Updated Version


The monument in the St. Raphael Church Cemetery, at Dubois, Indiana, has atop it a young female figure. Her head is bent forward, she is looking down in reflection and sorrow, while she is holding a rose bloom in one hand and clutching a floral wreath in the other. This is a common Victorian funerary symbol expressing the transitory nature of life.


The rose is a secular symbol for love and beauty but is also associated with the Virgin Mary—the rose without thorns. The rose, however, can also connote age. A rose bud, generally found on a child’s grave, represents the life that has yet to bloom. Often, in that case the bud will be on a broken stem indicating that the life was cut short. A partial bloom on the rose would indicate an older child, such as a teenager, while a full bloom, indicates the life of someone who has reached maturity.

The example below decorates a grave in the Fairmount Cemetery at Huntingburg, Indiana, from the 1990s. In this updated version, the mourning figure is not wearing flowing robes, but modern dress. She is knelling, holding roses as she leans forward in the act of laying a rose.



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Nancy Hanks Lincoln




Mother of President



Oct. 5, A.D. 1818

Aged 35 years

Erected by a friend of her martyred Son


Nancy Hanks Lincoln was born on February 5, 1784 in Campbell County Virginia, and died October 5, 1818, in Spencer County, Indiana, when Abraham Lincoln was only 9 years old.

The future president moved with his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and sister, Sarah, in 1816. The family constructed a small cabin near Pigeon Creek. Two short years later, Nancy fell ill. Thomas, who was a carpenter by trade, constructed a pine coffin from trees on their property. Mrs. Lincoln was buried in a simple ceremony with a few neighbors and her family in attendance. The family moved from Indiana in 1830 and the gravesite was forgotten and fell into disrepair.


Years later a white marble pointed-arched tablet was erected to mark her gravesite located in a Pioneer Cemetery.


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The Garden


The night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with three of his disciples—James, John, and Peter. Gethsemane was a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem, though the exact location is unknown today. According to Biblical accounts, Jesus prayed while his disciples slept. Judas easily betrayed Jesus because the Garden of Gethsemane was a place often frequented by Jesus for solace and prayer, making the arrest certain.

Many cemeteries have sculptures and artwork depicting Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Two such works can be found in the Westview Cemetery of Atlanta, Georgia. The stained glass window in the Westview Cemetery Mausoleum depicts Jesus praying. A small portion of the window shows the three disciples who fell asleep while Jesus prayed. The white-marble sculpture features a solitary Jesus looking to the Heavens in prayer.


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The Singing Evangelist


Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain: Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,

Fearing neither clouds nor winter’s chilling breeze;

By and by the harvest, and the labor ended,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master,

Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;

When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

“Bringing in the Sheaves”, that great Protestant hymn, was written by Knowles Shaw in 1874. The hymn was inspired by the Bible verse, Psalm 126:6—“He that goeth forth and weepth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

Knowles Shaw was an unlikely preacher and hymnist. He was born October 31, 1834, in Butler County, Ohio, and raised in Rushville, Indiana. He was the son of Albin and Hulda Knowles. At a young age, Shaw’s father lay dying and admonished his son to take care of his mother and siblings and to prepare to meet God. Shaw proved to be a scrapper and took all sorts of odd jobs—cobbler, carpenter, shop clerk, among others—to help his family make ends meet. One source of joy and income was the violin that Shaw’s father had left him. Shaw had musical talent and used the instrument to play at dances and parties. It was at one of the parties that Shaw had an epiphany. He would no longer use his instrument for entertainment but would dedicate his talent and his life to the Lord and for good purposes.


Knowles Shaw, who was not only a talented musician, was also a spirited speaker and preacher with a deep knowledge and understanding of the Bible, soon gathered a large following. His meetings would draw huge crowds where there would be singing, preaching, and baptisms of people coming to the Lord. It is estimated that Shaw baptized 20,000 during his tenure as a preacher. Knowles became known as “The Singing Evangelist.”

