Archive for January, 2011

About a month ago, I wrote here about the most viewed cemetery-related photos on my Flickrstream. Not surprisingly, they were all for gravestones of famous people or people related to famous events: two related to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the tomb of Robert E. Lee, the ledger stone for Helen Pitts Douglass, and the statue that marks the grave of Stonewall Jackson.

The next most popular photo on my Flickr stream that I’m going to include here isn’t technically a gravestone, but it is a memorial, and I love it so much I am going to give it its own post. It’s the marker that purports to mark the location where Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead fell wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg while leading his troops in Pickett’s charge. It greatly resembles a grave marker in its design. I have had a soft spot in my heart for Armistead ever since I became familar with his story (interpreted and dramatized in the book The Killer Angels and movie Gettysburg).

In many ways, Armistead has been a figure who has been used to show how the Civil War was fought by men who knew each other intimately. At the eve of the Civil War, Armistead was already a figure that could star in any tragedy: he did not finish his education at West Point, fire destroyed his family home in Virginia, he developed a rare skin disorder, and he buried two wives and two children. He was particularly close to fellow army officer Winfield Scott Hancock and his wife Almira Hancock. He entrusted Hancock’s wife with items to be forwarded to his family in the event of his death. Like many other army officers born and raised in the Confederate states, Armistead decided he could not fight against his home state and resigned his army commission to take a command in the Confederate armies. In The Killer Angels, author Shaara uses Armistead to voice the conflicting emotions that many Civil War officers must have felt a they fought against those they had once served beside. Armistead lead his brigade in Pickett’s Charge on the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg, making his way to the Union lines before being wounded. According to those who moved him from the field, he asked after his friend Hancock and wanted to send a message to him. Armistead in fact was buried on the property of the nearby Spangler farm where he died two days later. He was later re-interred at St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore.

Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead C.S.A. Fell Here July 3, 1863.

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My friend Diana was kind enough to go to Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati and pick up their 2011 calendar. (The calendar is free, but a $5 donation is suggested. I need to drop a check in the mail to them.) The concept behind the calendar was kind of interesting – the photographs were chosen from a competition pool created by the cemetery’s Facebook fans. A lot of the photos are visually well-composed and striking.

On the other hand, the overall effect is more like a calendar of photographs that just happened to be taken in a cemetery rather than a calendar about the cemetery. Monuments are rather static or at least very slow to erode, so the decision about which photos to include for which months seemed motivated more by what was happening with the grounds around the monuments – the photos for the winter months feature snow and ice, spring and summer have explosions of floral blossoms, and fall has the dramatic reds, oranges and yellows of changing leaves. In some photos, you almost can’t tell you are looking at a cemetery.

The calendar does include dates of planned events for the whole year, which would be great for a cemetery enthusiast in the local area. I don’t know if I will make a special trip down to southwest Ohio just for one of those events but who knows?

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I might have skipped over this marker if Mike hadn’t called my attention to it.


Etched on three sides, it is a monument to a beloved wife and child by a bereaved man, Samuel Perry.


This stone is erected by the pious affections of the surviving husband and parent, Samuel Perry.

Based on the phrasing of the inscription, it seems that Mary Wallace Perry died in childbirth with the couple’s daughter.


To the memory of Mary Wallace Perry & her infant daughter, who were removed from time to Eternity, August 22, 1812, the former in the 26th year of her age, the latter in the moment of birth.


The final panel, the hardest to photograph due to the proximity of other monuments, reads:

If an assemblage of those amiable and endearing qualities that render a female the ornament of her sex could have warded off the arrows of death, she had not died.

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Ledger stones are the large, rectangular flat slabs that you sometimes see covering graves in cemeteries. The information about the deceased is then written across the top. Ledger stones are necessarily popular, but they are by no means unheard of here in Ohio.

Sidney Guy Sea of Chicago ended up beneath a ledger stone in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland.

Sidney Guy Sea

This one is for George Philip Hart.

George Phillip Hart

Louis Harvey Winrh has a ledger stone as well.


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Interesting stories

One of the main reasons I started this blog was that the cemeteries I visited were so full of interesting stories that I wanted to discover and share. The highlight of writing here is being able to find something hidden or unusual and tell people about it, and reading other cemetery bloggers provides that opportunity.

IrishEyes JG tells the story of how a soldier from the Battle of Little Bighorn ended up interred in a cemetery in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

She also found a stone begging prayers for the women who had been inmates of the Magdalen Female Penitent Asylum, which she uses as a springboard to discuss the sordid history of the institutions.

Gale Wall tells the tragic tale of two children who died playing on railroad tracks.

The Graveyard Detective shares the story of “Sambo’s grave,” the burial place of a young black boy on the English shore.

She also located the cenotaph for a military balloonist.

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When I was trying to decide what to write about for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I begin to think about some of the amazing people that I have chanced to meet. I respect the work of Dr. King and other nationally known figures, but I wanted to write about something more personal.

