Rocky Mountain High: Touring Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, Part III

As we dig into Part III of this series on Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, I’m going to feature some Coloradans who played an important role in making the city what it is today.

The story of John and Mary Elitch is a happy one for the most part. Together, they founded what began as a zoological garden that is now one of the country’s most successful amusement parks.

A native of Alabama, John Elitch Jr. operated restaurants in both San Francisco and Durango, Calif. with some success. He hoped to finance a vaudeville theater but failed more than once. In the early 1870s, he met 16-year-old Mary Lydia Hauck and was quickly smitten. Born in Philadelphia, Mary spent most of her childhood in California. Despite her parents’ misgivings, the couple eloped and spent their honeymoon in San Jose, Calif.

Young and attractive, John and Mary Elitch were considered the "golden couple" of Denver at that time.

Young and attractive, John and Mary Elitch were considered the “golden couple” of Denver at that time.

Eventually, the Elitches opened a restaurant in Denver in 1880 called the Elitch Palace that became popular with their theater friends, including showman P.T. Barnum. In hopes of supplying the restaurant with fresh produce, the Elitches purchased 16-acre Chillicot Farm on the outskirts of Denver in 1888.

The Elitches moved to the farm, planting vegetable gardens, and Mary added floral gardens. Barnum and Harry Tammen, new owner of the Sells-Floto Circus that wintered near the farm, gave Mary surplus baby animals to fill out her collection of strays. Before long, she was raising bears, lions cubs, monkeys, and an ostrich.

Elitch Zoological Gardens had something for everyone, from animals to theater to picnic grounds.

Elitch’s Zoological Gardens had something for everyone, from animals to a theater to picnic grounds.

In 1889, John and Mary thought that like Woodland Gardens in San Francisco, their farm could be just as attractive to Denver families. By spring 1890, with gardens, a zoo, picnic areas, a playground and a theater, they were ready to open Elitch Gardens to the public. It became a local favorite, often attracting 8,000 to 10,000 patrons on a Sunday.

When the couple made $35,000 during the first season, John used part of the windfall to form another theatrical company. Unfortunately, while traveling with the troupe, John became ill. On March 10, 1891, he died of pneumonia with Mary at his side. He was only 40 years old. He was buried at Fairmount Cemetery.

Despite the loss of her true love, Mary decided to continue managing Elitch Gardens on her own.

In 1904, Mary added the park's first ride, a small toboggan coaster with a figure 8 track layout. It remained until 1925. Photo source: National Amusement Park Historical Association.

In 1904, Mary added the park’s first ride, a small toboggan coaster with a figure 8 track layout. It remained until 1925. Photo source: National Amusement Park Historical Association.

Mary formed a summer stock company in 1897, choosing directors and actors that included James O’Neill, father of famous playwright Eugene O’Neill. Future Broadway and movie stars came, such as Edward G. Robinson, Frederic March and Cecil B. DeMille, who later dubbed Mary’s theater “the cradle of the American drama.”

Remarrying in 1899 to Thomas Long, Mary’s attention to Elitch Gardens began to wane. When Long died in 1906, she handed more of its management over to others. Businessman John Mulvihill purchased Elitch Gardens in 1916 under the proviso that it always keep the Elitch name in its title and that Mary would have a home on the grounds until her death. Both promises were kept. After she died in July 1936, she was buried beside John at Fairmount Cemetery.

Having devoted much of her life to the dream she and her first husband shared, Mary chose to be buried with him at Fairmount in 1936.

Having devoted much of her life to the dream she and her first husband shared, Mary was buried with him at Fairmount in 1936.

The Elitch Theater closed in 1991 but the original building still exists, currently being restored to its former glory. The amusement park, which was moved downtown in 1995, is still attracting families from far and wide.

Another businessman who made a still-existing mark on Denver was William Garrett Fisher. His monument is one I’ve seen in various forms at other cemeteries in the past, so I was especially intrigued by it. I’m posting them both here so you can see what I mean. Below is the monument I photographed at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tenn.

This is a monument at Nashville's Mt. Olivet Cemetery that I took a few years ago.

This is a monument at Nashville, Tenn.’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery that I took a few years ago.

Now look at the Fisher monument. They’re a lot alike but can you see the differences? Both angels have their right hand lifted up, but only one holds a trumpet to her lips. The Fisher monument’s angel also holds a palm frond in her left hand while the Mt. Olivet one does not. The kneeling figures are each holding different items.

fishermonument

I didn’t get as good of a photo of the Fisher monument but you can still see some notable differences between the two.

According to Annette Scott’s “Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old West”, this monument could be found in circulars produced by Bliss Brothers, photographers based in Buffalo, N.Y. The monument for Joseph Horne, founder of Horne’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pa., is exactly the same as the Fisher monument.

