Elvis Isn’t Here: Exploring Graceland Cemetery (Part I)

Last week, I completed a two-part series on Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. On the same day, my husband and I also visited Graceland Cemetery. Having already visited two other large cemeteries on a hot and humid day, I was tempted to call it quits but we pushed on. I knew it would be a long time before I’d have the chance again.

I did not get a good photo of the front gate so I am borrowing this photo from Carolyn Simpson's cemetery website, The Art of Nothing.

I did not get a good photo of the front gate so I am borrowing this photo from Carolyn Simpson’s well-written cemetery blog, The Art of Nothing.

Like most cemeteries, Graceland has a personality all its own and it shines. The landscape has a decided flow to it and the grounds are beautifully kept. There are no rough, weedy edges to Graceland. You can tell they work hard at keeping it neatly trimmed but not to the point of making it look unnatural.

Chris loves Celtic crosses (as do I) and this was one of the first we saw that day. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Chris loves Celtic crosses (as do I) and this was one of the first we saw that day. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Graceland was established in 1860 when Thomas Bryan, a successful Chicago lawyer, purchased the original 80 acres (located in the Buena Park neighborhood very close to Wrigley Field) and received a perpetual charter from Illinois in 1861. Thomas then chose landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland to plan the layout.

Prominent lawyer Thomas B. Bryan established Graceland Cemetery in 1860 and was the first president of the Graceland Cemetery Association. He was also a Commissioner-At-Large for the infamous Columbian Exposition of 1893

Prominent lawyer Thomas Bryan established Graceland Cemetery in 1860 and was the first president of the Graceland Cemetery Association. He was also a Commissioner-At-Large for the Columbian Exposition of 1893.

During my research, I learned that Bryan was duped by the notorious serial killer, H.H. Holmes (who confessed to 27 murders but likely committed many more). Holmes’ story is featured in the best-selling book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Bryan purchased stock in Holmes’ bogus A.B.C. Copier Company and ended up losing over $9,000 in the process. Fortunately, Bryan was only a financial victim of the bloodthirsty Holmes and lived

By the time he was hired, Horace William Shaler Cleveland had already established himself as a landscape architect. A native of Massachussets, he and his partner Robert Morris Copeland designed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. He later went on to design Minneapolis’ park system.

Massachussets native Horace William Shaler Cleveland also designed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Jekyll Island Club grounds in Georgia.

Massachusetts native Horace William Shaler Cleveland designed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Jekyll Island Club grounds in Georgia.

Swedish landscaper Swain Nelson was also instrumental in the early planning stages of the project. William Le Baron Jenney (who is buried at Graceland) and later Ossian Simonds also had key roles. Simonds said, “The great diversity of tastes, opinions, superstitions and prejudices that must be consulted or controlled make cemetery landscape-gardening the most difficult branch of the art.”

If you were mayor or governor of Chicago, if you were not buried at Rosehill, Graceland was where you ended up. Graceland is the final resting place of department store founder Marshall Field, architects David Adler, Bruce Graham and Louis Sullivan (to name a few), and dancer Ruth Page. Railroad industrialist George Pullman and Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion, are also buried there.

One of the more obscure burials at Graceland is Augustus Dickens, brother of acclaimed author Charles Dickens. He died penniless in Chicago in 1866.

While Elvis is nowhere to be found at this Graceland, the place is certainly fit for a king. Or a knight. I’ve never seen one in a cemetery before.

Lorado Taft sculpted "The Crusader" in honor of Chicago newspaper publisher Victor Lawson.

Lorado Taft sculpted “The Crusader” in honor of Chicago newspaper publisher Victor Lawson. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Created by Illinois-born Lorado Taft, “The Crusader” honors the life of Chicago newspaper publisher Victor Lawson, who became manager of  the Chicago Daily News in 1876. At the foot of the monument are the words:

Above All Things Truth Beareth Away The Victory

I was especially drawn to the way Taft forged the life-like hand hefting the sword.

I am especially drawn to the way Taft forged the life-like hand hefting the sword.

Lorado Taft studied art in Paris before returning to Chicago to make his mark in the art world. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Lorado Taft studied art in Paris before returning to Chicago to make his mark in the art world. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Lorado Taft is credited with another sculpture at Graceland that instantly grabs your attention when you see it. It’s formal title is “Eternal Silence” but some refer to it as the “Statue of Death”.

My first thought was, “This is who Blue Oyster Cult was singing about.”

Cast in bronze against a black granite setting, the statue “Eternal Silence” by Lorado Taft has been mesmerizing visitors since he created it for the final resting place of Dexter Graves in 1909.

Cast in bronze against a black granite setting, the statue “Eternal Silence” by Lorado Taft has spooked visitors since he created it for the final resting place of Dexter Graves in 1909.

The bronze monument was crafted in honor of Dexter Graves (1789-1844), who was one of the earliest settlers in Chicago. According to the inscription on the back of the monument, he “brought the first colony to Chicago, consisting of 13 families, arriving here July 15, 1831 from Ashtabula, Ohio, on the schooner Telegraph.”

Although Graves died in 1844, his son Henry did not have the bronze commissioned until near the end of his own life, 1907. Taft completed the sculpture in 1909. The black granite provides contrast for the bronze statue, which is heavily oxidized because of its age. Some say Taft’s own ideas on death and silence influenced him heavily.

Visitors like to leave coins at the feet of the "Eternal Silence" statue. Are they perhaps paying the ferryman to guide them over the River Styx?

Visitors like to leave coins at the feet of the “Eternal Silence” statue. Are they perhaps paying the ferryman to guide them over the River Styx?

It’s not surprising that “Eternal Silence” gets photographed quite a lot. Pictures of it show on on Facebook pages devoted to cemeteries all the time. But now that I’ve seen it up close, I can totally see why.

Across the way from “The Crusader” is the Charles Hutchinson monument. It’s often thought to be for a different Charles Hutchinson (1854-1924), who is buried in another part of Graceland. That Hutchinson was president of the Corn Exchange National Bank, as well as founding member and first president of the Art Institute of Chicago. This Charles Hutchinson (1828-1893) was a businessman with Sweet, Demster & Co.

This monument to one Charles Hutchinson is often mistaken for that of another man by the same name buried at Graceland.

This monument to one Charles Hutchinson is often mistaken for that of another man by the same name buried at Graceland.

The artist who created this monument, Alfeo Faggi (1885-1966) was known for his stylized forms and anti-Classical approach to the figure. In other works, he sculpted outside the conventional norms. The central figure of Christ is shown surrounded by four figures and the Cross, visible in the right corner. Faggi also contributed works in this style to the St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Hyde Park.

One of the most stunning monuments at Graceland is for William Kimball, the piano manufacturer. A native of Maine, Kimball moved to Chicago in 1857 and started the Kimball Piano Company with only four pianos. He sold these at a profit and eventually started selling pianos manufactured in the east then shipped to his store.

The Kimball monument towers over the cemetery landscape. Photo by Chris Rylands.

The Kimball monument towers over the cemetery landscape. Photo by Chris Rylands.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed his business and cost him around $100,000. In 1877, Kimball decided to manufacture his own pianos to keep down the costs. He opened his own factory in 1881 and began churning out around 100 pianos and organs every week.

The back view of Kimball's now faceless angel. Her wings are beautiful. Photo by Chris Rylands.

The back view of Kimball’s now faceless angel. Her wings are beautiful. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Across the rear are four Corinthian columns, with two more on the sides. Below, an angel kneels, watching over the two graves beneath the floor. The entire monument is of white marble, and was erected in 1907 from a design by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White.

Sadly, the face of the angel has worn away but the impression she leaves is still great.

I can't help but wonder what her face looked like when she was installed in 1907. Photo by Chris Rylands.

I can’t help but wonder what her face looked like when she was installed in 1907. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Next week, Part II of my trip to Graceland will include the story of the father of the American skyscraper and feature an unusual Egyptian pyramid tomb with an angel guarding the door.

Chicago’s Crown Jewel: Discovering Rosehill Cemetery (Part II)

Last week, I shared Part I of my visit to Chicago’s historic Rosehill Cemetery. I featured some of the stunning stained glass in the mausoleums and told the story behind the elegant Horatio May Chapel.

After exploring the outside of the May Chapel and its unique receiving vault, we wandered over to one of the largest mausoleums in the cemetery. The Adam Schaaf Mausoleum is guarded by two distinctive lions. I knew I wanted to find out more about him and his family.

The Schaaf family mausoleum is a commanding presence. Adam, a piano dealer that eventually became a manufacturer, is buried inside along with his wife and at least one of his sons.
The Schaaf family mausoleum is a commanding presence. Adam, a piano dealer that eventually became a manufacturer, is interred inside along with his wife and at least one of his sons.

Adam Schaaf was born in 1849 in England and made his way to Chicago around 1870. Soon after, he married Karolina Gall, whose sister had married Adam’s distant cousin, John Schaaf. Adam worked for John and his brother (piano manufacturers) but only stayed a few years. Adam eventually began selling pianos out of his own home.

A native of England, Adam Schaaf came to America in 1870 and eventually became one of Chicago's premiere piano manufacturers. Photo from Adam Schaaf Pianos: Biography by Robert Seeley.

A native of England, Adam Schaaf came to America in 1870 and eventually became one of Chicago’s premiere piano manufacturers. Photo from Adam Schaaf Pianos: Biography by Robert Seeley.

