Halloween Aftermath


The day after Halloween, jack o’ lanterns turned up in Rosehill Cemetery at Bloomington, Indiana.


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Take a seat


The rustic movement of the mid-nineteenth century was characterized by designs that were made to look like they were from the country. Elegant and slim curved lines in furniture gave way to bulkier and heavier forms made from pieces that came directly from the trees often with the bark still intact.


Homes, cabins, and garden houses were designed in the rustic style eschewing classic designs. In decorative furniture this often took the form of chairs made from rough tree limbs curved to form arms and chair backs, chair legs made from tree roots growing upwards.


Stonecutters displayed a wide variety of design as can be seen in this selection of graveyard benches in the Greenhill Cemetery at Bedford, Indiana.

Note the mushrooms carved into the bench--can you spot them?

Note the mushrooms carved into the bench–can you spot them?

Note the heart shaped carved into the bench.

Note the heart shape carved into the bench.

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The Plow

Elmwood Cemetery, Elmwood, Illinois

Elmwood Cemetery, Elmwood, Illinois




BORN OCT. 10, 1823,


JUNE 11, 1886

Gone but not forgotten



AUG. 13, 1873,

AGED 76 YRS. 4 MOS. 9 DYS.



DIED SEPT. 5, 1854,


“White bronze” or zinc cemetery markers were manufactured from the 1870s until 1912.  The markers are distinguished by their bluish-gray tint.  The markers are not bronze but actually cast zinc.  The zinc is resistant to corrosion but the zinc becomes brittle over time and cracking and shrinking can occur.

The companies that produced zinc funeral monuments made many variations.  The various symbols could be bolted in place by special order much the same way that an erector set is bolted together. The dominant symbols on this marker are:

The plow


The plow is another one of the “farm” images found on this marker. According to some sources the plow symbolizes the harvest; just as the scythe, the plow can represent the reaping of life. This may possibly be a tribute to the deceased profession, as well—a farmer—as it represents one of the main implements of farming.



Wheat’s origins are unknown but is the basis of basic food and a staple in many cultures. Because of wheat’s exalted position as a mainstay foodstuff, it is viewed as a gift from Heaven. Wheat symbolizes immortality and resurrection.  But, like many symbols found on gravestones, they can have more than one meaning.  For instance, because wheat is the main ingredient of bread, the sheaf of wheat can represent the Body of Christ.  Wheat can also represent a long life, usually more than three score and ten, or seventy years.

The draped urn


The urn, of course, is a container used to hold the ashes or the cremated remains of the dead.  In this case, the urn is draped and serves as a finial for the marker.  The drapery either represents a shroud representing death and sorrow, or can also be a motif that represents a veil that separates the earth and Heaven.



Corn is an ancient American crop that has been exported to all corners of the world.  It is not only ubiquitous in our Midwestern fields but corn syrup is in nearly every food on the grocery store shelf.  It is right and fitting then that corn represents fertility since its abundance is obvious.  It also represents rebirth in funerary art.

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Henry Ford’s Mort Safe

Henry Ford Gravesite, Ford Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan

Henry Ford Gravesite, Ford Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan


JULY 30, 1863

APRIL 7, 1947


APRIL 11, 1866

SEPTEMBER 29, 1950

Next to a busy thoroughfare in Detroit, Motor City, lies the tiny and inconspicuous Ford Family Cemetery fittingly wedged between a 4-lane busy boulevard and a small church. The cemetery contains fewer than 50 or 60 graves, most of them bearing the last name of Ford, including Henry Ford, the great car manufacturer and industrialist. What makes his gravesite unique is the ornate metal contraption built over the grave, which is known as a mort safe. The mort safe was invented in Scotland more than two hundred years before Henry Ford was buried.


During the dark of night after the last lights in the Scottish villages were put out, gravediggers would go about their gruesome trade—pulling the dead from their graves to sell to medical schools. The nightmarish practice grew out of a need for medical students to have cadavers on which to study and practice. At first medical schools were content with the dead bodies of executed convicts and the indigent—those who society did not care about. But when the need outstripped the supply for fresh corpses, ghoulish entrepreneurs set about their craft with little more that strong backs, picks and shovels, and the cover of the darkness of night.

