Gone! Gone.

Figure 1. Caton monument. Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Charles Dixon Caton (1863-1893) lived a short life, and among other things was distinguished for being born in a place that was not yet a state (West Virginia, seceding from Virginia, was admitted to the Union on 20 June 1863), and dying in another that was not a state. Yah, yah, he was technically born in Virginia, but get with the spirit of things. The anagraphic inscription:

Charles Dixon Caton
Son of
J.O. and M.E. Caton.
Born at Piedmont
Mineral Co. West Va.
Feb. 2, 1863
Died in Washington D.C.
Sept. 29, 1893.

The Oak Hill monument is an unremarkable 1890s kerbobble-form obelisk bedecked with gew-gaws in rich Victorian taste. The cross atop was evidently affixed with an iron rod, for it has been spun in place a few degrees. The cap over the obelisk-like die has laurel branches and a heraldic crown with crossed swords, the tips of which go through the end-links of the usual Odd-Fellows’ three-link chain. The cross seems to me to sit atop a little mansard roof.

You can bet I’ve not brought you here to see something so nondescript! In fact there is an epigram below the anagraphic data, which is none too easy to read, both for lack of contrast and because it is pretty bad.

Figure 2. Caton monument. Detail: inscription. Oak Hill Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

1 Góne! Góne. So míssed though / présent stíll in lóve;
2 Yet óh, what téars and síghing / ánguish hére.
3 But hárk: sound ángels’ sóngs / from héaven abóve,
4 And ráinbows glów in évery / fálling téar.
5 Here yéstermórn, brave són; / but béckoned ón,
6 Forth róse to crówn and blíss / from wárfare hénce;
7 Though thús from hóme, lodge, / chúrch, friends, kíndred góne,
8 As práyed “we’ll méet mid héaven’s / magníficénce.”

I’ve tried to punctuate as the stone has it, though I’m not sure about the colon following ‘hark’ in verse 3. I would punctuate differently were I trying to create an edition. The poem is in 8 regular iambic pentameters with a few interesting bits. The splitting of the verses came at the convenience of the stonecutter; they are irregular, varying from 5/5 syllables to 7/3 in no discernable pattern.

Verse one clearly has a stress on the first syllable, as shown by the exclamation point. The second ‘gone’ gets a stress, too, though it seems to me unemphatic because its imagined speaker is bummed out. See that ‘heaven’ is a monosyllable both times (‘heav’n’, it might have been written, vv. 3, 8), and ‘every’ a disyllable (‘ev’ry’, v. 4). The ostinato of the list of things from which Dixon has been excluded in verse 7 really doesn’t seem to me to vary in stress, though I’ve marked it above as regular iambs. If you prefer to see a spondaic line, I’d be OK with that.

Even for Victorian grave poetry “yestermorn, brave son” is overwrought, and “rainbows glow in every falling tear” is desperate to put a good face on things. I don’t make fun of the poet, or the grief; I merely note the swooping variations in tone.

One might think that ‘brave’ (v. 5) and ‘warfare’ (v. 6) betoken a death in military service. I find no evidence of this on the interwebs. Rather, ‘brave’ is common enough, especially poetically, as a word of approbation, like bravo in Italian. ‘Warfare’ seems to me a synecdoche for ‘bad things in general’, a way for our poet to signify that Dixon has now gone to a better place. There seems in any event not to have been any significant warfare in which the U.S. was involved in 1893.

I don’t know who the poet was. But the poem is written as though the parents, or a parent, were speaking (fittingly, for a man dead at age 30), or so I interpret ‘brave son.’ And the Odd Fellows chain on the monument is echoed in the ‘lodge’ (v. 7) from which Dixon has been separated. The crown in verse 6, symbolic of victory in living a Christian life, may echo the crown depicted on the monument’s cap.

