For All That Might Have Been: The Cemeteries of Nebraska’s Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane, Part I

I’ve wanted to write about Nebraska’s Norfolk Regional Center (NRC) cemeteries since April, but I couldn’t until now. I can now share my photos and stories because most of the NRC buildings that remained were demolished in July/August. Today I’m going to talk about the NRC’s history and one of its two cemeteries. While visiting, I discovered the graves of two women connected to famous Nebraska pioneer and storyteller, Jules Sandoz. But more about them later!

This is the Norfolk Regional Center as it looks today. This is the only building left and it houses the sex offender treatment center. Photo source: www.das.nebraska.gov

This is the Norfolk Regional Center as it looks today. This is the only occupied building left (as far as I know) and it houses a sex offender treatment center for 120 patients. Photo source: http://www.das.nebraska.gov

A few years ago, I wrote about my ancestor Levi Mercer’s burial in the cemetery of what was once the Athens Insane Asylum in Ohio. So I have a soft spot in my heart for those who are buried in nameless graves, many never marked at all.

I read about the NRC in preparation for my Nebraska Odyssey 2016 with Christi. She and I took a tour of the then still operating state mental hospital in Clarinda, Iowa a few years ago. They had a nice museum you could visit by appointment, which we did. I wasn’t a “hopper” then so I didn’t visit their cemetery.

The facility has since closed and the few patients it served were transferred to other facilities and so I think the huge building sits empty. I never forgot what I saw there. So I knew I wanted to visit the NRC if we happened to be in the Norfolk area.

Undated photo of the NRC administrative building. It was one of the last buildings to be demolished. Photo source: www.asylumproject.org.

Undated photo of the NRC administrative building. It was one of the last buildings to be demolished. Photo source: http://www.asylumproject.org.

The NRC opened in 1886 and I’m not entirely sure if it was called the Norfolk Insane Asylum or Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane due to conflicting information.  Because of Nebraska’s increasing population, the State Lunatic Asylum (as it was called) in Lincoln had become overcrowded. The Nebraska legislature set aside $75,000 in 1885 to build a state hospital for the insane, provided Norfolk would donate 320 acres of “good land.” They did, and the first building was completed on November 1886. Below is a picture of what four of the buildings looked like at one time.

Photo courtesy of Photo of four buildings for the Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane. Photo source: Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center, Norfolk, Nebraska.

Photo of four buildings for the Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane. Photo source: Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center, Norfolk, Nebraska.

While some patients suffered from genuinely serious mental illness, many would not be considered mentally ill or in need of institutionalization today. In the 19th century, patients were admitted for such reasons as “domestic trouble, disappointment in love, financial trouble, hepatic dullness, heredity, intemperance, overwork, sun stroke, and others.”

One article I read reaffirmed something else I had heard about many mental institutions at that time. Historian Nancy Zaruba said, “”It was basically an old people’s home,” she said. “If families didn’t know what to do with Uncle John, that’s where they put him.”

In 1901, a fire destroyed all but one building. Only one patient died, and the rest were moved to mental institutions in Lincoln and Hastings (that facility opened in 1889 and is still in operation.) In 1905, the NRC re-opened, with three ward cottages and an administration building.

Picture of the Norfolk Asylum for the Insane after the 1901 fire. Photo source: www.asylumprojects.org.

Photo of the NRC after the 1901 fire. You can see the “Nebraska Insane Asylum” sign in the center. Photo source: http://www.asylumprojects.org.

At its peak, the NRC housed more than 1,300 patients. For many years, the hospital was a self-sufficient community, with a complete farm operation. Inmates did much of the work on the farm and in the dairy, in addition to doing custodial work in the buildings. Patients and staff butchered their own meat, preserved vegetables, and produced their own clothing.

A 1914 photo of the Norfolk Asylum garden. Photo source. www.asylumproject.org.

A 1914 photo of the NRC garden. Photo source: http://www.asylumproject.org.

Before 1920, patient care was almost entirely custodial with few attempts at genuine treatment of mental illness. Introduced were recreational and occupational therapy, and the hospital had a chorus and orchestra. Electroconvulsive therapy (and later insulin shock therapy), hydrotherapy and and fever therapy were implemented as well.

Patients dining at the Norfolk Asylum for the Insane. Year is unknown. Photo source: www.asylumproject.org.

Patients dining at the NRC. Year is unknown. Photo source: http://www.asylumproject.org.

Beginning in early 1950s, development of psychiatric drugs opened up new avenues for rehabilitating patients and the hospital’s population began to decline. In 1962, the hospital’s name was changed to Norfolk Regional Center.

