Frighten the evil spirits

Robert H. Richards

January 18, 1830 – September 16, 1888

Josephine A. Rankin Richards

August 12, 1833 – December 14, 1910

The Robert H. Richards mausoleum, built by H. Q. French and Company of New York, in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, is considered one of the most beautiful in the cemetery—a cemetery not short on beautiful mausoleums. Richards was a London-born businessman who successfully opened Atlanta’s first bookstore but really made “bank” when he co-founded the Atlanta National Bank with Alfred Austell.

The warm-colored stone mausoleum located on a slice-of-pie-shaped lot, is a combination of architectural designs—Gothic revival and Romanesque.  The vertical design, with a quatrefoil window in the tower are common elements in the Gothic style.  The rounded arches above the door and in the tower each with a slight Gothic peak, are much more reminiscent of Romanesque architecture.

The structure’s four gargoyles, also a Gothic feature, on the tower feature bats facing outward—with their wings stretched backward as the entire animal juts forward.  The bat is a rare graveyard symbol. Like many symbols it represents one thing in Eastern cultures and quite another in the West. To the Eastern cultures the bat is seen as a symbol of good fortune.

Not so in the West. Since Medieval times, the bat has symbolized demons and evil spirits. In cemetery symbolism the bat is associated with the underworld. Think how often the bat is used as a Halloween decoration—it is part of all things spooky, creepy, and the macabre.  As if the bats weren’t scary enough, these have lion heads and talons.  According to Images of America: Historic Oakland Cemetery, by Tevi Taliaferro, (pages 42 and 43), they are “intended to frighten away evil spirits” and many a child, I imagine.

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Memory

When William Foote died, his wife, Ida, commissioned the great artist Lorado Taft to create a memorial for her husband.  The bronze memorial that Taft created has become known as the Foote Angel, even though, it does not have wings.  The statue is an allegorical figure representing “memory.”  The work was completed in 1923.  The monumental figure sits on a bench, with a stylus in one hand and an unrolled scroll across her lap.

Lorado Zadoc Taft was one of the great American sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th Century. His parents, a homemaker, and a professor of geology, homeschooled young Lorado before he went on to the Illinois Industrial University (which later became the University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign), where he received a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He then studied abroad at the famed Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts from 1880 to 1883, in Paris where he was widely recognized for his talent. He returned to the United States and settled in Chicago where he took up a career as an artist and a teacher. Taft was a widely published scholar on the topic and his work was highly sought after.  He was produced many private commissions and also many public works including The Soldier’s Monument in Oregon, Illinois, The Solitude of the Soul Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Fountain of Time in Chicago.

When Taft died, Taft’s ashes were scattered in the Elmwood Cemetery at Elmwood, his hometown. A monument to him was erected with a small replica of one of his own favorite sculptures mounted on top of a rose-colored granite base.

The plaque in front of his memorial states:

LORADO ZADOK TAFT BORN IN ELMWOOD, ILLINOIS ON APRIL 29, 1860

DIED IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS ON OCTOBER 30, 1936

“MEMORY” IS A SMALL ORIGINAL REPLICA OF AN

ORIGINAL CAST BRONZE STATUE TITLED

“FOOTE MEMORIAL ANGEL.” THE MEMORIAL, LOCATED

IN WOODLAND CEMETERY IN JACKSON, MICHIGAN,

WAS A FAVORITE OF TAFT’S WIFE.

“MEMORY” WAS DEDICATED IN HIS HONOR AT THIS

ETERNAL RESTING PLACE ON APRIL 29, 1938.

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TWO GIRLS MEET DEATH IN FILM FIRE

LOTTIE HAM

BORN

Dec. 12, 1898.

DIED

Oct. 16, 1915

A precious one from

us has gone

A voice we love

Is stilled,

Her place is vacant

In our home That

Never can be filled.

The gray granite monument to Lottie Ham in the Crest Lawn Cemetery in Atlanta depicts two young women flanking a tombstone with the inscription bearing Lottie’s name and birth and death date and a well-known epitaph.  Lottie Ham was a 17-year old girl who was killed in a fire that swept through the Mutual Film Exchange Mion Building at no. 40—42 Luckie Street in Atlanta at 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, October 16th, 1915.

