In Honor to Soldiers, Their Mothers, Wives, and Daughters

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On the highest hillock in the Walnut Hill Cemetery at Petersburg, Pike County, Indiana, stands a monument and cannon to those who served in the Civil War. The column rests on a four-sided plinth. Two sides have bas-reliefs of eagle, flag, and shield.

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The other two sides have the following inscriptions:

IN MEMORY

OF THE

MOTHERS, WIVES,

AND DAUGHTERS

FROM 1861 – 1865

IN MEMORY

OF THE

SOLDIERS

OF THE

CIVIL WAR

IN PIKE Co.

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 Americans have fought in.

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

Spanish American War       4,196

During the Civil War Americans were fighting against Americans. Brothers against brothers—cousins against cousins, every casualty and every fatality was an American. 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.

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In Honor

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PVT. MICHAEL

KOKOSKA

CO. L. 127 INF.

He gave his life in Honor

Of our Country

Born Sept. 28, 1892

Died June 27, 1918

in France

Many cemeteries feature memorials to soldiers. Some statues commemorate all of the soldiers who served in a war, some commemorate an individual soldier.

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This memorial in the Bohemian National Cemetery at Chicago, Illinois, was erected in honor of Private Michael Kokoska, the son of Joseph and Majdelena Kokoska, Bohemian immigrants. Kokoska served in the Great War where he was killed in France and temporarily buried in the Morvillars Military Cemetery. His parents petitioned the Quartermaster of the Army to have their son returned to America for reburial. His monument is a testament to his loyalty and patriotism.

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The Lamb

Walk into nearly any American graveyard and you will find tiny little lambs marking the graves of children mostly. These lambs are often found on the tops of gravestones and comes in many sizes and positions—often curled up and sleeping, sometimes with a cross behind the lamb.

However, two examples show the lamb a bit differently—both of these sculptures are freestanding and not marking a specific grave but used as a work of art in each of the cemeteries.

The first is found in the Fairview Cemetery at Linton, Indiana. This little sculpture is found tucked in between two gravestones, neither of which is for an infant. The lamb in this small sculpture in this example, is being cradled by a child.

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The lamb in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery at New Albany, Indiana is raising its head up, eyes wide open, as if it is looking at the passersby. The lamb, alert and bright eyed, looks like it could stand up at any moment and scamper away. This is also one of the biggest lambs I have come across in a cemetery—it is about the size of a full-grown Labrador.

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The lamb is the symbol of the Lord, the Good Shepherd. It also represents innocence, likely the reason why this motif usually adorns the tombstones of infants and young children.

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Allegory vs Realism; Female vs Male Depictions

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A few posts ago, I quoted June Hadden Hobbs, the editor of the Association for Gravestone Studies publication, Markers XXIX, who made an observation about nineteenth-century cemetery design (pages 4 and 5) writing that, “statues of men are historical while statues of women are usually allegorical.” Statues of men tend to be portraits while statues of females are nearly always not a representation of the deceased female but of an idea.

Another example of that can be found in the Crothersville Cemetery at Crothersville, Indiana. Two white marble statues mark the graves of Elisha Collins Bess, Sr., (May 16, 1837 – June 23, 1917) and Martha Jane Bess (April 13, 1840 – June 15, 1912). One statue features an aged slightly stooping bearded man in a suit and hat. Clearly a sculpture of the deceased Elisha.

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To the left of him is the statue that marks the grave of his wife, Martha Jane. She, however, is depicted as the allegorical figure of faith. The indication of that is that she holds a cross in her left hand. She is also portrayed in classical clothing, not the period dress that Martha Jane would have worn at the time of her death. Her statue is a young idealized portrayal of a virtue in the form of a woman, not the portrait sculpture of the 72-year old Martha Jane Bess buried beneath.

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The sculptures reflects the gendered response to death of the era. According to Laurie Stanley-Blackwell and Brenda Appleby in an article in Markers XXIX, “Romancing the Stone: Female Figural Monuments in Late-Nineteenth-Century Nova Scotia Cemeteries” page 37, “During this era. Prominent male statesmen, was heroes, prosperous businessmen, and religious leaders prevailed as the most deserving subjects for memorialization.” That is men were much more likely to have a realistic portrait in sculptural form than a woman—though, exceptions do exist.

