Of the more than 90 angels to be found at Houston’s historic Glenwood cemetery, one stands apart in its pose and popularity. The “Weeping Angel” at the Hill family plot is one of the most visited statues on the grounds for good reason: she is stunningly beautiful. Her hair, unbound, is highly unusual for the portrayal of heavenly being during this time period as well.
Angels of Grief, or Weeping Angel statues can be found all over the world. They portray an angel dressed in classical Roman clothes, collapsed across a monument overcome by sorrow. Her drooping wings and face hidden in crossed arms depict a deep state of mourning.
The phrase “Weeping Angel” has a totally different connotation for fans of the BBC show “Dr. Who.” Interestingly enough, those characters were inspired by writer Steven Moffat’s visit to a family graveyard, where he saw similar statues.
Glenwood’s angel is one of five of these mournful creatures that can be found in Texas.
Locally known as “Grief,” the angel in Waco’s (McLennan County), Holy Cross Cemetery marks the resting place of merchant Emilio Davila (1864-1928) and his wife Juanita (1886-1928).
Dallas’ Grove Hill Memorial Parks angel guards the graves of Frank W. (1872-1921) and Myrtel Pickens Blakeney (1878-1962).
William Scott Youree (1872-1904) died while in Mexico. His parents and sister erected a Weeping Angel to mark his grave in the Scottsville Cemetery in Scottsville (Harrison County). His sister Susie Rose Youree (1881-1974) now rests there with him. She is missing her left hand – the most common damage found in these statues. (Houston’s version lost her hand to vandalism, but it has been repaired in recent years.)
In Denison’s (Grayson County) Calvary Cemetery, a grieving angel watches over the Lindsay family plot.
Famed sculptor Frank Teich created the angels in Houston and Scottsville. Scottsville cemetery has been said to have the largest collection of the famous stone artist’s work in one place. Glenwood has numerous, stunning examples of his work as well.
Frank Teich was a sculptor and stonecutter, born in Germany in 1856. He supervised the stonecutters and inspected the granite used in for the state capital building in Austin. He later opened Teich Monumental Works creating such pieces as the Confederate and Firemen’s monuments on the capitol grounds in Austin, the Sam Houston monument in Houston, and other famous stone and bronze works.
These five Texas angels, as well as others across the world, are based upon the “Angel of Grief,” a 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story. It serves as the grave marker of the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy.
When Story’s beloved wife Emelyn died at the age of 74, the sculptor fell into despair and ceased to work. His children encouraged him to return to sculpting, if only to create a monument for their mother, and he did. After completing the statue, he left his studio and never returned. He died the following year.
The story associated with these beautiful creations is just as poignant and beautiful as they are.
I’ve walked through the seven cemeteries on Broadway in Galveston countless times, photographing, doing research, assisting in restoration, and simply enjoying the history. So I was very surprised this week to find a grave marker that I haven’t taken notice of before.
May is my favorite time to take photos there, because the city allows the coreopsis of spring to overtake the cemetery for the month. No one can resist veering off the main avenue to enjoy a closer look at the exquisite sight.
Wandering down one of the sidewalks to get some close-ups, a stone that was obviously facing the “wrong direction” caught my eye and I walked around the other side to investigate.
Imagine my delight to see “Professor” J. B. Maton as the name, and that he was born in the 18th century. Now, there simply HAD to be a story there! I hadn’t ever heard his name before, but I was determined to investigate once I got home.
The first evidence I have found of John B. Maton living in Galveston was the 1850 Census. In it, he is listed as a 56-year-old schoolteacher who was born in France. Living with him was a 19-year-old male named Martin Maton, who we can presume was his son.
By the fall of 1851, Maton was running advertisements in the local newspapers for his “Male and Female Academy,” stating that he had lived all of his life in the principal cities of France, England and Germany and devoted the last 27 years to teaching.
The professor conducted the academy from his house on Twenty-fourth street, one door south of Church Street opposite the Tremont garden. It contained two classrooms “besides every other convenience for an institute as also a large garden with fine shrubbery and a good cistern.”
Mason also taught for a period of four years in Liberty county, between 1852 and 1856.
He signed his name as “Prof. T. Maton” so he presumably went by his middle name, but I could not find any record of what that was.
For two seasons of five months each beginning in September, students could attend the academy for $3 per month ($30 per year) for seniors (older students) or $2 per month ($20 per year) for juniors (younger students), requiring all fees to be prepaid. Compared to today’s private school, this seems like quite a bargain!
School hours were from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. Subjects included English, French and German languages, history, geography, astronomy, and arithmetic, each taught in “an agreeable style.”
His ads also always emphasized that “particular attention will be paid to impress the pupils with good morals and fine manners.”
“Miss Maton will take charge of the female department.” This could have been Maton’s sister, or daughter. I have not been able to find any mention elsewhere of a female Maton living in the city, much less the household. If anyone has any information about her, I would love to hear about it.
