Crown Hill Cemetery: Civil War tour

Not really a war buff, I felt a bit out of place with the other people who showed up for the tour. Hats and t-shirts attested to their passion for the war. As we waited for the tour to start, they shared their own war stories about visits to different battlefields.

I was here to enjoy a docent-led tour of Crown Hill Cemetery during a July morning. After a slow start, the tour guide took off like a shot. And never stopped going. The tour lasted only an hour and half but we covered a lot of ground and viewed a lot of gravesites. The guide peppered us with lots of information, and I attempted to inject with questions.

Crown Hill Cemetery opened in 1863. A section was reserved as a national cemetery. Interestingly, although blacks and whites were segregated in Crown Hill, on the federal lands, USCT (United Stated Colored Troops) were buried among white troops.

In 1866, Union soldiers were moved from Greenlawn city cemetery to Crown Hill. (Greenlawn is no more; it is the current site of Lucas Oil stadium.) In 1930, the Confederate soldiers were moved to Crown Hill.

The gravesites that we visited were for people somehow tied to the Civil War. They were mostly Union soldiers and supporters, but Democrats, southern sympathizers, and a Confederate soldier rounded out the mix. The stories we heard about people are too numerous to relate in detail. I’ll share a few interesting war and post-war tidbits about the people discussed in the tour.

John Coburn (1825-1908)
Early in the war, Coburn surrendered to Nathan Forest and spent time in Libby Prison before being exchanged. He fought with Benjamin Harrison. The city of Atlanta surrendered to him and his troops. Post-war: Coburn helped ensure the construction of the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Indianapolis. He and his father helped found the Indiana Historical Society.

Thomas A. Hendricks (1819-1885)
As a pro-Union Democrat during the Civil War, Hendricks kept the Democrats in the Indiana legislature from passing anti-war resolutions. In 1863, he was elected to the Senate, replacing Senator Bright. Bright had been expelled for addressing Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States in a letter where he suggested that the South should buy guns from Indiana manufacturers (!). Post-war: Hendricks served for eight months (until his death) as the 21st Vice President under President Cleveland.

Abel Streight (1828-1892)
In 1863, Streight led a raid (the Mule Brigade) on Alabama to disrupt the railroad (and Confederate supplies) from Chattanooga to Atlanta. He was caught by Nathan Forrest (the same Forrest that caught Coburn), but demanded a do-over after he learned that Forrest tricked him with only 500 men to his 1,700. (Naturally, Forrest did not agree to a do-over.) He escaped from Libby Prison, along with 102 others (of these two drowned and 50 were recaptured). Post-war: After his death, his wife buried in their front lawn. “I never knew where he was in life, but now I can find him.” (He was reburied in Crown Hill Cemetery.)

Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)
Davis has the unique distinction of killing a superior officer who insulted him in front of lots of witnesses but was not put on trial. Because he was a good career officer, and good career officers were in short supply, he wasn’t tried but he was barred from future promotions and pay increases. He was also known for the pontoon boat incident. After crossing a river in the south, he cut the pontoons loose, leading to hundreds of slaves who were following his troops to drown or be captured. His tombstone is covered with a concrete US flag.

Oliver Morton (1823-1877)
Morton was the 14th governor, and was devoted to Lincoln and the Union war effort. He secured men and money for the Union Cause despite a legislature filled with Copperheads (Democrats) who opposed to the war. He accomplished this by exceeding his constitutional authority, e.g., disbanding the legislature, taking out federal and private loans to run the state government. Post-war: US Senator.

Edward Canby (1817-1873)
Like Davis, Canby was a career officer. He was friends with Lew Wallace; both grew up in Crawfordsville. After Lew’s mother died, Hawkins, the mother of Canby’s future wife, took in the three Wallace boys until their father remarried. The brother of Canby’s future wife, John Parker Hawkins, led a division of African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Blakely, which resulted in the capture of Mobile, Alabama. Post-War: Canby ended up in California negotiating a peace treaty with the Modocs, which ended in his death. Several generals, including Lew Wallace.

