First in Flight: Remembering Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Part II

A few weeks ago, I got rather personal in my opening post about Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum. In Part II, I’m going to share some history about how Woodland came to be. I should add that on the day I visited Woodland in October 2018, I didn’t have much time so I missed a few things. My photos of the Wright brothers’ graves are actually from a family trip in 2013.

Woodland was established in 1841 with an initial 40 acres in Southeast Dayton. The cemetery’s founder was John Whitten Van Cleve (1801-1858) and one of his claims to fame was being the first male child to be born in Dayton. That led me to look up when Dayton was founded, which was April 1, 1796.

View of Dayton’s skyline from Woodland Cemetery.

Renaissance Man

It appears Van Cleve was a bit of a Renaissance man, interested in doing a little bit of everything. He entered Ohio University at Athens at age 16, teaching Greek and Latin there before graduating. He studied law with Judge Joseph H. Crane, and was admitted to the bar in 1828.

Van Cleve was elected recorder in 1824 and 1828, served three terms as mayor of Dayton between 1830 and 1832, and also served as city engineer. In December 1828, Van Cleve purchased an interest in the Dayton Journal, which he edited until 1834. He was also involved in the druggist business, in partnership with Augustus Newell, their firm being Van Cleve & Newell.

In his later years, Van Cleve became an accomplished musician, painter, botanist, and geologist. As founder of Woodland Cemetery, he served as president of the Woodland Cemetery Association from its inception until his death from tuberculosis in 1858. He is buried at Woodland but I did not have a chance to photograph his monument. So I am taking the liberty of borrowing a photo of it from Find a Grave.

Monument to Woodland Cemetery founder John Van Cleve. His funeral notice describes him as “an old and eminent citizen” but he was only 57 when he died in 1858. (Photo source: S.G. Thompson,

Not Just a Cemetery

Currently spanning 200 acres, Woodland is one of the oldest “garden” cemeteries in the country. It’s not only a final resting place for more than 110,000 people, but is home to a collection of 165 specimens of native Midwestern trees and woody plants. Ornithologists flock to Woodland to get a glimpse of a variety of birds, with special tours provided by Woodland to help those new to the hobby. During the spring, mother foxes and their kits are a common sight.

A few weeks ago, I shared that in all my years of coming to Woodland, I entered through the Waldo Street gate because it was the easiest way to get to my family’s graves. That entrance was created in 1912. The formal entrance of the Romanesque gateway, chapel and office, completed in 1889, are on the National Register of Historic Places. This is how it looked around the turn of the century.

This card, postmarked 1910, shows off Woodland’s Romanesque gateway, chapel, and office. (Photo source:

On this visit, accompanied by my cousin, Crystal, and her patient husband Ron (who drove us around), I went in through the front gates.

This is what Woodland’s entrance looks like today (minus the orange construction netting.) The office is on the right.

Woodland’s chapel contains treasures I was unfortunately not able to see because it was closed. But I wanted you to get a look at just one of the 16 Tiffany stained glass windows inside of it. I borrowed it from Woodland’s web site.

This is just one of 16 Tiffany stained glass windows in Woodland’s chapel, which also features a hand-cut Tiffany mosaic floor.

Close to Woodland’s front gates is the grave of a woman known to many around the world for her warmth and wit, author and humorist Erma Bombeck. I read her books in my teen years and while I couldn’t always relate until years later to her humorous tales of motherhood woes, they still made me laugh.

If Life is a Bowl of Cherries…

Born Erma Fiste in 1926, Erma grew up in the Bellbrook suburb of Dayton, just a few miles where I was born. She was an avid writer from her high school days, working for the Dayton Herald in a number of capacities, and got her degree at the University of Dayton. She met and married fellow classmate Bill Bombeck in 1949. They started a family and writing was put on the backburner until the 1960s.

Erma Bombeck made millions laugh with her wry musings about housework and parenting.

Erma Bombeck’s home during her married life was in Centerville, Ohio, where my paternal grandparents lived. Her neighbor was Phil Donahue. She resumed her writing career for the local Kettering-Oakwood Times in 1964, with weekly columns that yielded $3 each. The following year the Dayton Journal Herald requested new humorous columns as well, and Bombeck wrote weekly 450-word columns. After three weeks, the articles went into national syndication in weekly columns under the title “At Wit’s End”.

As Bombeck’s writing career took off, the family moved to Phoenix, Ariz. The books Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own (1971), I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression, (1974), The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976), If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978), and Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession (1983) are among the many that followed. The Grass is Always Greener actually took life as a TV pilot in 1978 but it didn’t make it off the ground. She was also featured on ABC’s Good Morning, America from 1975 until 1986.

At the time I visited Woodland in 2018, this was the only marker for Erma Bombeck. A traditional gravestone with her name and dates (along with one for her husband, Bill, who passed away in 2018) was placed in 2019.

Bombeck was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (an incurable genetic disease) when she was 20. She survived breast cancer and a mastectomy, and kept secret the fact that she had kidney disease, enduring daily dialysis. She went public with her condition in 1993.

On a waiting list for a transplant for years, one kidney had to be removed, and the remaining one ceased to function. On April 3, 1996, she received a kidney transplant. She died on April 22, 1996, at age 69, from complications of the operation.

Bombeck was brought back to her hometown and interred in the family plot at Woodland. A 29,000-lb. rock serves as her monument, brought by flat-bed truck from her adopted home in Arizona.

First in Flight

It’s probably bad of me to admit this but for many years, I had no idea the Wright Brothers were buried at Woodland. We never went to visit their graves. But during a summer visit in 2013, I wanted my husband and son to see them. Clearly, the Wright brothers are hands down the most famous pair buried in the cemetery. What started in a small bicycle shop in Dayton would eventually change the way the world traveled.

I spent a good bit of time on the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company web site (which is excellent) and they make an assertion about the brothers that made me see them in a new light. The Wright brothers didn’t truly build the first airplane. The first fixed-wing aircraft (basically a kite on a stick) was created and flown almost a century before Orville and Wilbur made their first flights.

Neither Orville or Wilbur attended college. Orville actually dropped out of high school in 1889 and the brothers opened their own print shop.

What sets the Wrights apart is that they were the first to design and build a flying craft that could be controlled in the air. Every successful aircraft ever built since, beginning with the 1902 Wright glider, has had controls to roll the wings right or left, pitch the nose up or down, and yaw the nose from side to side. These controls enable a pilot to navigate an airplane in all three dimensions, making it possible to fly from place to place.

Early Days

Sons of Church of the United Brethren in Christ pastor Milton Wright and Susan Koerner Wright, Wilbur was born in 1867 and Orville was born in 1871. Both parents were well educated, with Susan having a mechanical bent. Because the Brethren’s prominence in Dayton, the Wrights moved to Dayton in 1884. Sadly, Susan would contract tuberculosis and died in 1889.

Unlike their parents, Wilbur barely graduated high school and Orville dropped out the year his mother died. But they were always tinkering on something and testing out theories. Together, they opened a printing shop that eventually expanded to a bicycle shop. Eventually, they concentrated on just making bicycles and did very well financially as the bicycle craze raged.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the history of how the brothers went about testing out their theories in Kitty Hawk, N.C. and how they tweaked and developed their Wright Flyers from 1889 to 1906. There are plenty of books written about it that can give you a glimpse into that world. Needless to say, they eventually showed off their flyers and dazzled the world with their demonstrations of flight.

You can visit the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center (run by the National Park Service) in Dayton and drive around the original Huffman Field. This memorial to the Wright brothers is located there.

One place I visited on that 2018 visit was Huffman Field, the world’s first test flight facilities where the Wright brothers conducted a lot of their test flights after the Kitty Hawk ones. Wright Patterson Air Force Base is right next door. It was very cool to see where those early flights took place. Also located nearby is the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center, operated by the National Park Service. We also stopped by the memorial to the Wright brothers located on the grounds.

Orville and Wilbur are buried with their parents and twin siblings Otis and Ida, who died within days of their birth in 1871.

Battling Legal Woes

Sadly, once the Wrights had demonstrated their aircraft in public, it was easy for others to copy them and many did. The Wrights were dragged into time-consuming patent fights in Europe and America. Their legal troubles diverted their attention from the ground-breaking innovation and invention they specialized in. The brothers never married. Wilbur supposedly told reporters that he didn’t have time for both a wife and an airplane.

In 1912, at the age of 45, Wilbur died suddenly of typhoid. It was a major blow to Orville, who would eventually sell the business in 1916 and go back to what he loved: inventing.

Wilbur, the eldest of the two, died suddenly from typhoid in 1912. He was only 45.

Orville put together a laboratory and contracted out as a consultant on a wide variety of engineering projects. He did aeronautical work, helping to develop a racing airplane, guided missile, and “split flaps” to help slow an aircraft in a dive. He also tackled aerodynamic automobile designs, toy designs and manufacture, even a cipher machine for encoding communications.

Orville’s last major project was helping rebuild the 1905 Flyer III, which he and Wilbur had perfected at Huffman Prairie. This was put on display at Deeds Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio in 1950. Orville did not live to see the ceremony. According to the Wright Aeroplane Company web site, he suffered a heart attack in 1948 after fixing the doorbell at his home and died a few days later.

Orville sold the business in 1916 and went on to work on new inventions, which is what he truly loved to do.