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Women on the other hand were part of the romanticization of death during the Victorian era. Women were quite often portrayed in classical garb, often in mourning, depicted overcome by grief. As Stanley-Blackwell and Appleby describe, “These secular marble beauties were idealized, etherealized, and in some cases eroticized embodiments of ritual mourning. They represented a wide spectrum of mythologized female experiences, from classically austere and occasionally featureless to romantically voluptuous, barely clothed, in some cases starkly nude.”

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True to form, the statues marking the graves of Elisha and Martha Bess illustrate the point made in the article written by Laurie Stanley-Blackwell and Brenda Appleby.

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A Baby Saved

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IN MEMORY

OF

VOLUNTEER

FIREMEN CO’S

No. 1,2,3,4, & 5.

& H & L. CO No. 1.

ERECTED 1902

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Firefighting Companies were vital to all communities which could be swept away by fire.  Entire communities could be lost to flame, so volunteer and professional firefighters were vital to save lives and citizens’ homes and businesses.  Firefighters had to be ready at a moment’s notice to fly into action and risk life and limb to battle an inferno.

Fire companies formed in communities all across the country. And, in many cemeteries in those villages, towns, and cities monuments have been dedicated to their fallen and valiant firefighters.

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The monument in New Albany, Indiana, is dedicated to six fire companies. The monument was erected in the Fairview Cemetery on 1902, and dedicated September 7th of that same year. Charles Edwards sculpted the firefighter—in pewter. The New Albany firm of John Vernia & Son fabricated the monument.

The fireman strikes a heroic pose holding a baby presumably that he rescued.  The firefighter has a clenched right hand to hold a lantern, but the lantern is now missing.  The statue of the firefighter stands atop a limestone plinth that has an engine on one side and the tools of the firefighter’s trade represented on the other three sides.

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The Plumed Warrior in Stained Glass

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The plumed warrior in stained glass in the Mount Carmel Cemetery at Hillsdale, Illinois, features an angel wearing armor, carrying a  shield, an wielding a sword indicate that the winged angel represented here is the Archangel Michael, one of three angels mentioned by name in the Bible.  The sword He carries represents a cross but also a weapon in his war against the devil’s warriors.  Archangel Michael is a Christian soldier fighting Satan’s hordes.   Archangel Michael is often represented standing on a worm, or a dragon.  The Archangel Michael is also considered the guardian of souls.

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HER CAT, HER ONLY FRIEND

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There has always been a debate between dog and cat lovers about which furry little friend makes the best companion. I have many friends who have cats galore and swear by them, while others like myself, have dogs and always have. We see dogs as the old bromide tells us, “as man’s best friend”. And it is true—you walk into the room and your dog’s eyes light up, tail wags. Walk out and back again, and he is just as happy, almost like he hadn’t seen you in hours! You just don’t get that reaction from a cat.

Whether dog and cat lovers can agree or not, graveyard aficionados can attest that many more dogs can be found on gravestones than cats. In fact, in my experience, I have seen very few cats adorning tombstones—so when I saw a gray marble cat perched atop the gravestone of Pollie Barnett in the Fairview Cemetery in Linton, Indiana, I was drawn to it. Then I was pulled in further by the following epitaph:

HERE POLLIE BARNETT IS AT REST,

FROM DEEPEST GRIEF AND TOILSOME QUEST,

HER CAT, HER ONLY FRIEND,

REMAINED WITH HER UNTIL LIFE’S END.

Surely, there was a mystery surrounding this gravestone. According to the area legend, Pollie (born September 23, 1836 – died February 27, 1900) had two daughters, one spirited girl named Sylvania. Her other daughter’s name has been lost to history, most likely because she wasn’t the focus of the sad tale. The book, Weird Indiana: Your Travel Guide to Indiana’s Local Legend’s and Best Kept Secrets, says that Sylvania disappeared without a trace. There were several reasons that could have explained the disappearance—she never came home from a quilting bee, she didn’t return to the house from gathering fire wood, or that she ran off with a local boy.

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Whatever happened, Pollie never recovered from the loss. She became despondent and made it her life’s mission to search for her absent daughter. For the rest of her life, Pollie traveled the roads in and around Linton, calling for her daughter. According to the book, Pollie kept the search wandering hither and yon for the next 32 years—never giving up her desperate search for Sylvania. Area storytellers recalled Pollie tired and bedraggled carrying her black cat with her wherever she went—often only stopping to sleep in a road ditch or a kind farmer’s barn.

Linton townspeople commissioned a tombstone tribute to Pollie and her best friend—a black cat, which rests with a watchful eye, on top of her gravestone forever looking after Pollie.

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