After the passage of mental health care legislation in 2004, more patients were moved from state regional centers like NRC. By 2006, there were only 100 beds remaining at the center, and its future was in doubt. But the Nebraska legislature passed a measure broadening the definition of a sex offender, and added new requirements for post-prison treatment. In mid-2006, it discharged its final mental-health patient and devoted itself exclusively to sex offenders in the remaining operating building on the NRC campus.

Most of the NRC's "new cemetery" is unmarked, hardly indicating the hundreds of patients buried there.

Most of the NRC New Cemetery is unmarked, hardly indicating the hundreds of patients buried there.

The NRC has two cemeteries, the New Cemetery and the Old Cemetery (which opened in 1888). Established in 1916, the New Cemetery is located on the corner of a busy intersection beside the Chuck M. Pohlman Agricultural Complex, which is part of Northeast Community College. William Osborn was the first person buried there. According to the article, the 71-year-old died in 1916 of “apoplexy.”

Because it only has a handful of grave markers, few driving by would know the large corner lot is a cemetery. In fact, we drove past it twice before we figured out that was where it was located. It’s fenced off but there were no signs saying you could not enter.

Records indicate there are around perhaps 450 patients buried in the NRC New Cemetery. I don’t know why most of the graves are unmarked or when some of the markers that are there were placed. In 2008, there were only seven there but now there are 12. I also don’t know when or who placed the benches and memorial stone in one corner.

It felt a bit lonely there but part of me is relieved that it remains a cemetery and hasn’t been paved over for a parking lot as so often happens when the deceased are poor and forgotten like these patients.

I don't now what year the benches and sign were placed. But it felt good to know someone had cared enough to remember these forgotten souls.

I don’t now what year the benches and sign were placed. But it felt good to know someone cared enough to memorialize these forgotten souls.

As I mentioned earlier, two women buried at NRC’s New Cemetery are connected. A native of France, Henriette Lyonette was the second of the four wives of Jules Sandoz. The Swiss immigrant was the inspiration for his daughter Mari Sandoz’ noted 1935 book Old Jules. The book documents not only prairie life in the Sandhills region of Nebraska, but also the extreme abuse and cruelty Jules showed his wives and children.

While a colorful storyteller and pioneer, Jules Sandoz was also a violent, abusive man who terrorized his wives and children over the years.

While a colorful storyteller and pioneer, Jules Sandoz was also a violent, abusive man who terrorized his wives and children over the years. “Women who won’t obey their husbands are worthless,” he said.

Although she was turned down by several publishers, Mari Sandoz’ book eventually won the Atlantic Monthly 1935 non-fiction prize. The book proved so popular (Jules was also apparently a colorful storyteller) that it inspired the Old Jules Trail, linking locations of importance to the Sandoz family history.

The second wife of Jules Sandoz, Henriette Lyonette divorced him in 1892.

The second wife of Jules Sandoz, Henriette Lyonette divorced him in 1892 due to his abusiveness. Her marker looks fairly recent.

Henriette divorced Jules in 1892 because of his abuse. They had no children together. The 1900 Census shows her living alone in Rushville, Neb. and by the 1920 Census, she was living at the Norfolk Hospital for the Insane. She died there in 1924.

Elsie Raymond Sandoz was the wife of Peter Sandoz, a cousin of Jules Sandoz. She and Peter were both natives of Switzerland and married around 1905, settling in Sheridan, Neb. They had two daughters. By 1920, she was a patient at the Norfolk Hospital for the Insane. Did she and Henriette know each other from their Sandoz connection? I don’t know. Elsie did stay married to Peter until her death in 1946. He did not remarry and worked on cattle ranches until his death in 1958.

Elsie Raymond Sandoz was related to the Sandoz family by marriage. She was a patient at the NRC at the same time as Jules Sandoz' second wife, Henriete.

Elsie Raymond Sandoz was related to the Sandoz family by marriage. She was a patient at the NRC at the same time as Jules Sandoz’ second wife, Henriette. Did they know each other?

Interestingly, an Estella Sandoz is also listed beside Elsie on the 1920 Census for the Norfolk Hospital. Jules’s first wife was named Estella but I don’t think it’s her. Jules had encouraged many of his family members back in Switzerland to emigrate to Nebraska and they had come, settling and having families there. One of these relatives was an Estella Sandoz.

The other handful of patients who had markers I could find little information about except for Marion McGrew. He and his wife, Eva, moved from Illinois in 1881 to live on a homestead claim in Chambers, Neb., living in a sod house. The family eventually returned to Illinois in 1895. Marion was a patient at the NRC by 1910 where he remained until his death in 1931.

