Newnan’s Oak Hill Cemetery: The Long Arm of the Past, Part III

In Part II of my series on Newnan’s Oak Hill Cemetery, I shared stories about some of the Confederate soldiers buried there. This week, I’m going to focus on some of the prominent families at Oak Hill because many of the monuments built in their honor are simply stunning. I got to see them in their newly cleaned and restored beauty, thanks to the efforts of some Newnan residents dedicated to seeing them returned to their former glory.

I also covered Newnan’s past as a hospital city during the Civil War. One of the beautiful historic homes that is believed to have been used as a hospital is still standing today. You can see the interior rooms on this site (which says it “sold” on it but messages I’ve read indicate the house is for sale again).

Known as the Parrot Camp Soucy House, this 1840s home started out built in the Greek Revival style. One of Newnan’s first settlers, William Nemmons (I have seen it spelled Nimmons as well), is said to have built the house. In 1885, Judge John S. Bigby purchased it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Callie Bigby Parrott. Around that time, the home was “Victorianized” with elaborate mouldings and woodwork. Some refer to this as the Victorian Stick style.

Built in the 1840s as a Greek Revival home, the Parrott Camp Soucy home was built for Confederate surgeon Abraham North. In the 1880s, it was turned into a Victorian-style house. It is believed to have been used as a hospital at some point during the Civil War. Photo source: OldHouseDreams.com

Built in the 1840s as a Greek Revival home, the Parrott Camp Soucy home was built by William Nemmons (also buried at Oak Hill). In the 1880s, it was turned into a Victorian-style house. It was probably used as a hospital at some point during the Civil War. Photo source: OldHouseDreams.com

In 1936, the house was bought by the Camp family. Chuck and Doris Soucy bought the house from the Camp family in 1984, and over the next two years they worked to restore it to its original splendor. The house was a bed and breakfast at one point and used as a filming location for the 2012 movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

In my research, I did discover that many Web sites inaccurately state that the house was built by Confederate surgeon Dr. Abraham North. He’s buried at Oak Hill with his wife. The problem is that his marker shows he was born 1838. That’s only a few years before the house was built so I think it’s safe to say that while Dr. North may have worked in the house when it was a Civil War hospital, he was too young to have overseen its original construction.

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Dr. Abraham C. North married Martha Yates Bailey in June 1865 in Coweta County, Ga. After Martha’s death, he married Lucy J. Hudson in October 1906. At the start of the Civil War, Dr. North joined Coweta’s Company A, 7th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry Army of Northern Virginia, “Coweta Guard”. He was made First Sergeant May 31, 1861 and Assistant Surgeon on January 14, 1863.

The Bigby-Parrott plot is the probably the grandest in Oak Hill, reflective of the two families interred there.

Judge John S. Bigby (mentioned above), the son of pioneer settlers in the Raymond community, was active in business, politics and agriculture. An U.S. Superior Court Judge for a time, he served as member of the state constitutional conventions of 1867 and 1868. Bigby was elected as a Republican 42nd Congress and later served as delegate to the Republican National Convention at Cincinnati in 1876.

Judge John S. Bigley was an influential attorney, politician and businessman. He is buried with his second wife at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta,

Judge John S. Bigby was an influential attorney, politician and businessman. He is buried with his second wife, Lizzie Kate, at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Bigby became president of the Atlanta & West Point Railroad in 1876.  He and his son-in-law, Charles C. Parrott, (Callie’s husband and president of Newnan National Bank) also won awards for their prize-winning cattle.

Bigby’s first wife, Mary Catherine, died in 1870 and is buried at Oak Hill. Several of their children are also buried there. Bigby remarried a year later to Lizzie Kate McClendon. He died in 1898 and is buried with Lizzie Kate at Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery.

The Bigby Parrott plot is in considerably better condition than it was just a few year ago.

The Bigby Parrott plot is in considerably better condition than it was just a few year ago.

The current condition of the Bigby-Parrot plot is in amazing shape when you see pictures of what it looked like just a few years ago. Because one of the two Parrott angels had fallen into the mud and was too heavy to manually lift, it became badly stained. The other stones also needed cleaning and some repairs. Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Oak Hill Cemetery, funds were raised to get the angel back on her feet and have repairs made along with cleaning.