Hawthorn Hill was the post-1914 home of Orville, Milton (his father) and Katharine Wright (a sister). Wilbur and Orville intended for it to be their joint home, but Wilbur died before the home’s 1914 completion. The brothers hired the prominent Dayton architectural firm of Schenck and Williams to realize their plans. The Wrights named the property after the hawthorn trees on the property, of which there are at least 150.

Hawthorn Hill was the home of Orville Wright and his father, Milton, and sister, Katherine in 1914. Now managed by Dayton History, tours of it are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The home was owned by the National Cash Register (NCR) Corporation after Orville’s death in until August 18, 2006, when the company donated the historic home to the Wright Family Foundation in honor of Orville’s 135th birthday and National Aviation Day. In March 2009, Hawthorn Hill became part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. In June 2013, ownership was officially transferred to Dayton History.

Next time, I’ll share the stories of another inventor and a poet.

Gustav Wiedeke, along with his sons, began a small manufacturing business that made furnace boilers. Over 100 years later, Elliott Tool Technologies Ltd. is the result of their efforts. His life-size statue is reported to startle the guards at night.

Climbing My Family Tree: Remembering Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Part I

This week, I’m starting a new series on Dayton, Ohio’s Woodland Cemetery. It’s going to be a bit different because Woodland is the first cemetery I ever visited and have returned to many times. You’re going to hear some stories that I’ve not shared with many people before. Unlike most of my initial posts, this one is not about Woodland’s history. I’ll get to that next week. Hopefully, you won’t mind this detour.

My family moved to Georgia when I was five. But every summer, we would return to Dayton to visit family and go to places that were familiar to my parents. Woodland Cemetery was one of them.I remember we always entered at the back gate off Wayne Avenue because it was the closest entrance to where we were going. In fact, I didn’t even see Woodland’s front gates until maybe 10 years ago because of that.

The concept of a cemetery was foreign to my childish mind. I only knew I liked seeing the trees, the pond and especially the swans that lived there. It may have sparked my life-long love of swans, I’m not sure. But to me, it was a beautiful place. I don’t remember being afraid or feeling sad there.

We always entered Woodland Cemetery from the back gate off Wayne Avenue by the swan pond. My great aunt and uncle are buried close to the pond’s edge in the center of this photo.

To be honest, I didn’t know whose grave we were visiting when we came during those early years. Nobody would ever say and I was too confused to ask. I only knew that the woman’s marker we visited had my last name.

I would not know for many years that she was my father’s mother, Charlotte Grice Muller. She died on July 22, 1960 at the age of 44 after undergoing heart surgery. She suffered a serious stroke in 1955 when my father was in high school and her health deteriorated from that time forward. So much so that my father was sent to live with relatives and he graduated from a different high school.

A picture of my grandmother Charlotte Alberta Grice Muller in her youth.

I later learned that my grandmother’s death was so traumatic to my Dad that he never talked about it. His father, my grandfather, remarried less than a year later to a widow he knew from work, Wanda. She was the only grandmother I knew on that side of my family. She was always nice to me. But I never felt like a truly knew her.

Until I found a framed picture in a drawer of my grandfather sitting next to a woman I had never seen, I thought Wanda was my Dad’s mother. Maybe I was 10 or 12 by then. I gathered my courage and finally asked my Mom, “Who is this woman?”

“That’s Charlotte, your grandmother.”

My grandmother died at the young age of 44.

At last I knew. When I asked why nobody had ever explained that to me, I was told, “We thought you knew.” I believe that. It wasn’t a secret they were actively keeping. Maybe they did tell me but my young mind couldn’t grasp it all. But there was still so much I didn’t know, so much was left unspoken.

It came out in bits and pieces over the next years and many confusing moments began to make more sense. Tense times that had confused me. Dad had adored his mother and her death pulled the rug out from under him. I’m not sure he ever got over it.

As a result, I knew little about my father’s family’s background. That led to my getting a membership to after my son was born and later my interest in Soon after, my blog was born and the rest is history. So a lot of what happened at Woodland on those visits was building a foundation for what was to come.

A picture of Wanda and my grandfather taken during a visit in 1976.

I wish I had known Charlotte. My mother has shared a few memories of her. That she was a fashionable, beautiful woman who enjoyed life and spoiling my father. She was also a straight shooter and was known to get excited while watching a boxing match on TV. The stroke left her a changed woman and her last years would be difficult ones.

My grandfather Carroll, grandmother Charlotte, and Aunt Suzie are buried together.

Charlotte is no longer alone. My grandfather died in 1998 at the age of 81 and is buried beside her. My Aunt Suzie, who suffered from cerebral palsy from birth and spent most of her life in a group home, died in 2007 at the age of 60. When Wanda died in 2012, she was buried at Woodland with her first husband who had died in 1958. Their plot is in a different part of the cemetery.

My great aunt Esther Grice Wolf died a year and a half after my grandmother, her sister, in 1961.

Across the road next to the pond, Charlotte’s sister Esther is buried. She had the same history of heart trouble as her siblings. She died of a heart attack on Christmas Day in 1961 at the age of 51. She was my great uncle Eugene’s first wife and mother of my cousin Tom, whom I’ve always called my Uncle Tom. He’s always been something of a father figure to me and walked me down the aisle when I got married because my father was wheelchair bound by that time. He turned 81 this month and I love him dearly.

Tom’s father, Eugene, was not just my great uncle. He was a big-hearted giant of a man who earned the respect of everyone that met him. My Dad loved spending time with him and so did I. His second wife, Ruth, had no children of her own and they always spoiled us when we came down to visit them in Florida. She was a kind, classy lady who always had time for me. She died in 2019 and is buried at Woodland as well. I hope to visit her grave when next I visit.

My great uncle Eugene, great aunt Esther, and their sons, Ron (who recently passed away from cancer) and Tom. This would have been after Eugene returned from serving in the U.S. Army in World War II.

Eugene was close with his brothers-in-law, Cliff and Harry, and my grandfather Carroll. This photo from 1939 was taken after the Ohio River flooded in Cincinnati. They all piled in a car and went to take a look for themselves.

Eugene Wolf, Harry Grice, Cliff Grice, and my grandfather, Carroll Muller, pretending to dive into the Ohio River in Cincinnati after it flooded in 1939.

Eugene passed away in 1983 from an embolism and we were heartbroken. It was totally unexpected and I remember sitting in my journalism class the next day crying. Even as a teenager, I knew someone truly good had left this world and it would never be the same without him.

My great uncle Eugene Wolf died of an embolism while in the hospital for routine surgery.

One relative whose grave at Woodland I had never visited was my great-grandfather Bernard. He was another person I knew little about. He and my great-grandmother, Helen, divorced in 1938 and he remarried a few months later. I know that he was a carpenter who worked for the Dayton Wright Airplane Company in the 1910s (yes, the Wright brothers who are also buried at Woodland) and later for NCR. I still have a dresser Bernard made for my father, he wrote on the back of one of the drawers.

I believe this is a 1940 photo of Bernard (my great-grandfather), my father (who would have been maybe two) and my grandfather, Carroll Muller.

Bernard died in 1966. It wasn’t until 2012 when I was visiting Woodland with my mother and my aunt that I literally stumbled over Bernard’s grave. I was looking for someone else’s grave when I found it. He’s buried on the hillside northwest from the swan pond not far from where my other relatives are buried. All those years, I never knew.

My great-grandfather died in 1966, two years before I was born.

On the far end of the swan pond are my paternal great-grandparents, whom I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post about Old Greencastle Cemetery. Charlotte’s mother was Florence Claar Grice and she married my great-grandfather, Harold Grice, in 1906. I’m pretty sure that’s how my father ended up with the middle name of Harold. She gave birth to Charlotte in 1915. I believe the photo below is of Florence holding Charlotte on her lap around 1916.

I love this picture of my great-grandmother and my grandmother, Charlotte.

Florence and Harold died within a few months of each other in 1945. They were both 60 years old. They are buried next to each other. The first time I saw their graves was in 2012. I don’t remember visiting their graves with my family but it’s possible I don’t remember.

My great-grandmother, Florence Claar Grice, died at the age of 60.
My great-grandfather, Harold Grice, died in 1945 a few months before my great-grandmother.

That about sums up my family history at Woodland Cemetery. These people were not famous. You won’t find them in the history books like the Wright brothers, Erma Bombeck or poet Paul Dunbar. But they are MY history. So they mean a great deal to me.

I like to think of those early visits to Woodland as the unwitting first link in the chain to where I am today and what I try to do. Share the stories behind the stones so the people they represent are never forgotten. Because I can remember standing over a stone that was once a mystery to me and I now take comfort in the fact that I have many of the answers now that I didn’t have then.

Next week, I’ll share the history of Woodland Cemetery and introduce you to some of its more famous residents.

Two Soldiers, Two Fates: Returning to Dayton, Ohio’s Old Greencastle Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I shared with you my return to Dayton’s Old Greencastle Cemetery and some of my family’s history there. This time, I’m branching out into the cemetery to see what stories I can uncover. One of them is definitely bittersweet and involves a father and son who both saw military action but ended up with very different fates.

Phil showed me a Union soldier’s marker that was close to my great-great-grandfather Samuel’s for a man named Robert Fisher and that his was a story worth sharing. It is believed that Robert was a former slave who had escaped from his native Kentucky at the time of his enlistment.

Robert Fisher used a few different last names including Burditt and Johnson.

Born in 1837, Robert went by more than one last name. You can find him going by Fisher, Burditt (or Burdett), and Johnson. When I did research a few years back on some young men who had enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops in Charleston, S.C., I learned that this was fairly common at the time.