Adam’s success came slowly but it did come. Unlike other dealers, he capitalized on newspaper advertising to bring in business. He opened his own store but went even further in 1893 when he opened his own piano factory. When fire destroyed the showrooms in 1896, he rebuilt and his success only increased.

SchaffofficesshowroomsAdam’s sons, Fred, Harry and Walter, joined him in the business. They were instrumental in expanding its reach and in time, Schaaf pianos were being sold all over the country via agents.

Sadly, Adam’s last years were full of turmoil. With expansion and new factories came labor problems and a number of strikes (some violent) took place. Union demands were lengthy and often contentious. He died in July 1902, leaving the business to his sons to handle.

The stained glass inside was beautiful but I couldn’t get any good photos of it. But the lions were easy to photograph.

Schaaflionhead

The detail in the lion’s mane adds to his regal bearing.

Schaafpaw

Check out that paw!

Schaaftail

Claws and a tail.

There are also lion details on the mausoleum itself.

SchaafliondoorUnfortunately, the 1930s brought an end to the Schaaf family’s piano business. But the Schaaf mausoleum is a beautiful reminder of the success they once knew. Karolina is buried inside along with their son, Walter.

Another striking mausoleum at Rosehill is located further into the cemetery. The Louis Stumer mausoleum is hard to miss due to the kneeling figure of a young woman that is part of the front door. I did not get a good overall photo of it, so I am borrowing one by Sid Penance on Find a Grave.

Louis M. StumerLouis M. Stumer’s mausoleum is definitely one of a kind. The young woman on the front was sculpted by Czech-American artist Mario Korbel. Photo by Sid Penance.

Stumer published three literary magazines, The Red Book, The Blue Book and The Green Book. He also owned (or co-owned) a store, Emporium World Millinery, in Chicago. The nature of his magazines seem to have been on the more sensational side than high prose/poetry.

StumerdoorThe kneeling figure at the door of the mausoleum is hard to forget. She was sculpted by Czech-American artist Mario Joseph Korbel (1882-1954), a native of Osik, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). His work can be found in a number of cemeteries and art galleries. Stumer died in 1919 so the Art Deco style used by Korbel is in keeping with the time.

StumerfootAs I’ve noted in previous posts, I am continually fascinated by feet in cemetery statuary. Korbel’s work is no exception. But her hands are equally detailed.

StumerhandsYou can’t help but linger on her face as well, especially the long lashes against her cheek.

StumerfaceAcross the way from the Stumer mausoleum is Rosehill’s huge mausoleum. It’s probably the largest one I’ve seen except for perhaps Westview’s. The building was locked up tight so we could only photograph the outside.

A view of the front sweep is only a hint of how big the mausoleum is. Photo by Chris Rylands.

A view of the front sweep is only a hint of how big the mausoleum is. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Here’s a side view.

RosehillMausoleumsideAs you can see, if you look at it from the side, the vast size of the place becomes apparent. The front is an impressive Greek Temple style.

RoseHillFrontFrontThe carving above the doorway is in keeping with the Greek theme.

RosehillMausoleumdoortopDedicated in 1914, the Rosehill Mausoleum was designed by architect Sidney Lovell, who is himself entombed within. The interior is almost entirely of marble, with even the floors composed of Italian Carrara marble.

According to Graveyards.com, the Rosehill Mausoleum has two levels, with the lower level partially underground. Some areas, particularly in the west wings, consist mainly of large rooms or corridors lined with crypts. In the eastern side, there are several small private rooms owned by individual families, most with heavy bronze gates. Some have spectacular stained glass windows by Louis Tiffany and other artists.

Notable people interred inside are Chicago Mayors Richard Ogilvie and Dwight Green, A. Montgomery Ward and Richard Warren Sears (both of catalog fame) and John G. Shedd (second president and chairman of Marshall Fields department store). Shedd donated $3 million in 1927 to help found Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium (which we visited during our stay).

This gives you an idea of the level of detail Lovell put into the design of the mausoleum.

This gives you an idea of the level of detail Lovell put into the design of the mausoleum. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Cemetery lore states that the ghost of Richard Sears haunts the mausoleum. Some have said they’ve seen a tall man in a top hat within Sears’ locked room, walking toward the crypt of A. Montgomery Ward. These two giants of the mail order business are interred very near one another so considering they were fierce rivals, I wonder if they have verbal sparring matches.

Fellow Find a Grave volunteer David Habben kindly gave his permission for me to use his photo of the Sears family crypt.

Fellow Find a Grave volunteer David Habben kindly gave his permission for me to use his photo of the Sears family crypt.

Fortunately, I was able to get a photo of the front hall through the door so you can get an idea of what it looks like. My apologies for the poor quality of it. The features and proportions are supposed to be modeled after the Parthenon at Athens, where similar columns lead to an enormous statue of the goddess Athena.

RosehillEntryNot far from the Mausoleum is a small Jewish section marked with a stone.

RoseHillHarVeredstoneI took a few photos of graves and came upon this one. It looked much older than it actually was. You can make out the words “Forever Over The Rainbow” and that got me intrigued. As I learned long ago, some of the smallest graves hold some of the most interesting stories.

Steven Levin loved life, his family and the Wizard of Oz.

Steven Levitin loved life, his family and The Wizard of Oz.

An executive for Riverside Graphics in Chicago, Steve was married and had two daughters. After them, his great love was for the movie The Wizard of Oz and the books it was based upon. He was an enthusiastic collector of memorabilia and attended several conventions, where he made a warm and lasting impression on fellow collectors. A tribute page details his life here.

Time was running short so we started making our way back to the entrance when I caught sight of this distinctive monument.

Mattie Swanson May married Harry May at the age of 16.

Mattie Swanson May married Harry May at the age of 16.

Reclining on a divan is the figure of Mattie Swanson May, a young woman who died at the age of 20. Born to Swedish parents in Michigan in 1873, she married Harry May at the age 16. I don’t think Harry was related to Horatio May (of May Chapel fame).

RosehillMattie2

Naturally, I had to get a picture of her feet!

RosehillMattie3But I think my favorite feature was her delicate hand touching a book.

RosehillMattie4The inscription on the base of the monument reads:

In sweet and loving remembrance of my wife Mattie M. May, Born Sept. 5, 1873 – Died July 13, 1893. She was an ideal woman and model wife.

From what little I could find, I learned that Harry May was a baker when he died in 1914 and it doesn’t appear that he remarried after Mattie died. His love for Mattie, despite the brevity of their union, may have been too deep to be replaced by another.

There are so many beautiful and unique monuments at Rosehill that I didn’t have a chance to see, such as the Frances Pearce statue of a young mother and her infant daughter. Or the statue of a little girl, Lulu Fellows. Those will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime, if you have find yourself in the Chicago area and are looking for a beautiful cemetery to get lost in, Rosehill is where you need to go. It sets a high standard for similar big city cemeteries to meet. You won’t regret it.

Next week, I hope you’ll join me for one last Chicago cemetery, Graceland, which is equally spectacular.

Just be aware that Elvis isn’t there. :-)

The monument in the foreground is for Civil War Union Major General. Thomas E.G. Ransom enlisted as captain of Company #, 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1861. Within three months he ascended to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was wounded in battle four times: at Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Red River. He led the 17th Corps, Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Jonesboro, severed the last railroad into Atlanta, and pursued Confederate General John B. Hood northward. Ransom was known as the

The monument in the foreground is for Civil War Union Major General Thomas Edward Greenfield Ransom, who enlisted as captain of Company E, 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in 1861. He led the 17th Corps, Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Jonesboro and severed the last railroad into Atlanta. Ransom was known as the “Phantom General” due to having been assumed dead so many times.

Chicago’s Crown Jewel: Discovering Rosehill Cemetery (Part 1)

When we were planing our visit to Chicago, I was hopeful I would visit at least three cemeteries: Rosehill, Graceland and Bohemian National. On the Sunday after we attended Chris’ cousin’s wedding, we headed north of the city and I got to see all of them! Not knowing my way around at all, I was glad Chris was driving.

We only had a few hours to cover a vast amount of territory, so for those who know the place well, I know I missed some of the more famous and eye-catching graves. Believe me, I wish I’d been able to see all of them.

At 325 acres, Rosehill Cemetery is one of oldest and largest in Chicago, chartered in 1859. The name “Rosehill” was actually a mistake. Because of a city clerk’s error, the area previously called “Roe’s Hill” (named for nearby farmer Hiram Roe) become “Rosehill” instead. Roe is said to have refused to sell his land to the city until it was promised that the cemetery be named in his honor.

My theory is that “Rosehill” just sounded better than “Roe’s Hill Cemetery”

Rosehill's impressive limestone front gate was designed by famed architect William Boyington. The limestone came from the quarry at Joliet Prison.

Rosehill’s impressive front gate was designed by famed architect William Boyington. The limestone used to build it was mined from the quarry at Joliet Prison.

Rosehill is the final resting place of several Chicago mayors (including Long John Wentworth), Civil War generals and soldiers, and Charles Gates Dawes, a U.S. Vice President. Icons such as Oscar Mayer, Montgomery Ward and Richard Sears are buried there, too.

Rosehill is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and an elevated Metra train line bridge runs right in front of the Ravenswood Avenue entrance. This impressive gate was designed by William Boyington, who also designed Chicago’s famous Water Tower and many other Chicago buildings. The sign on the gate says it follows the castellated Gothic architecture style.

