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

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

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

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

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

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

I give the Northside Cafe two thumbs up!

We give Lincoln’s Northside Cafe two thumbs up!

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

Welcome to Wahoo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lilyan is buried with her brother, Bohmer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Lloydie was clearly much loved by his family.

"Our Darling"

“Our Darling”

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

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

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

Here's a side view.

Here’s a side view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking up into the face of Jesus on the cross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SunriseKirchmaninitial

The door of the Kirchman family mausoleum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SunriseKirchmanhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McDonald made his fortune in insurance

John McDonald made his fortune in banking and real estate.

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

Here's another view of the mourning lady.

Here’s another view of the mourning lady.

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

WyukaMcDonald3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Our Morning Glory"

“Our Morning Glory”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My fellow cemetery hopper and best friend, Christi.

My fellow cemetery hopper and best friend, Christi.

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

In Part II last week, I highlighted several of Wyuka’s outstanding memorials for 9/11, the Holocaust and Nebraska firefighters. Today, I’m going to stick with gravestones (and an airplane propeller, but more about that later).

Over in Section 5, this marker stood out.

Jane "Jennie" Bell added "Ringer" to her name when she married her husband, Frank Ringer.

Jane “Jennie” Bell added “Ringer” to her name when she married her husband, Frank Ringer. He died in 1920, leaving her a fairly young widow. She died in California in 1975.

Jane “Jennie” Bell married Frank Ringer, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and a prominent Lincoln businessman. After Frank died in 1920, she went back to school and got her Doctor of Chiropractic and Doctor of Chiropractic Philosophy degrees. Dr. Bell-Ringer practiced for several years before passing away in California.

WyukaBellRinger2 The story goes that Jennie won a baby contest in the late 1870s. At her wedding, she learned something surprising from her new brother-in-law, John Dean Ringer. He teased her that the only fault he had to find with her is that she had taken first prize away from him at that baby contest, making him come in second.

In Section 17, I found the small marker for Helen Mary Sargent. Born in Massachusetts, she got her degree at the University of Nebraska and entered Army service as a Red Cross nurse September 4, 1918. She was assigned to Fort Slocum, N.Y., where she died of illness Oct. 23, 1918 (most likely the Spanish flu that was raging there at the time).

Nurse Helen Sargent got her degree at the University of Nebraska. Her father, Charles Sargent, is considered the founder of Garrison, Neb.

In 1928, the Lincoln Women’s Club dedicated Memorial Drive in Antelope Park to fallen World War I troops with a monument naming all the “Lancaster County Boys Who Gave Their Lives.” Two female nurses, including Helen Sargent, were listed among the “boys.”

Another marker in Section 17 is for a young man who also lost his life during World War I. His grave is one of the handful at Wyuka that features a portrait on a porcelain plaque.

WyukaBohl1

A Russian immigrant, John Bohl had worked as a machinist before enlisting in the U.S. Army.

A Russian immigrant, John Bohl had worked as a machinist before enlisting in the U.S. Army.

A native of Russia, Bohl enlisted in the Army and was placed with the 58th Infantry, Company H. Only 25, he was wounded in action in France and died post-Armistice on Christmas Eve 1918.

Up to this point, everything we’d seen at Wyuka had been fairly traditional in terms of style and materials. Corel Sherwood’s monument changed all that.

Sherwood's unique monument is made from a wooden airplane propeller with a copper-covered tip. His name and dates are hammered into the copper and carved onto the shaft of the wooden blade.

Sherwood’s unique monument is made from a wooden airplane propeller with a copper-covered tip. His name and dates are hammered into the copper and carved onto the shaft of the wooden blade.

Sherwood befriended the legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh when they attended Lincoln Flight School together. Lindbergh often helped him work on building his airplane. They were such good friends that Sherwood loaned Lindbergh enough money to leave Lincoln when he was short of funds.

WyukaSherwood3

In 1925, Sherwood was a mechanic for Lincoln Aircraft Corporation, one of two airplane manufacturers in the area during the 1920s. One day while giving brief plane rides, Sherwood crashed in February 1925 near Ellis, Neb., killing his 50-year-old passenger, Dan Camp. Sherwood died the next day.

An aluminum podium features a letter Corel Sherwood received from friend and fellow aviator, along with Sherwood's portrait.

A podium features a letter Corel Sherwood received from friend and fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh, along with Sherwood’s portrait.

Mounted on a podium next to Sherwood’s unique marker is a copy of the letter Lindbergh wrote to him when he re-payed his loan.

Then we caught a glimpse of an eye-catching bronze not far away from Sherwood’s grave.

The grave of Lois "Toots" Pegram is marked with a beautiful bronze of a young woman holding a peacock.

The grave of Lois “Toots” Pegram is marked with a beautiful bronze of a young woman holding a peacock.

Unfortunately, I don’t know who created the bronze but I did find Lois “Toots” Pegram’s obituary. Twice widowed, Lois was a pioneer business woman in Lincoln, owning multiple businesses at one time while being active in local politics. She was a restaurateur, antique dealer and avid antique doll collector, and owner and operator of rental and farm properties. I wish I could have met her because she sounds like she was a real pistol.

I think there's a fresh, ethereal quality that transcends time about this statue. I took photos of it from several angles.

I think there’s a fresh, elegant quality that transcends time about this statue. I took photos of it from several angles.

Around this time, we were making our way into the center of the cemetery. It isn’t often I find a port-a-john ensconced in a PVC pipe arbor in a cemetery. I wish more cemeteries provided something like this, because both Christi and I were happy we didn’t have to drive back to the office to use the restroom there.

It may not be much but this portable toilet was a welcome sight after a few hours of cemetery hopping.

It may not be much, but this portable toilet was a welcome sight after a few hours of cemetery hopping.

After our pit stop, we got back to business. Circled on the map by me was the Kimball monument.

The Kimball family was well known in Lincoln for their successful monument business.

The Kimball family was well known in Lincoln for their successful monument business.

The Kimball Brosthers were leading monument makers in Lincoln from the 1880s through the 1930s. William R. and Frank B. Kimball established the business in Lincoln in 1887, having come from Albia, Iowa.

Here’s a closeup.

By 1890, the Kimballs had installed more than 20 monuments the year before, averaging $1,500 each. Their own family plot features the pink granite seen in many of their major monuments.

Frank Kimball’s monument for the Thompson family is similar to the one made for his own family, although the Thompson one has a more ornate granite setting.

Frank Kimball was a respected and talented sculptor in the monument business.

Frank Kimball was a respected and talented sculptor in the monument business.

David E. Thompson and his wife, Jeanee, were society leaders in Lincoln. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Thompson as the U.S. envoy to Brazil and in 1906, appointed him to the ambassadorship of Mexico. Jeanee died in Mexico City in 1911.
Here's a closer look.

Here’s a closer look.

After Jeanee died and his term as U.S. ambassador was up, Thompson returned to Lincoln for a few years before moving to California, where he spent the rest of his life.

As I've mentioned before, I have a fascination with hands and feet on sculptures. Frank Kimball definitely knew what he was doing.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a fascination with hands and feet on sculptures. Frank Kimball definitely knew what he was doing.

Here’s you one more example of Frank Kimball’s work. The monument for Swedish immigrants Olof (as the guide book spells it) and Clara Palm is not a bronze but it’s become one of my favorite monuments at Wyuka.

WyukaPalm1Olof and Clara Palm were Swedish immigrants who established an insurance agency in Lincoln, with Olof as the president and Clara as the vice-president. He helped found the North Star Relief Society, a Swedish fraternal group. Clara died in 1931 at 70, and Olof was 75 when he died eight years later.

The stark contrast of the dark green moss against the white marble brings K

Once again, you can see Frank Kimball’s skill. The Palms commissioned him to do this monument.

Try as I could, I cannot finish my series on Wyuka with three parts. There’s simply too much beauty and history here that I have to keep going.

Next week, I’ll finish up with Part IV. I’ll be featuring more monuments along with the tragic story of a spree killer who is buried only a few hundred feet from some of his victims.

Wyukatrumpet

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

Last week, I began my tour of Lincoln, Nebraska’s Wyuka Cemetery. This week, we’ll visit several of Wyuka’s memorials devoted to various events/groups. I’ve never been to a cemetery that has so many, but they are all thoughtfully and tastefully done.

Before I do that, I wanted to highlight two things. I’ve always admired Nebraskans for their strength of character and sensible nature. However, when I found out about Wyuka Cemetery’s cast iron fence, my opinion of them only rose higher.