Elizabeth Beers, who often gives tours of Oak Hill Cemetery, worked tirelessly with the Friends of Oak Hill to secure the money needed. Her love for Oak Hill is enormous and she (and the Friends) are still working to make improvements.

In November, the fallen Parrott angel was put back on her feet and cleaned. Photo source: Friends of Oak Hill Facebook page.

In 2015, the fallen Parrott angel was put back on her feet and cleaned. Photo source: Friends of Oak Hill Facebook page.

While the muddy Parrott angel still has a few stains, she looked remarkably better than she did as do the other markers in the plot.

Callie Bigby Parrott, whose father gave her a beautiful home on her wedding day, is buried with her husband, Charles Bigby. Two angels mark their graves.

Callie Bigby Parrott, whose father gave her a beautiful home as a wedding gift, is buried with her husband, Charles Bigby. Twin angels mark their graves. Mary Catherine, her mother, is buried to her right beneath the obelisk.

Born in 1858, Callie married Charles Parrott in 1878. Like Callie, Charles’ father had been a judge and he became a lawyer. He was a successful businessman, working with his father-in-law, and became president of the Newnan National Bank. He and Callie had two children, Bigby Parrott and Mary Catherine Parrott Orr. Mary and her husband, Richard Orr, are also buried in the Bigby-Parrott plot.

Charles Parrott's angel stands beside his wife's, now upright again.

Charles Parrott’s angel stands beside his wife’s, now upright again. He died four years after Callie in 1913.

Charles and Callie’s son, Bigby Parrott, married Maude Gideon. He died in 1917 at the age of 38. Maude, who lived to the ripe age of 95, is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Shawnee, Okla. as is their daughter, Mari Parrott Berry.

While Bigby Parrott died at the age of 28, his wife, Maude, lived many more years and died in Oklahoma.

While Bigby Parrott died at the age of 28, his wife, Maude, lived many more years and died in Oklahoma.

Bigby and Maude’s child, Callie, is buried to the left of her grandfather, Charles Parrott. She only lived 16 months.

Little Callie Bigby Parrott died in infancy.

Little Callie Bigby Parrott died in infancy.

Next door to the Bigby-Parrott plot is the Berry plot. I wrote about Lieutenant Col. Thomas James Berry in Part II. Thomas’ brother, William (whom I also mentioned) was the mayor of Newnan for several years and a state representative. William’s wife, Hibernia, has an imposing monument worth noting.

Hibernia died at the age of 33. On her monument are the words "She had beauty and wit without vanity or vice."

Hibernia died at the age of 33. On her monument are the words “She had beauty and wit without vanity or vice.”

Hibernia’s monument looked very different just last year. The difference between then and since it was cleaned is remarkable.

A falcon (I think) perches atop the monument of Hibernia Doughtery Berry. This is how it looked in 2015.

A falcon (I think) perches atop the monument of Hibernia Doughtery Berry. This is how it looked in 2015. Photo source: Friends of Oak Hill Facebook.

What a difference a careful cleaning can make! This was taken in March 2016.

What a difference a skilled cleaning can make! This was taken in March 2016.

Hibernia and William had four children, Andrew, John, Olive and Thomas. All of them are buried at Oak Hill. Andrew, the eldest, died at the age of 23. John grew up to become a very successful judge but suffered from heart problems that eventually took his life at the age of 38. Olive, buried in a different plot with her husband, married Gordon Lee and lived to the age of 55.

Born in January 1870, Thomas Joel Moore must have been much loved despite his short life of six months. His marker is another example of what a good cleaning can do. Here’s how it looked in 2006.

This picture was taken for Find a Grave in 2006 by Evening Blues.

This picture was taken for Find a Grave in 2006 by Evening Blues.

This is how it looked when I visited in March 2016.

T.J. Berry's marker looks so much better now.

Thomas Berry’s marker looks much better now.

There’s no way of knowing for sure, but Thomas’ death may have been the final blow for his mother. Hibernia passed away a little over a year after her baby in October 1871.

The last monument I want to mention stands out simply because I’ve never seen anything like it before. A tall obelisk with two hands coming out of the clouds holds aloft a crown. Over the clouds are the words “He receives his reward.” I have no idea if it was recently cleaned as well because I have no previous photo of it beyond the Find a Grave photo from 2014 that looks very similar.