Samuel St. George Rogers (1832-1880)
Rogers is the sole confederate soldier buried in Crown Hill Cemetery proper (vs. the National Cemetery). Because he was buried in Crown Hill rather than on federal property, his tombstone was allowed to sport the image of a confederate flag. Post-war: Rogers was a congressman from Florida.

Richard Gatling (1818-1903)
Dr. Gatling was a medical doctor by training and an inventor by profession. He is best known for the Gatling gun, which was first used in combat by Union forces during the Civil War. His wife Jemima was the sister of David Wallace’s second wife (Zerelda). David Wallace was Lew Wallace’s father, and Zerelda was the model for the mother in Lew’s novel Ben-Hur.

David Wallace (1799-1859)
Wallace’s connection to the Civil War is through his sons Edward and Lew who both served in the Union forces. He served as state representative, lt. governor, governor, and then US Senator. He had the misfortune of being governor when the negative effects of the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act were being realized and the state almost went bankrupt. His wife Zerelda was a leader in the temperance movement and a suffragette.

Samuel Fahnestock (1804-1874)
Dr. Fahnestock has the distinction of being the third person buried in Crown Hill Cemetery (6/7/1864). He was murdered in Louisiana where he served as a volunteer physician treating freed slaves.

Lucy Ann Seaton (1831-1864)
Seaton is the first person buried in Crown Hill with her infant baby Lucy in an unmarked grave by her side. Her husband, John L Seaton, was a captain the Union Army. In recent years, Boy Scouts raised her tombstone, added bricks around the gravesite, and covered the grave with ground plants. If Seaton was the first person buried in Crown Hill and Fahnestock the third, who is the second? I haven’t solved that mystery yet.

Caleb Blood Smith (1808-1964)
Smith was given the position of Secretary of the Interior under Lincoln in return for his support of Lincoln at the 1860 Republican Convention. No one in government thought Smith had any administrative aptitude. He himself seemed to want a position the Supreme Court. He resigned, accepted a judgeship in Indiana, and died not long after. Post-war: Smith’s body is apparently AWOL. He is not buried in the Smith mausoleum. I have read conflicting accounts of him being buried in Greenlawn (whose burials were later moved to Crown Hill) or the Connersville cemetery.

Louisa Magruder (ca. 1808-1900)
Magruder is buried on the Noble family plot. Her father Tom, who was a slave in the Noble family, is nowhere to be found in the plot. Louisa’s tombstone reads “daughter of Uncle Tom”. Her father is believed to have been the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was published in 1852. According to historian J.P. Dunn, Harriet Beecher Stowe regularly visited the Magruders—Stowe’s brother was a Presbyterian minister in Indianapolis and friend of the Nobles—and actually wrote much of her book there. Post-war: Magruder was a servant in the Noble family in Indianapolis. After the war, Noble’s granddaughter gave Magruder a small house and plot of land.

Dr. John Kitchen (died 2/8/1916)
At the beginning of the Civil War, Dr. Kitchen was in charge of the sick at Camp Morton, the largest of the eight prison camps established for Confederate noncommissioned officers and privates. His mausoleum is the only hillside mausoleum in the cemetery. Post-war: Kitchen continued to practice medicine until 1886.

Miles Fletcher (1828-1862)
Oliver Morton requested that Calvin Fletcher accompany him on a trip to talk to Indiana troops. Fletcher, a prominent resident of Indianapolis, supported USCT, let troops use his farm lands to train, provided for soldiers’ families, and purchased arms for Indiana’s regiments. Unfortunately, he could not accompany Morton and sent his son Miles in his place. Miles was killed by another train car when he poked his head out of the train’s window.

Charles Brouse (1839-1904)
On May 16, 1899, Captain Brouse was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Citation: “To encourage his men whom he had ordered to lie down while under severe fire, and who were partially protected by slight earthworks, himself refused to lie down, but walked along the top of the works until he fell severely wounded.” Post-war: Brouse died in sleep of apparent heart failure.

Cyrus Hines (1830-1901)
Hines married Maria Fletcher, the daughter of Calvin Fletcher and sister of Miles Fletcher. She died in 1860 and he enlisted in the 11th Indiana Volunteers in April 1861. In August 1863, he resigned due to an injury sustained in 1862. Post-war: He practiced law with Benjamin Harrison, and married his late wife’s sister (Lucy).