William Boyington designed several Chicago buildings but the most famous is the Chicago Water Tower. The original University of Chicago buildings (since demolished) were also designed by him.

William Boyington designed several Chicago buildings but the most famous is the Chicago Water Tower. The original University of Chicago buildings (since demolished) were also designed by him.

I did notice that the folks at Rosehill want to make sure you don’t stay past closing time and end up locked in. I saw more than one sign making that clear.

The first warning sign is at the front gate.

The first warning sign is at the front gate.

If the sign at the gate didn't scare you enough, there was another.

If the sign at the gate didn’t scare you enough, here’s another.

A few days after our visit to Rosehill, I read about a guy dubbed “Creepy Clown” that was filmed a month before hopping the 7-foot gate and hanging out just inside the cemetery after sunset. So maybe they’re just trying to give people fair warning.

Once inside (and properly warned), we headed over to some beautiful crypts that surrounded a pond. Chris took some great pictures of the stained glass inside some of them, much better than my iPhone’s capabilities.

I think the colors in this one are specatular.

I think the colors in this one are spectacular. Photo by Chris Rylands

The peacock is a symbol of immortality in that the ancients believed the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. As such, early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery. Origen and Augustine both refer to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.Photo by Chris Rylands.

This less religious stained glass makes me think of Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Chris Rylands.

This less religious-themed stained glass makes me think of Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo by Chris Rylands.

Sadly, the top portion of the stained glass in this one has been broken. I still thought it was beautiful.

Sadly, the top portion of the stained glass in this one has broken. I still thought it was beautiful. (I took the picture of this one).

Not far from this area is the Horatio N. May Chapel, designed in 1899 by architect Joseph L. Silsbee. He’s noted for having mentored Frank Lloyd Wright and a number of other Prairie School-style architects. The building and the story behind it fascinated me for a number of reasons.

 Built in 1899 by Joseph Silsbee, the May Chapel is a tribute to Anna May's love for her husband, Horatio May. He and Anna are buried beside the chapel.

Built in 1899 by Joseph Silsbee, the May Chapel is a tribute to Anna May’s love for her husband, Horatio May. He and Anna are buried beside the chapel.

Who was Horatio N. May and how did he get a chapel built for him? Good question! Thanks to Jim Craig and his delightful blog, Under Every Stone, I was able to find that out so I can share the story.

MayChapelfrontpic

Front of the Horatio May Chapel.

Born in Canada, Horatio May came to Illinois and eventually became a grocer. But his star didn’t rise until he married Anna Lush Wilson in 1882, daughter of pioneer and newspaper editor John Lush Wilson. When May was appointed a Lincoln Park commissioner in 1886, Anna was very pleased. Even more so in 1891 when he was named Controller of Chicago by new mayor Hempstead Washburne (buried at nearby Graceland Cemetery).

Horatio May made an impact on his Lincoln Park community and the City of Chicago with his financial acumen.

May’s role as Controller only lasted as long as Mayor Washburne’s two-year term of office, but he made a positive impact on the Lincoln Park community and the City of Chicago.

Horatio went to the spa town of Bad Nauheim, Germany in July 1898 in hopes of shaking off the lingering effects of the flu. (known as “la grippe” in those days). Despite initial signs of improvement, he died in October and Anna arranged to have his body sent home to Chicago. Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was named an honorary pallbearer.

The daughter of a newspaper editor, Anns Wilson May wanted her late husband, Horatio May, to have a special chapel built to honor his memory.

The Mays were admirers of Joseph Silsbee and had hired him to design their Chicago home on N. Astor Street. So when Anna considered how to honor her husband’s life at Rosehill, she went beyond providing a grave stone. She wanted a chapel built in his name and she asked Silsbee to design it.

Silsbee's most prominent works were in Syracuse and Buffalo, N.Y., and Chicago. He was influential as mentor to a generation of architects, most notably architects of the Prairie School including Frank Lloyd Wright.

Joseph Silsbee’s most prominent works were in Syracuse and Buffalo, N.Y., and Chicago. He was influential as mentor to a generation of architects, most notably architects of the Prairie School including Frank Lloyd Wright.

You can’t go inside the May Chapel unless you request special permission and we didn’t have time to ask. From what I learned later, you can request to use it for a funeral service. And some weddings have been performed there. We did spend ample time looking around outside as there was plenty to take in.

The ornate ceiling of the May Chapel entryway is stunning.

The ornate mosaic ceiling of the May Chapel entryway is stunning. My photo does not do it justice.

Here's a view of the side of the May Chapel beside the entrance of the receiving vault.

Here’s a view of the side of the May Chapel beside the entrance of the receiving vault.

Chris took this picture of the other side of the May Chapel. You can see barbed wire on the back wall.

Chris took this picture of the other side of the May Chapel. You can see barbed wire on the back wall.

Probably the most peculiar but fascinating area is the back of the May Chapel where the underground receiving vault is located until the hill. You can climb up it and peer down into it through some very old domed windows. I don’t know what you would call them.

These small domes on top of the receiving tomb at the back of the May Chapel may have been for ventilation purposes.

These small domes on top of the receiving tomb at the back of the May Chapel may have been for ventilation purposes.

In case you were curious, here's what you see when you look down into the receiving tomb. Not much to see.

In case you were curious, here’s what you see when you look down into the receiving tomb. Not much to see.

As is the case with most receiving tombs at cemeteries, the Rosehill one stored bodies when the ground was too frozen to dig graves. Another reason was when a family mausoleum being built for the deceased had not been finished yet. It was also used to house bodies when the Rosehill Community Mausoleum was being built.

However, I’ve never seen one built into the hill in the back of a chapel like this. The entry is still intact. I don’t know if it still being used. From the look of it, I would say no. At least not for storing bodies/caskets.

The entrance to the May Chapel’s receiving tomb is still intact.

MayChapeltomb2Contrary to some reports, Horatio and Anna are not interred with the chapel. But they are buried to the right side of the entryway, with a small slab to mark the graves.

Silsbee also designed a mausoleum for the family of grain merchant and close friend William Bartlett that is on the grounds of Rosehill. Alas, I didn’t get any pictures of it so I am borrowing one from the excellent blog Searching for Silsbee.

Photo from the blog Searching for Silsbee at www.jsilsbee.blogspot.com.

Photo from the blog Searching for Silsbee at http://www.jsilsbee.blogspot.com.

Next week, I’ll share about Rosehill’s grand mausoleum and more stories about some of the people buried at the cemetery. I hope you’ll come back for more.

RHironwork

A Place of Rest for All: Exploring Bohemian National Cemetery

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

— Matthew 11:28

They say death is the great equalizer. But in the cemetery, that hasn’t been the case in centuries past.

More often than not, the people you lived among and worked with were buried around you. This included your religious and ethnic background. The rich were buried with the rich and the poor…? Well, their final home was often a nameless patch of earth.

As I visited a number of cemeteries in Chicago recently, I saw this play out frequently. The grand mausoleums of Graceland and Rose Hill Cemeteries bore the names of wealthy financiers and blue bloods with family wealth. Some of the grandest monuments I’ve ever seen are there.

But it was at Bohemian National Cemetery (BNC) in Chicago’s North Park neighborhood that I saw some of the most fascinating and beautiful gravestones I’ve ever seen. And most of the people buried there were not wealthy at all.

Although it started with 50 acres, Chicago's Bohemian National Cemetery now covers about 124 acres. Every nationality and religion is welcomed.

Although it started with 50 acres, Chicago’s Bohemian National Cemetery now covers about 124 acres. Every nationality and religion is welcome.

BNC was created as a result of a desire to break down the barriers of class and religion. In 1877, a Catholic priest denied burial in the Bohemian-Polish Catholic cemetery to those he disliked. The refusal to allow the burial of Marie Silhanek was the last straw.

Frank Zrubek was one of the founders of Bohemian National Cemetery and is buried there. Photo by Michelle Peace.

Frank Zdrubek was one of the founders of Bohemian National Cemetery and is buried there. Photo by Michelle Peace.

Frantisek “Frank” Zdrubek was editor of the Bohemian daily Svornost and gave lectures under the auspices of the Bohemian Freethinker’s Society. At a mass meeting of the more than 20 Czech benevolent, fraternal, workingman’s, gymnastic, and freethinkers societies on January 7th, 1877, Zdrubek asked all of Chicago societies to come together and create a “free national cemetery, where any Czech could be buried without regard to religion.”

The organization raised funds and obtained a suitable location for the cemetery, which was in the township of Jefferson. The first burial was the child of Charles Brada on July 1, 1877. BNC officially opened on September 2, 1877. Although they started with 50 acres, it expanded over the years and now covers about 124 acres.

One reason I wanted to visit BNC was to see the brand new memorial to the victims of the 1915 Eastland Disaster. Chris’ great-grandmother Minnie, whom I wrote about last week, is not buried there but some of his other relatives are. At 143 people, BNC is the resting place of the largest number of Eastland victims. The cemetery’s newly opened Section 16 was almost sold out after that tragic event.

At the time, it took two men about four hours to dig one grave. Because so many graves had to be dug for Eastland victims, an additional 50 men were hired to work 12-hour days to get the job done.

Out of the 844 victims of the 1915 Eastland Disaster, the largest number of them are buried at Bohemian National Cemetery.

Out of the 844 victims of the 1915 Eastland Disaster, the largest number of them are buried at Bohemian National Cemetery. This memorial was just unveiled in July 2015.

