Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mount Olivet Cemetery ~ Nashville, Tennessee

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Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville was my "halfway" destination

on my way home from daughter Katie's in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago...

I had last visited there in July 2013 and it was a sauna

as much of this part of the country is in summer, and although I took several

photos, I missed a lot!  I have begun "Googling" images from cemeteries I plan

to visit now so I don't miss monuments I'd like to see and photograph...

(in some of the larger cemeteries, it's very easy to miss things) ~

Hopefully, this blog will help others in their discoveries.


At the time Mount Olivet  was being developed, cemeteries served almost like
public parks; based on a rustic English concept of what nature "should" look like...
with winding paths, scenic overlooks and views, and objects of interest to engage the
wandering pedestrian or carriage rider, these parks were meant to be beautiful and enlightening.

Mount Olivet is both.

(From Images of America ~ Nashville; From the Collection of Carl and Otto Giers, Volume II
by James Hoobler.)


The figure above was one I had seen in online images, but I honestly

couldn't remember if she was located in Mount Olivet or in Oak Hill Cemetery

in Birmingham, Alabama ~ I was debating which route to take home...

(Oak Hill will be a trip for another day...)

Needless to say I was thrilled to come upon her and was fascinated...

almost all of the memorial statuary I photograph is beautiful, I think...

Nothing eerie or "creepy"...(okay, rarely...)

However, this beauty is bordering on the macabre....

(See more unedited photos later in  this post.)

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A beautifully sculpted hand...

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This mourning figure represents Niobe from Greek Mythology...

Her fourteen children were killed by Apollo and Artemis after she boasted

to Leto (their mother) of their large number...(Leto had only Apollo and Artemis).

You can read more about her here...

there is another statue like her in Historic Oakland in Atlanta.

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I've begun to really appreciate clouds in my photography!

I thought they were especially beautiful on this day.

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 This is one of my favorite monuments in Mount Olivet.

The soldier standing here is 1st Lt .James Aaron Pigue (born 1884),

Company A, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division,

who lost his life in Belgium in WWI.

He died on his first day of battle, July 18, 1918,

a part of forces giving support to Marshall Foch's Second Battle of the Marne in France.

 Although it's not visible in the photo, a large American flag flies in front of the monument.

Lt. Pigue isn't actually at Mount Olivet; he rests in the Lijssenthoek Commonwealth

War Graves Cemetery in Belgium.

Three years after Pigue's death, his widowed father traveled

to the grave of his only child ~ no small feat in 1921.

The woman pictured on Pigue's right is his paternal grandmother, Mary:

the woman on his left is his mother, Fannie.

There are beautiful tributes to the women inscribed on their monuments,

but neither as meaningful as a quote by Lt. Pigue himself,

most likely taken from a letter he wrote while overseas.

On the base of his monument are inscribed the words;

"We can't all be heroes and wear medals and get our names in the dispatches,

but we can do our full duty and wear our medals on our hearts." *


To read more about Lt. Pigue, click here for an article at the Western Front Association's site.

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The tomb of Daniel and Mary Hillman, large and striking...

full of symbolism.

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The Hillman Monument setting...such an amazing cemetery!

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More of my favored "Star" angels...gesturing toward Heaven.

The bottom one holds a cross entwined with Passion Flower vine, with lilies at its base.

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This cross looks like a cactus!

I can't see all that the angel is writing, but in part;

"The White Flower of a Blameless Life"...


Clinging to the Cross...

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,

Till my trophies at last I lay down;

I will cling to the old rugged cross,

And exchange it someday for a crown".

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Here again is the veiled, mourning figure from the beginning of the post...

I was amazed at the sculptor's skill in conveying that she is wearing a veil,

yet her features are all still visible ~ how does one even begin to do that?

So, although she is just the slightest bit disconcerting,

I was really impressed!

She is so lichen-covered...but still beautiful, really.

Look at the lace detail on the edge of her veil...

She also carries an urn with the symbolic Eternal Flame,

and a wreath with what looks like oak leaves, symbolizing

many things, including strength, endurance, eternity, honor,

faith and virtue.

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The Comforter...

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Writing in the Book of Life...

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The fanciful mausoleum of Adelicia Acklen,

a woman of means...definitely ahead of her time, however you look at it...

to read more about Adelicia and her Belmont Mansion, click here.

