

The Kirchman mausoleum is the only one in St. Francis or Sunrise Cemeteries. W.C. Kirchman’s wife, Johanna, was the first to be interred in it after she died in 1909.

A Czech immigrant who was first a grocer in Pittsburgh, Pa., W.C. came out to Saunders County, Neb. in the 1870s and became co-owner of a general store in Prague. Considered one of the county’s pioneers, he eventually established several banks in the county. He was also postmaster in the 1890s and very active in local government.

Czech immigrant W.C. Kirchman was a successful banker.

Czech immigrant W.C. Kirchman became a successful businessman, establishing several banks in the area.

SunriseKirchmaninitial

The door of the Kirchman family mausoleum.

W.C.’s younger brother, Frank (who was much younger than him), and their parents, arrived in Pittsburgh in 1868. In 1881, Frank joined W.C. in Nebraska and helped him manage his several banks, taking over for his brother after his death in 1924.

I was doing research on Frank’s lovely Queen Anne-style home that he had built in 1903 when I found a jolting bit of information about him. While he is not buried at Sunrise/St. Francis, his story is worth telling.

Nobody could have predicted how Frank Kirchman went from a wealthy banker to a penitentiary inmate.

Nobody could have predicted how Frank Kirchman went from a wealthy banker to a penitentiary inmate.

According to the application made to put the Kirchman home on the National Register of Historic Places, Frank Kirchman and his banks prospered until 1930 when the Depression hit the Midwest. Townspeople rushed the banks to collect their savings and soon discovered $26,400 missing.

In May 1930, Frank was found responsible for the missing money and arrested at his home. He was sentenced to a 60-year penitentiary term and fined $11,000. Soon after, he sold his beautiful home before beginning his term. Two of his nephews, sons of his brother W.C., worked for Frank in his banks and were convicted for lesser offenses.

SunriseKirchmanhouse

The Frank Kirchman Home has been beautifully restored. As a fine example of Queen Anne-style architecture, it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Like a number of bankers who faced a similar fate, Frank appealed to the courts to have his sentence shortened. In 1936, his sentence was commuted and he was released from the penitentiary. His two nephews’ sentences were also commuted soon after.

Despite his frail appearance, Frank lived another 17 years before dying in 1953. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Alliance, Neb., almost 500 miles away from Wahoo.

It was time to get back on the road to head home to Omaha. There was one more Nebraska cemetery I wanted to see before I returned to Atlanta: Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

On the lawn of the Saunders County courthouse is a replica of a Mark 14 torpedo memorializes the 65 men who perished when the submarine U.S.S. Wahoo was sunk during enemy action in Sea of Japan during World War II.

On the lawn of the Saunders County courthouse is a replica of a Mark 14 torpedo that memorializes the 65 crew members who perished when the submarine U.S.S. Wahoo was sunk during enemy action in the Sea of Japan during World War II.

 

A Heavenly Rest: Visiting Lincoln, Nebraska’s Wyuka Cemetery, Part IV

When I started this series, I honestly thought I’d be finished in (at most) three parts. As you can see, I was off on that estimation a bit. I do promise that today is indeed the end.

The McDonald family sarcophagus is a bit unusual because a beautiful woman in mourning is leaning over it. I think I took pictures of her at every angle I could. She fascinated me.

John McDonald and his wife, Annie, were society leaders in both Lincoln and New York City.

John McDonald and his wife, Annie, were society leaders in both Lincoln and New York.

A native of Illinois, John McDonald was a banker, financier and real estate investor. He and his wife, Annie, spent a lot of time at their spectacular summer “cottage” at Monmouth Beach, N.J. called “Blow by the Sea.” The McDonalds appeared often in the New York Times, which reported on their summer events and guests.

John McDonald made his fortune in insurance

John McDonald made his fortune in banking and real estate.

Soon after her husband died, Annie built a mansion at South 22nd and Washington Streets in Lincoln, which she also called “The Blow.” If you’re curious (as I was) as to why the McDonalds liked this word, it’s thought to be synonymous with the word “respite.” The Lincoln house (which is long since gone) was ornamented with marble statuary. Maybe the person who created those figures sculpted the one on their monument.

Here's another view of the mourning lady.

Here’s another view of the mourning lady.

I did find a curious story about Annie’s friendship with William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill Cody. The famous Wild West showman is said to have attended many of Annie’s parties, which were described as “unusual.”

WyukaMcDonald3

Not far from the McDonald sarcophagus (in Section 13) is the bust of Albinus Nance, Nebraska’s fifth Governor. A native of Illinois, Nance was born in 1848 and enlisted in the Union Army when he was only 16. Elected to the Nebraska House of Representatives in 1877, Nance became Speaker of the House at the age 29.

Wyuka Nance 1Just a year later,  Nance was elected Governor of Nebraska and reelected in 1880. Because of his young age, he is sometimes called the “Boy Governor” of Nebraska. His wife, Sarah White Nance, was only 24 when she became the state’s First Lady. After “retiring” at the age of 35, Nance returned to practicing law and was president of banks in Osceola and Stromsburg, Neb. Nance County was named after him.

The Nance bust was sculpted by noted artist Gilbert Riswold, who studied with a more famous sculptor, Lorado Toft.

The Nance bust was sculpted by noted artist Gilbert Riswold, who studied with a more famous sculptor, Lorado Taft.

An interesting bit of trivia is that Nance’s bust was signed by Gilbert Riswold, who studied in Chicago with none other than Lorado Taft (best known for his sculpture “Eternal Silence” in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery that I featured last year).

A much smaller but no less impactful monument is at the grave of little Irmgard Christine Winter, who died from diphtheria before she reached the age of 5.

