The “Cockade Monument” in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia, is dedicated to Capt. Richard McRae (1787-1854), commander of the Petersburg Volunteers during the War of 1812. The Volunteers fought on the Canadian frontier and helped defend Fort Meigs. They conducted a sortie against a British battery on May 5, 1813, but Capt. McRae, who was sick, did not participate. The Volunteers wore distinctive red, white, and blue ribbons, or cockades, on their hats, leading President James Madison to call Petersburg the “Cockade City”.
Almost untouchable in life, today anyone can visit the final resting places of these wealthy and powerful figures.
America’s cemeteries are filled with rich and poor alike. In life, these wealthy industrialists were among the most powerful men alive. Yet today, their sometimes humble monuments can be found scattered among a sea of granite stones. A name and date carved into stone tells so little about the incredible lives they must have lived. Here are a few of their stories.
Monument to George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. George Pullman invented the Pullman sleeping car. He’s perhaps best well-known for the town he created for his factory workers in Illinois. When his workers went on strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland intervened and sent several thousand troops to Chicago to break the strike. The violence left 30 dead. Pullman died in 1897 and he is buried in a lead-lined coffin sealed in cement to prevent desecration.
Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Bockscar” at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This was the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man”, on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Bockscar was commanded by Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Its single atom bomb destroyed approximately 44% of Nagasaki, killing 35,000 people and injuring 60,000.
Sculpture of an eagle perched atop a large urn on Cpt. Joshua Milton Wells’ gravestone in Green Lawn Cemetery, 1000 Greenlawn Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. Cpt. J. Milton Wells (1827-1863) served in the 113th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was killed on September 20, 1863 at the Battle of Chickamauga. According to Ohio Civil War Central: “During the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia the 113th engaged Confederate forces on the afternoon of the second day. The Confederates drove the entire Union force from the battlefield. In this battle, the 113th had 138 officers and men killed or wounded.” The 113th OH was in Col. John G. Mitchell’s 2nd Brigade, First Division of the Union Army of the Cumberland, Reserve Corps.
Consolidated B-24D Liberator “Strawberry Bitch” at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The B-24 was a long range bomber that served in every theater during World War 2. This bomber, SN 42-72843, flew with the 512th Bomb Squadron out of North Africa in 1943 and 1944. It flew over 50 combat missions. Read its combat history here.
Visiting a former prison or asylum is an eerie experience, knowing you are free to explore where hundreds were once trapped. Has so much suffering and loneliness left something intangible behind?
Most people avoid ending up in a prison or asylum, opting instead to experience it vicariously through television, movies, or books. When these institutions close, there’s not much that can be done with them. Some local communities, however, have figured out how they can profit from public curiosity by offering tours and events. It’s a unique experience, and thousands flock to see the empty corridors. Here are just a few of the former prisons and asylums I’ve visited over the years. Not all are open to the public, but most are.
Joliet Correctional Center
The former Joliet Correctional Center at 1125 Collins Street in Joliet, Illinois opened in 1858 and was originally called the Illinois State Penitentiary, Joliet. It was built using distinctive, locally quarried yellow limestone. It closed in 2002, but not before being used as a backdrop in several films, most notably The Blues Brothers (1980). It sat abandoned for many years, until being purchased by the city in 2017 and opened for tours. Ursula Bielski recently wrote a book about the institution called The Haunting of Joliet Prison.
Loving parents with means have often left behind lifelike statues dedicated to children taken before their time.
Death is always painful, but the death of a child is particularly tragic. While memories of their brief time on this earth are cherished, it is often the unfulfilled future we mourn the most. Whenever possible, their devoted parents have gone to great lengths to memorialize and preserve the memory of their dearly departed. The following are just seven of the most touching funerary sculptures I’ve seen on my travels.
Memorial to Louis Ernest Mieusset (1881-1886), son of Louise Helluin Mieusset, who designed fashionable hats for Boston’s elites, in Forest Hills Cemetery, at 95 Forest Hills Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. She paid for this hauntingly lifelike white marble statue of her son sitting in a boat with all his favorite toys with money she saved for his schooling, leaving her grief stricken and penniless in her old age. According to popular lore, Louis drowned in Jamaica Pond, but some researchers maintain he actually died of scarlet fever.