Empirical Choirs

Memorial to Lost Children in Marco Island Cemetery, 489 West Elkcam Circle, Marco, Collier County, Florida.

In the early 1970s, less than 4,000 people lived on Marco Island. Many had left earlier in the century due to economic hardship and the Great Depression. Old Marco Cemetery, as it was called at the time, was all but abandoned, left to nature and the social outcasts who came there to drink and race dirt bikes and motorcycles along its trails.

On April 10, 1973, two teenage girls, Linda Walters and Lisa Nankevill, committed suicide near the cemetery. The incident shocked the tight-knit community, particularly because they seemed like typical American high school girls. Outrage by the senselessness of the act, local residents banded together to reclaim the cemetery.

Today, a loving memorial to lost children, featuring a cherubic angel with open arms, stands in the garden-like cemetery. The road running past the cemetery is heavily traveled, and many visitors come and go without ever knowing of the tragedy that took place there some 42 years ago.



Skyward Gaze, Earthward Touch

Memorial for H. Annie Marshall (1879-1890) in Elmwood (Centralia) Cemetery on Gragg Street, Centralia, Marion County, Illinois. Originally called Centralia Cemetery, this graveyard was in use in the 1860s but not officially established until 1877. Its name was changed to Elmwood Cemetery in 1921.

Deep inside Elmwood sits a large, granite monument shaped like a tabernacle or an ancient Greek temple with four columns. At the top of the monument stands a nearly life-sized statue of a young girl with flowing locks of hair. In her hands she holds a violin. The statue depicts Harriet Annie, the daughter of Dr. Winfield and Eoline Marshall. Annie died of diphtheria in 1890, a few weeks after her eleventh birthday.

A popular local legend maintains that the sweet strains of a violin can be heard emanating from the cemetery at night. The origin of these ethereal notes is said to be none other than the statue of “Violin Annie.”  Some locals also believe that Annie’s statue glows on Halloween night.




Angel Below

Headstone for an infant named Wilkes (1965-1965) in Girls School Cemetery on Fox Run Drive, Geneva, Kane County, Illinois. This tiny cemetery is all that remains of the Illinois State Training School for Girls at Geneva, which for 84 years housed adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 16 who had been convicted of offenses punishable by law.

Inevitably, deaths from illness and suicide occurred at the facility. Girls without families, or who had been disowned, were buried in a cemetery on the property. Several dozen infants were buried there as well, and today the cemetery contains 51 graves. After the institution closed and was torn down, a plaque was erected at the cemetery that reads:

Beginning in 1894, this land was used by various government agencies as a center for ‘wayward girls’. The colonial-style cottages, service buildings and fences are gone, but these 51 graves remain. These markers are a testimony that they are no longer wayward but home with their Creator. My God’s peace be with their souls.




Headstone for Earl S. Kingman (1890-1895) in Cortland Rural Cemetery, 110 Tompkins Street, Cortland, Cortland County, New York. Earl was the only son of Mary and Mahlon Kingman. He died of whooping cough at the age of four.

Cortland Rural Cemetery was established in 1853 and contains the remains of over 18,000 departed residents. Its drive is lined with wonderfully informative interpretive signs with information about prominent burials, interesting monuments, and the materials from which those monuments were made.



And I Dreamt of You

Grave of an infant named Cronin (1904-1904) in Fairbank Cemetery off the San Pedro Trail, Fairbank, Cochise County, Arizona. The old graveyard is located about a half mile up a trail and is heavily vandalized. Only a few of the original graves remain, marked by piles of stones, wooden crosses, and iron fencing. Unfortunately, the cemetery has been a victim of grave robbery and vandalism over the years.

At one time, Fairbank was a hub of activity along the San Pedro River. Children came from all around to attend its one room schoolhouse. It was never a large town, having only 100 residents at its peak. The town began to die in the early 20th Century, and by 1970 only a small gas station remained.

In 1986, the Bureau of Land Management purchased hundreds of acres of land around the town and created the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Today, the remains of Fairbank have benefited from tourist activity and a few of the original buildings have been preserved. The Bureau of Land Management maintains a small store and museum in the old schoolhouse.



Child in Silence

Headstone for Eunice Denison (unk-1809) in Cherry Hill Cemetery at Main Street and Christian Hill Road, north of the White River and east of Bethel, Windsor County, Vermont. This well-preserved black slate marker has me wondering if it’s a duplicate or has been cleaned recently. At 209 years and counting, this is one of the oldest headstones I’ve seen in Vermont.

The inscription (from Matthew 18:4) reads:

Whosoever shalt humble
himself as a little child
the same is greatest in
the kingdom of heaven.