Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nature Lovers...The Victorian Rustic Movement

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Isn't this fabulous?? 

It is the biggest "tree" stone I have ever is humongous...

and it is in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

I have a particular fondness for monuments...tombstones ~ that mimic nature,

and they abound in the Midwest, West and South...

in fact, once you start noticing them (one couldn't help but notice this one)

they seem to be "growing" everywhere!

The Rustic Movement of the mid-nineteenth century was characterized by designs

that looked like they came right out of Mother Nature's own living room...

Elegant, classical furniture gave way to heavier forms made from pieces

that came directly from the trees, often with the bark still attached.


 Funerary art followed suit.

Tombstones took on the look of tree stumps, designed to look like they had been cut

and left in the cemetery to mark a grave. The creativity and imagination of the stone-carvers

was boundless; the "back to nature" theme had many design elements that could be added to the "tree"

(which in many cultures is itself a symbol of life...a dead tree, the opposite),

 symbolizing many different aspects of the deceased's character...

Ivy is a popular symbol (adorning the big stone, above, in abundance);

it denotes attachment and devotion to family.

The "bark" is often peeled back providing a smooth surface for the name, dates, and epitaph.

at the stone's base illustrate humility and sincerity

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The Rustic Movement coincided with the Victorian Rural, or Garden Cemetery Movement,

and these unique stones fit right into the picturesque, park-like settings.

The popularity of the tree-stump tombstones was greatest from the mid 1880s until about 1910.

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This stone, also in Elmwood in Memphis,

is a combination of the tree/log elements with requisite cut-short branches

and an arch, symbolizing a portal from this life into the next.

Notice that the letters of the last name, as well as the initial "L",

also look like smaller branches.

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This is the most unique and fanciful of all I've seen in this genre;

a little bird's nest nestled in the broken branches, signifying renewed life in Heaven...

I would have loved to have been able to see inside (but would have needed a "bird's-eye view")

to see if there were eggs! (How could the sculptor resist, even if they couldn't be readily seen?)

It is located in Calvary Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee.

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The shield on this stone is symbolic of the Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle.

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Again, large ferns, ivy and calla lilies.

This looks very much like a Woodman of the World stone, but there is no W.O.W. symbolism.

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This is fantastic...

Tree-trunk base, entwined with Morning Glory 

(Resurrection, since the blooms open  in the morning and close by afternoon)...

With another cross...two branches lashed together to make a cross, actually...

bound to the tree. Beautiful. 

And mushrooms!! Well...fungi...totally whimsical. 

(I applaud this sculptor!)

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A simple tree-stump monument atop a cairn; (a man-made pile of stones,

often used a marker) with a nod to the classical in the oval plaque,

 festooned with oak (strength, endurance, eternity, faith and virtue)

and laurel (victory, eternity, immortalityleaves and tied with a ribbon.

This is in Mount Olivet in Nashville.

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So much symbolism here!

The tree-trunk (atop a cairn) is adorned with a cross (Christianity),

 an anchor (a symbol of hope...the reason for this symbolic comes from the passage in the

Epistle to the Hebrews 6: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and

steadfast...) lilies (purity), and very detailed ferns.

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Look at this wonderful one!

Again, atop a cairn, the ivy-wrapped tree trunk has a cloth-draped tablet-type

headstone leaning against its base;

that, in turn, has a detailed palm frond and a WINGED hour-glass...

Tempus Fugit...

(Those are almost as rare in these parts as SKULLS!)

Against the stones rests a shield-like shape (surrounded by ferns and leafy plants)

...a stark contrast to the rocky base.

This is in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

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The "cut off" branches in this stone are unique; the sculptor made the

bark "collar" the branch-ends, just like in nature. Pretty neat.

Also on this stone are grapes (for the Eucharistic wine, symbol of the blood of Christ),

 an anchor, and a potted lily...really unusual!

These stones just lend themselves so well to all sorts of embellishments!

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Another Woodmen of the World stone.

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A small, fern-y cairn, embellished with a scroll and lilies.

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A simple tree stump on a cairn, with ivy and lilies...

The rose on the scroll denotes a slightly more classical take on this stone.

In Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

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A very simple log tombstone, in Carpenter's Cemetery near

Sikeston in Scott County, Missouri.

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A nice Woodmen of the World stone, with three-dimensional axe and mallet.

Columbus Cemetery, Columbus, Kentucky.

The Woodmen of the World organization was founded in 1890 by Joseph Cullen Root.

Root had originally founded Modern Woodmen of America in 1883 after hearing a sermon

about "pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families".

After internal dissension with in the MWA, Root was ejected from the organization that

he had founded. He then decided to start again with a new group he originally called

Modern Woodmen of the World. He soon dropped the "Modern" and the

organization became simply "Woodmen of the World".


One enduring physical legacy of the organization is the distinctive headstone in the shape of a tree stump.

This was an early benefit of Woodmen of the World membership, and they are found in cemeteries

nationwide. This program was abandoned in the late 1920s as it was too costly.

Typically the headstones would include a depiction of the WOW relics and symbols of the organization.

These include most notably a stump or felled tree (inscribed into a more generic monument in some cases,

rather than the more noticeable instances of the entire monument being in the shape of the log

or tree-stump); the maul and wedge; an axe; and often a Dove of Peace with an olive branch.

As Woodmen "do not lie", a common inscription was "Here rests a Woodman of the World".

To read more about the Woodmen, click here.

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In Sikeston City Cemetery, Sikeston, Missouri;

a classic example of a Woodmen of the World stone.

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In Columbus Cemetery, Columbus, Kentucky;

simply, "Uncle John", with a stylized Morning Glory and Fern frond.

(Notice the little rainbow? Maybe Uncle John approved of my photographing his stone!)

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An excellent example of "twig lettering" in Historic Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta.

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A detailed "branch" (with some vines and leaves here and there)

iron fence in Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia.

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Another tree-trunk cross encircled with a floral wreath,

atop a cairn; Bellefontaine Cemetery, Saint Louis, Missouri.

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In Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, a tree-trunk cross (with extremely short,

cut-off branches, indicating a young person) covered

with Morning Glory and Oak Leaves, atop a stone cairn...

The stones symbolize firmness and stability, and suggest Christ as the

"Rock of Salvation".

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In Macon, Georgia's, Rose Hill, a stylized example of a cross with Morning Glories,

Tulips (to the side), and a large, whimsical ,upturned Lily...

I believe it was meant to collect water and serve as a birdbath, as well.

This is a very early stone, a good twenty years before the naturalist monuments became so popular!


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening ~ Robert Frost

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