Merchant William B. Daniels came to Denver in 1864, where he began the dry goods business that later became Daniels and Fisher. William Garrett Fisher became his business partner in 1872. The company was so successful that by the 1890s it had become the largest retailer in the state, with a prominent store at the corner of Sixteenth and Lawrence Streets.

Photos of William Garrett Fisher and his wife, Mary Frances Cherry Fisher.

Photos of William Garrett Fisher and his wife, Mary Frances Cherry Fisher.

Daniels died in 1890 and Fisher died in 1897. Daniels’ son, William, reorganized the store before he hired friend Charles MacAllister Willcox as general manager. William then left for Europe, where he chose to spend his time at a rented castle in France.

While Fisher didn’t live to see it, the business he helped make a success spawned the 330-foot Daniels and Fisher Tower in Denver (375 feet if you included the flagpole). Designed by Frederick G. Sterner, it was based on St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, which had collapsed in 1902. The Campanile was being rebuilt at the time, inspiring replicas around the world. The clock tower opened in 1911 as a way to draw shoppers to the adjacent Daniels and Fisher department store. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Postcard of the Daniels & Fisher Tower when it was the tallest building in Denver.

Postcard of the Daniels & Fisher Tower when it was the tallest building in Denver. Photo source: Attic Postcards.

Although Daniels and Fisher eventually merged with another company and moved into a different building in the 1950s, the tower remained. Despite threats of demolition, the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission convinced the city council to declare the Daniels and Fisher Tower a landmark. Soon after that the tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

By the 1990s the tower’s exterior was looking forlorn. Tenants Richard Hentzell and Michael Urbana spearheaded an extensive renovation effort with the help of several State Historical Fund grants totaling more than $500,000. Nearly every part of the building was restored, including the Seth Thomas clock and observation deck. The $5 million effort was completed in 2006.

dftowertoday

While it faced a grim future in the 1970s, preservationists prevailed and the beloved Denver landmark continues to stand tall. Photo source: hweiming.

Today, the tower houses mostly office condominiums as well as an events venue on the upper floors. Visitors can access the tower’s observation deck in April as part of Doors Open Denver or arrange private tours through Clocktower Events. We walked by it several times during our stay in Denver.

I’m including the next person more for their monument than their history, although the life of Frederick Dearborn Wight was quite illustrious. A native of Maine, Wight served as First Lieutenant with Co. A, 1st Maine Sharpshooters, which participated in the siege of Petersburg, Va. Wight was present at Appomattox Court House, Va. for the surrender of General Robert E. Lee. Later, he moved to Colorado and was successful in ranching and banking.

Wight’s monument is quite something to behold.

Prominent stonemason Richard Swanson designed and executed "Remembrance" for Frederick D. Wight's grave.

Prominent stonemason Richard Swanson designed and executed “Remembrance” for Frederick D. Wight’s family plot.

Thanks to a Rocky Mountain News article someone posted on Find a Grave, I found out quite a bit about it. Called “Remembrance”, the total weight of the monument is 125,000 lbs., including the statue, base and settings. “One stone set back of the statue alone weighs 11 tons and required 10 horses to haul it to the cemetery,” notes the article.” It also claims the Wight monument to be the largest private monument in Colorado at that time.

Wight’s estate was noted to have been a little over $2 million dollars in 1911 when he died. So the $12,000 cost of the light gray granite monument (with a bronze statue) was a tiny drop in the bucket.

The Wight monument was touted as being the largest private memorial in Colorado at that time (1911).

The Wight monument was touted as being the largest private memorial in Colorado at that time (1911).

Richard Swanson, who also designed the Pinhorn and Smails mausoleums at Fairmount, designed and executed the Wight monument, and was well known in Denver for his work. A native of Iowa, he studied at the Chicago Art Institute and worked there for some years before moving to Denver for health reasons.

The final stop for today is the humble grave of Fairmount Cemetery’s original designer, Reinhard Schuetze. Born in Germany, he trained at Potsdam’s Royal Gardens and the Eberswalde forestry academy.

Schuetze arrived in America in 1889 with a wide knowledge of garden design and engineering. He designed and implemented a plan for Fairmount Cemetery, which resulted in a well-ordered and extensively engineered landscape inspired by his knowledge of European formal and picturesque prototypes.

The humble grave of German architect and horticultural designer Reinhard Schuetze and his wife, Anna. It is marked with a Woodman of the World seal, indicating he was a member.

The humble grave of German architect and horticultural designer Reinhard Schuetze and his wife, Anna. It is marked with a Woodman of the World seal, indicating he was a member.

Schuetze worked and lived at Fairmount until 1894, when the City of Denver hired him away to develop it parks system (including Washington and Cheesman). He was also
commissioned in 1895 to design the Colorado State Capitol grounds and zoological
garden.
Photo Source: Brian K. Thomason, 2014: The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

The City Park Esplanade extends from Colfax Avenue to Denver’s largest park. The quarter-mile long promenade exemplifies French landscape architecture principles. Attributed to Schuetze and George Kessler, the esplanade was designed in 1905 and planted in 1907 but not fully completed until 1918. Photo source: Brian K. Thomason, 2014: The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

I know I’ve disappointed you yet again by not getting to Fairmount’s Mausoleum. But it deserves an installment all its own to truly give it justice. Your patience will pay off next week.

