Weeping Angel


William Wetmore Story (February 12, 1819 – October 7, 1895), the son of Joseph Story—Supreme Court Justice from 1811—1845, was a multitalented Renaissance man. Story was an editor, poet, art critic, and an incredible sculptor. Though trained as a lawyer at the Harvard Law School, he abandoned the legal profession to follow the arts.

His body of art work includes among others, a sculpture of his father, Joseph Story, fittingly at the Harvard Law School and a statue of another famous jurist and judicial colleague of his father’s, Chief Justice John Marshall. But the sculpture that has become replicated and imitated in cemeteries in Europe and America is the monument that he carved for his wife’s grave in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy.


An article written in the Sept. 1896, issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine stated:

The loss of the wife of his youth whom he survived but a year, was a bitter blow; and with her passed his interest in affairs. It was only when his children suggested that he should make a monument to her memory that he consented to resume work; the design he chose was the “Angel of Grief”, and it is wrought to exquisite finish…When this was done he left the studio never to return.”

The statue marking Emelyn and William Wetmore Story’s grave depicts an angel collapsed and distraught in grief. The statue is dramatic and evokes the solemn loss of a loved one. The statue is known, aptly as the Angel of Grief perhaps because of its ability to capture devastating grief from departure due to death.

The statue’s imitators can be found in many cemeteries including the ones below:


Perhaps one of the most elegant examples can be found in the Metarie Cemetery at New Orleans in the Chapman H. Hyams mausoleum. The blue light from the stained glass showers the statue in a calming hue.


This example is in the Mount Hope Cemetery at San Diego, California, and marks the grave of Marjorie Marie Pierce.
Marking the grave of the Hill Family in the Glenwood Cemetery at Houston, Texas, is a replica of nearly exacting quality.

Irene Bagby’s marker in the Serbian Cemetery at Colma, California.


Jennifer Roosevelt Pool’s monument in the Cypress Lawn Cemetery at Colma, California. Pool was the cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Two examples in the Green-wood Cemetery at Brooklyn, New York, have a slightly deviated design. In this version for the O’Donohue Family has the angel holding a wreath. The laurel wreath dates back to Roman times when soldiers wore them as triumphal signs of glory.  The laurel was also believed to wash away the soldier’s guilt from injuring or killing any of his opponents.  In funerary art the laurel wreath is often seen as a symbol of victory over death.

This example is also found in the Green-Wood Cemetery at Brooklyn. It marks the grave of Michael and Shamsi Kaydouh.


This example is found in the St. Luke Cemetery at Chicago. It is a small version and does not mark a grave but is used as a piece of artwork for the cemetery.  On the front of the monument is the poem:

The bud was spread, To show the rose

Our Savior smiled, The bud was closed. 




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The Four Evangelists


The Catholic Calvary Cemetery in Erie, Pennsylvania, has many tombs, gravestones, and markers imbued with Christian symbolism. One of the monuments in that cemetery has a display of all four of the Evangelists—St. Mark, St. John, St. Matthew, and St. Luke. The monument has four sides and in each alcove stands one of the Apostles. Under each statue of an Apostle is the symbol associated with Him.


St. Mark is depicted as a winged lion. The emblem refers to Christ’s power and regal dignity.


St. John is represented as an eagle because of his soaring writing in the Gospel that bears His name. Lecterns are often carved into an eagle in His honor.


St. Matthew’s emblem depicts the Evangelist as a winged man to represent the divine inspiration that is possible for all of mankind. In statuary St. Matthew is often shown with a quill.


St. Luke’s emblem is a winged ox. The Gospel written by St. Luke emphasized the sacrifice of Christ—the ox was an animal of sacrifice and associated with Luke because of his writings. The wings symbolize that Christ’s message is to travel throughout the globe. St. Luke is the patron saint of butchers.


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Still Missing, Mystery Unsolved


The first private mausoleum built in the Crown hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, is an example of the Egyptian Revival architecture found in many large urban cemeteries.

