Grand High Priest

Hezekiah Ward

Born March 10, 1795

Died May 10, 1836

Aged 41 years

Greenwood Cemetery, the original burying ground for the city of Columbia, Tennessee, established in 1809, sits on a bluff overlooking the winding Duck River.  Many notables are buried in the two-acre plot that was set aside over two centuries ago, including, Major Samuel Polk and Jane Know Polk, the parents of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk.  Along with soldiers of the American revolution, Mexican American War, and the Civil War, there are several prominent Masons buried in the small cemetery, including Hezekiah Ward, who held the exalted office of Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in 1831 and 1832.

Hezekiah Ward worked as a carpenter.  He and his wife, Elizabeth Ridley, were married on May 2, 1822.  James Knox Polk, future president served as his bondsman.  The couple had seven children.  Ward died in 1836 at the young age of 41 years.  Ward was buried in a gray marble chest tomb.

The chest tomb side panels features ovals, two of which, depict Masonic motifs.  The end panel obscured by a tall gray tablet has a quarter moon crescent enclosed by the square and compasses. 

The side panel of Ward tomb is imbued with symbolism.  It depicts an oval with a keystone.  The keystone indicates that Hezekiah achieved the Mark Master degree.  The keystone is the architectural device that gives strength and durability to an arch. 

Inside the keystone is a circle with the letters H. T, W, S, S, T, K, S which stands for Hiram the widow’s son sent to King Solomon.  This is a reference to the Biblical passage 1 Kings 7:13-14:

“13 Now King Solomon sent and brought [a]Huram from Tyre

14 He was the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a bronze worker; he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill in working with all kinds of bronze work. So, he came to King Solomon and did all his work.”

Within that circle is a coffin representing death next to a tree symbolizing the tree of life. 

In a very short time Hezekiah Ward had made his mark as a Mason achieving the highest office in the state.

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A Message From Heaven

Blessed are the

pure in heart for

they shall see God.


to the memory of

Mrs. Frederica Caroline

daughter of

Cart and Anna


and beloved wife of


who was born in

Overnhausen, Prussia

on the 12th of Nov. 1819

and died in Savannah

on the 12th Nov. 1862

Aged 43 years.

Frederica Basler’s white marble gravestone in the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, is festooned with elaborate ornamentation, partially hidden by the growth of lichens.  Atop the Gothic-style stone is a green lichen-covered Cross fleury or Cross flory—named such because the arms of the cross end with a fleurs-de-lys. The three-petaled tips at the end of the arms of the cross represent the petals of the lily. 

The number three also has significance in Christianity and represents the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This type of cross was also used in the symbolism of heraldry to represent the virtues of wisdom, faith, and chivalry.

The top third of the stone, set in the pointed arch, displays a hand reaching down from the Heavens holding an unfurled scroll.  The message is a Bible verse from Matthew 5:8—“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  This is a verse delivered by Jesus as precursor to the Sermon on the Mount.  It is the sixth of eight beatitudes.  During the time of Christ, cleanliness was a virtue oft preached about.  However, here Jesus is speaking about purity of the heart which produced external purity.

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Bones and Ashes

The Catholic Calvary Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful setting despite being between two busy streets in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois.  The cemetery grounds gently slope down from the Chicago Avenue Main Gate to Sheridan Road which borders Lake Michigan. 

The cemetery is the final resting place for many of the Catholic faithful, including a Father S. Moretti.  Unfortunately, his monument doesn’t give away many details about the Father—not his birth date, place of birth, place of death, or his death date—only the Latin inscription:




Roughly his epitaph translates to:

bones and ashes

brothers of the order of slaves

The B.M.V. is short for the Latin “Beata Maria Virgo” meaning “Blessed Virgin Mary”

His monument is quite impressive. A bronze statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is atop the block of light gray granite.    The canopy is supported by ornamented columns resting on a base with three steps each representing a different virtue—“Faith in the will of God…Hope for the dawn of that yet more glorious day and Charity toward all men.”

On the face of the monument is a medallion that is inscribed, “Father S. Moretti” with a base-relief sculpture of his image.  The medallion sculpture and the bronze statue of the Blessed Virgin was created by the artist Leopold Bracony.  Bracony was an accomplished sculpture and an example of his work can be found at Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana. 

According to a story that appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Purdue Alumnus magazine, Bracony’s statue, “”Tired Boy,” the bronze sculpture centered in Windsor Circle near the entrance of Wood Hall, was part of a collection of gifts donated to the University by philanthropist and art collector Catherine Barker Hickox of Michigan City, Indiana.