The Sunday morning, October 17th, Atlanta Constitution front page carried the following banner headline, “TWO GIRLS MEET DEATH IN FILM FIRE; NINE ARE INJURED BY FURIOUS BLAZE AT MUTUAL OFFICE.”  The article goes on to detail some of the tragedy, “…Two girls are dead, another dying and nine other victims’ badly burned and injured, as a result of a fire which originated in the inspector’s room of the Mutual Film exchange, Luckie and Cone streets…and quickly spread to all parts of the two-story building, cutting off every means of exit for those working in on the second floor…The cause of the fire is debatable.  Some of the employees state that it was caused by the fuse in the electrical machine which operates the renovator blowing out and the sparks igniting the highly combustible moving picture film in the inspector’s room.”

“SPONTANEUOUS COMBUSTION”

C.E. Kessnick, manager of the Mutual Film Exchange, on the other hand, believes that the origin of the fire was spontaneous combustion.”

Both young women who met their deaths were trapped in the small supply room at the rear of the second floor, into which they fled in order to escape out of the windows from the room  They were overcome by gas resulting from the combustion.”

According to the History of Service: Atlanta Fire Department Commemorative Yearbook, published by Turner Publishers in Paducah, Kentucky, 2000, “The fire originated on the ground floor near the stockroom and inspector’s room when a spark from an electric fan ignited scraps of film on the cutting table.  The flames flashed with explosive force through the first floor.  Most of the employees on this floor were able to escape without injury, but the flames swept up the stairs and enveloped the reels of highly combustible nitrocellulose film stored in the racks here…Thousands of feet of motion picture film were including several two-reel pictures of Charlie Chaplin, Harry Snubi, Harold Lockwood, Mabel Norman, Fatty Arbuckle and Chester Conklin.”

The two women who died the day of the fire were Miss Lottie Ham of 15 Dillon Street in Atlanta and Miss Clara Westbrook of Gordon Avenue of Kirkwood, Georgia. Clara was born Georgia Clara Westbrook and was born September 1, 1886 and died the day of the fire, October 16, 1915, and buried at the Union Methodist Cemetery in Canton, Georgia.

Over one hundred years have passed since Lottie’s gravestone was put in place, so it is impossible to know with certainty, the exact meaning of the two figures on the monument.  The two women could represent mourning figures, or seemingly depict two images of Lottie, as they are dressed the same, even with the same pendant necklace.  However, upon reading the news accounts, it just might be a tribute to Lottie and Clara who were together and died as a result of the fire—trapped in the same small supply room overcome by the gases released as the nitrocellulose film that was stored in the racks of the building went up in an explosive blaze.

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A Big Comfy Chair

Horace Francis Ebert

1853 – 1893

Mary Ellen Dennett Bachelder Ebert

1855 – 1905

Edith L. Ebert Mulno

1873 – 1899

 

The Ebert Family gravestone in the Lowell, Massachusetts City Cemetery, is a remarkable replica of a tufted chair with dogs’ heads capping the arms.  An open book is left in the seat.  The book is inscribed, “1853 HORACE 1893.” The gravestone marks the grave of Horace Ebert.  Headstones next to the chair mark the graves of Mary Ellen Ebert, Horace’s wife, and their daughter, Edith.

In funerary art, the open book is a symbol commonly found on gravestones. The motif can represent the Book of Life with the names of the just registered on its pages.  Or, often the open book, can also symbolize the Word of God in the form of the Bible.  It can also represent the “story” of the deceased.  But like many symbols found in cemeteries, the interpretation and meaning can have a meaning that is particular to the family members involved in the design of the monument.  In this case, according to several Websites, the book represents Horace Ebert’s love of reading.  One can easily imagine Horace settled back in that comfortable chair reading a book.

The empty chair can symbolize the loss of a loved one.  However, in this case, the sculpted chair is a replica of Horace’s favorite chair which was made from black walnut and upholstered in leather.  The dogs are most likely an original part of the chair’s design and don’t signify any deeper meaning.  But dogs in funerary art symbolize the qualities we think of good dogs having—loyalty, fidelity, and vigilance.

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Profusion of Symbols

JULIET.

Wife of

ELISHA RODGERS

Died

June 8, 1849:

AGED

29 ys 7m & 8 ds.

