Today I’m continuing my series on Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery. And yes, there’s going to be a Part V! I simply have too many great stories to keep to myself.
This week I’m focusing on just two men, each for very different reasons.
A Talented Engineer
The monument of engineer George Shield fascinates me because it has so much symbolism going on. It deserves its own cemetery “decoder ring” to explain it all. Even then, I’m not sure I’ve got it right. However, I think it’s important for me to feature markers like this so that if you’re ever out in a cemetery and find a monument with symbols you can’t figure out, this might help.
But let’s talk about George Shield’s career and family first. I’m including his family’s markers because it’s through them you can see how important memorializing lives, however short, was to him.
Born in New Jersey in 1810 to Francis and Maria Shield, George and his family moved to Cincinnati. George and his brother Edward learned the machinist trade from their father. George married Eliza Tilley (or Tiley) in 1833. They had at least one child, Edward, who was born in 1834 and only lived two months.
Edward shares a marker with Caroline Shield, George’s sister who died in infancy in 1830 and Alfred Shield, George’s brother who died in infancy 1821. Edward’s name is on the side and I did not get a photograph of it. The image of the young girl reclining with a lamb (a symbol of innocence) is especially poignant.
These children were originally buried at the Episcopal Burial Ground and moved to Spring Grove in 1852. Grandfather Francis Shield (who died in 1840) also had his remains moved to Spring Grove at that time.
George was a talented engineer who created and patented a number of inventions, usually involving turbines and engines. He was the mechanical brains behind the Cincinnati firms of Graham, Wilson, and Shield and then Yeatman and Shield. He also worked as chief engineer for the Cincinnati Water Works.
Eliza died in 1844 at the age of 31 from “obstruction of the womb” so it’s likely she died in childbirth. Like her in-laws and little boy, she was originally buried at the Episcopal Burial Ground and moved in 1852.
Three Little Lambs
George remarried soon after to Virginia Josephine Hughes. They had several children together. Three of them (Ida, Edward, and Josephine) did not live past childhood. They all share a marker with three lambs on the top.
Josephine died a month after her last child’s death due to “childbirth fever” in June 1852. She was only 26 when she died.
George married a third time to Lizzie Kent in 1856. They had a son, George M. Shield, on August 1860 but he died in July 1862. George died at the age of 56 on July 3, 1867 of dropsy. Many think this may have been what we now call congestive heart failure.
I located two of George and Virginia’s daughters in the 1870 U.S. Census. Daughter Jennie had married in 1867 to publisher Frank Ricker and her sister Kate lived with them. Jennie died in 1939 but I lost track of Kate. Their brother, Henry, born in 1847, died in 1887.
One Monument, Many Symbols
Now let’s talk about the Shield family’s amazing monument. First, George’s name, his father’s name (Francis), his nephew’s name (Edward), and his niece’s name (Emma) are on it. Edward died in 1845 at the age of 18 months and Emma died in 1846 at age 4. These two little ones were his brother Edward’s children.
Let’s start with the easy ones. You can see George Shield’s smiling face on one side. On the upper level, you can spot a Masonic compass symbol as well. That’s a big clue as to what some of the other symbols might mean.
Also up on the top is a winged hourglass. This one you don’t see as often but it does come up. It’s thought to mean that time flies and death comes sooner than you think.
Next comes a motif I’m sure you’ve seen before. The “all-seeing eye” or “Eye of Horus” is a common gravestone symbol with roots in ancient Egyptian mythology. The Egyptian god of the sky was a falcon named Horus, who could witness everything from high above, such as what people were doing. A more Christian spin on this is that God sees everything.
Both the Masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) use the “all-seeing eye” in their iconography, so I think that’s why it’s there. George Shield was definitely a Mason.
Things start to get a little trickier after that. It’s very rare that I see a beehive on a monument but the only other one I’ve seen is just 50 miles up the road at Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery. The beehive is often considered to be a sign of an industrious Christian life.
Beehives also have a special meaning in the Mormon Church. Within the LDS religion, the beehive is an important symbol representing community, industry, harmony, and frugality. Utah is actually called the Beehive State.