“Its sculptor, Leopold Bracony, was inspired by an incident he witnessed during World War I. He noticed two people, a small boy and a woman, who stopped to rest in the midst of the bombing. Touched by the confidence the tired child placed in the woman, Bracony created the sculpture as a symbol of faith.”

The statue was originally owned by Barker Hickox, the only child of millionaire industrialist John H. Barker and was heiress to the Pullman-Standard railroad company fortune, donated the statue to Purdue University. 

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A small house built by the Dibble family in 1881-82 in the town of Eldon, Iowa, became the backdrop for one of the most famous and most parodied paintings in the world.  

The house caught Grant Wood’s eye because of the pointed-arch window which was likely purchased from a Sears catalog and built in the mid-19th century architectural Carpenter Gothic style—hence the name of the painting—American Gothic.  Wood thought the Gothic-style window on the modest farmhouse looked pretentious. 

According to a placard at what is now a museum that maintains the house and features details about the artist and the famous painting, “The style grew out of a need for quickly-built homes and a desire for fanciful details.  The price to add these details two wood-framed structures decreased significantly during this period, so even modest homes were able to incorporate extra elements.  Identifying features of Carpenter Gothic style on the are the steeply-pitched roof, the board and batten siding and the pointed-arch windows.” 

“Grant Wood used his sister, Nan Wood Graham, and his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby, for his models, and he promised them they would not be recognized.  His sister was disguised somewhat by changing the shape of her face, but many recognized Dr. McKeeby which hurt Wood and McKeeby’s friendship.”

“The two never posed together in front of the house and never actually met until they posed for a photograph 12 years later.“

“American Gothic was painted in 1930…  After seeing and sketching this house, Wood’s idea was to show the kind of people he imagined would live there.  The painting is said to represent a father and his daughter.  Their placement and expressions show a father defending his daughter, and the daughter’s reluctant submission. They had some wealth, as shown by her broach, his collar stud, and the one-horse barn.  In reality the barn never existed the way Wood painted it, and the church steeple never existed at all.”

Grant Wood and his sister, Nan, are buried in the Riverside Cemetery at Anamosa, Iowa. Grant’s gravestone has a metal marker that signifies his service and a painted metal highly-stylized corn stalk next to his marker as does his mother’s.

Their markers are modest red granite small block gravestones.

Dr. Byron McKeeby is buried in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Oak Hill Cemetery.

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Hands from Heaven



I recently took my daughter to Loyola for the start of the fall semester. Close to the campus, is the Catholic Calvary Cemetery in Evanston. I stopped by to take pictures in the cemetery and was reminded of a post from eight years ago:

Mary Crawford’s white marble tombstone in the Calvary Cemetery at Evanston, Illinois, is a Victorian mélange of symbolism, typical for the age.  The Victorians knew how to do funerals and all things death.

The top of the stone depicts swirling clouds with two hands coming downward presumably from the Heavens.  Typically, a hand pointed downward on a gravestone represents the hand of God, and symbolizes mortality and death, often sudden death.  In this case, the hands look welcoming, almost like they are inviting the soul up to Heaven.

The tableau on which the hands are displayed is set like a stage with two curtains drawn to the sides.  These often represent funeral drapes, a symbol of mourning and grief. However, they could also represent the veil between one realm and the other—the passage of the soul from the Earthly Realm to the Heavenly realm.

At the base of the scene is a dove. Many symbols found on gravestones have multiple meanings. The dove is one of those.

Several references in the Bible refer to the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16 reads, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” In Mark 1:10 the Bible says, “And Straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.” Again in John 1:32, the Bible reads, “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.”

Along with the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the dove is also closely associated with peace, often depicted with a sprig of an olive in its beak. This, too, originated in the Bible. After the waters receded in the story of Noah, the dove appears. Genesis 8:11, “And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off; so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”   It was a sign of God’s forgiveness.

The dove, with its white color, is also a symbol of purity and innocence and for that reason is often found the tombstones of children.

Thus the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, peace, and purity.  Here the dove sits atop a tilted cross.  The cross, of course, is the universal symbol of Christianity.

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Heroine Teacher—Annie Louise Keller

According to the Hamilton Daily News, Hamilton, Ohio, September 28, 1929 edition, under the headline, “Illinois Erects Shaft to Teacher Heroine”, the article recounted the story about the horrific and powerful tornado that swept through central Illinois on April 19, 1927, “The school where Miss Keller taught was in the path of the storm, in shielding the twenty-two scholars she gave her own life.  She observed the approaching storm, calculating its force and divined the danger to herself and the children.