I recently went looking for the Upper Mound Cemetery just to the West of Covington, Indiana.  Even though I located it on the map, I could not seem to find it.  I stumbled upon the small and very well-kept Lower Mound or Mound Cemetery—but not what I was looking for.  However, I did find a gentleman in the cemetery who gave me explicit directions to the Upper Mound Cemetery which, as it turned out, was only a mile or so away.  In fact, on my way to Lower Mound, I had passed right by it.  If it had not been for the directions from the stranger, I never would have located it.  There is no signage and the side of the lane next to the county road that takes you up to the cemetery is tree-lined and overgrown, completely obscuring a view of the graveyard.  It isn’t until you pull off the county road and look directly up the lane that you get a glimpse of gravestones that you know you are on the right track.

I was specifically looking for the gravestone of Juliet Rodgers.  I had seen a photo of the stone posted on one of the cemetery groups that I follow on Facebook and wanted to see the gravestone for myself.  The gray marble, square-top tablet is extraordinary.  A variety of lettering styles cut deeply and intricately, record the sad details of a far-too-young life cut short.

The top of the tablet depicts a curtain drawn back to reveal an elaborate tableau with a profusion of symbols rich with meaning. The curtain almost looks like it is pulled back as a stage curtain might be.   However, in funerary art the lifted curtain represents the passage from one realm to another; the veil that exists between the Earthly realm and the Heavenly one.

The lyre, the main symbol in the center of the tableau, is an u-shaped stringed instrument that was found in ancient Greece. The lyre was traditionally seen as a symbol of Apollo, the Greek god of music. In Christian symbolism it can represent harmony and Heavenly accord and song in praise of the Lord.  In funerary art, however, the lyre can also represent the end of life.  The lamb, seen here in the bottom left and laying down, is the symbol of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It also represents innocence, often adorning the tombstones of infants and young children.

Twinning through the motif is a thistle.  The thistle is characterized by a purple or red flower that rests in a cup-shaped part of the stem and has prickly leaves and thorns that protect it from plant-eating animals. This flower, like so many symbols in funerary art, represents many different things. For instance, for Christians, the thistle, with its thorns, can symbolize the Passion of Christ—a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns. It is also a symbol of earthly sorrow. After Adam ate of the Tree of Life, God said to Adam that the ground was cursed to him for disobeying Him and that Adam would eat in sorrow. God said that, “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee….”  The thistle is also the floral symbol of Scotland most likely adopted by the Scots because, as legend has it, a Norse army was about to attack a Scottish army encampment when an opposing soldier stepped on a thistle. The soldier cried out alerting the Scots to the presence of the Norsemen. This legend is also likely to be the origin of the Scottish motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, which is translated as, “No one attacks me with impunity” or “No one can harm me unpunished.” The motto is a fitting slogan for the thistle, as well, because to eat it or pick it, one must overcome the thorns.

With everything that is carved into the stone, it is difficult to spot but there are also oak leaves and acorns to be found.  Because of the hardness of the oak tree, it is traditionally thought of as a symbol of strength.

On opposite sides at the top of the lyre is an apple and a rose giving the motif balance as both are cylindrical.  The apple is a symbol of sin, representing the Fall of Man when Adam ate the from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.  However, some see the apple, because of the round shape as a symbol of eternity—the circle.  In the context of the apple being held by Jesus Christ, the apple represents salvation.

Maybe fittingly, the last symbol to note, is the rose—that represents love.  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, it is likely Elisha was expressing his love for his young, 29-year-old wife, Juliet.  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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INRI

In Covington, Indiana, there are two small cemeteries at the North edge of town—Prescott Grove Cemetery and St. Joseph’s Cemetery.  The two are on the same plot of land but separated by a common road that leads into the cemeteries and cuts them in half.  Like many Catholic cemeteries the focal point of the cemetery is a crucifix.  In the case of the St. Joseph Cemetery, the figure of Jesus Christ is painted which has the effect of giving the sculpture a lifelike appearance.  Above the head of Christ is a small rectangular plaque which is called a titulus, or title, with the initials “INRI.”  In Western Christianity, many artists depicted the crucifix with a parchment or plaque, though, some did carve the initials directly into the cross.  The initials, INRI, represent the Latin inscription IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM which in English translates to “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”

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The Gift of a Pineapple

North Bend, Ohio, is where the tomb of William Henry Harrison is located across from the Congressional Green Cemetery which draws the odd history buff to its grounds in search of the ninth president’s grave.  As a president, Harrison is known for two things, his campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” and the fact that he only served 31 days in office before he died of pneumonia.  He gave his inaugural address in the rain, as a macho demonstration that, even though, he was 68, he was still a tough man.

