Honoring Those Who Served

Not far outside Bloomington, Indiana, is a small country cemetery.  Like many of the cemeteries in Indiana, the stone carvers’ unique work can be found on the gravestones.  The Mt. Ebal Cemetery has two such stones marking the graves of two soldiers—one who fought in the Civil War and one who fought in World War I.



JULY 6, 1846

SEPT. 14, 1930




OCT. 20, 1844

MAY 17, 1943


The William Meadows gravestone has an inset with a bas-relief of a Union soldier carved into it.  Even without knowing what war Meadows fought in the skill and detail of the stone carver makes it clear that it was the Civil War.  Meadows stands as if he is ready to march into battle, clutching his Springfield rifle, bayonet hanging from his belt, and his Haversack and bed roll on his back.  Meadows died just five months short of his 99th birthday and the one memory he wished to preserve for all to know and see was his service to his country—carved into his gravestone as an image and recording the unit in which he served.



BORN 1889

DIED 1938


16th INF.

The bas-relief carving of the World War I soldier on the front of the gravestone most likely represents James Butcher himself.  In the sculpture, the solider appears to be marching forward possibly through water that is splashing up on both sides of him.  He is wearing the uniform of the day—steel helmet with chin strap, the brown woolen uniform with the knee breeches and carrying a rifle with the bayonet attached.  Peaking up from his shoulders is the rolled up anti-gas cape and loosely hanging around his neck is a respirator made necessary by the gas that was used during WW I.  The determined look on his face expresses a soldier ready to take the fight to the enemy.

On this day, we give thanks to all those soldiers who served and protected America and most especially to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

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Neo-Classical Angel

The neo-classical angel on this white marble gravestone in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, looks downward with a sorrowful expression as she leans against the torch, the flames curling at its base.   The beautifully carved bas-relief angel is on a gravestone from the 1850s.  Unfortunately the name of the deceased is difficult to discern.

The flame on the gravestone is symbolic of the soul.  The inverted torch represents a life that has been extinguished.  Angels are popular images found in cemeteries throughout the world.  The English word “angel,” is derived from the Greek word “aggelos” meaning messenger or herald.  Here the angel brings the news that a life has been lost.

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COVID-19 Strikes

During a bad bout of cabin fever, I decided to drive the four hours to Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, 317 landscaped acres of gravestones, mausoleums, and memorials.  The famous, such as Eddie Rickenbacker and James Thurber, as well as, the not-so-famous are buried in this beautifully planned garden cemetery.

I knew that I would be far from the maddening crowds and safe from the virus—cemeteries are naturally practicing social distancing.  All the residents are six feet away, or well, six feet under.

As you drive down the long lane into the cemetery, on the left side is a life-sized sculpture of a Native American, tomahawk and all, marking the Gabriel Family plot.  Unfortunately, the day I visited the cemetery, safety practices for COVID-19 had been put in place and the sculpture was wearing a red paisley handkerchief mask—as they say, “Mask-it or Casket”, so I didn’t have a chance to see the full face of the sculpture, which I imagine to be stern and regal.  I hope my next trip the cemetery will be after the virus has been wrangled to the ground and stamped out and the face of the sculpture will be revealed in all of its glory!

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The Crown and the Angel

Elisabeth L. Roark wrote an article about cemetery angels titled, “Embodying Immortality: Angels in America’s Rural Garden Cemeteries, 1850—1900”, pages 56 – 111, 2007 edition of Markers, XXIV, in which she categorized the eight most commonly found types of graveyard angels—grouped by the task they performed: soul-bearing; praying; decorating and guarding; pointing; recording; trumpeting; sword-bearing (archangel Michael); and child angels.

Angels are popular images found in cemeteries in America and throughout the Christian world.  The English word “angel,” is derived from the Greek word “aggelos” meaning messenger or herald.  Angels can be found in cemeteries in all shapes and sizes and in many different mediums including carved stone bas-reliefs on gravestones, full sculptures, and even in glass.

The stained-glass window angel in a John Beals Brown Neo-classical mausoleum in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, does not fit nicely into one of the eight categories of most-commonly found angels outlined in Roark’s article.  She holds a crown in one hand—presumably to crown the deceased members buried in the tomb and a palm frond in the other–both symbols of victory over death.

The crown is a symbol of glory and reward and victory over death.  The reward comes after life and the hard-fought battle on Earth against the wages of sin and the temptations of the flesh.  The reward awaits in Heaven where the victor will receive a crown of victory.  The crown also represents the sovereign authority of the Lord.

The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory, dating back to Roman times when victors were presented with palm fronds. The palm fronds were also laid in the path of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. So, for many Christians, the palm represents righteousness, resurrection, and martyrdom, symbolizing the spiritual victory over death associated with the Easter story.

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In 1959, MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) released the epic film, Ben-Hur, which was the most expensive motion picture produced up to that time—costing slightly over 15 million dollars!  As the expression goes, it had a cast of thousands, literally.  10,000 extras were used in the making of the movie, along with over 200 camels and 2,500 horses.  The movie starred Charleton Heston, who had already played a bigger-than-life Moses in the production of The Ten Commandments.  With a marketing budget that was nearly as much as it cost to produce the movie, it was soon the second highest-grossing film at the time, second only to Gone with the Wind.  The Academy Award-winning movie was a remake of a 1925 silent film also based on Lew Wallace’s book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

The book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was published in 1880, and was a best-selling novel that secured the Wallace family’s fortunes.  While Lewis “Lew” Wallace (April 10, 1827 – February 15, 1905) born in Brookville, Indiana, is widely remembered for the novel, which has been called “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century,” he had a career that included the law, military, and diplomatic service.  He served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.  He served as Governor of the New Mexico Territory and as Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.  Wallace eventually returned to Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he made his last home, where he continued to write and publish.  He died in 1905, and was buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Crawfordsville—his grave marked by the tallest monument in the cemetery—a light gray granite obelisk that is carved with an American flag draped over the point.

