Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Remarkable Markers 3

In Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana, Ohio, stands a splendid monument to Simon Kenton (1755–1836). In 1777, Kenton saved the life of his friend Daniel Boone. Kenton served as a scout for Europeans and was captured by Shawnee during the year 1778. Kenton served as a scout for George Rogers Clark during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and with “Mad” Anthony Wayne during the Northwest Indian War (1793–1794). As a Brigadier General, Kenton reprised his rรดle as scout—and led a militia group—during the Battle of the Thames in 1813.

Statue of Simon Kenton in Urbana, Ohio

In 1997, donations paid for a life-size statue replicating a smaller one by famous Urbana sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward (1830–1910). The sculpture stands atop a stone plinth, or base, erected in 1884.

Sculpture by John Quincy Adams Ward
Commemorating the Sculptor
Elsewhere in Oak Dale Cemetery

The monument is well worth a visit, as imposing and somber as it is. While Eleanor Y. Stewart and I looked at the statue on a weekday morning in the summer, additional visitors arrived.

Page 39 of the History of Allen County, Ohio (Chicago: Richmond & Arnold, 1906) says, “In the forests of Ohio Kenton had confronted Indians, bears, wolves and panthers. On the south face of the monument is carved, life-size, the head of an Indian chief … ; on the west face is the head of a bear, as life-like as stone can be, and appearing as if the head had just been thrust through the face of stone; on the north side is the head of a wolf similarly carved; and on the east side is the head of a panther. The design is by J. Q. A. Ward, the celebrated sculptor, now of New York, but a native of Urbana. His grandfather originally owned the land on which Urbana is built, and for many years the elder Ward and Kenton were intimate friends.”

Bear on Simon Kenton Monument

I will vouch for the lifelike qualities of the heads thrusting forward from the sides of the grand base. It was a little difficult for me to photograph the faces because they engaged me in what could be described as confrontations.


Native American


I leave it to qualified historians to sort out the complicated issues separating the real Simon Kenton from the legendary one. While I studied the Kenton monument, I admired the work of J. Q. A. Ward, whose statues capture life in ways that I, as an illustrator, can admire but cannot produce. Ward was an exceptional artist!

Wandering away from the solemn shadow of the monument, Eleanor Y. Stewart and I found a bur oak nearby. We collected several acorns to present to the squirrels in Eleanor’s yard back home. Finding the choicest acorns in the sunny grass took our minds off the menacing heads protruding from the Kenton monument. By the time we had hauled our harvest to the car, we had resumed our cheerful, chattering selves. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Remarkable Markers 2

What if I were to tell you that, when no one is looking, invisible spirits spin a large globe made of solid rock in a cemetery? Well, that is one of the explanations for the restless sphere in Marion Cemetery!

Author Eleanor Y. Stewart and the Sphere of the Spirits
In Marion, Ohio

Yes, the granite ball honoring the family of Charles Merchant in Marion, Ohio slowly spins in an erratic pattern on its base without ever becoming scratched. Others have attempted to explain the movements of the globe; see especially The conclusion that spirits are at work appeals to my Irish DNA.

On an Authors’ Day Out not long after Halloween some years ago, writer (and my dear friend) Eleanor Y. Stewart and I visited the cemetery after a day of research on the topics of Huber and Leader, manufacturers of agricultural steam engines in Marion. We had toured the Marion County Historical Society’s Heritage Hall Museum with its Wyandot Popcorn Museum featuring lovely popcorn wagons and its main exhibits including Prince Imperial, a long-maned horse stuffed by the same taxidermist that stuffed Jumbo the Elephant for P. T. Barnum. A wonderful hot lunch on a cold day had been our pleasure at the Warehouse, a depot specializing in Italian fare. Eleanor and I could hardly wait to see the famous ball! It exceeded our expectations.

The late afternoon had grown so overcast and cold that Eleanor and I were the only visitors to the section of the cemetery where the Merchants’ Ball stands (and revolves). Although we were alone, we felt as if someone were watching us. Occasionally, we glanced over our shoulders to survey the stones surrounding us in the gathering gloom. Were we sensing, uhm, entities?