Marion Miles McGrew spent over three decades at the Norfolk Regional Hospital.

Marion Miles McGrew spent over three decades at the NRC. His eldest son said in an article, “The time spent in Nebraska is best forgotten. All pioneer life was hard, but it was worst there.”

A native of West Virginia, Walter Carlyle was a farmer. Because he never appears as living at the NRC on a U.S. Census, I believe he only possibly spent the last year of his life there.

A native of Virginia or West Virginia, Walter Carlyle was a divorced farmer. Because he never appears as living at the NRC on a U.S. Census, I believe he only possibly spent the last year of his life there.

Caroline Blele married her husband, Ole, in South Dakota in 1908. It was a second marriage for both. They had several children together. I don't know how long she was a patient at NRC.

Caroline Blele married her husband, Ole, in South Dakota in 1908. It was a second marriage for both. They had several children together. I don’t know how long she was a patient at NRC.

Next week, I’ll take you inside the NRC employee building shortly before it was torn down (something I should not have done). We’ll also visit the NRC Old Cemetery, which I later learned we were supposed to get permission to do ahead of time (something I didn’t know we had to do but should have done).

I hope you’ll forgive my lack of law-abidingness and join me for the trip.

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A World Apart: A Ramble Through North Charleston’s Burial Society Cemeteries, Part III

Last week, I shared more of the history of the 23 cemeteries that make up the Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District (MUCD) in North Charleston. It feels like the more I look into this place, the more that surfaces.

One of the cemeteries in the MUCD is Lewis Christian Union Cemetery. I found an informative article about this cemetery, thanks to the Preservation Society of Charleston (PSC). They are taking great pains to keep this small cemetery from falling into ruin. You can read more about their efforts here.

A back view of Lewis Christian Cemetery through Friendly Union Cemetery.

A back view of Lewis Christian Union Cemetery through Friendly Union Cemetery.

The Lewis Christian Union was chartered in 1879 by the South Carolina Legislature “to promote the spiritual benefit of its members, the care of its members when in sickness and distress in life and their burial at death.” Two months later, this African-American group purchased two lots at the corner of Skurvin and Pershing streets to be used as a cemetery.

Beyond that, I couldn’t find out much about it so I don’t know what benefits they offered their members.

Lewis Christian is wedged beside Friendly Union Society Cemetery and Bethel UMC Cemetery. It’s hard to tell where one ends and another begin. One of the pictures I took (didn’t know I was in Lewis Christian Union Cemetery at the time) was the grave of Lydia Bonneau, largely because it’s almost been swallowed up by the ground. I had no idea what her story was until I read the article by the PSC.

charlestonbonneau

Lydia Bonneau’s simple marker gives no hint of the horrible way she died.

Lydia Bonneau was reportedly born in Georgia on Oct. 17, 1876. Newspaper accounts indicate she was living with a husband, Cyrus Bonneau, at the time of her death on June 7, 1901. Their residence, 24 Poinsett St., was about 350 feet from the Charleston Consolidated Railway Gas and Electric Light Company.

Around midnight, the 18-ton flywheel in the powerhouse, rotating at about 150 revolutions per minute, exploded through the walls and roof. One piece, estimated to be five feet long and weighing one ton, came through the roof of the Bonneau home on Poinsett Street. Lydia and her husband were thrown from their house by the momentum, and she died instantly.

This June 8 article from the Coshoton Daily Age (an Ohio newspaper) details the accidental death of Lydia Bonneau.

This June 8, 1901 article from the Coshoton Daily Age (an Ohio newspaper) details the accidental death of Lydia Bonneau. Many newspapers around the country reported the incident.

Records indicate that the power company settled her husband’s claim for compensation for $515. Shortly after she died, her infant daughter died from an illness and was buried beside her. There are about a dozen Bonneaus recorded as being buried at Lewis Christian, but Lydia has the only marker.

Not far from Lydia’s grave is that of Jack Jones. His is actually the first African-American Civil War veteran grave I’ve ever seen up close. The ones I saw at Morris Brown AME Cemetery (mentioned in Part I) came later in the day. His was also the most legible one I saw that day, perhaps because it’s shaded by trees.

The grave of Jack Jones is special because it's the first I've ever seen for an African-American Civil War veteran.

The grave marker of Jack Jones is the first I’ve ever seen for an African-American Civil War veteran. It’s in excellent condition compared to others I saw.