A number of families and local organizations have purchased memorial bricks at the foot of the new Eastland monument at BNC.

These are just a few of the memorial bricks placed at the foot of the Eastland Memorial at BNC.

These are just a few of the memorial bricks placed at the foot of the Eastland Memorial at BNC.

Wandering through Section 16, I could see that the date of July 24, 1915 is inscribed on many of the markers. They run the gamut from individuals to entire families who died that fateful day.

One of the saddest stories is of Emilie Samek and her fiance, William Sherry. According to the Friends of BNC, Emilie’s father was too ill to work so Emilie got a job at Western Electric as a switchboard operator. With her salary, she was able to help support her parents and four siblings.

Emilie Samek and William Sherry never had the chance to begin married life together.

Emilie Samek and William Sherry never had the chance to begin married life together. She was only 18 when she died.

SherrySamek2Theresa Danda also worked for Western Electric and was engaged to George Dobek, a casemaker. On the fateful day, they took Theresa’s little brother, Edward, with them to join the other employees boarding the boat. Theresa’s sister, Frances, was the only one of the group to survive.

Edward and Theresa Danda were a brother and sister hoping to enjoy a day of fun with their sister and Theresa's fiance. It ended in tragedy.

Edward and Theresa Danda were a brother and sister hoping to enjoy a day of fun with their sister, Frances, and Theresa’s fiance. It ended in tragedy.

There are many other stunning monuments at BNC that kept me wandering from section to section. Unlike many cemeteries, many of the markers at BNC have lovely porcelain discs with photos of the deceased on them. It’s amazing that they’ve remained in such good shape. Just seeing the faces gives you a better idea of what the person who lies beneath the stone was like.

BNC also boasts an impressive collection of monuments of World War I soldiers and sailors. I’ve seen these online but they are very difficult to find in the South. At BNC, these tributes to young men who died in the flower of youth are common.

Brothers John and Charles Kuchar both served in the U.S. military. I could not trace the date of John's death but he served in the 72nd Coast Artillery.

Brothers John and Charles Kuchar both served in the U.S. military. I could not trace the date of John’s death but he served in the 72nd Coast Artillery.

The Kuchar brothers served in the U.S. military but Charles survived World War I. I believe younger brother John did not but I cannot trace his military records beyond his service in the 72nd Coast Artillery.

Charles Kuchar survived his military service. He married and had two children.

Charles Kuchar survived his military service. He married and had two children.

Another monument features young sailor Edward Bartizal. He died of influenza at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital in 1918. While he was not killed in action, I am sure his death was no less painful to his parents.

The Bartizal family monument features a statue of son Edward in his Naval uniform.

The Bartizal family monument features a statue of son Edward in his Naval uniform.

Bartizalstatue

While Edward's life was cut short, it clearly had an impact on his parents.

Edward’s life was cut short just as he was entering adulthood.

Pvt. Michael Kokoska was 27 when he died. He was a soldier in the the 127th Infantry, Company L. He was killed in action in France. His is one of the few detailed stories I was able to find in my research.

Michael Kokolska was a Chicago-born son of two Bohemian immigrants. He worked as a tailor and a truck driver before being drafted into the U.S. Army.

Michael Kokoska was a Chicago-born son of two Bohemian immigrants. He worked as a tailor and a truck driver before being drafted into the U.S. Army.

Michael was the son of two Bohemian immigrants, Joseph and Majdalena. After finishing school, he found work as a tailor and later as a truck driver. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he was temporarily buried in Morvillars Military Cemetery in France after his death and word was sent to his parents. The task of getting Michael’s remains sent home to America took time but he was eventually buried at BNC in 1921.

Michael Kokoska's parents wrote letters in hopes of getting his remains sent back to the U.S.

Michael Kokoska’s father wrote several impassioned letters in hopes of getting his son’s remains sent back to the U.S.

On a lighter note, there’s one section of BNC that is bound to put a smile on a few faces. In 2009, Cubs fan were given a unique opportunity to combine their passion for a beloved baseball team with a fitting final resting place.

Cubs Fans Forever: Beyond the Vines was created as a special place just for Chicago Cubs fans to place their cremated remains. About 288 “skyboxes” are available for urns in a unique interment wall. Loved ones can sit in four seats from Wrigley Field that face the wall or even play catch on a small lawn grown from Wrigley sod.

Established in 2009, the Cubs Fans Forever interment wall offers baseball fans a unique final resting place.

Established in 2009, the Cubs Fans Forever interment wall offers baseball fans a unique final resting place.

One example of the many

One example of the many “skyboxes” in the “Cubs Fans Forever” interment wall at Bohemian National Cemetery.

I could have stayed at Bohemian National Cemetery for the rest of the day and spent another several exploring the place. As is often the case when cemetery hopping, we just didn’t have enough time. BNC has a distinctly rich character that’s reflective of the people buried there. You want to linger over every grave.

Because whether rich or poor, we all need a place to rest.

Photo by Chris Rylands.

Photo by Chris Rylands.

Only the River Remains: Remembering the S.S. Eastland

“People were struggling in the water, clustered so thickly that they literally covered the surface of the river. A few were swimming; the rest were floundering about, some clinging to a little raft…others clutching at anything they could reach – at bits of wood, at each other, grabbing each other, pulling each other down, and screaming! The screaming was the most horrible of all.” — Helen Repa, Western Electric nurse

Everything else fades away, all of our losses and all of our gains. And only the river remains… — Eastland: A New Musical

July 24, 1915 doesn’t mean much outside the city of Chicago. Until I married Chris, it was just another date on the calendar. But I soon learned it was a tragic day in the Rylands family.

On that Saturday, 844 Chicagoans lost their lives when the excursion ship S.S. Eastland rolled onto its side. Chris’ great-grandmother, Minnie Miller Rylands, drowned in the Chicago River. Her husband, James Stephen Rylands, and their little son, John Joseph, survived. So did James’ brother, William. John Joseph Rylands was Chris’ grandfather.

This is a postcard that was re-issued by the now defunct Cicero Historical Society of the Eastland.

This is a postcard re-issued by the now defunct Cicero Historical Society of the Eastland.

The Eastland, known as the “Speed Queen of the Great Lakes,” was part of a fleet of five excursion boats scheduled to ferry Western Electric employees, families and friends across Lake Michigan to Michigan City, Ind., for a rare day of fun amid the usual six-day work week.

The daughter of German immigrants, Minnie was only 28 at the time of her death.

The daughter of German immigrants, Minnie was only 28 at the time of her death. Photo courtesy of Joan Rylands Schroeder.

Minnie's husband, James, had to make a decision no husband and father should ever make. To save his wife or his son first. Photo courtesy of Joan Rylands Schroeder

Minnie’s husband, James, had to make a decision no husband and father should ever make. To save his wife or his son first. Photo courtesy of Joan Rylands Schroeder.

The Eastland, docked at the Clark Street Bridge, never left the Chicago River. Picnickers laughed amid the music and dancing as they boarded. When the crowded ship began listing back and forth from port to starboard, many thought it was a joke. But when the boat listed over so far that the people began sliding across the floor, panic set in.

The Eastland’s captain, Harry Pedersen, sounded the alarm, but only after it was too late. Witnesses say he (and some lucky others) climbed over the starboard railing and walked across the exposed hull to safety, never even getting his feet wet.

Passengers on the main deck rushed to the staircases leading upstairs, which proved to be the worst single death trap for those passengers within the interior decks of the ship.

 157 The Second Regiment Armory, on Washington Boulevard, served as a temporary morgue for victims of the S.S. Eastland steamship disaster on July 24, 1915. Some people were never identified. Photo from the Chicago Tribune Archives.

The Second Regiment Armory, on Washington Boulevard, served as a temporary morgue for victims of the Eastland disaster. Some people were never identified. Photo from the Chicago Tribune Archives.

More than 2,500 passengers and crew members were on board that day – and 844 people lost their lives, including 22 entire families. Why the Eastland rolled over that day is complicated but you can read about it on the Eastland Disaster Historical Society website. After the Eastland was raised in August, she was sold to the Illinois U.S. Navy Reserve and recommissioned as the U.S.S. Wilmette, then converted to a gunboat

This past July, my family spent a week in Chicago as our summer vacation. One reason was to celebrate the wedding of Chris’ cousin, Brett. But the other was to be part of the 100th anniversary events surrounding the sinking of the Eastland.

A view of the Eastland after she rolled over from the south side of the Chicago River. The Clark Street Bridge is in the background.

A view of the Eastland after she rolled over from the south side of the Chicago River. The Clark Street Bridge is in the background.

People still puzzle over the fact that today so few know about this maritime disaster, but the biggest reason may be the very status of the passengers.

Unlike many of the Titanic victims who were wealthy and notable, just about all of the Eastland passengers were working-class immigrants with little money to their names. Most were of Czech background and worked at the Hawthorne Works factory of Western Electric in the Berwyn/Cicero area of Chicago.

Minnie was of German background and her husband James was British born. Neither worked for Western Electric but a number of people attending that day were not either, having been invited by friends.

According to family lore, James had to decide whom to save first. His wife or his child. Because John Joseph was so young, James pulled him to the water’s edge first. When he went to save Minnie, it was too late.

Employees of the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric were ordinary people without much money so when they had a chance to have some fun, they were eager to take it. Photo courtesy of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society website.

