Hiawatha, Kansas

To say that the Davis memorial in Mount Hope Cemetery is off the beaten path doesn’t quite do its location justice.

Hiawatha, Kansas is in the heart of America’s farm country. Gorgeous, but remote.

John and Sarah Davis’s strange memorial was worth the drive. I’ve never seen anything like it. Thirteen marble statues plus urns, marble walls and roof depict every stage of the couple’s fifty year marriage.

John commissioned the work in 1930 when Sarah died. Sculptors in Carrara, Italy carved the stones until 1940.

According to legend, the townsfolk were pretty miffed that John would spend that kind of money, nearly all his family fortune, when times were so hard. 1930 was the middle of the Great Depression, but he had a point to make.

Sarah’s family hadn’t approved of their marriage. The couple was childless and John had no intention of his wife’s relatives getting a penny when he passed away.

The story makes sense. There’s waaaaay too much marble squashed onto one little burial plot. It looks like John kept trying to find more ways to spend away his money. That marble roof must weigh 50 tons! And it’s a b*#!@ to photograph!  Somebody with a better camera than mine needs to make the trek to Hiawatha and do this monument justice.

To me, the site ends up being not only a monument to a man who loved his wife, but to human foibles as well.

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10 thoughts on “Hiawatha, Kansas

  1. This memorial is on my ‘to see’ list. Fascinating! I’ll assume you’ve seen, or plan to see, the Garden of Eden in Lucas, KS. That’s another fascinating memorial. 🙂

    • Aren’t they. It’s really a shame that they’re all crammed into that little space. It’s difficult to get a really good look at them.

  2. I Googled the story (or rather various stories and conjectures) behind this gravesite. It’s fascinating stuff. I’ve alway found old grave markers to be interesting. Especially the ones that seem to spell out a little story. This one is rather bizarre. It really captures the imagination.

    • It sure does. I almost wish that I hadn’t done as much research before I saw this one the first time. The truth kind of tainted the romantic story I’d conjured. There are so many aspects of this one that are…twisty. Some monuments speak up loud and clear, others just make you wonder.

  3. How true. I read several different versions of the story as well as various speculations as to his motivations, most of which did not paint a kind or romantic version of the man. Reading it did sort of ruin the initial, romantic imaginings I had when I first saw your pictures. Clearly the history was not told from his point of view. It does make me wonder what he would say about all of this if he were asked or even what his wife would think of it if she could speak. It would make an interesting fiction, no?

    • Very interesting fiction. Especially from Sarah’s point of view. You don’t hear much about her in the stories and speculation. I wonder how much extra pressure the couple felt since they weren’t able to have children. Infertility was usually blamed on the woman back then and seen as a punishment for hidden sins. Maybe John felt driven to accumulate money instead of kids.

      On the other hand, he must have loved her dearly. He could have chosen to blow his money on an entirely different sort of monument.

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