Rocky Mountain High: Touring Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I started my tour of Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery. This week, we’ll explore the lives of more of its occupants. Some were memorable role models but a few were unsavory characters, such as Dr. John Galen Locke.

The Locke mausoleum is within sight of the Iliff monument (which I talked about in my last post). Nothing on it indicates that inside are the remains of the man who almost single-handedly led the Klu Klux Klan’s brief hold on Denver’s government in the 1920s.

A native of New York, Dr. John Galen Locke wielded the power that enable the Ku Klux Klan to rule Denver's government in the early 1920s. You can see the Iliff monument and Little Ivy Chapel in the background.

A native of New York, Dr. John G. Locke wielded the power that enabled the Ku Klux Klan to rule Denver’s capitol the 1920s. You can see the Iliff monument and Little Ivy Chapel in the background.

Arriving in Denver in 1893, Dr. John Galen Locke was an early backer of the Ku Klux Klan’s arrival in Colorado. Short and obese, Locke was an unlikely looking man of influence. But when he became Denver’s Klan Grand Dragon in 1921, he was just that.

According to Robert Goldberg’s book “Hooded Empire, the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado”, Locke’s influence over the 1924 elections of Governor Clarence Morley, Mayor Benjamin Stapleton, and the state legislature were key. By Nov. 5 of that year, the Klan controlled the state Republican party, all but four counties east of the Rocky Mountains, the City of Denver, the state government, and made gains in the judiciary.

As a doctor with homeopathic leanings, Dr. John G. Locke dropped dead of a heart attack in 1935.

Dr. John G. Locke dropped dead of a heart attack in 1935 at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.

So how did the Klan become a major force in Colorado when the state’s African-American population was incredibly small? In the post-World War I era, anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant leanings were strong. Stapleton actually denounced the Klan when he ran for office while secretly being a member. But after the Klan swept through the Capitol, it became acceptable to openly identify one’s membership with the group.

Locke was not exactly a poster boy for the Klan. He had a Catholic wife at one point and employed two Catholic secretaries. He looked to Jews and Catholics for his legal advice. Some historians believe it was Locke’s thirst for power that drove his Klan allegiance rather than an ideological stance. But it made him no less dangerous.

The Klan marches down Denver's Larimer Street on May 31, 1926. Photo source: The Denver Public Library Western History Collection.

The Klan marches down Denver’s Larimer Street on May 31, 1926. Photo source: The Denver Public Library Western History Collection.

Eventually, Locke’s missteps sealed his fate when he started butting heads with Mayor Stapleton and other heavy hitters. He served jail time for multiple counts of income tax fraud. By 1925, he was asked to step down as the Klan’s Grand Wizard and the organization’s grip on Colorado (thankfully) began to shatter.

Locke died unexpectedly in 1935 when he dropped dead of a heart attack while at Denver’s famous Brown Palace Hotel. Ironically, a Catholic and a Jew were among his pallbearers. According to Goldberg, the night after his interment, a band of ex-Klansmen secretly entered the cemetery and lit a cross before his crypt.

Not far from the Locke mausoleum is the Bethell-Foster family plot featuring a monument of a mother, seated, with a young boy leaning against her.

This statue, originally called “Soar”, was created by the Carrarra, Italy firm of H.T. Dempster. In catalogues, it was renamed “Mother and Son” by some importers.

This monument, originally called “Soar”, was purchased by Captain William Decatur Bethell and his wife, Cynthia Saunders Pillow Bethell, to honor their two sons, Pinckney C. Bethell and J. Pillow Bethell. The young men died in the 1890s while still in their 20s. Their daughter, Bessie, married prominent doctor John McEwen Foster and lived to the age of 73.

A wealthy man, Captain Bethell moved his family from Memphis to Denver in 1890 to improve his health. He and Cynthia built an ornate home in the Capital Hill area and the couple quickly became part of Denver’s high society.

Here's a closer view of it.

Here’s a closer view of it.

The Bethells purchased the marble monument from Carrara, Italy firm H.T. Dempster (or someone who imported it from them). In 1895, the cost was around $350. Originally called “Soar”, it also came in Westerly granite at the cost of $918. Sadly, Captain Bethell died 11 years later, joining his sons in the family plot.

One of Denver’s most prominent education pioneers is buried at Fairmount. Her work enabled made many who would have never afforded to go to school to do so. Unfortunately, her life ended violently and the tragedy remains shrouded in mystery.