The large sandstone mausoleum has many features of Egyptian temples–the cavetto cornice that curves into a half circle at the top of the tomb and above the doorway, the torus molding at the bottom of the cornice, around the door, and the corners of the mausoleum that are designed to emulate long bundled plants, and the heavy columns with the palm leaves at the top that flank the entrance to the tomb.


Funerary art and architecture was designed to illicit emotions, such as the finality of death and the Christian ideal of eternity. The tomb also features a winged globes with uroei.  The globe represents the Egyptian god, Horus.  The uroei, snakes, are waiting to strike.  They symbolize the king’s ability to ward off evil spirits.

Carved on the top of the tomb is the Ouroboros ophis, an ancient symbol depicting a snake eating its tail. The word, Ouroboros, is Greek—oura meaning tail; vora meaning eating, and ophis meaning serpent or snake. In ancient Egypt, the Ouroboros represented the daily passage of the sun.  The snake eating its tail in cemetery symbolism represents the cycle of life—birth and death—and eternity.

The massive tomb gives one the sense of solemnity and a sense of eternity, just as did the temples of the pharaohs. It was built to hold the remains of Caleb Blood Smith (April 16, 1808 – January 7, 1864), a towering political figure in 19th Century politics. Smith was admitted to the Indiana bar and hung out his shingle to work as an attorney. He was elected to several terms in the Indiana state legislature. In 1843 Smith was elected to Congress as a Whig representing the 4th Indiana District and served until 1849. Smith campaigned for Abraham Lincoln and as a reward Lincoln appointed Smith Secretary of the Interior—a post he only held for less than two years. Smith was appointed as District Court Judge for the District of Indiana, which he held until his death on January 7, 1864.


According to Memories of the Past: A Tour of Historic Crown Hill Cemetery by Wayne L. Sanford (page 11), “Smith’s wife, the former Elizabeth B. Watson, buried him temporarily at City Cemetery and was on hand during the first public sale of Crown Hill property held June 8, 1864. On that occasion she selected this property on which she immediately constructed this mausoleum. The structure was completed that year, but for unknown reason she never entombed her husband inside. For that matter, there is still some mystery as to what Elizabeth actually did with Caleb’s remains.”

Caleb Smith’s wife, daughter and son are buried in the tomb—but not Caleb Smith. His body is still missing.


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“Cogito ergo sum”



1890 – 1968


1896 – 1987

On a bronze plaque on the side of the marker:









C. A. N.

The two gravestones in today’s blogpost are topped with sculptures with the same theme—thinking.

The first gravestone from the Fairmont Cemetery at Denver, Colorado marks the grave of Carl and Juliet Norgren. Carl Norgren was a mechanical engineer who founded a successful manufacturing company, still in existence today.


The bronze statue on top of the Norgren’s marker is a replica of the great Rodin statue of the “Thinker”, originally called “Le Pensuer”, in Rodin’s native French. The “Thinker” is most likely one of the most well known and most parodied statues ever created.


The second monument in the Lakeview Cemetery at Seattle, Washington, for Everett George DuPen and his wife of 65 years, Charlotte Nicks, is a shaft of black polished granite with a bronze of a statue he sculpted himself, titled, “Pensive.” DuPen was a famed artist and acclaimed teacher of sculpture with a long and distinguished career that spanned eight decades.


What is not clear from either monument is the meaning of the sculptures chosen for their markers. It could be that the Norgren family chose the “Thinker” because it was their favorite sculpture. It could also be that “Pensive” was chosen because it was of Everett DuPen’s favorites. Or it they could both be a call to action—to think about death or maybe more importantly—life.


Both statues could both be an ode to René Descartes’ statement, “Cogito ergo sum“, Latin translated in his native French as, “Je pense, donc je suis” (1637). The statement, in English, means, “I think, therefore I am”.


