Empty Nester – Extraordinaire

creating, living, loving – all in a long black skirt

Posts Tagged ‘cemeteries’

Gothling of the Month – June 2012

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June 3rd, 2012 Posted 11:18 am

The Gothling of the Month feature is being moved over to our blog from our website.  This will be easier for us to update and easier for you to follow, which is good for all of us.

June 2012

Say Hi to CRIMSON.  She was 2 when these pictures were taken, but is getting ready to celebrate a birthday.

Crimson, Gothling of the Month June 2012


Crimson enjoying a fun day out in a local cemetary


Crimson posing with a monster fur purse and her Spider Girl Tshirt


Crimson dancing

If you want to submit your gothing for our monthly feature, email us at gothing@batsmeow.com.





“As Elaborate As His Grief”


April 10th, 2010 Posted 10:11 pm

I found this article today while searching for documentation on the Victorian custom of cemetery picnics.  These statues are favorites of ours and we often leave flowers with them on our visits.

The Statues — Their Story

Children’s graves are the saddest in any cemetery, but especially on twilight days like these when cold keeps visitors away.

Maybe it is their small size, tombstones only half grown, or the small spans of their dates, speaking of life unlived.

Most often they are smaller and more simple than the markers around them, small and simple like those they remember.

But more than 100 years ago, when George Hilligoss’ only two children died within six years of each other, small and simple was not enough. He required a monument as elaborate as his grief.

That monument still stands today looking out of West Maplewood Cemetery in Anderson toward the traffic of Grand Avenue, two statues of white Italian marble on a shared pedestal. Life-sized replicas of Hilligoss’ children.

Charlie Ingersoll Hilligoss is portrayed as the 16-year-old he was when he died. He stands with his elbow leaning against a stone pillar and wears a suit, coat buttoned as if against the cold. He holds his hat in his hand.

His sister, 6-year-old Gertrude Pauline Hilligoss is seated close enough for him to touch with a book and a bundle of stone roses in her lap.  Water drips from the edge of her stone skirt.

The passage of 100 [years] has antiquated their clothing.  A hundred winters of snow and rain has worn the carving of their names and the message underneath: “We know that life is all the sweeter that they lived. And death is all the brighter that they died.”

But 100 [years] has yet to dull that universal pang, that grief for lost children. Maybe it is that, besides their lovely white faces among the anonymous tombstones and obelisks, that interests passersby.

Maybe that is why, though they are not known to have any living relatives, brightly colored bouquets of flowers appear in heir hands with each change of the seasons.

The late RE Hensley, once president of the Madison County Historical Society, was one person who found his curiosity piqued by the melancholy likenesses of the two children.

In 1975, while cataloging the names on the cemetery tombstones, he took it upon himself to find out who they were. What he uncovered fit on one side of a typed sheet of paper.

George Hilligoss, Charlie and Gertrude’s father, was a doctor who practiced in the Madison County are for 30 years, for some time owning an office on Anderson’s Main Street. An Indiana native, he was one of the county’s original settlers and a veteran of the Civil War before becoming a prominent Anderson resident.

He and his Prussia-born wife Caroline had a son, Charlie, in 1871, and a daughter, Gertrude, in 1875. An article published much later in an 1892 edition of the Anderson Democrat, detailing the arrival of the children’s monuments from Italy, call the two the pride of their parents. “The children were exceptionally precocious and possessed mental strength that was far beyond their years,” it said.

Gertrude died first in 1881, then Charlie in 1887. Their causes of death are unknown.

“I think the children had died of some kind of disease,” says Donna Nicely, a secretary at the Maplewood Cemetery office, but no one knows for sure. Cemetery records which would have held that information were lost in a fire more than 50 years ago.

Whatever the causes of their deathes, it can be assumed they were blows to the two parents, suddenly childless.  In his short account, Hensley writes, “It has been said that the deaths of Charles and Gertrude weighed very heavily on both Dr. and Mrs. Hilligoss and that she could never reconcile herself to the fact that they were dead.”

Hensley goes on to say that George Hilligoss was the first president of Camp Chesterfield, the spiritualist camp founded in 1886, a year that falls between the deaths of Gertrude and Charlie.

Whether or not the loss of his children stirred his interest in a spirit world can only be guessed. Probably no one know sif a bereaved George and Caroline tried to reach their children beyond the grave.

What is known is that they were desperate to have their children remembered on earth. The Anderson Democrat article says that the couple conceived the idea of having the statues made shortly after the deaths. They found a sculptor in Florence, Italy, and sent him two life-size photographs of Charlie and Gertrude to work from.

It took three or four years for the work to be completed. For several months, the Italian sculptor refused to finish the statues, in protest of a highly publicized incident in New Orleans in which some Italians were lynched.  But friends intervened and he did eventually ship the completed works, in 1892, to Indianapolis.

More than a century later, local history buffs have not been the only ones to be curious about the cemetery monuments.  “Every once in a while we get calls on the Hilligoss children,” says Phyllis Leedon, a librarian at the public library in Anderson. “As far as I know, there’s no family.”