Thomas Morris (1811-1904)
Brigadier General served with Mcclellan (who presumably never gave Morris the credit he deserved). He played a vital role in what led to the creation of West Virginia. During the Western Virginia Campaign in 1861, he cleared the Confederate army from western Virginia, which fostered pro-Union sentiment. Post-war: Morris returned to the railroad industry, becoming president of the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad in 1868. In 1877, he oversaw the construction of the Indiana State House.

Joseph Bingham (died 12/13/1898)
Bingham was the state chairman of the Democratic Party and editor of the Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, where he was a vocal critic of the Republican-controlled government and its policies. He was caught up in the unconstitutional treason trials in Indiana and turned government witness in the Copperhead conspiracy trial.

Eli Lilly (1838-1898)
Lilly, a pharmacist and drugstore owner, enlisted in the Army in 1861 and moved up the ranks. He ended the war as a Colonel. Post-war: Lilly lost his wife to malaria on a plantation he bought in Mississippi. Moving back to Indiana, he ultimately started a medical manufacturing company.

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
In 1862, Harrison helped Governor Morton with the recruitment of troops. That same year Harrison was commissioned as a captain. He was part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Post-War: Harrison practiced law. He represented the government in cases including the treason trials of 1864. (See Bingham.) H was a US Senator and the 23rd President of the US. (Cleveland won the popular vote, but Harrison the electoral college. Interesting tidbit: Cleveland was a two-term president—immediately before and after Harrison.)

Robert Foster (1834-1903)
Foster enlisted as a private but quickly rose through the ranks. He was promoted to captain in Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment. He played a prominent role in the siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign, and saw action in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia. Most unusual, he never lost a battle. Post-war: Foster served as a member of the commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators, as did Lew Wallace.

George McGinnis (1826-1910)
McGinnis volunteered for three months of service in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment that Lew Wallace raised. He rose through the ranks along with Wallace. Post-war: He ran a fiduciary business and served in local political offices. His daughter Mary Ella died in 1875; the family plot includes a statue made in her likeness.

Edward Black (1853-1872)
Black was the youngest soldier in the Civil War. He started out as a drummer boy in the 21st Indiana Volunteer Infantry at eight years of age and then enlisted as a regular soldier with his father. His drum is on display in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Sarah More (1815-1898)
More was a stage actress in New York in the mid-1800s. Her link to the Civil War? She starred in a production of Money with John Wilkes Booth.

TV movie review: Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana–Split Rails to Steel Rails

Hoosiers: The Story of Indiana is a PBS documentary series based on the book by famous Indiana historian James H. Madison. The documentary series is split into four parts: Birth of a State, Split Rails to Steel Rails, the 20th Century, and the Next Indiana.

Split Rails to Steel Rails covers the period of time from the Civil War to World War I and focuses on war, business, and culture. The documentary is narrated by Madison and includes interviews with various people, like the Editorial Page Editor of the Northwest Indiana Times (Marc Chase) and a retired Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court (Randall J. Shepherd).

War seems to hold a special place in the Hoosier state, and Indiana has more than its share of war memorials. Indiana sent the most men to fight in the Civil War, second only to Delaware—two-thirds of eligible-aged Indiana men served in the Civil War. Troops were organized by ethnic groups and counties, which meant that they were often fighting side-by-side with family and neighbors.

Lew Wallace, later known as the author of Ben-Hur, selected the site of what was the State Fairgrounds—and what is currently Military Park—as the site for training volunteers. This training site—Camp Morton, named after the governor during the Civil War—morphed into a POW camp.

From 1862 to 1865, Colonel Richard Owen managed this camp of 3,000 POWs. Despite 50 prisoners dying per month, after the end of the war, the prisoners raised funds to have a sculpture of Owen made in honor of the humaneness he showed told the Confederate soldiers in the camp. (You can see the sculpture in the Indiana Statehouse.)

Governor Morton had a decidedly difficult time financially supporting the Union and funding the government. Democrat Copperheads, or those Democrats who didn’t support the Union, controlled the legislature and blocked the state contributing money to the Union cause. In a seemingly modern-day move, the Republicans fled the legislature so no quorum was possible. In retaliation, the Democrats decided not to dispense ANY money, which meant that the Indiana government risked grinding to a halt.

In an attempt to keep the government running, Governor Morton turned to the Madison banker James Lanier for funding. In 1861, the two decided that Lanier would buy $400,000 worth of bonds—perhaps not quite an above-board tactic—to prevent government shutdown.

How much of the war was waged on Indiana soil? Not much. The only battle was Morgan’s Raid in 1863, when Confederate troops crossed the Ohio River at Corydon. They blazed a path of destruction, mistakenly thinking that sympathizers to the Southern cause would rise up. None did. (I recently learned of another foray across the river, by Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson at Newburgh. Basically, Johnson’s foray was a hit and run excursion, intent on gathering supplies and firearms before retreating back over the river.)

Originally, Indiana settlements existed by waterways, the quickest means of transportation that connected communities. But in the second half of the 1800s came the railroad, which changed the pattern of population in the state. The steepest incline was in Madison; the Reuben Wells steam engine, specifically made for the Madison incline, can be seen at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis became a transportation hub for the railroads. In 1853, the first Union Station, meant to be one station shared by all railroads, was built in Indianapolis. By 1890, 120 trains were stopping in Indianapolis every day.

An equally impressive system of interurbans crisscrossed Indiana towns. Eventually, with the rise of the automobile (that had an incredible early history in Indiana) came the demise of the interurbans. (The only one that exists today is the South Shore.)

Indiana was a big center of business, from the Ball Company in Muncie to Eli Lilly, L.S. Ayres, and Madam C.J. Walker in Indianapolis. The limestone of southern Indiana was quarried for buildings such as the statehouse (1886) and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1902). In the 1870s, the coal mines suffered through strikes and unions, resulting in the firing of workers and the hiring of their children. (Children were less apt to cause trouble or unionize, and could be paid less.)

Into this maelstrom came Eugene V. Debs. Originally he believed that the best course of action for workers was to do a good job; managers would recognize the good work with good pay. Eventually, faced with reality, he changed his views and organized unions (the railroad union in 1894) and strikes (think the Pullman strike). Change, he saw, was only possible through politics. In his core, he believed in the dignity of all people.

In the late 1800s, 13% of the population in Indianapolis was German. German immigrants looked around at the culture and traditions around them and concluded that it was lacking in refinement (ouch!). Instead, they created their own vibrant society with German organizations, clubs, symphonies, theatre, and schools.

World War I destroyed the German culture in Indiana. Kurt Vonnegut, famous 20th century Hoosier author, described how he was raised ignorant of the rich heritage of German music, literature, culture, and language—all because Germans in the early 20th century assumed that ignorance of their culture and traditions was necessary in order to be patriotic. Bits and pieces still exist today as German festivals or the Athenaeum (Das Deutsche Haus, which incidentally Vonnegut’s father was an architect for) in Indianapolis.

The documentary continues with a third part that looks at Indiana from World War I to the present time.

Walking among the dead: Skeletons in the Closet, Part I

As part of the Music of the Night organ concerts, concertgoers are encouraged to stick around after the concert for a nighttime tour of the cemetery led by Tom Davis.

The full moon (or seemingly full moon) lit our way; we didn’t really need our flashlights. The moonlight cast an eerie light on the monuments, mausoleums, and tombstones blanketed in silence. Tom kept us on the road rather than meandering through the tombstones.

We stopped to visit several sites, and Tom peppered us with information about others nearby.

Test family plot
Skiles Test, son of a multimillion, was the subject of an urban legend. His house, referred to as The House of Blue Lights, was reputed to be haunted. Why? Well, after his wife died in the 1950s, he kept her in a glass casket in the house.

Actually, there was no glass casket on the property. And his three wives all outlived him. But the house sounds really cool, lit with blue lights that reflected off of the first solar-powered swimming pool. Unfortunately, the house has been torn down and the property turned into a public park.

