Monday, November 19, 2018

Stones and Bones 18 - Bohemian National Cemetery

In 1977, the Bohemian National Cemetery was designated a National Landmark. This is yet another gorgeous American cemetery full of beautiful and unique memorials, magnificent mausoleums and several historic buildings. The cemetery sits on the north side of Chicago, Illinois and was established out of a need for a last resting spot for people denied by the Catholic Church burial in their graveyards. There are many well known people buried here and there is even a special section inspired by Wrigley Field for fans of the Chicago Cubs that have passed away. Join me as I explore the stones and bones found here!

There was a Czech woman named Marie Silhanek whom had died in 1877. She was Catholic and it was imperative for all Catholics to have Confession and take Communion during the Easter season and she had not done that by the time she died. For this reason, the Catholic church would not allow her to be buried in any of their cemeteries. The Czech community in Chicago was outraged and established their own cemetery. They bought 50 acres located in Jefferson Township and burials began in 1877. The first burial was for a baby named N. Brada and took place on July 1, 1877. The cemetery didn't officially open until September of that year.

The entrance is framed by a magnificent limestone gatehouse and wrought iron fence at 5255 North Pulaski Road and sits across from the Municipal TB Sanitarium. The gatehouse is designed in the Gothic revival architectural style with castle-like towers and battlements. This design was created by Jan Krivanek and completed in 1893. Inside is a vast array of monuments and memorials by artists, along with several war memorials honoring the fallen in the American Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. One sculpture of note is “The Pilgrim” by Albin Polasek, a Czech sculptor who headed the sculpture department at the Art Institute of Chicago. The statue is sometimes called the Death Statue and depicts a hooded, heavily robed woman bent over with a staff for support, walking towards the steps of the mausoleum of the Stejskal-Buchel Family. It was done in memory of Frantiska Stejskal, the mother of the family, who died in 1928. “The Mother” statue is another bronze piece by Polasek that he completed in 1927 and is found in front of the Crematorium. It features a woman holding one child with another standing next to her gazing up at her and holding a torch.

The Crematorium and Columbarium was added in 1913, although it was not dedicated until 1919. The first cremation took place in 1914. This building is gorgeous with a large dome and done in the Renaissance Revival style. The structure resembles a basilica, which is kinda creepy considering what goes on inside. There are two levels with a columbarium on both levels. There is a ceremonial hall featuring several rows of pews, stained-glass windows, fraternal insignia and paintings by John A. Mallin. The Administration Building was built in the Classical Revival style and completed in 1926.

The Masaryk Memorial Mausoleum was added in 1959. This is a large structure that was constructed in honor of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. His daughter Alice was inurned here and repatriated to her native land after the 1989 Velvet Revolution restored democracy to Czechoslovakia. In 1975, two wings were added to provide more burial niches. There is a circle drive with bust on top of a column featuring Ladimir Klacel. Klacel was a Bohemian philosopher and teacher and the monument was erected in 1885.

Emanuel Beranek Monument: Another famous Bohemian sculptor is Mario Korbel and he sculpted the bronze figure found at the Beranek Monument. Emanuel Beranek had been a master of gastronomy, but he didn't started off as a chef. He initially worked at a brokerage company, but the first World War found him overworked and his doctors advised him to find other work. He opened a butcher shop on Milwaukee Avenue with a friend and insisted on cutting the meat himself. He became ill with a cold and lapsed into a coma on February 9, 1918. He regained consciousness, but the illness still held him and he spent his final months in the hospital. Friends who visited the ill Mr. Beránek said he was a shadow of his former self as he had always been the life of the party. He kept his sense of humor until the end. He died on November 25, 1919. His funeral started at the Plzen Sokol Hall and finished at the Bohemian National Cemetery. He was buried in the “family plot” upon which Korbel's sculpture was placed. It was named the Sculpture of Resignation and features a standing female figure with a bowed head.

Anton Cermak's Grave Site: Anton Josef Cermak was the 35th mayor of Chicago from 1931 to 1933. He had been born near Prague and immigrated with his family to America when he was a child. He was forced to quit elementary school and start work in the coal mines to help out his family's finances. He started a hauling business at the age of 19 and went on to get involved in politics, eventually making his way into the state legislature and then elected mayor of the city. He worked to help get President Franklin Roosevelt elected and joined the president-elect in a victory parade in Miami, Florida. A man named Guiseppe Zangara attended the speech and fired five shots at the President-elect. He was not hit, but Mayor Cermak was and Roosevelt cradled the man's head in his lap as the car rushed to the hospital. The mayor would die three weeks later from his wounds. His body was returned to Chicago where a funeral service was held at Chicago Stadium. A half-a-million people lined the streets to watch the funeral procession take Cermak's body to Bohemian National Cemetery. He is buried in a family mausoleum and his crypt has the words, "I am glad it is me instead of you", which were the words he uttered to President Roosevelt prior to his death.

Elsie Paroubek Grave: Elsie Paroubek was a Czech American girl who was kidnapped at the age of five. Her kidnapping and murder happened in the spring of 1911 and made national news with searches for her crossing over into Wisconsin and Minnesota. Elsie had left her home in the morning of April 8th, telling her mother she was going to go visit her aunt, which was right around the corner. Before arriving there, she saw a cousin standing with some children watching an organ grinder. She watched for a while, but when the children followed the organ grinder to another location, Elsie remained behind and was never seen alive again. Later in the day, Elsie's mother went to her sister's to retrieve her daughter and discovered that Elsie had never arrived. The women did not initially panic thinking that the young girl had stopped at a friends house. Her mother thought maybe she had decided to spend the night. That evening though, Elsie's parents were worried that Elsie had not stayed at a friends and her father reported her missing. The police initially figured she had over-nighted somewhere and they did not start a search immediately. The next morning, Elsie did not return home and the police launched a search.

Some area children reported that Romani people had wagon in the area and that they had seen a little girl struggling against them. Police wondered if this was a Black Hand kidnapping. The main theory became "stolen by gypsies." Elsie's father put up his entire life savings as a reward. The police followed many leads raiding Romani camps after hearing stories of a blonde blue-eyed girl being seen in their midst. Elsie was never found in any of these camps. Another report claimed that she had been seen walking to a hotel with a man and another report claimed she had been in the company of the organ grinder. Sadly, Elsie's little body was found floating in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal on May 9th. This was a location 35 miles away from her home. A coroner's inquest found that she had been suffocated. Nearly 3000 people attended the funeral that was held on her family's lawn. The murderer was never found.