Employees of the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric were ordinary people without much money so when they had a chance to have some fun, they were eager to take it. Photo courtesy of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society website.

In 2012, Eastland: A New Musical premiered in Chicago. One of the main characters is a responder. Reggie Bowles, a young man who sped to the scene on his motorcycle, jumped in the river hoping to save lives. But all he found were dead bodies. Because of his ability to hold his breath for long periods of time, Reggie earned the nickname the Human Frog. It’s reported that he brought over 40 bodies to the surface that day.

Reggie Bowles, who became known as the Human Frog for his diving ability, brought over 40 bodies to the surface. He later contracted typhoid as a result of his time in the contaminated water.

Reggie Bowles, who became known as the Human Frog for his diving ability, brought over 40 bodies to the surface. He later contracted typhoid as a result of his time in the contaminated water.

I had the pleasure of meeting the grandson of Reggie Bowles, David Bowles, at the Saturday luncheon. Many firemen, policemen and ordinary people like Reggie risked their own lives to pull passengers to safety or to recover victims so that their families could later identify them.

David Bowles is the grandson of Reggie Bowles, a young man who rode his motorcycle at top speed to the Eastland disaster in hopes of saving passengers. He ended up salvaging bodies instead.David Bowles is the grandson of Reggie Bowles, a young man who rode his motorcycle at top speed to the Eastland in hopes of saving passengers. He took on the grim task of salvaging bodies instead.

A majority of Eastland victims are buried at Bohemian Cemetery (which I will write about next week). But I knew Minnie’s grave was at Forest Home Cemetery. I contacted Chris’ Aunt Joan, who is the genealogist in the family. Nobody had visited her grave before because it’s unmarked and Forest Home is huge.

Fortunately, she located a map the cemetery had sent her a few years ago showing exactly where Minnie, James and their granddaughter Paula (who died in infancy).

Forest Home Cemetery is so vast, you can see it from the Interstate. Located off Des Plaines Avenue in the Berwyn/Cicero area, Forest Home Cemetery is actually the merging of two cemeteries (in 1969), Forest Home and Waldheim. Waldheim Cemetery opened in 1873 when the land was sold to a group of German Masonic lodges. Forest Home opened a few years later on land south of Waldheim.

Unlike other cemeteries of the time, Waldheim and Forest Home were open to all, regardless of ethnicity or religion. As a result, it became very popular with immigrants.

Commuters on Chicago's I-290 can get a view of Forest Home Cemetery. Photo from the website diversostudio.wordpress.com.

Commuters on Chicago’s I-290 (the Eisenhower Expressway) can get a view of Forest Home Cemetery. Photo from the website www.diversostudio.wordpress.com.

Along with Chris’ parents and his Aunt Beth, we (Chris, Sean and I) set out to find Minnie. With only 20 minutes until the gates closed, we drove through the winding roads to the back of the cemetery and found where Minnie, James and Paula were buried.

The empty space to the left of the Faber marker and in front of the Anderson marker is where Minnie, James and Paula are buried.

The empty space to the left of the Faber marker and in front of the Anderson marker is where Minnie, James and Paula are buried. Photo by Chris Rylands.

So why are there no markers for Minnie, James and Paula? I don’t have a good answer for that. Although James was a plumber, he was by no means wealthy. He remarried twice after Minnie died. According to my father-in-law, Craig, his father (John Joseph) never spoke about the Eastland. The few memories shared about that day came through Craig’s mother, Florence.

After visiting the grave sites, we talked about how we can remedy this situation soon. Minnie’s memory deserves that much.

Minnie's grandson (and my father-in-law) Craig Rylands stands beside the memorial marker commemorating the 1915 Eastland disaster.

Minnie’s grandson (and my father-in-law) Craig Rylands stands beside the memorial marker commemorating the 1915 Eastland disaster.

On Saturday evening, the families of the survivors/victims/responders gathered at the edge of the Chicago River by the Clark Street Bridge. At precisely 8:44 p.m., we all turned on little battery-powered votives in memory of the 844 lives that were lost day day. Amid the bustle of the city, we observed a moment of silence.

Rest in peace, Minnie. You are not forgotten.

EastlandLights

Separating the Sheep From the Goats: Something to Chew on at Decatur Cemetery

First, I’d like to apologize for being absent from the blog for over a month. Due to a move into a new home across town, I had to put my cemetery hopping and blog writing activities on hold for a while. I’m still unpacking boxes but for the most part, we’re settled in.

To stay sane, I did continue my volunteer duties over at Decatur Cemetery. I’ve been helping out in their office since the fall, trying to be there at least one morning a week. As a result, I’ve grown even more affectionate toward the place and feel quite at home there.

The cemetery boasts a variety of wildlife, from birds to squirrels to rabbits. I’ve not seen a deer yet. The Canadian geese leave their “deposits” here and there. But the birds that always get my attention are the large raptors that hover over the grounds. One day I witnessed a hawk almost carry off a tiny puppy but thankfully, the dog’s owner pulled it to safety in time.

This is typical of what you'll find me doing out at Decatur Cemetery on any given Tuesday. I check what's on the grave markers with what's on the old index cards and in the computer records.

This is typical of what you’ll find me doing out at Decatur Cemetery on any given Tuesday. I check what’s on the grave markers with what’s on the old index cards and in the computer records.

But it wasn’t until recently that I actually saw sheep on the premises.

Before you start thinking that Decatur Cemetery has become a farm, let me explain. They’ve been dealing with some overgrown vegetation on the far side of the cemetery that was fairly entrenched. We’re talking a mini wilderness. To hire workmen to get rid of it would have been costly and actually risky since much of it is on a steep hillside. Operating mowers on ground that’s so uneven is not a great idea.

So they decided to hire cheap labor that would work outrageous overtime and for very low pay. Dirt cheap, in fact. They tried it first in 2013 and the sheep did so well that they again contacted a company called Ewe-niversally Green to bring them back.

This may seem like a novel concept, but hiring someone with sheep or goats to clear large swaths of overgrown lots or acreage is not a new concept. Other cemeteries have been doing it for a while. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport used the same sheep to take care of brush along their fifth runway.

The most recent example that got media attention was in 2013 when Congressional Cemetery hired a flock of goats to remove the thick growth of poison ivy that was wrapped around many of its trees. According to the cemetery staff, the more ivy smothers the trees, the heavier the trees get and the more susceptible they are to crashing down, which could damage gravestones. The ivy’s leaves also can interfere with the trees’ photosynthesis, killing them.

Maryland-based company Eco-Goats brought over some hungry goats to take care of the tenacious ivy choking trees at Washington's Congressional Cemetery. Photo by Linda Davidson/the Washington Post.

Maryland-based company Eco-Goats brought over some hungry workers to take care of the tenacious ivy choking trees at Washington’s Congressional Cemetery. Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post.

According to a Washington Post article, the cost of hiring the 50 or so goats to take care of the problem was around $4,000. That may seem like a lot but it’s actually a better option than using machinery. The goats require no fossil fuels and their waste provides fertilizer for the grounds. The gravestones and monuments are also left undisturbed. This graphic from USAToday does a good job at explaining it.

I was curious to find out what the difference is between sheep and goats in terms of efficiency. Which is better? Are they different in what they eat? Here’s what I found out.

Goats are natural browsers that like to eat leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs. They are quite agile and will stand on their hind legs to reach vegetation. So they were an apt choice to eat the ivy at Congressional Cemetery. Sheep, on the other hand, are grazers. They prefer to eat short, tender grasses and clover.

These sheep are taking care of the grass at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in SoHo. They're brought in from a farm in upstate New York. Photo by WABC-TV.

These sheep are taking care of the grass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in SoHo in New York City. They’re brought in from a farm in upstate New York. Photo by WABC-TV.

In both situations, these plant-loving animals are kept within a low-current electric fence and watched over by a trained dog of some sort. Both are used as a means of protecting the animals from predators and keeping them focused on their task. Goats, I read, can be more curious than sheep and are more apt to seek an escape.

So when my partner in crime, Jenny, and I were working a few weeks ago, we decided to check up on the sheep to see what they were doing. With the heat and humidity being so instense, they weren’t really doing much of anything at the time.

This is not the first time Decatur Cemetery hired sheep to take care of overgrown acreage. They did it in 2013 with successful results.

This is not the first time Decatur Cemetery hired sheep to take care of overgrown acreage. They did it in 2013 with successful results.

On the day I visited the sheep, it was a typically hot and humid one. They seemed uninclined to do much and I can't blame them for it.

On the day I visited the sheep, it was a typically hot and humid one. They seemed disinclined to do much and I can’t blame them for it.

As you can see, the sheep are quite close to the gravestones and monuments. A graveside service took place close by that day but the sheep were respectfully quiet.

As you can see, the sheep are quite close to the gravestones and monuments. A graveside service took place nearby that day but the sheep were respectfully quiet.

A low current electric fence surrounds the sheep to protect them from predators. These two cracked me up. It looks like they're trying to day, "Nothing to see here, folks. Move along!"

A low current electric fence surrounds the sheep to protect them from predators. It looks like these two are trying to say, “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along!”

It might surprise you to learn that even you and I can affordably hire sheep or goats to clear unwanted brush from property. Someone in my old neighborhood did it earlier in the year for a few days. Just be prepared for some spectators because they seem to bring out the inner animal lover in many people, including me.

I only saw one of the dogs from a distance at Decatur during my second visit the following week. Three of the dogs are featured on Ewe-niversally Green’s website.