Nicely says the cemetery office also receives calls periodically from people curious about the identities of the two children. She has felt a twinge of it herself, driving by them everyday on her way to work.

“Oh, I think they’re beautiful,” she says. “For many years, they’ve had some kind of significance.”

Especially to children, it seems. Nicely has heard the spook stories some tell about the two statues changing positions. Sometimes, it is said, Charlie’s hand rests on Gertrude’s shoulder, sometimes at his side.

There is something strange about their ghostly forms, luminous in the long shadows of ware winter trees, and something sad about the melting snow lying on Gertrude’s lap, on Charlie’s shoulders. Only the latest in a century of snows.

“But fate had ordained that they should live only in memory,” the newspaper article says. The statues demand at least that much, causing strangers to pause and pity, to wonder about the two lost children just as their father must have after they were gone.

Perhaps it would please him, even though, he is gone now too, buried next to them.

–Steffen, Colleen. “The Statues — Their Story.” Anderson Herald Bulletin 31 Dec. 1996: A1+. Print.

The Indiana Memory Collection website states, “An iron fence once surrounded them, but it was taken during WWII for scrap metal.”

Don’t we all hope to be loved so much?  And if we do love someone else so much, shouldn’t we tell them?

Now, back to my regularly scheduled research.



Nice Day for a Picnic


April 2nd, 2010 Posted 12:48 am

Yesterday was a difficult day for the kids.  We had unexpected guests who will likely bring Bats! meow… additional traffic, but brought up some unhappy memories that affected our youngest. Newspaper reporters = good.  Certain topics of convo = bad.  It’s not that they even talked to her, but the experience of them being in the house was too similar.

So, as she sat on my lap last night crying and trying to curl up into as tiny a ball as possible, I asked what would make her happiest.  The kids are on spring break through the weekend, so today could be used to spoil them just a bit.  Her request was simple enough – a picnic at the cemetery and a trip to the park.  Yes, the cemetery.  It’s quiet with big trees for shade and no noise or fear of someones child stepping on your food. Truth be told, mama needed a little pick me up too 🙂

When I got up, I feared I heard rain.  But no, they promised a bright and sunny day – with record-breaking temps.  I’m no big fan of the high temperature, but a promise is a promise.  So, right after breakfast we started packing.  “Peanut butter &” sandwiches: two requests for plain PB, two for PB&J, and one for PB & Miracle Whip.  We packed blankets, “fancy” cups, plates, and then headed to the store for the extras – oatmeal date cookies, strawberries, whipped cream, and a couple kinds of chips – oh! and flowers. Then straight to Maplewood West and our favorite picnic spot under the big tree and a bit away from the headstones.  Of course, we’re still surrounded by them, but we’re not ‘on’ anyone.

Ravynn and Whisper perked right up after we got settled.  It was so good to see Whisper smile 🙂  The fact that she got to pick her own chips and strawberries was a key factor, I’m sure.

The boys had a good time too.  Doritos with Cool Whip [eww!] and good sandwiches kept them happy and in a chatty mood.  It’s nice when the teen-aged sons still like to hang out with the family.

Ravynn and I shared a special moment toasting “weirdos and freaks.”  We caught the first one on camera, but there were many many similar moments – trust me 🙂

We all enjoyed the fresh strawberries, although some of us [ahem… Jordan] made a much bigger mess than the rest.

And the picnic ended with delivering flowers to a very special girl.

After that we ran over to Shadyside Park where I sat and read Practical Magic while the kids played. Together.

It was a lovely day and a nice part of our spring break.

~ sheila


Proud Mama


January 27th, 2010 Posted 6:05 am

I’m so proud of my little Ravynn today.

Last winter, my friend Kim and I started roaming the old cemeteries in the area taking photos to help out with some needed tasks at Find a Grave. As I am an amateur genealogist, it seemed the right and proper thing to do [before I could feel good about posting my own requests].  Taking photos for those requests, while still very important, morphed into taking photos for our own enjoyment.  Truth is these stones won’t be around forever. Even in a few months, we saw serious deterioration in one of our more frequently visited locations. Photography helps preserve them – just a little.  When the kids were released from school from the summer, they started coming with us.  I’d replaced my first digital camera with a newer version, so I’d bring along ‘the old one’ and let the kids take turns snapping pictures.  Because there are four of them, I’d occasionally hand over the newer camera and let them play.  I love digital cameras for the ‘no risk’ aspects!

On a visit to Seigler Cemetery in Frankton, Indiana, Ravynn captured this photo.

Sigler 071

When I started listing some of my own work on our Etsy site, she asked me to list a black-and-white version of her photo.  I was happy to do it – I love this photo!  Several times a day, she’d come to me and ask if any sold yet.  I’d been warning her it could take a couple weeks or a month – even longer – for a sale.  Well, only two days in, when we returned home from dance classes last night, she checked email and found a sale.

Ravynn has sold a photo.  A professional at age 8.

Now, we’re all hoping for a short winter, so we can get back to work without freezing our fingers.