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.
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.
You meet a lot of people in graveyards. Every face tells a story.
Sometimes it’s just a story
of time passed.
Sometimes it’s a story of sorrow and loss.
Sometimes the sheer beauty of a face tells the sculptor’s story. I love those, don’t you?
Hey, thanks everybody who took my poll last week. Who knew there were so many of us taking our lunches to the grave?