30 September 2016

She Comes Home to Rome: Death & Burial of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson

All Rome was there to meet her.  With the earliest glimmer of dawn the little city of the hills began to stir – but softly, like the tread of gentle snowflakes.  Long before the sun was up, every road was thronged with travelers from the neighboring farms and hamlets, while every train brought its burden of souls from the remoter towns and cities.  It was a day to be remembered by the youngest child when an aged man or woman, a day whose significance made it a rare forget-me-not in the year's calendar of events.  But, instead of the emblems of rejoicing, the symbols of grief were displayed on every hand…No sound of hammer or anvil smote the air.  Shops were closed…It was Mrs. Wilson's home-coming; and this vast assemblage of friends was here to welcome in silence a returning daughter of Georgia, one whose name was upon a nation's lips:  the beloved First Lady of the Land. [Georgia historian, Lucian Lamar Knight, 1914]

Mrs. Wilson was coming home – and she was coming home to stay forever.

100_6773Ellen Louise Axson Wilson died of Bright's disease on 6 August 1914 in the White House at Washington, D.C.  She was 54 years old, and left the President of the United States – just 17 months into his term – a widower.

Per FirstLadies.org :

Initially, the First Lady’s remains were rested on her White House bed. Four days after her death, a private funeral service was held for her in the East Room of the White House. Floral arrangements from around the world lined the entire east and west walls of the long room.

Her coffin was then escorted by her family on the train journey to her native Georgia, to the Rome cemetery [Myrtle Hill] where the late First Lady’s parents were buried.

For a full year after her burial, the grave site of the deceased First Lady remained unmarked with a headstone. Although this was not an unusual circumstance, her national status as a presidential spouse drew press attention to this fact. It was used as a point of public disapproval over the fact that her widowed husband had already begun publicly dating the woman who would become his second wife before a marker had been placed on the final resting place of his first wife.

When a marker was ordered (image at right) this was the inscription:

Sacred to the Memory of
Ellen Louise Axson
Beloved Wife of Woodrow Wilson
Born 15 May 1860 at Savannah, Georgia
Died 6 August 1914 at Washington, D.C.

A Traveller Between Life and Death
The Reason Firm · The Temperate Will
Endurance, Foresight, Strength and Skill
A Perfect Woman Nobly Planned
To Warn, To Comfort and Command
And Yet a Spirit Still · And Bright
With Something of Angelic Light

A full-page article in the 23 August 1914 Duluth News-Tribune (Minnesota) described scenes from the life of Mrs. Wilson, as well as her funeral.  Below are some excerpts (entire article may be viewed online at GenealogyBank).

A daughter of the South has been gathered into the arms of the South in her final resting place.  Ellen Axson Wilson, born in Savannah and there married, with most of her young girlhood passed in Rome of the same state, has been laid beside her father and mother in the old Myrtle Hill cemetery at Rome.  To the waiting thousands who watched her body being lowered into the grave she was not Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, wife of the nation's chief executive, but just Ellen, the little Ellen Louise whom they had known as a golden-haired girl at school.

Church Bells Tolled.
The president's special arrived in Rome at 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon of August 12, and a few minutes later the casket, covered with gray broadcloth and surmounted by a single wreath of flowers, was lifted from the funeral car by eight of Mrs. Wilson's cousins and borne to the hearse.  As the train steamed slowly into the station, church bells throughout the city were tolled solemnly…

…The procession then moved through black-draped-streets to the First Presbyterian church.

100_6781More than 800 relatives and friends of the Wilson and Axson families were already gathered in the quaint little church which Mrs. Wilson used to attend when her father, Rev. Edward S. Axson, was pastor there.  The church was draped in black, with entertwined [sic] wreaths of white flowers.  On one wall was a white marble tablet to the memory of Mrs. Wilson's father…

As soon as the church service was ended the casket was carried to the waiting hearse and the short journey to Myrtle Hill cemetery was begun…

The President's Emotion.
The cortege was close to the cemetery when rain began to fall…A tent erected over the grave gave partial shelter to the little family group, but the thousands of people who came to witness the burial were without protection.

…The president stood with head bowed as the final rites were performed.  As he stood there with his daughters, Mr. Wilson made no effort to control his grief.  As the hushed voice of the preacher read the burial service, the president's form was visibly shaken by his strong emotion, and the tears streamed unchecked down his cheeks…When the final benediction was pronounced the president slowly returned to his carriage.  His eyes were as those of one dazed, but his step was firm and his face was stern and set.

After the casket was lowered to its final resting place and the grave filled, vast heaps of flowers, the tribute of the nation, were piled high over the tomb.

Mountain Trips - Oct 2015

Ellen's grandfather was Isaac Stockton Keith Axson (1813-1891). He was the subject of a footnote found in "Dr. Bullie's" Notes: Reminiscences of Early Georgia and of Philadelphia and New Haven in the 1800s --

[Isaac Axson] graduated from the College of Charleston and Columbia Theological Seminary before becoming co-pastor of Midway Church [Liberty County, Georgia] in 1836. After serving four years as president of Greensboro Female College, Greensboro, South Carolina, he became pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, and he remained there until his death...


19 September 2016

Residents of the Cotting-Burke Mausoleum II: Alexander H. Stephens

Alexander Stephens in later years. By Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.As mentioned in my previous post about the Cotting-Burke mausoleum at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, there once was a temporary resident housed there.  That person was none other than former congressman, former vice-president of the Confederacy, and Georgia governor, Alexander Hamilton Stephens.

Alexander H. Stephens was born 11 February 1812 in Crawfordville, Georgia.  He is often described as small and sickly.  In fact, in 1843, at the age of 31, he only weighed 96 pounds.  But he had a boldness about him that could not be denied.  Famed Georgia historian, Lucian Lamar Knight, noted Mr. Stephens as being "game to the core."

I think it's safe to say Alexander Stephens was a much beloved citizen of Georgia.  Upon his death in March of 1883, it is estimated that approximately 25,000 people lined the roadways and followed his funeral procession to Oakland Cemetery.

Per Lucian Lamar Knight in Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends:

The funeral of Mr. Stephens in Atlanta was an occasion long to be remembered.  It was held in the hall of the House of Representatives and was marked by the presence of General Toombs who, with tear-bedimmed eyes, and in a voice husky with emotion, bade farewell to his life-long friend…Following these sad obsequies, the body of the Great Commoner was placed temporarily in the Cotting vault, in Oakland Cemetery, at the State capital…


…but, on June 10, 1885, a committee of citizens from the town of Crawfordville brought the remains from Atlanta to Liberty Hall [A. H. Stephens' plantation home] for final interment in Georgia's soil.  The casket was accompanied by an escort of distinguished Georgians, including Governor Henry D. McDaniel, ex-Governor James S. Boynton, Captain Henry Jackson and Georgia's two United States Senators, Joseph E. Brown and Alfred H. Colquitt.  The body was met at the depot by an immense concourse of people, notwithstanding the dark clouds which overhung the afternoon sky.

Years later, a large monument –- "a statue of the wondrous little giant among statesmen" -- was placed at the final resting place of Alexander H. Stephens.  Among other sentiments inscribed on the monument, is this:

The defender of civil and religious liberty.
He coveted and took from the republic nothing save glory.
Non sibi, sed aliis.

Ezratrumpet at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

The Latin phrase, Non sibi, sed aliis, translates to "Not for ourselves, but for others." This is the motto on the colonial seal of the state of Georgia. Stephens' home is now part of A. H. Stephens State Park.

18 September 2016

Residents of the Cotting–Burke Mausoleum: David and Frances Cotting

The Cotting – Burke sarcophagus type mausoleum stands in Oakland Cemetery at Atlanta, Georgia.  It contains a couple of prominent individuals, and also temporarily housed another.  Today, I'd like to share the obituaries for David and Frances Cotting.  He was Secretary of State for Georgia, and she was a "leading social light." They both died of pneumonia, though 29 years apart.


Savannah Daily Advertiser (Georgia)
Friday, 9 October 1874 -- [via GenealogyBank]

Death of David G. Cotting.
Mr. David G. Cotting, who has been suffering for sometime [sic] from a complication of disorders, died on Sunday night.  The immediate cause of his death was pneumonia.