Runaway Slave Enlists in the Union Army

Robert was 26 when enlisted at Camp Danville in Kentucky on Aug. 18, 1864. Camp Nelson was established in 1863 as a recruiting station and quartermaster supply base for military operations into East Tennessee.

In the spring of 1864, when African-American soldiers were finally allowed to be recruited and trained in Kentucky, Camp Nelson became the largest center for U.S. Colored Troops in the state. Thousands of slaves and free men of color flocked to Camp Nelson to enlist and train for the U.S. Army. Many of the soldiers’ families came, too, seeking refuge.

Photo of Camp Nelson, U.S. Colored Troops Barracks. Thousands of men like Robert Fisher flocked there after African-Americans were allowed to enlist in the Union Army in 1864. (Photo Source: Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park)

Robert was placed as a private with the Battery G of the 12th USCT Heavy Artillery. I don’t know exactly what Robert did or saw. But according to what I’ve read, the 12th served railroad guard duty at various points in Tennessee and Alabama on line of the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad until December 1864.

The 12th was attached to the 2nd Colored Brigade, District of the Etowah, Department of the Cumberland, to January 1865, with defenses of Nashville & Northwestern Railroad, District of Middle Tennessee, to May 1865. They were also involved in the 3rd Sub-District, District Middle Tennessee, Department of the Cumberland, to January 1866. Robert’s records indicate he mustered out in April 1866 in Louisville, Ky.

Return to Dayton

I don’t know what Robert married Emma Morgan but it was before 1870 and they had six children: Walter, William, Mame, Emma, Clara, and Robert. The 1880 Census lists them as living in what is now Huber Heights (a suburb of Dayton) at that time with Robert working as a farmhand.

Postcard of the National Home for Disabled Veterans in Marion, Ind. from around 1910.

By 1890, Robert had lived in the Old Soldier’s Home in Dayton briefly before moving to the newly opened Marion Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Marion, Ind. He was possibly suffering from wounds incurred during his time in the Civil War. He would have been 56 by then. It wasn’t until I uncovered what happened later that I realized his family situation had possibly deteriorated to the point that separating from them may have been by choice.

Robert and Emma’s oldest son, Walter (born in 1870), followed in his father’s footsteps when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to Co. K of the Ninth Cavalry. Known as the Buffalo Soldiers, the Ninth was one of the Army’s four segregated African-American regiments. It saw combat during the Indian and Spanish–American Wars. During Westward Expansion, the regiment provided security for the early Western settlers and defended the American borders against Indian bands, Mexican encroachment, and criminal elements.

Walter Fisher served in Company K of the Ninth Cavalry, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers. (Photo Source: Black Valor: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898 by Frank N. Schubert)

I could find nothing about what Walter personally did as part of the Ninth Cavalry but I believe at the time he was serving, his company was stationed at Fort Robinson near Crawford, Nebraska.

Brother Against Brothers

By 1894, Walter was back in Dayton working in a the saloon the family owned on Auburn Street with his siblings. According to a newspaper article I read, it was located in a neighborhood with a bad reputation where brawls and shootings were common. There was bad blood between the youngest Fisher son, 15-year-old Robert Jr., and his brothers. The feud reached a boiling point on Aug. 21, 1894 when Robert walked into the saloon and shot Walter dead. He was 24 years old.

An additional article mentioned  that Walter’s girlfriend, Nettie Simpson, committed suicide by overdosing on morphine shortly after hearing of his violent demise.

By contrast, the article describes Robert Sr. as “a hard-working and honest colored man. He is of Herculean build, and yet is a peaceable and law-abiding citizen.” It made me wonder what happened to this family over the years to bring it to this sad state of affairs. Did Robert Sr. wash his hands of the situation and seek refuge in Marion, Ind. because of it?

Army veteran Walter Fisher was shot by his younger brother, Robert, in 1894. (Photo source: Dayton Herald, Aug. 21, 1894.

On Dec. 14, 1894, Robert Jr. was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years in the penitentiary despite his attorney’s request that he be sent to reform school. That same year, in October, William Fisher was accused of being involved with murdering two veterans with the assistance of two of his sisters. He, too, was charged with manslaughter. But if William served any time for it, he was back home by 1900 when the U.S. Census notes he was tending bar again on Auburn Street with his mother and siblings.

A veteran of the Indian Wars, Walter Fisher’s life was cut short by his younger brother.

Robert Sr. died in 1917 at the age of 80, his remains returned to Dayton for burial in Old Greencastle. He had no marker at that time but the SUV fellows ordered one for him. William died the same year at age 46 and is buried in an unmarked grave at Old Greencastle. Robert Jr. died in Michigan in 1929 and is also buried in an unmarked grave. Brother Henry died in 1939 and sister Mary in 1919, both buried in unmarked graves. I could not trace Emma’s whereabouts but she had moved to be near Robert Jr. in Detroit during the 1920s.

A Musical Minister

I did find the grave of someone who had an association with the original church connected with Old Greencastle Cemetery.

A native of Virginia, the Rev. William R. Rhinehart was born in 1800 and wed Barbara Bender in 1824. According to his Find a Grave memorial, he was composer of hymns and songs in addition to being a Church of the Brethren pastor. He, Barbara, and their son William were living in Clear Spring, Md. in the 1830s when he published a singing school book of songs.

Rev. William Rhinehart was a minister of the Church of the Brethren.

If you read my first blog post about Old Greencastle Cemetery, you know that its name comes from the “Greencastle Circuit” of the United Brethren churches (a sect from Germany that still exists today) to which the church belonged. The Greencastle plat itself predates 1826 and is one of the oldest in Dayton.

Portrait of the Rev. William R. Rhinehart, who died in 1861.

Rev. Rhinehart belonged to the United Brethren and his association with them eventually brought him to Dayton. I believe he was employed by the original Miami Chapel United Brethren Church that was next to Old Greencastle Cemetery. It is mentioned in his will. That church was torn down and rebuilt in 1912 but is unoccupied today. Son William married Elizabeth Felker in 1855 and worked as a carpenter.

Rev. Rhinehart died in 1861 at the age of 61. His wife, Barbara, died in 1881 at age 81. Both of them have markers at Old Greencastle. William died in 1914 but does not have a marker.

Rev. Rhinehart was brought to Dayton because of his association with the Miami Chapel United Brethren Church next to the cemetery.

Barbara Rhinehart passed away about 20 years after her husband.

An Anonymous Collection

I’m going to finish out this post with something I don’t normally do. As is typical of many cemeteries, you’ll find markers that may have had a name on them that has since worn away or been broken off. That doesn’t make them any less meaningful, but perhaps more mysterious.

This first heart-shaped one appealed to me because of the colorful glass pieces inserted around the edges. My grandfather used to have a stone bench at his house in Centerville, Ohio that looked similar. The hummingbird at the stop is especially whimsical.

The hummingbird at the top of this anonymous homemade marker gives it a whimsical feel.

Then there’s this cast iron lamb, which has seen better days. I am guessing it was meant for a child’s grave. There is no name on it.

This cast iron lamb was probably to make a child’s final resting place.

Then there’s this last one that I first saw in 2012 and fell in love with. I have no idea who this little stone house was built for but if you look closely, you can see the word “Father” on the roof. I had to take a picture of it again. Was this man a carpenter? A builder? I’ll probably never know.

This little stone house always tugs at my heart.

Saying goodbye to Old Greencastle Cemetery was harder this time because I had a stronger connection to it now and had met the people taking care of my ancestors’ final resting place. I am grateful to the local volunteers who come out for clean up days and the folks to the SUV, Sherman Camp #93 that continue to care for the graves as best they can. It’s not an easy task.

Old Greencastle’s future looks bright, despite the fact there are no funds to maintain it and the city has no interest in providing any. There are going to be times when it looks a little rough around the edges, especially during the summer when the grass grows quickly. But this is a fate common to many old, abandoned cemeteries facing similar circumstances. I feel blessed that this one is getting any attention at all.

Next time, I’ll be exploring Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery, where more of my family is buried.






A Grave Marker for Samuel: Returning to Dayton, Ohio’s Old Greencastle Cemetery, Part I

Today I begin a two-part series on a place I’ve written about before and that I have an ancestral connection to: Dayton, Ohio’s Old Greencastle Cemetery.

In October 2018, after a stop in Cincinnati at Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, my mother, sister, and I continued on to Dayton about 50 miles north. Dayton is where my parents are from and the area where my sister and I were born. We moved to Georgia when I was five years old, but we’ve always returned to visit family and take trips down memory lane.

It wasn’t until around 2008 after my son was born that I started researching my family tree. There was so much I didn’t know and certainly not where most of my ancestors were buried.

That research resulted in a 2012 visit to Old Greencastle Cemetery that I wrote about in this post and then an update and then another update in 2014. It was in terrible shape in 2012 because the owner didn’t care about it and has since vanished. The only section that was mowed in any fashion was the veterans’ area.

This was how Old Greencastle Cemetery looked in November 2012.

Those posts detail the history of Old Greencastle and how my great-great-grandfather (1837-1912) Samuel Grice served as a Union soldier during the Civil War as a member of the 93rd Ohio Infantry. When he died of heart disease on May 11, 1912 at the age of 74, he was buried at Old Greencastle Cemetery with no marker. His wife, Margaret, doesn’t have one either. She died in 1919.