Jones was born in Hilton Head, S.C., enlisted in the 34th U.S. Colored Infantry, Company C in March 1865 as the war was winding down. Like many other African-American men who enlisted at this time, it’s unlikely he ever saw combat during his brief duty. He returned to Charleston, married and had a family. He died around 1912, his wife continuing to receive his pension.

Across the street from Lewis Christian Union Cemetery is Brotherly Association Cemetery. The history of its formation is tied closely to Brown Fellowship Society, a group I talked about last week.

Brotherly Association Cemetery

Brotherly Association Cemetery is one of the 23 cemeteries in the Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District.

In 1843, Thomas Smalls, a Free Person of Color (FPC) applied for membership in the Brown Fellowship Society. But he was denied membership because of the darkness of his skin and possibly because his hair was not straight enough. In response, Smalls (a member of the Circular Congregational Church), organized his own society and called it The Society for Free Blacks of Dark Complexion. It was later renamed the Brotherly Association Society.

I photographed one of the grander plots I saw, planning on finding out who it was later. Thomas Ezekiel Miller was indeed a trailblazer and remarkable man. He was one of only five African-Americans elected to Congress from the South during post-Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. After that, no African-Americans were elected from the South until 1972.

charlestonmiller

Thomas E. Miller had a long resume, serving in many positions in his life. He was a school commissioner, state legislator, U.S. Representative, and first president of South Carolina State University, a historically black college established as a land grant school.

Born in Ferrebeeville, S.C. in 1847, Miller was the son of a wealthy white man and the fair-skinned mulatto daughter of Judge Thomas Heyward, Jr. (who signed the Declaration of Independence). Miller’s paternal grandparents urged his father to put the child up for adoption. Miller was adopted by former slaves that were now FPC.

In 1851, his family moved to Charleston, where Miller attended a school for FPC children. When the Civil War was over, Miller moved to New York. Because of his appearance and European ancestry, Miller could have “passed” as a white man in the North, but chose to identify himself as black.

Receiving a scholarship, Miller attended Lincoln University, a historically black college in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1872. Miller returned to South Carolina and was appointed school commissioner of Beaufort County. He then moved to Columbia, the state capital, where he studied law at the recently integrated University of South Carolina and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1875.

Portrait of Thomas Ezekiel Miller in his younger days. Photo source: The South Carolina State Historical Collection & Archives.

The son of a mulatto mother and a white father, Thomas Ezekiel Miller identified himself as African-American. Photo source: The South Carolina State Historical Collection & Archives.

Miller served as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives from 1874 to 1880 and from 1894 to 1896, a member of the state Senate from 1880 to 1884, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1888 to 1890.

In 1896, Miller became the first president of the Colored Normal, Industrial, Agricultural, and Mechanical College of South Carolina, located in Orangeburg, S.C. This historically black college developed into South Carolina State University. He resigned in 1910 under pressure from Governor Coleman Blease, whose election Miller had opposed.

The son of a mulatto mother and a white father, Thomas Ezekiel Miller identified himself as an African-American. Photo source: Black Americans in Congress. Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.

Miller’s epitaph reads: “I served God and all the people. Loving the white man not less, but the Negro needed me most.” Photo source: Black Americans in Congress. Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.

Miller returned to Charleston to work on various community causes and helped recruit 30,000 black men to the Armed Services when the U.S. was pulled into World War I. From 1923 to 1934, Miller lived in Philadelphia but came back to Charleston a few years before his death in 1938.

To the left and just behind Thomas E. Miller’s grave is that of Florian Henry Frost and his parents, Lyida Stroman Frost and Henry Main Frost. It appears that Florian and his parents were FPC. Florian only lived to the age of 25 but did a lot with his short time on Earth. Listed as a teacher in bank records, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives for Williamsburg County in 1870, but died in office in 1872.

To the left is the monument to Henry Maine Frost and his wife, Lydia Storman Frost. She was a rare woman in that she was a Free Person of Color who owned slaves. Their son, Florian, is buried to the right of them.

To the left is the monument to Henry Main Frost and his wife, Lydia Storman Frost. She was a rare woman in that she was a Free Person of Color who owned slaves. Their son, Florian, is buried to the right of them.

Florian’s mother was Lydia Stroman Frost. Her husband and Florian’s father, Henry, died in 1855. Lydia had four more children, but the name of their father is unknown. According to Larry Kroger’s book Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860, Lydia was a dressmaker and a slave owner. This makes her an incredibly rare example of not only a FPC but a woman who owned slaves. She lived to be 86, dying of “senility” in 1904.