Pete, Big Boy Clyde and Maestro are three of Ewe-niversally Green's shepherd dogs in charge of guarding the sheep.

Pete, Big Boy Clyde and Maestro are three of Ewe-niversally Green’s shepherd dogs in charge of guarding the sheep. They are serious about their work. Photo borrowed from the Ewe-niversally Green website.

So if you happen to hear some odd sounds coming from a cemetery the next time you visit, don’t worry. It’s not zombies or ghosts. It just might be some local livestock hungrily taking care of the landscaping.

Photo by Decatur Metro.

Photo by Decatur Metro.

 

 

Memorial Day 2015: Revisiting the Life of Lance Corporal Jerry Davis

Those of you who’ve followed my blog for a while may remember one of my first blog posts about a young soldier who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. In honor of Memorial Day, I want to revisit that post and add some things I have since learned about Jerry Davis since I wrote it.

I had not been a Find a Grave photo volunteer for long when I took the request to photograph his grave. Jerry is buried in Melwood Cemetery in Stone Mountain, Ga. At that time, I’d never been to Melwood before, although I have passed it many times. I was a little nervous because big cemeteries then intimidated me. That’s no longer the case but it was true then.

Melwood CemeteryFortunately, while Melwood is indeed large, it is still locally owned, not bought out by a large chain (yet). The ladies in the office were more than happy to locate Jerry’s grave for me and one of them even drove over to it (with me following in my car) so I could see exactly where it was. He is buried beside his parents.

Thanks to Facebook, I was able to reach out to the folks of Tucker and ask if they’d known Jerry in their youth. Turns out, quite a few had and remembered him well.

Stephen Smith, a Tucker resident who served for two years in Vietnam and 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, was a friend of Jerry’s for many years. He posted on Facebook: “I went to school with Jerry, Tucker Elementary and Tucker High. In elementary school, he helped me raise and lower the American Flag each day and fold it and lay it in the office.”

As a little girl, Donna England Dahlgren remembered Jerry as he helped her and her classmates cross the street every day. “He was a patrol who helped us cross the street walking to school when I was in the fourth grade,” she shared.

Donny Hammond (who has since passed away) also knew Jerry and left a comment. “I met Jerry before we moved to Tucker in about 1959, 1960 at Twin Brothers Lake . He liked to fish as much as I did. My brother and I would go just about every Saturday if we had the cash , Jerry and his brother did the same. His parents owned Davis Sheet Metal Works. He was very quiet and kept to himself. He also like most of us boys loved fast cars.”

Like most of the people whose graves I photograph, Jerry died before I was born. But his death struck a chord in me as a mother.

Like most of the people whose graves I photograph, Jerry died before I was born. But his death struck a chord in me as a mother.

According to Jerry’s Find a Grave memorial, he wasn’t even 20 yet when he enlisted in March 1966. He chose the United States Marines, a branch of the armed services noted for its toughness of character. Looking at his picture, I wonder what was going through his mind before he left everything he knew behind in a small Georgia town for an uncertain future thousands of miles away.

After he arrived in Vietnam, Jerry was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st MAR DIV (Rein) FMF. Records indicate he was an antitank assaultman. He had only been in Vietnam a few days when his life was taken by the enemy.

590px-USMC_-_7th_Marine_Regiment_New_LogoJerry’s memorial explains how he died. “Near the Hoa Ham hamlet in Dai Loc District a LP (Listening Post) inside the Company perimeter wire, [Davis] received an incoming grenade and five rounds of small arms fire resulting in LCpl Davis being killed in action by the enemy rifle fire.”

By looking on Ancestry.com, I discovered that Jerry’s older brother died in 1965. He wasn’t in the military. I didn’t know the cause of his death back then but Jerry Head solved that mystery for me with a comment he left on Facebook: “We lived across the street from Jerry, Eddie and Diane [their sister]. Eddie was killed in a car wreck, I believe it was on Frazer Road, not far from their Grandma.”

Eddie was only 23 when he died. I wonder if he and Jerry played “war” as kids in the backyard. When they got older, did they talk about enlisting together? Or was it Jerry’s dream alone to become a Marine?

Stephen Smith was rocked by the news of Jerry’s death. “We were such good friends, my parents would not tell me he had gotten killed until I got back.”

When I was single, Jerry’s story wouldn’t have touched me as deeply. Because now I have a son myself, even though he’s only eight. But motherhood changes the lens through which you view life. If I knew my son was only going to live to the age of 20 and end up being shot to death halfway around the world, it would tear me to pieces.

I think of Jerry’s mother, Martha, as she watched her sons grow from little boys into young men. What did she say when Jerry told her he wanted to enlist? I picture her at his funeral, accepting the flag of our country. Having now lost both of her sons within a two-year period, one in a car accident and another in battle, her heart had to be broken.

LCp Jerry Davis made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. But few will ever remember him.

LCp Jerry Davis made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I discovered that many people remember him and know his story well.

I wish I could have met Martha. I would tell her, from one mother to another, that I’m sorry both of her boys died so young. That Jerry’s death in combat was not in vain, that his life did mean something. He was not just a casualty number on a blackboard.

And now, I would also tell her that Jerry is still fondly remembered by his friends from the Tucker High School Class of 1965. He lives in their hearts and memories forever. They know his story and will never forget it.

I hope you won’t either.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Winfield raises an American Flag in front of Westlake High School in memory of 9/11, in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 11, 2014. Photo by Grant Hindsley, Daily Herald of Provo, Utah.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Winfield raises an American Flag in front of Westlake High School in memory of 9/11, in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 11, 2014. Photo by Grant Hindsley, Daily Herald of Provo, Utah.

The Laughter of Children: Dunwoody’s New Hope Cemetery

One of the first cemeteries I visited after becoming a Find a Grave volunteer was Dunwoody’s New Hope Cemetery. It’s hard to find unless you know that it’s located behind a KinderCare on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Like the Stephen Martin Cemetery near Perimeter Mall, New Hope Cemetery’s care is overseen by by the Dunwoody Preservation Trust (DPT).

The juxtaposition of a cemetery with a daycare center may seem a bit strange. But it’s actually not so strange when you realize that just as life is beginning for some, it’s already ended for others.

You can see the daycare center behind the sign.

You can see the daycare center behind the sign.

On that first visit (probably spring 2013), the cemetery seemed well hidden amid the trees, a pleasant retreat amid the honking cars in Dunwoody Village. It was comforting to hear the excited chatter of little kids playing just over the fence. Later in June, a tornado toppled some of those old hardy trees and made quite a mess.

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The gates of New Hope Cemetery are locked but there’s a side gate to the right for guests to enter.

Unfortunately, the work crew hired to remove the debris used equipment that was too big for the size of the cemetery and ended up knocking over some or the markers and damaging some grave sites. Needless to say, many families with loved ones buried there were not happy. A group that included descendants, Boy Scouts, nearby residents and even employees of a neighboring real estate group gathered in May 2014 for a clean up day.

A huge tree once towered over New Hope Cemetery, close the fence between it and the daycare center. The stump is all that's left now.

One of the huge old trees that towered over New Hope Cemetery was close to the fence between graves and the daycare center. The stump is all that’s left of it now.

When I went back a few weeks ago, the feel of the place had changed a bit. The trees toppled by the tornado had been removed so it wasn’t nearly as shady. But considering the photos I saw on the DPT site showing the damage the tornado caused, it looked pretty good. The laughter of children was drifting through the air again.

I did notice that a number of monuments that were upright back in 2013 are now face down or off of their bases. I don’t know if all of it was caused by the tornado/debris removal equipment, but it is expensive work to get these kinds of old stones upright and properly reattached. You can’t just glue them back on and walk away.

NewHopebrokenNewHopeoverview1According to a Dunwoody Crier article, Providence Baptist Church was established close to this site in 1852 and members gathered in a slave-built log cabin. Some time after the Civil War, members settled on a location more central to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody so the Providence congregation moved near the intersection of Mount Vernon Road and Glenridge Drive.

While New Hope Presbyterian Church was built on the current property around 1887, burials started taking place in 1859. The cemetery’s land was formally donated to the church by the Duke family for that purpose according to an 1888 deed. Dr. Warren M. Duke was buried there in 1902. The church disbanded in 1917 but the cemetery that bears its name remains.

Dr. William M. Duke's family donated the land for New Hope Baptist Church's cemetery. He died at the age of 42 and was reportedly much loved by Dunwoody residents.

Dr. Warren M. Duke’s family donated the land for New Hope Presbyterian Church’s cemetery. He died at the age of 42 and was reportedly much loved by Dunwoody residents.

Having now visited three other Dunwoody cemeteries, I saw that the same names are evident here as well: Ball, Brown, Carpenter, Copeland, Cheek, Spruill.

Thanks to a memorial written by fellow Find a Grave volunteer Chryse Wayman, I learned that some of the graves at New Hope Cemetery bear witness to a tragedy that rocked the community. The lives of three men ended on the day before Thanksgiving in 1920 when a steam boiler at the Dunwoody Milling Company exploded.

Graham Spruill (30), John O’Shields (44), and John W. Manning (48) all left behind wives and children. Graham’s brother, Bency, was injured but survived.

John Walsey Manning left behind a wife and three children when he died due to a boiler explosion at the Dunwoody Milling Company. Photo by Find a Grave volunteer Edward Smith.