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Spanning over four plots in Mount Olivet, the mausoleum is the final resting place for various

members of the Acklen family, most notably Adelicia, the owner and original resident of

Belmont Mansion. Considering her life was relatively unorthodox (her first two husbands both

died, leaving her millions) tragic (six of her children died before the age of twenty) and decadent

(the estate included an art gallery, bowling alley, bear house and zoo),

 it's no surprise that her grave is a bit grandiose.

Completed three years before Adelicia's death in 1887, The High Victorian Gothic Structure

is marked by the octagonal cupola rising from its center. Although historians aren't sure why,

every building associated with the Acklen family has some sort of octagonal feature.

Another notable aspect of the mausoleum is The Peri, a romanticized Neoclassical statue made

of Italian Carrera marble that depicts a fallen angel who is attempting to regain entrance into Heaven.

Crafted by famed American sculptor Joseph Mozier, The Peri was inspired by Sir Thomas Moore's

epic poem Lalla Rookh, and Adelicia's will insisted its placement at her gravesite.

The mausoleum and fallen angel statue are stunning tributes to a woman who was equal parts

business tycoon, Southern aristocrat, and notorious socialite.

Her strange and tragic life is a Southern Gothic legend,

and her ghost allegedly roams around the grave and mansion to this day.*
(* From the Nashville Examiner)

I really hope, however, that Adelicia's spirit "saw the light" and left this

Earthly realm years ago!

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A lovely urn and laurel-wreath detail on the bronze door..

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The angel's nudity is a bit of a surprise; bold for the Victorian era.

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A peek through the rusty-chained door of the Acklen mausoleum...

the striking white marble angel, The Peri (as beautiful as the day she was installed,

given the protection of the mausoleum) reigns supreme.
This was Adelicia Acklen's favorite statue...
Immediately after the Civil War, Adelicia toured Europe purchasing a number of
statues in Italy from American sculptors living and working there.
She arrived back in the States and saw this statue on exhibit in New York by an
American sculptor (Joseph Mozier) who was working in Europe.
She purchased the statue and had it placed in Belmont Mansion's Grand Salon
where it remained until her death in 1887.
The statue was inspired by Part IV of Lalla Rookh called
"The Story of Paradise and the Peri".
In that poem, the Peri is a fallen angel who wishes to regain Paradise.
In order to do so, she must collect a goblet of spilled patriot's blood and shed
tears of the penitent sinner...regret, remorse, and pity.
Here she appears as before Saint Peter, winning her way back into Paradise.

*A portion of the information on Adelicia Acklen was found in Nashville's Native magazine.

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The two photos above show The Peri in the Grand Salon in Belmont.

(From Images of America ~ Nashville; From the Collection of Carl and Otto Giers, Volume II
by James Hoobler.)
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The tomb of Vernon King Stevenson, called the Father of Railroading in Tennessee;

it is an exact replica (except in black marble) of the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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She's lost her head, but still lovely...

Her bouquet is unusual; thorny stems and down-turned, dying roses.

I would have loved to have seen her intact!

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She's also lost her wings...and hands....

Notice the carved heart and initials on the tree in the background...

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Another headless figure...

I wonder if this was vandalism, or from a devastating storm a few years ago;

hoping it was Mother Nature...

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I am always intrigued by tassels, fringe, lace ~ any sort of  "soft" element or textile

when it is depicted in stone. These big tassels are especially beautiful!

This box tomb is also adorned with a sword and sword belt on top.

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Little Eliza Mitchell...went to Heaven on Halloween, 1876.

She looks so forlorn, holding her little hands...

There are Lilies of the Valley at her feet, and the cross behind her is adorned with lilies;

Someone though...someone who couldn't have ever known Little Eliza,

still decorates her grave with silk lilies...

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This angel is of such a slight build,

he reminds me more of a little faerie or sprite...

Notice the down-turned torches on the pedestal's corners...

still burning, though; the life is not extinguished, but continues in Heaven.

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Little Carrie...

who has the same monument as Little Myra Lou, below...(Myra's sister Bettie is on the right).

No shortage of children's monuments in Victorian/Edwardian cemeteries,

that's for sure.

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Lovely detail!

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Urns are a common sight... but of course,

the star atop this one got my attention!

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The Moorish-inspired Carter mausoleum, resting place of Rachel Carter Craighead.