But not far from there, the village of Cleves has its own cemetery, Maple Grove.  That cemetery has some obvious aliases, it is also known as the Miami Township Cemetery (so called for the Township in which it lies) and the Valley Junction Cemetery (named for the road that travels south of Highway 50 and leads to its gates).  The cemetery has five or six sections within the gates.  Generally, the most interesting sections are the older ones—displaying a variety, in this case, of symbols that were popular during the Victorian era when there was an explosion of motifs that replaced the grim and dour Puritan symbols of death and mortality.

However, a gravestone in one of the newer sections stood out.  It is a gray, unpolished granite stone built in several pieces.  The entire gravestone is topped with a pineapple, beautifully carved—nearly good enough to pull off the stone, slice and eat.  That pineapple carving rests on the cap—the piece that looks like the roof of a house.  The piece of stone that looks like a solid block is called the die and on one side has the names of the two people being remembered carved into it, and on the other features a incised design depicting James Earle Fraser’s “End of the Trail” sculpture.  That block or die rests of the plinth which has the family name carved on to it on one side and an epitaph on the other.  And that rests on the base.   That is a lot to decipher.  One thing at a time, so, let’s start at the top.

The pineapple is not a common motif in cemetery art.  Sometimes you will see it on metal work around a family plot but less often on an actual gravestone.  After checking several sources, including various books and websites on the topic, the consensus is that the pineapple represents “hospitality and a good host.” According to those in the know, the pineapple came to symbolize hospitality because seafarers often gave it as a gift after returning from a long journey.  These days, you are most likely to find the motive in tropical hotels.  The exotic fruit, in the context of a cemetery, seems curious.  If that is true, that it represents “hospitality and a good host,” who is the host?  Who is showing the hospitality?  Does it mean that the deceased was a good host?  Or that Heaven welcomes the deceased with open and hospitable arms?

On one side of the marker is a bas-relief replica of the sculpture, The End of the Trail, which was created as a powerful tribute mourning the loss of the Sioux people, by the famous western sculptor, James Earle Fraser, also recognized for the art he created for the United States Mint, for the “Indian Head” Nickel.  Fraser created the sculpture for the Panama Pacific Exposition held in 1915 in San Francisco.  The End of the Trail is also a fitting metaphor for the end of one’s life.

Lastly is a memorable and cautionary epitaph:

When you were born, you cried

And the world rejoiced.

Live your life so that when you die,

The world cries and you rejoice.

Even though, for the most part, newer gravestones don’t seem as interesting, make sure not to overlook what at first appears to be the mundane.  You never know when you will find a hospitable old sea captain’s gift of welcome!

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Memorializing Victorian Children

This gravestone in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Washington, Indiana, is illegible and the boy’s name is lost, his birth and death years appear to be 1888 – 1895.

The gravestones of children are the ones that are uniquely poignant.  It is not natural for  parents to have a child die before they do—children are the future.  The loss is devastating and leaves the parents bereft.  A hole is left in their hearts and their lives.  Gravestones for children take many forms displaying a multitude of symbols—lambs, booties, broken buds, and doves with broken wings, for example. Another way that children were memorialized during the Victorian era was to have their image carved into a monument for the child’s grave.  In many cases the likeness was reproduced from a photograph or painting of the child.  This was done for sons and daughters and continue to be some of the saddest gravestones found in cemeteries.

EDNA MIRIAM PAUL

BORN AUG. 23, 1897 — DIED MAY 2, 1907.

Many hopes are buried here

The likeness of 9 ½ year old Edna Miriam Paul in the St. Luke Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois, was created in the Victorian style of memorializing children in funerary statuary.  The realism of the statue is remarkable as her funerary statue is a recreation of the photograph on the front of the base of her monument.  Edna is depicted in her finest clothing and, as in the photograph, she is wearing a necklace. Her curly hair cascades to her shoulders accentuated by a bow, matching the bow on her dress. True to the image, even her stance is the same in the statue as in the picture.  The epitaph on the gravestone, “Many hopes are buried here,” speaks to the sadness and loss her parents felt.

GEORGE A.