The Chicago Cubs Columbarium: This was added in 2009 and was designed specifically for Chicago Cubs fans. The structure is a replica of the red brick wall at Wrigley Field and is covered in ivy that was brought from the ballpark. There is a stained glass image of Wrigley’s scoreboard, along with a dugout bench and stadium seats. A fan named Dennis Mascari had the memorial built and he himself passed away in 2011 and his ashes are now in the columbarium with an inscription that asks people to tap on his spot when the Cubs win.

Eastland Disaster Memorial: There is a memorial to the victims of the SS Eastland Disaster that took place in 1915 and is found in Section 16. Many victims of the disaster are buried here. This was dedicated in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary. The Eastland Ship was almost as long as a football field and had been commissioned by the Western Electric company to transport several thousand employees and their families across Lake Michigan for an employee picnic. The ship was docked at the Clark Street Wharf on the Chicago River and 2,500 picnic-goers boarded. The ship immediately started to have issues listing from side to side. It finally rolled quickly over onto one side and sunk to the river bottom. Eight hundred and forty-four people died and many things were blamed for the disaster. The crew is said to have made mistakes that led to poor ballast control and investigators claimed that there were original design flaws. Salvage crews worked for 16 days to recover bodies. One hundred forty-three of the victims are at Bohemian National Cemetery. Fifty men were hired to hand dig all the graves. Of special note: a special stamp was issued by the Cook County Coroner to use on the death certificates of victims. Entire families perished including the Sindelar Family. George and his wife Josie perished with their five children and George's sister-in-law Regina.

The cemetery was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. It has grown to cover 124 acres. This is the home to artistic and historical treasures. This is a beautiful place created by the Czech community. There are many interesting symbols to find it, making this a taphophile wonderland. One of my favorite burials belongs to Matej Sidlo and features a Woodman of the World tree stump with an interesting carving at the bottom. This depicts a train hitting a beer wagon. This is how Sidlo died. He was forty years old and was riding on a beer wagon owned by the E.R. Stege Brewing Co. The wagon was struck by engine No. 590 belonging to the CB & Q RR Co. throwing him from the wagon. He was a man of modest means and the memorial is quite large ans elaborate so it is a mystery as to who had it made and paid for it. Just one of the wonders to find here. And that is just a little about the Stones and Bones found here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Stones and Bones 17 - Behavior Cemetery

Slavery was banned in Georgia before 1750. Settlers worked the land themselves, many of them as indentured servants who had to work off their debts with labor. When they managed to overturn the antislavery laws, they brought in West African slaves to do the work for them figuring that the heat wouldn't bother them as much. Slavery was practiced all over Georgia, including on the islands off the coast. It is on one of these islands that we find a cemetery that is a testament to this past.

Sapelo Island is about seven miles off of Georgia in McIntosh County, Georgia. Occupation of the island goes back centuries and is evidenced in the tabby ruins found there. The island is thought to be the site of San Miguel de Gualdape, which was a brief European settlement from 1526-1527. If this is true, then this would be the first place in the present-day U.S. that a Catholic mass was celebrated. Through the following decades, many missions would be founded on the island under the mission Santa Catalina de Guale. One of the ruins on the island is the Thomas Spalding sugar mill. It was built in 1809 by Thomas Spalding, who would eventually become a Senator and Representative for Georgia. He bought the island and turned into a large plantation producing lumber for shipbuilding and growing corn, cotton and sugar cane. He also had a large mansion built. Spalding owned around 400 slaves and one of those men was Bilali Muhammad, an Islamic scholar from West Africa who authored a 13-page document about Islamic law while living on the island making it one of the first manuscripts of Islamic law ever written in the United States. His vast knowledge had him working as the manager of the entire plantation. He helped defend the island from British attack during the War of 1812. Keeping in mind that slavery was a horrendous practice, Spalding proved to be a reasonable master and he did not push the slaves to work more than six hours per day, Muslim slaves were allowed to practice their religion openly and there were no white slave drivers. Bilali was allowed to construct a small mosque on the plantation, which very well may have been the first mosque in North America. Although Spalding is what history tells us was a "good" master, he was totally on board with the practice of slavery to the point that he traveled to a convention in 1851 to assert Georgia's position on the matter. He died on that trip and this freed his slaves who formed several communities on the island.

Howard E. Coffin was founder of the Hudson Motor Car Company and he purchased the entire island, save for the land owned by the former slaves, for $150,000 in 1912. Coffin made several improvements to the island by building roads made from shells, cultivating old fields and grazing cattle. The Spalding Mansion was restored and entertained guests like presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover and aviator Charles Lindbergh. Coffin sold the island in 1934 to tobacco heir R. J. Reynolds, Jr., of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco.

The main community here is Hog Hammock and it is the last known Gullah community. The community is small with a few homes, a general store, library and a few businesses. The only people allowed on the island are those that are residents, unless someone is coming as part of a tour. There are two active churches here as well: St. Luke Baptist Church, founded in 1885, and First African Baptist Church, established in 1866. The residents are mostly African-American and known as Gullah-Geechees. These are descendants of enslaved West African people brought to the island to work on rice plantations in the 1700s and 1800s. The Gullah have maintained their culture to the present and this is demonstrated in their basket-weaving, net-making, food, music and language. If you have ever seen a Gullah sweetgrass basket then you know they are pretty special. They are gorgeous, well-made and pricey, but well worth the money. The term Gullah comes from Angola where around 40% of the slaves in the area were brought over from. Some do claim that Gullah and Geechee actually come from Gola and Gizzi, which were two cultural groups near Liberia. The language they speak is a version of Creole particular to the low country. Gullah food is made without recipes and if you ask one of them how to make something they will tell you to do it “cordin’ ta taste.” While much of Gullah religious tradition is anchored in Christianity, many also continue to hold traditional African beliefs. Wudu or Juju is a form of witchcraft practiced in the country of Angola. Some Gullah believe that witches can cast a spell by putting powerful herbs or roots under a person's pillow or at a place where he or she usually walks and "Root Doctors" are asked to provide protection.

