Saturday, July 15, 2017

Iowa's most northerly log cabin tombstone?


This is my candidate for Iowa's most northerly log cabin tombstone, although I could be wrong about this. Further nominations invited.

Most northerly because it is located in Winnebago County just two miles south of the Minnesota State line in the oak-shaded graveyard that surrounds Lime Creek Synod Lutheran Church, northwest of Lake Mills at the intersection of 230th Avenue and 495th Street.

Lime Creek Lutheran is one of those gorgeous high-steepled Norwegian Lutheran churches that dot the north Iowa landscape and has managed to survive, in part I suspect because it is acknowledged as the mother church of the Mankato-based Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). (Do not confuse the Evangelical Lutheran Synod with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America --- ELCA --- or you'll annoy a small group of hardy, conservative Lutherans.)

I took these photos many years ago, so don't expect things to look exactly the same, but Google Map suggests that relatively few changes have occurred.

And please don't confuse this Lime Creek Lutheran Church with the other Lime Creek Lutheran Church, just across the state line to the northwest. The latter church building no longer stands, although the cemetery is still there and nicely maintained. Two Lime Creek churches developed when the original congregation split during early 20th century Lutheran wars and neither would give up the name.

The cabin marks the graves of Christen C. Anderson (1818-1906) and his wife, Synueva Pedersdatter Anderson. Their individual information is inscribed on small stone "logs" nearby.

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These log cabin tombstones --- scattered widely across the Midwest and the South --- were the topic of conversation this week on a Facebook group I subscribe to: Old Iowa Cemeteries: The Last Great Necessity.

I already knew that there was another of these stones in Decatur County's Metier Cemetery, north of Garden Grove, marking the graves of Samuel and Julia Metier. I've visited that one, too.

Via Facebook, I found out that there are more examples in Oakwood Cemetery at Oelwein, Green Bay Cemetery in Clarke County, Oakwood Cemetery in Independence and perhaps others, too.

All of the Iowa examples that have turned up to date appear to have been carved from a similar variety of limestone that has held up remarkably well --- the detailing remains sharp and clear. But they were not mass produced --- each is different.

It's quite possible local stonecutters turned these out, working from pattern books shown to grieving families as they made their tombstone selections. The symbolism was bound to appeal to the sons and daughters of Iowa and other pioneers. The latch-string always is out.

Although both Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co. --- the Amazon.coms of their day --- marketed tombstones by catalog, cabins do not appear to have been among their offerings.

The style is sometimes called Victorian rustic and involved stone tree trunks, logs, limbs, oak leaves, acorns and more as media for remembering deceased loved ones.

The fraternal benefits organization Woodmen of the World, based in Omaha, and its auxiliary favored this type of symbolism for some of the stones that were among benefits offered to members from ca. 1890 until the mid-1920s. But the cabin is not a Woodmen design and only a couple of examples in other states bear the Woodmen insignia.

So exactly how this tombstone design spread across the country is a minor mystery to ponder while you're navigating old Iowa cemeteries looking for more examples.

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