The discovery of emptied gravesites and missing loved ones disturbed the locals and solutions were sought. Some paid night guards to watch over fresh graves until, well, they weren’t fresh anymore. This practice was only as good as the guard was honest—they were often paid off and helped in the trade. Then, mort safes were invented. The term is the combination of the Latin—mort—meaning dead and the word safe—obviously to keep the dead body safe. The contraption that was invented was usually made of an iron grillwork of sorts, often with a weight of cement on top, but the designs varied greatly. The mort safe surrounded the top of the gravesite and kept the gravediggers at bay.

"Mortsafe at Logeriat Church1" by Judy Willson - Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mortsafe_at_Logeriat_Church1.jpg#/media/File:Mortsafe_at_Logeriat_Church1.jpg

“Mortsafe at Logeriat Church1” by Judy Willson – Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mortsafe_at_Logeriat_Church1.jpg#/media/File:Mortsafe_at_Logeriat_Church1.jpg

The great car manufacturer, Henry Ford’s grave is covered with a mort safe, too. Little likelihood, though, that the Ford family believed his body would be snatched and sold to a medical school.


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Sprig of Roses


Fairmount Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

Fairmount Cemetery, Madison, Indiana


Consort of



July 17, 185o:

Aged 27 years

& 13 days.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

Romantics have waxed poetic about the rose and the connection to love for centuries which has made the rose an undeniable symbol of love.  On this gravestone, James Edgar, expresses his love for his wife, Sophi, who only lived 13 days past her 27th birthday with the rose symbolism in the octagon-shaped recess at the top of the soft white marble gravestone.  The two sprigs of roses are tied together with a bow encircling Sophi’s name. Each fully-blossomed rose is accompanied by a rosebud perhaps symbolic of a woman old enough to be married but still so young.

The rose also has a religious meaning, differing by color.  The white rose symbolizes purity while the red rose represents martyrdom and the messianic hope that Christ will return.


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Dreamless Dust

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana


Dr. Joseph Barnard (1838-1926) was a Presbyterian minister who plied his craft in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Joseph and his wife Martha Grey Grubb Barnard (1842-1919) and their children eventually settled in Madison, Indiana, where Barnard served as a minister of the 2nd Presbyterian Church there for over 20 years.

The Birth, by George Grey Barnard

The Birth, by George Grey Barnard

While Barnard was an influential minister in southern Indiana, his son, George Grey Barnard, (1863-1938) gained fame as a noted American sculptor. His works can be found in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the town of Cairo, Illinois, the state capitol building at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, among other places, as well as, the Springdale Cemetery at Madison, Indiana, where he sculpted a statue to honor his parents.


Some sources say the statue was titled, “Let There Be Light” while John Bower’s book, Guardians of the Soul, a book about cemetery sculptures in Indiana, say it was titled “Immortality.” According to the book Barnard’s masterful sculpture was described as “an incomparably beautiful figure of a woman in the matching loveliness of mature perfection and form…the lovely hands are uplifted, parting the veil that encircles the voiceless silence of dreamless dust.”


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Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana

In 1864, the Knights of Pythias was founded by Justus H. Rathbone, making it the very first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an Act of the United States Congress.  Local chapters like the one in Bloomington, Indiana, began to spring up in communities in every state. The building has a large “KP” on top of it, along with a street entrance that leads up to the lodge on the second floor.



Above the entrance is lighted triangular sign that features many of the symbols that are significant to the Knights of Pythias:  the silhouette of a knight’s helmet sitting in the middle of a pyramid-shaped shield with three letters, “F”, “C”, and “B”. The three letters stand for their motto, FRIENDSHIP, CHARITY, and BENEVOLENCE.

The cast-iron grave marker was manufactured by the organization to mark the graves of members. The small marker displays the three letters “F”, “C”, and “B” and the Lodge Number 104.

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

The society is based on the Greek story of friendship from 400 B. C. between Damon and Pythias, members of a school founded by Pythagoras.

According to their Website, Pythians: promote cooperation and friendship between people of good will, find happiness through service to mankind, believe that friendship is essential in life, view home life as a top priority, show an interest in public affairs, enhance their home communities, respect and honor the law of the land, and expand their influence with people of like interests and energy.


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