Are you ready for more stories from Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum? Because I’ve got many more! The first one I’m going to share is important because I’m told this statue is one of the most visited in the entire cemetery.
Thomas Singleton is unique among all the people I’ve ever researched. His records indicate he was born “on the sea” in 1842, meaning his family was traveling to America at the time. His occupation was listed as “tea dealer” when he enlisted to serve in the Union Army in 1861.
In 1879, Thomas married widow Mathilda “Tillie” Herbert Jordan. Tillie had given birth to a daughter with her first husband (who died of tuberculosis in 1870) but little Viola died in 1871. The 1880 Census notes Thomas and Tillie had two little girls, Anna and Alice, born only 10 months apart. Thomas was working for A. Montgomery & Company and the family lived just across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky.
“Only God Knows How We Miss Her”
I don’t know which daughter garnered the name “Chunkie” but I suspect it was Alice, the younger one. Chunkie died of “malignant scarlet fever” on March 28, 1884 at the age of three. Even on her death certificate, her name is listed as Chunkie.
Chunkie’s monument strikes a chord with everyone who sees it. She wears a dress with a pinafore and a bowed sash. In her left hand she holds a parasol. At the base are the words “Only God Knows How We Miss Her.” People leave coins and trinkets next to her little feet.
Anna never appears in records again and in the 1900 Census, it notes that Tillie had four children with only one surviving. That one child would be Bessie, who was born in June 1883. Thomas died on July 1, 1897 of “congestion of the brain”. By 1910, Bessie had married Elwood Cree and had a daughter, Susan. Tillie lived with Bessie and her family until her death in 1918. She and Thomas share a monument beside Chunkie’s at Spring Grove.
A Faithful Companion
Much less is known about William Boon Redman, whose marker is notable because it is accompanied by a separate one that I can only guess was his faithful companion.
Born on Aug. 14, 1846, William was the youngest of three children born to tailor Benjamin T. Redman, Sr. and Henrietta Boon Redman. William died at the age of seven on March 7, 1854 for unknown reasons.
William shares a marker with his grandfather, Josiah Redman (1785-1860), who died six years after William. You can barely see Josiah’s name inscribed on the open book on the top of the marker.
Not far away is a small statue of a dog with a broken chain at its paws. I suspect it is for William but was it possibly for Josiah instead? I don’t know for sure.
According to the 1880 U.S. Census, Benjamin was sick with “sun stroke”, so I suspect that he was an invalid by this time. The family fortunes must have taken a turn for the worse in the years that followed. An 1893 Cincinnati directory noted that Benjamin was living in the “Old Men’s Home” and Henrietta resided in the “Widow’s Home”. Benjamin died in 1906 at the age of 93 while Henrietta died in 1903 at age 90. Both are buried in unmarked graves with William and Josiah.
A Controversial Monument
One of the more unusual markers at Spring Grove is the Lawler family monument. It was installed around 1847 by Davis Bevan Lawler to honor his parents, former Philadelphia mayor Matthew Lawler (1755-1831) and Ann Bevan Lawler (1761-1835). The Lawlers were previously buried in Cincinnati’s Episcopal Burial Ground but Davis Lawler had their remains moved to Spring Grove not long after it opened. Lawler was instrumental in the establishment of Spring Grove.
Davis B. Lawler was born in 1786 in Philadelphia and traveled the world when he reached adulthood. That led to his being appointed consul to Berlin, where he met his wife, Augusta Kreutz. The couple married around 1815 and had a son, Nicholas, in 1818 before returning to Cincinnati around 1819. Son Benjamin was born soon after but only lived a month. They also adopted a German child, Rudolph, born in 1824, who died in California in 1864.
Davis operated a successful dry good store in Cincinnati until around 1826 when his purchase of an interest in the local water works made him a wealthy man after he sold it to the city years later.
Son Nicholas died of “bilious fever” in 1837. Augusta passed away at age 70 on Feb. 25, 1869. Davis, paralyzed due to a stroke since 1867, soon followed on Aug. 26, 1869 at age 83. He left an estate estimated at half a million dollars at the time.
Fighting Over the Will
Davis Lawler’s original will left everything to Augusta. But later codicils claimed that if she died before him, his estate should go to her German relatives. That did not sit well with his American kin, who filed claims that Davis was mentally unstable when he wrote the codicils. I was unable to find out how that touchy issue was resolved.
The Lawlers’ blue marble Egyptian sphinx caused a great stir when it was installed, with many calling it pagan and “anti-Christian”. But some lauded it as a pleasant change from the usual Christian iconography of crosses and urns. In truth, I believe it was a reflection of Davis Lawler’s interest in world cultures and history. When he died, he left a vast book collection reflecting his wide range of tastes. So choosing a sphinx to top the family monument is not that surprising.
A Master Craftsman
I’ll wrap up this installment with the story of a monument Ken made sure to show me during the tour and I’m very glad he did. It has the power to truly tug at the heart strings. Thanks to a blogger named Dan who writes Queen City Survey, I found some great information on Charles “Carl” Dannenfelser and his family.
Born in 1854 in Germany, Carl arrived in America around 1871 and married another German immigrant, Louisa Geiskimeyer. Together they had six children. Carl was a master carver and cabinet maker, opening a business called the Art Joinery Co. That interested me a great deal because my own great-grandfather, Bernard Muller, was a carpenter and cabinet maker. I own a chiffarobe he made in 1940 for my father.
Carl is credited by historian Walter Langsam as the craftsman for the library woodwork in the Charles Phelps Taft home, now the Taft Museum (see below), and the woodwork in the Marcus Fechheimer Residence on Garfield Place. I found this picture of the library at the Taft Museum, which shows off that beautiful woodwork.
He also carved this tableau of the Good Samaritan on the ablo (pulpit) at the Mother of God Church in Covington, Ky. (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) that is still there today.
Carl died in 1916 of rectal cancer at the age of 61. Louisa died of kidney disease in 1936 at the age of 81. Sons Phillip and Ceasar were running the business, with Phillip also undertaking interior decorating. He died from a long-term heart ailment less than a month after his mother in 1936. Ceasar died in 1969. Dannenfelser siblings Phillip, Ceasar, and Elsa are buried with their parents in the Dannenfelser plot with their spouses.
The inscription on the side of the chair reads “The best is yet to be. The last of life for which the world is made” and comes from a poem written by British poet Robert Browning.
More tales from Spring Grove are coming!