In My Commonplace Book: Two Mausoleums and a Bottle of Wine

IMG-8001I was recently invited to a friend’s home on a Wine Wednesday to share some ghost stories . She thought a live version of my #humpdayhaunts series (on Instagram) would pair well with wine.

This was my first time being a “guest speaker” on a paranormal subject, so I was very anxious! I decided to narrow down my subject to Indiana ghost stories. I also used the opportunity to find new material. For a few nights, I put aside time to fill my commonplace book with Hoosier folklore.

The night of the event, I came equipped with homemade bookmarks, zines on Haunted Indiana bridges, my commonplace book, and pictures for my “presentation.” I thought if I bored them to death, I could at least send them home with some goods.

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I shared about five ghost stories with two focused on mausoleums (because I love a haunted mausoleum). Funny enough, both haunted mausoleums are located in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, IN (which I’ve added to my cemetery bucket list).

Well, I’ll get to it…

Sheets Mausoleum

So, there was a wealthy businessman named Martin Sheets who lived in Terre Haute in the 1900s. Martin had an intense fear of being buried alive. He had a reoccurring dream that he was unable to move or scream when the doctor pronounced him dead, and he then regained consciousness in a coffin deep in the dirt. Luckily, Martin had some money to insure this did not happen.

Martin first had a coffin custom made with latches on the inside, so he could easily open his coffin. To make sure he didn’t have the pressure of dirt on his coffin lid, he had a mausoleum built. Lastly, he had a phone installed in the mausoleum that could make calls to the cemetery’s main office. Imagine getting that call: “Hi, y’all. It’s Martin. Can you come get me? I seem to have been buried alive.”

In 1910, Marin died and was placed in his mausoleum. The phone connected to the cemetery office until they got a new phone system, but they did keep the phone connected and active (it was in his will and paid for after all).

Several years later, Martin’s wife passed. She was found dead in her home, clutching her telephone tightly. Family members assumed she was calling for help. They held a funeral and prepared her to join her deceased husband in the mausoleum.

When cemetery workers went to place her coffin in the mausoleum, nothing seemed unusual or out of place…except that the phone was off the hook and hanging from the wall…

Did Martin call his wife from beyond the grave?

Heinl Mausoleum and Stiffy Green

In 1920, an elderly man named John Heinl passed away. The citizens of Terre Haute liked him very much, but his dog loved him the most. Wherever John went, so did the dog. Everyone in town called the dog “Stiffy Green,” because he had green eyes and walked with a stiff leg.

When John died, he was placed in a mausoleum and Stiffy Green was placed with a friend. The mournful dog would run away often and was always found on the steps of his deceased owner’s mausoleum. Eventually, everyone decided it would be best if Stiffy Green just became a cemetery dog.

Stiffy spent the end of his days in the cemetery and, when he passed away, was stuffed and placed next to the tomb of his owner.

Several months after Stiffy Green’s death, the cemetery caretaker heard a dog barking on the way to his car. He instantly recognized it as Stiffy Green’s bark and it was coming from the direction of John’s mausoleum. People also reported seeing the figure of an old man strolling the cemetery with a small phantom bulldog following along.

Both stories are some fun Indiana folklore. Please note there are multiple versions of each story and some details have been proven false over time. But, I’m not here to ruin a perfectly good story. 

Indiana Cemeteries: Old Turkey Run

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I went “camping” over Labor Day weekend, which required a long trek down country roads. When I am driving down country roads, I always have my eyes open for small cemeteries tucked away in forested areas and in between corn fields.

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My dog Jolene (and June, not pictured) joined me on this cemetery journey.

I found the Old Turkey Run Cemetery (south of Wingate, IN) before crossing Turkey Run Creek on the way to the cabin. It was at the end of a very long grassy road off the main road. I wasn’t sure if I could drive my car down it and my dogs were anxious, so I decided to make a stop on the way home. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Someone is really taking care of this place.
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“Gone Home”
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View of the road from the cemetery. Ignore the green dot from iPhone. It’s NOT a ghostly orb. 😉

According to Waymarking.com,

This peaceful cemetery, set back from the road, was established in 1828. The first person buried there was Mary Westfall, her remains moved there, from their original place of interment, when the new Turkey Run church and cemetery was established there. The church was replaced by a new building, close to the town of Wingate, then called Pleasant Hill, in 1852. The church was renamed to Pleasant Hill Christian Church, at that time. The original location of the church, on the cemetery grounds, is marked by a stone plaque, in the ground, and four boulders. 

