Lotus Column







FEBRUARY 20, 1845








APRIL 8, 1857

DECEMBER 30, 1925





After the French and British occupations of Egypt, there was a renewed interest in Egyptian architecture and symbolism in America. The evidence of the influence of Egyptian design can be found in nearly every American cemetery, especially large urban cemeteries. The Egyptian symbol that is most commonly found in American cemeteries is the obelisk.  And the most famous obelisk in America is the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. But there are other examples of the influence of the Egyptian Revival in most large urban cemeteries, such as pyramids and large mausoleums that have many features of Egyptian temples–the cavetto cornice that curves into a half circle at the top of the tombs and the heavy columns that are designed to emulate long bundled plants with stylized palm leaves at the top.

The Edmund and Kate Minor lotus column in the sprawling and famed Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, is another example a monument designed in the style of the Egyptian Revival, though, it is a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous obelisk.

According to Egyptian mythology, the lotus flower rises up out of the primordial ooze from which all life was created, opened, and the sun itself arose from the tender pink flower.  The lotus symbolizes creation and rebirth most likely because of its unique ability to bear fruit and flower at the same time.  The lotus also symbolizes the sun because at night the lotus sinks under the water, but rises out of the water in the morning, its flower opening and following the sun during the day, to close again when the sun goes down.

Posted in Symbolism | 1 Comment

Ivy and Oak Leaf


1843 – 1917


1853 – 1932

The Cope family gray marble gravestone in the St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona, looks half-finished.  On one side is a column that looks like it is freshly and finely carved from a monolith of stone while the other side is and rough   It is almost as if the stone carver was half way through the job and stopped but as it happens that is not the case.  The technique used on this stone is called rock-face and is meant to be rough and have an unfinished look to it.

Ivy leaves are wrapped around the column on the right hand side of the marker with oak leaves and acorns carved at the base.  Both motifs are very common in American cemeteries.  According to an article, “Monumental Design: The Language of The Flowers,” written by Dan Haslam in the gravestone manufacturing magazine, Design Hints For Memorial Craftsman Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 2, August 1927, page 24, both symbols were popular.

“Reasons,” Haslam writes, “for such long popularity are of course gauged according to the ideas and fancies of the individual designer.  Of the numerous varied opinions or reasons which may be advanced regarding the value of the oak and ivy as memorial decorative motifs, two are outstanding; both plant forms are adaptable to many pleasing arrangements in design and are symbolic of two of the best things in life, strength and friendship.”

He goes on to add, “The Oak is representative of Firmness and Strength while the Ivy symbolizes Memory and Friendship.  From this the reader will understand why the oak and ivy are so often arranged in a single memorial design.  The sturdy oak for Father and the clinging ivy for Mother, representing impregnable friendship, devotion and lasting memory.”

The oak and ivy leaf design page was from an industry publication, The Monumental News, and provided by Peggy Perazzo who shares her vast collection of gravestone catalogs and resources at:

*  “Stone Quarries and Beyond Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StoneQuarriesAndBeyond/

*  Stone Quarries and Beyond Continues” (new web site – continuation of “Stone Quarries and Beyond”)


The Quarries and Beyond Website and Facebook page were created by Peggy B. and Patrick Perazzo. The collection 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 on the Website 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.”

Posted in Symbolism | Leave a comment

Bivouac of the Dead

In Memory of

JAMES A. T. McGrath

Lieut. Co. A. 15th Ky. Vol. Inf.

fell at the battle of Perryville, Ky.

Oct. 8, 1862.

On Fate’s eternal camping-ground

His silent tent is spread,

And glory guards, with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead.

The white marble grave marker in the Grove Hill Cemetery at Shelbyville, Kentucky, is constructed of three distinct parts—the tablet, the plinth, and the base.  This gravestone is put together by drilling two holes in the base into which metal rods are positioned.  These metal rods also run through the plinth (or substructure underneath the tablet), and then up into the tablet to give the gravestone stability from toppling over.  In this case, the marble split where the two rods penetrated the bottom of the tablet.  When the tablet was cemented in an effort to stop the split some of the epitaph was lost.

However, enough of the epitaph survives that it is clear the epitaph are lines from the second quatrain of a poem by Danville, Kentucky native Theodore O’Hara titled, “Bivouac of the Dead.”  The poem was written by O’Hara to honor Kentucky soldiers who had lost their lives in the Mexican-American War.

The elaborate carvings on the gravestone signal that this was the grave of a soldier.  McGrath, as the inscription on his gravestone states, fell in battle—the Battle of Perryville which has also been referred to as the Battle for Kentucky.  The Union forces were led primarily by Major General Don Carlos Buell and the Confederate forces were primarily led by General Braxton Bragg.  Both sides had heavy casualties—the North had 845 killed and 2,851 wounded and the South lost 510 in battle, with 2,635 wounded.  The Southern forces retreated from Kentucky, which the North held for the remainder of the Civil War.

The tablet features an inset oval festooned with a floral spray of mixed flowers atop that has an intricate carving of an eagle surmounted on a stripped shield with three stars in the top third of the shield.  At the base of the shield there is an olive branch on one side and on the other oak leaves and acorns symbolizing peace and strength alternatively.  Behind the eagle on either side are flags.  Rays emanate above the entire motif.   The plinth has a carving of a sword that is crossed with its sheath and tied in the center with an elaborate bow, a nod to McGrath’s standing as a soldier and military officer.


The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

No rumor of the foe’s advance
Now swells upon the wind;
Nor troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind;

No vision of the morrow’s strife
The warrior’s dream alarms;
No braying horn nor screaming fife
At dawn shall call to arms.

