Monday, June 30, 2014

Cairo City Cemetery; Villa Ridge, Illinois

Until recently, I hadn't given a thought as to why I had never seen a cemetery in Cairo, Illinois...

 No matter what one's thoughts are on the plight of little Cairo,

 it is the site of some of the most gorgeous Victorian/Edwardian homes and buildings in the area.

 Yes, still. 

 It is because Cairo is at such a low elevation, and sandwiched as it is between the

Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, that the "City" cemetery is not within the

 city itself, nor is any other graveyard.


If you are not from the area, the city of Cairo (pronounced "CAREoh", unlike that of the

Egyptian city for which it was named), Illinois, is the southernmost municipality

in the state, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

It is the county seat of Alexander County.

Cairo was established in 1818 and was one of several towns in the region that were

named for locations in Classical civilization. Thebes and Karnak are nearby, in Alexander

and Pulaski Counties, respectively; further north are Sparta, Lebanon and New Athens,

and about one hundred miles south is Memphis, Tennessee, also named for a major

Egyptian city. Due to the resemblance of Southern Illinois to the Nile River delta

(and the aforementioned towns), the region gained the name "Little Egypt".

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The gently sloping drive up to the ""Cairo City Cemetery", established ca. 1864.

This cemetery, as well as the adjoining Calvary Catholic Cemetery, are located just

over the railroad tracks (and to the left) off State Highway 51 (just past the Post Office)

in Villa Ridge, Illinois. I'm writing this because if you ask at the Post Office (as I did),

they may not have a clue as to what cemetery you are referring...and, to be fair, there

are many cemeteries in this area). I have become a "have GPS, will travel" girl,

and am quite dependent on it...however, I need to remind myself that

I should do my research first (and write it down...with archaic pen on paper )...

or enter the information into the GPS...beforehand ~

instead of relying on the internet connection on my phone when I'm out searching...

(I finally drove around until I got a signal, and was able to determine the location of

the cemeteries, so I backtracked...I had been SO close to begin with!)

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A first look at Cairo City Cemetery...
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Can you believe the size of these "Cemetery Trees"?

I believe they could have easily been here since the cemetery was established in 1864,

making them 150 years old.

 Cypress trees are classic Cemetery fact, here is something I found on

The Art of Mourning 

Cupressus sempervirens, or the "Graveyard Cypress" is one of the oldest 
classical mourning symbols used in Western and Eastern 
societies and its importance and longevity are just as timeless as the tree itself.

Known as the "mournful tree" by the Greeks and Romans,
 the tree was sacred to the Fates and Furies as well as the rulers
 of the underworld. The tree would be planted by a grave,
in front of a house or vestibule as a warning against outsiders
 entering a place that held a body. Romans would carry branches of cypress
 as a sign of respect for the dead; bodies were also placed on cypress branches prior
 to interment. It is for reasons such as this that the symbolism of the cypress tree
 survives in our culture; it designates hope, as the tree points to the heavens."

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The Kaufman mausoleum; the only one in the cemetery.

Stars of David flank the name on the mausoleum's lintel;

 in front is a little patio with a bench ~ "Friends, in passing by, stop and rest".

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The tomb of Charles W. Frank.

A very nice example of a headstone in the Victorian Rustic Movement style ~

Note all the naturalistic symbolism; the trunk of a tree with cut-off branches

(quite literally, a life "cut short"); the letters of the name are also formed with smaller "branches".

Upon the trunk are climbing roses (love), vines and ferns (humility, sincerity),

and calla lilies (potted ones as well, at the stone's base); as with many other symbols

of the 19th century, calla lilies represented the Resurrection, or the Light of Christ dispelling

the darkness. Their trumpet shape, in the spiritual context, represents the trumpets of

angels heralding Jesus' victory over death.

And finally, a dead dove ~ pretty straightforward!

These "Nature Lovers" stones, with all their lovely details, always draw me to them!

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Another view...note the stylized "cairn" (a man-made pile of rocks) as the

base for the tree-trunk headstone.

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A smaller tree-trunk headstone decorated with ferns and ivy.
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A double obelisk honors Dr. Daniel Arter, left, and his wife Milly, right.

During the Civil War, the Surveyor of Customs (Cairo Customs House) was

Dr. Daniel Arter, who, after his medical career, held several government positions in

Pulaski County. Arter was appointed Surveyor by President Lincoln at the beginning

of the war, and remained as such until 1869 when he retired.

