Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"The Angel of Grief" - Friendship Cemetery, Columbus, Mississippi

"A century later, Friendship’s weeping angel still inspires," writes Jan Swoope in an article published in the Columbus (MS) Dispatch on May 19, 2009. A reprint of Ms. Swoope's article can be read here:

"She is one of the most photographed ladies in Columbus, her image gracing magazines, brochures and gallery walls. She captures imaginations and inspires artists. And, even after 118 years, the weeping angel of Friendship Cemetery still keeps a silent and poignant vigil over the grave of the Rev. Thomas Cox Teasdale, the ninth pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbus, who died in 1891, at the age of 83.

Photograph by Natalie Maynor

“The Angel of Grief,” as the statuary is also known, epitomizes the beauty of the weathered, hand-carved monuments found in the cemetery. This marble creation came from the firm of J.L. Miller, in Quincy, Maine, a gift of the beloved pastor’s congregation conveying, “When he died, even the angels wept.”

Sharon Foster, of Columbus, and Carolyn Wright, a former Columbian now living in Macon, are among artists inspired by the city’s resident angel. They join others, like Rene Sheridan and Robert “Uncle Bunky” Williams, who have found a muse in the celestial figure.

Through the lens

“It’s all my mother’s fault,” smiles Foster, sorting through dozens of greeting cards she has made using images of her whimsical paintings as well as photographs she took of the angel. “She was the one who got me started; she loves cards and wanted me to make some.”

Foster became intrigued with the Teasdale marker, taking over 300 photographs with a 35 mm camera over several months, capturing the lovely figure at different times of the day and in varying light.

“The way her body is placed displays so much emotion,” the artist said. “You can know without words what she’s feeling.”

Using computer software, Foster has produced a series of quality greeting cards available at The Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market and Table of Plenty. The images have become popular, especially as sympathy cards, and not only locally.

“I’m able to sell my cards online on several sites. It’s been really interesting; I’ve met people from all over the world,” she enthused.

Foster, who designed the 2008 Farmers’ Market poster, also has an array of cards featuring whimsical animals and colorful flowers. Several benefit animal welfare groups, including the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. More of her greeting card art can be found at

Angel in clay

Carolyn Wright is skilled at painting portraits and still life, but the Macon woman doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty either. Wright began working with polymer clay, natural woods and stone about eight years ago. Several of her pieces are on display at the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi sales gallery in Ridgeland.

Wright’s first interpretation of the fabled angel grew out of personal loss. When her own brother passed away several years ago, she crafted a version of the grieving figure around an 8-inch-by-10-inch frame holding his photograph to give to her mother.

“That one was all white, and I put a red rose in her hand,” recalled Wright. “My mother loved it.”

The original article, complete with photos of Sharon Foster and Carolyn Wright, can be viewed here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Woodmen of the World Monument

This unique Woodmen of the World monument marks the grave of Hal P. Shrock. Mr. Shrock, born on August 26, 1849 and who died on February 9, 1904, is buried in Shiloh Cemetery, near Camden in Madison County, Mississippi. Although Woodmen of the World grave markers can be found in many cemeteries throughout Mississippi, this marker is one of the larger that I recall and the only one I have seen of this particular design.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fitler Familes of Madison and Issaquena Counties

The grave of Eliza Fitler is located in Camden Cemetery in Madison, County. Her simple grave stone shows that she was born in 1788 and died on August 20, 1853, when she was 65 years old.

The broken grave marker of William Fitler, stating he was born in 1785, is located nearby. According to the marker, Fitler died in 1810. Although not proven, it appears likely that William and Eliza were husband and wife.

George Fitler is also buried in Camden Cemetery, and his marker states he was born in 1811 and died in 1842.
Although I have found no proof of George's relationship to Eliza and William, his date of birth and the proximity of his grave to theirs indicates he may have been their son.