Behavior Cemetery is located in the center of Sapelo Island, towards the south end, 1‑1/4 miles west of Hog Hammock. The graveyard is typically southern with aged live oaks strung with Spanish moss, towering over the burials that dot the landscape haphazardly. There are approximately 200 burials. Nothing is fancy here. No grand mausoleums or fancy monuments. Placing a date on the founding of the cemetery is difficult due to its age and lack of records. A fire in 1921 destroyed what little cemetery records were available. Historians believe the founding was prior to the American Civil War, probably around 1805. The oldest known marker is from 1890. Many of the early burials here were of slaves from the Thomas Spalding Plantation.

Tombstones are made from cement and granite with a few markers being the basic metal ones provided by funeral homes. Original and earlier markers featured the common African-American burial practice of using short posts at either end of the graves with epitaphs on wooden boards nailed to the surrounding trees. Many of the cement markers have been lettered by hand. The layout of the cemetery is informal and many graves are unmarked, which occasionally leads to issues when new graves are dug as sometimes a previous burial is unearthed. There is no one well known buried here, but it is safe to say that the earlier burials were for slaves because the original slave quarters was not far from the cemetery location.

One of the unique things about this cemetery is the practice of leaving items at a grave to keep spirits from becoming mischievous. The Geechee people believe that spirits remain active after death and that these spirits will roam about, but if they are left something like a domestic item at their grave, they will be more prone to stay at their grave. If the item is personal in nature, it is thought to work even better. Behavior Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 and at that time, it was still in use and was the only cemetery associated with the African American community on Sapelo Island.

Behavior Cemetery is significant for black heritage as a unique post-Civil War historic site. For this reason, students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were asked to do archaeological research in the graveyard using ground penetrating radar in 2010. The entire site was mapped at that time and many unmarked graves were found.

Behavior Cemetery is on a gorgeous sea island off of Georgia and makes a fine resting place for former residents. This is probably one of the larger slave cemeteries in the US and while many have disappeared into the woods, this one has been saved which is great because it honors the Gullah culture and is a record of an awful time in Georgia history when men enslaved other men. And that was just a little about the stones and bones found here.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Stones and Bones 16 - The Merry Cemetery

Probably one of the most unique cemeteries in the entire world is The Merry Cemetery in the town of Săpânţa, Romania. The people of Romania call this graveyard the Cimitirul Vesel and it is full of colorful headstones, many of which bear some hilarious limericks and fun pictures. Join me as we stroll along this tourist site that is the final resting place of some 800 Romanians.

The town of Săpânţa is a small village in northern Romania just south of the Tisza River. The village is charming with horses and carts rolling through the streets, haystacks in the fields and booths selling handmade rugs and clothing throughout the town. The culture of the villagers from Săpânța is rooted in Dacian times when the belief was that death was just a person passing on to a better and more satisfying life. This lighter take on death is illustrated in the headstones found in The Merry Cemetery.

The Merry cemetery is found behind the Church of the Assumption. It was founded before the 1930s, but it was during this time when the cemetery took on its characteristic carved headstones that were brightly painted and marked with funny epithets. The man who started this all was Stan Ioan Pătraş who was a local artisan born in Săpânţa in 1908 and at the age of 14 started carving crosses for the local cemetery. As his talent developed, he adopted a style of symbolism in his work. By 1935, Pătraş had begun carving funny and sometimes ironic poems about the people for whom he was making the crosses. He would add images of the deceased and often include the way in which the individual died.

The symbolism that Pătraş developed included many colors representing various things, for example green represented life, yellow represented fertility, white doves for the soul, red was for passion, black for death and black birds represented a tragic or suspicious death. The battle colors of Romania are prevalent as well: blue, red and yellow. The designs remind me of gingerbread style. Pătraş had a dark sense of humor that came across in the epigraphs he created. And as we all know, there are no secrets in a small town. So some private indiscretions have made there way onto tombstones. For example one reads, "Ioan Toaderu loved horses. One more thing he loved very much. To sit at a table in a bar. Next to someone else’s wife."

Some of the deaths that were depicted show a resident being hit by a truck. The town drunk has a picture on his grave showing a black skeleton dragging him down while he swigs from a bottle, noted in his epitaph as “real poison.” Patras continued his work for 40 years and made nearly 800 tombstones that are today thought of as folk art masterpieces. Patras made sure to design his own cross before he died in 1977.

Patras had an apprentice who helped him with his work and upon his death, this man, named Dumitru Pop, inherited Patras' house and his workshop, along with his work. Pop continued the work for the several decades after Patras' death and turned the house and workshop into a museum. Pop decides what the picture will portray and what the verse will say on the memorial. The poems aren't necessarily irreverent, but some of them do seem indiscreet, revealing tales of infidelities, indiscretions and a fondness for alcohol. The talented apprentice was asked how the townsfolk feel about the headstones and he said, “It’s the real life of a person. If he likes to drink, you say that; if he likes to work, you say that… There’s no hiding in a small town… The families actually want the true life of the person to be represented on the cross.” Pop himself has a complaint about the work. He feels it is repetitive and said, “Their lives were the same, but they want their epitaphs to be different.”

As well known as the cemetery was to townspeople, nobody on the outside world knew about it until a French journalist visited in the early 1970s and documented the colorful cemetery. People were mesmerized. And from that time until now, the Merry Cemetery has been a tourist attraction with people wandering about the graveyard, admiring the artwork and laughing over the colorful limericks they read. The verses that make up the epithets are mostly written in the first person and this leads the reader to think that they know the deceased person.

 Here are many of those epithets:

 “Underneath this heavy cross, Lies my mother in law poor. Had she lived three days more
, I would be here and she would read. You that are passing by, Try not to wake her up
. For if she comes back home
, She’ll bite my head off. But I will act in the way
, That she will not return. Stay here my dear

"Now I will tell you a good one. I kind of liked the plum ţuica, with my friends at the pub. I used to forget what I came for."

"Here I rest. Stefan is my name. As long as I lived, I liked to drink. When my wife left me, I drank because I was sad. Then I drank more to make me happy. So, it wasn't so bad that my wife left me. Because I got to drink with my friends. I drank a lot, and now, I'm still thirsty. So you who come to my resting place, leave a little wine here."

"As long as I lived, I loved the Party. And all my life, I tried to help the people." 

Dumitru Holdis' epithet reads, "Tzuica is a genuine pest. It brings us torture and unrest. Since it brought them to me, you see - I kicked the bucket at 43." Tzuica is a local plum brandy.

Nearly every person who has died in Sapanta has been buried in the Merry Cemetery. This included the creator of the cemetery, Stan Ioan Pătraş. His memorial features a carving of his portrait on the cross that serves as his headstone and his footer features his name and the fact that he was the creator. The message carved on the memorial states that he began making the crosses because he loved people and he still wanted to have people come and visit him, even after he died. Some of the weirder headstones contain images I can't explain. One has a woman with wings that is wearing only bright red underwear. In the corner, looking down from the sky on her are two faces. Another depicts a man riding on a tractor and waving. Another depicts a priest sitting and looking enviously at a group of men carousing at a nearby table. The next shows a teacher working at his desk while casting a furtive glance at a woman sitting across the room.

Some of the carved crosses are not as colorful, making me think that they have lost their colors because of the weather. And some tombstones reveal relatively mundane lives: men working in the fields or women working in the home. Pop has reserved a spot for himself already and he is training apprentices to take over when he is gone. He says, "But they can't be just anybody. They have three jobs to do ... they have to be sculptors, painters and poets, all in one."

No one can visit the cemetery without smiling. The uniqueness of this final resting place makes it a place well worth making the effort to visit. And that, was just a little about the stones and bones found here.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Stones and Bones 15 - Lake View Cemetery

Lake View Cemetery is located in Cleveland, Ohio and is affectionately known as Cleveland's  Outdoor Museum. This is a large graveyard with well over 100,000 burials, one of which is for a former president and his wife. There are many beautiful memorials and monuments and even a dam. A tragic and deadly school fire is also commemorated behind the iron gates of this cemetery. Burials continue to this day with an average of 700 annually. Join me as I explore the stones and bones found here!

Lake View Cemetery has become more well known for both its appearance in the 2005 PBS documentary A Cemetery Special and from the film "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Several scenes were filmed in the graveyard. The cemetery has a long history, having been founded in 1869. The grounds stretch over 285 acres and was named because of the view of Lake Erie one has when facing to the north. This is another great example of an American Victorian garden cemetery. So many stonemasons were brought in to help with the design and building that they formed the little Cleveland neighborhood known as Little Italy.

There are many well-known people buried here and some poignant and beautiful memorials. One of the more well-known smaller memorials is titled "Angel of Death Victorious." This stands at the gravesite of the Haserot family and was made by sculptor Herman Matzen. To me, it seems a bit creepy. The patinaed angel's face has dark black streaks running down from the closed eyes, all the way down the neck. It's wings are spread out over and above the tombstone upon which it is sitting and it rests its hands in front of it upon a large extinguished upside down torch. I would describe it as beautifully creepy! The Haserot Family was headed by Francis Haserot who was a canning entrepreneur. The memorial can be found at Section 9 on Lot 14.

The town of Collinwood paid for the burial of nineteen unidentifiable bodies in a shared grave at Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery. The monument erected for them is made from granite and stands around 7 feet tall and reads, "In memory of the teachers and children who lost their lives in the Collinwood School Fire." Above that inscription is a design that has patinaed, so it is hard for me to make out what it depicts. On the 125th anniversary of the tragedy in 1994, a second memorial sign was placed in front of the monument that reads, "Lake View Elementary School burned killing 172 students and 2 teachers. 150 students are buried here; 19 of them never identified. Uproar caused changes in building codes, calling for panic bars on outward opening doors and regular fire drills."

The fire at the elementary school revealed what a fire trap many public schools were back in the early 1900s. Public school system had only been a real part of the American landscape starting back in 1852 when Masscachusetts passed the nation’s first compulsory school law, requiring at least twelve weeks of attendance for children from eight to twelve years old. By the time Lake View Elementary had been built in 1902, nearly all states had the requirement, including Ohio. By 1906, the school had doubled in size. The school was Greek Revival in style featuring a brick facade, high windows and arched doorways. The inside; however, was made from wood and was a fire trap like nearly every other school in the nation. No one is sure what started the fire, but once it started, there was no stopping it. The wooden interior burned like kindling and the exterior masonry acted as a chimney, sucking flames upward, helping the fire spread. The open stairways and no fire breaks fueled the spread as well. With only two exits available, there was no question that this was a tragedy in the making. As happens in all of these burning buildings with only a couple of exits, people rush the doors, causing a log jam and people are trampled. The children fell on top of each other and climbed over each other, forming a blockade to the exits. Collinwood's small volunteer fire department and horse-drawn engines arrived too late and didn't have the equipment needed to battle this size of fire.  In less than an hour, the three floors and the roof of the Lakeview School collapsed into the basement, leaving only a hollowed out brick ruin. The lives lost were not in vain though as the nation scrambled to improve the safety of other schools and buildings in the aftermath.

Alan Freed was a radio disc jockey who popularized the term "rock and roll." This rock and roll was a mix of jazz, country, gospel and rhythm & blues music that Freed promoted internationally on the radio. He was also known for bridging the gap that segregation had caused by presenting music by black artists. Freed appeared in several movies playing himself. His career was eventually destroyed by the payola scandal that hit the broadcasting industry in the early 1960s. He was an alcoholic and that drinking finally caught up with him 1965 when he died of uremia and cirrhosis. He was only 43 and his remains would not rest in peace. They were initially interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York and then moved in 2002 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2014, the ashes were moved permanently to Lake View Cemetery.

Harvey Cushing was an American neurosurgeon and pathologist who became a pioneer in brain surgery. He was the first exclusive neurosurgeon and the first person to describe Cushing's disease, which was named for him. In 1912, he published about this disease of the endocrinology system that is a malfunction of the pituitary gland, which he termed "polyglandular syndrome." Also buried here is John Hay who was a former United States Secretary of State and aide to President Abraham Lincoln. His monument was created by sculptor James Earle Fraser. Ernest Ball composed the music for the song "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." Edward Porter Williams was the co-founder of Sherwin-Williams.

Stephen Vanderburgh Harkness was an American businessman who invested as a silent partner with John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in the founding of Standard Oil. He served as a director of Standard Oil until his death. He was born in 1818 and his mother died when he was two. His father remarried and when his father died, his step-mother continued to care for him and remarried a man named Isaac Flagler. The two had a son named Henry Flagler, whom is a historical figure I know well here in Florida. I've mentioned Flagler College in St. Augustine several times in episodes and videos. Harkness would marry twice and have six children. He was a prominent developer of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the first enclosed shopping malls was built in Cleveland under the direction of Harkness and John D. Rockefeller. As mentioned already, he invested heavily in the forerunner to Standard Oil and became very wealthy. He died aboard his yacht in 1888.

John D. Rockefeller is buried here as well. He is considered to be one of the men who built America. Rockefeller was an American oil industry business magnate, industrialist, and philanthropist. He was one of the wealthiest Americans of all time. The Rockefeller family moved from upstate New York to Cleveland, Ohio when John was a teenager. He started work as a bookkeeper and then went into business with his brothers, eventually buying them out. He and his brother William founded Rockefeller & Andrews with Samuel Andrews with a focus on oil refining. In 1867, Henry Flagler entered the partnership and the Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler company grew by taking-over local refineries. The Standard Oil Company, Inc. was founded in 1870 as an Ohio partnership with William, Flagler, Andrews, Jabez A. Bostwick, and the aforementioned silent partner, Stephen V. Harkness. Rockefeller ran it until 1897. At one point, he controlled 90% of all oil in the United States at his peak. He was married to Laura Spelman and they had five children. Rockefeller died of arteriosclerosis on May 23, 1937, less than two months shy of his 98th birthday at "The Casements", his home in Ormond Beach, Florida. He was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

Eliot Ness was born in 1903 and would go on to become famous for taking down gangster Al Capone. His real start began during Prohibition when he became an American Prohibition agent and formed his famous team of law enforcement agents from Chicago, nicknamed The Untouchables. Ness was promoted to Chief Investigator of the Prohibition Bureau for Chicago and in 1934 for Ohio. Things went south for Ness starting in the 1950s. He lost a bid for Mayor of Cleveland and began drinking heavily. When he died at the age of 54 from a heart attack, he was nearly broke. As hard as it is for us to believe today, Ness was nearly forgotten at the time of his death in 1957 and no Chicago newspaper carried news of Ness' death. An autobiography that was published posthumously started to bring some fame to Ness and this would continue with the 1959 and 1993 television series and a 1987 film. His ashes were scattered in one of the small ponds on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. His tombstone is a large unfinished marble stone with a black plaque that has his name, his third wife's name and his son's name.

The James A. Garfield Monument is both beautiful and unique as that it is the only presidential burial with the president's casket on full display. The monument was designed by architect George Keller and dedicated on Memorial Day in 1890. The memorial is constructed from Berea Sandstone with a balcony that features five terra cotta panels by Casper Bubel, with over 110 figures all life size, depicting Garfield’s life and death. The points of life featured are Garfield as a teacher, as Major General in the Civil War, as an orator, his moment taking the oath of office and him lying in state in the rotunda of the Capital in Washington DC. The entire monument stands 180 feet tall. The interior has colored marble, gold mosaics, stained glass windows and deep-red granite columns. The stained glass windows represent the original 13 colonies, plus the state of Ohio, along with panels depicting War and Peace. The main floor has a statue of Garfield that was sculpted by Alexander Doyle.

Both President Garfield’s casket and his wife's are located in the crypt and on display. The remains of their daughter Mary, nicknamed Molly, and her husband, Joseph Stanley Brown, are in the two urns located in front of the Garfields’ caskets. President Garfield was born in 1831 in Ohio and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1856. He served during the Civil War on the side of the Union and rose to the rank of Major General. he entered Congress in 1862 under the encouragement of President Lincoln. he served in that capacity for 18 years. He became the "dark horse" nominee to run for president for the Republican Party in 1880. He won the presidency by only 10,000 votes. Just four months after being sworn in, he was shot at a train depot in Washington, D.C. while leaving for holiday with his family. The assassin was a disgruntled office seeker. The President held on to life for two months and died on September 19, 1881. He was only 49 years old. The James A. Garfield Monument is open daily, April 1 through November 19, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

The Wade Memorial Chapel was built in memory of Jeptha Wade who was the founder of The Western Union Telegraph Company. He was also the first president of Lake View Cemetery. The exterior is done in the Neo-classical style, which features columns, Ionic capitals, porticos and pediments and was designed by local architects, Hubbell and Benes. The chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the four-ton bronze doors open into an interior that was completely designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studios. The theme of the design is, “The Voyage of Life.” A large stain-glass window illuminates the interior and showcases Tiffany's signature “Favrile” method, where opalescent, iridescent, and translucent pieces of glass are layered to create rich, deep colors. The piece is called, "The Flight of Souls." The window won a gold medal during the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. On the west wall of the Chapel is a mosaic that symbolizes the prophecy and the law of the Old Testament. The east wall has a mosaic that symbolizes the fulfillment of the laws of the Prophets through the birth of Christianity. These walls were constructed at the Tiffany Studios and were designed by Frederick Wilson. Tiffany did not want soot to dirty his creations and so he asked his friend Thomas Edison to wire the chapel for electricity. It was the first electrified building in Cleveland. The chapel is open daily April 1 - November 19, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Lake View is a glorious example of a Victorian garden cemetery with many illustrious historical characters buried on the property. And this is just a little bit about the stones and bones found here!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Stones and Bones 14 - Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery

Although Nashville started as a small settlement, it eventually was chartered as a city in 1806 and would become the capital of the state of Tennessee. Some might argue that it is also the capital of country music and for any singer dreaming of becoming a country music star, they know they have to go to Nashville to follow that dream. This is a city that features a Who's Who of country music and is home to the Grand Ole Opry. Nashville has also become the final resting place for many of country music's icons. Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery is one of those final resting places. Join me as we explore the stones and bones of this graveyard.

Woodlawn Memorial Park is located in the Berry Hill community of South Nashville, near Green Hills. This cemetery is one of the largest in Nashville and features large trees, beautiful water features, rolling hills and large mausoleums. The cemetery was established by Raymond Ligon in the early 1900s. The property started as a family-owned farm that was handed down through the generations. After the cemetery was developed, Raymond added a funeral chapel and a living quarters for his family. The graveyard stretches over 133 acres with a central road named Thompson Lane that separates the grounds into 2 sections, north and south.

On the north side of the cemetery is the Great Cross Mausoleum, the funeral home building and historic elements dating back to before the Civil War. These elements include two historic cabins sitting along a natural spring. One of them was built on the Harding Farm in the 1800s. This house was part of the first settlement outside downtown Nashville. Between the two cabins is the Spring House, which was a building used to store water for Civil War hospital camps. The Great cross mausoleum got its name from the fact that it is built in the shape of a cross. It stands five stories tall and holds 20,000 crypts and includes a replica of Christ’s tomb on the first floor. A serene fountain area features the Gazebo Estates, which are private estates with a gazebo located in the middle. There is also the Cross Garden, Cremation Gardens, Garden of the Grand Tour and the Last Supper Private Estates Garden.

