Inside Greenwood Cemetery

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Greenwood Cemetery / Photo courtesy K.A. Francis

When I first decided to write about Greenwood, I figured it would be an article on the grand monuments and mausoleums that are housed there. I mean, that’s what makes a cemetery memorable, the huge structures erected to commemorate the lives of the pillars of a community. And I stubbornly held onto the belief that those monuments, which I will talk about in a moment, were the story. I held onto that belief through four trips to Greenwood in one week.

On my fifth trip. I finally realized the story that needed to be told, and although the monuments are part of it, they are merely the backdrop for a more important takeaway.

But first, here’s the story about trips one through four.

Trip One

As I turned into Greenwood, admittedly I was hesitant. I hadn’t been to the cemetery since just after my grandmother’s, Lucy Sinclair, funeral in 2001. I felt a bit like an intruder. I drove through a small portion of the cemetery, snapped a couple of photos, and made a hasty retreat. It’s not that I was nervous or creeped out; I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like an interloper.

Later, I realized I had some pictures, but no real story. This meant I would have to make another trip to Greenwood. I resolved I would squeeze it in within the next few days.

Yeah, try the next day.

Trip Two

I didn’t anticipate returning that quickly, but even though my trip the day before had been brief, it was enough to entice me to explore further. So, the next day, I found myself once again slowly driving on the winding roads of the cemetery. It was on this trip that I encountered two of the most popular and talked about monuments in the cemetery, The Tallman and Thomas monuments.

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The Tallman Monument and Mausoleum / Photo courtesy of Tammy LeMasters Gross

The Tallman Monument and Mausoleum is simply a breathtaking work of art. From its slate roof and intricately carved spires to its carved crosses and arched bronze doors, it is a sight to behold. It’s the resting place for Albert P. Tallman, president of First National Bank in Bellaire, Ohio, during the turn of the 20th century, his wife, Caroline, and their daughter, Helen, who succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 20.

Just as notable, albeit for a completely different reason, is the Jacob C. Thomas monument. Jacob Thomas was one of the founders of the department store Stone & Thomas. To truly appreciate this behemoth of a monument, you really have to see it in person. The monument presents a bronze statue of Mr. Thomas standing in front of a cross, looking pious. On each side of him is a woman. The woman on the right is holding a wreath, while the woman on the left is holding a downward-pointing torch. Both have their heads lowered as if they’re in mourning. It is rumored that one woman is Mrs. Thomas, and the other is Mr. Thomas’ mistress, though I was not able to officially verify this. The monument also includes two large Corinthian columns with bronze oil lanterns perched on top of each column. An aside, Mr. Stone has a monument to himself in Greenwood as well, but it’s not nearly as ostentatious.

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The Jacob C. Thomas monument / Photo courtesy of Tammy LeMasters Gross

Then there’s the Schmulbach column. It’s a Corinthian column whose height you don’t really appreciate until you actually stand next to it and have to lean back and squint to see the top. Impressive only begins to describe it. I also visited the Taylor angel and the Maxwell Castle, both of which represent what is most likely a beautiful story about lost loved ones. I didn’t find much information on either of these monuments, but I’m determined to keep digging. From reading the grave markers surrounding the Maxwell monument, I learned the elder Maxwells buried several children, something that makes me shudder to consider.

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Maxwell Monument / Photo courtesy of Tammy LeMasters Gross

 

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Schmulbach Column / Photo courtesy of Tammy LeMasters Gross

After snapping pictures of all of these monuments, I felt ready to head home and pound out the story. Imagine my frustration when I realized that although the information about Mr. Thomas and company was kind of interesting, it still was not the story. So, you know what that meant. Yep, back to Greenwood I would have to go.