Lastly, I think this poet has avoided one of my pet peeves, saying ‘from whence.’ For those wondering, ‘whence’ already contains the ‘from’ in it. My reading is that ‘from’ governs ‘warfare’, and ‘hence’ is in apposition to ‘from warfare’. ‘Hence’ here means ‘from the world’, and as I said above, I take ‘warfare’ to be a synecdoche for ‘the world’, or at least the bad parts of it. It’d be easier had the poet placed a comma after ‘warfare’.

Appendix 1.

In his monumental Elegies and Epitaphs (1892, pages 268-9), Charles Box quotes without author’s name an elegy ‘Four Graves’, commemorating a father’s loss of four young children to sickness within one month. The sixth stanza reads (with Box’s punctuation and orthography),

Gone! Gone! All four! The crescent moon,
The earliest of the Spring,
Beheld them in a happy home,
And heard their laughter ring;
Yet ere her rounded orb declined
Into its lingering wane,
Bereft, in desolate retreat,
She saw us listening for the feet
That ne’er return again.

Box also quotes (page 146) the simple inscription on the tomb of Mr. F. Buxton commemorated a dead child thus on the family tomb: Eheu! Eheu!, which is Latin for “Alas! Alas!” It’s not quite as effective as the monosyllables of “Gone! Gone!”, but it does capture the formal pattern of solemnly repeated words of grief.

And then suddenly, last summer

The Smith monument, in rustic-face stone, was not too promising when I first spotted it (figure 1).

Figure 1. Smith monument. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Yet obeying the principle of always circling around to double check the rear, it turns out I had approached it from the wrong side, the way people approach the Parthenon in Athens. The front of the Smith monument is much more interesting!

Figure 2. Smith monument front. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

It’s always potentially grim when you come across an anchor on a monument. It may well be that the deceased was in the navy or the merchant marine, but there’s always the possibility that Arthur went down with his ship. See how the anchor’s cable is fouled around a (rustic wood!) cross.

Find a grave opines that Arthur’s wife, Mary (1880-1967) went on to remarry after Arthur died. She is not here with her first family.

Rather, we have Arthur, his mother Annie, and his daughter Eleanor, again following the anonymous Find a grave user who consulted Eleanor’s obituary. Two sons of his are also not here in Mt. Olivet.

The anonymous user quotes and paraphrases the obituary: Annie and Eleanor were killed SUDDENLY in an automobile crash while returning from their cottage on the shore at Beverly Beach. Actually, Eleanor lingered a couple of days in the hospital in Annapolis and died on 25 March.

Now the only mystery is how Arthur earned his “SUDDENLY.” Unfortunately, Arthur seems to have gone out of the world unremarked in any official capacity beyond his tantalizing tombstone.

Maurice Reidy

Figure 1. Reidy monument. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

Maurice Reidy died far too young (why, at my age, come to think of it! Far, far, too young), at 58 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. by his beloved wife, Catharine. His monument is quite interesting for the epigram below the anagraphic details. The latter run thus:

DIED APRIL 16 1888

Figure 2. Reidy monument. Detail: inscription. Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo: author.

The epigram is an imagined conversation, written, it seems to me clear, by Catharine. First Maurice speaks; then his children reply, not to him, but to the reader (figure 2):

1 Farewell, my wife dear, farewell,
2 Adieu, farewell to thee,
3 And you my dear children all
4 Farewell, farewell to you.
5 Our father is gone and we are left
6 The loss of him to mourn,
7 But may we hope to meet with him
8 With Christ before God’s throne.

The punctuation is kind of dicey (I may not have transcribed everything correctly, to boot). I think that ‘God’s’ in verse 8 is carved ‘God,s’, for example.

The meter of this poem is iambic, a mixture of trimeters (verses 2, 4, 6, 8) and a tetrameter (verse 7). An anapest has been substituted for the middle iamb in trimeters in verses 1 and 3; and in verse 5, an anapest substitutes for the second iamb of a tetrameter. There are no syncopations or other adjustments of rhythm.