Source;  Perrin, William Henry: History of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties, Illinois. (1883)

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The wheat-sheaf on Dr. Arter's stone symbolizes a long and fruitful life.

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Dr. Arter was a charter member of one of Cairo's two Masonic Lodges.

This block connecting the two obelisks features the Masonic square and compass here,

and the letter "G", for God, on the reverse.

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This stone is one of the main reasons I wanted to find and research this cemetery;

certainly the most unusual and distinctive monument here ~

(I've begun Googling cemeteries I want to visit so I can get a "heads up" on

monuments I don't want to miss...too many times I've done this after-the-fact and

regretted not spending a little more time exploring...hopefully this blog will be a help

to my fellow taphophiles in that respect!)
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The tomb of William and Mina Alba, which features Mr. Alba's portrait in high relief ~

wreathed in beribboned laurel-leaf branches (triumph over death) ~ on one side.

His hair and extraordinarily large mustache and interesting little beard ("soul patch"?)

are exquisitely detailed, as are his eyes, which are rather...riveting.

One can only hope that time and the elements have taken their toll on Mr. Alba's gaze, however,

and he really didn't have any similarity to Johnny Depp's Sweeney Todd character...

(No disrespect intended, Mr. Alba!)

William Alba was born in Grosenbuseck, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany,

in June 13, 1837; son of barber Daniel Alba (1807-1857),

William was the only one of Daniel's five children by his first wife to accompany his

 father to America - along with Daniel's second wife and their children. Daniel Alba died

in Saint Louis in 1857, the same year they arrived in America.


Upon moving to Cairo, William followed in his father's footsteps by opening his

own barber shop; he also employed his half-brother Conrad, who would go on to

become a prominent Cairo businessman.

William's marriage to Miss Minnie Lohmeier took place on February 25, 1872.

Minnie (or "Mina", but probably actually "Wilhelmina", as this was also their daughter's name)

 was born in Prussia in 1835, coming to America in 1857 along

with her sister. She and William were the parents of five children; their youngest,

Wilhelmina ("Minnie"), died of diphtheria at age four (article here).

William Alba died in Cairo on November 9, 1882 (at age forty-five),

 and was buried with full honors by the fraternal organizations to which he belonged;

the Masonic Fraternity, I.O.O.F. (Oddfellows), Knights of the Golden Rule,

and the fire department.

The following article is from The Cairo Evening Citzen, August 4. 1906.

Died Last Evening at 6:30 O’clock at Her Home, No. 604 Commercial Ave.


Came to This County in 1857 and Located at Cairo in 1858—71 Years Old

Mrs. Minnie Alba, widow of the late William Alba, passed away at her home, No. 604 Commercial Avenue, last evening, about 6:30 o’clock. The deceased was 71 years of age.
Mrs. Alba had been in poor health for some time and her death was due to the infirmities of old age.

The deceased was a native of Germany, having been born at Minden, Westphalia, Prussia, May 15, 1835. Her parents died when she was a mere child. With four sisters she came to this country and located at St. Louis in 1857. The year following, she was married and removed with her husband to Cairo, where she has resided ever since.

Five children resulted from this union, four of whom are living. They are Mrs. P. W. Kobler, Misses Matilda and Ida Alba, and Benjamin W. Alba. All reside in this city.
Mrs. Alba was a member of the German Lutheran Church but had never joined any secret organizations.
By her kind and sweet disposition, the deceased won many friends, who always held her in the highest esteem. She was a faithful wife and a loving mother and her death will be greatly deplored by her relatives and friends.
The funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon. The remains will be buried at Beech Grove Cemetery, beside her husband and child.
So, the Albas and little Minnie were re-interred in Cairo City Cemetery

 at some time after August, 1906. This reinforces my thinking that the shadow box

 memorials (in the photos to follow) were placed there for

 William and Mina by their remaining children.

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From the Cairo Daily Bulletin, March 16, 1871;

(I love the way this is worded!)

"William Alba's barber shop is patronized by a vast number of our citizens,
and the universal judgement of his customers is that he can "polish off"
the human face divine with a skill that few barbers possess.
His brother, who presides over one of the chairs, can handle a razor as
skillfully as Von Moltke can his sword, but it never brings blood.
The shop is neatly furnished, and is located on Commercial Avenue
near the corner of Eighth Street, next door to Hannon's book store."

See the original article and newspaper here.

