Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Week 3 Reflection

With the advancement of technology and resources, new graves and monuments seem to be able to withstand the elements and the test of time. It's really sad to think that some of these beautiful monuments with such a rich history are fading away. If this is how these people would like to be remembered, it pains me to think that along with these decaying stones their life and legacy are also being lost. I really enjoyed getting dirty and rubbing the stones. I had so much angst and anticipation built up just to see what the inscriptions read on the older stones. Though our method was slightly flawed because of the coarse stone, I had a great time getting my hands dirty. I also really enjoyed the rush of discovery and almost felt like a historian or paleontologist.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

George F. Wambsgans

George Wambsgans originally came to the US from Germany in the early 19th century as a boy. There isn't much information about him or the family but on record there were only 22 people with the last name Wambsgans to come to the US from Germany (while there still remains a community full of them in Germany). George died in 1875 of consumption (also known as tuberculosis). One of the most notable symbols on Mr. Wambsgans monument is the angel holding the palm. Usually angels are used in order symbolize protection or guardianship. They also stand for dignity, honor, and glory. The palm branch usually stands for victory justice and honor. However an angel holding a palm branch in their hand stands for the reward of the righteous. Mr. Wambsgans was probably a proud man who played life by the rules (or at least with a sense of dignity). The second example of symbolism is the cross, anchor, and heart. These three items together is the symbol for faith, hope, and charity. This leads me to beleive that Mr. Wambsgans was a man of faith. The angel and the cross alone display this. The third symbol, which I was originally unaware of, is the poppy close to the top of the monument. The use of poppies originates from Greco-Roman myths. The symbolism not only comes from the scarlet red colour but also the usage of poppy. The color represents the promise of resurrection after death and the poppy iself represents eternal sleep (because of the opium extracted from them). The last symbol is that of the celtic cross lying at the very top of the monument like a christmas tree angel. The celtic cross used to mark the graves of preists prior to the 19th century but now they are everywhere around the cemetery. It is now seen as a powerful symbol of faith and heritage. Though I could'nt find much information on Mr. Wambsgans it seems like he lived a full and prideful life. It just goes to show that not only are there countless symbols in the cemetery, but millions of life stories.

Week 2 Reflection

This week was much different from the last because of the array of monuments. The first week was mostly more traditional monuments and graves with a lot of marquee names in the city. This week was full of new symbols, structures, and setups. I witnessed a few monuments in the form of a tree. The tree branches cut off represent the end of life and family line but I also came to find out that most of the trees in the cemetery were done by big wigs in the insurance business. I am not sure of the significance of trees and insurance, although I am sure there is one. I also saw a lot of masonic symbols. One of the symbols that struck me most was the iron cross. Knowing that Cincinnati has a deep German Heritage cleared up my reasoning for seeing so many. The iron cross was a war symbol worn by the Germans during Word War II. The symbol is now used not only by a skateboard company, but as a general symbol for power (which might explain why they were mostly on the larger monuments). I left the cemetery still asking my self the question of how these people want to be remembered. I have a hard time coming to understand the need for larger statues and monuments because the dead have passed and are no longer with us. Do these people want to be remembered for being vein and powerful or just have a place for their family survived to reflect and cherish the life of the deceased... The question still remains!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

1. What is the significance of the quote on the Lunken Mausoleum?
2. Who are the Lunkens?
3. Why are some of the tombstones in the shape of a bench?
4. How is it that newer plots are mixed in with very old ones?
5. Why are their fences with ivy over some graves?
6. Is the sculpture next to John William Becker (architect) one of his works?
7. Why is their only one date on certain tombstones?
8. Who pays for the upkeep of the cemetery?
9. What is the significance of the trees on the Rettig tombstone?
10. What’s the reasoning behind the grape wraths? (Johnston)
11. Can people have mausoleums constructed before they die?
12. How much is a family plot?
13. Is it pricier to be in the back?
14. Why are the cemetery roads so curvy?
15. Why put down blank tombstones?
16. How much is the average tombstone/headstone?
17. Do some individuals asked to be buried under trees? (Ida Nave)
18. Why is there a snake wrapped around a tree/fish on one of the headstones?
19. Why are the tombstones facing in all different directions (Sec. 116)
20. How many people are currently buried at Spring Grove?
21. Who came up with the name Spring Grove?
22. How many people are buried here annually (on average)?
23. How many different plant-life forms occupy Spring Grove?
24. How many acres total is Spring Grove?
25. What are the security procedures for the grounds?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Throughout my studies I have come to learn that Americans have the vanilla treatment when it comes to their dead. Some Aborigines leave bodies in the treetops. In some parts of Indonesia, widows smear their bodies with the fluids from their dead husband. The ancient Egyptians mummified their dead after treating them with a number of spices, herbs and chemicals. The Jews are supposed to wrap their dead in a cloth and bury them underground, while the surrounding people throw dirt in the hole. We Americans give our dead a coffin and bury them in a cemetery, which is a place for the dead to rest.

As a child, I was taught an old Southern legend of the haints. The haints were basically another name for ghosts in the black community (in the south). Most of my family on both sides is buried behind the old family houses, while some are buried in cemeteries with their own plots. As a kid, when I spent the night at my Great Uncle’s house, there was a cemetery in his backyard. There were sounds from owls and other animals rustling through the leaves. After I was told about the haints, I wouldn’t go outside at night. I had the general child’s feeling of “the cemetery is haunted with the ghosts of the dead” (too many scary movies). My sister furthered my fright and suspicion by making noises in the next room and running out in the hallway, where she would greet me with a convincing “what’s wrong with you?” From that point on and after my uncle passed, I have slowly transformed into a harsh realist.

Nowadays, when I think of or go to a cemetery I am completely unafraid. I know that there is no such thing as ghosts and that everyone buried there is nothing but a rotted corpse (except for the occasional creepy gravedigger). I do however face a feeling of sadness. I am sad for the ones who have passed and the loved ones who had to bury them. I think about the times I have gone to funerals and all of the collective grief hanging over the environment like a black cloud. That was someone’s mother. That was someone’s sister. That could have been someone’s child. I maintain a sense of tunnel vision as I travel to the gates in order to minimize my sadness. I go straight to the person/people who I came to see and then I leave. There is no looking around at all the cool headstones. There are no brisk peaceful walks because of the chilling silence. All of that occurred when you were trying to avoid the person being buried right in front of you. So I guess, I think of the cemetery as a place of grief, sadness, and pain. I don’t associate it with scary things. I don’t overstay my welcome. I pay my respects to the dead and I leave.