The Willow and the Lamb

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana


To the memory of

HARRIET W. daughter of

Joseph G. & Eliza Ann Cowden

who departed this life

February 28, 1841;

aged 6 years and 8 months.

Her spirit flew with gladness,

To dwell with saints above,

She left us here in sadness

To mourn our absent love.

Also an infant son.


One of my favorite graveyard symbols is the willow.  Maybe because it is a little sentimental and hints at the human emotions felt during grief.  The willow motif represents what one might expect; sorrow and grief, it is after all a “weeping” willow.  In both of these examples, the willow symbol is combined with the lamb, and, both of these gravestones are for children. The lamb is the symbol of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It also represents innocence, likely the reason why this motif usually adorns the tombstones of infants and young children. Most often the lamb is lying down, often asleep.

Crown Hill Cemetery, Salem, Indiana

Crown Hill Cemetery, Salem, Indiana

William Augustus

Son of

Jeremiah And

Abigail S. Roubound

Died Nov. 4. 1840

Aged 3 yrs. & 8 d’s

Jesus calls me.



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Mother and the Pilgrim

Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois

Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois

Many large urban cemeteries have not only incredible pieces of sculpture as memorials but have other commissioned works of art to commemorate important dates in the history of the graveyard. Two such sculptures were commissioned for the Bohemian National Cemetery at Chicago, Illinois, by the famed Czech-American sculptor, Albin Polasek (February 14, 1879 – May 19, 1965). Polasek was a prolific artist who created hundreds of works during his famed career.


The Bohemian National Cemetery commissioned Polasek to create a sculpture for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the cemetery. Polasek created a bronze tribute to motherhood, aptly titled, Mother, which stands in front of the cemetery’s crematorium. A mother figure holds a baby to her breast while her son stands next to her holding a torch with one hand and clutching to his Mothers’ robe with the other.


The second sculpture was completed only a year later by Polasek for the Stejskal-Buchal family to stand in front of their mausoleum.


The cloaked and hooded figure titled, The Pilgrim, has been mistaken for the grim reaper—sallow, gaunt, and walking with a stick toward the mausoleum door—a haunting visage.


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Little Lamb

Simpson's Chapel Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana

Simpson’s Chapel Cemetery, Greene County, Indiana

There are many gravestone symbols that seem to be ubiquitous—the lamb is one of them. Walk into nearly any American graveyard and you will find tiny little lambs marking the graves of mostly children. The lamb symbols come in many sizes and positions—often sleeping. But the lamb on the gravestone of an infant named Nellie in the Simpson’s Chapel Cemetery south of Bloomfield, Indiana, is raising its head up, eyes wide open, as if it is looking at the passersby. The lamb on Nellie’s gravestone, who died and was born in the same month in 1909, is aged and the light gray soft marble has eroded and gives the lamb the texture of a stuffed animal, soft and cuddly. The lamb, alert and bright eyed, looks like it could stand up at any moment and leap from the top of the stone.


The lamb is the symbol of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It also represents innocence, likely the reason why this motif usually adorns the tombstones of infants and young children. Most often the lamb is lying down, often asleep and sometimes with a cross behind the lamb.

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Log Cabin

Freedom Cemetery, Mitchell, Indiana

Freedom Cemetery, Mitchell, Indiana



FEB. 21, 1872

NOV. 5, 1939



Just south of Mitchell, Indiana, on Highway 37, is a small rural cemetery by the side of the road—Freedom Cemetery. One of the remarkable gravestones was created for Wallace B. Brown to look like a log cabin. It is amazing in its detail right down to the scythe hanging to the left of the doorway and the maul resting to the right of it. Every log, every shingle is intricately carved to make it look like a real log cabin in miniature.


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Immigrant Patriot and Soldier

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana

Springdale Cemetery, Madison, Indiana



Memory of


Lt. Col. of the 32nd Reg. Ind.

Infantry Vol.


On the 9yh day of Apr. 1839

at the town of DielKirchen

Rhinpfalz. Germany


from a mortal wound as a hero

on the 25th of Nov. 1863 at the

battle of Missionary Ridge, Tenn.


For our country may he rest in peace.


During the Civil War, Americans, North and South, joined to defend their ideals and their region of the country. German immigrants were among the largest immigrant populations that fought in the war. The 32nd Regiment of Indiana Volunteers was an infantry unit, commissioned by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, which was made up of an all-German force. It was also called the 1st German.

Jacob Glass was enlisted in the 1st German and had distinguished himself and risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Glass fought in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, a bloody battle. The Union losses totaled 752 killed, 4,713 wounded, and 350 captured or missing compared to the Confederate losses of 361 killed, 2,180 wounded, and 4,146 missing or captured. Even though the Union losses were greater, they won the day and gained control of Eastern Tennessee closing off a key rail line that supplied the Confederate Army.

Glass, who fought and died in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, is buried in the Springdale Cemetery at Madison, Indiana, his remains were returned to his home. His soft white marble tombstone has a medallion on the side that displays the eagle upon a shield backed by three American flags and a field of 23 stars–one for each state that stayed loyal to the Union thrghout the war. The gray patina highlights the bas-relief and makes the sculpture stand out. The medallion is a testament to his patriotism and the service to his adopted country.


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The Tent

Elmwood Cemetery, Elmwood, Illinois

Elmwood Cemetery, Elmwood, Illinois




MAY 18, 1842


APR. 8, 1888

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization that formed in England in the 1700s as a service organization. The American association was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819. According to the I.O.O.F. Website, “Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England founded Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.”

Members of the Odd Fellows, like many other society members, choose to have their membership memorialized on their tombstones. The most common Odd Fellows symbol to be found in a cemetery are the three links often paired with three letters, F L T, which signify the organization’s motto: Friendship, Love, and Truth.

George Farnum belonged to a higher branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows—the Odd Fellows Encampment. At the top of his gravestone, in an incised design, are the three links but below a tent with two crossed shepherd’s hooks. The hooks are a reminder of the nomadic Israelites who watched over flocks of sheep to make sure they were safe. The tents symbolize the transitory nature of life itself. All life is temporary. The tent represents the sentiment that “we abide here, as we are on a pilgrimage to the grave.

Membership in the Encampment was open to all Third Degree members in good standing. The Encampment has three degrees:

  • Patriarchal Degree – Aims to teach the lessons of transparent honesty, domestic purity, genuine hospitality and unfeigned righteousness.
  • Golden Rule Degree – Aims to teach good will, tolerance, and true brotherhood. It also teaches that members should unite with the virtuous and good irrespective of country, religion, or politics in the discharge of duties which all agree are paramount to universal peace and cooperation.
  • Royal Purple Degree – Aims to teach alertness and determination as basis for a possible success in the journey called life.


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Truth in Advertising?


Not far from the Old Lincoln Highway (now marked County Road L20) going from Council Bluffs to Missouri Valley, just south of Loveland if you turn east on 170th and fish around on the gravel road until you get to the junction of Whitetail Lane, you run into the Branson Cemetery sign. Close to it is another sign, this one erected by the Pottawattamie County Road workers marking Whitetail Lane as a dead end. I wonder as they put the sign up if they saw the irony.

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