SON OF E.J. &S.A. BLOUNT

BORN SEPT. 26, 1867.

DIED FEB. 14, 1873.

The following can be found on a plaque in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio: ““Georgie” Blount was five when he fell from a banister in the family owned American House Hotel on February 7th, 18873, striking his head on an iron stove.  He passed on February 14th.  The community mourned the loss of this well-known and well-loved child, and this monument was made from a portrait painted shortly before his death.”

Mary Ella McGinnis

Born December 15, 1869

Died August 6, 1875

The likeness of Mary Ella McGinnis was created in the Victorian style of memorializing children in funerary statuary.  The realism of the statue is remarkable.  Mary Ella is depicted in her finest clothing, the eyelet lace still visible in the bottom of her skirt.  She is portrayed holding flowers in her apron with one hand and a single flower in her other hand.  Because of the weathering of the soft marble, the kind of flower is not discernible.  The act of placing the single flower on a grave is a common motif and expresses the transitory nature of life. The flower she holds in one hand is a floral metaphor for a young flower that did not have time to fully bloom on Earth, a poignant visual message coupled with the image of this young girl.

Corliss Randle Ruckle

Born Dec. 19, 1877

Died Dec. 4, 1889

One of the most sought out monuments in the sprawling Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, is that which was carved for Corliss Randle Ruckle, who was born December 19, 1877, and died of diphtheria December 4, 1889, just shy of his 12th birthday.  Corliss was the only son of Nicholas R. Ruckle, who had been a captain in the Civil War in Company E in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to Colonel of the 148th Rec’t Indiana Infantry.  His mother was Jennie Moore Ruckle.  Corliss Randle Ruckle is depicted in a white-collared shirt tied with a bow, wearing knee breeches, button-up shoes, while sitting on a spiral staircase, with an open book and a small bouquet of flowers.  His family memorialized young Corliss in a lifelike statue.

ANISE E. HART

DEAR PARENTS WITH A

REVERENT HAND,

THIS TO THY MEMORY GIVEN

WHILE ONE BY ONE THY

HOUSEHOLD BAND,

GOD REUNITES IN HEAVEN.

(On the front of the gravestone)

Anise E. Hart

September 28, 1897

July 28, 1909

This gravestone is in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Montgomery, Indiana, dedicated to Anise E. Hart, the twelve-year old daughter of James and Alice Hart.  This example was carved by Bedford, Indiana, stone carver Ira Correll. According to the Smithsonian Save Outdoor Art, Indiana Survey, the limestone statue of the young girl was carved by Correll from a photograph of Anise.  The description from the Smithsonian survey describes the statue as “wearing a dress, a layered blouse with fluffed sleeves, a belt, high-laced shoes, and a bracelet on her proper left wrist. Her hair is in long ringlets, caught with a bow in the back. She holds a small bunch of roses in her proper right hand.”  The limestone figure stands upon a red granite base decorated with small Corinthian columns, and a cross.

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A Small Stairway to Heaven

There is a weathered marble gravestone with the words, “Children of H. A. and S. A. Smith” carved into the plinth.  The small white marble gravestone is in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Washington, Indiana.  Unfortunately, the marble is so badly eroded that the names of the children, which appeared on the top of the gravestone, are no longer legible—they are lost to history.

The symbolism on the marker is badly weathered, too, but easily discernible.  The most dominate motif on the marker—open gates—is very common in American cemeteries.  In this example, the gates are attached to rounded columns with what appears to be Corinthian capitals, holding up an arch.  The arch represents a triumph of life over death, victory over the darkness of the grave.

The open gates, which are central to the Last Judgment, are open.  The gates here represent a passageway from one realm to the next.  The gates are the portal for saved souls to make their passage from the Earthly realm to the Heavenly realm upon Christ’s return.

This example also has a dove.  Many symbols found on gravestones have multiple meanings—the dove is one of those.  Several references in the Bible refer to the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16 reads, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” In Mark 1:10 the Bible says, “And Straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.” Again in John 1:32, the Bible reads, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.”

Along with the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the dove is also closely associated with peace, often depicted with a sprig of an olive in its beak. This, too, originated in the Bible. After the waters receded in the story of Noah, the dove appears. Genesis 8:11, “And the dove came into him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”   It was a sign of God’s forgiveness.