With … calmness … in order not to alarm her charges, she commanded them to “crawl under the desks and remain there.”  Because she had been able to maintain perfect discipline and also had won the love of the boys and girls, they were quick to obey.  She stood near the door while the roar of the storm grew louder and the gathering clouds more menacing, alert to see that not a single child crawled from the shelter to which they had been ordered.

“The storm passed, leaving a trail of destruction.  Rescuing parties found the school building demolished, the bricks piled upon the desks, heavy timbers scattered about.  In the desperate haste they cleared away the debris but found only one crushed and mangled body.  It was that of the teacher.  Every pupil was alive and unhurt.  The teacher had been beneath a falling wall; desks had protected the children.”

To the horror of the citizens of White Hall and the parents and pupils, this diminutive teacher who had put her body between the tornado and her charges as she braced herself against the door had been lifted up as a heroine.  The community came together to build a fitting and lasting commemorative to her bravery and memory.

According to the Decatur Review, Decatur, Illinois, December 29, 1927, page 4, the article noted that “the Illinois State Teachers association convention today in voting approximately $5,000 to the fund for a memorial. Pupils of the state [had] already raised $4,000 for the state. Money voted today will be available in any amount up to $5,000, which is half of the contingent fund from the teachers’ pension.”

The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, (1908-1984) Vol. 22, No. 3 (Oct., 1929), pp. 468—476 (11 pages) Published by: University of Illinois Press Published an article about the memorial, “…the brilliant ceremony conducted in White Hall, Illinois, Sunday afternoon, August 25, 1929, when 3,000 people from Central Illinois witnessed the unveiling of the beautiful pink marble monument deigned and modeled by the famous sculptor, Lorado Taft, in Miss Keller’s honor.”

“Dramatic in the extreme were the dedicatory exercises in Whiteside Park, in the center of the city, where eloquent speakers paid tribute to the heroine and where the little school children whose lives she saved by her bravery at Centerville School, and for whom she gave up her won life during a tornado, April 19, 1927, gathered in a human chain about her monument and placed at its base a beautiful wreath of white roses….”

Annie Louise Keller is buried at the Bluffdale Cemetery between Hillview and Eldred, Illinois.  The cemetery is at the base of a limestone bluff on the “dale”, hence the name.  It is hidden behind a corn field on the Bluffdale Vacation Farm owned by the Hobson family.  After a thorough search and several stops asking locals for directions, I made it to the solid and historic limestone home that has been in the family for over 200 years. 

Fortunately, Ken Howard Hobson was in the front yard and willing to lead me to the cemetery and give me a brief history of the family starting with Gideon Spencer the patriarch of the family buried under a large cedar tree. Annie Louise Keller’s great nephew and the caretaker of the cemetery near Eldred, Illinois, told me that Annie’s sister Mary sat three times for Lorado Taft as he sculpted the memorial.  Annie was engaged to Ken Hobson, Ken Howard Hobson’s grandfather, when the tornado took her life.  Her sister Mary also filled in for Annie in life, Annie’s fiancée married Mary.

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Milton T. Barlow Monument

Nellie Verne Walker was an Iowa sculptor who gained fame for her monumental works such as the statue she created of Chief Keokuk, the Lanning Fountain, and The Lincoln Trail State Memorial.  The Lincoln Trail State Memorial was designed in 1937 and installed in 1938, to commemorate the first time Abraham Lincoln trekked into Illinois.  Lincoln was 21 years old at the time on hard times when he and his family moved from Indiana to settle in Illinois.

The Freeport Journal Standard, Freeport, Illinois, Tuesday, June 14, 1938, edition of the page wrote about the dedication of the monument on its front page, “Lincoln Monument Presented to State by Illinois D. A. R. Lawrenceville, Ill., June 14, (AP)—The Illinois Daughters of the American Revolution presented the Lincoln Monument at Lincoln Trail Monument State Park to the State of Illinois in a dedication ceremony today. 

The monument in the 32-acre park on the Illinois side of the Lincoln Memorial bridge of U. S. 50 narks the spot where Abraham Lincoln and his family first touched foot on Illinois soil.

Formal presentation was made by Mrs. Jacob Friedrich Zimmerman, state regent of the D. A. R. with Director F. Lynden Smith of public works representing Governor Horner. 

