For the last two weeks, I’ve shared a lot about cast iron grave covers at Pioneer Cemetery in Greenville, Ala. Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with them? This week, I’m going to concentrate on some of the other monuments at Pioneer because a few are (in my opinion) what I’d describe as “jaw droppers”.
These first two monuments are unlike any I have ever seen before and I’m willing to bet you haven’t either. I’ll let you be the judge.
George and Emma Cook
The story of George and Emma Cook is brief because they died so young. But they clearly meant something special to those that loved them if their monuments are any indication.
Born in South Carolina on Dec. 5, 1830, George Massey Cook was the son of planter John Pope Cook and Charlotte Massey Cook. The family moved to Lowndes County, Ala. (north of Greenville) when George was young.
Emma Herbert, born on Sept. 22, 1838, was the daughter of educators Thomas E. Herbert and Dorothy Young Herbert. She was 21 when she married George, then 28, on June 15, 1859. Sadly, Emma died nine months later on March 23, 1860. I don’t know what the cause of her death was. It might have been childbirth. A brief newspaper notice said, “She often spoke of her life to be a short one.”
Emma’s monument features a carving of a young woman (Emma) kneeling beside a grave marker. In her left hand is a wreath, which often signifies victory. I’m not sure what is in her other hand. Her feet are bare. One of her epitaphs reads:
In early spring-time, the flower has faded from earth, to bloom forever in Heaven.
The one carved below her face reads:
A dutiful daughter, an affectionate sister, a devoted wife, and a true Christian.
Off to War
On April 17, 1861, George enlisted in the Confederate Army in Lowndes County. I saw a copy of his will and it was recorded just five days later on April 22, 1861. George knew very well that he could die. Did he know, like Emma, that his life would be short?
George was assigned to Company M of the Sixth Alabama Infantry, better known as the Autauga Rifles. While the Sixth was present at the Battle of First Manassas (First Bull Run) in Virginia, it did not engage. The same was true at Williamsburg. But it was in the Battle of Seven Pines that the Autauga Rifles were thrust into battle. The Sixth suffered the deaths of 108 men and 283 wounded out of 632 engaged. George was one of the casualties, dying on March 31, 1862 at age 31. He had achieved the rank of sergeant.
George’s monument shows a soldier, a rifle at his side. A tree stump, signifying a life cut short, holds a wreath, again symbolizing victory or eternal life.
From earlier pictures I saw, both Emma and George’s monuments were in a state of disrepair before my 2019 visit. Emma’s needed significant work and was lying on the ground at one point.
H.W. Hitchcock’s Marble Works
Emma’s monument is signed at the base by H.W. Hitchcock of Montgomery, Ala. I am sure he also did George’s, although his does not appear to be signed.
Horatio Waldo (H.W.) Hitchcock was born in 1817 near Hawley, Mass. He moved to Alabama and established his firm, H.W. Hitchcock’s Marble Works, in Montgomery sometime in the 1850s. It doesn’t appear that he ever married. His will was recorded on June 24, 1875. I think he was already in poor health at that point because he died on July 29, 1876 in Androscoggin County, Maine. He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Poland, Maine but there is no photo of his marker on Find a Grave. He may not even have one, which is ironic for man who made his living as a stone carver.
I found an advertisement for the firm in the June 14, 1882 edition of the Union Springs Herald. H.W. apparently sold the business to Joseph A. Curbow and his brother, who continued to operate it. Joseph Curbow died in 1892 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Ala.
The Herbert Brothers
Greenville was home to many Herberts and H.W. Hitchcock provided monuments for some of them as well. One of the most interesting ones is for two brothers, George and James. They actually share a monument, dying only two months apart. Thomas Herbert, whom I mentioned earlier, was their uncle and the brother of their father, Dr. Hillary Herbert. Their mother was Abigail “Abbie” Bolling Herbert.
Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the Herbert brothers. James Dunklin Herbert was born on June 12, 1824 in Greenville. He married Mary Eliza McDaniels around 1850 and was a well-to-do farmer. Their son, James Ennis Harbert, was born on March 6, 1851. For reasons unknown, James died on Dec. 4 1851 at age 27. The inscription on the side of the shared monument is difficult to read beyond his birth and death dates.
James’ brother, George, was born on June 29, 1826. I don’t know where he studied medicine but since his father and his Uncle George were doctors, he must have had a good education. The 1850 U.S. Census indicates he was still living with his parents and was unmarried. They lived on the same street as brother James and his wife, Mary. George died only two months before James on Oct. 9, 1851.
George’s epitaph was a little easier to read than his brother’s, although one word eluded me:
In the springtide of a life promising great ?, His many virtues gained universal regard.
The front of the monument features two entwined weeping willow trees. Many people think weeping willows signify sorrow and grief, which has some validity. However, others feel that the willow tree has older associations. According to ancient Greek lore, Orpheus carried a willow branch with him when he descended to the Underworld to rescue Eurydice from Hades. Regardless of what it means, you can find weeping willows on grave markers across America and in other countries.
If you look on the back, there is a carving of two clasped hands. While it says “Fraternal Love” above the motif, I am puzzled that it is clearly a female hand (with a lacy cuff) that is being clasped by a male hand. This is common on the grave markers of husbands and wives, not brothers. Under it is the inscription, “Conquicscant in pace”. A rough translation of the Latin is “Together in Peace.”
James’ wife, Mary Eliza, died on July 27, 1852. Her monument also features a weeping willow. Her death left their son, James, an orphan. He did grow up, marry, and raise a family before dying in 1925 at age 75. He is buried in nearby Magnolia Cemetery.
“They Have Gone Home”
I promised I would share the monument of two of the children of James Hilliard Duncan (who died in 1877) and Mary Jane Reid Dunklin Padgett. Over the course of their marriage, they would have several children in addition to the two he had with his first wife, Abbie.
Their third child, an unnamed infant daughter, was born on Dec. 9, 1867 and died a few weeks later on Dec. 21, 1867. The cause of death is unknown. An upside down lit torch is on the left side of her panel on the monument, representing the death of the flesh, but the eternal life of the soul.
Thomas Judge Dunklin, their fifth child, was born on April 18, 1871. He died almost a year and a half later on Dec. 31, 1872. His cause of death is unknown. Like his little sister, an inverted lit torch is on the side of Thomas’ panel.
One panel features an epitaph that speaks of their reuniting with their parents in Heaven, which indicates to me that the monument was installed before James Dunklin’s death in 1877.
McDonald, March & Co.
Unlike the monument for James’ first wife, Abbie, the children’s monument was carved by the firm of McDonald, March & Co. of Mobile, Ala. A native of Ireland, Daniel J. McDonald came to Mobile as a child with his parents, William and Mary White McDonald.
By 1860, Daniel was 17 and working as a stone cutter. He married Sarah McDermott around 1870. I don’t think they had children. He was operating his own marble works with his younger brother, Thomas, and William March. Below is an advertisement from the Nov. 19, 1876 Mobile Daily Tribune.
Daniel died on Oct. 20, 1878 at age 40 in Mobile, a day after he wrote his one-page will leaving most of his estate to his wife, Sarah. He is buried in Mobile’s Catholic Cemetery. I noticed in the Find a Grave pictures taken by Larry Bell that the lettering on Daniel’s stone is the same as that of the Dunklin children’s monument, and the one made for his parents and four of his siblings that are buried in Mobile’s Magnolia Cemetery. I believe Daniel’s brother, Thomas, continued the business for several more years with his son, who was also named D.J. McDonald.
I’ve got a few more stories left to tell about Pioneer Cemetery in Part IV.