But as you may have guessed, the Masons used the beehive in their symbolism as well. For them, it’s more tied to the idea of industry and how the work of the whole is more important than that of the individual. In Medieval times, many Masons were tradesmen who belonged to guilds. They knew all about specialized labor and working together so this image would make sense to them.
Next comes a symbol I’ve only seen once in a cemetery and this is it. A muscular arm with a rolled up sleeve wields a hammer, which made me instantly think of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
The arm and hammer motif has been used by a couple of fraternal groups over the years. Because of the oak leaves at the bottom, this particular one might be for the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York. It was a benevolent society formed in 1785. Or it could be the seal of the Junior Order of Mechanics, who adopted the motif in 1845. George was an engineer so it would make sense.
Yet another possibility is that the Masons did use the gavel/hammer as a symbol of the Lodge Master meaning creative intelligence.
I’ve got two more. Are you still with me?
This motif I had seen once before but life size at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Ga. I knew that individual was a highly-ranked Mason. These are the Three Great Lights that surround the Masonic Altar. You can read about what those mean here.
A Masonic Mystery
The final motif I’m going to share might puzzle the wisest taphophile (cemetery enthusiasts) and I admit when I first saw it, I was stumped. But fortunately, my Masonic friends helped me decode it. I have since seen it on a marker in Charleston, S.C. and another in Covington, Ga. Like this grave, it hails from the mid 1800s
Someone else wrote it up so nicely that I’m going to show it to you this way:
Now if you’re a Mason, I’m sure this all makes perfect sense. The Masons I know told me within their culture, it did. For the rest of us, however, not so much. An elderly angel grabbing a young woman’s hair while she tends an urn would confuse most people I know. So if you see this yourself on a marker, now you know what it means!
A Cincinnati Baseball Pioneer
It would be remiss of me to leave out a mention of one of Cincinnati’s most beloved sports team, the Cincinnati Reds. My family and I were big Reds fans until moving to Atlanta when we converted to being Braves fans.
One of the Reds’ first players, when they were called the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was Charles “Charlie” Harvey Gould. Born in 1847 in Cincinnati, Charlie started his organized baseball career for the local Buckeye club in 1863 as their regular first baseman. He was still in that role when the club joined the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) in 1866.
During the off-season, Charlie worked as a bookkeeper for his father’s butter and eggs business. His lanky frame and long arms helped him in become a talented fielder, and he was known to rarely make errors.
He stayed with the Buckeyes through the 1866 season, then joined the crosstown rivals, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, for the 1867 season. Known as a hard-working, affable man, Charlie played every game in 1868, and all but one 1869. He fielding prowess was so well known that fellow players began calling him “the bushel-basket”.
When the NABBP permitted professionalism for 1869, Red Stockings manager Harry Wright kept Charlie and three other players from his 1868 team. Gould was the only Cincinnatian, and the only 6-foot-tall player on the team.
Wright was hired to organize a new team in Boston, where he signed Charlie and two other Red Stockings for 1871. Gould remained two seasons at first base for the new Boston Red Stockings, so he was part of the club’s and Boston’s first championship team.
Charlie played with the Baltimore Canaries in 1874, and then became a player-manager for the New Haven Elm Citys in 1875. The following year, he returned to Cincinnati to manage and play for the Red Stockings in their inaugural season in the National League. In 1877, he continued to play for the ballclub, but relinquished his managerial duties in favor of being a regular player.
Gould’s playing career had ended after the 1877 season, but not his association with the club. He later became a police officer in Cincinnati. Gould died at the age of 69 in Flushing, N.Y.
Charlie was buried at Spring Grove but he had no marker for many years. Reds president Warren Giles honored Gould’s accomplishments on the 75th anniversary of the team in 1951 by erecting a commemorative stone plaque.
I did find a song about Charlie from that long-ago era and it’s a nice tribute to his athletic abilities:
In many a game that we played,
We’ve needed a First Base,
But now our opponents will find
The ‘basket’ in its place.
And if you think he ‘muffs’ the balls,
Sent into him red hot,
You’ll soon be fooled by Charlie Gould
And find he ‘muffs’ them not.
I’ll be back in a few weeks to wrap up my series on Spring Grove, with more stories of the stones.