Everett George

1912 – 2005



Professor of Art


Charlotte Nicks

1914 – 2012




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Preach Independence from the Pulpit

Portrait of Rev. John Witherspoon by Charles Wilson Peale (Public Domain)

Portrait of Rev. John Witherspoon by Charles Wilson Peale (Public Domain)






On this day, the 4th of July, it is good to remember that our independence from Great Britain was not assured. At the beginning of the war only about a third of the colonists favored separation from good Old King George III and we were up against the best-trained, most well-equiped army in all of Europe. But those patriots who favored it were fervent in their belief and steadfast in their resolve and eventually a majority of the colonists came along.

There were colonists like the Reverend John Witherspoon, a fairly recent immigrant from Scotland, who favored independence and, in fact, advocated it from the pulpit. Witherspoon was the only active minister to sit in the Continental Congress and to sign the Declaration of Independence. During the rousing debate about the Declaration, Witherspoon said in a floor speech in favor that the colonies were “not only ripe for the measure but in danger of rotting for the want of it.”

Witherspoon was at the time a minister but also the President of the College of New Jersey which later became Princeton University. During the Revolutionary War Witherspoon’s hatred of the British increased as the war dragged on. His son, James, was killed in the Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania. In addition his beloved college was occupied by British. They took control of the main building, Nassau Hall, and burned the library. After the British evacuated Nassau Hall became a hospital to treat wounded soldiers.

Even after the conclusion of the War, Witherspoon remained active in politics. He participated in the New Jersey Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution.

In 1791, at the ripe old age of 68, Witherspoon married again, this time to a 24-year old widow, who bore him two more children. He died in 1794 and his body was laid to rest in the President’s Lot in the Princeton Cemetery.

Rev. John Witherspoon Chest Tomb, Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey.

Rev. John Witherspoon Chest Tomb, Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey.

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The Train Wreck



Son of

J. & E. M. GNAU


April 2, 1889


Sep 1, 1891



Dau of

J. & E. M. GNAU


Oct. 12, 1884


Sept. 1, 1891

The sweet carving of a little girl hugging a lamb atop the highly-ornamented white marble gravestone in the Greenwood Cemetery at Tell City, Perry County, Indiana, marks the grave of Erwin and Norma Gnau. The sweetness and serenity of the sculpture does not hint at the tragedy of their painful and untimely deaths.


The September 2, 1891, Wednesday Edition of the Evansville Courier, screams the headline, SEVEN ARE DEAD that tells the sad story:

A Traveling Man Tells of the Scenes and Incidents That Followed the Disaster.

The death list of disaster Monday on the Cannelton branch of the Air Line road has been increased to seven. The correct list of fatalities are as follows:

Miss Emma Nermer, Fulda, Ind.

Miss Emma Schuh, Tell City.

Mrs. John Gnau, Troy

Little Norma Gnau, Troy.

Little Irwin Gnau, Troy.

Mural Durbin, boy, Hawesville, Ky.

Peter Gaesser, Tell City

The home of John Gnau , in Troy, is one of mourning. The wife was terribly scalded by escaping steam. She suffered intense agony and the physicians pronounced her case hopeless. She lingered in intense suffering until yesterday morning, when death came to her relief. Little Irwin Gnau died shortly after being taken home and little Norma Gnau, a bright little girl, was also so badly burned that she died yesterday. Three bodies now lie in the house made desolate by death….

Engineer App arrived in this city yesterday by boat. He went at once to his home and is not badly injured, beyond a number of burns and bruises.

A force of men are at work at the scene of the wreck and at last account it was nearly cleared. The engine is badly damaged.


A Description of the Scene Following the Disaster.