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Taylor Monument / Photo courtesy of Tammy LeMasters Gross

Day Three

At this point, I felt pretty comfortable at Greenwood. I drove through the open wrought iron gates and went down the slight decline toward the right. This time, I followed the road to the very bottom. As I was driving, I took note of the names on the headstones closest to me. Many of the names were familiar. As I continued to wind through the cemetery, I began to notice the beauty and uniqueness of each of the headstones. Sure, they weren’t large mausoleums, but each expressed its love for the person who was laid to rest there. That’s when the idea started to form in my head. The mausoleums were lovely and true testaments to the love, respect, and prominence the person experienced during life, but so were the smaller headstones and monuments. Maybe the grandiose gesture wasn’t the story; perhaps the simple statement was. So I started snapping pictures of the more “normal” parts of the cemetery — the parts where the Smiths and the Sinclairs and the Moores and the Joneses are buried. The gray, bronze, black, red, and tan headstones. The intricately engraved and the almost bare. The large and the small. As I left on my third day, I knew I was onto something, but I still wasn’t sure what. I knew I would be back the next day.

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Photos courtesy of K.A. Francis

Day Four

This was a quick trip because neither the weather nor my schedule would allow for more than a quick trip through looking for something to jump out at me that I hadn’t notice before. I found myself smiling at what were now familiar landmarks as I drove through. The story was right there, at the tips of my fingers. I just knew it.

Day Five

The idea finally gelled as I drove through the gates. This isn’t just a cemetery. This isn’t just a place where the deceased spend eternity. It’s a community. When you drive through Greenwood, you recognize a lot of names. Not just the names of the pillars of Wheeling, but names from your personal life. Relatives. Neighbors. Coaches. Teachers. Friends. Just as I can walk through Warwood, where I grew up and tick off who lived where, seeing the names on the headstones is just as familiar an experience. Greenwood might not be the oldest cemetery in the Valley, but I’d wager it’s one of the most familiar, friendly and welcoming, much like the city in which it resides.

On day five, I parked in the southeast corner of Greenwood. The graves are adorned with flowers, flags, lanterns, and other trinkets that are private expressions of love between the deceased and loved ones. It’s a newer, relatively sparse part of the cemetery, with younger trees and large gaps between gravesites, but for me it was the perfect metaphor for a city in the midst of a resurrection. I think of the open space as Wheeling trying to reinvent itself, while the graves that are already there, comfortable in their existence while peacefully welcoming the changes. The Blochs, the Smiths, the Moores, and the Hazletts are all coexisting in harmony. Social status and name recognition take a backseat to existing peacefully side-by-side.

Greenwood is welcoming. It’s like an old friend, full of warmth and good memories. You don’t even have to get out of your car or wander off the main road to run into someone you know. And that also describes Wheeling. Take a trip downtown during a festival or even at lunchtime on a Tuesday and you are bound to run into someone you know. It’s just that kind of place. And I find just as much comfort in that as I do in Greenwood.

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Photo courtesy of K.A.Francis

 



32 Responses

  1. Judi

    Every other year, the Friends of Wheeling hosts a tour of Greenwood Cemetery. Approximately 12-14 volunteers are selected to be presenters. Each presenter is given the history of the person at whose grave they will be standing. The presenter will then be outfitted with the period costume that best suits the lifestyle of the man or woman. The tour is free to the public. Free tour books are available to anyone who attends, however, for $2.00 a more detailed book about each significant person is available for purchase. This is a fabulous tour and each time it is offered approximately 500 people attend.

    Reply
  2. Robert

    Kim, I enjoyed your article and the pictures very much. I live in Cincinnati and have many relatives buried in Greenwood. Cemeteries are indeed interesting places — one wonders what each life was like, what the time period was like for each individual, and how each contributed to Wheeling, even if in small ways. I also grew up in Warwood and graduated from Warwood High in 1966. Gosh, I never thought much about cemeteries in those days!! Nice piece and thank you for putting this together.

    Reply
  3. Casey

    I really enjoyed this read! In the past few years I’ve come to enjoy going to cemeteries and taking photos (especially at night). People sometimes gave me funny looks when I told them of my adventures. It’s nice to know there’s others who do the same! I like how you compared it to a community which is familiar…such a nice metaphor 🙂

    Reply
    • Kim Adams

      Hi Casey, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I can imagine that some beautiful pictures could emerge from a moonlit cemetery.