The south side of the cemetery is the older section of the cemetery. There are mostly flat bronze markers, but also a 2-story indoor mausoleum named Woodlawn Mausoleum. The Bell Tower chimes every hour from the south grounds. In June 2018, Woodlawn unveiled the Lynn Anderson Rose Garden in honor of the country music star. The garden features the largest collection of the Lynn Anderson Hybrid Tea Rose, crowned "Queen of Show" by the American Rose Society. The cemetery is not only the final resting place for Lynn Anderson, but for many other country music stars. There are also politicians here, university presidents and astronauts.

Lynn Anderson was a multi-award-winning American country music singer known for a string of hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s with the most popular song being "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden." Anderson was born in 1947 in North Dakota. She had more than fifty Top 40 hits. She was named Billboard's Female Artist of the Decade (1970–1980). Anderson was the first female country artist to win the American Music Award, which she did in 1974. She soldout Madison Square Garden in 1974 as well. She continued to record and remained a popular concert attraction until her death in 2015 at the age of 67.

Eddy Arnold was a country music singer, who despite being very successful with more than 85 million records sold, considered himself to just be a "Tennessee Plowboy." Arnold was born in Chester County, Tennessee in 1918. His father died when he was young and he left school to help on the farm. He learned to play the guitar at an early age and when he returned to school in his teens, he would play the guitar for school functions. He got on with radio and began performing in night clubs. He eventually performed for the Grand Ole Opry on radio and got a manager named Colonel Tom Parker, whom would later go on to manage Elvis Presley. His hits started in the 1940s and piled up from there with countless songs in the top 10. He ranks as Billboard magazine's single most popular country artist of all time and is second only to George Jones with songs on Billboard's country music charts. Some of his popular hits include, "The Cattle Call", "Make the World Go Away", and "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye". He started appearing on TV shows in the 1950s and had his own show named for him. He continued to perform until 1990s when he retired. His impact and innovation with country music is considered unparalleled by anyone else. He died from natural causes in 2008. He shares his plot with his wife Penny and it is very simple with a flat plaque that can be found in Chapel Garden H.

Tommy Jackson was born in 1926 in Alabama. He is considered by many to be the first great Nashville session fiddler. He had his greatest moments in the 1950’s and 60’s and appeared on records by Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Ray Price and George Jones. His double-stop back-up technique became known as the “walking fiddle” and it became very popular with other fiddlers. He died in 1979 and was buried in Companion Garden A. He is distinguished for his service during WWII in which he was awarded four Bronze Stars and a Air Medal serving as a tail gunner on a B-29.

Webb Pierce was born in Louisiana and he became one of the most popular Honky-tonk stars in country music. He had more singles on the Billboard charts then any of his contemporaries in the 1950s with his biggest hit coming in 1953 and titled, "There Stands the Glass." He charted 48 singles, 39 reaching the top ten and he was a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry. He retired in 1982 and died in 1991 at the age of 69. In 2001, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Dobie Gray was born Lawrence Darrow Brown in Texas in 1940. He was a singer and songwriter best known for his hit "Drift Away." He was part of a sharecropper family and grew to love gospel because of his grandfather. He got into acting and appeared in a production of "Hair", as well as "A Raisin In The Sun" and "Look Homeward Angel." He relocated to Nashville in 1975 and got involved with country music. He died in 2011 at the age of 71 and is buried in the Everlasting Life plot.

I got the inspiration for this Stones and Bones location from the Disgraceland Podcast episode featuring Johnny Paycheck. He was born Donald Eugene Lytle and learned how to play the guitar at the age of six. He changed his name to Johnny Paycheck in the 1960s and is most known for his 1977 hit, "Take This Job And Shove It." The song sold over 2 million copies and inspired a motion picture by the same name. In 1985, he was involved in an altercation at a bar where he shot at a man making fun of his music that was playing on the jukebox. He hit the man in the head and was convicted of the crime and spent two years in prison. He recorded over 70 albums in his career. he died in 2003 and his burial plot in the Chapel Garden was purchased by George Jones.

Marty Robbins is buried with a plaque that reads, "He touched the soul of the world by allowing his God-given 'Golden Voice' to be used in a public way, yet the recognition he received on Earth has been exceeded in a very private way. Now, his faith has allowed him to rank among the best in the choir above, leaving each of us with the confort of his songs, the presence of his memory and the anticipation of being with him in his 'Little Spot in Heaven' for eternity." He was born in 1925 in Maricopa County, Arizona as Martin Robinson. He began writing songs while in the Navy during World War II and was signed by Columbia Records. His first number one country single was 1953's "I'll Go On Alone." He had 15 number one songs. He later got intostock car racing and did that from 1966 to 1982. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and raced in his last NASCAR race on November 7, 1982, which was the Atlanta Journal 500. He died of a heart attack just one month later at the age of 57. He is buried in Gethsemane Lot 15-B

Tammy Wynette was born in 1942 as Virginia Wynette Pugh in Mississippi. Her father died when she was a baby and her mother lleft her in the care of her grandparents. She taught herself how to play a number of instruments growing up. She married her first husband before she graduated high school and she attended beauty school. She got her cosmetology license and despite the success she would have later, she always renewed that license, up until she died. She decided to become a country music singer and left her husband when he would not support that dream. She performed at night locally, but eventually went to Nashville. She got a recording contract and changed her name to Tammy Wynette in 1966. She was often referred to as the "First Lady of Country Music" and is best remembered for her song "Stand by Your Man," which came out in 1968. She would go on to become one of the best-selling female country artists and she, along with Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, set the standards for the role of women in country music during the 1970s. She married country music superstar George Jones in 1969. They had a tough marraige because of his alcoholism and divorced in 1975. She did some TV work in the 1980s and later she became the voice for the character Tilly Hill in the animated television series "King of the Hill" until her death. She became dependant on painkillers and had serious health issues resulting in numerous surgeries and died at her home in Nashville, Tennessee from a blood clot in her lung at the age of 55 in 1998. A coroner later determined she died of a cardiac arrhythmia. In 2002, she was ranked number 2 on CMT's 40 Greatest Women of Country Music and a 2003 survey listed "Stand By Your Man" as the top country song of all time and in 2011 her original recording of "Stand By Your Man" was selected by the US Library of Congress to be preserved as one of that year's 25 recordings chosen for their cultural significance. Her final resting place is in the Cross Mausoleum on the third floor.

