Oh, Pioneers!

Antioch Pioneer Cemetery, Overland Park, Kansas

Finding this beautiful little cemetery was one of those brakes screeching, right-turn-without-a-signal moments for me. It was a rainy day.  I hadn’t planned on visiting anyplace that didn’t involve parking close and scurrying into an open door as quickly as possible.

Quaint, little church still standing on the site.

Lucky for me, the Antioch Pioneer Cemetery called to me, and I had my camera in the car.

Exquisite, marble flutist.

I’m a sucker for an elegant marble statue and these girls took my breath away.

I need to go back and take more pictures on a day when I don’t have to worry about keeping my camera dry.

Surprises like these keep me digging graves.

Visit this one sometime.

What’s in a Name?

Ninety-nine percent of the time that’s all you get, names and dates.

 Often “Mother” or “Father”, “wife of.”

But as I’ve said before, that can be enough to set my imagination  running. For instance, did this woman’s momma really name her Grandma?  Or had she been one for so long when she died that everybody’d forgotten her first name…and the rest of her life?

The old-timey names make me smile.

Harry and Mary Tootle, you know they ust had to be a fun couple!  And I’m always on the lookout for Moore’s.  It’s rare, in the Midwest not to find at least one in every cemetery. Someday, I’ll do a more and more Moore’s post.

And this little one had to have been somebody’s darling. It’s amazing how much a name and dates can say.

Dog Day Afternoon

These two little guys definitely had someplace to be. I spotted them trotting up the road through Walnut Glen Cemetery in Booneville, Missouri this summer.

Note the lolling tongue. It was one of those 104 degree days. Mine was lolling too.

But enduring the heat was worth it. This is a great old cemetery. Aptly named. The towering trees must be at least a century old.
Not sure if it was the dappled shade or the sweltering heat, but unlike the dogs, I was in the mood for a long, slow ramble through the grounds.

There was plenty to see.

Just FYI, I don’t put captions on my photos, but if you hover over them you usually get their location and sometimes a comment. If I ever neglect to tell you where something is that you’d like to go visit yourself, just ask.

If only we had a century long time-lapse of this tree’s life and death growing up around this tombstone. Pretty cool.

Another little side note; I decided to stop here on my trip because Walnut Glen’s the name I gave the cemetery in my novel. It was total chance. I thought I’d made it up.  I’m always looking for my characters’ names too, and mine, friends and family.  Is that maybe a little morbid? Haven’t found them yet, at least not first and last together.

But cemeteries are great places to find character names!

Here’s one of the carved tree stumps Artsifrtsy commented on a few posts back. You’ll find them in almost every cemetery of a certain age. She told me that many were made for members of a service organization called Woodmen of the World that still exists. I had no idea!

This little guy was only about an inch long, but his colors caught my eye. What a beauty! RIP

Mourners and Guardians

Catherine Tracy clings to her only daughter Kate, who died in 1854 at the age of seventeen.

The neglected lichen-covered monument still vividly evokes a mother’s grief even 150 years later. I imagine Catherine coming to stand at the grave when the statue was new, then ten years later and twenty-five. The stone’s forever. I wonder how her feelings about it changed.

Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

Sculptures always get my camera clicking when I explore a graveyard. Some are just gorgeous. Others tug at my heart stings or get me thinking. There are the ones like Kate Tracy’s that are obviously there for the particular benefit of her grieving family.

But I also see many less specific, but no less touching guardians and traditional icons.

And then there are the in-your-face, ostentatious monuments. The only thing they say about the deceased is, I WAS RICH! I like those too.

Ordinary stones are great. Heck, I can get excited just reading the names and dates – Did they lose all of their kids in the flu epidemic? – She died in childbirth. He never remarried? – She may have been poor, but somebody sure loved her….

But sculptures can say as much as epitaphs. Maybe not what the mourners intended. Maybe much more. Take a look at nine-year-old Ryan Allen Scott Vanden Broeder’s guardian. This one astounds me. I know there’s a story here, but no amount of googling revealed it. What do you think?

Saint Genevieve, Missouri

I visited this 150-year-old cemetery over a decade ago and got a harsh reality check recently when I went back.

Granted, it was 104° F, a far cry from the balmy spring weather of my first visit. But, that didn’t explain the lack of shadowy, Victorian pathos that I expected.  

I had kind of a Planet of the Apes moment – you know the Statue of Liberty scene? I KNEW I was in the wrong place until I found two graves.

A simple epitaph: John B. Valle, May 3, 1827, August 22, 1869.

Here’s some insight into my taphophelia. Over the decade, I’d elaboratly decorated my memories to make a more appropriate set for the tragic romance I’d invented for John Valle and his consort, Mary St. Gemme.

In Memorium of Mary M. St. Gemme consort of John B. Valle, born February 9 1832, died March 6, 1853, 21 years, 6 days.

The cemetery I “remembered” was crowded with statues and tipped stones all carved in French. Moss hung from the branches of ancient trees and brushed my shoulders as I wandered narrow, winding paths among the graves.

No kidding. That’s exactly what I expected.

Monument to Mary St. Gemme with the simple grave of John Valle at her feet.

Instead of  telling you the story these two graves inspired in my obviously overactive imagination, just look at the pictures and the dates yourself. If you come up with a tale too, then you and I are kindred spirits…or similarly obsessed at least.  Let me know.