The Southern border of Wyuka is lined by a long fence that edges O Street. I thought nothing of it when I was photographing in that area. The guide book, however, shares its impressive past.

John Seaton, whose firm created this cast iron fence, was well known for his foundry in Atchison, Kansas. His foundry employed an estimated 2,000 men at one time.

John Seaton’s firm created this cast iron fence. He was well known for his foundry in Atchison, Kansas, which employed an estimated 2,000 men at one time.

The fence was originally installed in 1891 around the first campus of the University of Nebraska, made up of 10 acres bounded by R, T, North 10th and North 12th Streets. The fence’s narrow gateways hampered efforts of Lincoln firefighters to combat fires on campus, including one that severely damaged the State Museum building in 1912.

This problem inspired prominent Nebraska businessman Charles Morrill to make donations that resulted in a new natural history museum, Morrill Hall. Built in 1925, it still stands today and houses a wonderful collection of fossils and other archaeological treasures. That same year, the campus fence was removed and reinstalled at Wyuka, with a wide front entrance. I love the fact that they re-purposed this fence and didn’t toss it into a landfill.

The other thing I wanted to highlight was the grave of Harrison Johnson, which is located beside the fence.

An escaped slave, Harrison Johnson served with distinction in the Civil War with the Nebraska First Infantry.

An escaped slave, Harrison Johnson served with distinction in the Civil War with the Nebraska First Infantry. His son, John Johnson, was a talented photographer who worked in Lincoln in the 1910s and early 1920s.

African-Americans were not enlisted in the Union Army until President Lincoln changed the nation’s policy with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Before that, the First Nebraska Regiment was officially all-white. An Arkansas native and slave, Johnson escaped and sought out Nebraska’s First Regiment. He was allowed to enlist as a private and served out the war with the regiment. At war’s end, Johnson settled in Lincoln, joined the Farragut Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and worked as a hotel cook and janitor.

Near the eastern border of the cemetery is the 9/11 Memorial, dedicated to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93. The two red-painted steel I-beams symbolize the World Trade Towers, but did not come from the buildings themselves.

Wyuka's 9/11 Memorial is located close to the Nebraska Firefighters Memorial in Section 41.

Wyuka’s 9/11 Memorial is located close to the Nebraska Firefighters Memorial in Section 41.

The 9/11 Memorial includes President George W. Bush’s rallying cry:

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”

Across the way is the Nebraska Firefighters Memorial, one of the largest I have ever seen. Names of project donors are inscribed on plaques, benches and paving blocks leading up to and surrounding the statue.

Captain Roger Kruger was a firefighter, EMS instructor and paramedic.

Captain Roger Kruger was a Nebraska firefighter, EMS instructor and paramedic.

Captain Kruger was delivering Christmas turkeys to needy families when the truck in which he was a passenger slid off an icy road and hit another vehicle.

Captain Kruger was delivering Christmas turkeys to needy families when the truck in which he was a passenger slid off an icy road and hit another vehicle.

The memorial sculpture was decorated for fall so you can’t properly see the inscription on the front.

The centerpiece of the display is a large bronze figure of a kneeling firefighter, sculpted by S. Mariami in 2001 and dedicated in 2003.

The centerpiece of the display is a large bronze figure of a kneeling firefighter, sculpted by S. Mariami in 2001 and dedicated in 2003.

A plaque featuring “A Firefighter’s Prayer” is on the side of the base of the sculpture.

The author of A Firefighter's Prayers is unknown.

The author of “A Firefighter’s Prayer” is unknown.

Close by in Section 42 are the Desert Shield/Desert Storm memorials.

On the east side of the road beside Section 42 are two black granite monuments commemorating those who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the U. S. military actions against Iraq in 1990 and 1991. The monuments were added in 1992.

These black granite monuments commemorate those who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the U. S. military actions against Iraq in 1990 and 1991. The monuments were added in 1992.

The Purple Heart Monument was installed on Veterans Day 2003.

This red granite monument is inscribed with a replica of the Purple Heart, America’s traditional medal awarded to military personnel wounded in combat. Congress provided one of these monuments to each state in the Union and Wyuka was chosen as Nebraska’s location.

This red granite monument is inscribed with a replica of the Purple Heart, America’s traditional medal awarded to military personnel wounded in combat. Congress provided one of these monuments to each state in the Union and Wyuka was chosen as Nebraska’s location.

The Soldiers’ Circle is located on a large grassy section across from the Desert Storm/Desert Shield and Purple Heart Memorials. It was established in the early 1900s for veterans of America’s armed services who served after the Civil War. In a century’s time, 1,258 veterans were interred here before the area was filled.

Wyuka's Soldier's Circle is dedicated to those who served in the military after the Civil War.

Wyuka’s Soldiers’ Circle is dedicated to those who served in the military after the Civil War.

This memorial monument in the Soldiers' Circle was dedicated in 2001.

This memorial monument in the Soldiers’ Circle was dedicated in 2001.

All of these memorials are special in their own way. But I must admit that Wyuka’s Holocaust Memorial has to be one of the most creative and movingly designed that I have ever seen.

The Wall of Remembrance of Wyuka's Holocaust Memorial is a brutal but honest representation of the history of this tragic time.

The Wall of Remembrance of Wyuka’s Holocaust Memorial is a brutal but honest photographic representation of this tragic era in history.

Nebraska’s only Holocaust memorial was dedicated at Wyuka Cemetery in 2006. Through text, photographs and a sculpture by Candian Morton Katz, it teaches about the systematic slaying of six million European Jews and over five million others by the Nazi regime while paying respect to those lives lost.

Morton Katz's sculpture combines the symbolism of the triangle, which Jews and other targeted persons were required to wear, and a three dimension- al Star of David, the emblem of Judaism.

Morton Katz’s sculpture combines the symbolism of the triangle, which Jews and other targeted persons were required to wear, and a three dimensional Star of David, the emblem of Judaism.

Embedded in the gravel surrounding the sculpture are squares bearing the names of victims of the Holocaust and where they died. Visitors are invited to leave a stone on the base of the sculpture as an act of remembrance, which I did.

Plaques bearing the names of Holocaust victims are nestled amid the gravel that surrounds the sculpture.

Plaques bearing the names of Holocaust victims are nestled amid the gravel that surrounds the sculpture.

Back over next to the Soldiers’ circle is the GAR Section. In 1892, the Nebraska legislature required Wyuka to create a section for the free burial of “G.A.R men,” members of the Grand Army of the Republic (the Union veterans’ organization). Eventually over 400 soldiers and sailors were buried in this section, and nearly 1,000 Civil War veterans were buried throughout the cemetery.

Wyuka's GAR section was set aside for the burial of Union veterans who served in the Civil War.

Wyuka’s GAR section was set aside for the burial of Union veterans who served in the Civil War.

On the edge of the GAR section is the impressive granite and bronze monument of John M. Thayer, who was elected governor of Nebraska in 1886 and 1888. The Massachusetts native, arriving in the 1850s, helped raise the First Nebraska Regiment when the Civil War broke out. He led the regiment in major engagements such as the Battle of Shiloh.

Born in Massachusetts, William Thayer served with distinction as leader of the First Nebraska Regiment during the Civil War, promoted from colonel to major general in the course of the conflict.

Born in Massachusetts, William Thayer served with distinction as leader of the First Nebraska Regiment during the Civil War, promoted from colonel to major general in the course of the conflict.

After the war, Thayer helped secure Nebraska’s admission to the Union in 1867 and was appointed as the first U. S. Senator from the new state. He also served as the appointed Governor of the Wyoming Territory from 1875 to 1879.

According to the guide book, Thayer’s second two-year term as governor of Nebraska was extended by a controversy surrounding the election of 1890, in which he did not run. On inauguration day, former Governor Thayer refused to turn over the office to Governor-elect James Boyd (born in Ireland) on the grounds that the latter was not legally qualified because he was not a citizen of the United States.

William Thayer stirred up controversy during his last term as Nebraska governor.

William Thayer stirred up controversy after his last term as Nebraska governor.

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Governor James Boyd had to wait a year to officially begin his term due to questions raised by his predecessor (Thayer) regarding his citizenship. Photo source: Nebraska State Historical Society.

As a result, Thayer held the office an extra year until the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Boyd had been “naturalized” as a citizen automatically when Nebraska was admitted to the Union. Boyd, for whom the state’s Boyd County is named, is buried at Omaha’s Forest Lawn Cemetery (which I visited later that week).