Their shriveled swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed,
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.

And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed
Are free from anguish now.

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle’s stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shout, are past;

Nor war’s wild note nor glory’s peal
Shall thrill with fierce delight
Those breasts that nevermore may feel
The rapture of the fight.

Like the fierce northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with the triumph yet to gain,
Came down the serried foe,

Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o’er the field beneath,
Knew well the watchword of that day
Was “Victory or death!”

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O’er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;

And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the gory tide;
Not long, our stout old chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr’s grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation’s flag to save.

By rivers of their father’s gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.

For many a mother’s breath has swept
O’er Angostura’s plain —
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.

The raven’s scream, or eagle’s flight,
Or shepherd’s pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o’er that dread fray.

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.

Your own proud land’s heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil —
The ashes of her brave.

Thus ‘neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother’s breast
On many a bloody shield;

The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.

Rest on embalmed and sainted dead!
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep shall here tread
The herbage of your grave;

Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her records keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.

Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished ago has flown,
The story how ye fell;

Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor Time’s remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

Posted in Symbolism | 1 Comment

Sleeping Baby



Daughter of

Joe AND Bessie



June 17, 1900


Nov. 22, 1907

A light from our household has gone

A voice we loved is stilled

A place is vacant in our hearts

That never can be filled.

The white marble gravestone of Aneta Harris in the BPOE 216 (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is imbued with an abundance of symbolism.  First of all, it is topped with a chubby baby girl nestled against a pillow and asleep on top of a cushion.

These gravestones for children, for me, are the most poignant.  The mortality rates for children were very high.  In the 1850s, for example, 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.  It would have been far more comforting to think of a young child sleeping rather than the alternative.  The sentiment is tender and terribly sad.

On the face of the gravestone, barely visible in an incised carving above her name, are two angles holding a crown as if they are ready to place it on the little girls head as she ascends to Heaven.  The crown is a fairly common symbol found in American cemeteries.  Sometimes it can be found as an incised carving at the top of the gravestone—often in conjunction with other symbolism such as palm leaves.  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.

Above the crown is a five-point star.  The star can represent the life of Christ and the Five Holy Wounds of Christ–one wound in each hand, a wound in each foot, and one in His side where Jesus was pierced to check to make sure He was dead.

Marking the grave is a long curbing outlining the burial plot which would have been planted with blooming flowers.

Posted in Angels, Children's Graves, Symbolism | Leave a comment

A Fair Bud


Daughter of



Born Nov. 21. 1898

Died July 17


Aged 4 yrs.

8 Months

Beautiful, lovely,

She was but given,

A fair bud to earth,

To blossom in Heaven.

The white marble gravestone of India Belle Baldwin in the BPOE 216 (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is topped with a lamb.  There are many gravestone symbols that seem to be ubiquitous in cemeteries—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 lambs come in many sizes and positions—often sleeping. But the lamb on the gravestone of four-year old India is raising its head up. The weather has eroded the details of the face of the lamb.

On the face of the gravestone, there is also an ivy trailing up the marker.  The ivy represents friendship and, like many symbols found in the cemetery, immortality.

Marking the grave is a long curbing outlining the burial plot which most likely was filled with blooming flowers until her caring parents themselves died. As her epitaph states, her flower didn’t bloom on earth but would do so in Heaven.

Posted in Children's Graves, Symbolism | Leave a comment

Lamb of God

Homemade grave markers come in all forms and are made of many different kinds of materials.  This grave marker in the St. Francis Catholic Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona, is a Latin cross made of cement with intricately molded terracotta tiles embellishing the cross.  In the center of the cross, where the long and short crossbars meet, is a tile with the image of a lamb with a banner behind it.  This image is the Lamb of God symbol.

The Lamb of God symbol represents the sacrifice Jesus Christ made with His blood to wash away the sins.  In the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, in the book of John 1:29 John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”   This idea was rooted in the Old Testament during Exodus when Moses performed none signs to have the Pharaoh to agree to let the Jews flee Egypt.  Finally with the Pharaoh still not relenting, the Bible says that Moses heard from God and that he was to instruct the faithful to sacrifice a lamb and paint lintel of each doorway with the blood.  In that way, the Angel of Death would “Passover” those houses.  The houses, however, without the painted lintels would suffer by losing their first born.  After that, the Pharaoh told Moses he could lead his people out of Egypt—from the bondage they experienced to the freedom and promise of a new land.

Jesus, as the Lamb of God, was the sacrificial lamb offering his life and blood to wipe away the sins of humanity.

Posted in Symbolism | Leave a comment

Homemade Elegance

Homemade grave markers come in many shapes and made of many different materials.  This particular homemade marker in the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in south Indianapolis, Indiana, is made of metal.  Two crossbars form a Latin cross—the universal symbol for Christianity—and a medallion of Jesus is at the center of the cross.  A Rosary, a prayer to the Mother Mary with a tradition that dates back to St. Dominic in the 1200s, is draped over the cross.  This is a Catholic symbol representing devotion to the Virgin Mary, but when found in cemeteries, also symbolizes the unending and constant prayers for the deceased.

The marker is simple but elegant.  The portrayal of Christ is dramatic depicting Him wearing a Crown of Thorns that He wore as He was mocked as a king, which is described in John, Chapter 19, (King James Version):

Verse 1, “Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.”

Verse 2, “And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe.”

Verse 3, “And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.”

The agony of His face as He looks upward is a moving tribute to the pain He endured before the Crucifixion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment