Monument to Maj. Gen. Erasmus Darwin Keyes (1810–1895) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. New Englander Erasmus D. Keyes led a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run, then the Union Army of the Potomac’s IV Corps during the Peninsula Campaign. Despite having a regular Army background, his lackluster performance led to reassignment and eventual removal from command. He resigned his commission in May 1864. Later in life, he became a successful businessman in San Francisco.
White marble statues preserved behind glass are a unique find in any cemetery excursion.
Funerary art and sculpture is some of the most difficult to preserve. Often outside and exposed to the elements, time takes a toll on even the highest quality pieces. Thieves and vandals are also an unfortunately reality, leading some to encase memorials to their loved ones behind thick glass, hoping to preserve their memory for eternity. There’s something eerie about these serene sculptures frozen in time. Here are just a few I have seen on my travels.
Lovely white marble statue for Emily A. Woodruff Keep-Schley (1827-1900) in Brookside Cemetery, Watertown, Jefferson County, New York. Emily’s first husband was Henry Keep (1818–1869), one-time president of the New York Central Railroad and then the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. Her second husband, William Schley (1823–1882), was a judge and lawyer.
Detail on the door of a neoclassical mausoleum for Louis Schwitzer (1880-1967) and Sophie Rampp Schwitzer (1889-1935) at Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. Louis Schwitzer was born in an area of Poland then part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire, where he earned master’s degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. He immigrated to the United States and went on to found the Schwitzer Corporation in Indianapolis. He was an engineer, not a race car driver, but he did win the first race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Monument to U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward (1801-1872), his wife Frances Adeline Miller (1805-1865), and their family in Fort Hill Cemetery, 19 Fort Street in Auburn, Cayuga County, New York. William H. Seward was governor of New York and a U.S. senator before rising to become among the most influential secretaries of state in American history, serving from 1861 to 1869 under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He was instrumental in preventing European powers from recognizing the Confederacy during the Civil War and was attacked in the same assassination plot that killed Lincoln (though Seward survived).
The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.
Quaint and unassuming Bethel Cemetery sits nestled among rolling hills, picturesque farms, and new housing developments at the junction of E County Road 1020E and E County Road 600N south of the Coles County Airport. Its legend is little known even to locals, and many merely pass by on their way home or on a Sunday drive through the wooded hills unaware of the strange tale.
Even if they were aware of the legend, they might not recognize this particular cemetery as being home to such a gruesome story. At first glance, much of the cemetery has the same carefully trimmed lawn and identical rows of granite headstones as hundreds of other modern rural cemeteries. But a careful examination of the grounds reveals some interesting features.
Off to the right of the main gate, just outside the tree line, lies the old section of the cemetery. Two large oak trees stand guard over the faded or fallen headstones. Many of the remaining markers, as well as an assortment of items left there over the years, lay inside the woods among overgrown weeds. A large collection of stones, having been previously knocked down, is propped up haphazardly against one of the large oaks.
These historic rural cemeteries are a treasure-trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.
The Mid-Atlantic states are known for their rich history and culture and represent a diverse region of America, from Chesapeake Bay to Long Island. Some of the country’s earliest events, and its most prominent figures, lived and died here, making its cemeteries a treasure trove of art, architecture, and sculpture.
Green-Wood Cemetery in New York City
Green-Wood Cemetery, at 500 25th Street in Brooklyn, New York City, was founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, providing a garden-like resting place in the heart of the city for over 600,000 former residents. Its Gothic revival gates, designed by Richard M. Upjohn, were designated a New York City Landmark in 1966, and the cemetery itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The Battle of Brooklyn was partially fought on (what became) its 478 acres.