A limestone panel of the monument depicts the Lincoln family entering the state.  Lincoln at 21 is represented in bronze walking with his family.  Nellie Walker of Chicago designed and executed the monument.”

In addition to her public works, Walker, like most sculptors at the time, took private commissions which were often funerary monuments like the shrouded figure bronze statue she created for Milton T. Barlow of Omaha, Nebraska. 

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, Nebraska, Wednesday, July 2, 1930, edition, reported, “MILTON T. BARLOW DIES: Aged Omaha Banker Was Chairman Board U. S. National Bank.  OMAHA—(UP)—Milton T. Barlow, eighty-six, who had been in the banking business here for sixty-seven years, died at his home late Tuesday.  He had been in a semi-conscious state for several days.

Barlow was, until he resigned a month ago, because of ill health, chairman of the board of the U. S. National bank.  He retained a position as a member of the board until the end.

Born in Greencastle, Ind., in 1844, Barlow came here in 1863 and entered the private banking firm of Barrows and Millard as a clerk.  A few months later he enlisted in the Civil war and marched with Sherman to the sea without seeing active fighting.

At the close of the war, he returned here and rejoined the banking firm, being admitted as a partner in 1868.  The institution became the U. S. National bank in 1883 and Barlow was made cashier.  In 1897 he was made president, becoming chairman of the board in 1920.  Funeral services are to be held Thursday.”

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The Butterfield Celtic Cross

Roger Williams Butterfield

April 23, 1844 – July 17, 1920

Lenora Drake Butterfield

October 25, 1849 – October 30, 1920

In the north end of the Oakhill Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the Butterfield Celtic cross marking the graves of Roger Butterfield and many of his family members.

Roger Williams Butterfield was a prominent attorney in Grand Rapids, and the son of Reverend Isaac Butterfield, a well-known Baptist minister recognized for his rousing sermons.  Though the Reverend had urged his son, Roger, to follow in his ecclesiastical footsteps, the young Butterfield eschewed the clergy to pursue what became a successful career in the law.

After his death, the Butterfield family erected a Celtic cross to commemorate the family’s burial plot. The Celtic cross is one of the most easily identified and plentiful crosses found in American cemeteries. The Celtic cross is much like the Latin cross with a long stem and crossbeams toward the top third. But the feature that distinguishes it from other crosses is the circle, called a nimbus, that encompasses the intersection of the crossbeams.

The cross itself has a very long history that predates Christianity. The Celtic cross has pagan origins—some say representing the moon goddess. Others believe that the crossbeams of the cross symbolize the male while the circle represents the female. When Christianity spread throughout the Emerald Island, the Christians adopted the Celtic cross as their expression of the cross.

The Butterfield family commissioned Nellie Verne Walker to sculpt their monument.  As is common, the cross was created from one piece of stone—a rose-colored slab of granite.  The cross measures 20 feet in height, the tallest such cross in the Oakhill Cemetery.  The cross features three allegorical figures—Hope, Faith, and Charity, which Christian scholars refer to as the Theological Virtues as seeking to live a good and moral life.  The figures are inhabited in the cross meaning the figures are carved into the tapering shaft underneath the nimbus. 


The representation of Hope can be easily found in American cemeteries.  Hope is most often portrayed as a woman standing and leaning against an anchor.  The anchor is an ancient Christian symbol that has been found in early catacomb burials.  The anchor was used by early Christians as a disguised cross.  The anchor also served as a symbol of Christ and his anchoring influence in the lives of Christians.  Just as an anchor does not let a moored boat drift, the anchoring influence of Christ does not allow the Christian life to drift.


The figure often holds a cross in her hand as she looks upwards to the Heavens. The Cross symbolizes her Christian faith. Often, Faith is also depicted carrying a palm which represents victory over death.  Another symbol often seen in conjunction with the cross is the laurel wreath, which dates to Roman times when soldiers wore them as triumphal signs of glory.


Quite often in Renaissance paintings, the figure of Charity is depicted as a woman breast-feeding an infant.  However, in the more staid and modest Victorian era, Charity is shown in the process of pulling her garment to one side to reveal her breast.  The allegorical figure can also be found holding food for the hungry or clothes for the unclothed.  The great theologian, Thomas Aquinas, reckoned that Charity was the most excellent of the virtues because it united man to God and that the habit of charity extended to love for one’s neighbor, as well as to God.  In this depiction of Charity, the virtue holds a staff.

