A mistake in slate

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Here lyes buried

The body of



Who departed this Life

April 17th 1785 in ye 23

Year of her Age.

In Her. United all that’s fair & good,

Short was her Race yet Virtues Path she tred.

The gray slate gravestone of Mrs. Sarah Morton displays a youthful looking soul effigy, or winged cherub.  The wings curve down framing the face and the eyes stare blankly forward.  Here, the young bride of only 23 years old is buried on Burial Hill at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the home of the Mayflower passengers and their descendants.

The two-line epitaph extolls her virtues and gives a hint at the sadness of her early death by speaking of the shortness of her Race.  But, notice how the word tred in the second line of the epitaph is tucked in between the two lines indicating that the stone carver had not planned it out completely. What a reminder of so many art projects past. Not enough time to re-do the project. At least they weren’t in stone for all of posterity to see!


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The soul effigy with a wig


In Memory of Mr


Son of Mr. Clefford


Obt. June 1 1777

AE t. 49 Years.


Gr-Gr-Grandfather: Johann Caspar Richter

Gr-Grandfather: Johannes Caspar von Kronenschieldt  Gr-Grandmather: Elizabeth Allen

Grandfather: John Crowninshield 1696 – 1761 Grandmother: Antiss Williams

Father: Clifford Crowninshield 1699 – 1776  Mother: Martha Hillard 1700 – 1736

John Crowninshield Born in 1728 – died July 1, 1777  Wife:  Mary Ives  1730 – 1774

John Crowninshield was from a prominent seafaring and merchant family of Boston and Salem. The family immigrated from Germany and Denmark and settled in America to build a large and prosperous trading company. In Salem, they sailed from the wharf they built and traded for tea, Madeira wine, oranges, salt and iron. They were the first to engage in the pepper trade.

John Crowninshield’s gravestone can be found in the Burying Point Cemetery at Salem, Massachusetts.   A winged soul effigy is carved into the top of gray slate grave marker. The gravestone displays the image of a winged head, which is referred to as a “soul effigy.”

His winged effigy is wearing a wig, a sign of the prominence of the family.   It was the style at the time for upper class men to wear powdered wigs.  When bathing was not an everyday occurrence, men would shave their heads and sport the wig–reducing the chance of getting lice or other head vermin!

The soul effigy represents the flight of the soul from one realm to the other—from Earth to Heaven and symbolizes the transition the soul makes on that journey. This iconography represents a change from the harsh Puritan imagery of skulls, crossed bones, winged death’s heads, and the accoutrements of the grave, such as the casket, or coffin, and burial instruments, such as, the pick and axe.


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The Crown Hill Cemetery Gates


The gates and the waiting station at the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, were designed by Adolph Scherrer in 1885—a busy year for him, as he was also supervising the construction of the Italian Renaissance-style Indiana Capitol building.

The gates are Gothic Revival. Gothic is a term that was adopted during the Renaissance to describe the architectural style that dominated European church construction from about 1150 to 1500 A.D. Italian writer Giorgio Vasari first used the term as a pejorative. He believed that architectural style was vulgar and blamed the “Goths” for destroying much of the ancient and classical buildings for the newer “Gothic” style buildings.

The Gothic-styled churches were meant to give the viewer a sense of height.  The long thin pinnacles, the vaulted ceilings, and the pointed arches stretch upward toward the Heavens to touch the face of God.  This was extreme architecture meant to be awe inspiring.


Here the gates mimic that sense of height and grandeur with elements found in traditional Gothic architecture. The pointed arch, a characteristic Gothic design was part of the transformation away from the Romanesque rounded arch and heavy design. It gives the gates a light airy feeling. Another feature common to Gothic architecture is the tracery decorating the arch. The triangles above the arches display quatrefoils—A Latin word that translates to four leaves, another common element in Gothic-style architecture.

The red brick building, built that same year, is the waiting station. Before everyone travelled in individual cars, they could ride a trolley to the cemetery. There they would wait for the rest of the funeral party to gather before entering the cemetery and following the casket together to the grave. The waiting station is trimmed in limestone with repeating Gothic arches framing the porch.


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Public Enemy #1 betrayed by the Lady in Red or was it Orange?

Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana

Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana

John H. Dillinger Jr.

1903 – 1934

The most notorious Hoosier is undoubtedly John Dillinger, infamous for a year-long crime spree from 1933 to 1934.  Dillinger was born at Oak Hill, an Indianapolis neighborhood but mostly raised in neighboring and rural Mooresville.

At age 31, John Dillinger was wanted by the Division of Investigation, the precursor of the FBI, and was given the moniker Public Enemy #1 by none other than J. Edgar Hoover.  Others had dubbed him “jackrabbit” because of his ability to pull off fast escapes, leaving the pursuing cops in his dust.   In a spree that eluded the police in 4 states, Dillinger and a gang of criminals robbed a number of banks netting over $300,000 in withdrawals.  Many people at that time, the peak of the Depression, sympathized with Dillinger because banks had gone bust and millions of people lost their life savings.  Stories of Dillinger’s exploits fed the newspapers with headlines of daring escapes and robberies.

Dillinger had been jailed in Indiana for a grocery store robbery when he was only 24.  He spent the next 9 years in prison—getting to know many of the hardened criminals who were  serving sentences at the same time.  Within a few months of his release Dillinger and his accomplices had robbed 5 Indiana banks and 4 in Ohio.  Dillinger was captured in Ohio but his gang sprung him loose.  He was captured again in Arizona and sent back to Crown Point, Indiana, to be tried and sentenced.  Dillinger, on March 3, 1934, however, escaped by using a “gun” that he had carved out of a piece of wood and stained black with shoe polish.  To the chagrin and embarrassment of the local sheriff, Lillian Holley, Dillinger used her new Ford as his getaway car!