George Jones has a beautiful memorial found in the Chapel Garden Jones Family Estate. His most well known song "He Stopped Loving her Today" is inscribed across the top with a guitar and a picture of him and his wife in the center and below that is the nickname "The Possum." A flat slab lays over his burial featuring engravings of Jones at various stages of his career, his autograph and his nickname. He was born in 1931 in Hardin County, Texas and grew up in poverty with an alcoholic father. He heard country music for the first time at the age of seven and when he was nine years old, he received his first guitar. he began playing for money on the streets and clubs of Beaumont, Texas. He married and divorced by the time he was twenty and he enlisted in the US Marine Corps. After his service, he had a hit with his song "Why, Baby, Why" and he moved to Nashville. He married a second time and then divorced and then married the aforementioned Tammy Wynette. He slowly fell into alcoholism and cocaine use. He divorced Wynette and married his fourth and final wife, Nancy Sepulvado, who became his manager and is credited with rescuing him from alcohol and drug abuse. He continued to record and tour and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. He was a member of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry from 1956 until his death at the age of 81.

There are many Woodlawn Cemeteries found in America, but this is the only one that is a veritable Whos Who of country music legends. And that is just a little bit about the Stones and Bones found here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stones and Bones 13 - Cementerio General de Santiago

One of the largest cemeteries in Latin America has its home in Santiago, Chile. The city of Santiago has a long history and with its prominence in being the capital of Chile, it is no wonder that Cementerio General de Santiago is filled with the final resting places of many political figures. There are many other notable people here and even more important is the story that is told here in regards to the coup and dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Thousands were killed under this regime. Join me as we explore the stones and bones of Cementerio General de Santiago.

Santiago is the capital city of Chile and it is also the largest city in the country. In fact, the population of 7 million makes this one of the largest cities in the Americas. The city was founded by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in 1541. Valdivia named the city Santiago del Nuevo Extremo in honor of St. James, patron saint of Spain. The Mapocho River flows nearby and the city is surrounded by hills with the Andes Mountains off in the distance. Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. Master builder Pedro de Gamboa laid out the plan for Valdivia's new town, which started with a Plaza Mayor in the center. There were ten blocks running from east to west and eight blocks from north to south. They constructed the Cathedral and the governor's house and individuals made their own homes from mud and straw.

About a mile and a half from this city center, lies the Cementerio General de Santiago. This city of tombs is one of the largest cemeteries in Latin America with an estimated 2 million burials. Bernardo O'Higgins was a Chilean landowner and said to be the liberator of Chile. He led the army against the Spanish from 1810 to 1818 when Chile finally achieved its Independence. In 1821, O'Higgins set aside 210 acres or 85 hectares for the establishment of a cemetery. Those grounds have grown into an exquisitely lush garden of ornate mausoleums, emotional memorials and beautiful sculptures. Those sculptures number around 237. The main entrance has the semicircular Plaza La Paz that leads into a gatehouse that is crowned by a dome.

There are a variety of architectural styles that include French and Italian and there is even a Mayan Temple. Some of the mausoleums are as big as a house. The nursery areas of the cemetery are touching and sad with rows of plastic crib-like structures in which toys and flowers can be placed. Some of the family plots have staircases leading down into underground tombs and these are usually covered with a grate. Some of the larger mausoleums look almost like apartment buildings with graves stacked on top of each other.

There are many significant burials that include all but two of the deceased Presidents of Chile. One of these presidents is Salvador Allende who was the 30th President of Chile. He was a doctor before he entered politics. He founded Chile's Socialist Party. He ran for President four times as a socialist before finally winning. High inflation and a coup would end his presidency. Troops led by General Augusto Pinochet stormed the palace on September 11, 1973. The coup to overthrow him was successful, but there is uncertainty as to whether he was killed by a bullet from one of the troop guns or if he committed suicide. He was initially buried at the Santa Ines Cemetery at Viña del Mar and then moved here in 1990 via a solemn procession through the streets of Santiago.

The cemetery has a memorial for the victims of the regime of Augusto Pinochet who took over as dictator after the coup d'etat of Allende. This is a wall that was erected in 1994 and has two parts. The left side of the wall has 1,000 names of those who were "disappeared" along with the date they were last seen. On the right side are the names of those who were executed and that numbers around 3,000 people. Their ages and dates of death are included. Orlando Letelier was a Socialist associate of Allende's and he was arrested during the coup and sent to a concentration camp where he was tortured. That concentration camp was on Dawson Island. This island has a pretty bad history. It was first used as an internment camp for the Selknam and other native people when settlers to the area decided to drive them off. But even before that there was a genocide against the Selknam people because they were hunters and they had been killing the sheep of farmers for food. And this was all condoned by the Argentinian and Chilean governments. Letelier was released in September 1974 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1975. His past caught up to him when it is believed that Pinochet ordered his assassination. He was killed by a car bomb in D.C. on September 21, 1976. His body was brought back and buried here. There is a memorial in D.C. for him as well.

Patio 29 is a memorial to 100 victims of the dictatorship of Pinochet. These are graves marked with simple iron crosses that have no names. At least, many of them have no names. Forensic investigators have been working hard to identify the bodies and when they do the NN, which means No Name, is removed from the cross and the name is added.

The first monument one sees upon entering the graveyard is the Church of the Company Fire monument dedicated to those who died in that fire. This was the largest fire in the history of Santiago and killed nearly 3,000 people. The Church of the Company of Jesus was where the fire started. The temple was adorned with gas lights in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and one of them ignited some of the veils hanging on the walls. The fire jumped quickly to other veils and then hit the wood roof. The only exit was the front entrance and that was soon almost an impossible way to go. The victims were placed in a mass grave of the cemetery.

Max Westenhofer was a German scientist and professor of pathology at the University of Berlin and the University of Chile. He contributed to the development of anatomic pathology and helped reform the public health in Chile. He considered Santiago his second home and he died there.