The verses of the husband are reasonably regular: trimeter, trimeter with central anapest, trimeter, trimeter with central anapest. The notional verses of the children have iambic trimeters in the even verses, but the odd verses are the tetrameter with anapest in position 2, followed by an iambic tetrameter. Schematically:

1 u- uu- u-
2 u- u- u-
3 u- uu- u-
4 u- u- u-

5 u- uu- u- u-
6 u- u- u-
7 u- u- u- u-
8 u- u- u-

Here u is an unstressed syllable, – stressed.

It’s vernacular but not bad, and Catharine could blame the youth of the children for the irregularities in their odd-numbered verses! At the end of the inscription she takes credit for erecting his monument:


A Hollywood angel

No, not one of Charlie’s but the figure of an angel in Hollywood Cemetery (figure 1).

Figure 1. Rueger monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

William Rueger died in 1936, his wife Dorothea (Vocke) in 1909. In this case it was the husband who was left to commemorate his wife, and to judge by the neoclassical style of Julius C. Loester’s angel, Rueger commissioned it soon after her death. Loester seems to me a good artist of the second rank; I find the symmetry of the composition pleasing, and I like the asymmetrical touches in the treatment of the drapery over the upper torso; but the unfurled banner, the treatment of the hair, and the unenthusiastic sculpting of the female form under the drapery make this sculpture a little dry for me.

Figure 2. Rueger monument from rear. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Angel figures rarely have their wings so spread. Sometimes they do, but more often the wings are tucked in closer to the body to aid the sculpture (or image) in fitting better into whatever frame the artist imagines. In this case, the frame is (in part) the horizontal line offered by the top of the slab behind the angel (figures 1, 2), and so spreading the wings agrees with this spatial arrangement.

A female abstract figure in juxtaposition with architecture is something we commonly see in landmark works from the neoclassical period. Hermon MacNeil’s Standing Liberty (of 1916, figure 2a), emerging from a waist-high wall, is a prominent example. In the Rueger monument, a cornice has been added in front to the top of the slab on either side of the figure. These serve to symmetrically frame it (and give weight to the parts of the slab notionally supporting the wings), about the way the gap in MacNeil’s wall frames his Liberty. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney similarly adopted a symmetrical pose, spreading the arms of her female figure wide, in her Founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution (figure 2b), while Augustus Saint-Gaudens placed his sitting Grief (figure 2c) in front of a slab in Rock Creek Cemetery (here I show the replica in the Smithsonian). See also addendum 1, below.

Figure 2a. Hermon MacNeil, Standing Liberty quarter dollar obverse. Photo: John Baumgart. CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 2b. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, The Founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1929. Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid. CC-BY-SA 4.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 2c. Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Clover Adams monument. Smithsonian American Art Museum, inv. 1970.11. Photo: author.

Looking now to figure 3, we see Loester’s solution to a problem I wonder about in my spare time: the attachment of wings to a human torso. It’s ridiculous to hold an artist to some sort of standard in depicting a mythological figure—how do those snakes grow out of Medusa’s head, even in theory? And if a human figure did have wings, they would be in place of arms, as in birds. But even ignoring that, a heavy human body would require vast muscles coming around the torso and a really strong ribcage to support them, in addition to substantial muscles attaching the wing to the spine in back. If you argue that angels are etherial beings made specially by God, fair enough, but why wings then? They can more efficiently float on their own power (God can make them function any way He wills, after all). And how many of them can dance on the head of a pin? In any event, the official position adopted here is that angels, whatever they may be in reality, are depicted anthropomorphically out of artistic convenience and anthropocentrism. As the Greek philosopher said, if horses had gods they’d look like horses, etc.

Figure 3. Rueger monument, joining of wings to figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Loester draws a veil over all this by having the wings emerge from specially made slits in the angel’s gown. However, the draping of this section doesn’t seem to indicate he thought the angel would need much muscle to fly!