Born in Cincinnati in 1868, Emily Griffith grew up poor, leaving school after eighth grade to help support her family. At 17, she worked as a teacher in Nebraska. To reduce living expenses, she lived with her students’ families and realized many of them could not read, write, or do simple math. She felt that an education was the only way to lift people out of poverty, allowing parents to provide a better life for their children.

The Emily Griffith Opportunity School’s motto was “Public Opportunity — For All Who Wish to Learn.” Photo source: Denver Public Library Western History Collection

In 1894, Griffith’s family moved to Denver where she continued to teach. She was made Deputy State Superintendent of Schools in 1904. Serving six years, she left twice to return to working with students before returning to her post. Griffith also started teaching night classes for adults. She believed everyone deserved an education regardless of age, race, gender, or background.

The Emily Griffith Opportunity School (named that upon her retirement in 1933) is still part of the Denver Public School System operating as the Emily Griffith Technical College as an alternative high school.

The Emily Griffith Opportunity School (named that upon her retirement in 1933) is still part of the Denver Public School System, operating as Emily Griffith High School and Emily Griffith Technical College.

In 1916, Emily opened the Opportunity School. Dedicated to her students, she gave them food and money, and worked with police to help troubled children. She retired in 1933, after 100,000 students had attended her school. That same year, Emily’s name was added to the title of the school, which later split into the Emily Griffith High School as well as the Emily Griffith Technical College.

While both schools recently moved into a new state-of-the-art building, their mission remains the same today. It offers more than 45 programs and 500-plus classes in a variety of subjects, designed to prepare students for the workforce. Its English as a Second Language program is the oldest and largest in Colorado, with 3,000 students enrolled last year.

Unfortunately, Emily’s story does not end happily.

Emily Griffith and her sister, Florence, hoped to make this rustic cabin their retirement home. That dream ended in murder in 1947.

Emily Griffith and her sister, Florence, made this rustic cabin their retirement home. That dream ended in murder in 1947.

Having never married or had children, Emily moved to a rustic cabin in Pinecliffe with her invalid sister, Florence. The cabin’s builder was Fred Lundy, an old friend and former teacher at the school, who lived nearby. It was also quite isolated.

Emily and Florence were found dead on June 19, 1947. The two were shot in the back of the head, execution-style, with no signs of a struggle. In fact, the kitchen table was set for three diners with food prepared. Nothing appeared disturbed, and no money was missing.

A man who delivered groceries to the sisters earlier that day said he was greeted by the two sisters and Lundy. By the next morning, Lundy had disappeared. A witness claimed he’d seen Lundy getting on a Denver-bound freight train, and his car was found near Pinecliffe. When police broke the window to get inside, they found a suitcase filled with the $555 Lundy had withdrawn from his bank a week earlier, along with a note that read:

To the coroner: If and when I die, please ship my body to Roscoe, Illinois, to be buried in our family plot. No autopsy. Contact [cousin] Roy Cummings. No funeral here. Money in this briefcase can be used for immediate expenses. Thank you. P.S. Embalm in Boulder, Colorado.

Emily and Florence Griffith rest in peace beneath a tree in Fairmount Cemetery.

Emily and Florence Griffith rest in peace beneath a tree in Fairmount Cemetery.

In August of that year, a fisherman found Lundy’s remains in South Boulder Creek, wedged beneath a rock. By now, rumors had cropped up that Lundy had fallen in love with Emily, but she had spurned him. Others suggested Emily was sick and could no longer care for her sister, so Lundy had ended their lives as a mercy killing.

Regardless, the murders remains unsolved to this day. The sisters were cremated immediately so no autopsies were performed and what evidence remained was lost to storage changes and a fire. It’s a sad end to a life dedicated to helping others, one that is still impacting the world today.

This is a photo I took of a stained glass window of Emily Griffith at the Denver Capitol building. I saw it when we were taking a tour, before my visit to Fairmont, not knowing who she was.

This is a photo I took of a stained glass window of Emily Griffith at the Denver Capitol building. I saw it when we were taking a tour, before my visit to Fairmont, not knowing who she was. Pardon the lamp sticking into it.

As you can see, I haven’t gotten to the Fairmount Mausoleum yet. Just too many stories to share. Sorry! We’ll get there in Part III, I promise.

Rocky Mountain High: Touring Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery, Part I

When people travel, there are certain preparations everybody makes. Toothpaste? Check. Plane ticket? Check. Cemetery map? Check.

Well, maybe not everybody when it comes to that last one.

As I prepared for our family summer vacation to Denver this past summer, I hopped online to see what cemeteries were in the area. Denver has a number of cemeteries, but I kept going back to Fairmount. I didn’t know then that it had a tie to Georgia.

As the second oldest large cemetery in the city, Fairmount opened in 1890 when Denver was still quite young (established in 1858). At 280 acres, the cemetery was the largest developed landscape west of the Mississippi. The grounds were designed by German-born architect Reinhard Schuetze, who I’ll talk about more next week.