I had stayed in touch with Fred Lynch, senior vice commander of the Sons of Union Veterans, Major General William T. Sherman Camp #93, over the years, enjoying the updates he sent me on how the cemetery was doing. It’s been mostly thanks to him and the other SUV volunteers that any mowing, trimming, or repairs have been done. On occasion, Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman has sent over the community pride clean-up trailer with landscaping equipment to help out.

I finally got to meet Fred Lynch and Phil Brandt, who were the ones responsible for getting a veteran’s marker for Samuel Grice.

I was thrilled in 2018 that I learned from Fred and Phil Brandt (who had been researching Old Greencastle for some time) that the SUV applied to get a veteran’s marker for Samuel and that it had been approved. We would be able to see it during our visit.

My mother, sister, and I met up with Frank and Phil. It was an emotional day for me, finally getting to meet two people who had done so much to help keep this abandoned cemetery from dying. The improvements to Old Greencastle were obvious as we looked around.

This is what Old Greencastle Cemetery looked like in October 2018.

It also has a nifty new sign, which I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of that day so I borrowed this one they posted on Facebook in 2019.

A new sign for Old Greencastle.

The first place they pointed us to was Samuel’s new marker, which they had recently placed. I was a bit teary eyes about it, frankly. It touched my heart that a group of people who had never met me or my family had gone to the trouble of applying for a headstone for Samuel, a man who had not had much in the way of material goods in his lifetime. I wish we had a marker for Margaret as well, but that may come later.

Although Samuel probably didn’t see combat during the Civil War, he did serve in the Union Army.

We had wondered how it was that Samuel and Margaret ended up buried in this cemetery. That mystery was solved when Fred located a property map that showed the Grices and Olingers (Margaret’s maiden name) had owned land in the same neighborhood as the cemetery. I had spotted Olinger graves during my 2012 visit.

The Grice and Olingers owned property in the Greencastle area. You can see it in the top right corner of the red square.

Two of Samuel’s sons Harry and Wilbert married two sisters, Florence and Cordelia Claar. These two women were the daughters of Louisa Elvira McCoy Claar and John Irwin Claar. That’s where my next Old Greencastle story begins.

The sisters were born in rural Jackson County, Ohio in the 1880s where the Claar family had lived for years. At some point after 1900, the Claars moved to Dayton. Florence married my great-grandfather Harry Grice just a month before her father John died in February 1906. He is buried in Beaver Union Cemetery in Pike County, Ohio.

Cordelia married Wilbert Grice a few months later. Sadly, that marriage would end in divorce some years later. They had one daughter, Margaret.

Cordelia, Vinton, and Mabel are in the front row. Edward, John, Florence, Louisa, and Everett are behind them. Florence, who is standing, was my great-grandmother.

The next years were hard on Louisa and the remaining siblings. The boys took jobs doing whatever they could, from making cigars to posting signs. Edward and Vinton never married. Mabel worked as a housekeeper until her marriage to Elmer Ellsman.

Edward died at the age of 37 in April 1919. By this time, the family had changed their last name from “Claar” to “Clair” in everything I’ve seen. My guess is that World War I made having a German-sounding last name quite uncomfortable.

The Claars became the Clairs sometime around World War I, when having a German-sounding last name could cause problems. (Photo source: Dayton Herald, April 8, 1919)

You can’t even read Edward’s marker anymore. When I came in 2012, I couldn’t find it amid the tall grass and weeds.

William Edward Claar’s marker is unreadable now.

Everett, the oldest, married later in life to a woman named Laura. They would move to Pennsylvania but had no children. He died in 1966 and is buried with Laura in Natrona Heights, Pa. in Mount Airy Cemetery.

Louisa was my father’s grandmother and I do have photos of her later in life. Early in my grandparents’ marriage and the first few years of my father’s life, they lived with my great-grandmother Florence and Harry on Milton Street. That’s about five miles from Old Greencastle. I’m sure Louisa lived nearby. This is the one photo I have of my father, Florence, and Louisa together.

My father, Florence Claar Grice, and Louisa McCoy Claar a few years before Louisa died in 1941.

It was this photo we took with us to Dayton on our visit. My mother was holding it as I knelt beside Louisa’s stone. Louisa died in 1941 at the age of 83 after what the newspaper called an 18-month illness. She was living with Cordelia when she died. I feel sad that her marker is homemade and falling apart. But at least she has one.

Paying homeage to Louisa Elvira McCoy Claar, our great-great-grandmother. I hope we’ve made her proud.

My great-grandmother, Florence, died in 1945. She is buried with Harry in Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery, a far larger cemetery than Old Greencastle. We’ll visit her grave in a few weeks when I explore that vast burial ground.

Vinton died in 1946 at age 56 and was buried with his mother and Edward. His marker is also in poor condition. Mabel, the youngest, died in 1982 at the age of 87. She is buried with her husband, Elmer, in Dayton Memorial Cemetery.

Vinton, the youngest son, died in 1946 at the age of 56.

It’s an understatement to say that these simple gravestone represent a lot to me. These were my ancestors, my family, whom for years I knew nothing about. My father and grandfather never spoke of them.

We dearly hope to provide a new single marker for Louisa, Edward, and Vinton so that something is in place once their markers disintegrate, which will sadly happen sooner than later. I’ve been looking into the expense and how to do it.

I’ve got some more stories to share from Old Greencastle that I know you’ll enjoy. Come back for Part II.




The Cemetery Crown Jewel of Cincinnati: Visiting Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Part V

This is the final installment in my series on Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. Today I’m simply going to share some images from my visits that I really liked. There’s no rhyme or reason to them. In fact, two of them are almost identical.

One thing I always enjoy at any cemetery I visit is peeking inside mausoleums. Sometimes there’s nothing much but on occasion you get some surprises. The Gerrard family mausoleum would fit the latter description.

Rise of the Cantaloupe King

Born in 1860 in the Cincinnati-area community of Cherry Grove, Stephen Gerrard came from a poor family and had little formal education. He supported himself in his youth as a street peddler, but ultimately made his fortune by taking advantage of refrigerated rail cars to transport cantaloupes nationwide, selling them far more widely than previously possible.

His sales of Colorado melons throughout the country’s central and eastern regions made Gerrard wealthy, gaining him the nickname of “Cantaloupe King”. According to his Find a Grave page, he hybridized the Elberta peach and the Honeydew melon.

Built in 1915, the Gerrard mansion is still standing today. Gerrard installed a room behind the massive Kimball organ added in 1928 to facilitate easy storage of Prohibition-era alcohol. The space was only accessible by a secret door built into the organ’s paneling.

In 1915, Gerrard and his wife Estelle built a grand mansion at 748 Betula Ave. to show off his hard-won wealth. The Gothic Tudor Revival home featured a variety of decorative touches uncommon in most houses of the era, such as gargoyles, stained glass windows, marble columns, carved plaster ceilings, elaborate fireplace mantles, and Tennessee marble floors.

This is a photo of the 1880 wedding of Stephen Gerrard to Estelle Markley. (Photo source: Cincinnati Enquirer magazine, Oct. 26, 1986)

In 1928, a music room was added as a birthday gift to Estelle that included a huge pipe organ designed by W.W. Kimball of Chicago, earning the mansion the honor of having the largest residential pipe organ in the U.S. (and the first self-playing organ in the world).

End of an Era

Despite severe financial losses during the Great Depression, the Gerrards managed to barely hold onto their mansion until Stephen’s death after a stroke at age 75 in 1936. The mansion was sold in the late 1930s for only $65,000. Estelle, who moved in with her daughter, died in 1947.

The house went through much neglect over the next decades, destroying the functionality of the pipe organ. After being restored and made livable, Gerrard’s mansion was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1987. As of 2017, a young couple was living in the Gerrard mansion.

The Gerrard family mausoleum cost about $125,000 to build.

The Gerrard mausoleum was one of the last of the grand mausoleums built at Spring Grove. Its architecture is typical for the era with a blend of modern classicism and Art Deco. Because the mausoleum was on the property of Spring Grove, the bank technically could not seize the $125,000 structure to pay off Gerrard’s debts.

I especially like the doors. One of the standards of Arts and Crafts architecture and ornament was the use of natural materials and when that was not possible, as in the case of these bronze doors, to use ornament to express the natural world.

The doors of the Gerrard mausoleum are indicative of the Arts and Crafts style.

Fortunately, I was able to look through the openings in the doors to see inside. While I couldn’t get a good picture of the stained glass, the four statues were impressive. I learned later that they are thought to represent the four seasons.

The interior of the Gerrard mausoleum features four female figures that may represent the four seasons.

Grumpy Beer Baron

When I visited Spring Grove back in 2013, I didn’t have time to photograph many grave stones. But I did remember this fellow. When it came time to label his photo in my records, I referred to him as “Grumpy Dead German Guy” so I’d remember it. That probably wasn’t very nice of me but it fits.

George F. Eichenlaub’s expression prompted me to mentally refer to him as “Grumpy Dead German Guy.”

My research on George Franz Eichenlaub is a bit spotty. He arrived in America from Germany in the 1830s from a brewing tradition and became a Cincinnati beer baron. He went into business with another German brewer, his son-in-law Joseph Kauffmann, and they were quite successful. Eichenlaub died in 1870 and his frowning visage is on the back of the monument shared by his daughter, Marianne, and Joseph.

The Tiffany’s of Cincinnati

I must have liked the Duhme monument a lot because I photographed it during both of my visits to Spring Grove. The family, originally from Germany, founded a jewelry store in the 1830s that would go on to become known as the Tiffany’s of Cincinnati.