Mr. Schroeder, a travelling salesman, arrived in the city yesterday from the scene of the disaster. To a COURIER representative Mr. Schroder, while at the Lottie, told what he saw of the wreck. He said that he was near Troy when he heard the engine whistle for brakes. He did not hear the crash, but soon learned that the wreck had occurred. He hastened to the scene and arrive a half hour later it had occurred. All had been removed from the fated coach, which was then a smoldering wreck. The wreck occurred on one of the worst curves of the road. Mr. Schroder made an examination of the rails and found that for some distance pieces were cut out at regular intervals. This went to show conclusively that a flange had broken. The notches in the rails were so large that a finger could be placed in the depression. The point where the engine trucks climbed the rails was plainly discernable.

            Mr. Schroder said that when the passenger coach followed the engine into the ditch the front end was shoved in. The smoking apartment, occupying about one-third of the car, was in front. In this were a number of gentlemen. When the coach landed on top of the aperture made in the front of the car. One was Editor Bott of the Tell City Anzeiger. Another was Mr. Kasser, at traveling man, who is large and fleshy and has but one arm. The third was a man whose name is unknown. All three found themselves in the ditch among the wreckage….

The death chamber was near the partition in the car. Here Miss Nemer last her life. She was sitting near the partition and was caught in the wreckage. The engine was immediately beneath. The steam pipe leading to the whistle broke and the unfortunate young lady was roasted to death. Mrs. Gnau and her children was sitting near Miss Nemer and they also received the full steam from the engine….”

According to the article on the Find-A-Grave site for Emma Gnau, mother of Edwin and Norma, as she was being carried out of the train car in terrible pain blinded by the steam injuries she pleaded with those around her to save her children. She, nor her children survived the accident. Emma, a 38-year mother was laid to rest next to two of her children after a requiem in the St. Pius Church of Troy. She was survived by her husband, John, and her son, Oscar.

Nearly three weeks later, after investigating the accident, the county coroner came forward with his assessment of the accident which was reported in the September 20, 1891, Sunday Edition of the Evansville Courier. The paper ran the headline, “THE AIR LINE WRECK” and sub headline, “Coroner Cluthe’s Verdict Censures the Railroad Company”.

CANNELTON, IND., Sept 19—[Special]—Coronoer Cluthe’s verdict in the late disaster, wherein eight people were killed on the Air Line five miles west of this place, reads about as follows:

“I, William Cluthe, coroner of Perry county, Indiana, find that Emma Schuh, Carrie Nemer, Mrs. Gnau, Norma Gnau, Edwin Gnau, Arthur Keck and Mrs. Chamier came to their death by scalds, burns, bruises, inhalation of steam, in a railroad accident on the L.E. & St. L. Railroad.

“I further find the point where the accident occurred was on a high curve without sufficient grade on the road-bed. I will also censure the company on the high rate of speed called for in the schedule time.

“I also found rotten and broken ties near the place of the wreck.”

According to the coroner, the railroad itself had been at fault for the accident that shattered the Gnau family forever. The little girl and the lamb are reminder of the innocent lives lost that day leaving no hint of the tragedy that caused their deaths. The lamb is the symbol of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It also represents innocence, likely the reason why this motif almost always adorns the tombstones of infants and young children.


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NOV. 13 1847


JAN. 18 1896

Farewell my wife and

Children all. From you

A father Christ doth call.


Son of

T. & M. E. BAKER

BORN FEB. 23 1874

DIED OCT. 10 1874

God seized the precious treasure

To us so lately given

He took the lovely flower

And planted it in Heaven.

The gravestone of Thomas Baker, in the Mount Carmel Cemetery at Stinesville, Indiana, has hatchet, more specifically a tomahawk, with the initials T. O. T.E. carved into it. The tomahawk marks the grave of a member of the Improved Order of Red Men (I.O.R.M.), which claims its beginnings with the patriots who were in the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution.


The society models itself after the Iroquois Confederacy councils.  In fact, some of the markers display images of Native Americans because the society based their organization on the rites and rituals of the Native Americans.

The initials T.O.T.E stands for Totem of the Eagles.  According to their Website, the IORM “promotes patriotism and the American Way of Life, provides social activities for the members, and supports various charitable programs.”

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