Photo of Denver from 1898, source: Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Denver from 1898. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

denverskyline

The view from Denver’s capitol building dome this summer during a tour. It overlooks Civic Center Park and the Denver City and County Building. The Denver Post’s offices are in the white building on the right.

Fairmount is still a very active cemetery, has a funeral home, modern offices and a crematorium. Not long ago, they added space for meetings and events as well. They even hold popular movie nights on one of their greenspaces.

Fairmount Cemetery recently added movie nights to their event schedule. They were hosting a screening of

Fairmount Cemetery recently added movie nights to their event schedule. They were hosting a screening of “E.T.” (not shown here) the evening of the day I visited. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery web site.

A week before our trip, I took the risk of calling Fairmount’s office to find out if they gave tours. I use the word “risk” only because some cemeteries do not take kindly to crazy visitors like me who ask a lot of questions and want to write about their cemetery.

Fortunately, that was not the case at all with Fairmount (which is still blessedly independently owned and operated). I left a message and within a few days, Fairmount’s director of business development Michael Long called me back.

Entrance gate to Fairmount Cemetery. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery and Crematorium.

Entrance gate to Fairmount Cemetery. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery web site.

I did explain that I was coming from Atlanta so I wouldn’t be buying a plot because I didn’t want to take up his valuable time without disclosing that. Thankfully, this didn’t bother him in the least and he even offered to take me on a golf cart tour of Fairmount’s grounds. I nearly dropped the phone, I was so surprised and pleased.

After we’d been in Denver a few days, I dropped off my husband and son at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and headed over to Fairmount. Diane Kandt, who I later discovered is manager of first impressions, greeted me in the office. Whoever came up with that title had Diane in mind because she is excellent at her job, making me feel at ease while I waited for Michael.

Fairmount's Director of Business and Manager of First Impressions Diane Kandt were a pleasure to meet and talk to. Above them is an old panoramic photo of the cemetery with the Ivy Chapel featured.

Fairmount’s director of business Michael Long and manager of first impressions Diane Kandt were a pleasure to meet. Above them is an old panoramic photo of the cemetery with the Little Ivy Chapel featured.

It was already in the 90s with bright sunlight when our tour began, so I apologize for the quality of my photos. Some of the pictures I took with my phone came out blurry so I borrowed some from Fairmount’s web site.

The Little Ivy Chapel at Fairmount was built when the cemetery opened in 1890. It's a good example of 13th-century Ecclesiastical High French Gothic Revival style and was designated a landmark by the City of Denver. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

Fairmount’s Little Ivy Chapel (originally called the “Mortuary Chapel”) was built when the cemetery opened in 1890. It’s a lovely example of the 13th-century Ecclesiastical High French Gothic Revival style. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite ongoing renovations, Michael showed me the inside of the chapel, designed by Henry Ten Eyck Wendell. A New York native and Cornell graduate, Wendell also designed Fairmount’s Gate Lodge and several Denver homes.

Henry T.E. Wendell also designed Fairmount's Gate Lodge in 1890. The building now serves as the office, archives, library, and meeting areas for the Fairmount Heritage Foundation. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery.

Henry T.E. Wendell also designed Fairmount’s Gate Lodge. The sandstone building now serves as the office, archives, library, and meeting area for the Fairmount Heritage Foundation. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery.

One of those homes was the Henry Treat Rogers house (since torn down) at 1739 E. 13th Ave. The house is said to be the inspiration for the 1980 film “The Changeling” starring George C. Scott. I watched it once and it scared the bejeebers out of me. The house was located near Cheesman Park, which was built over what was originally Denver City Cemetery (a story for an entire blog post).

Henry designed the new St. Paul's Episcopal Church after it had burned down in 1916. It was under construction when he died.

Wendell designed the new St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, Ga. after it burned down in 1916. It was under construction when he died. He is buried in Augusta’s Westover Cemetery.

Now here’s where the Georgia connection begins. Wendell arrived in Augusta, Ga. around 1908 during a building boom. He was soon busy designing homes for prominent families and the new St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which had burned in 1916. It was halfway through construction when Wendell died at the age of 55.

Despite having a home in Augusta, Wendell was staying at the local Albion Hotel the night he was served a warrant for his arrest, the charge thought to be for a “moral indiscretion.” The bizarre story of his death, which involved him jumping over a stair railing, is worth reading.

This photo of the Little Ivy Chapel's interior comes from Fairmount's Web site.

The interior of the Little Ivy Chapel, which seats 70 to 80 people. It is used for funeral services, weddings, and concerts. Photo source: Fairmount Cemetery’s Web site.