In 1928, the Georgia Marble Company of Tate, Georgia, produced a marketing piece in the form of a book titled, Memorials: To-Day for To-Morrow written by William Henry Deacy. The book was designed to showcase their memorial designs by highlighting them in the book with lush full-color watercolor illustrations of the various memorials. Along with the illustrations the book provided explanations of the symbolism found in the memorials. The book also coupled an architectural drawing of how the memorial is to be made. The monument they chose to highlight on pages 62-64 was the obelisk.

After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism in America, including the obelisk, those tall thin four-sided columns that tapered upward and then end in a pyramid at the top.  The obelisk is a ubiquitous gravestone shape found in American graveyards.

The author, Mr. Deacy, makes the following claim in the Georgia Marble Company book (page 63), “The steeple of the Church symbolizes the spiritual and uplifting power of religion and the moral aspiration of man. It was evolved from the obelisks which stood before Egyptian temple—emblems of the sun god Ra and the regeneration of man. It has long been a favored form for the civic and private memorial. Towering heavenward from a sightly (sic) location, the obelisk probably ranks among the most simple and impressive of all monuments.”

The book goes on to say that the obelisk is highlighted best when it is featured by itself, with no other monuments nearby to distract from its elegant and graceful shape. It also says that, “various pedestal forms are used to support the shaft or spire…and while they attain a rather graceful continuity of line, nevertheless, no type of base or support rivals the simple three steps, which if properly subordinated in scale, tend to increase the effect of height….

The entire book can be found at the Quarries and Beyond Website: http://quarriesandbeyond.org/cemeteries_and_monumental_art/cemetery_stones.html.

The Quarries and Beyond Website was created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. It focuses on historic stone quarries, stone workers and companies, and related subjects such as geology. Whenever possible links of finished products are provided on the Website. There is a “Quarry Articles” section that presents articles, booklets, and links from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including the 1856 “The Marble-Workers’ Manual.” The “Cemetery Stones and Monuments” section provides references and resources, including many old monument magazines, catalogs, price lists, and a photographic tour “From Quarry to Cemetery Monuments.”


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The Ultimate Tree Stump Family Plot


SEPT. 26, 1860 – Jan. 14, 1916

Frances C. Lloyd

Feb. 28, 1855 – June 15, 1924

A fellow graveyard enthusiast and reader of the blog reminded me of the Lloyd Family Plot in the famed Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.  It may be the ultimate in tree-stump design.  From the “logs” and “stumps” that mark the family plot to the individual gravestones all carved with the same motif, it is a full-on display of the rustic movement.  In the center of the plot is a towering tree carved with the family name.   A leafed-out tree in the corner of the plot has branches that surround the top of the carved tree almost giving it a life-like look.

The primogenitor–J. S. Lloyd and his wife, Frances–have the largest individual stone in the plot.  It is carved to look as if two tree stumps are intertwined around a rock faced stone with a scroll lashed at the top of the marker with branches displays their names, birth and death dates.

The individual markers are of the same tree stump design but are of a single stump.  The scroll is lashed to the marker by a heavy rope.  At the end of the scroll is a spray of flowers. The scroll represents both the life of the deceased and the time spent on Earth.

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A Union Soldier’s Tree Stump Monument


BORN NOV. 26, 1831.

DIED SEPT. 8, 1893.


A friend to his country, and a believer in Christ.

No other war was like the American Civil War for Americans because every sailor or soldier, every collateral death, every field or railway yard that was destroyed, every city or town devastated by artillery was American.  And, more Americans were killed in the Civil War than any other war that in which Americans have fought.

The total American deaths by war: Civil War 625,000; World War II 405,399; World War I 116,516; Vietnam 58,151; Korean War 36,516; Revolutionary War 25,000; War of 1812  20,000; Mexican American War 13,283; War on Terror 6,280; and the Spanish American War 4,196.

During the Civil War Americans were fighting against Americans—brother against brother—cousin against cousin. The war tore the country apart and threatened the existence of the Republic.

Cemeteries throughout the United States pay tribute to the soldiers that fought to preserve the Union, often with special sections where soldiers are buried.  War memorials were erected across America in town squares and cemeteries.  But this monument is dedicated to an individual—Jacob S. McCann who fought in the 196th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  The 196th Ohio Infantry was organized at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, and served for a year, mustering out March 25th, 1865.

The monument for Jacob McCann in the city cemetery of Plainville, Indiana, is an indication that his service in the Union Army was a seminal event in his life.  The tree-stump gravestone marks that service with the accouterments of a soldier which are carved into the limestone—the greatcoat hanging from an upper branch, the tin canteen and cartridge box draped over one of the lower branches—the leather straps still in place and the belt displaying his US Army issue buckle, though weathered and barely visible.  Leaning against the stump is the Springfield rifle.  On the back of the gravestone is his bed roll and haversack.

This monument is carved in limestone and is another example of the rustic style tree stump gravestone that was popular in the late 19th Century and is a tribute to the soldier buried beneath with the simple epitaph, “A friend to his country, and a believer in Christ.”

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