      Reply
  4. Kim Adams

    Bernard Carl, thanks for your comments. I have heard about the “pink lady,” and it’s something I might dig into further in the future. Glad you enjoy the articles and we most certainly will keep them coming. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Lori

    I had my first look inside Greenwood this weekend. Ironic that this story appears with many of the memorials I was curious about. The cemetery is extremely beautiful, yet peaceful. I had not realized they conduct tours, will definitely check them out!

    Reply
    • Kim Adams

      Glad you enjoyed the article and found the cemetery serene and beautiful. I do too.

      Reply
  6. Jackie Shriner

    I visit Greenwood regularly. My father, both sets of grandparents, assorted friends and relatives and recently, my sister, are all buried there. I love driving or walking around the cemetery looking at the graves and considering the histories and lives of those buried there. It is such a unique place containing many interesting stories.

    Reply
  7. steve Johnston

    I have some information on the Maxwell and Thomas memorials. Feel free to reach out to me when you get a chance.

    Steve

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    • Kim Adams

      Hi Steve, I would love to know what you know about those two memorials. Thanks!

      Reply
  8. Dollie Norton

    Wow, Kim, You have really captured the essence of what I have always felt when at Greenwood Cemetery. Born and raised in Warwood with many generations buried “out the pike” ,when I visit the Ohio Valley now, I feel like I know more people in Greenwood than Wheeling. And in fact, my husband & I will be buried in the Norton family plot (within sight of my parents’ plots and great-grandparents mausoleum as well). So much for the generations carrying on… You hit it spot on! Thank you.

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    • Anonymous

      Dolly your name is so familiar. Did you graduate from Warwood High? What year. I graduated 1968. Donna DeGarmo

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    • Kim Adams

      Hi Dolly, I mention it briefly, but I too grew up in Warwood. Nice to meet a fellow Warwoodian. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      Reply
  9. Karen Merritt

    Great article, Kim, and lovely photos, by both you and Tammy. I love Greenwood myself. Glad you found the story too and felt at home.

    Reply
  10. Joanne Cochran Sullivan

    As Joe referred to , the Friends of Wheeling will be have a tour of Greenwood Cemetery in September. We have not decided which Sunday. The stories are fascinating.

    Reply
  11. Kathy

    A lovely piece about a wonderful cemetery. I have had only one altogether too brief visit to Greenwood and hope for a return trip soon, so reading your article was a real treat. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Kim Adams

      Thank you Kathy, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I really enjoyed doing the research.

      Reply
  12. Lori

    Another excellent read, Kim! I enjoyed your take on the familiar feel of the cemetary. It definitely brings to life those that are at rest there. It’s also very telling of how close knit of a community we really do reside in. The Markos headstone you snapped a photo of is that of my cousin Gertrude and her loving husband Nick. Nick was the postmaster in Short Creek many moons ago. Yet, another example of the intricate connections we share here in Wheeling. As always, I’m looking forward to reading more from you.

    Reply
    • Kim Adams

      Thank you Lori, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Greenwood is a great example of how connected we all are here in the Valley.

      Reply
  13. Susan Ashley

    Yes, I agree. When in Wheeling for my 50th Triadelphia reunion, I visited my grandparents’ graves at Greenwood and found the parents of one of my best childhood friends are right next to them. I thought that was nice.

    Reply
  14. Joe Meyers

    You haven’t even scratched the surface of Greenwood. It is a hidden treasure of Wheeling. This fall, go to one of the tours they have. You will see the actors bring the people to life that are buried there.

    Reply
      • Joe Meyers

        We never miss them. They did one for Mount Wood Cemetery one. Another great place to wander through.

  15. Kim Whiteman Sine

    If someone had told me that I would enjoy an article about a cemetery that was not connected to a King mystery, or a tale of New Orleans, I would have laughed and shook my head. Your comparison with Greenwood and the rebirth of Wheeling was spot on.

    Reply
      • Bernard Carl

        I grew up in Wheeling and graduated from Triadelphia in 1969. During the sixties Greenwood was a hot spot one summer for an apparition known as the “pink lady”. Some people swore they saw her. BTW I live in Chandler, AZ are enjoy your articles and site. Keep them coming!

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