Also from the Cairo Daily Bulletin, July 1, 1871;

"William Alba's barber shop is growing in public favor every day. It is neatly
fitted up, and can boast of the most skillfull [sic] workmen in the city.
The proprietor has had many years' experience in this business and is 
recognized as one of the most expert shavers in Southern Illinois.
While young Alba is a master in his profession, citizens and strangers who
wish a painless shave, a luxurious shampooing, or their hair cut in the latest
style should patronize Alba. His shop is on Washington Avenue
next door to Hannon's news depot."

Click here to see the actual newspaper. Mr. Alba's article is in the third column from the left.

 Just reading the ads is worth it!

Also, on July 4, 1879, this blurb was in the Cairo Evening Citizen;

"William Alba is putting the finishing touches on the 
handsomest barber shop in the West."

Wow! That's quite a claim! Here's the actual piece.

This is also on the same page of that edition...

"William Alba will open his new barber shop in a few days.
New, clean, airy and commodius. His prices will be put down to suit the times.
Shaving, 10 cents. Haircut, 25 cents. Shampooing, 25 cents.

Hair and whiskers dyeing in proportion. He invites all his old customers to
call on him in his new quarters, and new friends and the public, generally,
will find good workmen and satisfactory work."

(I guarantee you will enjoy this site...I have been putting various family names in
the "search"; most  of the keywords are highlighted, making it very user-friendly!)

(Provided by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, Illinois, for the
Library of Congress' "Chronicling America - Historic American Newspapers" program.)

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The Alba names are listed on the central obelisk, but they also have individual stones.

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This side of the Alba monument honors Ben; October 20, 1869 - January 18, 1920

and little Wilhelmina ("Minnie"), July 7, 1872 - September 17, 1878.

Under little Minnie's name it reads,

"Her eyes were wide as the bluebell flower
her mouth like a flower unblown;
we could not think that oh, so soon
God would recall his own"

And, beneath that, a continuation of the sentiments for William...

"Gone, gone the bright spirit fled, the loved husband and father lies silent dead.
We never knew one more noble and kind ~ no more pure in heart;
and we feel the he has found his ease from the pain from which he has suffered so long.
And we know that the noble soul of our loved and lost is waiting in joy
 the coming of those he loved so well."

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Sadly, the obelisk's cap and urn are just lying on the ground.

Amazingly not carted away.

And I say this because when I see broken things like this, to be honest, I want to take them

home with me to "take care" of them, and I'm sure I'm not the only one with good intentions...

(not to mention the folks with not-so-good intentions)

but I don't touch them ~ and hopefully the "don't EVER take anything from a cemetery"

adage will continue to hold here...

It wouldn't be easy, but someone who knew what they were doing could repair this, I believe.

Cairo City Cemetery needs "friends"...

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These two unusual "shadow box" monuments are also in the Alba family

plot; they are honoring "Father" and "Mother", but whose parents' graves they mark isn't clear ~

 William's mother died in Germany and his father died and is buried in Saint Louis.

Parents-in-law, perhaps? (Find a Grave has them listed as if for additional ~

but unknown ~ family members.)

There are no names...maybe there were originally plaques that are long gone?

What I'm thinking, though ~ just my opinion ~ considering that other family members had

individual monuments as well as their names on the main obelisk, and no expense

seemed to have been spared, I think they are just additional tributes to William and Mina.

You can see here in a photo from what the two looked like prior to

the one for "Father" being broken.

At first glance they appear identical, but on closer inspection, the tops and carved

flower-urns are slightly different, suggesting that they were done at different times

and by different artists; maybe the second one working from a drawing of the first.

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"My Dear Husband and Our Father" was unreadable before the glass was broken.

There are still bits of the faux-flower wreath left, faded to gray.

I'm amazed there is anything remaining at all, exposed to the elements as it is.

The plaque appears to be made of slate.

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"Our Mother" is barely legible through the glass on the one still intact.

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The broken top rests against the shadow box, and shards of the original glass still lie inside.

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The backs are removable...I wonder if this was to be able to change the displays inside?

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The Alba family plot.

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The tomb of Conrad Alba (brother of William).

This type of gravestone is called an "Emerging Crown"; one portion of the stone has been
fully carved, while another portion remains "undressed" or only "partially dressed",
giving the impression of  a stone that has been incompletely carved. 

