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Posts Tagged ‘famous graves’

Henry Rogers Selden

Henry Rogers Selden was a lawyer, judge and politician, serving in such positions as Lieutenant Governor of New York. But the reason I photographed his grave marker is that Selden defended Susan B. Anthony in 1873. Anthony and a number of her fellow suffragists decided to test the constitutionality of denying women the right to vote, and Anthony presented her research and arguments to Selden. He found them compelling and told her that he thought she had a right to vote. She voted in the national election of 1872 and was arrested for illegal voting. Selden defended her during the case pro bono, and was extremely disappointed at her conviction.

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Grave of Helen Pitts Douglass

Helen Pitts Douglass was the 2nd wife of Frederick Douglass. Douglass’ first wife, Anna Murray, died in 1882 after over 40 years of marriage. Helen Pitts, an advocate for women’s rights and a graduate of Mount Holyoke Seminary, met Douglass when he hired her as a clerk. After his first wife’s death, he married the white woman who was 20 years his junior, their interracial marriage exposing tensions with long time friends and colleagues. After Frederick Douglass’ death in 1895, his widow dedicated herself to the creation of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association.

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Ness Monument

One of the most nationally famous monuments in Lake View Cemetery is for Eliot Ness. When I first spotted it, I made a mental note of how new it looked, wondering why. It wasn’t until later that I found out that Eliot Ness didn’t come to Lake View until about 40 years after his death.

I admit that the image of Eliot Ness I grew up with was Kevin Costner in The Untouchables. For my mother’s generation, he was linked with Robert Stack, kicking ass and taking names of gangsters on tv. Eliot Ness was larger than life, heroic.

But in Cleveland, Ness’ legacy is more complicated. After his victory (or at least his association with the conviction of Al Capone), Ness ended up in Cleveland as the Public Safety Director. He cleaned up the police and fire departments and shut down many of the notorious illegal gambling venues and gangs. He even improved traffic safety. But he wasn’t able to solve the most famous case of his Cleveland career – the Kingsbury Run murders. Someone in Cleveland was murdering and butchering people and leaving their remains in a poor section of town frequented by vagrants. Only two of the dozen or so victims (there are debates about exactly whether some murders should be included) were ever identified. As the number of killings attributed to the mysterious murderer increased, Cleveland’s citizens demanded that Ness and his police force do something – but what? With incomplete and mutilated corpses that often couldn’t be identified and forensic investigation still young, the police didn’t have a lot of leads. Serial killing like this wasn’t well understood They tried, but Ness ended up resorting to ineffective strategies like arresting the homeless and then burning the shanties that lined Kingsbury Run. The actions may have deterred the killer temporarily, but they didn’t lead the police any closer to figuring out who he actually was. It does appear that Ness and his men finally identified a possible suspect in one Dr. Frank Sweeney, but there was only circumstantial evidence, the doctor was too well-connected, or both. Officially, the murders remain unsolved. After a period of time, the bodies stopped turning up, and the “Mad Butcher” appeared to have moved on or stopped.

Ness eventually resigned as Public Safety Director. His life began a slow decline – he tried his hand and business, but he did not have the knack for it that he had for law enforcement. He ran for mayor of Cleveland as an independent but lost to the popular Democratic incumbent and spent most of his savings on the campaign. The one bright spot was his marriage to third wife, Betty, and their adoption of a son, Robert. Ness died of a heart attack at home in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, in 1957.

This brings us to the travels of Eliot Ness after death. Ness was cremated, his ashes provided to his wife and son, and for forty years he had no monument or grave marker. Son Robert died of leukemia at a relatively young age in 1976 and wife Betty passed away 1977. For the next twenty years, the ashes of one of the most famous Treasury Department agents in history, his wife, and son passed from relative to relative. No one seemed to know what to do with the earthly remains of the Nesses. Eventually, someone doing research found out about this situation, and a local monument company paid to erect a monument to Ness and his family. In 1997, Ness received a full police funeral and his and his family’s ashes were spread over the pond in Lake View Cemetery, an honor not generally permitted.

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Bombeck

This boulder from Arizona marks the resting place of Erma Bombeck in Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio. Tonight, I’ll go to the Christmas Eve service with my mother, and when I think of Erma Bombeck, I think of Mom.

My mother read and laughed at Bombeck’s witty columns and books for as long as I can remember. Bombeck wrote about being a wife and mother with a good dose of humor, and I think my mother must have seen some of her own experiences reflected in those words. Bombeck loved her family, but she also voiced all the annoyances and difficulties while laughing at them and herself.

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Wright (3)

I don’t often stand at a grave of a non-family member that I know is only a degree or two of separation from me, but I got to do so this past month, and with a famous grave to boot. While aviator Wilbur Wright died relatively young in 1912 in a flight accident, his brother Orville lived until 1948. Early death while famous being what it is, this explains why there are things in Dayton named for Wilbur but not Orville, and one of those namesakes was Wilbur Wright School, that my grandmother and her sister attended. Orville attended the dedication ceremony for the school, and my great-grandmother had the opportunity to meet him. My grandmother doesn’t remember a lot of details about the meeting, but she has always been very proud of it.

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Rick James

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At Malabar Farm State Park, there is a tiny pioneer cemetery up on the hill.

Entire cemetery surrounded by white picket fence

Never heard of Malabar Farm? My grandmother is disappointed in you.

It’s ok, she was disappointed in most of us, too, when we went there during a family reunion. Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, was the home of Louis Bromfield, author and conservationist. A prolific writer, he produced novels, plays, short stories, non-fiction works, and finally an autobiography, writing more and more about conservation later in his life. Four of his books were transformed into films and brought him acclaim on the silver screen. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel Early Autumn.

Despite Bromfield’s acclaim, in popular culture of my grandparents’ day, Malabar Farm’s wider claim to fame was as the location of the 1945 wedding and honeymoon of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

Malabar Farm and Bromfield’s passion are now preserved as an Ohio State Park, demonstrating the conservation methods that Bromfield pioneered. The Big House that Bromfield and his family lived in remains, full of artifacts of their lives, and a working farm surrounds it. On a small rise, a little pioneer cemetery stands, which nearly has more names than tombstones: Pioneer Cemetery, Olivet Cemetery, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Schrack Cemetery, Malabar Farm Cemetery, Bromfield Cemetery. The park calls it Pioneer Cemetery on the map and Olivet Cemetery on the sign.

Olivet Cemetery sign

Surrounded by a pristine white picket fence, the graves inside are sometimes swallowed by the lush plants that flourish in the farm’s sun and rain.

William Ferguson tombstone in a bed of grasses and flowers

The cemetery was there before Louis Bromfield bought his farm, as evidenced by the 19th century dates on a number of tombstones. George Franklin served in the Civil War, as did George Baughman.

George Franklin tombstone with American flag and GAR marker

George F. Baughman military tombstone
And there Louis Bromfield, his wife, his mother, and his father, lie in quiet repose with the residents of a previous century on the same land.

Louis Bromfield grave slab with American flag and metal veteran's marker

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