Below is the plaque remembering the old church.

I loved the design on this memorial, especially the small flourishes.

 

For more Indiana cemeteries, check out my past posts.

My Cemetery Bucket List (Ongoing)

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Kira Butler from The Midnight Society recently posted her cemetery bucket list, which inspired me to create my own list in my commonplace book. My list is strictly American cemeteries (for now), because mama is broke.

Below is my list, which is always growing. Many were chosen because they are reportedly haunted (of course). Am I missing any must-see cemeteries? Let me know in the comments.

  1. Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia
  2. Stepp Cemetery, Martinsvile, Indiana
  3. Gypsies Cemetery, Crown Point, Indiana
  4. Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, Crestwood, Illinois
  5. Stull Cemetery, Kansas
  6. 100 Step Cemetery, Brazil, Indiana
  7. Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana
  8. Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
  9. Westminster Burying Ground, Baltimore, Maryland
  10. Saint Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
  11. Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana
  12. Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Dayton, Ohio
  13. Unitarian Church Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina
  14. Forest Park Cemetery, Brunswick, New York
  15. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York
  16. Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
  17. The Burying Point, Salem, Massachusetts
  18. Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
  19. Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
  20. Howard Street Burial Ground, Salem, Massachusetts
  21. Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, Illinois
  22. Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  23. Boot Hill, Tombstone, Arizona
  24. Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia
  25. Athens Mental Hospital Cemetery (The Ridges), Ohio
  26. Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio
  27. Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland, Oregon
  28. Union Cemetery, Easton, Connecticut
  29. Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois 
  30. Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts 
  31. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California
  32. Key West Cemetery, Florida 
  33. Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia 
  34. Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina 
  35. Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  36. Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York
  37. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts
  38. Cypress Lawn, Colma, California
  39. Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island
  40. Sunset Hills Cemetery, Flint, Michigan
  41. Central Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
  42. St Roch Cemeteries (1&2), New Orleans,  Louisiana 
  43. Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, IN

Indiana Cemeteries: Hillside Cemetery

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Remember Halloween? Those were simpler times.

On Halloween this year, I decided to take the day off from work. I drove to Attica, IN in hopes of acquiring a black long-haired cat from a shelter. I found out the cat was very afraid of dogs (I have two), so I decided to drive to the nearby town of Williamsport, IN and see some graves.

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Turning onto Cemetery Road (Oh, to have that address!), I found two cemeteries: the older Hillside Cemetery and the more modern Highland Cemetery (located on the other side the railroad tracks). I walked towards the oldest graves possible, of course.

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This cemetery is surrounded by woods and some memorials along the edge sit on a ravine. The Hartz family plot is one of them.

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Alonzo (Lon) and Lizzie Hartz

Hillside Cemetery on Find A Grave

 

 

Indiana Cemeteries: Buswell and Justus Cemeteries (Updated 12/3/2017)

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When I was told I had to drive to Schererville, IN for work, I began looking for cemeteries along US 52 and 41. I  chose two cemeteries based on two specific memorials I wanted to see. Two memorials with tragic stories. Though, I was also surprised to find a third memorial that brought me to tears.

Buswell Cemetery (Kentland, Newton County, IN)

Buswell Cemtery is surrounded by corn fields, and corn cobs cover the dirt road going up to the cemetery. While there was the usual damage seen in old cemeteries, it was in great condition.

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Epitaph: One less to love on earth, One more to meet in heaven.

I sought out this cemetery, because I read the obituary of James A. Whaley (1862-1921) on Find a Grave.

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He is surrounded by his wife, children, siblings, and parents in Buswell. I thought about the loss of James and also those affected by his death…those who are now buried next to him.

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When walking back to the cemetery entrance, a distant memorial caught my eye. It was in the back of the cemetery and was separated from the rest of the interments. The grave was for a newborn named Debroah Kay Axsom. The marker looked homemade and was more human than any memorial I had ever seen before. Admittedly, I stood in the back of the cemetery fighting back tears.

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Justus Cemetery (Oxford, Benton County, IN)

Justus Cemetery is next to a golf course in Oxford, IN. When driving through Oxford, you cannot miss their love for their award-winning race horse, Dan Patch. There are streets named after him. His name is written in large letters on a barn roof. He is even buried there. But another day, Dan Patch.