On July 22, 1934, after more close calls and robberies, Dillinger, was laying low and staying with his girlfriend, Polly Hamilton at Chicago.  Her landlady was Romanian-born Anna Cumpanas Sage.  Sage had been running a brothel and had deportation proceedings started against her.  When she realized that Polly was dating Dillinger she contacted her boyfriend, a Chicago policeman, to see if she could cut a deal for the reward and a promise that the she would not be sent back to Romania.  To escape the stifling July heat, Dillinger planned to go to the air conditioned Biograph Theater to see the latest Gary Grant movie, Manhattan Melodrama.  Sage tipped off the police and they laid in wait for the threesome to leave the theater after the movie ended.  When they left the theater at 10:30 the police were lying in wait.  Anna was wearing an orange dress, which in the glint of the theater lighting looked red.  The police began the chase and when Dillinger drew his gun he was shot—four times.

The Dillinger Family had a plot in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis and made arrangements to have their son’s body interred at the cemetery.  Many people who had family members buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, objected to John Dillinger being buried there.  But the cemetery officials stated that the Dillinger family had a right to bury their son with the other family members and the cemetery must “do its duty”.  The day of the funeral, July 25, Crown Point Cemetery closed the gates to onlookers but the family plot was close to the fence and nearly 5,000 gawkers gathered to see the burial.  As Dillinger’s wooden casket was being lowered into the ground a summer squall darkened the skies and rained on the small family funeral huddled underneath the funeral tent.

Rumors circulated that Dillinger had pulled off the hoax of a lifetime—that he was not actually dead after all and someone else was buried in the Crown Hill plot.  In addition to that, the Dillinger family had been offered a great sum of money for John Dillinger’s body which was wanted for a traveling exhibit in a sideshow.  Fearing grave robbery, John Dillinger Sr. arranged to have scrap metal and concrete poured over his son’s casket, as well as, four reinforced cement slabs.  The family also delayed marking the grave for over two years for fear of discretion.

The small gray granite gravestone has been chipped away by souvenir seekers and the stone has been replaced several times.  And even though a president and several vice presidents and many other notables are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, Dillinger’s grave is one of the most visited.

In fact, the day I visited the grave to snap the picture of his grave a very young couple was there ahead of me.  Out of curiosity, I asked them why they came to the grave.  The young man said that his grandfather had owned the same model car as Dillinger and was about the same age and build when after one of his Indiana bank robberies, the police pulled his grandfather.  After a couple of hours of detention they realized Dillinger had given them the slip and they had the wrong man.

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An oddly-shaped pearl

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Jacob Burnett

February 22, 1770 – May 10, 1853

Rebecca Wallace Burnet

August 23, 1778 – January 3, 1867

Jacob Burnet was a prominent citizen and early leader in Ohio, serving in various elected and appointed posts including, serving on the Territorial Council in 1799, elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, appointed to the state’s Supreme Court, and appointed to fill the Senate seat William Henry Harrison vacated when he was elected President.  He also authored the state’s first constitution.

He and his wife Rebecca are buried in the highly ornate white Italian marble mausoleum in the Spring Grove Cemetery which was designed by Cincinnati architect Charles Rule.  The sweeping lines, the flowing architecture and the high ornamentation are examples of Baroque architecture which was popular in the late seventeenth Century.  “Baroque” was a Spanish term for pearls that were oddly shaped.  The term was commandeered to describe architecture that was designed to have a feeling of movement, almost as if it was undulating and lyrical.  Judge Burnet was originally buried in the Presbyterian churchyard but was moved in 1865 when the mausoleum his wife had designed and built was completed.


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Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Joseph Earnshaw

September 16, 1831 – January 13, 1906

Neoclassical designed monuments can be found in many large urban cemeteries in the United States, including Spring Grove Cemetery at Cincinnati, Ohio.


The Joseph Earnshaw Grecian Corinthian-style monument was based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates which is located at the base of the Acropolis at Athens, Greece.  The Lysicrates monument was the first building to have Corinthian columns on its exterior.  The building was built by Lysicrates a wealthy patron of musical performances in the Theater of Dionysus.

The Choragic Lysicrates Monument, Athens, Greece

The Choragic Lysicrates Monument, Athens, Greece

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Death’s dusky hand

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio

Andrew Erkenbrecher

July 4, 1821

January 3, 1885

Andrew Erkenbrecher was a German immigrant who came to America with his parents when he was a child.  He was quite industrious and worked in a series of jobs until he founded his own company.  Andrew opened a starch factory and grain mill.  It was the starch, though, that made his fortune.  When Cincinnati was struck by a caterpillar plague in the late 1800s, Erkenbrecher imported birds to combat the caterpillars.  He treasured the birds and imported exotics of all kinds which later became  a focal point as an exhibit in the Cincinnati Zoo, which he helped found.

Andrew Erkenbrecher’s cast bronze monument in the Spring Grove Cemetery at Cincinnati, Ohio, features a woman leaning back on a pillow while holding a tablet in her right hand.  The lines of a poem by the German poet Friedrich Ruckert are inscribed on the tablet which seem to extoll the virtues of death and the prize it brings:

“Though Death ends well all life’s distress.  Yet life still shudders at Death’s approach

Life only sees Death’s dusky hand.  And not the shinning cup it bears”.


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