Brothers Henry (born in 1814) and Herman (born 1819) opened up Duhme and Co. on the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets soon after they arrived in America. At first, they sold high-class goods but by the 1860s they were making and selling silver and jewelry. It became a popular showplace for some of the most beautiful jewelry and silver in the city.

Duhme & Co. was known as the Tiffany’s of Cincinnati.

Herman was the one who figured more prominently of the two, in his business and personal life. His first marriage ended in a messy divorce and a rather unhappy second one, although both resulted in the birth of several children. He died in 1888 in St. Clair, Mich. at age 69. Duhme & Co. continued under various iterations until 1928. You can still find Duhme & Co. silver from time to time.

The Duhme brothers started a jewelry company that once competed with Gorham and Tiffany’s.

The monument I referred to earlier is actually for Henry, who died in 1874, and his family. The figure of a woman holding an open book on her lap with a child at her knee evokes maternal imagery. Henry and his wife, Louisa, did have several children and I believe only the first, Henry, died in infancy.

The monument was ordered by the New England Granite Works from Westerly Granite in Westerly, R.I., who was responsible for many Spring Grove monuments. The base is made of red Westerly granite and the pedestal/statue of white Westerly granite. It was ordered on Feb. 18, 1889 and arrived on Dec. 13, 1889. This was not long after Herman’s death and his plainer marker was also ordered from Westerly Granite in 1889.

In my research on Westerly Granite, I learned that they also made four of the mausoleums at Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery.

Bringing Home the Bacon

I was also rather taken with the Brill family monument but it wasn’t until this week that I learned that it had a connection to the Duhme monument. It turns out they were both made by Rhode Island’s Westerly Granite.

Born in Germany in 1824, Jacob Brill married Catherine “Katie” Jacobs in their native country sometime in the 1850s. Their only child, Katie, was born around 1855. I’m not sure exactly what year the Brills emigrated to America. But by the 1880 U.S. Census, Jacob was working as a butcher.

Jacob eventually operated his own pork packing facility in Camp Washington and did quite well. He died on Oct. 1, 1896 at age 72. According to newspaper reports, his will left everything to his wife to the tune of over $100,000. That was a lot of bacon back in the day!

The Brill family monument was also purchased from Westerly Granite in Rhode Island.

On March 1, 1897, Katie ordered the monument via New England Granite Works from Westerly Granite for $4,000. Factoring in inflation, that would have amounted to over $100,000 at that time. I’m not entirely sure that $4,000 figure is correct. Like the Duhme monument, the base is made of red Westerly granite and the pedestal/statue of white Westerly granite.

Female Pallbearers Chosen

Katie died on Sept. 19, 1898 at the age of 68. I found a rather detailed funeral notice for her in the Cincinnati Enquirer. There is no mention of her daughter, Katie, at all. But you can read in the notice that Mrs. Brill had some of her best female friends serve as four of the eight pallbearers, which was highly unusual. The other four pallbearers were her nephews.

Katie Brill’s funeral notice points out that four of her pallbearers were women. (Photo source: Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 23, 1898)

Daughter Katie would marry at the age of 44 in 1899 to attorney Carl Nippert, becoming his second wife. Sadly, he died only five years later in 1904 at age 50 of kidney failure. Katie died several years later in 1928 at age 73. Both she and Carl are buried with her parents in the Brill family plot.

Double Vision

You might be amazed to find (as I was) that there is an exact duplicate of the Brill monument’s statue at Spring Grove. The Kreimer family must have seen the Brill one and liked it so much that they contacted New  England Granite Works to purchase one just like it for them from Westerly Granite.

However, the Kreimer monument is made of Barre granite (found in Barre, Vermont) instead of Westerly granite and cost considerably less at $1,200. I’m not sure why. Part of me wonders if the Brill monument actually cost $400. But the two monuments are about the same size. The two bases do have a number of style differences.

The statue on top of the Kreimer monument is exactly like the one on the Brill monument.

Along with his father, Henry, Charles. H. Kreimer operated Kreimer & Brother Furniture Co. He was married to Emma Roehl in 1880 and they had four children together. Son Alfred took over the family business after Charles died of heart failure on July 24, 1923 at the age of 61.

After I posted these two monuments on Twitter, Paula Lemire responded with a photo of the same statue on a monument at Albany Rural Cemetery in New York. That one actually has an anchor on the book the statue is holding.

Sands Through the Hourglass

The last grave marker I’m going to share is not very large or stunning. But I do think it’s a bit out of the ordinary.

Born in Germany in 1825, Conrad Windisch worked for his father in the family brewing business. During the German Revolution of 1848, he emigrated to America and moved around a bit working in breweries in Pittsburgh and St. Louis before landing in Cincinnati in 1850. In 1854, Windisch married Sophia Kobmann, who was from his village back in Germany.

Conrad Windisch was one of several German beer barons that made their fortunes in Cincinnati.

Windisch started his own brewery in 1862 and sold his interest in 1866 to focus on his own interests. With his brother-in-law, Gottlieb Muhlhauser, as well as Muhlhauser’s brother, Henry, Muhlhauser-Windisch & Company was born. It was commonly known as the Lion Brewery because of two stone carved lions atop each of the two gables at the entrance. They were among the first to introduce ice machines and was the city’s second largest during the 1880s.

Carl Windisch was one of the owners of the Lion Brewery, which was quite popular in its time.

Conrad Windisch died in 1887 at age 62. His son, William A. Windisch, and later another son, Charles Windisch, kept the brewery going until 1920 when Prohibition forced them to cease operation.

It’s hard to describe Conrad’s marker. It almost looks like an old brick wall with a Medieval window carved out of it. A cut off tree leans in front of the window, symbolizing a life cut short, along with ivy. To me, it evokes a feeling of Conrad’s Old World roots when he was working alongside his father in Germany as a young man.

Conrad Windsich’s grave marker has an Old World appeal to it.

It’s the winged hourglass at the top of the marker that give it that added charm, emphasizing how times goes so quickly as the years of our life fly by.

A winged hourglass tops the Conrad Windisch grave marker.

As I come to the end of my Spring Grove adventure, I’d like to thank Ken Naegele for taking the time to show me around. Without his guidance, I doubt I would have seen as many of the gems this beautiful burial ground has to offer. Hopefully, we can meet up again when I’m next in Ohio so I can see what I missed.

Next time, I’ll be visiting Old Greencastle Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio again. I have several family members buried there. You won’t want to miss it.

Inner door of the McDonald family mausoleum.


The Cemetery Crown Jewel of Cincinnati: Visiting Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Part IV

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.

Edward Shield died at the age of two months in 1835. He shares his marker with his Aunt Caroline (who died in infancy in 1830) and Uncle Alfred (who died in infancy in 1821).

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.

Eliza Shield died at the age of 31 in 1844 of “obstruction of the womb.”

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.

George and Josephine Shield lost at the least three children, the last only living one day.

Josephine died a month after her last child’s death due to “childbirth fever” in June 1852. She was only 26 when she died.

Virginia Shield died a month after the birth of her daughter at the age of 26.

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.

George Shield’s monument features a beaming likeness of the talented engineer along with some interesting symbols.

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.

The winged hourglass often signifies that “time flies” in this life.

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.

The “all-seeing eye” is a motif common to both Masons and members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).

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.

A beehive sometimes means an industrious Christian life. The Masons saw it a bit differently.

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.

A muscular arm wields a hammer on George Shield’s monument.

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?

Have any idea what this means?

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

What on earth does this scene mean?

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.

Baseball player Charles Harvey Gould earned himself the nickname “the Bushel Basket” because of his fielding prowess.

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.

“The Bushel-Basket”

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 Gould can be seen in the 9 o’clock position on this poster showing the Red Stockings 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.

Charlie Gould had no grave marker of any kind until 1951.

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.

Founder of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Charles West (1810-1887) came to Cincinnati and made his fortune in the flour industry. He died a few months after the museum was completed.

The Cemetery Crown Jewel of Cincinnati: Visiting Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Part III

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.

Chunkie Singleton’s grave is one of the most visited in Spring Grove.

“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.

William Redman died six years before his grandfather, Josiah.

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.

Was this dog meant for William Redman or Josiah?

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.

Some Cincinnati residents were dismayed by the installation of the Lawler monument in 1850, which featured an Egyptian sphinx on the top.

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.

Made of blue marble, the Lawler sphinx created quite a stir when it was installed and considered “anti-Christian” 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.

The Dannenfelser monument is one of the few I’ve ever seen featuring a woman kneeling next to a draped chair.

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.

This ad for Carl Dannenfelser’s business was in the The American Israelite, a Cincinnati newspaper, on Nov. 16, 1922. By that time, his oldest son Phillip was running it.

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.

Carl Dannenfelser’s work can be seen in the woodwork of the library of the Carl Phelps Taft Home (now the Taft Museum). (Photo source: Taft Museum web site)

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.

Dannenfelser’s carved panel of the parable of the Good Samaritan is on the ablo (pulpit) at Mother of God Church in Covington, Ky. (Photo source: Elyce Feliz, Flickr)

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 face of the statue kneeling beside the chair reflects grief and sadness. Note the rose in her hand.

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.

“The best is yet to be.”

More tales from Spring Grove are coming!

Stained glass from the Joseph Carew family mausoleum. A wealthy businessman, Carew was the namesake of the second-tallest building in Cincinnati, the Carew Tower. Built in 1930, it cost $33 million dollars (amid the Great Depression) and is 49 stories tall.