Well, enough of that. Let’s turn around to the front and have a look at the torso, banner, and the pose (figure 4).

Figure 4. Rueger monument. view of torso of figure and banner. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The angel is depicted at rest, having landed. The wings are extended for visual purposes as discussed above, but presumably if we try to explain it we would say she’s putting on a display to intimidate her viewers. Her weight is on her left leg, the right thrown slightly forward. There is no wind, and her peplos falls slack to the ground. Because it has been cinched below the breasts, it does fall loosely against the lower torso and right leg, lightly expressing their shapes. The feet are planted flat, and wear sandals. The peplos is open on the right side: see the draping edge below the final ‘t’ in the word ‘that’ on the banner.

There is an inherent contradiction in the depiction of the drapery as being sheer enough to even lightly suggest the contours of the lower torso and legs, yet heavy enough to maintain big folds around the arms, over the breasts, and where it falls off the right shoulder. I put it down to conservatism in the artist who wants to play with the female form like everybody else but doesn’t want to épater les bourgeois with too revealing a figure. An artist of the first rank would say ‘who cares’ and do what he or she wanted; but Loester was far enough down the pecking order to need repeat business, I guess.

Figure 5. Rueger monument, view of left side with sleeve. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

If I am not much mistaken we see (in figure 5) the seam where the left wing has been attached to a stump emerging from the torso, just outside of the line of the arm. See how the patina is beginning to form in it along a line an inch or two out from the shoulder and arm? In figure 3 you can see a nice straight line where the right wing attaches to the rear of the statue.

Figure 6. Rueger monument, view of feet of figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

I always take a photo of the feet (figure 6), since the best artists carry through their attentive work even to the least parts of their figures. About all I can say here is that this angel (or the model who posed for the feet) didn’t have hammer toes.

Figure 7. Rueger monument, view of head and upper torso of figure. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The face (figure 7) is pleasant, if somewhat squarer than the norm, perhaps due to a bit of jowl crunching because she’s looking down. She has a thickish nose and bee-sting lips. (Don’t look up ‘bee-sting lips’ on Google: you won’t like what you find.) The eyes are expressionless and appear to me to look slightly down from the face. They are not deep set, and the brows arch high over them. There is a (to me) ugly little line on the forehead where the cap of hair was welded to the head. The neck seems longer than natural and there is a tiara on top of the head (which sports a bun in back). The overall effect is to heighten the figure in order to set off the widely splayed horizontals of the wings and the banner.

The banner is notionally a ribbon with the words “THEY THAT LIE HERE REST IN PEACE” with the quotation marks in the original. I suppose the quotation marks are meant to indicate that the assertion comes not from the angel but from where what is willed must be. If the wings defy reality, the catenary of the banner does not, and the figure’s right leg could be seen to push out against the ribbon slightly to keep its face visible and message legible.

The wings (figures 8, 9) offer a nice opportunity to see how the artist applied layer after layer of clay to his model, like shingles, to give the feathered look. He incised the barbs into the feathers. Once you see his hand at work you can see how he has incised striations all the way down the gown to give it a crepe-y look, and how he has incised the Greek key pattern on the left shoulder of the peplos and applied clay and mashed it down to give texture to the drapery over the upper torso. All this is neither good nor bad, just an indication of Loester’s working habits.

Figure 10. Rueger monument, artist’s signature. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

The final incised addition I saw on the bronze was Loester’s signature, “Julius C. Loester sc[alpsit],” “Julius C. Loester sculpted [it].”

I feel guilty about tarring Loester with being second rate, even though I think it’s true. But if we compare it with just about anything that’s been put in a cemetery in the U.S. since about 1960, the modern work comes off very, very poorly.

Partly the craftsmanship died out during the depression (and was in decline in the 1920s), partly styles changed, and partly the culture changed to where the modestly successful burgher preferred a short upright slab monument if they were not compelled by cemetery rules to be buried with nothing more than a flat plaque that facilitates mowing.