Christine Winter did not make it to her fifth birthday due to diphtheria.

Christine Winter did not make it to her fifth birthday due to diphtheria.

"Our Morning Glory"

“Our Morning Glory”

Christine’s parents, Phillip and Alta Winter, paid homage to their little girl (“Our Morning Glory”) with the largest photographic portrait in Wyuka. Alta, Pauline, Philip and Wilhemine Winter are also interred in the family plot.

A visually unique modern grave marker is situated in Section 1. A beloved second-grade teacher and wife of a Lincoln Public Schools board member, Barbara Evans died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54 in 2000. The family chose to commemorate her life with a round granite table and four granite stools, a picnic table which all are invited to share.

Beloved teacher Barbara Evans' family had this table and stools created so those visiting her grave could sit and reflect.

Beloved teacher Barbara Evans’ family had this table and stools created so friends visiting her grave could sit and reflect.

The F. Gottlieb Beuthner iron cross is easily noticed because it is the only one of its kind at Wyuka. However, they’re fairly common in Midwestern cemeteries where many German immigrants are buried.

I've never seen a marker like this in Georgia but they are fairly common in the Midwest.

I’ve never seen a marker like this in Georgia but they are fairly common in the Midwest.

WyukaBeuthner2I like to end my cemetery series posts on an upbeat note but in the case of Wyuka, I cannot.

Wyuka’s guidebook is quite exhaustive about those buried there. But the most infamous person is not mentioned at all. I think it’s an unspoken wish to not give someone who caused so much pain any more attention than he already gets.

Charles Raymond “Charlie” Starkweather’s name sends chills down the spine of many a Nebraskan and for good reason. Along with his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, Starkweather killed 11 people in Nebraska and Wyoming. All but one were killed between January 21 and January 29, 1958.

Charles "Charlie" Starkweather, with his teenage girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, murdered 11 people in two states in 1958.

Charles “Charlie” Starkweather, with his teenage girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate in tow, murdered 11 people in two states.

Starkweather grew up in Lincoln, the son of Guy and Helen Starkweather. After dropping out of Lincoln High School, Starkweather bounced from job to job before meeting Caril Ann Fugate. She was not with him when he committed his first murder, shooting Lincoln service station attendant Robert Colvert on Nov. 30, 1957.

The other murders began on January 21, 1958 when Starkweather went to see Caril Ann at her home (she was not there) and her parents wouldn’t let him in. He shot them both and soon after killed Caril Ann’s two-year-old step-sister, Betty Jean. When Caril Ann got home, she reportedly helped him hide the bodies. After a few days, they left home.

Over the next several days, the pair would kill Starkweather family friend August Meyer; young couple Robert Jensen and Carole King; industrialist C. Lauer Ward, his wife, Clara, and their maid, Lilyan Fencl; and traveling salesman Merle Collison.

Fugate and Starkweather were finally arrested after a high-speed car chase with the police. Fugate swore that Starkweather held her hostage by threatening to kill her family, claiming she didn’t know they were already dead. The presiding judge at her trial (nor the jury) didn’t buy her story.

Caril Ann Fugate with Chalres Starkweather in the days before the killing spree. She has always insisted she had no part in the murders and that he had kidnapped her.

Caril Ann Fugate with Chalres Starkweather in the days before the killing spree. She has always insisted she had no part in the murders and that he had kidnapped her.

Starkweather was found guilty and received the death penalty for the murder of Robert Jensen, the only murder for which he was tried. He was executed in the electric chair at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln on June 25, 1959.

An anonymous donor paid for Starkweather’s first marker in 1970, which was vandalized. Wyuka’s president, Michael Williams, told me that actor Martin Sheen (who portrayed Starkweather in the 1973 film Badlands) purchased a new marker for Starkweather. That’s the one pictured below.

Wyuka Starkweather graveFugate received a life sentence on November 21, 1958. She was paroled in June 1976 after serving 17 years and settled in Lansing, Mich., working as a janitor at a local hospital. She married Frederick Clair in 2007 and, apart from a radio interview in 1996, has refused to speak of the murder spree.

After her marriage, Fugate changed her name to Caril Ann Clair and was living in Stryker, Ohio when she was seriously injured in a car crash on August 5, 2013. Her husband was killed in the crash.

Five of Starkweather’s victims are buried at Wyuka. Fugate’s step-father, Marion Bartlett, her mother, Velda Bartlett, and her step-sister, Betty Jean Bartlett, are buried only about a hundred feet from Starkweather. I was unaware of this when we were at Wyuka so I didn’t get pictures of their graves.

I did locate the graves of the two other victims, C. Lauer Ward and his wife, Clara. The killers broke into their home and found Clara, along with the family maid, Lilyan Fencl. They were stabbed multiple times. When Mr. Ward came home, he was attacked and killed as well. Their son, Mikey, was not at home at the time.

C. Lauer Ward was a wealthy businessman who enjoyed traveling with his wife and son.

C. Lauer Ward was a wealthy businessman who enjoyed traveling with his wife and son.

Clara Ward was active in the Junior League and enjoyed playing the piano.

Clara Ward was active in the Junior League and enjoyed playing the piano.

Lilyan Fencl is buried in Sunrise Cemetery in Wahoo, Neb., which I visited later that day on our way back to Omaha. I will feature her story when I write about that cemetery next week.

As we prepared to leave the cemetery, I realized how fast the time had flown. But Wyuka is the kind of place you can spend hours in rambling from grave to grave, there are so many that catch the eye.

At the same time, we had little time but lots more to see. So we got in the car to find a place to eat a very late lunch before heading to Wahoo.

My fellow cemetery hopper and best friend, Christi.

My fellow cemetery hopper and best friend, Christi.

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