Madison County Historical Society


A Library of Styles in City Cemetery


Overlooking the White River as it carves its way west is the West Maplewood Cemetery.  Originally named the "City Cemetery" in the early 1860s it became the new burial grounds for the city of Anderson, Indiana.  This cemetery not only accepted the remains of residents of the time but was also used for the re-internment of the Tharp Cemetery, originally located along Delaware Street.  West Maplewood Cemetery is a beautiful repository of loved ones and a stone library of architectural memorial styles. 

The Oldest Stones 

Esther Tharp's gravestone is an excellent example of the Federal Style.

Some of the oldest stones from earlier cemeteries are on the west side of the drive.  James Tharp's stone from 1846 is an example of the Federal Period's severe styling.  This is a large tablet-type marker, almost 3 feet high and 5 inches thick of brown granite.  Granite, while hard to cut, retains the incising better than the softer white stone used in the last half of the 19th century.

Even the weeping willows and urns at the top are still beautifully visible after 160 years.

The urns represented mortality or the body's decay.  A lamb, another popular symbol, represented for an adult, resurrection and on a child's, innocence.

James is buried next to his parents, Collins and Esther Tharp.  Like James, they have tall tablets.  Both the James Tharp and the Collins Tharp families are listed on the 1820 census for the area.  They would have been among the very first residents of Anderson and also among those re-interred in the new City Cemetery.

A Softer Side 

Beginning in the late 1840's, a soft white marble became more popular than the granite used previously.  The marble was easier to cut and, therefore, could take more intricate designs.

While the Federal Style was straight and severe, the Victorians of mid and late 19th century, enjoyed curved lines and an abundance of decoration.

Mollie Brown's gravestone is an excellent example of high Victorian Style.  The outline and forms are flowing and include acanthus leaves, ribbon and rose.  As well as being decorative, the rose stood for triumphant love.  The ribbon and leaves represent pride and victory.  Personal data was sometimes etched on the incisor's scroll of paper, a shield or a medallion, and, for the Victorians, the more decorations the better.

It was customary to use a much smaller stone, often with a lamb or angel, for the graves of young ones.  The ornate stone for a 1-year-old Lillian Doxey is complete with stacked rocks, paper scroll and lilies.  The lilies represent purity and this variety was used so often at funerals and on makers that it is now sometimes referred to as a "death lily."


The Simple Tablet 

By far, the most common style of grave marker used in the first two-thirds of the 19th century for the average citizen - especially for those living in less affluent, rural areas - is the small, simple tablet.  In the late 1880s and '90s, styles began changing from the ornately decorated markers of the Victorians to the Edwardian's less ornate blocks and pillars.

Left is the gravestone of Mary Stephenson.

Unique Marker 

The most unique grave marker at West Maplewood is that for Gertrude Pauline and Charles Ingersoll Hilligoss, who both died in the 1880s.  They were brother and sister and are buried next to each other.  The statues are actual stone portraits of the children, commissioned by their physician father.  The statues face Grand Avenue and can easily be seen by travelers.  "The Children" have become something of a landmark in the north Anderson area.  The statues are always decorated with the appropriate symbols and garlands for the holiday or season. 

Military Marker

 Colonel Townsend Ryan served in the 24th Indiana Infantry


 The Obelisk

 Another popular shape of marker was the obelisk - whether short and small for a child or enormous for a wealthy citizen.  The simple styling belies the Victorian's fondness for symbolism.  Obelisks represented the spiritual connection between heaven and earth.

Gravestones of Andrew(1810-1876) and Jane(1815-1874) Lemon.  They came to Madison County in the early 1840s and developed a large farm along the Lindburg Road between Anderson and Chesterfield, Indiana. 

Source:  Melody Hull, Secretary of the Madison County Cemetery Commission 

Madison County Historical Society|15 West 11th Street, P. O. Box 696, Anderson, Indiana 46015-0696|(765)683-0052|