Built in 1890 when Fairmount opened, the Little Ivy Chapel is a prime example of 13th-century Ecclesiastical French Gothic architecture and was designated a historical landmark by the City of Denver in 1976. Michael hosted a short video about it that you can watch here.

ivychapelorgan

About half of the Little Ivy Chapel’s organ pipes were built by A. R. Schoppe Sons of Alliance, Ohio, one of the pipe makers for the Trinity Methodist Church in Denver in 1888. The wood pipes came from Erie, Pa. and are a combination of cherry and white gum.

Dr. James Bratton, Professor Emeritus of Denver University, designed the chapel’s organ for Stephen E. Watson of the Watson Memorial Co. The pipes were custom made in Germany, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Ohio. It was built by Norman Lane, Denver’s first resident organ architect-builder since the late 19th century. Originally designed to be placed in Mr. Watson’s home, it was installed in the Little Ivy Chapel in 1977.

After seeing the chapel, we began our golf cart tour of the grounds. Nearby is the imposing but beautiful Iliff family monument. I found out later that it weights a whopping 65 tons!

The 65-ton Iliff monument was originally installed at Riverside Cemetery but was moved in 1920 when John Iliff's daughter Louise had his remains taken to Fairmount for re-interrment.

The 65-ton Iliff monument was originally installed at Denver’s Riverside Cemetery but was moved in 1920 when John Iliff’s daughter Louise had his remains taken to Fairmount for re-interment.

An Ohio native, John Wesley Iliff turned down an offer from his father for an interest in a local farm and headed west at the age of 21. In Kansas, he helped organize Ohio City Town Company in 1857 and built the first store there. He moved to Auroria (now Denver), Kansas Territory, in 1859 with a wagon load of goods and opened a successful general merchandise store amid the Colorado gold rush that brought fortune seekers from around the country.

While John Iliff joined the push of fortune seekers heading to Colorado, he chose to open a store instead of seeking wealth in gold. Photo source: iStockPhoto image © Duncan Walker.

John Iliff joined the rush of fortune seekers known as “Fifty-Niners” heading to Colorado (then Kansas Territory). But he opened a store instead of seeking wealth digging for gold. Photo source: iStockPhoto image © Duncan Walker.

In 1861, Iliff sold the store and bought cattle weakened after the long trek across the Plains. After nursing and fattening the cattle, he sold them for a substantial profit. He married his Ohio sweetheart Sarah Elizabeth “Sade” Smith in January 1864, but she died a few months after giving birth to their only child, William, in 1865.

A native of Ohio, John Iliff attended but did not graduate from Ohio Wesleyan University. He turned down his father's offer of an interest in an Ohio farm before heading west. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

Known as the “Cattle King”, John W. Iliff attended but did not graduate from Ohio Wesleyan University.  Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

In 1868, Iliff moved to Cheyenne, Wyo. to better manage his operations selling beef to railroads there. He owned 15,500 acres in 54 sections (always near water) throughout Colorado. Later, he returned to Denver where he had successfully invested in real estate and banks, as well as shares of Chicago’s Union Stockyards.

In 1877, Iliff become ill with a gall bladder obstruction created by his many years of drinking alkali water on the Colorado plains. He died in 1878. His second wife, Elizabeth Frazer Iliff, continued running his large business operations and raising their children. Eventually, she sold his ranch holdings and invested the proceeds. After marrying Bishop Henry White Warren in 1883, the couple later donated $100,000 to endow Iliff School of Theology (located by the University of Denver).

After John Iliff's death, his wife

Several years after John Iliff’s death, his remarried widow donated $100,000 to endow the Iliff School of Theology. Photo source: http://www.gradschools.com.

John Iliff was originally buried at Denver’s oldest cemetery, Riverside. But in 1920, his daughter Louise had his remains re-interred at Fairmount. The 65-ton Iliff monument was also moved. Elizabeth (whose second husband died in 1912) died in 1920 and was buried in the Iliff plot at Fairmount with her first husband, John.

Next week in Part II, I’ll continue my tour of Fairmount. It includes a visit to the  mausoleum, which has one of Denver’s finest stained glass collections.

fairmountmausoleum

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

Last week, I shared some of the history of Nebraska’s Norfolk Regional Center (formerly the Norfolk State Hospital for the Insane or Norfolk Asylum) and the NRC’s New Cemetery, along with stories of patients that lived there.

I preface today’s post with an admission of guilt. I went into a condemned building slated for demolition, something I have never done before. I am a rule follower 99 percent of the time. But on this day, the rebel in me superseded my usual mild-mannered self.

That’s one reason I waited until after demolition to post these photos, because I did not want to encourage anyone else to act as I did. Looking back, Christi and I could have injured ourselves. There wasn’t a soul around that day so if we had, I don’t know how we would have gotten help if we couldn’t reach our phones. In other words, don’t be a bonehead like us. Stay out of abandoned buildings!

Oddly enough, this former asylum building was low-cost housing for several years before being prepared for demolition. I suspect squatters were still living in it even when we were there because the satellite dish was still in evidence.