On June 7, 1878, died when the train he was riding in derailed and plunged into a ravine on his way to McKinney, Texas. When his body was returned to Rushville for the funeral, the crowd was large that his service had to be performed outside in the courthouse square to accommodate the throngs of mourners who wanted to pay their last respects.


Knowles Shaw’s white marble tombstone in the East Hill Cemetery at Rushville, Indiana, tells the story of his death, the epitaph reports his last words:



Of the church of Christ


Oct. 13, 1834.




JUNE 7, 1878.

INTERED JUNE 13, 1878.

It is a grand thing to rally

People to the cross.


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Hoosier Preacher




NOV. 4, 1864


73 YRS. & 9 MO.






MAR. 23, 1864


75 Years.



The white marble gravestone of Rev. James Havens can be found in section 1 of the East Hill Cemetery at Rushville, Indiana. The gravestone is described in the National Historic Places of Registration Form as “sculptural” and “a tall marble obelisk crowned with a small pyramid below which is a pediment on each side of the obelisk. The obelisk sits atop a broader base, at the front of which is a nearly full round portrait sculpture of Reverend Havens. A book written about Reverend Havens describes the monument this way, “the beautiful spire which marks his grave is a gift of his own children. Soon after his death, the administrators of his estate, Rev, George Havens and John Dixon, Esq., contracted for the erection of a marble monument at a cost of $2,500, which it was supposed would fully meet the wishes of his friends, and serve as an appropriate memorial of the distinguished itinerant. The stately and beautiful mausoleum is certainly creditable to the family and to the hero whose memory it perpetuates. It is composed of the finest grained Italian marble and exhibits fine mechanical skill and workmanship. And ornamented as it is with a striking bust in bas-relief of “the brave old man,” the presentation is as complete as it is beautiful and appropriate. Some, indeed, may think the display as extravagance, but nothing less would have done justice to the man or the minister, or have given to the present or coming generations any fair conceptions of his worth and virtues.”


Above the high bas-relief of Reverend Havens on the lower portion of the obelisk is a round metal marker affixed to the gravestone that shows a minister riding a horse.  The image is an appropriate one, especially for the Methodist clergy.  While many denominations had circuit riding ministers during the settlement of the Frontier, no single church grew at the rate of the Methodist church largely because of the horseback evangelism of the Methodist ministers.  In 1784, only 14,986 people belonged to the Methodist Church but by 1839, over 749,216 people were members.  The number of traveling clergy during that time had grown from 83 circuit preachers or “saddlebag ministers” as they were often called to over 3,500 serving congregants in the far-flung reaches of our new and sprawling country.  The circuit riders rode from village to village and met with people in homes, open fields, country stores, and courthouses, nearly anywhere, so they meet the needs of the people living in remote areas.  The tradition of the travelling clergy as they were officially called by the Methodist Church is gone, but Methodist churches can be found in every corner of the country largely because of the efforts of ministers who were willing to live a lonely life on the back of a horse spreading the Word.

Havens was a circuit-riding Methodist minister. Havens had humble beginnings—born in a log cabin in Kentucky. His mother, the daughter of a Baptist Minister, died when Havens was a boy and he was sent to live in Ohio with an older brother. At the age of fourteen James Havens heard the powerful preaching of James Finley, a Methodist circuit riding minister spreading the gospel out in the prairie. Havens was so taken with the message that he joined the church himself and devoted his life to be a life of virtue. Havens eclipsed the fame of his mentor, becoming widely known as the Hoosier Preacher. Havens had a very large circuit in Indiana and was known far and wide.


The Reverend Havens, according to the Honorable H. Smith, being quoted in a book written about the minister titled, James Havens: One of the Heroes of Indiana Methodism, written by Key. W. W. Hibben published by the Sentinel Company, of Indianapolis in 1872, said, “Mr. Havens was one of the most powerful preachers I ever heard, and I have no hesitation in saying that the State of Indiana owes him a heavier debt of gratitude for the efforts of his long and valuable life, to form society upon the basis of Morality, Education, and religion, than any other man living or dead.”


