According to an article written by Cynthia Mills and published in Vermont History 68 (Winter/Spring 2000): pages 35-57, artist and writer Lorado Taft compared and contrasted Karl Bitter’s Thanatos and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Henry Adams funerary sculpture which became known as “Grief”.  Mills writes, “the Adams monument in Washington, D.C. [became] a touchstone for all draped bronze allegorical sculpture in American cemeteries at the turn of the century.”

The Adams memorial was created and designed for Henry Adams whose wife, Marian Hooper “Clover” committed suicide in 1885.  Thanatos was designed by Karl bitter for the John E. Hubbard Memorial.

Mills writes, “Lorado Taft wrote in 1903 of the Hubbard’s figure: “The breathlessness, the swaying arms, the grip of the hand, the pressure of the feet, the tangle of the enveloping shroud give this figure another kind of impressiveness from the awful calm of Saint-Gaudens’s sibyl.  Mr. Bitter’s conception is less majestic, but has an intensity which grows upon one.”

“Taft continued, however, to speak of the monument in words that could have been applied to the famous Adams monument itself:

“This unknown being, wrapped in its mantle as in one of [symbolist painter Elihu] Vedder’s swirls, this groping, unseeing creation, has in its make-up something ideal, of the large and deep, by virtue of which it seems full of significance.  The sculptor must have meant something by it.  What its meaning, each must read for himself.”**

**Lorado Taft comments in his chapter on “Decorative sculptors and men of foreign birth” in The History of American Sculpture, 1903, 460-462.

Posted in Famous graves, Symbolism | Leave a comment

Black Agnes, Isn’t!

The John E. Hubbard monument in the Green Mount Cemetery at Montpelier, Vermont, features a statue of Thanatos created by famed sculptor, Karl Bitter.  The monument is neither black nor Agnes—it is green and it Thanatos.  Thanatos, in Greek mythology, was the personification of death.

Oddly, however, this monument has become known in local lore as Black Agnes.  The monument may have been given the name based on a sculpture that was erected for General Felix Agnus, the publisher of the Baltimore American who was buried in the Druid Ridge Cemetery, at Pikesville, Maryland, outside of Baltimore.  The seated sculpture, that became known as Black Agnus and once decorated General Angus’s monument, was a knock-off of the sculpture that Augustus Saint-Gaudens created for the Adams monument in the Rock Creek Cemetery at Washington, D.C.

What is plain from looking at the Hubbard monument is that the “she” is a “he.”  Nonetheless, the name, Black Agnes, persists and a mythology of its own has been created around the sculpture.  Supposedly, if you sit on the lap of the sculpture, something bad will happen to you—some say in seven hours, some say seven days, some say seven months; the amount of time varies depending on who retells the story of the curse. Locals also tell of screams coming from the cemetery at night in the vicinity of the monument.  Others report seeing the eyes of the sculpture turn to glowing red, though, no photographic evidence of that has surfaced.

Separating Fact and Myth

What we know to be true is that the monument was created for John Erastus Hubbard (1847 – 1899) who was a prominent businessman and citizen in Montpelier.  When his well-to-do Aunt passed away in 1890, she left the bulk of her fortune to the city of Montpelier.  John contested the will and won the fortune which he added to his own sizeable holdings.  It caused many in the city to see Hubbard as a bit of a scoundrel who cheated the city out the bequest—which some estimated the fortune at $300,000—which was a King’s ransom in the 19th Century.

Hubbard’s reputation was nearly instantly tainted, but when he died less than ten years later, he left the bulk of his fortune to the city—some believe to polish his tarnished legacy.

On either side of the statue that dominates his tomb are the following two stanzas from William Cullen Bryant’s poem, “Thanatopsis” which would seem to indicate that Hubbard did not believe he had anything to be ashamed of:












As the French proverb goes, “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Knights Templar

Next to several gravestones in the Hope Cemetery at Barre, Vermont, are small metal markers imbued with an amazing amount of symbolism.  The marker has at its center a cross and crown laid upon a triangle that is resting upon downward pointing swords in saltire.

All of these symbols point to the marker commemorating the grave of a member of the Knights Templar—that and the fact that at the bottom of the cartouche, the words—“St. Aldemar Com. No. 11. K.T.” gives us several clues.  K. T. refers to the Knights Templar.  “Comm.” is an abbreviation for commandery, one of the organizing units in the Knights Templar, a fraternal order associated with Freemasonry.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans

Next to several gravestones in the Hope Cemetery at Barre, Vermont, are small metal markers.  The markers have a shield displaying a rampart lion overlaid on two crossbars and atop another shield with thistle leaves and thistle flowers flanking the top shield.  The letters B. at the top of the marker and O. S. C. at the bottom of the marker are initials that stand for the Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans.

Several of the symbols on the metal marker are significant to the Scots.  The rampart lion is the same heraldic symbol displayed on the royal Banner of Scotland which was flown by Scottish Kings.  The crossbar represents St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, who was martyred at Patras in Achaea in Greece.  St. Andrew believed himself unworthy to die in the same way as Christ and requested he be lashed to a Crux decussate or an x-shaped cross.  The thistle is the National Emblem of Scotland.

The Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans fraternal organization was founded in the late 1800s in St. Louis, Missouri, by James McCash to would provide insurance and mutual aid to its members.  The organization also promoted the Scottish heritage by sponsoring the replaying of Highland games, dancing, picnics featuring Scottish foods, and playing bagpipes.