I have to admit, I stared up at it for quite a while, admiring the beauty of it. The hands holding the crown look to be in great condition.

My first picture is a bit blurry.

My first picture is a bit blurry.

Unfortunately, my research revealed little about Green Dennis. A native of Alabama, he married Cornelia Bigby Dennis in 1853. Cornelia was (I am 99 percent sure) the sister of Judge John S. Bigby (who married his wife, Mary Catherine, only a few months before his sister married Green).

Green Dennis served in the Confederate Army and his monument features a Masonic symbol. The 1860 Census lists him as a farmer with a personal estate valued at almost $27,000, quite a comfortable situation. He died in 1869 at the age of 52 but Cornelia lived several years after that. She died in 1906 at the age of 68.

Whomever designed this monument gets points for creativity.

Whomever designed this monument gets points for creativity. The hands are still in very good shape, too.

This wraps up my series on Oak Hill Cemetery, a special place in Newnan well worth a visit. It is a testament to the hard work of people who love Oak Hill that such beautiful monuments, which could have fallen into permanent disrepair, are now enjoying a revived condition that will be appreciated for decades to come.

 

Newnan’s Oak Hill Cemetery: The Long Arm of the Past, Part II

It’s been a month since I wrote Part I of my series on Oak Hill and I apologize for the delay on Part II. Summer means the kiddo is out of school so my schedule gets a bit crazy.

You can’t visit Oak Hill Cemetery without noticing all the soldiers’ graves. The Confederate Cemetery area of Oak Hill (near the entrance) contains 268 graves, with soldiers from every Confederate state represented. All told, there may be more than 1,000 veterans total (from all wars) buried at Oak Hill. How did that happen?

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Oak Hill’s Confederate Cemetery contains a fraction of the over 1,000 veteran graves there. Other Confederate graves are scattered throughout the cemetery.

By 1860, nearly a thousand people were living in Newnan and several had built spacious new houses on the streets around the courthouse. Because of its strategic position on the West Point Railroad, Newnan became the site for several Confederate military hospitals. The first surgical teams arrived in 1863 and took over most of the larger buildings in the town. In time 10,000 soldiers were housed in seven separate field hospitals scattered about town.

The Battle of Brown’s Mill took place near Newnan on July 30, 1864, between Union Brig. Gen. E.M. McCook’s 3,600 men and Confederate Maj. Gen. “Fighting” Joe Wheeler’s 1,400 men. Wheeler routed the Union forces, capturing 2,000 and releasing 500 Confederate prisoners captured days earlier by Gen. Edward McCook in Fayetteville (just down the road in my hometown).

The Battle of Brown's Mill started at the Newnan Broad Street Depot in July 1864. ("Depot" by Martin Pate. Photo source: Newnan-Coweta Historical Society)

The Battle of Brown’s Mill started at the Newnan Broad Street Depot in July 1864. (“Depot” by Martin Pate. Photo source: Newnan-Coweta Historical Society)

McCook was participating in the Great Cavalry Raid, Gen. William T. Sherman’s plan to destroy railroads south of Atlanta. McCook was to swing around the west side of Atlanta and Stoneman around the east, where they would meet in Lovejoy, then tear up track to Macon. McCook got to Lovejoy, but Stoneman was not there. When Wheeler’s men drew near, McCook turned back toward Newnan so the town was spared capture and possible destruction.

As a result, Newnan is known as the City of Homes because of its outstanding examples of period and contemporary architecture. More than 22 antebellum homes are found here in five National Register Historic Districts. I’ll talk about one of them in Part III.

Regarding the Confederate burials at Oak Hill, while many soldiers’ remains were sent home to be buried by their loved ones, others were buried in Newnan. Not all died from battle wounds but many from disease.

OakHillconfedsign

This sign marks the Confederate Cemetery section of Oak Hill.

In 1868, the Ladies Memorial Association was key in marking the graves of those who died during the Civil War in Newnan. Later, the local United Daughters of the Confederacy maintained the lots and new markers were made available in 1950 by U.S. Representative Sid Camp. Thanks to well-kept records, every Confederate soldier was identified except for two.

More often than not, the men buried in the Confederate Cemetery lived humble lives and not much is known about them beyond their name and what company they served in. A good example of this is W.R.F. Edwards, a musician who served in Company B of Phillips Legion as part of the Georgia Cavalry. I could find little more about him.