There are countless other stories among the cemeteries of the MUCD that I could tell and many I have yet to uncover. The black burial society cemeteries of North Charleston continue to fascinate me in that so little is written about them yet they are such a rich source of history.

I hope to return next summer to take another ramble.

The grave of Clarence E. Chafee is located in Friendly Union Society Cemetery. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 23, already having established himself as a photographer.

The grave of Clarence E. Chafee is located in Friendly Union Society Cemetery. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 23, already having established himself as a photographer.

 

A World Apart: A Ramble Through North Charleston’s Burial Society Cemeteries, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my stroll through Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery in North Charleston. It’s just one of several cemeteries located in that area, from African-American to Jewish to Lutheran.

Today, I’m going to try to solve a few mysteries. One is how two white sea captains from Europe ended up in an African-American cemetery in the 1890s, when blacks and whites were rarely buried in the same place.

How did a white sea captain end up buried in a black cemetery?

How did a two white sea captains end up buried in a black cemetery?

Burt first, I have a confession to make. When I started my series on North Charleston’s burial society cemeteries, I didn’t do my homework as thoroughly as I usually do. The story behind these burial grounds is more complex than I’d imagined. Today I hope to make up for that.

A very helpful document enabled me to connect some dots about this area. The 2014 master’s thesis of Timothy John Hyder for the University of South Carolina is helping answer some questions I’ve had. I’ve embedded a link to it above so you can read it for yourself.

Much of the land Magnolia Cemetery (and many of the surrounding ones) sits on used to be a huge rice plantation owned by William Cunnington. His house still stands in Charleston’s historic district. The plantation was called Magnolia Umbra, which explains where the cemetery got its name. Magnolia Cemetery, a whites-only cemetery, was established in 1850 with the adjacent St. Lawrence Cemetery (Catholic) opening in 1854.

The others that sprang up around it over time total a jaw-dropping 23 different cemeteries. Mind you, some are very small and a few are owned by the same church, but that’s a big number nonetheless. Hyder refers to this area as the Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District (MUCD). His map can give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

This map by T.J. Hyder shows the layout of North Charleston's 23 different cemeteries.

This map by T.J. Hyder shows the layout of North Charleston’s 23 cemeteries. The older Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery (which I wrote about last week) is #16. Photo source: T.J. Hyder, (2014). “Charleston’s Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District: A Necrogeographic History.” (Master’s thesis)

Magnolia (#1) is located in the top right corner of the map and is the largest cemetery of the group. St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery (#2) is below it. Bethany Lutheran Cemetery (#4) is in the bottom left. These three were whites-only cemeteries when they began. As you can see, the tightly packed group of cemeteries in the top left corner of the map is a patchwork quilt of lots that blend from one to another in many places.

Thanks to Hyder’s thesis and a 2010 paper by Clemson University student Kimberly Martin, I got a better idea of how these institutions worked. In 1856, according to Hayden, five black burial societies purchased cemetery lands in what was the greatest single yearly expansion of the MUCD by number of cemeteries.

The first black burial society cemetery is thought to have come from the Brown Fellowship Society. Founded in 1790 by freed male black males (often referred to as Free People of Color or FPC because they were not slaves) of the St. Philip’s Episcopal Church congregation, Brown Fellowship takes its name not from the name of a founder but from the fact that membership would only be granted to a man with light skin and straight hair.

With property bought in 1956, Brown Fellowship Society moved several monuments from its original cemetery on Pitt Street.

With property bought in 1956, Brown Fellowship Society moved several monuments from its original cemetery on Pitt Street.

Hyder points out that Brown Fellowship Society restricted membership to the elite of Charleston’s FPC, men with such a light complexion that they could go into business, educate themselves, and even own slaves without upsetting the strict racial hierarchy of the times. Membership was limited to only 50 members in the beginning and women were not allowed to join. These rules softened only many decades later.

As the most elite of the societies, Brown also offered the most benefits to its members. These included a stipend for widows, health insurance, education for orphans, a credit union, burial insurance and even pallbearers for funerals.

Richard Holloway was not only a member of the elite FPC society, but also owned slaves. At the time of his death in 1843, he is believed to have accumulated at least 20 houses. Another member, hotel owner Jehu Jones, was well known in Charleston.

A wealthy Free Person of Color, Richard Holloway moved in the highest circles of black society in Charleston. Photo source: Digital collection of the College of Charleston.

A wealthy Free Person of Color, Richard Holloway moved in the highest circles of black society in Charleston. Photo source: Digital collection of the College of Charleston.