Fittingly, the order was founded on St. Andrew’s Day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Bored Angel and the Tribute to a Stone Carver


1886 – 1937


1890 — 1957

The Hope Cemetery at Barre, Vermont, features some of the best carved granite funerary sculptures in the United States.  The cemetery is a favorite on the rock of Ages granite tour.

Two of the stand-out gravestones in a granite sea of expertly carved monuments center around Luigi Giovanni “Louis” Brusa, who was a master Barre stone carver.  One of the gravestone was carved by his expert hands, the other is a tribute to him.  Louis Brusa, born in Como, Italy, immigrated to the United States and settled in Barre, Vermont, widely recognized as the “Granite Capital of the World.”

The gravestone, known as the “Bored Angel” or as the “Sitting Angel,” was carved by sculptor Brusa for his parents, Ernesto Brusa (1851 – 1920) and Maria Brusa (1856 – 1934).  Unlike most cemetery angels who point upward to the Heavens or look down in solitary grief, this one, sits cross legged with her head resting on her palm, and nonchalantly holding the trumpet in her lap that sounds the Second coming.  She does all of this with a totally bored expression.  The gravestone demonstrates Brusa’s ability to capture a moment and a relaxed pose of the human body making it look lifelike or in this case angelic!

The other gravestone dubbed the “Dying Man” is Brusa’s own carved by his friend and fellow stone carver Don Coletti. Brusa was dying of silicosis, a long-term lung disease.  The disease often affects sculptors who inhale large amounts of crystalline silica dust, usually over the course of many years. No doubt Brusa worked in a cloud of dust and breathing in the airborne dust particles as he created sculptures throughout his illustrious career.  Before his death, Brusa commissioned Coletti to sculpt a dying man dying of silicosis.  Brusa wanted his monument to be a cautionary tale to other carvers.  The woman standing next to him is reportedly his wife, but some Barre wags whispered that she bore a stronger resemblance to his mistress.

Ventilation systems have been added to stone carver’s shops which have made it much safer for the artisans.

Posted in Angels | 1 Comment

Tender Sentiments Carved in Stone

Tender epitaphs from the North Conway Cemetery at North Conway, New Hampshire pay tribute to fallen loved ones.


Wife of

Charles S. Whitaker

& daughter of

Capt. Nathaniel & S. Randell,

Died March 18, 1833

Aged 33 years 3 months

And 12 days.

Sweet wither’d rose, may thy pale doom

Call tears into the strangers eye,

Oh, may the prospect of this tomb

Remind us, all live must die.


June 21, 1821

Dec. 5, 1899

Here neath the pines he loved

So well

That naught could lure him from

Their grateful shade

He sleeps to wake elsewhere

For God hath said.  Amen

In memory of


who died April 15, 1820

AE 62

Pause, Reader, pause! & on thy heart

Record what’s here recorded.

Charity like the sun,

Shines on the humble cottage of the poor

With beams no less intense than what are felt

On domes of regal splendor

Not soon provoked, she easily forgives

And much she suffers, as she much believes.

Died Jan. 14th, 1815

Mrs. Anna, consort of

Dea. Abiel Lovejoy

Aged 74 years.

Therefore be ye also ready for in such

an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh.

short is the longest day of life

And soon its prospect ends

Yet on that days uncertain date

Eternity depends.


Died Nov. 15, 1872

Aged 8 yrs. 1 mo. 13 ds


Died Dec. 22, 1872

Aged 4 yrs. 8 m 8 ds


Died Jan. 12, 1873

Aged 10 yrs. 10 ms.


Died Feb. 11, 1873

Aged 15 yrs. 9 ms 1 dy

Children of

George W. & Mary Ann


Full many a flower is born to blush

unseen and waste its sweetness in

the desert air.

Posted in Epitaphs | Leave a comment

Kneeling Recording Angel










As Mentioned in several earlier blog posts, the article, “Embodying Immortality: Angels in America’s Rural Garden Cemeteries, 1850—1900”, pages 56 – 111, 2007 edition of Markers, XXIV, written by Elisabeth Roark, categorized the eight most commonly found types of graveyard angels—which included recording angels.

Winged figures in a cemetery are instantly recognize as angels–a messengers of God.  However, Christian art did not depict angels with wings until the fourth century.  Before then, angels were represented in several different forms–sometimes in human form, but also represented as a dove, or even just as a hand reaching down to Earth from the Heavens.  Beginning with the reign of Constantine, angels began being depicted with wings, as we commonly portray them today.  “Based on the winged Greco-Roman Nike or Victory, their form thus embodied Christianity’s promised triumph over death.  Medieval and Renaissance tombs often featured angels that attended images of the deceased.”

Here this buxom recording angel in the North Conway Cemetery at North Conway, New Hampshire, is depicted head tilted, practically resting on the pages, writing the names of the deceased into an open book.  This recording angel, carved out of gray granite, has an open book resting on her knee and a quill in her hand.  She is registering the names of the deceased into the Book of Life.  In Judaism and Christianity, the names of the righteous were recorded in the Book of Life; they were assured entry into Heaven.

The Book is referenced many times in the Bible (King James Version), including Revelations, Chapter 20,

Verse 12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Verse 13: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

Verse 14: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.”

Verse 15: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Posted in Angels | Leave a comment