Next week, I’ll feature some of what I know you’re eager to see, Wyuka’s stunning statuary. I’ll also spotlight some of the more unique gravestones and stories. I hope you’ll join me as I continue the tour.

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

Lincoln, Nebraska began as a tiny village located on salt flats called Lancaster when it was first settled. Nebraska became a state in 1867 and Lincoln was chosen as its capital over Omaha (which had been the capital of the Nebraska Territory) with the reasoning that most of the state’s population lived south of the Platte River. The decision was a hotly contested one at the time. You can read more about it here.

Lincoln's capitol building is thought to be the second tallest in the country. Don't miss the opportunity to tour it, the murals and art deco design is beautiful. Photo source: Frankcanfly.

Lincoln’s capitol building is the second tallest in the country (Louisiana has the tallest). Don’t miss the opportunity to tour it, the murals and art deco design are beautiful. Photo source: Frankcanfly at Panoramio.com.

I visited Lincoln some years ago with Christi but at that time, I wasn’t a hard core “hopper”. I didn’t know about Wyuka Cemetery. Located close to the University of Nebraska (and Cornhusker Stadium!), Wyuka covers 80 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and rolling hills.

Wyuka Cemetery was established by an act of the Nebraska Legislature in 1869 to provide a ‘Lincoln State Cemetery” for the new state’s capital city. Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston, established in 1831, was a model for Wyuka. Because the cemetery is owned by the city, it can’t be bought by a large conglomerate like Dignity. I found that comforting to know.

Wyuka is Nebraska's state cemetery, established just two years after it became a state.

Wyuka is Lincoln’s city cemetery, established just two years after Nebraska became a state.

Wyuka got its name from the original Wyuka Cemetery in Nebraska City, established in 1855 (it’s still operating today). I found two different origins for the word Wyuka. One site said it’s from the Otoe Indian language, spelled as an English-speaker might hear the Native American phrases signifying “he lies down” or “place of reclining.” The cemetery’s web page says Wyuka is Lakota Indian for “to rest.”

We stopped at the office to purchase a copy of the invaluable guide book to Wyuka. This is no flimsy pamphlet but a comprehensive book with detailed bios about the famous (and some not so famous) people buried there.

I had the pleasure of meeting Wyuka’s president, Michael Williams. When I tell people I’m writing a blog post about their cemetery, I sometimes see raised eyebrows in response but not at Wyuka. Michael, a funeral director of 30 years, was happy to answer my questions and offer any help we needed.

Originally built in 1908-1909 and on the National Register of Historic Places along with the cemetery, Wyuka’s stables formerly housed the horses that transported caskets to the cemetery. Once automobiles took the place of the horses, the stables were used for storage.

Built in 1908-1909, Wyuka's stables recently underwent a $1 million renovation.

Built in 1908-1909, Wyuka’s stables recently underwent a $1 million renovation.

A $1 million renovation to the stables was completed in October so they can hold events such as meetings, company retreats and wedding receptions. Since 2000, it’s also been the home of the Swan Theater and the Flatwater Shakespeare Company. When we were visiting, an open air production of Hamlet was scheduled for that evening.

The first stop on our tour was the Rudge Memorial Chapel, which was locked. Completed in 1928, the chapel is made of Indiana limestone in the Gothic Revival style. The cost of the chapel ($30,000) was donated by the family of Charles H. Rudge, who owned the Rudge & Guenzel Department Store in Lincoln before his death in 1921. Funerals and occasional weddings are held at the chapel, which seats about 75.

Postcard of Lincoln's Rudge & Gunzel Department Store, which closed in 1942. Charles H. Rudge died in 1921. He injured his hand while working on one of his properties in Minnesota and it became infected.

Postcard of Lincoln’s Rudge & Guenzel Department Store, which closed in 1942. Charles H. Rudge died in 1921. He injured his hand while working on one of his properties in Minnesota and it became infected.

Built in 1938, Rudge Memorial Chapel was designed by Lincoln architects Ellery Lothrop Davis and Walter F. Wilson Wilson.

Built in 1938, Rudge Memorial Chapel was designed by Lincoln architects Ellery Lothrop Davis and Walter F. Wilson.

I was happy to see that Wyuka had a handful of my favorite “white bronze” markers. These are actually made of zinc. This one, according to the guide book, was made by the Western White Bronze Company of Des Moines, Iowa.

At the time they were popular, you could select one from a catalog and have it shipped in pieces to you for easy construction. They are hollow inside, too. The Western White Bronze Company operated for 22 years, closing in 1908.

Samuel Merrill was born in England in 1805 and died in Pleasant Dale, Nebraska in 1884.

Samuel Merrill was born in England in 1805 and died in Pleasant Dale, Nebraska in 1884. Before that, the family had lived in Ohio and Canada. The three links of chain depicted on the monument symbolize the IOOF or International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization.

Not far from Merrill’s monument is a very faded stone that I would have passed without stopping if not for the guide book. The grave of Hughina Morrison is apparently the oldest in Wyuka. She died at the age of 44, buried beside her husband.

Hughina Morrison was buried in Wyuka the year it opened in 1869. A carved hand on her gravestone points skyward toward a nearly illegible inscription that originally read “Gone Home.”

Hughina Morrison was buried in Wyuka the year it opened in 1869. A carved hand on her gravestone points skyward toward a nearly illegible inscription that originally read “Gone Home.”

One thing we noticed throughout the cemetery were the water spigots so guests could water the flowers/plants placed on graves. All of them had the ominous sign “DO NOT DRINK” hung on them. If you’ve spent enough time in historic cemeteries, this is quite normal. The water may be okay for the flowers/shrubs but you don’t want to drink it. I saw similar signs on the faucets at Chicago’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

It's okay for the flowers, not okay for the human.s

It’s okay for the flowers, not okay for the humans.

One monument not in the guidebook is that of Cyrus Carman, a native of Ohio who moved to Nebraska to work as a shoemaker. He died at 41, leaving a wife and two children. His marker bears the Woodman of the World seal, one that you’re bound to see often in Nebraska since WOW is based in Omaha.

While it's not in the shape of a tree (many WOW markers are), Cyrus Carman's is quite impressive.

While it’s not in the shape of a tree (many WOW markers are), Cyrus Carman’s grave stone is quite impressive.

The latin motto of the Woodman of the World, "Dum Tacet Clamat" translates as "Though silent, he speaks."

The Latin motto of the Woodman of the World, “Dum Tacet Clamat” translates as “Though silent, he speaks.”

Another reason Carman’s marker is different from many WOW markers is that it lists the lodge he had membership in, Lincoln Forest Camp No. 6. Most WOW markers are for people who just had WOW insurance policies but Cyrus Carman was an early member of the Modern Woodman of the World, which was similar to the Masons and Elks. They held meetings, wore woodsmen costumes and even tossed axes in unison in parades.

The gentleman on this postcard wears the bears the insignia of MWA and several of their symbols including the axe, mallet, wedge, five stars, and branches of palm. These are all displayed on a shield. There are lumberjacks or “woodmen” cutting down trees in the background. This was symbolic for MWA as the clearing of forests refer back to clearing away problems of financial security for member’s families.

The gentleman on this 1910 postcard wears the insignia of the Modern Woodman of the World, which had an axe, mallet, wedge, five stars, and branches of palm. This particular member probably belonged to a MWA camp in Montana.

Th large brown granite marker for Walter Dameron is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Walter, a fireman, was killed when two trains of the Burlington Railroad collided head on near Indianola, Neb. Killed in the wreck were 18 passengers and crew members, with more than 30 injured.

The logo of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is one I have seeen in several Georgia emeteries.

The logo of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is one I have seen on graves in Georgia cemeteries. Please forgive the fact you can see my reflection in the stone, I hate when I do that.

Members of the Western Leagues's Omaha and Denver baseball teams were killed in the 1911 Indianola train wreck.

Some members of the Western League’s Omaha and Denver baseball teams were killed in the 1911 Indianola, Neb. train wreck. The dead included the Western League’s Denver team president James McGill.

Situated among the mausoleums of some of Lincoln’s prominent residents is Wyuka’s receiving tomb. Built in the Romanesque Revival style in 1886, it is the oldest building in the cemetery. Made of limestone and built into a hillside (similar to the Horatio May Chapel in Chicago’s Rose Hill Cemetery), the receiving tomb stored caskets when the ground was frozen during the winter and was too hard to dig into for burials.