Achey family plot
The Achey family plot contains unmarked graves, an attempt to keep the exact location of John Achey’s gravesite secret. Upon the death of his mother, John came into $5,000 (a lot of money in the 1870s). He used the money to pay for the funeral and burial of his mother and for a bride for himself. The rest he used to finance a gambler for a particular game. The gambler was doing poorly, and John pulled his remaining money from the game. The gambler’s luck turned around and he left the game with $5,000. Later feeling cheated out of money, John shot and killed his gambler acquaintance, and ended up with the dubious distinction of being the first of two men hung in Indianapolis.

English family plot
Why does one tombstone on the English plot read “Mother of Rosalind” rather than the woman’s name? In short because Helen Orr Hufnall Phaff English Wegmann English English Prince Prince would have been too long to carve onto a tombstone. Tom walked us through Helen’s numerous marriages and divorces, often to the same man (same Mr. English, same Mr. Prince). She is buried with her daughter in the English family plot but died as the wife of Frank J. Prince, the Indianapolis journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work linking Republican city and state officials to the KKK in the 1920s.

May Wright Sewall
We stopped near Sewall’s tomb to discuss her connections to spiritualism, séances, and communication with the dead (rather than focusing on her role in the suffrage and women’s rights movements). She apparently learned to play the piano after her dead husband hooked her up with a deceased piano teacher.

James Whitcomb Riley
Our final stop was the Crown. Under a full moon and clear skies, Riley’s tomb offered a wonderful view of the downtown lit up.

As we walked down the hill, Tom regaled us with stories of other famous people buried on the hill, such as the Fortune family, who was related to the Eli Lilly family through marriage, or Louis Schwitzer, who won the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a five-mile two lap race—what I like to think of as the Indy 2) in 1909.

I’ve wandered through the cemetery many times, sometimes searching for graves of famous people, other times enjoying a stroll through the 25 miles of road that meander through sections littered with trees. Seeing the cemetery under a full moon was definitely a treat and not something that is often possible. For those who enjoy poking around cemeteries, I encourage you, if given the chance, to take in a tour of the cemetery, especially a moonlit one.

Walking among the dead: 200 Years of Fascinating Hoosiers

Perhaps touring cemeteries is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can glean bits of history about your community and state from the silent tombstones in cemeteries. Especially in larger cemeteries, like Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Crown Hill was incorporated in 1863 and had its first burial in June 1864 (Lucy Ann Seaton). The 555-acre cemetery is the third largest non-government cemetery in the US. The cemetery grounds are open to the public for walking, biking, and yes, even picnicking. (A family plot near the Crown has a stone picnic bench to encourage this pastime that was historically done at the Crown before the cemetery existed.)

I often visit the cemetery to look for tombstones and family plots of famous people who I have encountered in my explorations around Indianapolis and the state. Sometimes I go out simply for a leisurely, prolonged walk among the peaceful roads and under the trees. I recently went on my first official tour of the cemetery: Two Hundred Years of Fascinating Hoosiers.

Understandably, the tour could not hit even a fraction of famous Hoosiers. (And what is famous for one person may not be for others. I am still on my quest to find two early important African American doctors in the huge African American section of the cemetery.) This tour focused on about a dozen people mostly concentrated in a particular section of the cemetery.

Some I knew. Some I didn’t. (Oooh. New people to research and learn about!) Some stories I knew. Some I had never heard (and wondered if they were apocraphyal…like Carl Fisher promoting his car dealership—the first—by floating a car sans engine overhead suspended from a hot-air balloon).

The Crown Hill Heritage Foundation, formed in 1984 to preserve the cemetery and its history, provides tours for a small fee ($5). The docent for my tour, Tom Davis, was quite knowledgeable about the cemetery and Indiana history.

Although we only stopped by a dozen or so graves, Tom peppered conversation about others buried in the cemetery as we walked from grave to grave. After seeing Paul Hadley’s grave with the newly installed flagpole flying the Indiana state flag (Hadley designed the state flag), Tom pointed out that many members of the Hoosier Group are buried in the cemetery. (Mental note: I’ll need to come back to see their gravesites.)