Little is known about W.R.I. Edwards, who served in Phillip's

Little is known about W.R.I. Edwards, who served in Phillips’ Legion as a musician.

Within the Confederate Cemetery are two graves of Revolutionary War veterans James Akens and William Smith. Akens was a native of South Carolina who married a Georgia bride. Like Akens, Smith served in the North Carolina Militia.

OakHRevs

Akens and Smith both served in the North Carolina Militia.

Although he’s not buried in the Confederate Cemetery area, Private William Thomas Overby, known as the Nathan Hale of the South, is at Oak Hill. Captured by Union soldiers, generals offered Overby his life in exchange for information on the location of his unit. He refused and was executed. In 1997, his grave was relocated from Virginia to Georgia. I didn’t know he was buried at Oak Hill when I visited, so I missed photographing his grave.

One Confederate grave I noticed in my ramblings in another part of the cemetery was quite humble and in need of repair. I photographed it, knowing I’d find out more about him later. Indeed I did.

Capt. Amos West was wounded in the chest at Hartsville, the leg at Chickamauga and the arm at Intrenchment Creek.

Capt. Amos West was wounded in the chest at Hartsville, in the leg at Chickamauga and in the arm at Intrenchment Creek. Despite his wounds, he stayed with the Orphan Brigade until the war’s end.

A native of Graves County, Ky., Amos West was a member of the Confederate Orphan Brigade, having joined Company D of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry in 1861. He served as an orderly sergeant but was later promoted to lieutenant after serving with gallantry at the Battle of Stone’s River near Nashville, Tenn. I visited the cemetery at the battle site a few years ago.

His obituary notes that wounds he suffered in three different battles would have given him opportunity to be discharged. But each time, Capt. West refused and stayed with his company until Lee’s surrender, fighting in battles at Chickamauga, Resaca and Atlanta. He returned to Kentucky after the war but moved to Newnan many years later. He died at his daughter’s home in 1913.

After the Civil War,

After the Civil War, Amos West returned to Kentucky and married. He became a tobacco merchant and raised a family with his wife, Olivia. He moved to Newnan to live with his daughter, Amie, before he died in 1913.

I recently learned about a local project called Never Forgotten headed by Newnan resident Beth Carroll that aims to honor local veterans (from all wars) and keep their memory in the public eye. She and others (including the Newnan High School Historical Society) are working to document veteran graves, and raise funds to restore and repair them. The first one on the list is Capt. West’s grave.

Capt. George Tilley Burch also served in the Civil War but did not survive his battle wounds. A native of Newnan, he was the son of Martha Reid Burch and Robert Simms Burch (an attorney). A graduate of Mercer College (now University), Burch joined the 29th Georgia Regiment in 1861 for a three-year stint. An anonymous memorial written by a fellow officer said Burch was “strict, but ever just, positive, but kind as a brother.”

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The son of a Newnan attorney, Capt. George Tilley Burch was in temporary command of the 29th Ga. Infantry when he was wounded.

Capt. Burch was in temporary command of the 29th during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864. According to the memorial, both of Burch’s knees were wounded during a charge. He died a few days later on July 13, 1864.

Capt. Burch’s sister, Isora, is buried nearby with her husband, Robert Henry Hardaway. He, too, served in the Confederate Army in the Georgia First Cavalry, Company R. A successful businessman, Hardaway owned a mercantile, was a bank president and served in the Georgia Senate from 1900-1901. I especially like the epitaph on his stone from Isaiah 26:19.

"Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust," comes from Isiah 26:19.

“Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust,” comes from Isiah 26:19.

You might notice there are three dates on Hardaway’s monument: 1837, 1869 and 1905. The middle date, Dec. 12, 1869, had me puzzled. Why? Thanks to the research of Walter Stephens, I found out that it was the year he married Isora. It’s also his birthday. Their daughter, Jennie Hardaway McBride, also has her wedding date on her grave marker.

Among the grander monuments is one for Lieutenant Col. Thomas James Berry. Berry stands apart because he made the military his career long before the Civil War, graduating from West Point in 1857. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant before being send to frontier duty as part of the Utah Expedition at Ft. Kearney, Neb. until he resigned his commission in 1861 to enlist in the Confederate Army.