Wyuka's receiving tomb was designed by John H.W. Hawkins, a Cornell graduate who had recently arrived in Lincoln.

Wyuka’s receiving tomb was designed by John H.W. Hawkins, a Cornell graduate. Hawkins designed several of Lincoln’s buildings during the five years he lived there.

The last stop for this post is the grave of Gordon MacRae, the actor/singer best known for his roles in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Carousel. A New Jersey native, MacRae got his big break when he appeared on Broadway in 1946 and was offered a contract with Warner Brothers.

Besides appearing in several movies, MacRae had his own radio show until 1954. He made several albums and appeared frequently on television. He battled alcoholism in the 1960s and overcame it in the 1970s, often counseling others struggling with addiction.

Macrae starred as Curly Maclain in both the broadway production and movie of Rogers & Hammerstein's musical, Oklahoma!.

MacRae starred as Curly Maclain in both the Broadway production and movie of Rogers & Hammerstein’s musical, Oklahoma!.

MacRae’s second wife, Elizabeth, was a native of Davenport, Neb. The couple settled in Lincoln in 1980. MacRae said he felt at home in Lincoln because it reminded him of his hometown of East Orange, N.J. He died in 1986 of pneumonia as a result of complications from cancer of the mouth and jaw.

imageThis post barely scratches the surface of my day at Wyuka. There’s so much more to see. Come back next week for Part II!

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Back to the Heartland: Exploring Nebraska’s Greenwood Memorial Cemetery

Nebraska is where I began catching the cemetery bug. I went on my first true “hop” with my best friend, Christi, in Blair. It’s a small town not far from Omaha, where a number of my Claar ancestors once farmed and are now buried. That was in 2009.

The paintbrush is for sweeping snow/ice off the gravestones. We mean business!

A 2009 photo from our “hop” at Kennard Cemetery in Blair, Nebraska. The paintbrush was for removing snow off the grave stones. My ancestor, Rufus Claar, came from Ohio to farm and breed prize-winning pigs.

When I went out to Omaha this past September, I already had a list of “must see” cemeteries. But since we’d also planned a road trip to Lincoln, I hoped to visit a few I knew nothing about.

Christi wanted to make a stop in Greenwood (population of about 550) to visit the Bakers Candies store. Founded in 1987, Bakers makes mouths water with their famous meltaways. After sampling a few, I could see why.

Greenwood's Bakers Candies produces more than 2,000 lbs. of their famous meltaways a day. That's the Greenwood Farmers' Cooperative (Co-Op) in the background.

Greenwood’s Bakers Candies produces more than 2,000 lbs. of their famous meltaways a day. That’s the Greenwood Farmers’ Cooperative (Co-Op) in the background.

Greenwood Memorial Cemetery is less than a mile from Bakers Candies, so it wasn’t hard to find. Like many Nebraska cemeteries, Greenwood is located amid cornfields. This one, however, is fairly large with around 1,500 burials and is well maintained.

Greenwood Memorial Cemetery has grave stones dating back to the 1860s. It is still an active cemetery, with burials as recent as this year.

Greenwood Memorial Cemetery has grave stones dating back to the 1860s. It is still an active cemetery, with burials as recent as this year.

I couldn’t find out much about the history of Greenwood Memorial Cemetery. I saw burials dating back to the 1860s to just a few months ago.

There’s something quite different about walking through a Nebraska Cemetery from a Georgia one. The landscape is mostly flat, with open sky that seems to last forever. And it feels like you can see for miles.

Looks like we were about to get some rain but thankfully, it held off.

You also don’t often see grasshoppers this size lurking about.

These large grasshoppers reminded me of the swarms of locusts mentioned in the Old Testament.

One of the first markers I noticed was for Margie Armstrong, who died at the age of 20. I’m not sure what kind of material it’s made out of or how it was made.

Margie only lived a few decades but she had an impact on the person who created this unique marker.

Margie only lived a few decades but she had an impact on the person who created this unique marker.

MargieArmstronginscription

Neither Margie’s husband or son are buried at Greenwood Cemetery. “She Has Awakened From The Dream Of Life” are haunting words.

I was intrigued by the design of the top because it looked like it had been damaged. Upon consulting Margie’s memorial on Find a Grave, I saw what it originally looked like. I don’t know if it was vandalized or if the harsh Nebraska winters had damaged it over time.

This is what Margie Armstrong's marker looked like in 2006.

This is what Margie Armstrong’s marker looked like in 2006.

I couldn’t find out anything about Margie at all. But there was a marker for another Armstrong that might be related to her. Ralph Armstrong died over 25 years before Margie, but his stone also made me look twice.

Ralph Armstrong's grave highlights a little-known chapter in American military history.

Ralph Armstrong’s grave highlights a little-known chapter in American military history.

I’d never heard of the U.S. military having a Balloon Air Service, although I was aware that they had experimented with balloons for observation during the Civil War. After I got back home, I did a little research and discovered Omaha’s brief history as a site for the U.S. Army Balloon Corps.

Fort Omaha’s Signal Corps Balloon School operated in the years before World War I, experimenting with the new Baldwin Airship Signal Corps-1 (SC-1), which became the first powered aircraft purchased by the Army. This happened just months before the Army purchased the now-proven Wright Flyer (pioneered Orville and Wilbur Wright).

The Baldwin Airship SC-1 was the U.S. Army's first purchase of a genuine aircraft, even before the ground-breaking Wright Flyer. Photo source: Richard DesChenes.

The Baldwin Airship SC-1 was the U.S. Army’s first purchase of a genuine aircraft, even before the ground-breaking Wright Flyer. Photo source: Richard DesChenes.

The Fort Omaha Balloon School flew the SC-1 until around 1911, when it was no longer serviceable. Officers and enlisted men continued to train until the school was abandoned in October 1913. It was turned into a government weather station until the outbreak of World War I.

OmahaAirServiceSince the English, French and Germans had been using “kite”, or captive balloons for battlefield observations for years, the U.S. Army again set up its balloon training operations at Fort Omaha and tried to play catch-up. About 16,000 young men received training and balloonist skills that they would use on the battlefield in France.

Duty was dangerous not only because balloons were favorite targets, but due to the fact they were filled with highly flammable hydrogen gas. Observers were forced to jump from the basket more than 100 times but had few mishaps partially due to their excellent training. Seventeen U.S. balloon companies sent to Europe saw action on the front, 13 of them having been organized at Fort Omaha.

An airship being taken out of its hangar in 1919 at Fort Omaha.

An balloon being taken out of its hangar in 1919 at Fort Omaha.

At 27, Ralph Armstrong enlisted in the Army on July 29, 1918 and was assigned as a private to the 53rd Balloon Company, stationed at Fort Omaha. A few days before the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the 53rd was moved to Camp Morrison, Va. About a month later, Ralph was honorably discharged and returned to Nebraska. He died in 1944.

As is often the case, there were several graves of young children. Some even died at birth. This was likely the situation for the Leesley twins, Teddie and Eddie. They died in infancy in 1916.

Teddie and Eddie were the children of William H. and Margaret Leesley.

Teddie and Eddie were the children of William H. and Margaret Leesley.

Nearby is the grave of their brother, Francis, born a few years later in 1922. He died soon after birth but his twin sister, Alice, survived. She married and had children, spending much of her life in Greenwood. She died in 2009 and is also buried at Greenwood Memorial Cemetery.

Francis Leesley died as an infant but his twin, Alice, lived to the age of 87.

Francis Leesley died as an infant but his twin, Alice, lived to the age of 87.

The children of James and Laura Elliott also died at young ages. A native of Wisconsin, James served for three years in the Union Army as part of the 25th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Company I. They participated in the siege and capture of Vicksburg, serving under Sherman in his campaigns against Meridian, Atlanta, Savannah, and the Carolinas. The 25th lost more men than any other Wisconsin regiment, but mostly due to disease.

According to the Nebraska State Census taken in 1879, James and Laura were farming in Tipton, Nebraska (just south of Greenwood) with their children, Edwin “Eddie” and Mary “Mamie”. In December, Mamie died just a few days short of 1880. Brother Eddie died only a few months later. In the 1885 Nebraska State Census, Laura is listed as a widow with two children, Ford (born in November 1880), and Blanche (born in 1883). Both James and Laura (who eventually remarried) are buried in Greenwood Memorial Cemetery.

Little Mamie and Eddie Elliott would die within months of each other for reasons unknown.

Mamie and Eddie Elliott would die within months of each other for reasons unknown.