Oddly enough, this NRC building was a “low-cost dorm” for several years before being prepared for demolition. I suspect squatters were still living in it even when we were there because the satellite dish was still in evidence outside.

When we arrived at the NRC on a sunny Saturday in April, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen a photo essay about the place written by a talented photographer who had been there in January 2015. The remaining buildings slated for demolition that she photographed looked to be boarded up with a lot of “no trespassing signs” so I had little hope we’d see anything interesting. I was wrong.

View of the left side of the former asylum building that was converted into low-cost housing. Notice the new widows installed on the top floor.

View of the left side of the former asylum building that was converted into low-cost housing. Notice the new windows installed on the top floor compared to the old ones with rusting blinds.

Conditions were different for us. First, because it was a Saturday, not a single soul was in sight. Fencing had been taken down and the signs were gone. Doors and windows were boarded up in the first building we walked up to, but there was no fence around it any longer.

The front doors were padlocked so we made no attempt to go inside. Apparently, the building was occupied up until about six years ago as a “low-cost dorm.” Stories about the conditions in that building vary but some residents claimed to hear a lot of unexplained noises at different times, especially on the off-limits locked up third floor.

Another view of the former asylum building. The twisted up blinds against the broken windows was an eerie sight.

Another view of the former asylum building. The twisted up blinds against the broken windows were an eerie sight.

I also read that squatters lived in it after the building was officially closed (it flunked a plumbing inspection and mold had gotten bad). There may have been people still living inside when we were there but I can’t imagine it was a pleasant experience with no heat/AC or running water.

A series of underground tunnels once connected the NRC buildings for decades, but they were sealed up before demolition. The harsh Nebraska winters probably necessitated such passageways back then.

A side view. More broken windows and rusty stairways.

A side view. More broken windows and rusty stairways. I apologize for the poor quality.

We walked toward the next building we saw and I realized the front entrance that had been boarded up in the pictures from January 2015 was wide open. No signs were present telling us to keep out. I believe it was last used primarily for employees, not patients. But I have no doubt some patients were seen there at some point.

This was the NRC administration building, I later learned. It was wide open when we were there.

This was the NRC employee building, I later learned. It was wide open when we were there. I don’t know if patients spent much time there. You can see construction equipment to the right and the NRC physical plant.

A number of window air conditioning units and other debris littered the grass.

A number of window air conditioning units and other debris littered the grass.

As Christi and I walked up to the building, I abandoned my usual common sense and proceeded to clamber over the debris and went inside. Christi followed. There were sharp nails sticking up and all manner of hazards, but because the floor appeared to be concrete, I wasn’t worried about us stepping through a rotten wooden floor. Still, I can’t believe I did it.

Entrance to the employee building, with no “keep out” signs in sight.

We explored the ground floor first, careful to avoid nails. I was half afraid I’d step on one and get tetanus.

Boarded up windows and old cast iron furnace units.

Boarded up windows and old cast iron furnace units.

This might have been used as a medication storage room or was a nursing station. The mold was apparent.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this room was, perhaps it was a staff kitchen.

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There were holes in a lot of the walls, and I’m not sure why.

A side door was propped open. Outside you can see construction equipment and plenty of dirt.

A side door was propped open. Outside you can see construction equipment and plenty of dirt. Notice the flaking lead paint.

Obviously, nobody was abiding by the sign any longer.

Obviously, nobody was abiding by the sign any longer.

Sad little pillow left behind on the floor.

Sad little pillow left behind on the floor. Sorry it’s blurry.

American flag on a moldy wall.

American flag on a moldy wall.

We wandered down toward the other end of the ground floor and I found the stairway down into the basement. I don’t like basements so I didn’t venture down there. If squatters were going to be in the building, I figured they might be down there.

Nope, not going down there!

Nope, not going down there!

More pealing paint and a little sofa left behind.

More pealing paint and a little sofa left behind.

This was probably the creepiest photo I took.

This was probably the creepiest photo I took.

Christi was still exploring downstairs when I looked up the staircase to the second floor. I went up and stood at the top of the landing.

But before I had moved more than a few feet, I heard what I can only describe as one of the most unearthly sounds I’ve ever heard. A chill shot straight down my spine. My first thought was that I had startled a squatter and she had wailed, because the noise sounded like a woman.

I don't know who or what made that awful sound but I didn't linger to find out.

I don’t know who or what made that awful sound up there but I didn’t linger to find out.

I do not put much stock in the paranormal or ghosts. But I am willing to concede that whatever I heard up there sounded NOT of this world. I turned around and hot footed it downstairs to Christi. I wanted out of there NOW. Having heard the same sound, she readily agreed and we went out the side door. The bright sunlight and fresh air instantly made me feel better.

If you want to see more and much better photos, visit my friend Trish’s page. She visited the NRC a few weeks later with a friend and was braver than we were, including going down into the basement. You will definitely want to read what happened when she went up to the second floor.