The Cemetery Crown Jewel of Cincinnati: Visiting Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Part II

I’m still at Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Today I’ll share the stories of three different families with striking monuments that match their histories. This first one is actually not a monument but a mausoleum.

When you first see the Dexter family mausoleum as I did in 2013, you might mistake it for a chapel. This commanding edifice is the final resting place for 20 members of the Dexter family. And it does contain a small chapel.

Built in 1870, the Dexter mausoleum was never fully completed.

Edmund Dexter’s Grand Visions

Born in 1801 in England, Edmund Dexter, Sr. came to America in the 1820s. He married New Yorker Mary Ann Dellinger in 1829 and they had a large family: five sons and four daughters. Dexter became a prosperous businessman as a liquor distributor.

The Dexters purchased land on the corner of Fourth and Broadway in 1838 but the grand mansion they built there was not fully completed until 1858. Some sources I found say that the Dexters entertained author Charles Dickens there in 1842. Later, it would be purchased by the Western & Southern Life Insurance Company. It was torn down around 1914.

Completion of the Dexter Mansion was in 1858, only a few years before Edmund Dexter, Sr. died. (Photo source: The Enquirer Magazine, Sept. 28, 1924)

When Edmund Dexter, Sr. died in 1862 at age 61, he left his widow and heirs a considerable sum. He was buried at Spring Grove but in 1870, the grand mausoleum that would eventually contain the remains of most of his family was built. Cincinnati architect James Keys Wilson was in charge of designing the Gothic Revival masterpiece, which may have been inspired by the famous Parisian church, Sainte-Chapelle.

Edmund Dexter, Sr. died in 1862 at the age of 61.

The mausoleum’s locked lower level has 12 marble catacombs where four generations of Dexters reside. Behind the locked door to the top level is a marble-lined chapel that is 12 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 34 feet high.

The Dexter mausoleum cost about $100,000, which would equal about $1.7 million today.

The $100,000 it cost to build the family mausoleum equals about $1.7 million in today’s money. But the Dexter mausoleum was never finished by builder Joseph Foster. Unknown financial issues left it without its planned stained glass windows and a manual elevator that was to reach down into the catacombs.

So how many people are inside the Dexter Mausoleum besides Edmund Sr. and Mary Ann (who died in 1875)? According to a newspaper article, there are thought to be a total of 20 people. That list includes Edmund Dexter Jr. (1835-1879), the second of the Dexter sons, who helped took over running the family business after his father’s death. He would die in 1879 at age 43 of “tuberculosis of the bowels.”

A Contested Will

Also interred within the Dexter Mausoleum is Annie L. Dexter (1856-1916), the eldest of Charles Dexter’s four daughters and Edmund Sr.’s granddaughter. Annie, who was single and died of pneumonia in 1916 in Quebec, left her younger sister, Alice Dexter Walker, out of her will. Annie’s estate was around $700,000. Alice challenged Annie’s will and settled out of court. “She had never shown me any affection,” Annie said of Alice in her will.

Granddaughter Alice (1863-1944) was married to University of Cincinnati Spanish professor Paul F. Walker. She had one son, Carroll “Deck” Dexter Walker, (1906-1960) who had to change his name to Charles Dexter in order to collect a $20,000 inheritance from his Aunt Annie. He is buried elsewhere at Spring Grove with his wife, Dorothy.

The Eyes Have It

My next story involves another prosperous Cincinnati businessman but his story is much more troubling than the Dexter family’s.

If you walk by C.C. Breuer’s monument, his eyes may be following you.

What drew me to Charles Breuer (thanks to Ken’s guidance) was the fact that the bust of the man himself that’s on the side of his monument contains a pair of glass eyes. There are a few stories behind why he requested that his bust’s eyes have real glass eyes inserted in them. One was because he wanted to “keep an eye on things” after he was gone.

But the more I read about C.C. Breuer’s past, the more I realized this man had issues that went way beyond requests like this one. He apparently thought about his eventual demise quite a bit, purchasing plots at Spring Grove years in advance.

From Butcher to Real Estate Baron

Born in 1845 in Germany, Charles C. Breuer made his way to America sometime before the Civil War. Settling in Cincinnati, he married Annie Burkart in the 1860s and worked as a butcher in the 1870s. As he prospered, the couple had at least seven children together.

By the time Charles divorced Annie in the 1880s, he had switched from operating a butcher shop to dabbling in real estate. He married Katherine Grotenkemper in 1889. Together, they had two daughters, Ruth (1893) and Helen (1895). It was only about six months after Helen’s birth that Katherine died of pneumonia at the age of 36. Charles was amassing several properties and gaining wealth rapidly.

Charles C. Breuer went from simple butcher to wealthy real estate mogul but he was often at odds with his business associates.

It was in 1904 that Charles’ name began hitting the newspapers for various court cases, including a charge of assault against him when he cut a tenant he disagreed with. He also began entrusting his housekeeper, Georgia Lee Gholson (who was from Cobb County, Ga., where I once lived), with some of his properties and guardianship of Ruth and Helen, who were none too keen on their father’s new love interest.

Sleeping on His Casket

By 1905, Charles had married Georgia and his two teenage daughters were living in an apartment across the Ohio River in Covington, Ky., being cared for by neighbors. Charles had the girls brought into juvenile court under the charge of “incorrigibility” and the family’s dirty laundry was aired.

During this time, Breuer became obsessed with his own death. The story of how he purchased two copper-lined caskets (costing $500 each) for he and Georgia and then stored them under their bed made headlines in several newspapers.

The article got his daughters’ names wrong but the story of C.C. Breuer sleeping on his own coffin was true. (Photo source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 26, 1908)

Eventually, Charles dropped the case against the girls but the judge ruled that Charles had to provide his daughters with a living via the rental of one of his many buildings. While this was being finalized, an infuriated Breuer plotted to blow up the building to keep his daughters from receiving it. Fortunately, he was discovered before he could complete the job. The story even made headlines in the New York Times.

Charles C. Breuer attempted to burn down his own building to keep his daughters from getting the income from its rental. (Photo source: Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette, Jan. 18, 1908.)

Beginning of the End

In court, Charles was judged insane and put in the custody of Georgia. One article noted he was reunited with Ruth and Helen in court, their legal matters resolved. But his mental state continued to rapidly deteriorate. By July, Georgia had reached her limit and Charles was taken to Longview Hospital, a Cincinnati mental institution. He died on August 20, 1908.

According to newspaper accounts, Charles was embroiled in 50 different court cases at the time of his death so I have a feeling there wasn’t much money left to leave his family.

One story claims that Charles Breuer requested that his own eyes be removed from his corpse and placed within the glass eyes inserted in his bust.

I traced Ruth and Helen to 1910 when they were boarding in a home in Cincinnati. Ruth was working as a stenographer and Helen as a bookkeeper. I lost track of Ruth but Helen married and eventually moved to Tennessee where she died in 1966.

Georgia lived to the age of 77 and died in 1948. She is buried beside Charle, along with some of his children from his first wife, Annie. But I don’t know if Georgia was buried in that $500 copper-lined casket.

A Young Family on the Rise

Fortunately, the Emery family wasn’t nearly as dysfunctional as the Breuers. But they did know their fair share of tragedy, which resulted in the creation of one of Spring Grove’s most beautiful statues.

Born in Wales in 1830, Thomas J. Emery came to America with his family at the age of 6. Thomas was the eldest son of the founder of a soon-to-be developed empire built on candle manufacturing, real estate, and housing construction. Around 1865, he married accomplished New Yorker Mary Muhlenberg Hopkins.

Photo of the Emery boys in their childhood. (Photo source:

The couples’ fortunes rose as their family grew, with Sheldon arriving in 1867 and Albert being born in 1868. Eventually, both boys were sent to St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. to continue their education.

Tragedy Strikes

On Feb. 6, 1884, Albert went sledding with some classmates and was in an accident. Sadly, he died a few days later on Feb. 11, 1884 at the age of 15.

This newspaper clipping is the only mention I could find related to Albert Emery’s death. (Photo source: The Dayton Herald, Feb. 6, 1884)

One source I found said that Sheldon graduated from Harvard Law School but I wasn’t able to find anything to support that. City directories place him living with his parents until his early 20s when he began to work as a clerk in his father’s thriving real estate business. Thomas also owned a candle-making factory that employed many people.

Sheldon died of pneumonia on Oct. 26, 1890, leaving his parents childless. They were understandably devastated.

The original statue held a clamshell in its hands.

In response, the Emerys commissioned a baptismal statue in memory of their sons, Sheldon and Albert. The bronze angel, which originally held an elaborate clamshell, served the congregation of Christ Church Cathedral until 1955, when the statue was then moved to Spring Grove Cemetery.

In its new home, the Emery Angel is often referred to as “The Weeping Angel” due to her striking tear-stained face.

The effects of aging makes it appear that the Emery angel is weeping.

It was only six years later that Thomas Emery would die of pneumonia on Jan. 5, 1906 at the age of 75 while visiting Cairo, Egypt. The news must have hit Mary hard back in Cincinnati, especially since newspaper reports said she had begged him not to go. His remains were sent home to Ohio for burial at Spring Grove.

The Emery family cross bears the names of Thomas Emery’s parents on the front. Thomas, Mary, Sheldon, and Albert Emery’s names are on the back. (Photo courtesy of Ken Naegele.)