Judge Cotting was born in Delham, Massachusetts, on the 28th of September, 1812, and was, therefore, over sixty years of age.

After graduating he devoted four years to the study of Greek and Latin.  He moved to Washington, Wilkes county, in this State, where, for a short while, he engaged in school teaching.  He was the editor for several years of the News and Planter, published in Washington, Ga.

In the early part of the war he was one of the editors of the Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel, and in 1861 became one of the editors of the Augusta Evening Dispatch.

In 1860 and 1861 Judge Cotting, while conceding the right of secession, contended that to secede was suicidal and against our best interests.  At the close of the war he advocted the holding of a convention by the white people, urging that the negroes would hole one and make a constitution inimical to us.  Most of the present constitution was, we are informed, framed by him.  In 1868 he was elected by the legislature Secretary of State.  Gov. Bullock, however, never consulted Judge Cotting on any of his measures, except when he was called as a member of the State Board of Education to decide upon text books.  The Judge Cotting voted against the books of Northern publishers which contained in them allusions to the "rebel Lee," "the rebel Johnson," etc.

Judge Cotting was a man of ripe scholarship and strong integrity of purpose.  During his life his honesty and uprightness were never questioned, for all who knew him had the fullest confidence in him.

He leaves behind him a stricken family who mourn his loss as indeed irreparable, and scores of his friends throughout the country who will revere his memory.  -- Atlanta Constitution

100_3608Union Recorder (Milledgeville, Georgia)
1 December 1903 -- pg. 1 [via Georgia Historic Newspapers]

Mrs. Frances L. Cotting Dead.

From the Atlanta Journal, 28th.
Mrs. Frances L. Cotting, wife of the late Judge David G. Cotting, Secretary of the state of Georgia from 1868 to 1873, died yesterday afternoon at the residence of her son-in-law, Captain J. F. Burke, 1 Peachtree Place.

Mrs. Cotting had been ill with pneumonia for seven days and this was the cause of her death.  She was 79 years of age.

Mrs. Cotting and her husband came to Atlanta from Washington, Ga., when the latter was elected secretary of state.  For many years she was one of the leading social lights of Atlanta, although of late years she had been unable to attend to her social duties on account of feeble health.  She was widely known, and has hundreds of friends over the state, who will regret to learn of her death.

Relatives and friends of Mrs. Cotting and Captain and Mrs. Burke are requested to attend the funeral, which will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock at the residence of Captain and Mrs. Burke.  The following gentlemen are requested to meet to-morrow afternoon at 2:16 at the residence:  Ex-Governor R. B. Bullock, Judge L. E. Bleckley, B. B. Crew, L. E. O'Keefe, Judge George Hillyer, Dr. R. D. Spalding, General A. J. West, and Dr. W. L. Wilson.

...The interment will be at Oakland cemetery.

This mausoleum is featured in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery: An Illustrated History and Guide, and it is listed in Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons.

10 September 2016

Mortuary Art of Sculptor John Walz, from Savannah's Bonaventure to Macon's Rose Hill

I didn't believe it at first.  But then I found a newspaper article that confirmed it.  John Walz, well known German born sculptor of Savannah, Georgia, was commissioned to carve a statue of Bertha Wolff – and that statue was delivered to and placed in Rose Hill Cemetery at Macon, Georgia.


I am deeply in love with Macon's Rose Hill Cemetery.  It's one of the few things I was sad to leave when we moved to the mountains.  But it doesn't get oohed and ahhed over quite as much as Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery.  Over 100 pieces of mortuary art found in Bonaventure are attributed to John Walz.  To know a piece of art by a sculptor who helped give Bonaventure some of those oohs and ahhs was located in Rose Hill, tickled me pink.

Think you don't know John Walz? Well, maybe you do.  One statue he carved out of marble is pretty well known.  If you visit Bonaventure, you'll find directions pointing to it, and you will likely find a few people already there taking photos.  The statue is simply known as GRACIE.

July ' 07 028

Gracie died at a Savannah hotel run by her father.  She was about seven years old and suffered from pneumonia.  Gracie's father took a photo to John Walz, and asked him to carve a monument in her likeness.