There are no photos that I have taken for this post, and I met this man just once, very briefly. I want to tell you a little about Dr. Donald Spencer. I met Dr. Spencer at his home about 6 years and shook his hand because I had traveled there to interview his wife, Dr. Marian Spencer, for my master’s project in women’s studies. I feel like I knew him slightly better than I did because her description of her social justice activities and life was so deeply interwoven with her partnership with her husband.

The Spencers were (and I am sure she still is) advocates for civil rights in Cincinnati for their adult lives. They met at the University of Cincinnati, where he had helped create a student organization (Quadres) to allow African-American students to participate more fully in student life. Donald Spencer was a member of the NAACP, the first African-American trustee of Ohio University, a teacher, and one of the first African-American real estate agents in the area. He and his wife were both prominent leaders in the city.  He also supported fully his wife Marian in her efforts – her lawsuit to desegregate Cincinnati’s Coney Island in 1952 and her career in city politics. They both worked for desegregation of local institutions and voting rights. Dr. Donald Spencer died May 4, 2010, at the age of 95.

I cannot do justice to the life of Dr. Donald Spencer, so I will provide you with some links: here is an interview with Dr. Spencer from 2005. The Cincinnati Enquirer published lengthy profiles of him after his death. Here is a report on the tribute given for him.

I have not been to any memorial for Dr. Spencer. I am not certain where he is buried, if he is buried. But I offer these words as flowers for him.

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When I visited my family at the holidays, I paid a visit to two cemeteries as well. First I visited my grandparents’ grave marker. Driving up from there to my mother’s house, I realized that we were going to be earlier than they were expecting us. We were passing nearby a cemetery that I know my grandparents’ friend Pauline was buried in.

I have to admit that we were not necessarily kind in our thoughts towards Pauline during her life. I realize now that I am older that my grandmother complained about her the way she criticized the annoying habits of her relatives and oldest friends, with a lot of affection buried underneath. Pauline and my grandmother were friends for a lifetime. My grandfather and her husband Henry were the youngest members of the hunting camp where we took vacations at least once a year. What I remember about Pauline from being a small child was her very loud voice – I can still hear it now if I close my eyes.

Pauline died in 2003. My grandmother told me that Pauline had asked for everything associated with her funeral to be pink, and so she was buried in a pink dress in a pink-lined coffin covered in pink flowers under a pink stone. I didn’t know Pauline loved pink – I can’t particularly remember her wearing it. But that detail of the pink stone was what made me think I could locate it. Pink granite is a more common stone choice, but it’s still not so ubiquitous that looking for a pink stone with her last name would be impossible. I drove up and down the rows of St. John’s Cemetery at Peace Church while Mike looked for the surname Miller on a pink stone.


I’m not posting the whole stone here right now because it also contains the names of her husband and son, who are at the time of this writing still alive and doing well. Despite having photographed the whole thing, I somehow don’t want to post that photo as if they already rest in the cemetery.


I didn’t have anything to leave, but I was glad that someone had been by to visit and leave flowers. I righted one of the pots that had been knocked over, said a few words to Pauline, and we headed for Christmas dinner. I don’t know what compelled me to do it, but I am glad I did.

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The statues I’ve written about recently have been holding anchors and looking towards heaven, but some statues hold books instead. The meaning of the book is not as universally agreed upon as the anchor – perhaps it represents the Bible, perhaps the scribing statues are angels at work recording the good deeds of the deceased in the book of life…

The Hatch statue in Lake View Cemetery has been captured in a pensive moment – she sits with a book and a cross in her hand, but she has just glanced towards the skies and pressed her hand to her breast.


Other figures with books include the previously visited Erkenbrecher scribe.


This angel has paused in writing with her quill pen just long enough to be carved.


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The anchor, as I mentioned last week, is often interpreted as a Christian symbol of hope, and so it often accompanies the statues we see atop magnificent monuments looking heavenward for salvation and comfort. The Haines family’s statue is holding an anchor – it’s a little hard to see from this angle, but look for the bottom of it protruding at the front right hand side of the monument.


A very detailed anchor rests at the side of the statue atop the Hubby-Doubleday monument.

Hubby-Doubleday Monument

Hubby-Doubleday Monument

The Smith family has a towering white monument, with this beautiful statue thrust toward the skies.


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I found the inscription on this stone too interesting to ignore.


Here we have listed for all to see the man and woman who are buried here and the name of the one child of theirs who isn’t.  Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?  Wouldn’t you expect that the folks buried here would get their names listed?  I am certain there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.  Perhaps Sara’s husband was someone that the family considered prominent and so they wanted to have that surname on the stone.  Perhaps daughter Sara was the only child to live out of infancy. Maybe Sara or her descendants erected the stone long after the parents’ death and didn’t have the names of all the children that had been interred here.

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