Thomas’ will included many bequests to various charitable organizations, including the Cincinnati Orphan Asylum he’d established 30 years previous and severak employees of his candle factory.

Mary reportedly inherited $20 million. Not a woman to rest on her laurels, she used the money to continue several philanthropic projects begun by Thomas and started many new ventures. She supported the Cincinnati Zoo, was the force behind the creation of Children’s Hospital, and donated a wing to the Cincinnati Art Museum to showcase the art she had collected and bequeathed to the museum.

Mary Emery was as committed to charitable causes as her late husband. (Photo source:

Mary’s biggest project was the creation of the model town of Mariemont. Shocked by the unsanitary housing conditions in downtown Cincinnati, she used her funds to create a template for a community planned in every detail to provide its residents with a high quality of life.

Mary and her business manager hired John Nolen, an internationally known town planner, who developed the plan for the Village of Mariemont (named after the Emery family’s summer home in Rhode Island). Mariemont is one of relatively few planned communities in the U.S., and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

I knew nothing about Mary’s involvement in Mariemont so when later that day my sister suggested we drive through it before heading to Dayton, I didn’t make the connection. It’s still a beautiful development with Tudor-style homes and tree-lined streets. This was the only photo I took, unfortunately.

After her husband’s death in 1906, Mary Emery poured her energies into creating the Village of Mariemont. Her sister, Isabella, inherited must of her estate when Mary died in 1927.

When Mary died of pneumonia at age 82 in 1927, she left much of her estate (after many charitable bequests) to her sister Isabella, with whom she was very close in her last years.

I’ve still got plenty of stories to share from Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. Stay tuned for Part III!

The only child of confectioner Alexander M. Day and Mary Johnson Day, six-year-old Alice Day died 10 months after her father on April 27, 1864. The Days were a wealthy family that included Alex’s brother, Ohio Congressman Timothy Day.









The Cemetery Crown Jewel of Cincinnati: Visiting Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, Part I

I’ve visited Cincinnati, Ohio’s Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum twice. The first time was in June 2013 before my blogging career had really taken off, so we didn’t stay long. Plus my then five-year-old son’s attention span for cemetery hopping was pretty low.

The second time was in October 2018 when I came up to Ohio to visit family (and cemeteries) with my mother and sister. I purposefully planned our journey so that our first night was spent in Cincinnati so I could get up early the next morning while they were still asleep to visit Spring Grove with friend Ken Naegele (aka The Necro Tourist) as my tour guide. We’d met on Facebook some time before and he kindly offered to give me a tour with what limited time I had.

Front entrance gates to Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum. This is where I entered in 2013. (Photo source: Chris Rylands, 2013)

What I will be sharing with you in this series will include photos from both visits because some things I saw in 2013 I skipped in 2018 due to time constraints.

Birth of Spring Grove

Until the 1840s, Cincinnati had no large city cemetery to speak of but a collection of about 22 small church burial grounds. The growing metropolis had gone through a number of epidemics so some town fathers were concerned about having enough burial space.

In 1844, Cincinnati Horticultural Society members formed a cemetery association with the hope of creating a suitable park-like institution, a rural cemetery, close to the city yet remote enough not to be touched by expansion. They traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe visiting cemeteries as they planned a burial ground that would equal the famed beauty of Pere-Lachaise in Paris, and various outstanding cemeteries on America’s East Coast.

This 1858 painting depicts Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum.

On December 1, 1844, Salmon P. Chase and others prepared the Articles of Incorporation. Chase persuaded legislators to grant a charter for a non-profit non-denominational corporation, which was granted by a special act on January 21, 1845.  Spring Grove’s first interment was made September 1, 1845.

A bit of trivia for you, Salmon P. Chase went on to become a U.S. Senator, Governor of Ohio, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and a Supreme Court Justice serving from 1864-1873. He is buried at Spring Grove. Thanks to Ken, I saw his grave.

Salmon P. Chase had quite an impressive resume.

In 1987, Spring Grove officially changed its name to Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum to include the collection of both native and exotic plant materials as well as its State and National Champion Trees and its Centenarian Collection. Today, Spring Grove encompasses 733 acres of which approximately 450 acres are landscaped and maintained. It includes 15 lakes and an estimated 225,000 burials. I’m betting there’s more than that.

Spring Grove 2018

When I went to meet Ken, I ended up arriving through the North Gate in the rear of the cemetery. We managed to connect and knowing I didn’t have much time, he started showing me around.

The North Gate entrance is in the rear of the cemetery.

Today I’m going to try to feature some of the more famous residents at Spring Grove like Salmon P. Chase. Another is a pair of gentlemen whose legacy continues to give millions a good night’s sleep even today. That would be mighty mattress masters Stearns & Foster.

Sweet Dreams Started Humbly

So how did this duo meet? Poor Kentucky native Seth Cutter Foster (1823-1914) moved to Cincinnati as a young man. After gaining some education by attending a night school, he found work in a dry goods store. That’s where he met Maryland native and prosperous printer George Sullivan Stearns (1816-1889). That meeting would lead to a partnership forged around 1846.

George Stearns had already achieved success as a printer when he met Seth Foster in the 1840s. (Photo source: Wyoming [Ohio] Historical Society.)

Stearns, engaged in the manufacturing of printers’ ink and being naturally mechanical, was experimenting with producing cotton wadding and other cotton goods (especially in the cushions of carriages). Foster was selling cotton goods over the counter and he suggested to Stearns that he could find a market for the goods the latter was manufacturing.

Postcard of the Lockland, Ohio Stearns and Foster Mattress Co. plant. It has since been demolished. (Photo source:

Their factory first produced cotton wadding and was located at the corner of Clay and Liberty streets for about 15 years. They moved to Lockland, still retaining offices in Cincinnati. By this time, they were expanding to batting, mattresses, and other related cotton products.

At the Lockland factory’s peak in the 1970s, Stearns & Foster employed more than 1,200 people who produced 200 mattresses and spring sets daily under the Stearns & Foster and Sealy brands. It was acquired by the Ohio-Sealy Mattress Manufacturing Company on December 21, 1983. The mattress manufacturing operation at its Lockland plant was shut down in September 30, 1993. Sealy continues to market Stearns & Foster brand mattresses today.

Ken related the good news to me that Sterns and Foster are actually buried quite close to each others. Even in death, they were close.

George Foster died on Nov. 24, 1889 at the age of 74, leaving behind a widow (Amelia) and eight grown children (one child died young).

George Stearns was a native of Arlington, Mass. He moved to Cincinnati around 1840.

Amelia Stearns, George’s widow, died about 10 years after he did in 1909. Their son, Edwin, would take over his father’s leadership role in the business.

Seth Foster died on July 8, 1914 at the age of 90. His monument is a bit grander than his partner’s.

Seth C. Foster died in 1914 at age 90. Like his partner George Stearns, he gave generously to local charities.

Julia Resor Foster, Seth’s widow, died about a year after he did in 1915. Their daughter Julia, born in 1862, died in 1935 at age 74.

Candles and Soap?

Another great business partnership has its roots in Cincinnati and both men are buried at Spring Grove Cemetery.

A native of England born in 1801, William Procter got his start in the clothing trade. He made his way to America in 1830 and briefly manufactured candles in New York. His wife, Martha, died on the journey west in Cincinnati and he decided to stay. In 1833, he wed Olivia Norris. It was her father, Alexander Norris, that advised William to go into business with Olivia’s sister’s husband, Irishman James Gamble. James was a soap maker. The men started their business venture in 1837.

William Procter’s plans to head west were cut short when his first wife, Martha, died in Cincinnati.

By 1858, Procter & Gamble sales reached $1 million with about 80 employees. During the Civil War, the company won contracts to supply the Union Army with soap and candles. In addition to the increased profits experienced during the war, the military contracts introduced soldiers from all over the country to Procter & Gamble’s products.

In the 1880s, Procter & Gamble began to market a new product, an inexpensive soap that floated in water. William Procter’s son Harley named it Ivory after reading Psalm 45:8: “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.”

Irishman James Gamble emigrated to America with his parents in 1819. He graduated from Ohio’s Kenyon College in 1824.

An Empire Grows

Through the next decades, Proctor & Gamble would go on to bring more products into its lineup. These include detergents, soap powder, shampoos, toilet goods, and a long list of consumer staples.

William Procter passed away on April 4, 1884 at the age of 82. His wife, Olivia, died in 1893. Their son, William Alexander Procter, became president of Procter & Gamble in 1890. Sadly, William A. died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 28, 1907. He had been consumed with grief since the death of his wife, Charlotte, in 1903.

William Procter died in 1884 and is buried with both of his wives. (Photo source: Courtesy of Ken Naegele)

James Gamble died on April 29, 1892 at the age of 88. His wife, Elizabeth, had died in 1888. His obelisk is significantly larger than his business partner’s marker.

James Gamble’s obelisk is a commanding presence in the cemetery.

James Gamble is buried with his wife, Elizabeth Norris Gamble.

The last person I’m featuring may not be a household name like the others but Bishop Charles Petit McIlvaine holds a distinction that nobody else buried in Spring Grove can claim. I’ll get to that later.

Born in 1799 in Burlington, N.J., McIlvaine was the son of Joseph McIlvaine (later a U.S. Senator) and Maria Reed. McIlvaine entered the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), where he graduated in 1816. The following year, he entered the theological seminary attached to the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton.