Maria Luisa Bombal was an author. Her most notable novel was "The Last Fog," which was optioned for a movie that was to be directed by John Huston and was to star Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in 1942. Bombal moved to Hollywood for the project. She rewrote the novel with the title "The House of Mist" and wrote the screenplay for the film. The movie ended up being sidelined during the Red Scare hearings into Communism in the film industry initiated by Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. She died in 1980 at the age of 69.

Víctor Jara was a poet, folk singer and political activist. He has a niche here. When Pinochet took over the country, Jara was detained. They broke his fingers, so that he could never play again, but mattered little because they then shot him nearly 50 times and dumped his body in the street. His grave has become a shrine and he is considered a martyr.

Eduardo Alquinta was known to everybody as Gato. He was a folk musician, songwriter and leader of the folk group "Los Jaivas." Los Jaivas was one of the most popular groups in Chile and they were unique in that they combined Latin American native music with electronic instruments. Brothers Gabriel, Claudio and Eduardo Parra founded Los Jaivas in Viña del Mar in 1963. They recorded several songs, one of which was "Todos Juntos." This became the official hymn of the Latin American Summit of Presidents that took place in Santiago in 1996.

Miguel Enríquez Espinosa was a Chilean Revolutionary Leader who was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Movement of  the Left. He served as General Secretary between 1967 and 1974. Espinosa organized the popular resistance against the dictatorship. He was hiding in a safe house when Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional or DINA agents backed by heavily armed security forces personnel raided the house. He gave cover to two other men and his pregnant wife and received ten bullet wounds, including one to the head. He was buried at Cementerio General.

Violeta Parra was a folk singer, ethnomusicologist and visual artist. She pioneered the Nueva canción chilena, which translates to The Chilean New Song. Parra is considered "The Mother of Latin American folk." She traveled the world performing, but the music came to an end when she committed suicide with a gunshot to the head.

The political history of Chile is written across the memorials and tombstones found in the Cementerio General. This cemetery could be considered painfully beautiful. And that is just a little about the Stones and Bones found here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Stones and Bones 12 - Cimetiere de Morne-a-l'Eau

Guadeloupe Island is located in the southern part of the Caribbean in the French West Indies. The island is described as the butterfly island because it is shaped like a butterfly with each wing having its own name and distinctive characteristics. The eastern wing is called Grande Terre and is described as flat and is a filled in coral reef and the western wing is Basse Terre, which is mountainous and still has an active volcano. What we would call cities are referred to as communes on the island. One of these communes is Morne-à-l'Eau and it is here that one would find the Cimetiere de Morne-à-l'Eau.
The best descriptive word for this cemetery is whimsical. Not a word one would equate with a burial ground, but it's the best way to describe a place with mausoleums stacked up on hills with black and white tiling. A few feature other colors. Join me as we explore the Morne-a-l'Eau Cemetery.

Morne-à-l'Eau is located in the heart of Grande Terre at the junction of roads leading to Le Moule, Les Abymes and Anse-Bertrand. The cemetery in Morne-a-l'Eau is said to have been arranged outside the commune's perimeter by a decree in 1784 by Baron de Clugny. He was Governor of Guadaloupe at the time. Burials may have taken place at that time, but the oldest burial here dates to 1847. The entrance is very simple with just a couple of concrete columns with a gate.The cemetery is right along busy streets and surrounded by an iron fence on a concrete base. Before the cemetery was founded, wealthy families that lived here would bury their dead on their property, most of which were sugarcane plantations. The city itself was founded in 1827. Burials on the plantations were split into sections, so that masters and slaves did not mix. When burials began in the graveyard, this rule was no longer followed. I should touch on a group of people called the Beke here.

The Beke are descendants of the French settlers. This group speaks Antillean Creole, which is related to Haitian Creole. The first Frenchman to establish a permanent French colony in the Caribbean was Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc. He did this in 1635.  Cardinal Richelieu formed a company with him and they received a 20 year charter for most of the islands in the area. The British drove them from some, but Guadaloupe was held by the French. Africans were brought in to work the sugarcane plantations that were established here. There is still to this day, a separation in the classes between the Beke and the blacks on the island. But in the cemetery, there is no distinction. The oldest tomb does belong to a Beke family. Slavery was abolished here in the 19th century and then Indian labor was brought in to make up the gap. These people were treated like indentured servants. Many were seeking to escape the caste system of the country of India and believed in the promises of colonial agents.

The cemetery is built into what almost seems to be a natural amphitheater. It is on the sides of this amphitheater that many mausoleums have been set and these look like little houses and some have slanted roofs and terraces. And each of these mausoleums is covered in black and white tiles like a checkerboard. No granite or marble is allowed to be used in the building of memorials. The tombs start off as concrete and then the tiles are used to decorate the outside. As to why black and white tiles were chosen, no one knows for sure, but one theory is that white is a symbol of mourning in Africa and black is a symbol of mourning in Europe and so these represent the mix in cultures. There are a few mausoleums that are pink or blue.

Families decorate their deceased loved one's burials with little shrines that feature pictures, flowers, candles and other memorabilia. All Saints Day is a big celebration in the graveyard and the memorials are covered with thousands of candles. Sellers of bokits, which are a type of local sandwich, and peanuts set up their stands near the cemetery for the holiday. There's something of a party atmosphere.

The Moutoussamy family have been prominent in Guadaloupe and their mausoleum is a two-story pavilion with a terrace and French window. This is an Indian family and those that live here descended from 40,000 indentured workers who were brought from India to Guadeloupe in 1861. The importation of Indian labor ceased around 1883. Many were treated harshly and it wasn't until  1904 they received some political rights. In 1923, Guadeloupeans of Indian descent were granted citizenship and the right to vote. Members of the Moutoussamy family actually gained prominent political positions.

Another burial here is that of Pierre Monnerville. He was born in French Guiana in 1895. Monnerville went to Toulouse to study in 1911. He became a physician assistant in 1917 and was wounded in the war in 1918 for which he received the war Cross and the Legion of honor. He earned his doctorate in medicine in 1921 and left to settle in Guadeloupe. He was a country doctor in Morne between 1921 and 1956. he went into politics and became mayor of Morne from December 1947 to his death in 1970. He took on issues that would improve the living conditions of residents of French overseas islands.

Finding out who is buried in the 1800 tombs here is difficult. The graves have very basic information. One thing is certain. Family members know where their ancestors are and they honor them every year. And whomever was the first to use the checkerboard design was a genius because this is one of the most unique cemeteries I have ever seen! And that was just a little about the stones and bones found here.