Chestnut Grove Cemetery – Ashtabula, OH

Gravetender Hubby, Gravetender Toddler and I recently went on vacation to visit family in Ashtabula, OH. The weather was great, the air was sweet and we had a wonderful time at Walnut Beach on the shores of L. Erie. We also made a visit to Chestnut Grove Cemetery (I just can’t help myself). One of the oldest cemeteries in Ashtabula, Chestnut Grove is the home of the unidentified victims of the Ashtabula Train Disaster – a horrific train disaster that occurred on December 29, 1876.

Here’s what happened on that fateful night:

The Ashtabula bridge designer, Amasa Stone, was the President of the Lake Shore Michigan Southern Railroad – Cleveland and Erie Division from 1856 to 1867. During his Presidency, he decided to take a well-established wooden bridge pattern (the Howe Truss) and use it as the pattern for an all iron bridge. He designed this bridge without the approval of any competent engineers with iron bridge experience and against the protest of the engineer who was hired to draft the drawings.

Charles Collins, the Engineer in Charge, was the man responsible for overseeing bridge inspections for the entire line. Unbelievably, Stone did not include Collins in any aspect of the bridge’s design, construction, or erection. Perhaps that’s the reason Collins took such little interest in the bridge. Placed in a difficult situation, Collins was charged with the maintenance and care of a long, all iron bridge when he knew little about its unique technical requirements. A conscientious and sensitive man, the grief over this tragedy almost overwhelmed him. There were reports he wept bitterly when he saw the aftermath of the crash.

The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Train No. 5, The Pacific Express, left a snowy Erie, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of December 29, 1876. As The Pacific Express plowed through the snow and crossed a bridge over the Ashtabula River, about 100 yards (90 m) from the railroad station at Ashtabula, Ohio, the passengers heard a terrible cracking sound. In just seconds, the bridge fractured and the train plunged 70 feet (21 m) into the water.

The lead locomotive “Socrates” made it across the bridge, while the second locomotive, “Columbia” and 11 railcars including two express cars, two baggage cars, one smoking car, two passenger cars, three sleeping cars and a caboose fell into the ravine below, then igniting a raging fire. The wooden cars were set aflame by kerosene heating stoves and lamps. Some cars landed in an upright position, and within a few minutes small, localized fires became an inferno.

The rescue attempt was feeble at best because of the ill-preparednessof the nearby station to respond to emergencies. Of 159 passengers and crew on board that night, 64 people were injured and 92 were killed or died later from injuries sustained in the crash (48 of the fatalities were unrecognizable or consumed in the flames). It is unclear how many died of the fall, separate from the blaze. Twenty years later, in Ashtabula’s Chestnut Grove Cemetery, a monument was erected to all those “unidentified” who perished in the Ashtabula Railroad disaster.

Charles Collins, among others, was forced to testify before an investigative jury about the accident. Days after completing his testimony, Collins was found dead in his bedroom of a gunshot wound to the head. Originally, Collins was believed to have committed suicide out of grief and feeling partially responsible for the tragic accident. A police report at the time suggested the wound had not been self-inflicted, however no real investigation was attempted due to raw nerves surrounding the tragedy. Recent documents discovered in 2001 revealed, thorough examination of Charles Collins’ skull, the conclusion that he had indeed been murdered. He was entombed in his own mausoleum yards away from the victims’ mass grave.

Amasa Stone was found partly responsible by the investigative jury and committed suicide seven years later.

So sad.

Here are the pictures I took at Chestnut Grove Cemetery:


Base of Train Disaster Memorial

Another Inscription

Charles Collins’s Mausoleum

Mausoleum Gates Locked Tight

Name in stone

‘Wine Cork’ Headstone

One word says it all

View of cemetery

War Veteran


Memorial Park Cemetery

We haven’t had much snow in St. Louis this winter (not that I’m complaining) so when the snowflakes finally fell from the sky last week, I thought I’d visit a cemetery and take some pictures. Why not, right? So I stopped by Memorial Park Cemetery, which is located at 5200 Lucas and Hunt Rd. It’s a private, family owned cemetery that has been in operation since 1919. It’s right off Highway 70 but once you enter the gates, a peaceful serenity envelops you. It feels like you’re taking a quiet walk in the country.

The cemetery staff are very friendly and visitors can get a map from the office (Memorial Park has 165 acres of land so you can easily get lost). On their website they state that 50 acres are underdeveloped and “prime spaces are still available.” They even offer coupons. Really. Anyway, here are some of the pictures I took. Alas, most of the snow had melted but there was still some white stuff to be seen:

Who Steals Wreaths?

English: PENSACOLA, Fla. (Dec. 11, 2010) Wreat...

Remember my ‘Wreaths Across America’ post? (I know you all read it and re-read it and then printed it and taped it to your headboards so that it is the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning…) Anyway, a number of volunteers participated in the event at Glacier Memorial Gardens in Kalispell, Montana by laying wreaths on veterans’ graves to honor their memory. And then days later, someone stole them.

As reported by Tristan Scott:

Volunteers placed 500 wreaths on veterans’ graves at a memorial cemetery north of Kalispell last weekend and within days about half of them had been stolen.

“At first I thought, this can’t be. Who would steal wreaths from a cemetery?” said Dale Rodwick, senior member of the Flathead Composite Squadron MT053 of the U.S. Civil Air Patrol, which dedicated the wreaths as part of the national Wreaths Across America campaign.