Two revolutionary soldiers are buried in the cemetery. (Another mental note to self.) Eleven Indiana governors, one Kentucky governor, and one Vermont governor are buried here. (Another mental note to self.) David Letterman’s dad is buried here; he comes to visit, but sporadically enough that he doesn’t always remember exactly where the gravesite is (and wanders around the section where his dad is buried calling out “Dad!”).

So whose burial sites did we see?

Paul Hadley (1880-1971)
Hadley created the state flag that was adopted in 1916. He was a resident of Mooresville and an artist (stained glass, watercolor painting).

Robert Hanna (1786-1858)
Hanna was a delegate to the 1816 Corydon convention (that led to the creation of Indiana) and a signer of the first Indiana constitution. He was originally buried elsewhere and then reburied in Crown Hill without a headstone. Recently a headstone was created and three elm trees planted around his burial site. (The Indiana constitution was signed under an elm tree, which inauspiciously died in 1925.)

Tom relayed the story of Hanna being the first and only person ever to take a steamboat up the White River, a river that was presumed to be unnavigable. He got the steamboat up the river (during high water levels) but then it proceeded to get stuck up river until the water levels rose again.

The numerous waterways in the state were replaced as the mode of transportation with the arrival of the railroad. Ironically, Hanna, the man who navigated the unnavigable White River, died after being hit by a train.

Eliza Blaker (1854-1926)
Blaker was an advocate of early childhood education, setting up kindergartens and then schools for teachers. Her school at 23rd and Alabama became what is now Butler University.

Tom shared how Eliza’s husband, who worked downtown, would walk her to and from the school every day, carrying her schoolbooks.

Jacob Dunn (1855-1924)
Dunn was a historian, author, and reformer. He was responsible for the secret ballot that we use in voting. And he was involved in the Indiana State Library and public libraries.

Booth Tarkington (1869-1946)
Technically named Newton Booth, Tarkington won Pulitzer prizes for two books that he wrote. He also was well-known for the numerous Broadway plays that he wrote, some of which ran simultaneously.

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
President. Harrison is the only US President buried in the cemetery. He lies with his first wife, son, daughter, and second wife (who was the niece of his first wife).

Oscar McCulloch (1843-1891)
McCulloch was a pastor who originally believed in social Darwinism and that people were poor by genetics (!). (The latter belief is what led to the eugenics movement. Not a good period in Indiana or American history.) He later believed that it was possible to help the poor.

The McCulloch plot is shared with the Reynolds family. According to cemetery records, two of their dogs are buried in unmarked graves (Don and Rab). This was against cemetery rules but Reynolds was on the board, illustrating the age-old truth: if you are in power, the rules don’t apply to you.

Carl Fisher (1874-1939)
Crazy Carl Fisher is best known as the man who started the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a proving ground for testing cars. He began selling bikes with crazy promotional tactics and then moved on to selling cars (at the first car dealership) with crazy promotional tactics.

One tactic he used was suspending a car sans engine from a hot air balloon. As the story goes, Jane Watts saw him floating overhead and said, “I am going to marry that man!” (Jane was the first of several wives.)

Fisher was instrumental behind the trans-US Lincoln Highway, which ran from NYC to the West Coast. Fisher was also responsible for developing what is now Miami Beach and getting a highway built from Chicago to Miami Beach.

May Wright Sewall (1844-1920)
Sewall was a well-known reformer in education, women’s rights, and the suffrage movement. Interestingly, she and her husband were not religious but during her later years she became involved in spiritualism and wrote Neither Dead Nor Sleeping. Before her husband died, he told her that if he discovered that Jesus was real, he would find a way to tell her from the grave. A medium did repeat his words back to May and May became involved with communicating with the dead.

Eli Lilly (1838-1898)
The Lilly mausoleum houses a number of the Lilly family with others in nearby plots. Eli himself was a colonel in the Union Army and the founder of present-day Eli Lilly and Company. His mausoleum is a bit unusual as you can see into it and read the engravings on each slot where a casket lays.