Prospective families could register their students either directly with Professor Maton, or at William Armstrong & Brothers Great Southern Bookstore and Stationers on Tremont. (For more about Civil War veteran William Armstrong, see “Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries,” available on Amazon.com)
With the advent of war, John Maton enlisted in the Confederate 11th Battalion of Texas Volunteers in Company F with a rank of private. This unit of cavalry and infantry were under the direction of Lt. Colonel Ashley W. Spaight and Major J. S. Irvine.
The professor’s death occurred just one year after enlistment, but I have been unable to find any details. It could just as likely been the result of disease as injury in battle. Either way, his body made it back to Galveston for burial in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery alongside some of the era’s most illustrious citizens.
(NOTE: There was another John Maton from Refugio County, Texas who served in the Civil War, but he survived. Keeping their records distinct from each other takes a bit of care.)
Professor Maton is just one of the stories that hides beneath the stones in historic cemeteries, waiting for someone to take the time to discover and remember them.
Showmen’s Rest – Part 2
Circus Train Wreck Victim
1954 – 1994
Just after 9:00 in the morning on January 14, 1994, a 53-car Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus train headed northbound from St. Petersburg to Orlando for their next show. Rolling along at 38 mph, many of the 150 performers inside were still asleep or just waking up after the previous night’s show when a wheel on one of the passenger cars broke, sending 13 passenger coaches and three flat cars off the tracks. Five of the cars were thrown on their sides.
As the survivors wandered out of the wreckage into the morning fog, they discovered that two of their own had lost their lives in the accident, and fifteen more were injured.
Ringling officials called the train accident their worst in more than 100 years.
Theodore ”Ted” Svertesky, a 39-year-old elephant trainer was found dead in a sleeper car.
Ceslee Conkling, a 28-year-old clown from Fort Worth, Texas, was also killed. She was missing for four hours before her body was found.
None of the 60 circus animals, including lions, tigers and elephants, was hurt. They were traveling in cages at the front and rear of the 53-car train, which broke in the middle.
Ironically, a news helicopter crashed while covering the accident. A photographer received minor injuries, and the pilot was admitted to a hospital with neck and back injuries.
Born in Connecticut, Theodore H. Svertesky was fascinated with the circus and elephants from an early age. As a child he would talk about it, dream about it and build circus models. When he was only 13, Ted ran away from home to join a circus only to be returned the following day by his parents. Four year later at 17 he joined a circus again and this time stayed.
Ted started off doing odd jobs with the elephants, and took every chance to learn about the creatures from the best trainers in the business.
By 1994 Ted headed the Ringling Elephant Farm, a research and breeding facility and oversaw the breeding of Romeo and Juliette, two yearling Asian elephants that were headlining the show. This was Ted’s first road trip with the circus as the presenter of the elephant act in the show.
“It’s kind of a way of life more than a job,” said the 39-year-old trainer from Bridgeport in an interview the week before he died.
Ted’s wife Patty Zerbini, who helped oversee the 10 elephants – including babies Romeo and Juliette, stayed with the show after the accident. She and her two sons, Anthony and Christopher, travel from town to town in their mobile home.
(1959 – 2006)
Terry Fenne always told people that if they ever stopped by Showmen’s Rest to “Stop by and have a seat on me.” True to his word, his marker is a beautiful bench, engraved with his signature, photo and the logos of some of the circuses he worked for through the years.
I apologize that, due to the fact that it was raining quite hard when I took these photos the engraving on top of the bench doesn’t appear clear.
Fenne literally ran away from his home in Madison, Wisconsin to join the circus at age 14. He worked for six different circuses including: Fisher Brothers Circus, Circus Genoa, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, Roberts Brothers Circus, Kelly-Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus.
The last few years of his life, he operated an umbrella hot dog pushcart in downtown Paris, Texas, and became a fixture of the town.
Dudley Warner Hamilton
(1929 – still living)
Hamilton grew up in west Texas, the youngest of eight children. He served in the U. S. Air Froce and worked for the Texas Highway Patrol.
Avid circus fan, and a longstanding member of the Circus Fans Association of America. His attendance at the CFA annual conventions led him to Hugo, where he me the Geneneral Manager of Carson & Barnes. He took early retirement at age 54 and joined Carson & Barnes as a booking agent. He became so successful that for the next 20 years he trained other booking agents
He was also press agent and ran the pie car when needed
He moved over to Kelly Miller, and eventually became Winterquarters Manager. He was know for volunteering his time to help others, especially young circus people. He gave tours of Showmen’s Rest and served on the Circus City Museum and Park Board.
DUDLEY WARNER HAMILTON
JAN 12, 1929
Dudley Hamilton is currently the winter quarters superintendent of the Kelly Miller Circus. He was an agent for both the Carson & Barnes Circus and the Kelly Miller Circus.
Dudley’s monument features an impressive elephant long mount which was taken from a Carson & Barnes Circus poster with four showgirls. The monument also has a large shade tree which Dudley said he thought would add to the scene and the words
MAY ALL YOUR DAYS BE CIRCUS DAYS
on the front of the gravestone and the logos of Kelly Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus on the back of the monument.