John Walsey Manning left behind a wife and three children when he died due to a boiler explosion at the Dunwoody Milling Company. Photo by Find a Grave volunteer Edward Smith.

Located on Mount Vernon Road where a car wash now sits, the plant contained a flour mill, lumber mill and a ginnery. Parts of the boiler were found a half mile from the scene. The explosion’s cause was never determined. The mill was owned by Joberry Cheek, who is also buried at New Hope Cemetery.

Joberry Cheek owned the Dunwoody Milling Company, where a 1920 boiler explosion took the lives of three men. Photo courtesy of Jan Gold.

Joberry Cheek owned the Dunwoody Milling Company, where a 1920 boiler explosion took the lives of three men. Photo by Jan Gold.

After my recent post on Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church, a sweet lady by the name of Freda Donaldson Williams left a comment on the blog about her great-grandmother, Tavie (short for Octavia) Wade Adams. Tavie is buried at New Hope Cemetery along with her mother (Freda’s great-great-grandmother), Mallisia Ellen Poss Wade.

Freda shared that Tavie died in 1920 when Freda’s grandmother was only six years old, leaving the family to fend for themselves. Mallisia had only died a few months before that.

Mallisia Ellen Poss Wade died only a few months before her daughter, Tavie. Unfortunately, Tavie's marker is off of its base and I could not see the front of it.

Mallisia Ellen Poss Wade died only a few months before her daughter, Tavie. Unfortunately, Tavie’s marker is off of its base and I could not see the front of it.

When I visited New Hope Cemetery, I made sure to look for both Tavie and Mallisia’s graves. I did find Mallisia’s but Tavie’s marker appears to have toppled from its base. I did not lift it up for fear of causing further damage.

One of the more elaborate markers at New Hope Cemetery is for Larkin E. Copeland (spelled Copland on the stone). He was a farmer and at some point owned a store. It features a broken column and a Masonic emblem. Usually, a broken column means a life cut short. But in freemasonry, it is also meant to represent both the fall of Master Hiram Abiff as well as the unfinished work of the Temple of Solomon. I know little about the Masons but you can read about it here.

A broken column usually means a life cut short, but Larkin Copeland lived to the age of 49.

A broken column usually means a life cut short, but in this case it probably has roots in Larkin Copeland’s Masonic membership.

This is an undated portrait of Larkin Copeland and his wife, Lavada Ball Copeland. Photo from Ancestry.com.

This is an undated portrait of Larkin Copeland and his wife, Lavada Ball Copeland. Lavada is buried in Southwest Atlanta at Westview Cemetery, as is their daughter, Grace Copeland Blackwell. Photo from Ancestry.com.

Finally, there is a stone for two children close to the front gates that I suspect is not where their graves are actually located. According to the stone, Lillian May Love was born and died on August 13, 1902. Her brother, Willie Love, was born Sept. 21, 1903 and died Nov. 10, 1904. Both were children of William and Mary Love, for whom there are no markers in the cemetery.

Considering the fact that children today come to this spot to laugh and play is both sad and uplifting at the same time. Even in the face of death, life does go on.

Infant Lillian May Love only lived a day while her brother, Willie, lived a little over a year. Their parents' graves are either unmarked or located in a different cemetery.

Infant Lillian May Love only lived a day while her brother, Willie, lived a little over a year. Their parents’ graves are either unmarked or located in a different cemetery.

So the next time you’re in Dunwoody Village and you need a little break from the gridlock, walk over to New Hope Cemetery and make yourself at home on a bench.

The laughter of the children will greet you at the gate.

NewHopebench

Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery: A Fount of Blessing Amid the Bustle

Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

These words are from an old hymn called “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, written by British pastor Robert Robinson in 1757. It’s one of my favorites. But there’s always been one part I didn’t understand and that was “Here I raise my Ebenezer”. What’s an Ebenezer and why would anyone raise it?

I hadn’t thought about that hymn in years until I pulled up outside Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church at the busy intersection of Spalding Drive and Dunwoody Club Drive. Established in 1829, it’s the oldest church in Dunwoody.

This is the fourth building that's housed Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. As per their religion, the building is simple with no cross or steeple to draw attention to it.

This is the fourth building that’s housed Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. As per their religion, the building is simple with no cross or steeple to draw attention to it.

Over the years, Ebenezer has had four different church buildings. The first sat diagonally across the road from where the church stands today, which is built on the foundation of the third church. The story goes that Confederate soldiers burned a bridge over the nearby Chattahoochee River to keep Union soldiers at bay. Union soldiers took boards from that first church to build a pontoon bridge.

Ebenezer still holds Sunday services but membership has dwindled in recent years. A new pastor,  Gus Harter, recently arrived after serving over 30 years as pastor of Bethany Primitive Baptist Church in Suwanee. He’s hoping to breathe new life into the church.

This rustic cemetery sign spells out the rules. I see many of these old faded signs at cemeteries like this.

This rustic sign spells out the rules. I see many of these old faded signs at cemeteries like this, before area codes were required to make a phone call.

Unlike Stephen Martin Cemetery, Ebenezer is quite visible to the legion of cars that navigate this intersection daily. The church has a newer sign out front but I found myself drawn to the old one that’s leaning against the back of one of the old buildings behind the church.

I'm glad to see they've held onto this wonderful old sign, a special keepsake of the church's history.

I’m glad to see they’ve held onto this wonderful old sign, a keepsake of the church’s colorful past.

Some websites say that the town’s namesake, Major Charles Archibald Dunwoody, is buried here. That’s probably because a memorial marker was donated in 2003 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to commemorate his importance. But Major Dunwoody (formerly spelled Dunwody) is actually buried over at Roswell Presbyterian Church Cemetery with his family.

While this monument commemorates the man for whom Dunwoody was named after, he's buried in a different cemetery.

While this monument commemorates the man for whom Dunwoody was named, Major Charles Archibald Dunwoody is buried in a different cemetery.

The cemetery is mostly on the side of a hill, so keeping it mowed and weeded is an onerous task.

The cemetery is mostly on the side of a hill, so keeping it mowed and weeded is not an easy task.

Ebenezer’s cemetery holds about 300 people. Names like Adams, Ball, Carpenter and Beal are common. But the one that stands out the most, with about 50 graves, is Delong (or DeLong). Several generations of the family are buried here.

As the son of South Carolina-born Benjamin and Elizabeth DeLong, James DeLong and his wife, Elizer Jane, raised 12 children in the Dunwoody area. Several are buried at Ebenezer.

James DeLong and his wife, Elizer Jane, had a dozen children during their marriage. Many are buried at Ebenezer. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

DeLongJames

James and Elizer Jane were married on June 3, 1886.

Malissie Young was James and Elizer's third child. She died at the age of 30, unmarried.

Malissie DeLong was James and Elizer’s third child. She died at the age of 30, unmarried.

In the back corner of the cemetery are some of the oldest graves. Many have been broken or damaged by the ravages of time and weather. The 1998 tornado that came through didn’t help matters. The tallest marker in the cemetery is for Pacoletta Ball, who died a young wife at the age of 20. I haven’t been able to find out anything more about her.

The older section of the cemetery has a number of damaged markers. Repairing them would take much time and expense.

The older section of the cemetery has a number of damaged markers. The tall monument is for Pacoletta Ball, who died at the age of 20 as the wife of C.W. Ball.

Two graves that are off by themselves are those of Obediah Copeland and his wife, Salina.  Lee Eula Copeland, their granddaughter, remembers being told by Salina that Obediah was away fighting as a Confederate soldier in Company A, 38th Georgia Regiment (known as Wright’s Legion) when Union troops came to the family home. After gathering all the food they could find, the soldiers started to go when Salina begged them to leave something for her children. One of the soldiers returned one bag of food for the family.

This is a picture of a young Obediah Copeland, who survived his years fighting for the Confederacy. Photo courtesy of the Dunwoody Crier.

This is a picture of a young Obediah Copeland, who survived his captivity in a Union prisoner of war camp. Photo courtesy of the Dunwoody Crier.

Salina Copeland survived the Civil War while her husband was away. When he returned, he found her hair had turned pure white from all the worrying she had done over him.

Salina Copeland kept her family intact during the Civil War while her husband was away. When he returned, he found her hair had turned pure white from all the worrying she had done. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

A few days before this, Obediah was taken prisoner in Rossville, Ga. and transported to a prisoner of war camp in Chicago, Ill. Salina told her granddaughter that her hair turned white from the fear that he’d died. He was released on June 16, 1865 and returned home to a very relieved wife.

The graves of Obediah and Salina Coleman sit at the edge of the cemetery. The home they shared is now the site of Dunwoody Springs Elementary School.

The graves of Obediah and Salina Coleman sit at the edge of the cemetery. The home they once shared is now the site of Dunwoody Springs Elementary School.

There are two very old graves close to Pacoletta Ball’s monument for Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha Ann Bruce Cheek. The Cheek name is well known in Dunwoody as one of the pioneering families.

Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha, headed one of Dunwoody's most prominent families.

Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha, headed one of Dunwoody’s most prominent families. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce married Samuel Perryman Cheek on November 7, 1874 in Franklin County, Ga. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce married Samuel Perryman Cheek on November 7, 1874 in Franklin County, Ga. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce Cheek's epitaph is still intact despite her marker's condition. It reads:  Holy Bible; Mother, thou art now at home, 'mong angels far above, but yet below thy child must roam, till summon'd by His love. You are not dead to us, but as a bright star unseen, we hold that you are ever near, though death intrudes between.