Brown Fellowship’s original cemetery was located on Pitt Street until 1956 when the land was sold to Bishop England High School under the condition that all remains and monuments be moved to the new MUCD property. While several monuments were moved, it’s unclear if the remains (if any) were actually removed from the Pitt Street property to the MUVD property.

I spent more time at Friendly Union Society Cemetery. It has more monuments and is next door to Brown Fellowship Cemetery. Established in 1813, Friendly Union offered health insurance, stipends to widows, burial insurance and a grave digger’s services when the member died. They purchased the land for their cemetery in 1856.

charlestonfriendlyunion

Established in 1813, the Friendly Union Society purchased the land for their cemetery in 1856.

Walking through Friendly Union, the funerary styles and motifs are indistinguishable from those of a white cemetery. The intention behind this, Hyder asserts, is that the black elite hoped to gain the respect of their white counterparts by imitating their monuments.

One of Friendly Union’s most prominent members was Dr. William D. Crum, son of a white father and a free black mother, who attended medical school in the North. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Dr. Crum collector of customs in Charleston, a post that gave him authority over white men.

Protests erupted at once. When William Taft became president in 1909, he refused to re-appoint Crum as collector of customs but instead made Crum consul general to Liberia, a position traditionally given to a black politician.

Dr. William Crum, appointed U.S. Minister to Liberia, had always been interested in infectious diseases and treated some of his colleagues for "African fever." In September 1912, Dr. Crum himself contracted African fever and returned to the U.S. and died in Charleston soon after.

Dr. William Crum, appointed U.S. Consul General to Liberia by President Taft, moved to Monrovia with his wife in 1909. In September 1912, Dr. Crum contracted “African fever” and returned to Charleston for treatment, where he died soon after.

One of the first monuments I came across at Friendly Union was for Captain John A. Peterson (one of the white sea captains whom I mentioned earlier). Peterson arrived in Charleston from Sweden around 1847 and died in 1892. This bit of information sent me diving into Peterson’s background.

From census records, I learned that Peterson came to Charleston at around the age of 21. He did well as a mariner, living on America Street for most of his life. America Street was then a melting pot of FPC and middle-class European immigrants new to the country. He became a fully naturalized citizen in 1871.

When Capt. John Peterson formally married Henrietta Johnson in 1879, they already had a 15-year-old daughter named Mary.

When Capt. John Peterson formally married Henrietta (or Harriett) Johnson in 1879, they already had a 14-year-old daughter named Mary.

According to the 1870 Census, Peterson was married to Henrietta Johnson, a mulatto (mixed race) woman native to South Carolina, and they had three two children. Records indicate the family employed a servant as well.

However, records also indicate that John (who was 51 at the time) did not actually marry Henrietta (listed as Harriett on the form) until January 1879, when she was 31. On their marriage certificate, he is listed as “white” and she is listed as “brown”, not “black” or “mulatto”. Their oldest daughter, Mary, was 14 by this time. They had several other children as well.

Unlike other states, South Carolina did not prohibit interracial marriage until after the Civil War. In Charleston, marriages did on occasion take place between FPC and well-regarded whites. The state suspended the prohibition in 1868, only to re-enact it in 1879. I’m not sure why John and Henrietta chose to wait to marry until right before the re-enactment of the prohibition.

John Peterson died at the age of 68 in 1894. Henrietta died of kidney failure in 1911 at the age of 64.

Captain John Peterson married Harriett Johnson in January 1879.

Captain John Peterson married Henrietta “Harriett” Johnson in January 1879. Ellen Carison is listed as a witness. She may have been Henrietta’s mother, who is listed as Ellen Kenison (who was living with the Petersons) on the 1870 Census.

One of the wedding witnesses, Captain Henry Prince, also has his name on the Peterson monument. He is listed as a boarder in the Peterson home on the 1880 Census. A native of the Isle of Wight off the coast of the U.K., Prince was also a white sea captain. He was born in 1814 and arrived in Charleston around 1830. He is listed on the 1880 Census as a boarding with John and Henrietta Peterson. He died of “senility” in 1892 at the age of 79.

Two mysteries still remain. On the other side of the monument are the names of Harold Peterson (who lived only a year) and Ermine (who lived to 15). Both were born after John Peterson’s death. I have no idea how they are related to him unless they were grandchildren.

The other mystery I have yet to fully unravel is that of Jesse Grant, whose name is also inscribed on the monument, beneath the name of Henry Prince. Listed as black or mulatto on some census records, he appears on the 1910 Census (living on America Street) as white and his mother-in-law (also listed as white) is none other than Henrietta Peterson.