ThomasJBerry2

Thomas Berry’s brother, Joel, served in the Confederate Army in Phillips’ Legion but was charged with desertion. Joel died in New York City in 1869 and is buried between two of his brothers at Oak Hill.

According to Southern Historical Society Papers, Berry was a major and later a Lieutenant Colonel in the 60th Georgia Infantry. The 60th took part in several battles, including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He was wounded many times over the course of his service, eventually having to retire and return to Newnan in January 1865. He later died on October 16, 1865 at the age of 30.

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Thomas James Berry’s military career took a turn when he resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army.

Next time in Part III, I’ll talk about some of Newnan’s more prominent families like the Parrotts and Bigbys.

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Newnan’s Oak Hill Cemetery: The Long Arm of the Past, Part I

Last year, when we were looking to move to another part of Atlanta, we connected with Harry Norman Realtors agent extraordinaire Bob Freeman. He was invaluable in helping us find the right home. Add to that the fact he didn’t think I was a total freak when I mentioned my fascination with cemeteries. He suggested I visit Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan, where many of his own ancestors are buried.

Newnan, Ga. is located in Coweta County, not far from my adopted hometown of Fayetteville. My most vivid memory of Newnan was that in my teens, I took my driver’s test there. Rumor had it they were not as busy as the Fayetteville DMV. I must confess, I flunked parallel parking! Thankfully, the elderly gentleman who was monitoring my progress took pity on me and said, “Ah, nobody really has to do it that much anyway. You passed!”

Established in 1828, Newnan is known as the "City of Homes" for good reason. Photo source: Bike Across America.

Established in 1828, Newnan is known as the “City of Homes” for good reason. Photo source: Bike Across America.

On a beautiful day in late March, I drove down to Oak Hill Cemetery to check it out. It’s still an active cemetery and you can see it’s taken care of very nicely. Established in 1833, Oak Hill has over 12,000 graves and sits on 60 acres. It is the final resting place for two Georgia governors and eight Congressman.

It also has the distinction of being one of the few cemeteries in the world with a grave marker for a single body part. But I’ll get to that later.

One of the reasons I like Oak Hill is the wide variety of monument styles. Nothing boring about itl. I was intrigued by Dr. Daniel Haney’s grave because of the intricate carving on the sides, and the moss growing into it.

Daniel Haney's grave is engraved on the sides, more ornate than most tablet markers.

Daniel Haney’s grave is engraved on the sides, more ornate than most tablet markers I see.

Because Dr. Haney died at 41, my curiosity sent me into research mode. I discovered that Dr. Haney had gotten his medical degree from Atlanta Medical College (which became Emory University). In 1914, he married Mayme Everett, who was most likely a widow. They never had children. He practiced medicine in Newnan and Atlanta. He died in 1922 in Franklin, N.C. of chronic nephritis (kidney disease).

One thing that caught my eye was a listing for Dr. Haney in an Atlanta business directory from 1911. He’s listed as a physician working at the Pine Ridge Sanitarium. Such places were very common at this time time before tuberculosis was successfully treated with drugs. Some of these facilities were more like fine resorts than hospitals. I found an ad for Pine Ridge in a travel magazine from 1909 that extols its virtues.

Pine Ridge was one of many sanitariums in operation during the turn of the century for the treatment of Tuberculosis patients.

Pine Ridge was one of many sanitariums in operation during the turn of the century for the treatment of tuberculosis patients.

Established by Dr. George Brown, Pine Ridge boasted a 50-bed facility nestled in a peaceful, rustic setting with fresh air and food. The ad boasts that between July 1908 and August 1909, Pine Ridge had a cure rate of 82.6-7 percent (that’s really precise!).

Despite the ad’s statement that the sanitarium was located in the “famous Pine Ridge section of Georgia”, I wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly where it had been located. My best guess was that it was situated in what is now the upscale Morningside neighborhood, known for its leafy streets and wooded areas. Pine Ridge has long since vanished with no record of its closing.

I know even less about William E. Turner, whose marker features a beautiful dove with an olive branch in its beak. I’ve seen this motif before but I’m always struck by it. It’s most often a symbol of peace.

The inscription is: "Of our whole world of love and song, Thou wast the only light."

