Last week, I shared some stories about the residents of Mount Mora’s Mausoleum Row. With 30 mausoleums total on the property, it’s difficult to narrow it down to a smaller list. But the Burnes mausoleum deserves to be included on it.

Led by James Burnes and his wife, Mary, the Burnes family left Indiana after their son, Lewis, returned from an exploratory expedition of the Platte territory in Northwest Missouri. James served as a circuit court judge in Indiana and hoped his sons would work together in Missouri. Three of them attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Of James and Mary’s children, James Nelson Burnes made the biggest splash. After graduating from Harvard Law, he was Attorney of the District of Missouri in 1856 and served as judge of the court of common pleas from 1868 to 1872.


James Nelson Burnes was a lawyer, capitalist and a Democrat.

James Nelson Burnes also financed and built the Chicago & Northwestern railway from Eldon, Iowa, to Leavenworth and Atchison, Kansas in 1870 and 1871. During the same years, he started construction of railroad bridges across the Missouri River at both places. In 1873, he settled in St. Joseph. With his brother, Calvin, he established the National Bank of St. Joseph and the city’s waterworks.

In 1883, James Nelson Burnes was elected as representative of Missouri’s Fourth District to the 48th Congress (and elected to the 49th and 50th as well). He was re-elected to the 51st Congress, but died in Washington, D.C. on January 23, 1889, before the start of the congressional term.

The architects of the Burnes mausoleum were Harvey Ellis and George Mann.

The architects of the Burnes mausoleum were Harvey Ellis and
George Mann.

James Burnes’ son, Daniel Dee Burnes, also got his law degree at Harvard and practiced in St. Joseph. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became Fourth District representative for the 53rd Congress in 1893. He only served one term, returning to Saint Joseph to resume his law practice.

Both James Burnes and Daniel Dee Burnes, and their wives, are buried in the Burnes Mausoleum. Several other Burnes family members are interred within it as well. Built in 1889, the architects of the Romanesque Revival tomb were Harvey Ellis and George Mann.

What sets the Burnes mausoleum apart from its neighbors is the unusual facade, rising above and beyond the mausoleum crypt masked behind it. Made of dressed limestone, the structure sweeps from the base to a parapet gable with a simple cavetto cornice. The grill work of the gate is simple, close to an Art Nouveau style.

The Owen Mausoleum, while not particularly notable in appearance, is worth mentioning. Three of attorney James Alfred Owen’s daughters would never marry but their lives were by no means ordinary.

Mary Alicia Owen, the eldest Owen child, gained attention as a folklorist by collecting and recording old African-American and Native American folk tales. Her earliest publication was Old Rabbit the Voodoo, and other Sorcerers. In an era when most young ladies married and had children, Mary Alicia set her own course.


Mary Alicia’s reputation as a noted folklorist was unusual at that time for a woman.

In 1906, Mary became one of the founding members of the Missouri Folklore Society.  Owen also helped organize the St. Joseph Folklore Society and started the Mary Alicia Owen Story Teller’s League to encourage women to write fiction.

Luella Agnes, the second Owen child, focused her interests on spelunking and geology. As a child, she loved to roam the outdoors, dig in the dirt, and explore the caves along the bluffs of the Missouri River around St. Joseph. Not exactly the habits of a debutante! Her parents were less than thrilled.

After her father died in 1890, Luella felt free to go on trips with fellow spelunkers (people who explore caves and caverns). She often wore a long, split skirt that skimmed the tops of her boots. Between 1890 and 1900, Luella reportedly explored hundreds of Missouri’s estimated 3,500 caves. In 1898, Luella’s book, Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills, was published to much acclaim.

It's been reported that some cave guides would not take Luella Owen into caves because she was a woman and they thought it was too dangerous.

Some cave guides would not take Luella Agnes Owen into caves because she was a woman and they thought it was too dangerous for her.