Martha Bruce Cheek’s epitaph is still intact despite her marker’s condition. It reads: Holy Bible; Mother, thou art now at home, ‘mong angels far above, but yet below thy child must roam, till summon’d by His love. You are not dead to us, but as a bright star unseen, we hold that you are ever near, though death intrudes between.

Samuel and Martha’s son, Joberry, had his own farm in Dunwoody. In 1906, he built a one-story farmhouse for his son, Bunyan Cheek. The house sat on 2.5 acres of land in the heart of Dunwood and included a pasture, cornfield, barn, smokehouse, and a chicken house. In 1945, it was purchased by Carey and Florence Spruill, and became known as the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse. Mrs. Spruill lived in the home until her death in 1993.

Located at the busy corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road, the Cheek Spruill Farmhouse is still standing as a reminder of Dunwoody's past.

Located at the busy corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road, the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse is still standing as a reminder of Dunwoody’s past.

The Dunwoody Preservation Trust held a campaign to “Save the Farmhouse” after Mrs. Spruill’s death and raised more than $200,000 but the amount was not enough to purchase the property from the Spruill heirs. The Farmhouse was saved when Guardian Savings and Loan (in Houston, Texas) purchased the property in 1998 and donated the home and 1.5 acre of land to the DPT. Today, it is leased by the law firm of DelCampo, Weber and Grayson.

I did eventually find out what the story was behind “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” It comes from the book of I Samuel in the Bible, when the Israelites defeated the Phillistines. Samuel raised a stone to commemorate their appreciation for God’s help in saving them and called it Ebenezer or “Stone of Hope”.

In turn, I think Ebenezer Baptist Church and its cemetery are symbols of hope to the community, reminding those that drive by how the strong roots planted by these pioneers continue to shape its present and future.

That’s a true fount of blessing, isn’t it?

Ebenezerflowers

Hidden Pioneers: Dunwoody’s Stephen Martin Cemetery

A few weeks ago, I told you about how the Crowley Cemetery became the Crowley Mausoleum that’s located in the parking lot of the former Columbia/Avondale Mall (land now occupied by a Walmart). Today I’m going to share about another family cemetery that also ended up surrounded by commercial development. But this one has a somewhat happier ending.

I didn’t know anything about Stephen Martin Cemetery in Dunwoody until I read an offhand comment on Facebook that mentioned a cemetery at Perimeter Mall. I spend a lot of time in Dunwoody since my church is there, so I went to check it out.

This map shows where the Stephen Martin Cemetery is located in the green patch behind the shopping center. Few people know it's there.

This map shows where the Stephen Martin Cemetery is located in the rectangular tree-encircled patch behind the shopping center. Few people know it’s there. You can access it behind Marshall’s on the far left where the treeline is. Don’t do it the way I did by clambering over a guard rail.

Stephen Martin Cemetery is not in the Perimeter Mall shopping center itself. But it’s located behind a large strip shopping center across the road, almost completely hidden from view. From what I’ve read, the proximity of the cemetery forced a slight rerouting of I-285 and Ashford Dunwoody Road back in the day.

I went about finding the cemetery the wrong way. They’re doing a lot of construction on the road that this shopping center and a nearby hotel are located on. Big trucks were rumbling past the much easier tree-lined path that you can access from the Marshall’s parking lot on the side of the building. Because I missed seeing this entrance, I ended up going through the woods in the back behind the guard rail.

The Martin Cemetery is in the woods behind that guard rail. I took the picture from the parking lot of an abandoned office building. I wouldn't recommend climbing around the side like I did.

Stephen Martin Cemetery is in the woods behind that guard rail. I took the picture from the parking lot of an abandoned office building. I wouldn’t recommend climbing around the side like I did.

It’s a surreal experience to be standing in a cemetery that you know was once surrounded by farmland but has slowly shrunk down to this little patch. In front of you are the back doors to a Marshall’s and a T. Mobile store. Behind you, only a parking lot separates you from I-285, the interstate that encircles Atlanta. Past and present are keenly felt here.

As far as when the first burial took place, that is a mystery. But from what I can gather, one of the earliest was Elizabeth Francis Garrett Martin. She was the first wife of Stephen Martin and probably died in 1848. There are many graves marked only with rough fieldstones, so there may be graves even older than that.

Stephen Martin is thought to be buried between Elizabeth and his second wife, Sarah Crowley Martin. I think Sarah’s grave might be the one pictured on the left in the picture below because it looks to be made with larger pieces of stone (or slate) and not rocks. These stacked stone-style cairn graves always fascinate me because of their rough-hewn design.

You don't often see graves like these. They're usually hidden away in rural family cemeteries off the beaten trail.

You don’t often see graves like these. They’re usually hidden away in rural family cemeteries off the beaten path. That’s why I always enjoy seeing them. Stephen Martin’s is supposed to be in the middle.

This grave is thought to be that of Stephen Martin, for whom the cemetery was named. He was born in Laurens County, S.C. but moved with his family to Dunwoody sometime before 1830.

This grave is thought to be that of Stephen Martin, for whom the cemetery was named. He was born in Laurens County, S.C. but moved with his family to Dunwoody sometime before 1830.

With an ancestry based in Germany, Stephen Martin was originally from Laurens County, S.C. and moved to Georgia with his first wife and their children sometime before 1830. The area was home to the Cherokee Indian tribe of the Creek Confederation before white settlers came in. Two of his daughters (Naomi and Sophia) would marry into the influential Spruill family, who were key players in the establishment of Dunwoody.

One can easily say the Spruill family is still making their mark today. The Spruill’s original house was built in 1867 and was the center of a working farm. A large shopping center that includes a Walmart now looms large next door.

When Stephen T. Spruill married Mollie Lee Carter in 1889, that house was presented to them as a wedding gift from Stephen’s parents, Thomas F. and Naomi “Omie” Martin Spruill. In 1905, Stephen tore down the original log house and rebuilt it as the house it is known as today. The Spruill’s house and five surrounding acres were donated to the Spruill Center for the Arts to serve as a place to foster creative expression through the arts. It is now known as the Spruill Gallery.

The Spruill Gallery was once the center of a bustling family farm. Now it's an oasis of art and beauty amid the sea of development that surrounds it. Photo courtesy of www.spruillarts.org.

The Spruill Gallery was once the center of a large family farm. Now it’s an oasis of art and beauty amid the sea of development that surrounds it. Photo courtesy of http://www.spruillarts.org.

Omie Martin married Thomas Franklin Spruill in 1866. Before that, Thomas served in the Civil War, enlisting in Company C., 63rd Georgia Infantry in October 1863. His company surrendered on April 26, 1865 and he returned home in May that year.

Beside Thomas and Omie are the graves of four of their children who died before the age of 8. Many of their other children are buried at nearby Sandy Springs First Baptist Church Cemetery.

Photo of Thomas Franklin Spruill and his wife, Naomi

Photo of Thomas Franklin Spruill and his wife, Naomi “Omie” Martin Spruill. Both are buried at Stephen Martin Cemetery.

Naomi

Naomi “Omie” Martin married Thomas Spruill in 1866. Four of their children (who all died before the age of 8) are buried beside them (the smaller graves). Only a fence separates the cemetery from the shopping center that was built in front of it. On the other side lies I-285.

Sophia, Stephen Martin’s youngest daughter with his first wife, married Joseph T. Spruill in 1868. They had several children but only Sarah Cordelia, who lived just a short time, is buried beside them. Their son, Nolia, is buried to the right and back of their plot.

Sophia Martin Spruill was the first wife of Joseph T. Spruill. Their daughter Sarah, who died in infancy, is buried beside them. You can see their son Nolia's grave to the right and behind them.

Sophia Martin Spruill was the first wife of Joseph T. Spruill. Their daughter Sarah, who died in infancy, is buried beside them. You can see their son Nolia’s grave to the right and behind them. Joseph’s second wife is buried at Nancy Creek Cemetery.

Despite the fact it’s hidden behind a shopping center, the Martin Cemetery is in pretty good shape. The Dunwoody Preservation Trust looks after it, as far as I can tell.

One key factor in why I think the Martin Cemetery fared better than the Crowley Cemetery is the Spruill family itself. When they sold part of their land for the construction of Perimeter Mall and the development around it in 1971, they made sure that the cemetery wasn’t touched and would be protected. A number of Spruills still live in the Dunwoody area today.

Taken in the 1940s, this photo is of several of Thomas Franklin Spruill and Omie Martin Spruill's children. Daughters Eta, Naomi, Jane and Margaret are on the front row. Sons Stephen and Andrew are behind them. Only Margaret is buried at Martin Cemetery.

Taken in the 1940s, this features several of Thomas Franklin Spruill and Omie Martin Spruill’s children. Daughters (L to R) Etta, Naomi, Jane and Margaret are on the front row. Sons Andrew and Stephen are behind them. Only Margaret is buried with her husband at Stephen Martin Cemetery.

I also believe that the very fact that it’s hidden from sight has been to its advantage. I didn’t notice any vandalism or damage to the gravestones, save for a few that could use some TLC due to time and weathering.

So if you’re ever tired of shopping and want to enjoy a little Dunwoody history, stop by the Stephen Martin Cemetery and step back in time amid the chaos.

Just make sure to take the road MORE traveled to get there.

MartinRoad

View from Stephen Martin Cemetery to the entrance.

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