The inscription is: “Of our whole world of love and song, Thou wast the only light.”

William was only 30 when he died. Census records indicate his parents died when he was in his teens and he lived with a sister in Alabama for a time. At the time of his death, he was single and working as a barber in Newnan.

A dove carrying an olive branch is also mentioned in the story of Noah's ark as a sign that the flood waters were receding.

A dove carrying an olive branch is also mentioned in the story of Noah’s ark as a sign that the flood waters were receding.

Near William’s grave, I noticed the markers for two little girls. One had died at age four and the other at age two. They were the daughters of Congressman William C. Wright and his first wife, Pauline Wright. Their three other children (Evelyn, Arnold and William Jr.) all lived to adulthood. William Jr. is buried at Oak Hill as well.

In a biography about her father, Pauline Wright's (R) death at age two was described as being called by "the reaper of the flowers."

In a biography about her father, Pauline Wright’s (R) death at age two was described as being called by “the reaper of the flowers.”

A successful lawyer, Wright served as Newnan’s city attorney and solicitor. He was elected as a Democrat to the Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William C. Adamson. He was re-elected to the 66th United States Congress and to the six succeeding Congresses (January 16, 1918 – March 3, 1933).

Before William C. Wright became a Congressman, he was well-known in Newnan as an attorney.

Before William C. Wright became a Congressman, he was well-known in Newnan as an attorney.

Sadly, Pauline died in Washington, D.C. only a few months after her husband began the 67th Congress. He later married Rosa Bunn and died in 1933, only three months after his last term ended.

Congressman Wright and his first wife, Pauline, are buried near their daughters who died as children.

Congressman Wright and his first wife, Pauline, are buried near their daughters who died as children.

Now about that body part I mentioned earlier. In my wanderings around Oak Hill, I came up on a marker that made me stop in my tracks. I think you would, too, if you saw it.

I can honestly say I've never seen a grave marker for a body part before.

I can honestly say I’ve never seen a grave marker for a body part before.

At first, I thought maybe it was some bizarre symbol for an obscure fraternal group like the Odd Fellows (which has the floating eyeball). But after I checked the brochure for Oak Hill, the story behind it unfolded.

Newnan farmer John H. Keith (the owner of the arm) once worked in a local sawmill. I don’t know when it happened but he had an accident that resulted in the loss of his arm. I also don’t know if it was his idea to create a marker and bury his arm. I did learn that John Keith married Sarah Coggin and together they had six children. So despite the loss of limb, he led what appears to be a full and happy life.

John Keith, buried beside his wife Sarah, died some years after he lost his arm.

John Keith, buried beside his wife Sarah, died some years after he lost his arm.

I know of only one other marker for a lost arm and that was for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. How he lost his arm is an interesting story by itself.

On May 2, 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was mistaken for an enemy officer by his own men and they shot him. They fired a volley, lodging a bullet in his right hand and shattering his left arm.

Despite cannon fire on both sides, stretcher bearers removed him and placed him in a horse-drawn ambulance wagon which traveled for four miles over rutted roads to the field hospital at the Old Tavern in the Wilderness.  Dr. Hunter H. McGuirey removed the ball from his right hand and amputated Jackson’s left arm about two inches below the shoulder.

Photo source: John C. Jackson

Photo source: John C. Jackson

Upon learning of Jackson’s fate the next morning, General Robert E. Lee said, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right.” Jackson’s arm was buried about half a mile from the field hospital in the burial plot of the Lacy family at Ellwood. It wasn’t until 1903 that some of Jackson’s friends placed a stone on the spot where it was buried.

When Jackson died a week later, he was buried 100 miles away in Lexington, Va., where he had taught before the war at the Virginia Military Institute.

Was John Keith trying to copy Stonewall Jackson? I don’t know but it’s an intriguing thought.

Next week in Part II, I’ll explore Oak Hill’s historic Confederate burial section.

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

It hardly seems possible that I’m writing a fourth installment about Mount Mora Cemetery. But when you’re faced with such a rich history of place and people, you don’t want to leave much out! Especially when it involves infamous bank robber Jesse James. But let’s start with the much more respectable Motter family.

Born in Washington County, Md., Joshua Motter went west with his wife, Katherine Augusta Barrow Motter to settle in Saint Joseph sometime before 1880. Joshua helped establish the Toothe, Wheeler and Motter Mercantile (a dry goods business).

