Darling Maggie

Rest Haven Cemetery, Edinburgh, Indiana

Rest Haven Cemetery, Edinburgh, Indiana



FEB. 10, 1879

AGED 2 Y’RS. 6 MO.


The most poignant and tender gravestones are those for children.  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.

This monument in the Rest Haven Cemetery at Edinburgh, Indiana, shows a sleeping Maggie Scholler, aged 2 years and 6 months, nestled into a pillow tucked into a sea shell.  This gravestone very well could be a metaphor for the shell that contains a pearl, the shell that opens and reveals a precious jewel, in this case, this tiny baby girl.  The shell is also a symbol of baptism because of its obvious association to water.  In fact, a shell is often used to scoop up and sprinkle water during the baptismal ceremony.

The sea shell is also associated with Saint James, somtimes referred to as James the Greater, was one of the Twelve Apostles.  In some church traditions, James’ mother is reported to be the sister to Jesus’ mother, Mary, making Jesus and James first cousins.  Tradition also has it that the remains of the Saint were taken to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia, which is in the north of Spain.

Saint James became the patron saint of Spain during the reconquest of the country from the Moors and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela became a popular site for Christian pilgrims.  Galacia, noted for delicious seafood, including scallops, drew thousands of Christians pilgrims who often carried a scallop shell back with them as a souvenir of the trip.  Before long, the sea shell became a symbol of Christian pilgrimage.

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2 Responses to Darling Maggie

  1. Renet Bender says:

    This one is really moving.

  2. This case study will attribute the breadth of this grave statue’s appeal to its success in combining three elements—popular Victorian children’s culture, an artistic pedigree originating in classical sculpture, and overlapping Judeo-Christian iconographies. This combination of elements resulted in an ambiguous image that each viewer could interpret from his or her particular perspective. It established a broad underlying meaning in which the scallop shell served as a symbol of transformation and the sleeping baby as a pure and innocent soul, while the incongruous scale and juxtaposition of these images created a fantasy context far removed from the realities of pain and disease, the permanence of death, or the inevitability of decaying flesh. In an era of doting attention to children as the Victorian family’s treasure trove, and the ever-present threat of that treasure’s theft by death, the analogy of the dead child’s soul to a pearl ensconced in a protective shell, journeying into the hereafter, provided consolation to the bereaved of various faiths.

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