Served as Senate Chaplain Twice

In 1820, McIlvaine was ordained to the diaconate in Philadelphia, and was soon after called to Christ Church in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. From Dec. 9, 1822 to Dec. 9, 1823 and from Dec. 14, 1824 to Dec. 11, 1825, he served as chaplain of the U.S. Senate. In 1822, he married childhood friend Emily Coxe. Together, they had 10 children. Two would die in childhood. Three of them are buried with their parents at Spring Grove.

From 1825 to 1827, McIlvaine served as chaplain and professor of ethics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Among his students were Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

Episcopal Bishop Charles Petit McIlvaine was a well-respected man by his peers and important leaders. (Photo source: Matthew Brady, Library of Congress)

In 1832, he became the second president of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and also the second Bishop of Ohio. He was a leading advocate of Evangelicalism. Over the next years, he gained a reputation of being a wise voice by his peers in England.

Bishop McIlvaine was so highly respected internationally that soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln asked him to go to England to argue against British recognition of the Confederacy. He often had coffee at Buckingham Palace, lunched with faculty members at Oxford, spoke with cabinet members, and influenced debate in the House of Commons.

Bishop McIlvaine finished his 40-year term as Bishop of Ohio in 1873. He was in Florence, Italy that same year when he died on March 12 at age 74. His remains, carried through England on its journey home to Ohio, was honored for four days in Westminster Abbey. He is the only American to this day to lie in state at Westminster.

A small brass wall plaque in St. Faith’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey commemorates the life of Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine. (Photo source: Westminster Abbey Library).

Here’s a rather strange footnote. The final journey of Bishop McIlvaine’s remains was incredibly long. His remains traveled from Florence (he died March 12) to London (first funeral) to Liverpool to New York City’s St. Paul’s on May 6 (second funeral) before arriving in Ohio at Cincinnati’s Christ Church on May 9 (third funeral) before burial in Spring Grove.

All I can think is that he had to be very well embalmed to withstand such a lengthy journey. Cremation was not widely available in those days but would be in the decades that followed.

McIlvaine served as Bishop of Ohio for 40 years.

Emily McIlvaine died in New York City on Feb. 19, 1877 (her 76th birthday), four years after the death of her husband.

Bishop McIlvaine is the only American to have lain in state in Westminster Abbey.

I’ll be back next time with more stories from Cincinnati’s Spring Hill Cemetery & Arboretum.





Land of the Sleeping Dead: Visiting Georgia’s Senoia City Cemetery

After finishing my Dallas, Texas series and enjoying a holiday hiatus, I’m back!

Today I’m writing about a cemetery that’s only about 30 minutes from where I spent my growing up years. Senoia City Cemetery is located in Coweta County. It also happens to be situated adjacent to where my sister purchased a home over two years ago. So I’ve had the pleasure of meandering my way through it several times now. I’m quite jealous that all she has to do is look out her window to get a cemetery fix.

By the way, it’s pronounced Sen-oy. Not Sen-oy-uh. Just ask the locals.

View of Senoia City Cemetery from the back.

Coweta County was once part of the Creek Nation, named for the tribe headed by William McIntosh, Jr. He was a half-Scot, half-Creek who relinquished lands to the federal government in the 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs. McIntosh was slain by an irate group of fellow Creeks at his home on the Chattahoochee River. As a child, I can remember attending a play in an outdoor ampitheater in nearby Peachtree City that dramatized the life of Chief McIntosh. Once called Willow Dell, the town was renamed Senoia after Chief McIntosh’s mother.

A Little Town Grows Up

When I was growing up, Senoia was a sleepy little farming community with a population of around 1,000. We rarely went there unless we were taking a leisurely drive on a Sunday afternoon, maybe coming back from Callaway Gardens. Beyond the Main Street area, there was not much there. In 1991, some scenes from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes were filmed in Senoia and nearby Juliette.

This home was used as the Thredgoode home in the 1989 film Fried Green Tomatoes. I photographed it on Thanksgiving Day 2019.

Fast forward to the 2000s. A little TV show on AMC called “The Walking Dead” began filming and everything changed. In 2010, the town’s population jumped 90 percent from the 1990 figure to more than 3,300 residents. New shops and restaurants opened up. Southern Living magazine built its showcase home there TWICE. New housing sprang up amid the historic homes near Main Street.

To thank Senoia for welcoming them into the community, AMC paid $150,000 to completely remake Seavy Park. People from all over the country travel to Senoia to go on “Walking Dead” tours and shop in stores where they can buy props used in the show. I can testify that the price on those props just about tripled from when they first started hitting the shelves.

While Senoia is no longer a quiet rural town, it still retains a great deal of history and its historical society is quite active.

With about 1,660 memorials listed on Find a Grave, the earliest graves at Senoia City Cemetery (SCC) seem to date from the 1860s. I believe the City of Senoia manages it and it is an active cemetery with ample room for future burials. Note: Right beside it is Oak Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, which has about 132 graves according to Find a Grave.

There are a number of markers worth mentioning at Senoia City Cemetery but today I’m going to focus on children’s graves. I found myself returning to my pictures of them time and time again.

Four Babies in Six Years

You often hear the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. When I stand next to the Sasser plot, it echoes through my head.

With deep roots in Senoia, Joseph Arthur Sasser, Sr. was born in 1861 to farmer and Civil War veteran William W. Sasser and Keziah Boyd Sasser. Joseph wed local belle Carrie Ballard in 1891 in Senoia. She was a talented musician, having graduated from LaGrange Female Academy (now LaGrange College). Their first child, Cornelia, was born on Oct. 18, 1895. Sadly, the baby died on Aug. 22, 1896 at the age of 10 months.

Death notice for Cornelia Sasser on August 28, 1896 in the Herald and Advertiser, Newnan, Ga.

Grave of Cornelia Sasser, who died in August 1896.

A year later, another daughter, Mary, was born on Aug. 23, 1897. She died on May 26, 1898 at the age of nine months. Her death was announced in the local newspaper.

Death notice for Mary Sasser, who died at the age of nine months in June 1898. (Photo source: The Herald and Advertiser, June 3, 1898.)

On May 8, 1900, daughter Carrie was born. Joseph was employed by a bank at this time. She died on March 5, 1901 at the age of 10 months. By this time, I can’t imagine what her mother, for whom she had been named, was thinking. She had to have been in agony. Why did her babies keep dying?

Carrie Sasser, named for her mother, was the third child to die. (Photo source: March 22, 1901 edition of The Herald and Advertiser, Newnan, Ga.)

Now there were three markers in Senoia City Cemetery all in a row.

Carrie, Mary, and Cornelia Sasser’s graves make a sad little row at SCC.

On Aug. 20, 1902, Carrie gave birth to a daughter, Josephine. Tragedy struck again on Jan. 19, 1904. I could not locate any funeral notice for her. Perhaps it was too painful for the Sassers to share with the world. Josephine’s monument is different from her three sisters’ markers.

Josephine Sasser died on Jan. 19, 1904, the last of four girls to die that were born to Joseph and Carrie Sasser.

The Surviving Son

Carrie gave birth to one more child, a son they named Joseph Arthur Jr., on March 19, 1906. By this time, the Sassers had moved from Senoia to Atlanta where Joseph was gaining success in banking circles. To their joy, Joseph Jr. survived his boyhood and would marry Ola Braye Happerfield.

Carrie died after a long illness at age 61 in 1927. Joseph Sr. died a little over a year later at the age of 66. They were buried together with their four little girls at SCC.

By 1935, Joseph Jr. and Ola had moved to Charlotte, N.C. where he worked as a salesman. He died on April 11, 1935 of a heart attack. He was only 29. A few days later, his remains were returned to Atlanta and he was buried in the Sasser plot at SCC. Ola would remarry soon after. She died in 1974 and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Gaston County, N.C.

Two Babies in a Shell

One of the more unique infant graves I’ve ever seen is for that of the children of Benjamin F. and Veta Hunter Cock. Some records spell their last name Cocke. The “baby on a half shell” marker is not that unusual. But it is rare for me to see one for two children.

There are two different dates on this marker for the Cock children, making me think they each were born and died on the same day.

The marker says “Infants Children of B.F. and V.H. Cock” with death dates of Sept. 24, 1892 and Aug. 20, 1893.

Benjamin and Veta would have a son, Emory, on July 21, 1897. Sadly, Benjamin did not live to see him grow up and died on Jan. 24, 1899 at the age of 34. Veta never remarried and died in 1965. They are buried together with their babies at SCC.

Emory lived a long life and became a successful businessman, dying at the age of 82 in 1980. He is buried with his wife in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Sleeping Angel

The last grave I want to share is for Andrew Harmon Couch. Born on July 28, 1890, he was the third of eight children of James Riley Couch and LouElla Hancock Couch.

The angel on Andrew Couch’s marker has an arts and crafts style that fits with its rural setting.

Andrew died on Oct 28, 1898 at the age of 8. He was the only child among his siblings that did not live to adulthood. I suppose that was little comfort to his parents when he passed away.

There’s something about the angel resting on the rock-like base of Andrew’s monument, its eyes closed and legs folded in sleep. I have seen it a number of times now and still get a lump in my throat when I pass it.

While Hollywood has had an influence on Senoia, some of it good and some of it probably unwelcome, I find that visiting this cemetery reminds me of what this small town is at heart. A community with families who care about each other and cherish their history. I hope residents new to Senioa will take the time to go for a walk here and look into the past to learn about those pioneer families who built this community.

Even the least of these who spent such a short time here…

Monument to Henry Marion Holberg (1897-1900).