Her diaries span the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century,

and provide a remarkable look at Nashville life. Topics covered  include descriptions

of school life in the 1850s and trips to places such as Mammoth Cave in Kentucky 

and New York City, although most notably life in occupied Nashville during the Civil War.

An affluent young woman with Confederate sympathies, Rachel was born to prominent

Nashville banker Daniel F. Carter and Mary Buntin Carter in 1837. She married Nashville

lawyer Thomas Craighead in 1859, and the couple continued to live with her parents at

6th and Union, along with younger brother John (also entombed here).

Wartime brought the death of her brother in the Battle of Perryville and numerous

arrests of her father in Nashville.


You can read more about Rachel and see a portion of her diaries here.

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"Thou hast but taken thy lamp and gone to bed ~

I stay a little longer as one stays

to cover up the embers that still burn"

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The old cemetery office bell tower...this building is in ruins, sadly.

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The office as it appeared in the late 1800s...

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The Victorian gate lodge at the entrance of the cemetery was torn down in the 1960s.

(Both photos from Images of America ~ Nashville; From the Collection of 
Carl and Otto Giers, Volume II by James Hoobler.)

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She holds a broken chain, symbolizing breaking the bonds with Earth,

or of a broken link in the family chain...

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Sphinxes in front of the Nicholson tomb...

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The unique pyramid tomb of Eugene C. Lewis, director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition;

it was at Mr. Lewis's suggestion that a reproduction of the Parthenon was built in Nashville

to serve as the centerpiece of the celebration. He also served as the chief civil engineer for the

Nashville, Chattanooga and St.Louis Railroad.

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Broken columns, symbolizing a life cut short...

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These two monuments are almost identical; not unusual to see,

  but a bit odd being in the same cemetery (ones this large and noticeable, anyway). 

The tops are different, though, and the garland the woman is holding;

The bottom one is also inscribed "Till the day break and the shadows flee away".

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The Confederate Circle was created in 1869 as part of a reinterment project designed to honor

approximately 1500 Confederate soldiers who died in and around Nashville during the Civil War.

Members of the Ladies' Memorial Society purchased a prominent location on a hill within the existing

cemetery. Officials and dignitaries attended the dedication of the new burial ground on May 9, 1869,

which was declared the local "Decoration Day" in Nashville.

The program also encompassed a visit to decorate graves at the old City Cemetery, from which

some of the dead were transferred. A central obelisk made of Vermont granite is topped by a 

nine-foot statue of a Confederate soldier. Thirteen rows of graves surround the obelisk;

the first six rows contain graves of Confederate soldiers from outside Tennessee,

the seventh row contains graves of unknown soldiers, and the outer rows are for Tennesseans.

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Brotherhoods and Fraternal organizations were very popular...

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Eight Greek Caryatids adorn the Furman tomb,

the largest in Mount Olivet. It is based on the Porch of the Maidens on the Erechtheum

on the Acropolis in Athens.

Francis Furman became a successful businessman in Nashville after the Civil War;

he was the owner of  Furman & Company Wholesale Dry Goods and Notions on

Nashville's Public Square form 1870 to 1890. Furman Hall on the campus of

Vanderbilt University is named in his honor, as the result of a $100,000 donation by his

widow after his death.

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"Our wishes for the world...


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And last but not least, a skull...a skull in the South!

How can this be? The South is flowers and angels; New England and Europe have skulls!

I had actually seen a close-up of the skull-detail of this monument when I'd

looked through photos online from Mount Olivet...

However, when I didn't see anything that even remotely looked like a skull on this trip,

I dismissed it as being from a different cemetery (this happens quite often, even when

the cemetery's location is entered in the search, random images from nowhere near the

searched-for location pop up).

However, looking at Mount Olivet again online a few nights ago ~ researching some

things for this post ~ I came across the skull again, and it said it was definitely in Nashville...

So...I took a chance and looked through some of my wide shots of the cemetery,

and there it WAS!

Way atop the tomb of Dr. Robert Porter, first Professor of Anatomy

 in the Medical Department of the University of Nashville (born 1818, died 1856).

So exciting! (I'm such a cemetery-nerd!)

Just a little out of my line-of-vision; I'm short!

True, this skull represents a profession and not just death in general

like the archaic skull-and-crossbones or "death's head" images...

still... Rare!

Next trip, though (June), better close-ups of this fellow...

Thank you for reading!


"It's not what you look at that matters,

it's what you see."

Henry David Thoreau