By contrast, the Rueger monument is an example of the gen-you-wine pieces of art that made outdoor galleries out of so many U.S. gilded-age cemeteries. The mixed desire to enrich the civic environment together with some fairly strenuous social competition left an incomparable cultural legacy we can still enjoy today.


Figure 11. George Julian Zolnay, monument to Margaret Howell Davis Hayes, 1911. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

George Julian Zolnay sculpted a 1911 monument for the grave of Jefferson Davis’s daughter Margaret in Hollywood Cemetery (figure 11). The figure, which has excellent toes, by the way, is backed by a roughly waist high wall in the form of an open book. Otherwise the principles of symmetry have been carried through more thoroughly than in the Rueger monument (figure 1). Now that I look at it carefully, It’s not clear to me how Zolnay imagined her clothing to have been arranged and fastened, except that there’s a big fold in front with a hem that rises in a big S curve. It could be that the clothing scheme is irrational, with its internal logic sacrificed to some desire on Zolnay’s part to get the drapery the way he wanted it. The book has a nice tooled-leather cover inscribed PAX, or ‘peace,’ fitting for a statue dedicated during the great years of reconciliation. However that may be, it does form another comparandum for the schema of the Rueger monument.

Addendum 2.

John O. Peters, in his carefully researched book, Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (2010), gives the useful datum which I had not seen, that the bronze was cast by the Roman Bronze Works, and dates the figure to “ca. 1930.” He had access to cemetery and other historical records, and he gives precise dates where he can, as for the angel on the Cabell monument, which he dates to 1927. His careful use of “ca.” seems to me to indicate that his records fell short and he was estimating on the basis of the dates of death on the stone. The Rueger angel, however, comes from a different world from 1930: she is rightfully compared to figures between 1900 and 1920 on the basis of Loester’s treatment of the pose and drapery. Have a look at the two (figures 12, 13):

The framing elements are different, and the poses are quite different, so anything coming directly from these is irrelevant to what I’m trying to show. Rather, the day of the chiffon-y crepe-y drapery is over by 1927, and the Greek facial features and hair style is gone. I do not pretend that this comparison constitutes definitive proof, but I believe if you were to carry the comparison to further examples, you’d see that there is a sea change between the Rueger figure and figures from “ca. 1930.” In fact, have a look at Vanderbilt’s monument in figure 2b: the drapery is likewise far removed from the neoclassical standard.

Whatever your heart desires

Figure 1. Alexander Alexander monument. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA. Photo: author.

Figure 1 shows the monument of Mr. Alexander Alexander (1928-2009) in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. Its stylized half-columns at each side and the fret pattern along the base of the monument allude to Greek architecture, and one assumes that someone named Alexander Alexander was of Greek descent.

I thought the subscript was Ancient Greek for a moment:

[Whatever your heart wishes]

But the ΣΑΣ, which I thought might be some dialectal form, shows it’s actually got to be Modern Greek. If we tamped this into Ancient Greek I think we might write οὗτινος δή ποτε ἡ καρδία σου ἐπιθυμεῖ.

Anyway, it’s a rare pleasure to find Greek, ancient or modern, on a tombstone!


The Woodmen of the World, an insurance company, boasted for many years of their policy of providing tombstones for deceased employees. These are common enough, but I thought it might be worth documenting the interesting variety I saw in the Albemarle region of North Carolina.

Figure 1. Charles E. Boswood monument, 1895. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 2. Charles D. Weymouth monument, 1900. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 3. F.W. Andrews monument, 1902. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 4. Frederick Davis monument, 1917. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 5. Samuel Henderson monument, 1918. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 6. George W. Horton monument, 1938. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 7. Eugene H. Peel monument, 1939. Manteo Cemetery, Manteo, N.C. Photo: author.
Figure 8. Peterson monument, undated. Manteo Cemetery, Manteo, N.C. Photo: author.