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When I was on my Find A Grave app, I came across another obituary. Two young boys drowned trying to save a young girl in a gravel pit in Benton County. While I was unable to find the grave for Marvin Mounce, I was able to find Carol Albertson’s (1924-1938). I was moved by these young boys who attempted to save a young girl (she survived), not knowing how to swim themselves. I wanted to pay my respects to these small town heroes.

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When possible, I try to find information on the people behind these stone memorials. People are more than the stones that mark their burial plots.


Update – December 3, 2017

According to the following site, Justus Cemetery has some local lore attached to it. The following italicized text is from the site.

http://thisisindiana.angelfire.com/indianahauntings.htm#oxford

In the tiny town of Oxford, Indiana, not far from Indianapolis, lays one of the most notorious cemeteries in the Hoosier state, known as Justus Cemetery. This ominous burial ground is home to its very own ghost, making it one of the most widely visited haunted places in Indiana.

This spine-tingling tale begins with the Oxford water tower. One dark, stormy evening many years ago a train chugged its normal path along the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad. The pale, fat moon was obscured by full gray clouds, and not a soul dared to venture out on such a windy, wet night.

Crew members reluctantly emerged from the warmth of the train to gather water from the tower. One by one, they stopped, horrified to hear a deep, echoing moan rising from the tower. The train’s passengers heard the mournful sound as well, and were frozen in their seats in fear.

The passengers’ horror, as well as that of the crew members, reached new heights when the sound was suddenly accompanied by a horrifying sight-that of a glowing white figure. The ghastly apparition appeared through the sheets of rain to drift toward the train and its stunned occupants. Still moaning, the figure was headed straight for them.

Amid panicked screams from their passengers, the crew began working at a frantic pace to finish their task at the water tower. And then, as abruptly as it had appeared, the spirit vanished. It dove into an open grave, to the intense relief of all who watched it go.

That fateful night wasn’t the only time the Justus Cemetery ghost made a surprise appearance. Just a few nights later, the same crew-minus a few who refused to return to the water tower ever again-felt the wrath the restless spirit once more. The duties at the water tower had been completed, and the train was ready to head to its next destination. As the engine roared to life and the train should have began to chug along the tracks, the crew made a horrifying realization-the train wasn’t going anywhere.

The wheels spun desperately, but the train appeared to be gripped in some sort of deathly hold. Finally, the panicked crew felt the train break free and begin to move along the tracks. However, the men banded together and vowed to never return to the town of Oxford on their nightly trips.

Is it really a ghost, or just a long-running youthful prank?

A detective was hired by the Railroad to investigate the ghost of Justus Cemetery.

The detective observed a group of high-school age boys tiptoeing into the area, carrying a billowing white sheet. Within seconds, their secret was discovered-they had attached the sheet to a wire and dangled it from the water tower, and had even coated the train tracks with soap to make the train stick when it tried to move. However, most of the crew who witnessed the power of the Justus Cemetery ghost swore it wasn’t a prank. To this day, many in the town of Oxford believe the water tower is haunted.

Indiana Cemeteries: Mound Cemetery

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It was the first weekend of October. The air was cold and the sky was overcast. Obviously, it was time to visit a cemetery.

I drove to the small town of Pine Village, which was a very solitary drive down country roads. I was surrounded by livestock, corn fields, and farm houses. I even saw a goat standing on top of a sitting cow. A perfect Sunday drive and the ideal scenery for this taphophile.

I was looking for Mound Cemetery, which is indeed…a mound. A friend was kind enough to share a screen shot via Google Maps. As you can see, it has a very unique layout.

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Mound Cemetery has some very interesting Indiana history as described by Genealogy Trails:

Mound (Round) Cemetery is a unique landmark in Adams Township with much speculation that the large perfectly shaped mound which rises about 30 feet was an Indian mound. It is encircled by a road about one-fourth mile in length, forming a circle at a crossroads. The larger portion, three-fourths, of the mound was donated for a cemetery by the Martindale family; the remaining one-fourth was purchased from the Little family. Many of the early settlers of Adams Township are buried there.

When I arrived to Mound Cemetery I was very taken aback. It was eerily quiet. I could only hear distant birds and the wind blowing through the corn. I was very alone. I’ll admit to looking back a few times to make sure I was actually alone. I blame it on the weather.

The cemetery, along with its interesting layout, was beautiful. At its highest point you get great views of the surrounding countryside. I loved this cemetery. I wish it had seating, because I would have sat there for hours.

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Here’s a short video of my drive around the cemetery.

Driving on the gravel road around Mound Cemetery.