The last grave stone I’m going to feature was one I spotted on our way out. The wording on it was too surprising to breeze past.

The words "killed by an explosion" are ones I don't often see on a grave stone.

The words “killed by an explosion” are ones I don’t often see on a grave stone.

Thanks to a 2012 newspaper article, it wasn’t hard to find out what happened to poor George.

A wagon maker from Massachusetts, George Cutler moved to Greenwood and eventually purchased an old church. After turning it into an opera house, he acted as a promoter and brought in entertainment acts to perform there.

Because electricity had not yet come to Greenwood, the structure was lit with gas lights. One night during a storm, George went to the opera house while carrying a lantern. Due to a gas leak, the flame from the lantern caused an explosion that killed him.

Another interesting bit of trivia, George Cutler was the cousin of Luke Cutler, Hollywood silent movie icon Buster Keaton’s great-grandfather. This gravestone appears to be a replacement and is located far from the other Cutlers in the cemetery, locals have pointed out.

My visit to Greenwood Memorial Cemetery was just one of many “hops”  during my visit to Nebraska. But it was the beginning of many discoveries that I’ll be sharing in the weeks to come.

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Nineteen Years is Not Enough: Revisiting the Short Life of Joshua Stulick

In January, it will be two years since I started this blog. I’ve written a lot of posts but one from March 2014 that continues to stick with me was about the short life of Joshua Stulick. Today I’d like to revisit his story and share some of the results of that post.

I also now have a face to go with his name.

JoshuaStulick

This is a picture of a paper copy of a photograph of Joshua, so the quality is not great. But I was happy to finally see Joshua’s face. Photo courtesy of Kathy Melchers.

In the spring of 2013, I visited Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Forsyth County, Ga. to photograph someone’s grave for Find a Grave. As usual, I took pictures of other graves there with the intention of checking to see if I might post them on Find a Grave as well. And there were indeed some that had not been documented. This is something I do at almost every cemetery I visit.

sharonbaptistchurchcemetery1

Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery is in Forsyth County, Ga.

Several months later, I got an e-mail from a woman named Jenn thanking me for photographing a grave and creating a memorial for Joshua Stulick. His name didn’t ring a bell, so I looked up his memorial and learned that he’d died in 1992 at the age of 19.

Jenn wrote:

Thank you so very much for your post of a grave for Joshua Stulick. I have looked for so very long to find him. At last I have it because of you. There was no goodbye when he was tragically killed. Now at least I can visit. Thank you! It means a lot.

Whoa.

I soon learned that Joshua was murdered in a park in Staten Island, N.Y. in April 1992. His murder remained unsolved for many years.

StatenIslandUnivHospital

Joshua Stulick worked in the cafeteria at Staten Island University Hospital.

According to The Staten Island Advance, one night Joshua went to a friend’s house for drinks after finishing his shift in the hospital cafeteria where he worked. Later, he and some other people went to Ingram Woods (a nearby park).

On April 28, 1992, Joshua’s body was found, covered in the park’s underbrush. He’d been fatally stabbed in the throat and wrapped in the interior lining of a car trunk.

Suspicion fell on Joshua’s co-worker, James Russell, already on probation for a felony assault conviction. In that case, Russell had plead guilty to a 1989 attack.

Police suspected that the trunk lining Joshua was found wrapped in belonged to Russell’s car, but no other evidence was found. Russell swore he knew nothing about what happened, was released and the case froze up.

Russellpic

James Russell worked with Joshua Stulick at Staten Island University Hospital in 1992. Photo source: The Staten Island Advance.

In 2005, an anonymous witness came forward. Based on what she said, Russell was arrested and eventually charged with second degree murder. He initially plead not guilty.

In December 2007, Russell changed his story, claiming he and Stulick were drinking and doing drugs that day before heading for Ingram Park. He said they started to “fool around with knives that we each had, playing karate moves and lunging and sparring with each other.”

“Joshua lunged at me as I was swinging my arm with the knife, and I cut him,” Russell admitted. “To my horror, the knife cut into Joshua Stulick’s throat.”

He said he covered the body in Ingram Woods and fled, thinking “everyone would blame me no matter what I said.”

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Rooney sent Russell to prison for a minimum of three and a half years up to a maximum seven years under an agreement by which Russell pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. Had he been found guilty of second-degree murder, he might have faced a lifetime jail sentence. As part of the deal, he was not allowed to appeal his sentence.

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney sent Russell to prison for a minimum of three and a half years up to a maximum seven years. Photo cource. SIAlive.com

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rooney sent Russell to prison for a minimum of three and a half years up to a maximum seven years. Photo source: SIAlive.com

Joshua’s mother, Kathleen Melchers, spoke at James Russell’s sentencing:

Your actions of cold violence not only took my son’s life, but to drag his body onto a car trunk liner and lay him on the ground behind a rock for two days until being found by someone walking a dog, is an act of sensitivity coming from a wicked heart and extreme lack of respect for the human body and soul.

As a mother of a son myself, I felt disbelief and anger when I read about Russell’s plea deal. Russell’s sentencing took place in 2007 so he’s probably out walking the streets again now.

While I didn’t know if anyone would contact me after I published the original blog post, that didn’t matter to me. I felt that I was meant to photograph Joshua’s grave for a reason and writing about him was simply something I had to do.

Joshua Stulick's grave is in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Cumming, Ga.

Joshua Stulick’s grave is in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Cumming, Ga.

A few months later, I was surprised to find that Joshua’s mother, Kathleen (who goes by the name Kathy), had left a comment on the blog.

The longsuffering was a walk no person should have to go through but God had his hand on many people and assigned a God appointed team in Staten island, which I still count them all dear to my heart. The Team was truly assigned to Joshua’s case. The God I serve took care of the judgement, hurting hearts, and the ability to forgive. I will see him in heaven; no tears or hurts every again. I have learned to love others in a special way as I know that is what Joshua would want me to do.

I had worried about Kathleen in light of Russell’s incredibly light sentence. Enduring the violent death of your own child is something no parent should have to go through. But her words showed me that while her journey had been difficult, she had turned to God for healing and understanding. And found it.

Joshua’s godmother, Bonnie, left a comment this past August:

I came across this article today and could not believe someone cared that he did die so young. He was my godson and very precious little boy. Have been thinking of him because his birthday is coming up on September 10th, he would have been 42 this year. My only peace is that he is with our Lord and hopefully singing for the angels.

Joshua’s friend and fellow bandmate, Mike Arguelles, left a comment just a few months ago:

I went to Curtis High School with Josh and briefly played in a band with him, ( “Section 8” ) He was a good guy and his own person. I last spoke with him over the phone shortly before he was to move down South. The move never got to happen. I often think about Josh, ( he was a good friend to me ) how he got cheated his due time and my heart goes out to his family and fellow friends. May you rest in peace, Josh. See you on the other side, Brother.

Joshua attended Curtis High School in Staten Island, New York but was preparing to move back to the South.

Joshua attended Curtis High School in Staten Island, N.Y., and was preparing to move back to the South at the time of his death.

Jenn, who originally contacted me about Joshua, recently sent me an email to share some of her memories of him. While it had been many years since his death, she continues to try to come to terms with it.

When I finally saw a photo of his grave…it hit me like a brick. It’s not that I didn’t know he was dead, but I suppose finally a more tangible look at it hit me very hard, for a very long time after that. I have never stopped grieving. And all I will ever have of him is that photo on your site. Not even of him, but of his grave.

He was beautiful. And despite his pitfalls (I know he was not a saint), he was kind. He cared more about what was best for me than what he wanted. That jacket they found at the park was one he used to give to me when I was cold.

I have to say that I have a wonderful family of my own. A husband and tree precious children, but this loss has never ceased to ache. To say my heart was broken is a gross understatement; it was shattered and that cannot be mended.

Kathy left another comment this past October and I responded by telling her I was planning on writing an update to my original blog post. I asked if she might send me a picture of Joshua. She doesn’t have a scanner but was able to photograph a paper picture of Joshua that she had. I was thrilled to finally see his face, to get a glimpse of the young man I’d written about.

Joshua’s story points me to a truth I’ve known for a while. A name and a date on a gravestone is just the tip of the iceberg of the life of the person it represents. Each person has their own unique story, has impacted the lives of others in some special way. Every life is special.

Even if it ends long before it should have.

