Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sic transit gloria? Try marble and granite

Mansions crumble and descendants forget, but in the area of temporal immortality granite and marble go on for considerably longer --- in most instances. So if you want to be noticed after shuffling off this mortal coil, a distinctive tombstone could be your best investment.

Most have forgotten David and Amanda White as well as their son and daughter-in-law, George and another Amanda, but their distinctive memorial --- a confection of marble and granite --- continues to catch eyes not far inside the front gate of the Chariton Cemetery.

This is a transitional tombstone, combining traditional marble --- preferred by stone cutters because it was easier to work with although prone to erosion --- and granite, far more stable but substantially more difficult to shape and inscribe.

The elaborately inscribed base, loaded with carved symbolism, is topped by a red granite column, then crowned by a marble urn. Although there are other similar monuments in Lucas County, this is the largest.

Symbols include the traditional Christian cross and crown (the Whites were Presbyterian).

A shock of wheat (ripe for the harvest, long a symbol of death).

The symbol of the I.O.O.F. (David was an Odd Fellow and fellow lodge members conducted his funeral).

And this crescent and star, which I've never managed to sort out. Although now ceded to Islam, the crescent and star combination also is an ancient Christian symbol. This also could have been a fraternal symbol of some sort.

David White, born in Ohio, married Amanda Reynolds on Aug. 28, 1856, in Hendricks County, Indiana, and they removed almost immediately to White Breast Township, Lucas County --- west of Chariton --- and began to farm. Their only son, George, was born here on June 17 of the following year. Their two daughters were born much later --- Mary in 1874 and Nellie in 1880.

David was only 44 when he died on Sept. 13, 1882, of "a complication of complaints." He was at the time, according to reports in the Chariton newspapers, "one of the most intelligent and wealthy farmers of this county." His tombstone, among the most elaborate in the cemetery when it was erected, certainly reflected that wealth.

George had served in the Civil War, with Co. H, First Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, and it is quite possible that his poor health and premature death could be attributed to the vicissitudes of  that service. 

The farming operation was passed on to son George, then 25, who had married Amanda McFarland on March 3, 1880. David's widow, Amanda, lived 30 more years, dying in Chariton on July 13, 1912.

George and his wife, Amanda, continued to farm in White Breast Township well into the first decade of the 20th century, but he was subject to some sort of chronic health condition that eventually caused him to retire while in his 50s. The farm was passed onto son, Harry, and George and Amanda moved to a home on West Braden Avenue in Chariton.

At age 60 and increasingly despondent, George waited until his wife and youngest daughter had left for church on Sunday morning, Feb. 10, 1918, then went upstairs and hanged himself in a bedroom closet. 

Amanda was seriously injured in an automobile accident near Sioux City some 15 years later, during October of 1933, and died of complications at home during June of 1934 after many months as a patient at the new Yocom Hospital.

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