A post shared by Ash Tree 🎃 (@ash_la_folle) on

 

Here are some shots from the Mound towards the surrounding roads.

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The cemetery had many older memorials with hand imagery. There were also a few gravestones dedicated to those who served in the Civil War, World War I and II.

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Indiana Cemeteries: Fink Cemetery

img_2082It’s been awhile since I’ve visited a cemetery, and I forgot how much I enjoy quietly moving from memorial to memorial. I visited Fink Cemetery in Lafayette. The weather was perfect and the area was lively with the sounds of a nearby church’s Fall Fest. I saw a tractor pulling a covered wagon on the walk over.

A friend had recommended the site, because of its interesting history:

Fink Cemetery has mass graves from the cholera epidemic.

Under the minimal light of the moon, people were dumping cholera victims into mass graves.  While there was no markings for the mass graves, I walked around the south and east sides where they are located. I wondered how many people were buried in piles, what their names were, and the holes left in their family histories. It is upsetting to think how epidemics not only wipe out populations, but individuality. They are no longer people with stories in these mass graves, but a representation of sickness.

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When I’m walking around, I usually have my Find A Grave app pulled up on my iPhone. I love when memorials are accompanied with images and/or a eulogy of the deceased. I came across one grave that had an unique story.

According to a user on Find a Grave, James (Jim)  Jones (Dec. 9 1852 – Dec 16 1917) was an interesting character. As it appears on the site:

Jim Jones 09 Dec 1852 and his sister Mary Frances Jones.

Jim’s mother Miranda Johnson (1833) died on ” MAR 18th 1859 ” soon after Jim & Mary were born.
His father William Marion Jones was killed on AUG 14th 1859, while trying to stop a runaway horses.

Jim and Mary Frances were then to be raised by their fathers brother Thomas Bybee Jones, Tipton County Court of Common Pleas, October 17, 1859 Page: 348.

Jim was a Trapper while married to Mary Cooper Jones.
Jim Jones was frequently in a tavern talking with the famous James Whitcomb Riley in Indianapolis, IN.
This was most likely between 1883 and 1893. Jims daughter Clara would go to the bar and say Jim Jones, Mary Jones says it’s time to come home.

While I could not verify this data, I like to imagine it is real. Although, I am not trying to create some Indiana lore here, so just take it with a grain of salt.

Cheers, Jim.

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Possibly Jim?

 

Indiana Cemeteries: Crown Hill

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You know you are odd when a foggy Saturday morning excites you, because it’s the perfect atmosphere for exploring a cemetery. Lucky for me, I had planned a trip to Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN. This cemetery is 555 acres of beautiful memorials (200,000 graves) and interesting history. Notable persons buried in this cemetery include James Whitcomb Riley (poet) and Benjamin Harrison (23rd US president). On this visit, I wanted to focus on those forgotten.

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The Pioneer Cemetery (part of Crown Hill) is appropriately surrounded by a black metal fence and is located away from the main cemetery. This cemetery is home to three cemeteries that were relocated after their closure. According to a handout provided by Crown Hill:

The first pioneers buried at Crown Hill were originally buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, also known as the City Cemetery, following its establishment in 1821. After Greenlawn Cemetery became full city leaders responded to the need for another cemetery and established Crown Hill in the fall of 1863. Greenlawn was later forced to relocate due to land development and 1,160 pioneers were relocated to Crown Hill from October 1912 until February 1913. Only 35 of this number were identified at the time they were brought to Crown Hill. In addition to the pioneers buried within this lot, several thousand additional burials were moved from Greenlawn to area cemeteries. Among these were 1,616 Confederate soldiers who were reburied in 1933 at the Confederate Mound, which is a National Cemetery located in Section 32 of Crown Hill. Many of those who were instrumental in the acquisition and development of Greenlawn Cemetery became the original developers of Crown Hill decades later.

In the summer of 1999 the Rhoads Cemetery, originally established in 1844 on the Westside of Indianapolis, was relocated to the Pioneer Cemetery at Crown Hill. This cemetery represents five pioneer families, comprised of twelve adults and thirty-four children, and was dedicated late October 1999.

The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery was relocated to the Pioneer Cemetery at Crown Hill in June 2008 and was dedicated on June 11. Originally located just feet from the Interstate 69 (I-69) / Interstate 465 (I-465) interchange on the northeast side of Indianapolis, the cemetery relocation was required to allow for a highway project to increase capacity. The relocation of the Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery was conducted by experienced archaeologists and forensic anthropologists. The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery is comprised of thirty-three adults and children representing the three pioneer families. Their graves and marble markers were positioned in the exact same configuration as the original cemetery. The stones date from the 1830s to the 1880s.