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Elaborate to simple

Lakeview Cemetery, South Haven, Michigan

Lakeview Cemetery, South Haven, Michigan

Many fraternal organizations and membership societies were founded in the mid and later part of the 19th Century. Some of the organizations, such as, the Sons of the American Revolution (1889), The Daughters of the American Revolution (1890), The Daughters of the War of 1812 (1892), The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America (1896), The National Society, Colonial Daughters of the Seventeenth Century (1896), The Mayflower Society (1897), and The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America XVII (1915) required the prospective members to demonstrate their ancestors had been in the United States before a certain date or that their ancestors had served in an American war.  Other fraternal organizations arose as well, such as the Knights of Pythias (1864), the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange, 1867), The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (1868), The Knights of Columbus (1882), he Loyal Order of the Moose (1888), and the Woodmen of the World (1890). The time between about 1860 and 1915 is often referred to as The Golden Age of Fraternalism.

Two organizations pre-date that time in origin—The Freemasons and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows. Both saw surges of membership during that period. The 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 instituted Washington Lodge No. 1.  This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.” The Odd Fellows membership rose to its peak in 1915 at about 3.5 million members.

Many of their members have symbols of their organization either carved directly on their gravestones or have metal markers placed next to their gravestones to indicate their membership. These markers range from the ornate with a range of the fraternity’s symbols on a single metal marker to very plain markers with only the basic three links to indicate membership in the Odd Fellows lodge.
The metal marker above has a number of different symbols contained on it, but the main symbol of the Odd Fellows is the three links of the chain.  Within the three links are three letters, F  L  T, which signify the organizations motto: Friendship, Love, and Truth.  The top of the metal marker displays the all-seeing eye shown with rays of light emanating from it.  This symbol can be traced back to Egyptian mythology to the Eye of Horus.  The two hands clasping together represent brotherhood. The all-seeing eye and the three links are also on the marker below.

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

Lakeview Cemetery, South Haven, Michigan

Lakeview Cemetery, South Haven, Michigan

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

A number of different styles of metal markers feature a dove atop them, which symbolizes peace.  The dove carrying a sprig from a white lily represents purity.

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

The Heart-in-Hand symbol has significance with several organizations and religions, especially the Shakers, but when coupled with the three linked rings, it is associated with the Odd Fellows.  As you can see, the heart rests in the center of the palm.  The Heart-in-Hand symbol represents charity given with an open heart.

A series of the markers only feature the three links, some more elaborately decorated than others–with the most plain looking a bit like a potato masher.

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

Rose Hill Cemetery, Missouri Valley, Iowa

College Corners Cemetery, College Corners, Indiana

College Corners Cemetery, College Corners, Indiana

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

Hope Cemetery, Hope, Indiana

Hillcrest Cemetery, North Vernon, Indiana

Hillcrest Cemetery, North Vernon, Indiana

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A Tender Thought



Wife of



Sept. 2, 1850

Aged 40 Y’rs 11 mos.

& 10 Days.




Dec. 19, 1862


55 Years & 29 Days


My friends forbeare to mourn and weep

While in this grave I sweetly sleep

A toilsome world I leave behind

A better world in hope to find.


Two gravestones in the landscaped East Hill Cemetery at Rushville, Indiana, commemorate the graves of a husband and a wife—Betsy and Thomas Lewark. The wife’s gravestone leans to the left. It almost looks as if her gravestone is nestled next to his much like a wife might lean her head on her husband’s shoulder.




Sons of

Thomas J. & Betsy


Died Sept. 16,


Aged 2 Weeks


Next to the gravestones of Thomas and Betsy Lewark is the square-top gray marble gravestone of their twin infant sons, who died exactly a fortnight after their mother died. Though Betsy’s gravestone doesn’t say what she died of, it was most likely complications of childbirth. The risks to mothers was high in the 19th Century; every pregnancy was a potential death sentence. It is also a reminder that the infant mortality rates were quite high. In the 1850s, the mortality rates for children under one year, were estimated at over 200 deaths per thousand, with much higher mortality rates for children under 5.

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