Joe Wallace Cooper
(1937 – 2000)
Joe Cooper was a circus agent who worked for Allen Bros. Circus, Culpepper – Merriweather Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus and “was on the road” contracting for the Kelly Miller Circus when he passed away. He was the nephew of circus agent Dudley Hamilton, whose stone is featured above this one.
On the front of the monument are the words: “Big Top Circus Agent,” and the sentiment “He gave with world a smile each day is engraved on the base. The back of this colorful stone features the logos of all four circuses with whom he associated.
Next week I’ll wrap up with a few amazing markers from Showmen’s Rest before moving on to share some beautiful stones from one of Texas’ most historic cemeteries. I hope you’ll join me!
Mount Olivet Cemetery
Recently I was thrilled to be able to visit one of the famous cemeteries on my “visit one day” list: the Showman’s Rest section of Mount Olivet in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Hugo has been the winter home of traveling circuses since the 1930’s and the retirement place of many performers and others associated with the circus/carnival profession. It’s known as “Circus City, USA.” Hugo is also home to “The Endangered Ark Foundation,” the nation’s second largest herd of Asian elephants.
It’s fitting that many who have moved on to the big top in the sky find their final resting place in the local cemetery, in a special section bordered by elephant statues on granite pedestals.
The day I visited the cemetery it was raining quite hard, but I refused to be deterred. (Thank heaven for rain ponchos!) The water did affect some of the photos and the clarity of some lettering on stones. It also prevented me from gently cleaning some stones as I normally would, since I was concentrating more on protecting my camera from the rain.
Conditions aside, it was an exciting visit filled with imagery I had never seen on gravitons elsewhere. The statues and photos bring back fond memories of carnivals from childhood.
I’ll share some of my favorites with you in my next few blogs, and hope yo enjoy them as much as I did.
Jack B. Moore
1919 – 1969
One of the first headstones visible as you enter Showmen’s Rest is a three-dimensional replica of a circus tent. Moore was born in Marshall, Texas and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. dimensional replica of a circus tent.
After the war’s end he launched a small show conducted under a canvas tent. The Clyde Beatty motion picture show was enjoyed along with a trained chimp, wrestling bear, pony show, a singing and dancing number by his daughter Wanda, and Happy Hanks hillbilly Show. It must have been amazing to many of the small towns they visited.
As the years passed, the show evolved to include larger and more exciting acts. The name changed as well, to Banner Bros., Jack Moore’s Tex Carson Jamboree and eventually to the Carson & Barnes Circus.
By 1961 the show needed 20 trucks to move the show that included 5 elephants, a moderate sized menagerie, and a Big Top that was 100 ft. round with three 40 ft. middles.
“The Great Huberto”
1914 – 1991
He also performed with his wife as “Los Latinos”(which is engraved on the back of his grave marker) – first with Chatita (Chata) Escalante (1911-1985) then his second wife Maricela Sanchez Hernandez.
Thomas Edward Sink
If the Thomas Edward Sink I found in my research is the correct one, he had a bit of a troubled life in his earlier years. Regardless, he reinvented his life into a beloved figure who brought joy and laughter to crowds as Popcorn the Clown.
These are only a handful of the amazing markers in this cemetery. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in the days to come.
While I was at a museum the other day, one of the archivists asked me a question that I hear often: “What is the difference between a coffin and a casket…or is there one?”
I was glad I had the answer to share with her. Yes, there is a difference although we tend to use the two terms interchangeably.
Wooden coffins, which came into use around the early part of the 16th century in the western world, typically have six sides, and the lid lifts off completely. Once the deceased was placed inside, the lid was nailed shut. Think about the classic Halloween decoration or old black-and-white vampire movies, and you have the idea.
The silhouette is wider at the shoulders and narrows toward the feet. The only handles, if any at all, would have been functional loops of rope to carry it to the graveyard.
You may be surprised that this was a term originally used for jewelry boxes. When the Victorian sensibilities of proper mourning and tribute came into fashion, the word “casket” began being used for the burial receptacles as well. It makes sense I suppose, since it would hold something precious and certainly sound kinder to the ears of those left behind.
The casket is different in shape as well, being elongated and four-sided.
Some caskets feature a split lid to allow for easier viewing of the deceased. This would have been impractical with wooden coffins. The lid of a casket is also hinged, so it is hover entirely detached from the lower portion.
Lined with metal on the interior, unlike coffins, caskets also usually feature six metal handles for pallbearers.
Bits of Related Trivia:
The Greek word “kophinos,” meaning basket, refers to the fact that wicker baskets were used in days gone by. There is a new interest in utilizing them for “green burials.”
Ancient Greeks often buried their dead in a sitting position in clay pottery.
“Fittings” or “coffin furniture” were/are external details such as crucifixes, handles and name plates. The local mortician would often offer “rental” of such adornments which would then be removed immediately before burial.
“Trim” was a term used to refer to fabric used to line the interior of coffins.
When a coffin is used to transport a deceased person it is called a “pall,” hence the term “pallbearer” for those that carry it. The word can also refer to a cloth used to drape over the coffin.
I hope that you found this posting interesting…and not too morbid.
What bit of trivia do you have to share about the subject?