The Star and the Harp




A.D. 1850

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even

So them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

1 Thess; 4 Chap. 14 Verse

 Thus when we in Christ have slumbered,

We shall rise, with the Wise,

And with them be numbered.

The Ebauch red sandstone family mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn has two symbols carved on the tomb’s door—a seven-pointed star with the words “OF BETHLEHEM” and below the star is an intricately carved harp with the words, “OF ZION.”

According to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, the Star of Bethlehem was the light that signaled the miraculous birth of the Christ child that inspired the Magi to travel to Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem.

The harp has been considered the instrument of angels.  The Biblical passages Psalm 137, verses 1 through 3, read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps Upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”  The light and airy tones that emanate from the harp, ethereal and almost mystical, have long been thought of as the sound of Heaven.  

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Lady Justice

The Greenwood Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in New Orleans with over 150 acres of graves and tombs still with active burials.  The cemetery was founded in 1852 by the Fireman’s Charitable Benevolent Association and has a number of communal vaults including the General Mechanics Society vault. 

The white marble vault is crowned with a draped urn. Urns are found on top of columns and mausoleums. The urn, of course, is a container used to hold the ashes or the cremated remains of the dead.  In this case, the urn is draped.  The drapery either represents a shroud symbolizing death and sorrow or can also be a motif that represents a veil that separates the Earth and Heaven.  The urn was an almost ubiquitous 19th Century symbol found in nearly every American cemetery. 

The decorative gable features an inset depicting the allegorical figure, Lady Justice, which was introduced into the Roman pantheon of gods by Augustus as Justitas.  Here she is shown blindfolded with her arm around the scales and a sword at her side. 

Lady Justice is most often found in a courthouse pediment or as a statue at the entrance of the building.  The blindfold is meant to show that justice is meted out fairly and impartially with no judgment regarding a person’s wealth, social status, or station in life.  The scale is a symbol that dates back as far as ancient Egypt, with the heart of the deceased being weighed against the feather of truth.  Here, rather than weighing the evidence of a crime, Lady Justice in a cemetery may be weighing a lifetime of sin or one of virtue.  Some believe the double-sided sword at her side symbolizes reason and justice while others believe it represents justice as swift and final.

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Alois Alzheimer Remembered



6 JULY 1860 – 28 FEBRAUARY 1901


14 JUNE 1864 – 19 DEZEMBER 1915

For anyone who has experienced the blank look in your mother’s eyes when she struggled to remember who you are, the name Alzheimer is a familiar name.  The name of the disease strikes fear in people diagnosed with it and those who are the caregivers.  The disease robs a person of their memories.

While I generally focus my writing on North American cemeteries I was in Frankfurt, Germany, on business in the last couple of weeks and had an afternoon to myself.  I jumped on the Metro and made my way to the Frankfurt Hauptfriedhof—the main cemetery.  And buried there in the magnificent cemetery with broad tree-lined alleys and walkways is the famous scientist, Alois Alzheimer, known for his work with Auguste Deter, the first person diagnosed with pre-senile dementia.

In 1906, Alzheimer published a paper describing the condition that he identified in his patient Deter.  Though Deter was only 50 years old, she exhibited short-term memory loss, paranoia, aggression, and sleep disturbance.  After her death, he studied her brain tissue and Alzheimer noted abnormal plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in her brain histology.  Though the medical field took little notice of Alzheimer’s paper, his colleague, Emil Kraepelin included the disease in his 1910 edition of Psyciatrie, naming it Alzheimer’s disease for the clinical psychiatrist and neuroanatomist—Alois Alzheimer.

His grave is in a corner of the cemetery far away from the main gate.  His monument backs up to the brick wall that encompasses the cemetery.  The bas-relief depicts a young boy clutching to what appears to be a rose and bud as he stands before a woman whose head is bent.

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Installed but Did Not Serve

As mentioned in the previous post, Greenwood Cemetery, in Columbia, Tennessee, has 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.  In a box or chest tomb not far away lies buried Taswell Alderson.

The following is a partial inscription on the top of his tomb:


to the memory of


Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee and Past Grand High Priest of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.  A native of Virginia and long a citizen of Tennessee, He was born on the 2nd of November 1802 and departed this life 24th of August 1842.   He was a Christian. And in his life adorned the doctrines of the one and obeyed the precepts of the other.  He took delight in doing good.  He was a friend to the poor the widowed and the fatherless.  Sorrow and want were never turned from his door without consolation and relief.  His whole life was one of active usefulness and benevolence and though death struck him down almost without warning In the full strength and pride of manhood. Still he was not unprepared for the blow.  For he made the word of God his counsel.

According to an article written by Nancy Adgent titled, “In Peace and Harmony”: Masons in Greenwood Cemetery, which appeared in the Association for Gravestone Studies QUARTERLY / Vol. 32, No. 4 / Fall 2008, the Taswell Alderson’s tomb, which was elaborately embellished with Masonic symbols indicated that Alderson was the second of two Grand High Priest buried in the tiny cemetery. 

            Adgent goes on the describe the panels of the Alderson box tomb that display Masonic symbols and explains why one of the panels may be without symbolism altogether.

“One end panel of Alderson’s tomb has a quarter moon crescent enclosed by the square and compasses, a symbol seen in jewels of the Junior Deacon and Deputy Master offices.  The other end has a blank panel, symbolically facing north, the direction Masons consider a place of darkness.” 

One side panel depicts the pick, hammer, and spade which represent some of the Master Mason’s tools.

Another panel adjacent panel “contains three six-pointed stars (hexalpha) above a crescent.  In ancient Masonry, the hexalpha was considered the Seal of Solomon and Shield of David, and it represented the universe, sun, and the planets.”

“Perhaps the most arcane carving is on the opposite side.  Although three and nine are significant numbers in Masonic culture, and candles are integral to the Masons’ search for spiritual illumination, the specific meaning of this motif is speculative. Pyramids often indicate God and the universe or ancient knowledge.  The triangular placement of the columns supporting the Masonic rule replicates the configuration of the three great lights on the lodge floor with the candles representing the sum, moon, and Master of the Lodge.  It may also be a stylized form of the icon for the Cryptic degree of Royal Master.  In addition to the number three, three-sided symbols also represent the Holy Trinity as well as wisdom, power, and creativity.”

“The last Alderson panel show three triangles, each with a trowel hanging from the top, a symbol found in jewelry for the Senior Warden office and the Cryptic degree level.”

However, there should be an asterisk on this box tomb, because while Alderson was inducted as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee, he did not serve.  In fact, he was unable to serve because he was dead.

Reported in The Columbia Daily Herald, November 2, 2013, Bob Duncan, the then director of the Maury County archives, noticed the grave of Tazwell Alderson and his elaborate box tomb.  Duncan deciphered the faded entablature on the top of the box tomb. One of the things that the inscription said was that Tazewell Alderson had been Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.  When he visited the Columbia Lodge No. 31 he discovered that in the great lineup of oil portraits of Tennessee Grand Masters there was not one of Tazewell Alderson.

After a trip to the archives, the mystery was solved.  Alderson who was to be installed as Grand Master died just before the induction ceremony.  As a courtesy to honor the recently deceased Alderson and his family, the members of the Grand Lodge traveled to Columbia to give him Masonic last rites.  First, however, they installed him as Grand Master.  Installed but he did not serve.

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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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