I can only surmise that because of John Peterson’s connection to the FPC community via Henrietta, she was able to secure a burial plot for her him through the Friendly Union Society. Henry Prince’s connection must have also secured him a plot. How this all came to pass (including Jesse Grant) is still shrouded in mystery but I’d love to find out more some day.

I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of this place and its little-known history, but I’ll be back with a final installment next week.

In the foreground is the monument for Timothy Weston, who died at the age of 45. His father, whose monument is in the background, was the Rev. Samuel Weston, a prominent African Methodist Episcopal minister.

In the foreground is the monument for Timothy Weston, who died at the age of 45. His father, whose monument is in the background, was the Rev. Samuel Weston, a Charleston tailor and prominent African Methodist Episcopal minister.

A World Apart: A Ramble Through North Charleston’s Burial Society Cemeteries, Part I

Any good cemetery hopper has an affection for Charleston, S.C. and I’m no exception. In fact, the banner photo at the top of the page is of a Charleston cemetery (my husband gets the credit for that one!). You can’t walk a mile in the historic district without finding yet another one to explore.

When most people think of Charleston cemeteries, this image from the Circular Congregational Church is what comes to mind.

When most people think of Charleston cemeteries, this image from the Circular Congregational Church is what comes to mind.

If you were only able to visit Charleston for a day, these are the cemeteries I would send you to see. Against a romantic backdrop of Spanish moss-laden trees, the variety of funerary styles and historic elements at play are hard to top. It’s a cemetery hopper’s paradise.

North Charleston doesn’t get the same attention because it doesn’t fit the mold of what the colorful brochures feature. It’s a gritty, run down part of town that includes a lot of port traffic, warehouses and industrial facilities. The crime rate is also considerably higher.

One of Charleston’s brightest gems, Magnolia Cemetery, is located in North Charleston. I’ve written about it once before and it deserves more attention than I gave it in that post. There’s a Lutheran cemetery, a small Greek one and a few Jewish ones as well.

But the majority of cemeteries in North Charleston are crammed in next to each other with boundary lines difficult to find. These are unique cemeteries because they represent the hopes and dreams of newly freed slaves and their descendants. These are cemeteries of the African-American burial societies of Charleston.

The streets around this part of North Charleston are often dumping grounds for trash and in this case, a dead television.

The streets around this part of North Charleston are often dumping grounds for trash and in this case, a dead television.

The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture has identified nine African-American burial societies in Charleston. According to a 2010 article, eight are still functioning in some capacity. While burial societies once existed in other cities (New Orleans and Baltimore), Charleston is most likely the only place where the old organizations remain somewhat active. At the same time, those still tending these cemeteries are now elderly and are concerned about who will take their place in that role.

Before emancipation in 1865, many blacks attended historic Charleston parishes. They would sit in the church loft or in the pews at the rear of the sanctuary, but they would worship with whites. However, they were not allowed to be buried with whites in the churchyards.

Charleston’s established whites encouraged freed blacks to form benevolent societies so they might collect dues and purchase land for cemeteries. Many did just that. Those that paid their dues not only had a reserved spot in one of these cemeteries but some received benefits like financial aid for their children’s education or a small pension in their old age.

The maze of plots and graves is not easy to figure out in terms of where one begins and one ends.

The maze of plots and graves is not easy to figure out in terms of where one burial society’s cemetery begins and ends. Some are well maintained, others not so much. Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery had been recently mowed.

In May, I enjoyed a few days of rest at nearby Folly Beach with my son, in-laws, and other relatives. But I wanted to return to North Charleston to explore these little-known cemeteries, to get an idea of what these were like. Tucked behind a huge Pepsi bottling plant is a different world few ever see.

The Morris Brown AME Cemetery sign had seen better days.

The Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery sign had seen better days.

While walking through what I later discovered was Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Cemetery, I came across a plate of freshly-baked cake placed on the ground with a little clump of flowers. Because it wasn’t yet covered in insects or looked moldy, I think it had been placed there quite recently.

I wasn't expecting to see fresh cake in a cemetery.

I wasn’t expecting to see fresh cake in a cemetery.

When I posted this photo on Facebook, I got a flurry of comments from people who believed it was someone leaving an offering to the dead and possibly voodoo related. I was also sternly warned not to touch it or I would be “messing with the dark arts” (as one person put it). It’s always been my policy to leave any cemetery I visit just as I found it (unless I’m brushing leaves/weeds/mud off a marker) so I did nothing beyond photographing the cake.