Fascinated by the loose, yellowish soil she saw along the Missouri River bluffs, Luella discovered that this loess was very fertile and only exists in a few other areas in the world. In 1900, she traveled to China and Germany to explore their loess soil sources and wrote scientific papers about it. She also traveled around the U.S., sharing her geologic information and insights.

The youngest Owen daughter, Juliette Amelia, became an ornithologist (bird expert) and artist. She was especially inspired by the work of artist John James Audobon. She drew all the illustrations in her sister Mary’s first book, Old Rabbit the Voodoo, and other Sorcerers.

Juliette Amelia Owen was the youngest of the Owen children and thought to be the prettiest.

Juliette Amelia Owen was the youngest of the Owen children and thought to be the prettiest. Photo source: Missouri State Archives.

While all three Owen sisters did a fair amount of traveling, much of their time was taken up with tending their invalid mother (who died in 1911). They all lived together in the same house they had known since childhood on the corner of Ninth and Jules Streets. Luella died in 1932, Mary in 1935, and Juliette in 1943.

That's Christi standing at the Owen Mausoleum door. For some reason the front bronze grille door was open (but the inner doors were not).

That’s Christi standing at the Owen Mausoleum door. For some reason the front bronze grille door was open (but the inner doors were not).

Built in 1891, the Owen mausoleum is another one in the Victorian Eclectic style. The architects are unknown. Composed of two parts, the larger element was built as a chapel, with a smaller building containing the burial vaults appended to the rear.

The last two I’m going to talk about today are the Crowther and Self mausoleums. Built only a year apart, they’re almost identical in appearance and are of the Victorian Eclectic style. The architect is unknown but it’s almost certain he designed both.

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

The Crowther and Self mausoleums are almost identical.

George Crowther and his family emigrated from Lancashire, England to the U.S. in the 1850s. He had trained as a machinist as a young man. The 1860 U.S. Census indicates George was a molder so he was experienced in the iron trade.

After spending years in New York, Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska, the Crowthers settled in Saint Joseph and George helped start the iron manufacturing firm of Burnside, Crowther & Rogers. After his death, his sons George, Thomas, Enos and James ran the firm, which changed names to Crowther & Rogers.

George and his wife, Harriet, had several children but not all had long lives. Ira, who died of typhoid at 18, shares his parents marker at Mount Mora. The Crowther mausoleum appears to have been built after the death of Thomas Crowther, the oldest son, in 1892.

The Crowther and Self Mausoleums both feature (above the columns) elaborately designed corners above the doors with rosettes and oak leaves. They also feature small, narrow stained glass windows on each side.

Crowther 2. jpg

This is the left corner above the doors of the Crowther mausoleum.

In addition, both have a polychrome encaustic tile floor (don’t ask me what that means) that begins at the exterior porch and extends into the interior of the mausoleum. A brown tile border with a pattern of multi-colored tile work borders a field of gold tile with inset diamond-shaped tiles.

Crowther 3

For being well over a hundred years old, the tile work of the Crowther mausoleum floor has held up well.

Unfortunately, I could find out little about the Self family. There’s nothing on Find a Grave beyond a handful of names and none died before 1914. Born in 1852 in Missouri, James A. Self was (according to the U.S. Census) a carpenter, brewery president and a real estate executive over the decades. His wife, Josephine Gaughan Self, was from Chicago. I can find no record to indicate if she’s interred with her husband or not.


The Self mausoleum received a deep cleaning in 2014, thanks to the efforts of Wesley Slawson as part of his Eagle Scout project. Years of sap and grime were washed away, leaving it in much better condition.

The main difference that you can see on the Crowther and Self mausoleums is that the Crowther mausoleum has the Masonic and Odd Fellows (the three-linked chain) over the name above the door. The Self mausoleum has twin columns of red granite while the Crowther ones are limestone like the rest of the tomb’s stone. The bases of the two pillars on both mausoleums differ as well. The Self mausoleum has a small tower with a rosette carved into it above the date while the Crowther mausoleum does not.

I’m not done with Mausoleum Row just yet, so come back next week for Part IV. There’s much more to see.