Free At Last: Visiting Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery (Postscript)

Over the past weeks, I’ve highlighted a variety of people buried at South-View Cemetery. Civil rights pioneers, a famous Vaudeville sister act, a Tuskegee airman, outspoken clergymen and many more.

But there’s another side to South-View that is impossible to escape. The graves of ordinary men and women who did not have towering monuments and illustrious pasts. Some whose graves are not even marked. When you wander over to the older section of the cemetery that is not within the perpetual care area, you’ll find a more untamed, rugged beauty.

Non-perpetual care section is a designation I often see at old cemeteries. Years ago, the concept of putting aside funds for the upkeep and maintenance of graves did not exist as it does now.

Non-perpetual care is a designation I often see at old cemeteries. Years ago, the concept of putting aside funds for the permanent upkeep and maintenance of graves did not exist. As a result, they are sometimes in need of repair or restoration but the funds don’t exist to do it.

While John and I meandered around, I took pictures of whatever caught my eye. This rather crude inlay of the letter “H” for the Hardin family’s plot was one of them.

I know nothing about the Hardin family but this inlay initial at the entrance looked special.

I know nothing about the Hardin family but this inlay initial at the entrance looked unique.

I saw a number of markers with the words “Mother at Rest” on them, which I found particularly touching.

This one is a bit worn and not easy to read.

This one is a bit worn and not easy to read but the spirit behind the words is still there. There was no name on it.

The wood motif in this plot was rather unusal as the border was entirely made of stone made to look like logs. There was nothing to indicate the name of the person buried here. But it is beautiful nonetheless.

I’ve seen wood-style markers before. But the motif used in this plot was unusual in that the entire border is entirely made of stone made to look like logs. There was nothing to indicate the name of the person buried here.

On the far east side of the cemetery, the landscape is less manicured but it remains a peaceful sanctuary of reflection.

There are a number of enormous old trees like this one on the grounds of South-View.

There are a number of enormous old trees like this one on the grounds of South-View.

An old bench awaits visitors to pause and sit beneath the towering trees.

A solitary bench awaits visitors to pause and sit beneath the towering trees.

These are more of the temporary markers that became the only indication of a grave since permanent ones were never purchased.

These are temporary markers that became the only indication of a grave since permanent ones were never purchased. They were created by African-American funeral homes.

I noticed a few monuments standing alone in large stretches of grass nearby. These were plots purchased by black churches as part of burial societies decades ago. The one below was erected by the Daughters of Israel of the Reed (misspelled as Reid on the stone) Street Baptist Church, organized in 1867.

SVReidStreetBaptist African-Americans were not allowed to be buried with whites before the Civil War and long into the years after it. Though some freed slaves preferred to remain on the plantation or settle in the countryside, many relocated to urban areas and established communities. They needed somewhere to bury their dead in an inexpensive way.

I could find no specific information about Atlanta’s black burial societies. But in Charleston after the Civil War, whites encouraged freed blacks to form benevolent societies so they might collect dues and purchase land for cemeteries. About nine of these have been identified but there were likely more. Such societies also existed in Northeastern Jewish communities and a few still exist today.

Arranging burial was only one part of some of these societies. They sometimes paid for the education of orphaned children, found work and supported families, provided financial support to the sick and dying, and offered widows an annuity or modest monthly stipend to help with living expenses.

Ellen Shaw's grave is the only one marked in the plot established by the Daughters of Israel. It's unknown how many are actually buried there.

Ellen Shaw’s grave is the only one marked in the plot established by the Daughters of Israel. It’s unknown how many people are actually buried there.

Reed Street Baptist Church (misspelled as Reid Street on the monument) is now Paradise Baptist Church. Dinah Watts Pace, a former slave, began a Sunday School for poor and orphaned children in the Summerhill area of Atlanta. She also opened a children’s home later. The original Sunday School was the core of what would later become Reed Street Baptist Church.

The only marked grave in the Daughters of Israel’s plot is that of Ellen Shaw, who was born in 1837 and died in 1899 at the age of 64 years. According to census records, by 1870 she was widowed and working as a domestic servant with her daughter, Tempy, who was also a servant. Ellen is listed as a laundress in the 1877 Atlanta City Directory. It’s likely that she or her daughter was a member of Reed Street Baptist Church.

Big Bethel AME Church's neon "Jesus Saves" sign became a well-known landmark when the church was rebuilt after a fire in 1920.

Big Bethel AME Church’s neon “Jesus Saves” sign became a well-known landmark when the church was rebuilt after a fire in 1920.

Another burial society monument I found was for the Independent Daughters and Sons of Bethel Society, Inc., formerly the Independent Daughters of Bethel Society, Inc. This society was affiliated with the Big Bethel AME Church.

Founded in 1847, Big Bethel is the oldest African-American congregation in the Atlanta area. The church is still active today and its “Jesus Saves” sign has been a city landmark since 1922 when the church was rebuilt after a fire.

The Independent Daughters of Bethel, Inc. has an incorporation date of 1909, according to my research.

The Independent Daughters of Bethel, Inc. has an incorporation date of 1909, which is the only information I could find about it.

Big Bethel AME Church was a church home of the Independent Daughters of Bethel, Inc.

Big Bethel AME Church was the church home of the Independent Daughters of Bethel, Inc.

The last burial society monument I found was for two different groups. The first was the Sisters of Love Society, organized in 1875, and the Rising Stars Society of the Wheat Street Baptist Church, organized in 1879. Perhaps the Sisters of Love Society was also part of this church since the two share one marker. I could find absolutely no information on either group and there were no grave markers within these plots.

SVWheatStreetMonument

SVRisingStarsSocietySVSistersofLoveWheat Street Baptist, on the other hand, has a long and much-documented history. Established in 1869, parishioners from Friendship Baptist Church who wanted to attend a church closer to their homes organized into a mission known as Mt. Pleasant Baptist, with Rev. Andrew Jackson as their pastor. Their first place of worship was Jackson’s yard on Howell Street. After a fire in 1917, they moved into its current building on Auburn Avenue in the 1920s. It is still active today.

Wheat Street Baptist Church is located on Auburn Avenue near the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

Wheat Street Baptist Church is located on Auburn Avenue near the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

There are a few other graves that I paused at for their unique appeal. This one was definitely worth a second look.

John Mozley and his family are a mystery to me but their monument is a work of art.

John Mozley and his family are a mystery to me but their monument is a work of art.

I could find nothing about Andrew Mozley or his family. But the cross erected in their honor is lovely to look at. It’s also an interesting collection of Christian cemetery symbols.

In ancient times, the anchor was regarded as a symbol of safety. It was later adopted by Christians as a symbol of hope and steadfastness. Doves are a symbol for love and peace, as well as the Holy Spirit. A Lily of the Valley signifies innocence, humility and renewal.

Not very far from the Mozley monument is this one for Richard Kelsey. I could not locate him in any census records but his name appears several times in the Atlanta City Directory.

In the 1870s, he worked as a gardener for Alfred H. Colquitt, a lawyer and Civil War major general before becoming the 49th Governor of Georgia. Colquitt was elected U.S. Senator after that. In later years, Kelsey worked as a driver and a laborer.

SVKelsey1

Richard Kelsey worked as a gardener at one point in his life so it’s not surprising there’s a calla lily on his monument.

SVKelsey2The calla lily represents marriage and fidelity. But I can find no record of Richard Kelsey being married so that may not be the case in this example.

This last marker has no names at all but rested alone in a large plot. One was a wife, the other her daughter. Their identities are lost to time but this one last memento of them remains.

SVMotherandDaughterI hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through South-View Cemetery. It’s a hidden gem in Atlanta so if you ever have the chance to go there, don’t put it off like I did. You won’t regret it.

 

Free At Last: Visiting Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery (Part III)

No tour of South-View Cemetery would be complete without talking about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was initially buried at South-View after his untimely death. Several of his family members are buried there that greatly influenced his path in life.

The Rev. Adam Daniel (A.D.) Williams was the grandfather of Martin Luther King, Jr. As the son of slaves Willis and Lucretia Williams in Greene County, Ga., he was probably born in 1861 but celebrated his birthday on January 2, 1863, the day after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. His hopes of following his father into preaching were evident from an early age. Taught by several ministers in the community, Rev. Williams earned his license to preach in April 1888.

The Rev. A.D. Williams had ambitions of being a preacher like his father, even conducting funerals for animals when he was a child.

The Rev. A.D. Williams had ambitions of being a preacher like his father, even conducting funerals for animals when he was a child.