Joshua Motter's home still stands today, yet another structure designed by the firm of Eckles & Mann. Photo Source: Library of Congress.

Joshua Motter’s home was built in 1898, yet another one designed by the firm of Eckles & Mann. When I looked for it on GoogleMaps, it appeared to have been torn down. Only a vacant lot, with the steps from the street, remains. Photo Source: Library of Congress.

His son, John Barrow Motter, graduated from Yale in 1903 and after working for two years at the National Bank of Saint Joseph, joined his father at the mercantile. Younger son Samuel was an attorney.

While the Motter Mausoleum's architect is unknonw, Eckles & ? designed the Motter's home on 10th Street in Saint Joseph.

While the Motter Mausoleum’s architect is unknown, architects Eckles & Mann designed the Motter’s home on 10th Street in Saint Joseph.

Unlike many of the others on Mausoleum Row, the Motter Mausoleum is of the Classical Revival style. The date it was built is unknown. Katherine Motter died in 1927 and is interred within, along with John Barrow Motter.

The Motter Mausoleum is one of the few on the Row that has glass inserts in the doors so I could get a good look inside of it.

This was the best picture I could get of the interior of the Motter Mausoleum.

This was the best picture I could get of the interior of the Motter Mausoleum.

The Weckerlin Mausoleum is fairly simple but I was intrigued by it due to a comment in the application for the National Register of Historic Places. You may notice that the stone that says “Weckerlin” over the door appears to have been added at a later date and is made of a different type of stone. The name originally carved above the door was “Muchenberger”. Why?

Weckerlin

Although the style is not immediately apparent, the Weckerlin Mausoleum uses Victorian Eclectic and Romanesque details like many of its neighbors. The architect is unknown.

Leo J. Muchenberger, a native of Iowa, was born to German immigrant parents in 1867. At some point, he moved to Saint Joseph where he married Annie Weckerlin in 1893. She was the daughter of Phillip (a saloon keeper) and Elizabeth Wecklerin, Swiss immigrants.

Leo owned and operated Muchenberger Brothers Wallpaper and Paint Co. in Saint Joseph for several years before moving to Santa Monica, Calif. with Annie and their only daughter, Leeanna, some time before 1920. According to the 1880 U.S. Census, he did have two brothers, John and Otto.

In 1936, Leo donated his old wallpaper factory to the City of Saint Joseph with the promise that it must become a recreation center, which it did. The Muchenberger Center operated until 2012 and a new Muchenberger Center was built in 2012. The old building was closed. When I looked on GoogleMaps, the building was still there but not in use.

Although Leo Muchenberger has left Saint Joseph many years before, he donated his old wallpaper factory to the City of Saint Joseph for the purpose of making it a recreation center for young people.

Although Leo Muchenberger had left Saint Joseph many years before, he donated his old wallpaper factory to the City of Saint Joseph for the purpose of making it a recreation center for young people.

Muchenberger most likely had the mausoleum built for his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Weckerlin, when she died in 1901. His name is on the records as owner. At the time, he and Annie probably thought they would live the rest of their lives in Saint Joseph but their move to California changed that. Leo and Annie Muchenberger are both buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, Calif. Only Weckerlins and their spouses are interred in the former Muchenberger Mausoleum at Mount Mora.

The last and most unique mausoleum I’m going to talk about is different than all the others. The Geiger Mausoleum is in a class by itself for several reasons. The application for the National Register of Historic Places describes it thus:

The Geiger monument is a fanciful creation in stone whose source was Medieval Europe, specifically the great late Gothic cathedrals of the 14th and 15th centuries, built in what is termed the “flamboyant style”. A confection of open work stone tracery surrounds the raised sarcophagus. The tracery is carved from a light-colored limestone, while the sarcophagus is a red veined marble, creating an interesting contrast.

The Geiger Mausoleum features a combination of different styles, from Egyptian Revival to Classic.

The Geiger Mausoleum features a combination of different styles, from Egyptian Revival to Gothic.

In addition, the mausoleum features several sections based in different styles, from Egyptian Revival to Gothic to Classical. The writer of the applications asks, “Was the use of a variety of motifs intended to portray the cultural knowledge of the world-traveled Dr. Geiger within?”