The dove, with its white color, is also a symbol of purity and innocence and for that reason is often found the tombstones of children, most likely why it was carved on this stone, in honor the Smith family children.  Thus, the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, peace, and purity.

Less often seen in connection with the open gates motif is the staircase leading up to the open gates—the stairway, albeit small, to Heaven.  I have always envisioned it much longer and grandiose!

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Tragedy at Winter Quarters

The Pioneer Mormon Cemetery in Florence, now a northern suburb of Omaha, Nebraska, was not far from where I grew up.  And depending on how I went to or came home from elementary school, the tiny cemetery was on my way.  So, I did peak in a time or two when I was a kid.

After the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith and his brother, Hiram, were killed in the Carthage jail in Carthage, Illinois, the Mormons decided, under the leadership of Brigham Young, that they needed to abandon Nauvoo, Illinois, and head further West.  In June of 1846, the band of exiles landed on the west side of the Missouri River and encamped there in what became known as the Winter Quarters.  My great-great-great grandparents, Ezra and Catherine Vincent, were part of that migration.  But Catherine was “great with child” so they crossed back over the river and settled in what later became Harrison County, Iowa.  Their daughter, Julia, was the first female child of European descent born in the county.  They stayed put in Western Iowa to farm and escaped the losses that many others experienced as they buried their loved ones along the journey to Utah.  For many, the Winter Quarters where their journey ended.

Marking the portal to many small country cemeteries are simple gates made of metal letters stretched between two metal poles. But, the gate into the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery is more like a garden gate, except there are two exceptional bronze plaques flanking the gate memorializing the nearly 600 Mormons who are buried there in unmarked graves.

The plaque to the left, depicts a cloaked mourning figure hovering over the words inscribed for passersby to read, “IN LOVING MEMORY OF THE SIX THOUSAND DEVOTED PIONEERS WHO DIED ON THE PLAINS BETWEEN 1846 – 1869.  THE BODIES OF NEARLY SIX HUNDRED OF THOSE BRAVE SOULS WERE BURIED WITHIN THIS SACRED ENCLOSURE.”

The bronze plaque to the right of the gate features a bas-relief depicting a woman leaning slightly back with both hands raised seemingly in awe with the rising sun behind her.  Her feet indicate that she floats above the Earth.  The inscription circling around the sun, reads, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, THIS MORTAL BODY IS RAISED TO AN IMMORTAL BODY.”  Running down the side of the plaque is a Biblical passage, “THE DEAD SHALL HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD AND THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE. JOHN V:25.  Underneath that, “FOR THEY SHALL REST FROM THEIR LABORS HERE AND SHALL CONTINUE THEIR WORKS.” DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS, SEC.: 124:86.

Both bronze plaques were the work of J. Leo (1878-1946) and Avard Tennyson Fairbanks (1897 – 1987). J. Leo and Avard Fairbanks were the sons of artist John Fairbanks and Lilly Annetta Huish.  Both sons were born in Utah.  J. Leo was a painter, sculptor, and art educator in high school and college.  Avard Fairbanks, the youngest of the eleven children in the Fairbanks family, was also a trained sculptor who started his art training at the age of 13, studying under the famed James Earle Fraser at the Art Students League of New York.  He also studied in Paris at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, The Academie Colarossi and the Ecole Moderne.  Avard had a long career as a professor of sculptor teaching at the Art Institute of Seattle, The University of Michigan, The University of Utah, and the University of North Dakota.

While teaching he also took commission and created sculptures that can be seen throughout the country, including St. Anthony’s Doughboy in Keefer Park in Idaho, the bas-relief panels on the bronze doors to the United States National Bank Building in Portland, Oregon, and a statue of George Washington for the Washington State Capitol.  Fairbanks created several statues of the Angel Moroni for Latter Day Saints temples and many other sculptures commissioned by the LDS Church, including the centerpiece of the Pioneer Mormon Cemetery in Florence—a sculpture titled, “Tragedy at Winter Quarters,” created in 1936, which depicts grief-stricken parents who have just buried their infant child.

In a circle at the base of the statue is another plaque that features what appears to be an angel in the middle with her arms outward.  On either side of her are the names of the Mormons who died and were buried in the cemetery during the Winter Quarters.  This, too, was sculpted by Avard Fairbanks, as part of a moving memorial to the Mormons who lost their lives on the journey to Salt Lake City.

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