In January 1893, he was called to the pastorate of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Although Ebenezer had only 13 members when he arrived, the congregation grew to 400 members by 1903. Williams enrolled at Atlanta Baptist College (later named Morehouse College) and in May 1898, received his certificate from the ministerial program. Rev. Williams married Jennie Celeste Parks in 1899. In 1903, they welcomed their only surviving daughter, Alberta, who later became the mother of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Williams became pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in

Rev. Williams became pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1893. Located on Auburn Avenue, the church is still going strong today. Photo source: Francisco Collazo.

In September 1895, Rev. Williams joined 2,000 other delegates and visitors at Friendship Baptist Church to organize the National Baptist Convention, the largest black organization in the U.S. By 1904, Rev. Williams was president of the Atlanta Baptist Ministers’ Union, and chairman of both the executive board and finance committee of the General State Baptist Convention.

In 1906, Rev. Williams helped organize the Georgia Equal Rights League to protest the white primary system. Twelve years later, Williams became branch president of the NAACP chapter he helped found. During his tenure, the branch grew to 1,400 members within five months and spearheaded a major effort to register black voters.

SVRevWilliamssteps

Rev. Williams is buried beside his wife,

Rev. Williams is buried beside his wife, Jennie Parks Williams. Two children who died in infancy are buried with them.

Daughter Alberta married Martin Luther King, Sr. (known as “Daddy King”) in 1926. Rev. Williams’ son-in-law succeeded him as pastor of Ebenezer in 1931 after his death.

Near the front gates of South-View is the tomb of Rev. King Sr. and Alberta. After Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. in 1968 by James Earl Ray, his body was placed in this tomb until the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (known as The King Center) opened in the 1970s when his remains were moved to a new tomb there. His wife, Coretta Scott King, joined him there when she died in 2006.

The tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and his wife, Alberta Williams, King, is located near the front gates of South-View.

The tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and his wife, Alberta Williams,King, is located near the front gates of South-View.

The remains of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were moved to the King Center in the 1970s.

The remains of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were moved to the King Center in the 1970s. The tomb is faced with Georgia marble.

The son of sharecroppers Delia (Linsey) and James Albert King, Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. was born Michael King in Stockbridge, Ga. in 1899. As a young man, he moved to Atlanta, where his sister Woodie was boarding with Rev. A.D. Williams. After Dr. King Sr. started courting Alberta, her family encouraged him to finish his education and become a preacher.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. in Macon, Georgia at the State Sunday School and Baptist Congress on July 20, 1977. Photo source: Associated Press.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. in Macon, Ga. at the State Sunday School and Baptist Congress on July 20, 1977. Photo source: Associated Press.

In 1926, Dr. King Sr. started his ministerial degree at the Morehouse School of Religion and married Alberta at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The couple had three children: Willie Christine King (Farris), Martin Luther King, Jr. (born Michael King, Jr.), and Alfred Daniel Williams King.

Dr. King Sr. became leader of Ebenezer Baptist Church in March 1931 after the death of his father-in-law. By 1934, he’d become a much respected leader of the local church. He changed his name (and that of his eldest son) from Michael King to Martin Luther King after becoming inspired during a trip to Germany by the life of theologian Martin Luther, although he never changed his name legally.

Dr. King Sr. was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for 40 years. In 1948, his son, Martin Jr., joined him at Ebenezer as an associate pastor. Despite theological differences, father and son would later serve together as joint pastors at the church.

Three generations of Kings: Martin Luther Sr., Jr. and III.

Three generations of Kings: Martin Luther Sr., Jr. and III.

Dr. King Sr. headed Atlanta’s Civic and Political League, and NAACP branch. After his son’s assassination in 1968, he lent his support to former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter during his 1976 Presidential campaign.

Dr. King Sr. endured more than one family tragedy. On June 30, 1974, while Dr. King Sr. was out of town, Alberta was playing the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church during a service when she was shot and killed. The gunman, Marcus Wayne Chenault, claimed he planned to shoot Dr. King Sr. because of his hatred for Christians but in his absence, had shot his wife instead. Cheanualt was given a life sentence and died of a stroke in prison in 1995.

Alberta Williams King

Alberta Williams King was shot and killed while playing “The Lord’s Prayer” on the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1974.

Dr. King Sr.’s younger son, Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King. Jr., died in 1969 at the age of 39 when he drowned in a hotel pool. After suffering a stroke in 1984, Dr. King Sr. died and was buried at South-View beside his wife.

Dr. King Sr.'s younger son, the Rev. A.D. Williams King, Jr., died in 1969 after drowning in a hotel pool. He is also buried at South-View. Photo source: Warrick L. Barrett.

Dr. King Sr.’s younger son, Rev. A.D. Williams King, Jr., died in 1969 after drowning in a hotel pool. He is also buried at South-View. Photo source: Warrick L. Barrett.

There are two other graves I’d like to mention. The first is Carrie Cunningham and her son, McAllister “Red” Riggins. Had it not been for Red’s outrageous behavior, Atlanta’s famed Royal Peacock club might never have opened in 1949.

“Mama” Cunningham already owned and managed the Royal Hotel on Auburn Avenue. Hoping to keep her wayward musician son out of trouble, she opened the Royal Peacock (formerly the Top Hat, where the Whitman sisters performed). Cunningham already had experience in the entertainment world, having worked in large traveling vaudeville troupes as a girl.

The Royal Peacock was considered an

The Royal Peacock was considered an incubator for unknown talent. Little Richard, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles and James Brown are only a few that played there early in their careers. Photo source: Skip Mason Archives.

Thanks to Cunningham’s business skills, the Royal Peacock became the hot spot for up and coming talent. Artists like James Brown, Ray Charles and Nat King Cole played there as relative unknowns who went on to become stars.

Otis Redding made an appearance at the Royal Peacock in the early 1960s. Photo source: Zelma Redding

Otis Redding made an appearance at the Royal Peacock in the early 1960s. Photo source: Zelma Redding

Cunningham was also a confidante and adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr. and newspaper columnist Ralph McGill. She also enjoyed the company of Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Mohammed Ali and other African-American celebrities.

Carrie Cunningham died in 1973 and the Royal Peacock’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed since that time. Currently, it’s a hip hop club but the Royal Peacock has yet to recapture the status it had once up on a time.

Carrie Cunningham is buried at South-View with her son and his wife.

Carrie Cunningham is buried at South-View with her son and his wife.

The last person I’d like to talk about is a man most known for an iconic picture in a magazine. In it, he’s weeping as he plays the accordion, mourning for his lost friend. But there was much more to Graham Jackson, Sr. than a photo.

Graham Jackson is known best as the man in this Life magazine photo. But he was also a well-known entertainer in Atlanta. Photo source: Ed Clark.

Graham Washington Jackson, Sr. is known best as the man in this Life magazine photo. But he was also a talented entertainer. Photo source: Ed Clark.

A native of Portsmouth, Va., Jackson could master almost any instrument, giving piano and organ concerts at high school age. Sponsored by a wealthy patron, Jackson studied at the college level but when the patron died, Jackson stopped his formal training until he moved to Georgia.

During his early days in Atlanta, Jackson attended Morehouse College and Atlanta University. In 1928, he joined the faculty at Washington High School and served as its music director until 1940.

Jackson became a personal friend of Eleanor and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, having played command performances in Washington, D.C. He was present in Warm Springs, Ga., when Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. The two had been collaborating on a version of Antonin Dvorak’s “Goin’ Home” the day before.

A friend of President Roosevelt and his wife, Jackson built a replica of the Little White House across from Washington High School where Jackson taught for many years. Photo source: Special Collections Dept., Pullen Library, George State University.

Jackson built a replica of the Little White House across from Washington High School where Jackson taught for many years. It still stands today. Photo source: Special Collections Dept., Pullen Library, George State University.

Jackson became a national icon when Life photographer Ed Clark took a photo of Jackson playing “Goin’ Home” as Roosevelt’s funeral train left Warm Springs.

Jackson served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, receiving six honorary citations for his war bond fundraising (yielding more than $3,000,000 in sales) and Navy recruitment work.

Jackson went on to appear on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town and formed the Graham Jackson Choir, which toured extensively. He also made guest appearances playing the huge Moller organ at Atlanta’s Fox Theater (nicknamed the “Mighty Mo”).

A 1968 ad for Pittypat's Porch, a restaurant that still exists today. Photo source: Atlanta Time Machine.

A 1968 ad for Pittypat’s Porch, a restaurant that still exists today. Photo source: Atlanta Time Machine.