Spears, logs, vines, and tassles: cast-iron precinct rails in Elizabeth City

Episcopal Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C. (est. 1828), offers a study in mid-nineteenth century cast-iron precinct rails for cemetery plots. Figure 1 shows the Grandy plot, which is very old-school and conservative.

Figure 1. Grandy plot. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The rail is economical in its use of iron, and the spear points are thoughtfully guarded by ornamental loops. You can see the gate in the background on the right. You may not have noticed the footnote to the inscription to the oddly named Lesceles Grandy (figure 2). She died in the terrible Windsor Hotel fire in NYC of 17 March 1899. From the Washington Evening Times casualty list:

“Miss LESCELES GRANDY, thirty-five years old, of Washington, D. C., died at the East Fifty-first Street police station.”

“Sixteen surely dead and many missing,” Evening Times, 18 March 1899.

What the Washington, D.C. Evening Times saw fit to print about her life can be read in an excerpt at the bottom of this post.


Figure 2. Lesceles Grandy monument. Detail: inscriptional footnote. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Bumping complexity up a notch is the Knox precinct, whose rail has posts in the image of stripped tree trunks, a common symbol of death borrowed from the rustic sphere (figure 3).

Figure 3. Knox precinct rail. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The corners are rather larger stumps which were assembled out of more than one piece: the tops fit into the hollow casting of the lower part, as in the rear right post in figure 3.

See, too, how all of the lesser posts are identical and have been affixed to the iron bars of the rail in an identical orientation, highlighting the artifice. Second, you can see the rail of the precinct behind the Knox one which had a delicate repeating lyre pattern in the iron with a sort of fleur-de-lis above each. And lastly, you can see how in this hurricane plagued low country little concrete vaults or heavy ledger stones are very common to keep water from surfacing coffins.

Figure 4. William Knox headstone. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

This headstone, to an unfortunate child who died at only 3 months, offers me the tentative name Knox for this precinct and its tentative mid-nineteenth century date. There’s a much later Appleby monument in the precinct, but that will have nothing to do with the rail. Three things to admire about little William’s monument: the variety of fonts, in best mid-nineteenth century style; the cutter’s hand; and the fine constellation of willow, broken rose, and table tomb in the lunette atop.

Figure 5. Knox precinct repair. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The precinct rail is now in dire condition, but a good faith effort was made at some point to repair it with rebar (figure 5). It’s also possible to see the top of the end post snuggled into the lower portion about a hand’s width above the top rebar rail. I offer two more views so you can get a feel for the structure, and what remains of it (figures 6, 7).

The Saunders family likewise erected a precinct rail constructed out of prefabricated identical elements with a natural theme. In fact, it’s meant to be a hedge or perhaps more likely, vines on a short trellis (figure 8).

Figure 8. Saunders precinct. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The main posts are meant to be stakes holding the hedge up (figure 9):

Figure 9. Saunders precinct. Detail top of post. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

If you look closely at the top of one of the posts in figure 9, you can see that it’s been cast in the form of a wooden post that’s been lopped short with axe strokes. In figures 10 and 11 you can see the post with adjacent vine panels, and the hollow inside portion of the cast panels, respectively.

You know me well enough by now that you’re expecting the best for last, and you’re right: the astonishing Lawrence precinct (figure 12).

Figure 12. Lawrence precinct. SW corner. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Those are tassles (in iron, of course) hanging from cruciform plates cast with the ‘all-seeing eye’ on them (figure 13). It is nothing short of astounding to me to see the famous Victorian taste for rich, overstuffed, velveted interiors brought in this way to the outdoors. It’s just great. And the all-seeing eye is a fabulous touch. I also admit that the chains hang in a pleasingly symmetrical way with nice catenaries between the tassles.

Figure 13. Lawrence precinct. Detail: tassle with all-seeing eye. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The most legible monument in this be-tassled precinct is a ledger stone to two family daughters, Sarah (1835-1844) and Ann (1838-1848), who died at ages nine and ten, respectively. This happened in the 1840s, and I tentatively date the precinct border to this period.