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
Riley, the beloved Hoosier poet of the late 19th century/early 20th century was laid to rest on the Crown, the highest spot in the original city limits (842 feet above sea level). He passed away July 22, but his remains were kept in the Gothic Chapel on the grounds until his final spot on the Crown was ready in October the following year.

We actually visited his site the day after the anniversary of his burial. His resting place was adorned with wreathes from a school group that visited on the anniversary of his burial. Of course, his headstone was covered with coins, a tradition started after his death by children who collected coins to help pay for his burial. These days any coins left on his tomb are gathered and given to the children’s hospital that boasts his name.

The view from his tomb overlooks the city. As our tour ended, we watched the sun set over the tree line.

The tour whetted my appetite to spend more hours wondering the cemetery grounds. I had picked up lists of famous people buried there, lists of the different trees growing on the grounds, and maps for both. I will be back. If not for more tours, then for self-guided wanderings among the dead.

Those elusive doctors

I went armed with a list of people. Along with a map of the cemetery and the sections where these people were buried, I started off thinking I was well prepared.

I left the car behind to traverse the cemetery on foot. What better way to get a feel for the place, to see the sights, the curve of the land, the iconography on tombstones than to stroll the grounds?

Often what seems good in theory doesn’t turn out to be good in reality.

I consulted my map and headed for the southern side of the cemetery, taking the tunnel under 38th street. The heat and humidity wasn’t too bad. Yet. The clouds mostly blocked out the sun and sporadically sent down kisses of rain.

First up, Dillinger. I thought his gravestone would be harder to find. Nope. There was a big Dillinger family stone with individual stones for him and what appeared to be his parents. I looked to either side of him wondering how his neighbors felt about being buried next to an outlaw. Not that the dead have much of a say in things like this.

Wow. It’s going to be easier to find the people I was seeking than I thought it would be!

I headed off into the thicket of the southern bits of the cemetery. George Washington Julian. I knew nothing about him except that he was an abolitionist and supporter of women’s rights, which makes him OK in my book. And there his tombstone was. I whispered thank yous to him.

I should have known that the universe was setting me up. Finding those tombstones was too easy.

I headed even further south, toward a huge section that housed African Americans. I was on a quest to find the two doctors I had learned about at the Indiana Historical Society last month: Dr. Harvey Middleton and Dr. Henry Hummons. Both were buried at Crown Hill.

I combed the section, daunted by its sheer size. The tombstones in this section were mostly flat on the ground. Not large monuments to proclaim a family or an important figure. Clearly the doctors weren’t being recognized after their deaths. Darn. This was going to be harder than I thought.

I started to systematically walk down the rows. Oh, this was going to take forever…but as long as I found them, it would be worth it.

As minutes ticked by, as row after row blurred into the next, the heat and humidity became oppressive. The backpack dug into my neck. My lips were dry. I realized how parched I was. And I brought no water with me. Good planning.

I was determined to find them. Where were they? I circumambulated the section. Maybe they were on an edge? Nope. Maybe if I randomly wandered the section I would find them? Nope. Maybe if I called on God to direct me to them? Nope. Maybe if I called on the dead to point the way? Nope.

I could feel my energy waning and my body becoming more dehydrated. Tick. Tick. My time to find them was running out. I was going to have to leave to track down water. Or risk joining them.

Discouraged and forlorn I scanned for the doctors again. And then started on the long trek back to my car for water.

After hydrating myself, I decided to dive back into searching for others on my list…but this time, to ensure that I don’t join them, I drove to the various sections rather than walk.

I quickly and easily found the Indiana Aids Memorial and sites for Col. Eli Lilly, Benjamin Harrison, Booth Tarkington, Bernard Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut’s grandfather), and of course, James Whitcomb Riley. They were easy to find with big memorials that screamed “I was an important person”.

But two other very important people, Dr. Harvey Middleton and Dr. Henry Hummons, were nowhere to be found. They seemed to lack the same sort of monuments that celebrate lives and defy us to forget the dead. They were awash in a sea of tombstones.

I had to concede. Section 98 got the better of me, refusing to offer up the secret spots of those elusive doctors.