Born in 1770, Rev. Morris Brown (for whom Atlanta’s Morris Brown College was named in 1885) was the son of Charleston freed blacks (a tiny fraction of the city’s population). A prosperous shoemaker and charismatic minister, Rev. Brown helped found the first AME Church in Philadelphia, Pa. and later started Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Sadly, Emanuel AME Church is now known by most as the site of the tragic 2015 shooting of nine church members.

Morris Brown AME Church was the sight of a memorial service for the nine Emanuel AME Church members shot on June 17, 2015 by Dylan Roof.

Morris Brown AME Church was the sight of a memorial service for the nine Emanuel AME Church members shot on June 17, 2015 by Dylan Roof. Photo source: David Goldman/AP Photo.

In 1822, Rev. Brown and Emanuel AME were investigated during the Denmark Vesey controversy (a freed slave who organized a slave uprising in the city). Authorities arrested hundreds of alleged participants and a white mob burned Emanuel AME to the ground. While Rev. Brown was implicated, he was never convicted. Shortly after, Rev. Brown and his family left the south and settled in Philadelphia where he died in 1849.
Morris Brown AME Church began when Rev. Richard Harvey Cain (then pastor of Emanuel AME) purchased the property where the church now stands at 13 Morris Street from a Lutheran Congregation in 1867 and became the first pastor of the new congregation.

A number of veterans are buried at Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery. Thomas Nelson was one of them, serving in the 339th Service Battalion QMC (Quartermaster Corps), Company D, during World War I. Most of these units never saw action in Europe but remained stateside. Thomas Nelson’s draft card states he was a “carpenter and musician” and census records confirm that he was a carpenter. He died at the age of 36.

Thomas Nelson is one of several veterans buried at Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery.

Thomas Nelson is one of several veterans buried at Morris Brown AME Church Cemetery. On the other side of the wall behind it is a Jewish cemetery that is locked up tight.

Inches away is John Nelson, who served in the U.S. Navy. I don’t know if or how he might be related to Thomas but their proximity in the cemetery suggests they were related.

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It’s highly likely that Navy veteran John Nelson was related to Thomas Nelson, buried to his right.

I’m sure Thomas Nelson knew Alfred Roundtree, who is buried a few rows away. Roundtree also served in the 339th Service Battalion QMC, Company D. Only 44 at the time he died, Alfred had been at a VA hospital for several months.

Alfred Roundtree was married and held several jobs during is life, from porter to mill worker. He died in a VA hospital at the age of 44.

Alfred Roundtree was married and held several jobs during is life, from porter to mill worker. He died in a VA hospital at the age of 44.

One of the most interesting military graves I found that day were for Civil War veterans who served in the U.S. Colored Troops (or often U.S. Colored Infantry) in the last year of the conflict. Sergeant Thomas Wieland’s grave was too deep in the ground for me to see which unit he served in, but the style is exactly like the other two USCT markers I found elsewhere.

I could find out very little about Thomas Weiland, who appears once in the 1910 Census and a fewtimes in Charleston business directories.

I could find out very little about Thomas Weiland, who appears once in the 1910 Census and a few times in Charleston business directories.

Often when people think of African-Americans who fought for the Union during the Civil War, they think of the movie Glory and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. But more often, blacks were not able to join the Union cause until the waning months of the Civil War. At the same time, it was a thrill to see one of these USCT/USCI graves up close for the first time.

Unfortunately, a few of the graves were so overgrown that I couldn’t determine who was buried there.

The stone that goes with this grave has been overtaken by plant life or not longer exists.

The stone that goes with this grave has been overtaken by plant life or not longer exists.

Next week, I’ll explore some more of these burial society cemeteries. There are more surprises in store!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Callie Bigby Parrott died in infancy.

Little Callie Bigby Parrott died in infancy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thomas Berry’s marker looks much better now.

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

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

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

My first picture is a bit blurry.

My first picture is a bit blurry.

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

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

Whomever designed this monument gets points for creativity.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OakHillconfedsign

This sign marks the Confederate Cemetery section of Oak Hill.

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

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

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

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

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

OakHRevs

Akens and Smith both served in the North Carolina Militia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the Civil War,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ThomasJBerry2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo source: John C. Jackson

Photo source: John C. Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weckerlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A florette from the Geiger Mausoleum.

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

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

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

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

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

From the door of the Bartlett Mausoleum

From the door of the Bartlett Mausoleum.

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

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

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

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

JamesNelsonBurnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crowther 3

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

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

Selfmausoleum

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

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

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

EgyptianMask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The roof of the Townsend Mausoleum weighs 24 tons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Knock, knock. Anybody home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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