The name Fitler, well-known in Philadelphia, with Fitler Square named for Edwin H. Fitler, a former mayor of Philadelphia in the 19th century, has never been a common name in Mississippi. But in the early 1800's, as evidenced by U. S. Census records taken in Mississippi, some members of this Pennsylvania family migrated to Mississippi and lived in Madison County and in Issaquena County. The earliest appearance of the name Fitler on a U. S. Census recorded in Mississippi was in 1850, the first such census to document a resident's place of birth.

Twenty (20) individuals named "Fitler" were enumerated that year in the the United States. Only two persons with this family name resided in Mississippi in 1850, Eliza Fitler, age 60, born in New York, and Louisa Fitler, a Pennsylvania-born 28 year old. Although this particular census did not show relationships of household members to each other, it is possible that Louisa was Eliza's daughter.
Among the neighbors of Louisa and Eliza in Madison County was a blacksmith from Georgia, a merchant born in Kentucky, a Scottish-born tailor, a tanner from Virginia, and a Tennessee-born planter. Eliza and Louisa Fitler, according to the census, were not wealthy, since the value of their personal property and real estate was valued at only $200.

Fifteen of the remaining eighteen individuals with the surname Fitler, enumerated on the 1850 census, lived in Philadelphia. Two resided in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and one made his home in Tioga, New York. Germany was listed as the birthplace of two individuals, and another was shown to have been born in England.
A list of these individuals, including their places of residence, dates of birth, and places of birth, as they were recorded on the U. S. Census of 1850, appears here:

Joseph P Fitler Kensington Ward 2, Philadelphia, PA abt 1812 Pennsylvania

Mary J Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1813 Pennsylvania
Jacob Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1814 Pennsylvania

Rosina Fitler Marietta, Lancaster, PA abt 1820 Pennsylvania
Mary C Fitler Kensington Ward 2, Philadelphia, PA abt 1822 England
Clanthay Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1832 Pennsylvania

Emma M Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1834 Pennsylvania
Mary J Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1838 Pennsylvania
Francis M Fitler Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1842 Pennsylvania
Charles H Fitler, Kensington Ward 2, Philadelphia, PA abt 1844 Pennsylvania
Anna W Fitler, Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1846 Pennsylvania

Hannah Fitler, Kensington Ward 7, Philadelphia, PA abt 1848 Pennsylvania
Emily Fitler, Kensington Ward 2, Philadelphia, PA abt 1850 Pennsylvania
Mary Jane Fitler, Marietta, Lancaster, PA abt 1848 Pennsylvania
James Fitler Marietta, Lancaster, PA abt 1843 Pennsylvania
John Fitler, Marietta, Lancaster, PA abt 1811 Pennsylvania

Charlotte Fitler, Spring Garden Ward 1, Philadelphia, PA abt 1825 Germany
Henry Fitler, Barton, Tioga, NY abt 1827 Germany.

In 1860, when the U. S. Census was recorded, a household headed by Theodore Fitler, a 45-year old "planter," appears in the record for Issaquena County, Mississippi. Included in the household was Theodore's spouse, S. L. Fitler, 38, a daughter, Mary J., age 7, and three sons, Charles L., age 11, Eugene B., age 9, and George D. W. Fitler, age 5. Although Theodore's birthplace was shown as Pennsylvania, all other family members were born in Mississippi. While there is a strong indication that Theodore was related to Eliza, Louisa, William, and George Fitler, I have found no tangible evidence that establishes what relationship, if any, Theodore had to these individuals.

When the 1860 census was recorded, Theodore was already a large landowner and a wealthy man, with the value of his real property shown as $18,000 and his personal property as $20,000. The fact that an area of Issaquena County, Mississippi today is still known as "Fitler" is a lasting indication of the family's once sizable land holdings in that county.

Although 57 individuals with the surname "Fitler" were recorded in the United States in 1860, I did not find Louisa Fitler's name. Louisa may have married after Eliza's death in 1853, but it seems unlikely, since "Louisa Fitler" is the name that appears on her grave stone in Shiloh Cemetery, near Cameron, also in Madison County. According to the inscription on Louisa's marker, she died on October 13, 1874 at the age of 61.

Next: Fitler Family's Shrock Connection