Thursday, May 12, 2005

James Stanley's remarkable tombstone

The west face of James Stanley's tombstone.

The inscription panel on James Stanley's tombstone.

I can't tell you much about James Stanley. He died at a time when one had to be a person of considerable consequence to merit full obituary treatment in the Chariton newspapers. Although both The Patriot and The Democrat noted his passing, they did so briefly. The Patriot reported in its edition of Wednesday, March 18, 1885, "Died at his residence in Lincoln Township, March 13, 1885, Mr. James Stanley, aged 46 years." Even then the Patriot got it wrong. He was actually 48.

But his tombstone tells us more. The cast profile of a Union veteran on its north face and Grand Army of the Republic symbol on its south face tell us that he was a Union veteran of the Civil War. The Masonic symbol on the west face tells us that he was an Ancient Free and Accepted Mason. The extraordinary detail, the beauty and the material of which it's made all qualify James's monument for the short list of best tombstones in Lucas County.

The monument is cast of zinc, a very durable material long passed out of favor. Its detail is as crisp today as it was when set into place southwest of the Chariton Cemetery's first intersection 120 years ago. These zinc monuments were produced from the late 1870s until, say 1910, when the art was abandoned. They were called "white bronze," apparently because it sounded more impressive than zinc, but zinc they were and zinc they remain. And this is one of the finest examples of a zinc monument I've seen.

The south face of James Stanley's tombstone.

And the north face.

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