The Willow

Lucy Ann Seaton, the first person buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis

Yesteday, the Indiana Chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies met at the Waiting Station of the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana, organized by Jeannie Regan-Dinius from the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, and Joy Giguere, an history professor at Ivy Tech Community College and the State AGS Chapter Chair.  They did a yeoman’s job of organizing an intersting program that included, Mike McNerney speaking about Discoid Neck Grave Markers, Lillian Green speaking about Warren Township Cemeteries, and Dick Powell speaking about Indiana Materials Used As Grave Markers, among others.  After lectures in the morning, Tom Davis, a cemetery docent gave a tour of some of the historic graves in the cemetery, including the grave of Lucy Ann Seaton, who was buried just days after the cemetery was established. 

LUCY ANN wife of CAPT. JOHN SEATON Born in Halifax, Va. 1830 Died May 30, 1864 AGED 33 Y’rs 7 Mo’s & 10 D’s

Tom Davis noted Lucy’s grave as the Crown Hill’s first.  Lucy’s husband was Captain John Seaton.  The couple had only recently moved to Indianapolis when Lucy died of consumption.  Because they did not know many people, Captain Seaton put a notice in the newspaper.  Locals wanting to show to the honorable captain that city was an hospitable place to live organized several hundred people to attend the funeral.  He also mentioned that the symbol on the marble gravestone, badly weathered, was of a willow tree, which had been a popular symbol but was already becoming less popular by the 1860s–only a few of the graves bear this motif of the hundreds of thousands of graves in the cemetery.  The willow first made its appearance in cemeteries, according to James Deetz and Edwin S. Dethlefsen, in their groundbreaking article, “Death’s Head, Cherub, Urn and Willow” in the early 18th century.  In that article, the motif included an urn with the willow.

Mrs. Polly Loring's gravestone at the King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

The willow motif represents what one might expect; sorrow and grief, it is after all a “weeping” williow.  An epitaph found on a grave in Harrison County, Iowa, on a child’s grave speaks of the grief that the parent’s felt:

A light from our household is gone                                                                                                  A voice we love is stilled                                                                                                                      A place is vacant in our hearts                                                                                                         That ne’r can be filled                                                                         

There’s a fresh little mound neath the willow                                                                              Where at evening I wander and weep                                                                                            There’s a dear vacant spot on my pillow                                                                                 Where a little face used to sleep.

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One Response to The Willow

  1. Jenn T. says:

    I’m so glad you were able to go, and I’m so sorry I missed it!

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