Interred within are Dr. Jacob Geiger and his wife, Louise Kollatz Geiger. For his stunning mausoleum alone, Dr. Geiger could be notable. But his career had a surprising brush with fame that he probably never expected.

A native of Germany, two of Geiger’s brothers (Stephen and Clemens) emigrated to the U.S. after their father’s death in the 1850s. A few years later, the brothers had enough money to bring Jacob, their brother, Florants, and their mother over. The Geigers went by covered wagon to Missouri then Kansas where Clemens settled and started a family. Stephen and Jacob settled in Saint Joseph.

Jacob’s ambition to become a doctor was stymied by lack of funds so he learned what he could and when he could from a local doctor while working various menial jobs. By 1870, he had enough money to attend medical school at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and graduated in two years. I’m guessing his apprenticeship with the local doctor was taken into account. In 1887, he married Louise Kollatz of Atchison, Kans.

Born of humble means in Germany, Jacob Geiger came to America and eventually became a surgeon.

Born of humble means in Germany, Dr. Jacob Geiger came to America and eventually became a surgeon.

Back in St. Joseph, he ran a general practice until 1890 when he became exclusively a surgeon. He was instrumental in starting the two colleges that would eventually merge to be come Ensworth Medical College, where he served as dean for several years. He also published a medical journal and owned a considerable amount of local real estate.

But the event most historians remember Dr. Geiger for was his part in a violent event that took place in Saint Joseph on April 3, 1882: the murder of infamous bank robber Jesse James.

Living under an alias in a rented house in Saint Joseph with his wife and children, Jesse James was unaware that one of his trusted partners in crime, Robert Ford, was plotting his demise. With a promise of a hefty reward from Missouri Governor Thomas Crittenden, Ford shot James in the head while the legendary bank robber was supposedly straightening a picture on the wall. Ford’s brother, Charley, also fired a few shots.

Tintype of Robert Ford (left) with his partner in crime, Jesse James. Photo source: Sandy Mills

Tintype of Robert Ford (left) with his partner in crime, Jesse James. Photo source: Sandy Mills

Local coroner J.W. Hedden asked Dr. Geiger and two other doctors to assist him with James’ autopsy at a St. Joseph funeral home. They supposedly removed James’ brain during the examination while trying to determine the bullet’s path. A rather bizarre story circulated that one of the doctors (Geiger’s name was never explicitly mentioned) showed a local reporter a jar containing the outlaw’s brain, resting on his desk in his office. This claim has never been confirmed or denied.

In addition, oddly enough, the results of that autopsy have been missing for decades.

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The sarcophagus of the Geiger Mausoleum is made of veined red marble.

Rumors emerged that Jesse James had actually faked his own death and went on to live a peaceful life under the name J. Frank Dalton in Texas where he died and was buried. Because these rumors persisted, James’ body was exhumed in 1995 from its grave in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Mo. A mitochondrial DNA test proved with almost 95 percent certainty that it was indeed the infamous bank robber.

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A florette from the Geiger Mausoleum.

Dr. Geiger’s English Gothic Revival mansion, designed by E.J. Eckel (who else?) in 1911, is still standing. United Missouri Bank renovated it into a bank in 1976, adding teller bays and drive-thru lanes. Saint Joseph real estate developer Steven Craig purchased it in 2011 and gave it a facelift. In 2014, the mansion was re-opened as a coffee house with a separate law office as tenants.

A photo of the Geiger Mansion when it was used as a bank. Photo source: Eric Keith, St. Joseph News-Press

A photo of the Geiger Mansion when it was a bank. Photo source: Eric Keith, St. Joseph News-Press

Dr. Geirger and Louise never had any children but they did indeed travel extensively. He practiced medicine right up until his death in 1934. His brother, Steven, who owned a dry good store in Saint Joseph and was elected a city councilman in 1880, is also buried at Mount Mora with his wife, Nannie.

Mount Mora Cemetery has more stories I could talk about. Several remain lost forever, never to be known. But I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit this special place and share a few of them with you.

From the door of the Bartlett Mausoleum

From the door of the Bartlett Mausoleum.

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.

Crowther 2. jpg

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.

Crowther 3

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.

Selfmausoleum

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!

MoraMausoleumRow

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.

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