The emerging stone was most common in the late 19th century 
and early 20th century and symbolized a life partially completed but cut short. 
Emerging stones are nearly always made of granite.*

(*This, as well as information on cemetery restoration, was found here.)

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The tomb of Louis and Emma Katherine Kleb, at the edge of the woods.

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"Phillis"...the rest was unreadable.

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The tomb of Adolph and Selma Swoboda; the symbols are for Oddfellows,

("F-L-T" in the chain links stand for "Friendship, Love and Truth")

and Knights of Pythias ("Friendship, Charity and Benevolence")

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Poison Ivy graces this tombstone...

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Irene and William, children of A.& A.Roth;

note the Hebrew script at the stone's base.

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Cairo City Cemetery is surrounded by deep woods on all sides except the south,

where it adjoins Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

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A child's (most likely) headstone sits precariously on its base...

I couldn't read the small script; not sure if "Thomas" is the first or last name...

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A Woodmen of the World monument in honor of Augustus Winter,

"Egypt Camp" from the nickname given to the southernmost part of Illinois.

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The tomb of G.P. Friedrich Kohler, only 17 years old.

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Friedrich's stone has script in German (that I have not attempted to translate) on the base.

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The massive size of the cypress trees is evident in the above photos...

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The tomb of Charles Pfifferling.

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"Rosena, wife of..."

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Unreadable, but there is a lamb... (innocence).

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A small and simple stone for Martha and Sidone Hahn.

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I love this design and I don't even know what to call it...

I see a simplified version often on tent-tops, as always reminds me of something medieval.

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"Miles W. Parker"

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How long before "nature takes over" and topples this monument

(which also features the square and compass of Masonry)?

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The Gilmore monument. A hand points Heavenward, but the rest was illegible.

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"Daughters of the American Revolution"

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Unreadable, practically...I can find no "V"s in the Find a Grave data base

for Cairo City Cemetery, so will try to decipher this at a later date.

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"Rebecca L., Wife of P.A. Sutton, Died May 11, 1875...I believe.

I doubt if this was Rebecca's final resting place, here at the edge of the woods,

but this is where her headstone has ended up.

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I did not even venture out to this one...although I'm only seeing Virginia Creeper

in this photo, Poison Ivy was there too, trust me.

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In the woods...

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A home-made headstone for Charles Cross ~

(Oct. 4, 1867 - Jan. 4, 1924)

"Age 66 YRS. ~ AT REST"

They even carved a lamb.

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Near Charles...Christopher Cross.

Both at the edge of the woods.

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The tomb of Henry Owens...

In the background headstones can be seen actually in the woods.

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More views of the cemetery.

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"In memory of Henry Schmidt"

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Random broken stones propped against a cypress tree...

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"Ann E., Wife of  Wm. Harrell;
Born April 27, 1827
Died Nov. 9, 1877
Aged 50 Yrs.,2 Mos., 12 D's.
Our Angel Mother
Weary, so weary, but now she is at rest"

I could only make out a few of the rest of the words...

Many stones like this have "last lines" that have been covered by earth and vegetation.

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A retaining wall in one section of the cemetery, crumbling.

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Another view.

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Little Edna Easterday, 1889-1895.

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Clara Teighman. 

Her broken stone was resting against another, so I'm not sure where

hers actually belonged.

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Poignant, I thought. Reaching across the muddy water.

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There's a quite a bit of this, sadly.

Surprising, the number of pieces that actually make up what we might consider a "solid" stone...


As I mentioned before, Cairo City Cemetery needs friends...

Some of these monuments are crumbling and are past conventional "repair",

 but could still be set in concrete,  jig-saw puzzle-style (better than nothing)...

Some, on the other hand, just need to be reassembled

 before the pieces truly do disappear forever.

I'll be happy to be its "friend"...I just need to wait for frost to take out the poison ivy!

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Critters love cemeteries! 

Maybe they feel safer there...

Cairo City cemetery and Calvary are home to many BIG crows!

They weren't keen on getting their pictures taken, though...

These two called to each other back and forth after one flew to a tree

 on the other side of the cemetery.

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My first actual "Graveyard Rabbit" ~ (since beginning this photography/blog project, anyway)!

He wouldn't let me get any closer!


So, there you have it. As usual, after I get home and go through my photos, I see things

I wish I'd photographed differently, or inscriptions I thought I would be able to read and can't.

It's fairly close, though.

 I'll definitely visit the cemetery again...hopefully with some of its friends?

Next time!