The wreaths were placed at Glacier Memorial Gardens on Dec. 10 by cadets of the squadron, which adopted the cemetery and helps care for the 850 veteran grave sites there.

Rodwick said he believes the thefts of roughly 250 wreaths occurred Monday, and local law enforcement has since been canvassing Christmas tree lots in case the wreaths were stolen to be resold.

“We don’t know if someone is trying to resell them or if they are just vandals,” Rodwick said.

He estimated the value of the missing wreaths at around $3,000, and said Friday that the Worcester Wreath Co. in Maine was donating 100 wreaths to help recoup losses. The new wreaths will arrive sometime next week, and Rodwick said the squadron will organize a brief re-dedication ceremony at the time.

“It looks as though there is a happy ending to this story as Christmas approaches,” he said. “The fact that we can get some wreaths back to the veterans is good news.”

Sigh. Stories like these no longer surprise me because it seems cemeteries get vandalized almost every day. Cemetery thieves steal bronze memorial plaques, flowers, grave decorations and anything else they can get their grubby little hands on. And unless cemetery management can afford 24-hr video cams or night security, there’s not much they can do to stop theft or vandalism.
But really, who steals a wreath off a veterans’ grave? That’s a new low. Especially during the holidays – what happened to ‘Peace on earth and good will to all?’ I hope they find these creeps soon and punish them severely.


St. Peter’s Cemetery

Established in 1955, St. Peter’s Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in St. Louis, MO. Located at 2101 Lucas and Hunt Road, tall black gates open into 119 acres of well-maintained grounds bordered on one side by a beautiful rock wall. The cemetery is under endowed care (beginning in 1912) and is currently managed by St. Peter’s Evangelical Church.

In addition to numerous graves that showcase gravestone symbolism at its best , St. Peter’s Cemetery also has a chapel, a mausoleum complex with cremation niches, a columbarium and garden crypts. Some famous people interred at St. Peter’s include:

  • James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell – Born: May 17, 1903 | Died: March 7, 1991. Hall of Fame baseball player known for his amazing speed.
  • Wendell Pruitt – Born: June 20, 1920 | Died: April 15, 1945.  A Tuskegee Airman, Pruitt shot down three German airplanes and helped sink an enemy ship – he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with seven clusters. He was killed in a training exercise at Tuskegee Air Force Base.
  • Anna C. White – Born: Unknown | Died: 1996. A Democratic Committeewoman, she was a delegate at the 1960 Democratic Convention where she endorsed John F. Kennedy’s bid for President of the United States.

Here are some pictures I took during a recent visit to St. Peter’s. I apologize for the time-date stamp on the pictures…I couldn’t figure out how to change it on the camera menu and it was getting dark so I just went with it. I’m a gravetender, not a photographer:)


An old headstone

An "old" section marker

Garden of the Good Shepherd

Fall in St. Peter's Cemetery

A draped headstone or monument is a symbol of mourning

Old, broken headstone

Broken Columns are a symbol of a life cut short.

The fern represents 'victory over death' and the symbol to the right is associated with members belonging to the Freemasons.

'Cool Papa' Bell's grave

The streets in St. Peter's Cemetery are named after trees


Bellefontaine Cemetery

Bellefontaine Cemetery, located at 4947 West Florissant Avenue, is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in St. Louis, MO. Established in 1849, it was created to accommodate a growing city population. The founders saw the need for a spacious rural cemetery and thus purchased 138 acres north of the city and named it Bellefontaine. The first internment took place on April 27, 1850.

The development of the cemetery had excellent timing, as a cholera epidemic hit the city that year and many of those who perished were buried in Bellefontaine. The cemetery now has 314 acres of beautifully maintained grounds, over 14 miles of paved roads and numerous monuments and mausoleums, including the Wainwright Tomb, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some famous people buried in Bellefontaine include:

  • William Clark – Born: August 1, 1770 | Died: September 1, 1838. Explorer (yes, the ‘Lewis and Clark’ explorer).
  • Adolphus Busch – Born: July 10, 1842 | Died: October 10, 1913. He co-founded the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company (which is now a subsidiary of Belgian-owned Anheuser-Busch InBev. The beer still tastes the same, though). 
  • Sara Teasdale – Born: August 8, 1884 | Died: January 29, 1933. An accomplished poet, she won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for ‘Love Songs.’

If you happen to visit St. Louis, consider a visit to Bellefontaine Cemetery. It truly is an outdoor museum with a lot of history – a St. Louis landmark that is off the beaten path and is open to the public year round.

So…I suppose you’re wondering if it’s haunted. Well, aren’t all cemeteries haunted? I’ve never experienced any ‘paranormal activity’ during my visits there…but then again, I don’t make it a habit to go looking for ‘paranormal activity.’ Rumors abound that the cholera victims buried in Bellefontaine haunt the grounds, and there are stories about the members of the Lemp family, who have a tragic history involving suicide and are buried in the Lemp Family Tomb, which is the largest tomb in the cemetery. So I don’t know if it is haunted and there’s nobody who really knows. The dead tell no tales.

Here are some pictures* of the cemetery:

Bellefontaine Cemetery

Busch Mausoleum

Old Mausoleum

Inside the Old Mausoleum

Elks Rest

Captain of the Ship

* All pictures courtesy of Beth Santore – Grave Addiction