The next several images (all from Bonaventure Cemetery) are of sculptures by John Walz.

Baldwin Family Memorial at Bonaventure Cemetery

Peter & Mary Schafer Angel at Bonaventure Cemetery

Hartmann Infants at Bonaventure Cemetery

This next couple of images are of the statue for Gertrude Bliss McMillan, placed about 1905.

July ' 07 019


And, finally, images of Bertha Wolff's statue at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia.  It's a lot like Gertrude's.



More information about John Walz and Bertha Wolff can be found at the Rose Hill Cemetery blog.

Disclosure: The products above are affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps to support my research projects and blogging activities, and also makes my two dogs' tails wag.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting this Southern Graves blog.

08 September 2016

Most Lifelike Little Lamb for Mary

100_7765"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (I Peter 1:18-19)

What's more valuable than silver or gold?

A pure and innocent child, without spot or blemish.

That's why lambs are in cemeteries.  To represent the innocence and purity of those little lives lost.

Proof that Mary had a Little Lamb.

(Yep.  I had to go there.)

In a cemetery located in southern middle Georgia, the city of Perry, is a tombstone placed for "Little Sissie" – Mary Derrille Culler.  She was a daughter of Dr. & M. S. Culler, who died at the age of just 1 year and 9 months.  The lamb sculpted and placed atop her stone is one of the most lifelike I have ever seen.


A tidbit of religious history I found interesting was with Douglas Keister's entry for the Lamb in his book, Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography (2004).  He wrote (pg. 74):

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures all have their sacrificial lambs tied to vernal (springtime) rites of renewal:  Jewish Passover, Christian Easter, and Muslim Ramadan.

So the symbolism of the Lamb crosses at least a few cultural boundaries.


100_0207Here is more of the epitaph inscribed on Mary's tombstone:

Beneath this stone in sweet repose
Is laid a parent's dearest pride
A flower that scarce had waked to life
And light and beauty ere it died
God in his wisdom hath recalled
The precious boon his love had given
And though the casket moulders here
The gem is sparkling now in Heaven

Sleep on, sweet one.


Top image from Old Blairsville Cemetery at Union County, Georgia.
Rest of images from Evergreen Cemetery at Perry, Georgia.
All © 2011-16 S. Lincecum

07 September 2016

Come. On. Fall. (Wordless Wednesday)

06 September 2016

Anchors and the Virtue of Hope in the Cemetery

100_3651I haven't written about symbols in the cemetery in quite some time.  Today, I'm highlighting the anchor.

In addition to the "heavy object attached to a rope or chain used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom" definition for the word anchor, a dictionary offers this:

a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay.

to keep hold or be firmly fixed.

Unless there is an obvious naval or nautical connection, an anchor in the cemetery generally represents hope.  This symbol can be traced back to the Bible and Hebrews 6:19 --

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure
and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.

Memory Hill Cemetery

Matthew Henry provided the following commentary on the anchor as a symbol of hope, Biblically speaking:

What use the people of God should make of their hope and comfort, that most refreshing and comfortable hope of eternal blessedness that God has given them…We are in this world as a ship at sea, liable to be tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. Our souls are the vessels. The comforts, expectations, graces, and happiness of our souls are the precious cargo with which these vessels are loaded. Heaven is the harbour to which we sail. The temptations, persecutions, and afflictions that we encounter, are the winds and waves that threaten our shipwreck. We have need of an anchor to keep us sure and steady, or we are in continual danger. Gospel hope is our anchor…in our stormy passage through this world…

Hope is also one of the three theological virtues in Christian tradition, the others being Faith and Love (or Charity).  "Hope [is] a combination of the desire for something and expectation of receiving it, the virtue is hoping for Divine union and so eternal happiness." [Wikipedia]

The virtue of hope sculpted in human form can also be found in the cemetery, almost always with an anchor.

Memory Hill Cemetery-001

Top image from Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.
Middle and last image compilations from Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia.
All © 2011 - 16 S. Lincecum.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps to support my research projects and blogging activities, and also makes my two dogs' tails wag.  Hopefully, the purchase benefits you, too!  The price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting this Southern Graves blog.

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