Figure 14. Sarah and Anne Lawrence ledger stone monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

A final image (figure 15) shows a portion of the chain with two tassles that has fallen to the ground and lies in magnificent decay among the dying late-November grass and fallen leaves.

Figure 15. Lawrence precinct. Detail: fallen tassles. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

Here is the potted biography of Lesceles Grandy from the Evening Times of 18 March, 1899.

Miss Lesceles Grandy, who died in New York last night as a result of injuries sustained in the Windsor Hotel fire, was well known in the social circles of Washington, having for the past twelve years made her home in this city. She was a daughter of Judge Grandy, a prominent jurist of North Carolina, and was a sister of Harrison Grandy, who recently graduated from the Columbian University Law School. Miss Grandy was born In Elizabeth City, N. C., about thirty-two years ago, where she made her home until the death of her father. She was educated in the best schools of this country and a [illegible word] completed her education in Paris. At the death of her father. Miss Grandy came into possession of a large fortune, which she invested in Washington real estate. Her home was at 1023 Connecticut Avenue, and was for years known as one of the most hospitable homes in Washington. Miss Grandy was devoted to travel and spent almost every summer in Europe. Her home was filled with old world curiosities and her collection of bric-a-brac is considered one of the finest in this city. Although not a society woman Miss Grandy numbered among her friends some of the best known residents of the District and was prominently identified with several women’s clubs. Her afternoon teas were famous as the rendezvous of women conspicuous in literary, artistic and social circles. When a Times reporter visited the late home of the deceased today, it was found to be in charge of servants who had not heard of her sad death. One of her friends stated that Miss Grandy left Washington for New York Saturday purely on a pleasure trip and had intended to return next Wednesday. “Miss Grandy was an utterly charming woman,” said she, “and her death is a great shock to her large circle of friends in this city.” Her mother had only recently returned to North Carolina after having been with her daughter in this city during the winter season. Harrison Grandy, a brother of the deceased, had lived with his sister until a few weeks ago, when he left for his home in Elizabeth City to engage in the practice of law. No detailed information has been received by any of Miss Grandy’s friends in Washington regarding her sad death, and It is not yet known what disposition will be made of the body. 

The Evening Times, page 1. 18 March 1899. (Washington, D.C.)


Figure 1. Millicent Sanders monument. New Hollywood Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

“Thy trials ended, thy rest is won,” deposes the monument of Millicent Sanders in the fine New Hollywood Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C. But after death she had one final trial: the cutter here has marked her down as the “wief” of J.F. Sanders, an unaccountable blunder that makes one wonder who, if anyone, inspected this stone.

You might think ol’ J.F. accepted the defective stone for a cut rate, right? Except how could the monument company ever have wanted to let him take this stone, and erect it, with its astounding blunder, in a highly visible public space? For on the first base there is the inscription “E City marble wk’s,” itself parading an error masquerading as a Saxon genitive, that allows the viewer to trace the blunder back to its source.

My wief Christina spotted this stone during our walk-through of the cemetery, so credit to her, but I laughed out loud at the sheer ineptness of publicly erecting a defective monument with your company’s name on it!

From cradle to . . . cradle

The splendid Episcopal Cemetery in Elizabeth City, N.C., is a must-see for any taphoholics visiting the Outer Banks. Here I focus on a variant of a common grave type which I’ve never seen before—I almost walked past without looking twice.

Figure 1. Emma Hinton monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

At first sight we’re dealing with a typical grave of a dead infant or child (figure 1); the decapitated lamb atop the headstone and the small size of the grave assures us of that. The stone bears several regular bits of iconography: inverted torches on each side to signify life snuffed out; flowers trailing like garlands from the scallop shell above the center of the inscribed tablet. The details of the bundled rods of the torches and the flowers are quite nice.