Each cemetery has a large stone marker with the history on the front, and burial plot information on the back. The Wright-Whitesell-Gentry cemetery has individual memorials with names and dates, but the other two have less information about their pioneers (as you can see in the picture below). I appreciated how this space honored not only the deceased, but the original cemeteries.

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In Section 37 of Crown Hill Cemetery is a memorial for children that died while at the Indianapolis Children’s Asylum, the Children’s Guardians Home and the Asylum for Friendless Colored Children (from 1892 and 1980). This memorial sits on a mass grave of 699 children who died from disease, starvation, and neglect. These children were neglected by their parents, the community, and social services.

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My visit to Crown Hill Cemetery was somber reminder that not all human bodies are respected and memorialized. That people are dismissed in life, and dismissed in death.

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A section of the cemetery devoted to our armed forces.
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A statue of a crying woman captures loss on this memorial.

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A beautiful mausoleum door.
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A statue of a young boy at the grave of James Whitcomb Riley. The memorial is on the highest point of the cemetery.

Indiana Cemeteries: Tippecanoe Battlefield

Indiana’s inconsistent weather means you must leave the house on a sunny day. Last week, winter paused and we welcomed the sun and 60-degree weather. I decided to visit a familiar space, but to defamiliarize my experience of it.

Each year, I attend the Fiddler’s Gathering in Battle Ground, IN. It’s usually dark, I’m usually eating festival food, and I’m usually drinking People’s beer. Everyone is dancing. Hula hoops are spinning. Kids are running around. You can hear music from the main stage and from nearby campsites. It’s a time Tippecanoe County comes together as a community with the shared interest of music, history, and friendship.

It’s wild to think this was the site of a bloody battle on November 7, 1811 between William Henry Harrison’s troops and Tecumseh’s men. This battle, named the Battle of Tippecanoe, is considered one of the opening battles of the War of 1812.

The park is home to a battle memorial (85 feet tall), pioneer chapel and cemetery. Below I have included photographs from my visit.

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Indiana Cemeteries: Spring Vale

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Touching the edge of Indiana 25, I never realized the expansiveness of this cemetery from the road. The tall trees drown out the noise of the passing cars, leaving an eerily peaceful silence. At the front gate, a poetic plaque reads:

A spot where nature stopped and smiled as she wrought and each returning season comes and smiles again. Beautiful, whether covered by the fallen leaves of autumn, the white mantle of winter, or the green verdure of spring. 

I was excited to visit the cemetery, because it is the final resting place of many key figures in the history of Greater Lafayette. I saw the names of local streets, historic buildings, and other city spaces on the gravestones. I even found the grave of the woman that supposedly haunts my last house.

A 2014 Journal and Courier article explored the history of Greater Lafayette cemeteries, including Spring Vale.

John Purdue [primary benefactor of Purdue University] helped establish that cemetery, and early Lafayette movers and shakers are buried there, including several U.S. Congressmen.

Arett Campbell Arnett, medical pioneer and founder of the Arnett Clinic, the largest (in 1968) multi-specialty physician practice organization in Indiana, is buried there as is Ray C. “Deac” Ewry, a Lafayette native and Purdue University graduate who had polio as a kid but went on to win eight Olympic Gold Medals in high jump, broad jump and triple jump competition in the 1900, 1904 and 1908 Olympics […]

After the Washington Monument was completed in 1884, miniature copies of it started popping up as monuments in graveyards such as Spring Vale […]

Spring Vale, which opened in 1869, still has plots available. Following a current trend, it also boasts a special site for green burials. Among the movers and shakers buried there is Moses Fowler, who came to Lafayette with John Purdue and became a leading businessman, banker and a land baron in Benton County. Special tracks had to be laid in Spring Vale to deliver his monument […] because it was so huge.

When I took the path to the back of the cemetery, I stood in awe of this massive memorial. As you can see below, it towers over the treeline.

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I have included some of my favorite photos and memorials from the visit. There are many statues of women, and some with a hand pointing to heaven. There are several plots that have one giant memorial for a family, and smaller memorials surrounding it with the names of individual family members (see an example directly below).

I hope you enjoy the photographs; it is by far my favorite cemetery in Lafayette.

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“My Jewel”
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Random cross stump craving. A plot? Just cemetery art?

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