In the book, The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan, by Thomas R. Dilley, published by Wayne University Press, 2014, page 182, Dilley writes, “The reverse side of the Butterfield cross is entirely covered with the Celtic knot patterns, symbolic of the intricate complexity of life.  The Butterfield monument sits atop two hewn boulders, consistent with the original placements of such crosses atop a mound of earth or small stepped pyramid of stone emblematic of the earth joined by the tapered shaft (world axis) to the sky, the latter symbolized by the circular nimbus.”

This monument is another example of the craftsmanship and artistry of the sculptress, Nellie V. Walker.

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Crying Mary

Johannes Decker 1839 – 1910

Ruth Decker 1840 – 1925

Lila Decker 1869 – 1872

Baby Decker 1875

Often legends that spring up about gravestones and monuments in cemeteries are born of fantasy and imagination.  One such example is the so-called “Crying Mary” statue in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The statue was commissioned by Ruth Decker in 1911, after her husband Johannes Decker died.  Nellie Verne Walker, an Iowa sculptress who was working in Chicago at the time, created the monument.  The monument now marks the graves of Johannes, Ruth, and their two children—Lila, who died of scarlet fever, and Baby, who was born stillborn.

The bronze statue of a woman symbolizes “Memory.”

Currently, the statue has been polished to reveal the original bronze color.  But after the statue was placed in the cemetery in 1911, after many years the bronze oxidized, and a green patina appeared.  The pattern around the eyes made the goddess Memory appear to be weeping.  She looked as if she had tears streaming down her face.  Then someone reported that they had actually seen the statue weep and she wept every night at midnight.  The legend continued to grew—people were whispering that it wept because she had murdered her six children.

Some, trying to explain the myth with an “logical” explanation, falsely claimed that tubing was inserted in the base of the statue up to the eyes to draw up moisture and make “Crying Mary” cry!

Of course, the rumors and the legend surrounding the statue are untrue but even with the statue sandblasted and the original bronze color revealed, it continues….

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The Learned Angel








The February 10, 1928, Evening State Journal and Lincoln Daily News, Lincoln Nebraska, front page, announced, “Myron Learned Dies: Myron L. Learned, sixty-one, prominent Omaha attorney and a former powerful figure in republican state and county politics, died here last evening following an emergency operation for appendicitis.  Learned came to Nebraska from Vermont in 1888 and for twenty years was law partner of John L. Kennedy here.  He served on state, county and city republican central committees and was delegate to several national conventions.  He never ran for public office.”

Learner was married to Mary Poppleton Learned who was a member of a prominent pioneer Omaha family.  Her father was A. J. Poppleton, a member of the First Nebraska Territorial Legislature and the second mayor of the city of Omaha.

After the death of Mr. Myron Learned in 1928, his family commissioned Nellie V. Walker to create the angel to mark his grave in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska.  The art deco design, completely in 1929,  is evident in the lettering on the base of the monument.  The angel recedes into a plain unadorned granite surround.  The oval behind the angels head gives the grieving angel a halo effect. The angle’s outstretched arms indicate a protective posture. The water stains from the angle’s eyes give the statue an appearance that she has been weeping.

Nellie Verne Walker, a diminutive woman standing only four foot eight inches tall, not only created commissions for individuals but also large public monuments, such as the one she created for the City of Keokuk, Iowa, and cast by J. Berchem of Chicago, Illinois. 

The October 22, 1913, edition of the Decatur, Illinois, Daily Review posted a front page article about the dedication of the statue of Chief Keokuk, that read, in part, “Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution from all parts of Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa attended the dedication here today of the statue in memory of Chief Keokuk of Black Hawk fame for whom this city was named. With Mrs. William C. Story, of New York City, president-general of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in attendance…[other prominent people in attendance] include Lorado Taft, the sculptor, Dr. Frank Wyman of the Department of Indian Affairs, and Mrs. H. R. Howell, state regent, D. A. R., John Keokuk, of Oklahoma, the great-great-grandson of the Indian Chief, brought a message from the Sac and Fox Tribe, over which Chief Keokuk ruled while in his prime.”

The article went on to further state, “The statue of Chief Keokuk is of bronze ten feet in height, resting on a base fifteen feet high.  It is the work of Miss Nellie V. Walker, an Iowa girl, now living in Chicago.  Great care was taken in the reproduction of Chief Keokuk’s dress, and Miss Walker made frequent trips to the Smithsonian Institute  and to numerous historical societies throughout the central states in order to give a correct picture of the Indian as he lived.” That last sentence in the article was a tribute to the thorough and meticulous nature of Walker to her work as a serious sculptor.

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