A window at the basement level.

A window at the basement level.

Across the way was the physical plant with its huge smokestack. Another utility building behind it was already partially demolished. These buildings all had asbestos warning signs so we didn’t go inside.

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This building and the other power/utility buildings left all had asbestos warnings on them so we didn’t get too close.

Behind these buildings, we saw what looked like barns. These were probably in use when the NRC had its own gardens to provide the patients’ food.

A large log blocked the road to the barns but we walked over to check it out anyway.

A large log blocked the road to the barns but we walked over to check it out anyway. Still no warning signs.

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The roof on this barn makes me think it’s been there quite a while.

Did I stick my head in to look around? Nope. But Christi did go around the other side to look in quickly. It was too dark to see much.

Did I stick my head in to look around? Nope. But Christi did go around the other side to look in quickly. It was too dark to see much.

By this time, I was ready to see some cemeteries. We visited the New Cemetery first and then went in search of the old one. If you drive on the dirt trail behind the agricultural center, you will find yourself in the fields behind NRC. We parked and walked toward where we thought it was.

A word of warning. This past week I found pictures a man took of the Old Cemetery in 2011. His caption noted that anyone wanting to visit it needs to get permission to be escorted onto the property, which he had done. They took him by golf cart and let him go inside to look around, then took him back to his car. I got the sense this is private property from what he wrote. So if you do what we did, you may be asked to leave.

At the time of our visit, I did not know any of this. We found the cemetery among some trees and there were no signs saying to keep out. The gate was not locked but was secured by a twined wire that I easily unwound.

As you can see, there are no signs indicating visitors should not enter. The gate is on the left side of the photo.

As you can see, there are no signs indicating visitors should not enter. The gate is on the left side of the photo.

Only three markers are in the Old Cemetery but Find a Grave lists a total of 75 people buried there. Little is known about most of them.

The son of James and Sarah Grant Zink,  Marion Earnest Zink was a native of Iowa. According to the 1900 Census, he was heading a household that contained himself, one of his brother, his sister, her husband and their daughter.

This is a poor quality photo of Marion Zink's grave marker. Head injuries sent him to the NRC.

This is a poor quality photo of Marion Zink’s grave marker. Head injuries sent him to the NRC.

His Find a Grave memorial included an obituary in the March 10, 1910 Sherman County Times:

Word was received here yesterday of the death of Marion E. Zink, who died in the insane asylum. Mr. Zink, as will be remembered was found in a pitiful condition in Denver where it is supposed he was beaten and robbed and from which condition he suffered mental derangement, and he was sent to the hospital for the insane at Lincoln. He was about 35 years of age and lived near Austin prior to his being sent to Lincoln.

Of course, Zink had not been sent to Lincoln but Norfolk. But if the rest of this sad tale is true, I can’t imagine the pain his family probably felt.

imageA native of Polk County, Indiana, John Lewis was 21 in 1861 when he enlisted in the Union Army as a private in the 4th Iowa Infantry Regiment and was later promoted to corporal. He re-enlisted more than once. Company E saw action at Vicksburg, Chattanooga and the Battle of Atlanta. He mustered out July 24, 1865.

Census records from 1885 show him living in Clarinda, Iowa (home of another mental hospital). Lewis applied for an Invalid’s Pension on July 3, 1888, in Iowa. He died at the NRC on Nov. 29, 1911. Mary E. Lewis, his widow, applied for a widow’s pension on May 4, 1912, based on his service.

A native of Chatham, Canada, Calvin Carey was born in the 1840s and also served in Union Army during the Civil War. He enlisted as a Private in New York on March 10, 1863. After a few transfers, he started active service in Company G, 94th New York Infantry Regiment. Carey was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. He was discharged on March 5, 1865, with Distinguished Service noted on his record.

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After the war, Carey married Sarah Ann Hadden, settling in Michigan. The couple had nine children and also lived in Iowa and Nebraska. He is listed in the 1889 Omaha city directory as a laborer. Their last child was born in 1892. Carey died at the NRC Only three years later on Feb. 19, 1895. The 1900 census records show his wife and three of his children living in Adams, Neb.

I am sure many of you are curious as to why there are so few markers for so many dead. I can’t answer that entirely except to say that such was the case at many mental hospitals across the country during this time. Patients were often poor and many had lost touch with family. There was usually nobody there to mourn them, to pay for a marker that would signify their life.

This week, I read a story about an adopted a 12-year-old boy in Fargo, N.D. who spent the summer mowing lawns to raise money to purchase a grave marker for his biological father, whom he had never met. The man was buried in Chicago with no marker.

This wise young man said something that resonated with me and could be applied to this situation. “I don’t think anybody should go unknown in life, even though their choices they made or anything.”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CharlestonJNelson

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!

CharlestonMBAME2

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.

AbrahamNorth

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.

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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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