In later years, Jackson entertained with a combo and as a solo Hammond organ artist at Atlanta’s Johnny Reb’s Restaurant and Pittypat’s Porch. He was named Official Musician of the State of Georgia by then-Governor Jimmy Carter in 1971 and was inducted posthumously into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

SVJacksongraveThere’s so much more to South-View Cemetery than what I’ve written in these three installments, so I’m returning next week to wrap things up in Part IV.

Free At Last: Visiting Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery (Part II)

Last week, I introduced you to some of the history of Atlanta’s South-View Cemetery and featured a few of its more notable residents. Today, we’ll continue on our tour.

On the far side of the cemetery, John led me to the grave of one of Atlanta’s most successful businessmen. The story of how he went from a slave to Atlanta’s first black millionaire is well worth telling.

Born into slavery in 1858, Alonzo Franklin Herndon was the son of his white master, Frank Herndon, and a slave, Sophenie. Like many former slaves after the Civil War, the Herndon family (Alonzo, his mother, maternal grandparents and brother) became sharecroppers. Herndon worked as a farmhand in his teens and learned the barbering trade, opening his first shop in Jonesboro where he developed a thriving business.

Alonzo Herndon with his mother, Sophenie, and his brother, Thomas, around 1890. Source: The Herndon Home

Alonzo Herndon with his mother, Sophenie, and his brother, Thomas, around 1890. Herndon wrote, “My mother was emancipated when I was seven years old and my brother Tom five years old. She was sent adrift in the world with her two children and a corded bed and…a few quilts.” Photo source: The Herndon Home

After Herndon settled in Atlanta, he worked in a shop owned by William Dougherty Hutchins and later purchased half interest in the shop. By 1904, he owned three shops in Atlanta. His famous “Crystal Palace” shop at 66 Peachtree Street was advertised as the largest and best barbershop in the region.

Herndon's famed "Crystal Palace" on 66 Peachtree Street around 1920. Photo source: Herndon Home

Herndon’s famed “Crystal Palace” on 66 Peachtree Street around 1920. The African-American barbers served an elite whites-only clientele. Photo source: The Herndon Home

Following racial practices of the time, African-American barbers served an exclusively white clientele composed of the city’s leading lawyers, judges, politicians, and businessmen. As Herndon’s success grew, he invested in real estate in Atlanta and in Florida.

In 1905, Herndon purchased a failing mutual aid association, which he incorporated as the Atlanta Mutual Insurance Association. The small association expanded its assets from $5,000 to more than $400,000 by 1922. In the same year, the company became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company and achieved legal reserve status, a position enjoyed by only four other black insurance companies at that time.

SVHerndonIns2In the 1920s, Herndon expanded Atlanta Life into a half dozen new states. Seeking to save failing black enterprises whenever possible, he re-insured policyholders and merged the faltering business into Atlanta Life to maintain confidence in black businesses while saving jobs for African-Americans.

As a result of Herndon’s wealth and business stature, the African-American community looked to him for leadership. He knew many of the leading black intellectual and political leaders in the country, and participated in several organizations with a national political or economic focus.

Alonzo Herndon successfully courted and married he married Adrienne Elizabeth McNeil, noted for her beauty and intelligence. Their only son, Norris, took over his father's business after he died in 1927. Photo source: Herndon Home

Alonzo Herndon married Adrienne Elizabeth McNeil, noted for her beauty, acting talent and intelligence. Their only son, Norris, took over his father’s business after he died in 1927. Photo source: The Herndon Home

On the local level, Herndon generously supported the YMCA, Atlanta University, three orphanages, the Herndon Day Nursery and the First Congregational Church. He also supported commercial activities, including the Southview Cemetery Association and the Atlanta State Savings Bank.

The Herndon Home, completed in 1910, still stands today and is a museum.

The Beaux Art-style Herndon Home, completed in 1910, still stands today and is a museum.

Herndon’s wife, Adrienne, was a drama professor at Atlanta University when they met. She was also admired for her beauty, intelligence and good taste. Along with her husband, she helped design and decorate their new Beaux Art-style residence that became the Herndon Home. Although she died shortly after the home was completed in 1910, it still stands today and is a museum.

The Herndon family plot is located toward the Northeast area of the cemetery.

The Herndon family plot is located toward the Northeast area of the cemetery.

Alonzo Herndon had a public housing development named after him (now demolished) and a stadium at Morris Brown College.

Alonzo Herndon had a public housing development (now demolished) and a stadium at Morris Brown College named after him.

Located not far from the Herndon family plot is a marker that’s quite different by contrast. George “Union” Wilder’s grave is believed to be the only existing marker for a black victim of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. This 2006 article by Jim Auchmutey goes into greater detail.

On Sept. 22, 1906, Atlanta newspapers were featuring extras with wildly exaggerated reports of rapes by blacks. An estimated crowd of 5,000 whites downtown started assaulting blacks at random. By the time the violence ended four days later, between 25 and 50 people were dead. One of them was 70-year-old George “Union” Wilder.

Few photos of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot exist today.

Few photos of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot exist today. This one shows a militia guard at an intersection downtown.

When the Civil War began, Wilder was a slave working for the Wilder family in Macon. On April 8, 1865, (the day before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox), Wilder enlisted in Selma and became part of the 137th U.S. Colored Troops, a regiment of former slaves from Alabama and Georgia. Wilder was so proud of his service that he apparently adopted “Union” as a middle name.

After Wilder and his wife returned to Atlanta in the 1880s, he guarded leased convict labor at the Chattahoochee Brick Co. He applied for an invalid’s pension in 1890, complaining of rheumatism, heart disease and pain behind one eye burned by gunpowder during the war.

The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot made international headlines. The riot, sparked by sensationalized accounts of black violence, resulted in dozens of black deaths. This is an illustration from the October 7, 1906 issue of the French publication Le Petit Journal.

The 1906 Atlanta Race Riot made international headlines. The riot, sparked by sensationalized accounts of black violence, resulted in dozens of black deaths. This is an illustration from the October 7, 1906 issue of the French publication Le Petit Journal.

On the night her husband died, Wilder’s wife was working as a servant in a private home. But she had seen his corpse. She gave the cause of death as “cuts by knives and gun and pistol shots … in the hands of a mob.” Wilder’s death resulted in no charges. The Atlanta Constitution listed him as a riot fatality in a short brief, but none of the city’s newspapers bothered to write an obituary.

This broken grave marker is the only one known to exist for a black victim of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot.

This broken grave marker is the only one known to exist for a black victim of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot.

Seven of the riot victims lie in unmarked pauper’s graves at South-View. Only Wilder’s is marked with a broken piece of granite with an inscription that’s almost impossible to read. Below his name, age and affiliation with the Odd Fellows fraternal organization are three lines:

A soldier of the Civil War
was killed in the riot
of Atlanta Sept. 26, 1906 

Our next stop was the grave of Lieutenant Walter Drake Westmoreland, member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. The son of a letter carrier, Westmoreland was a graduate of Class 43-G. He earned his pilot wings at Tuskegee in 1943 and flew a P-51C fighter, nicknamed “Dopey”.

First Lt. Walter Drake Westmoreland stands with his P-51C, nicknamed "Dopey". Photo source: U.S. Air Force

First Lt. Walter Drake Westmoreland (right) stands with his P-51C, nicknamed “Dopey”. Photo source: U.S. Air Force

Westmoreland was a member of the 332nd Fighter Group, 305th Fighter Squadron based in Italy during World WWII. To identify themselves in combat, they painted the tails of their fighters bright red, which earned them the nickname “Red Tails.”

Class 43-G graduated from flight training on July 28, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Lt. Westmoreland is on the front row, third from the end of the left side. Photo source: U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency

Class 43-G graduated from flight training on July 28, 1943, at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. Lt. Westmoreland is on the front row, third from the end of the left side. Photo source: U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency

On Oct. 13, 1944, Westmoreland’s plane was shot down by enemy ground fire near Lake Balaton, Hungary, while returning from an escort mission to Blechhammer, Germany. First designated as missing in action, Westmoreland’s remains were not returned from Europe until December 1948 and he was laid to rest at South-View.

Lt. Walter Drake Westmoreland is buried beside his older brother, William George Westmoreland, Jr.

Lt. Walter Drake Westmoreland is buried beside his older brother, William George Westmoreland, Jr.

We’re not done with our tour yet so come back next week to continue the journey in Part III.

 

 

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