Figure 2. Emma Hinton monument. Detail: inscription. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

In memory of
infant daughter of
James W. & Susan S.
born Feb 19, 1856,
died July 26, 1858,
aged 2 yrs 5 mos.
& 7 days

The inscription bears out the clue to the inhabitant’s tender age provided by the lamb. The little plot has a sculpted marble border on the long sides and a foot stone terminating the space. Like so many graves in this cemetery, the Hinton one has suffered from the elements and the vandal hand of man, and the border is all askew. What did finally catch my eye were the curiously scalloped shapes of the borders and footstone. When I imagined how the plot must have looked when it was fresh, it hit me that the grave had been imagined here as a cradle. The scalloped forms are the carved wooden sides of the cradle, and it makes sense then that the scallops are taller by the head than by the foot.

Figure 3. Victorian rocking cradle. Photo: Northeast Auctions. I do not possess rights to this photograph but rely on a fair use justification in a critical discussion.
Figure 4. Vintage rocking cradle. Photo: Rubylane.com. I do not possess rights to this photograph but rely on a fair use justification in a critical discussion.

A quick search online turns up vintage cradles that mostly have straight sides. I have borrowed two images (figures 3, 4) to illustrate what I mean about more complicated shapes. No cradle I saw online closely matches the Hinton grave, but then, the latter was assembled by a stonecutter, not a carpenter, and needed do no more than evoke a cradle for sentimental purposes and provide a small garden plot.

Figure 5. Unknown child’s grave. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The specialness of the Hinton grave can be seen by contrasting it with figure 5, another, less elaborate cradle-grave a few feet away. I could not find any indication of who inhabits the grave (the headstone appears to be blank, and the grave is not part of a family ensemble), but its size appears to guarantee that we are dealing with a child. Here, rectilinear blocks serve as bases for the head- and footstone; the former is a plain slab with rounded corners, the latter a pediment-shaped stone which once apparently bore an urn, now broken off and sitting inside the little plot. The sides of the cradle are simple undulating shapes that you might find in any gardening store today.

The purpose of the type was to offer scope for plantings; the family could commune with the dead during trips to the cemetery to tend the plantings. The supergroup to which our two graves belong is called “cradle-grave.” A 2017 Hidden City article discusses the type while featuring urban Philadelphia gardeners who adopt and tend such cradle graves in Woodlands Cemetery. As far as I can see, the Woodlands cases (and one sees them often enough elsewhere) are generic: the “cradle” shape emerges from a desire to have a small segregated plot for planting right over the grave, whereas the Hinton grave appears to have started with the conceit that the monument was a cradle which was then suitable for planting. There are several examples of these generic cradle-graves in Episcopal Cemetery beyond the anonymous one in figure 5. Four of them, now overgrown, bear plaques stating that the garden was tended by the ladies of Episcopal Cemetery: so the Hintons will have had models to follow. And Episcopal furnishes another clear example in the cradle-grave of the later (and older) C. R. Grandy (1869-1909: figure 6).

Figure 6. Grandy monument. Episcopal Cemetery, Elizabeth City, N.C. Photo: author.

The Emma Hinton grave is the first example I have yet seen of a cradle-grave for a child which intentionally, I think, crosses the ground from a gardening plot that resembles a cradle, to a cradle that also serves as a gardening plot.

For further reading, see this post at the A Grave Interest blog, which shows some further examples of (I think) adult cradle-graves. In addition to being another article on the topic, this post in the Laurel Hill Cemetery Blog also offers in its first illustration a good specimen of an ornately bordered cradle-grave.

John Christopher Thomas

Figure 1. Thomas monument. Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD. Photo: author.

Non quomodo mundus dat ego do vobis, declares the marker of John Christopher Thomas, who lived but 15 days in 1930: “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” A fitting sentiment for parents trying to make sense out of their bereavement for a lost infant.

The extended passage, for which the snippet on the little marker stands, is from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”