In her poem entitled “The Graves of the Flowers,” Hoosier poet Louisa Chitwood (1832–1855) wrote, “Upon no stone is carved the name / Of April’s children fair; / They perished when the sky was bright, / And gentle was the air. / To the soft kisses of the breeze / They held half trembling up / Full many a small transparent urn / And honey-ladened cup.” When she was only 23, Louisa died; Walt Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass in the same year. Perhaps Louisa would have taken her place in the new poetry, had she lived; after all, she left a cache of a thousand poems when she died.

As the November dusk began tilting into night, Eleanor and I shivered, scurried to my car, and drove away from the cemetery with its urns and cups and invisible hands reaching toward a cold globe.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Remarkable Markers 1

My dear friend Eleanor Y. Stewart (with whom I have authored several books) and I drove past the Forest Hill Cemetery in Piqua, Ohio, and noticed an elk statue. We decided to investigate. What a spectacular work of art! The animal stood proudly on a rock. The majestic creature transfixed us.

Elk Monument, Forest Hill Cemetery, Piqua, Ohio

Elk are native to North America and to eastern regions of Asia. The first Europeans to come to America named the animal “elk” (European word for moose) because they thought the elk resembled a moose. The elk is one of the largest mammals in North America. It feeds on plants, leaves, and the bark of trees.

Author Eleanor Y. Stewart Standing Beside Elk
In Piqua, Ohio’s Forest Hill Cemetery

We found that the magnificent statue represented Lodge 523 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and honored lodge members interred in the cemetery. Members of the organization are pledged to help children lead healthy lives, to underwrite humanitarian projects, and to honor the service of our veterans.

Elk in New Home Dedication Booklet, September 1950
And Golden Anniversary Celebration, 1899–1949, Piqua, Ohio

After Eleanor posed for a photograph beside the elk, we spent an hour examining other markers. We enjoy visiting such memorial gardens to search for exceptional statuary and stone carving. To us, a stroll around a cemetery is an adventure, for we never know what we will find. I suppose that we are taphophiles, or tombstone tourists.

Eleanor suggested that I compose a series of blogs about uncommon markers such as the elk. We agreed to get together for brief trips to seek extraordinary memorials in other cemeteries. As both Eleanor and I appreciate animals, other monuments must be especially remarkable to measure up to the grandeur of the elk in our estimation! Watch to see what we found!

One installment of this blog will feature a marker that Eleanor and I visited a few years ago when we were on a research trip to Marion, Ohio. I look forward to sharing information about it.

Meanwhile, we continue to admire the Piqua elk, which has ornamented Forest Hill Cemetery throughout the seasons and across the years.   

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Summer Gardening 6 (Last Installment in This Series)

The monsoon came. By “monsoon,” I mean only a week of showers. The hot, muggy weather, punctuated by frequent spells of rain, grew a carpet of tiny weeds over the bare soil of my garden. I pulled the tall weeds that had a head start and waited for a day dry enough to push my one-wheeled cultivator through the open ground.

For several weeks, the weeds and I did battle. Eventually, I surrendered, and a lush growth of crabgrass soon carpeted the ground. 

My Garden on September 27th with Crabgrass
And Brown Stalks of Sunflowers

Here is what I had thought I would write in my blog: Meanwhile, my snow peas enjoyed the wet earth. They curled their tendrils upward, flowered, and began to form the edible pods for which they are revered. I was amazed that peas, which I have always considered a cool-weather crop, could be harvested in August! Pods with their fresh snap adorned my salads! Unfortunately, I could not compose such sentences. My snow peas were a total flop. They remained stunted plants that set on nary a pea, as my grandmother might have said.

Was I disappointed? Why, yes! But I looked back on a summer of fun and contentment amounting to bliss: not a loss, no matter what!

My garden was essentially finished. It amazes me how quickly a garden adopts a bedraggled appearance after the plants have ceased to be productive. The shabby stalks of broken-down sunflowers and the browned leaves of what had been vibrantly green beans not a month ago were symbolic of the change of seasons and of all things that begin, only to end. Of course, nature also represents things that end, only to begin! Five months had elapsed since I had planted the first seed. I had worked happily during three seasons. Chuang Tsu quoted Confucius as saying, “Live so that you are at ease, in harmony with the world, and full of joy. Day and night, share the springtime with all things, thus creating the seasons in your own heart.”*


*Chuang Tsu Inner Chapters: A New Translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (New York: Vintage, 1974).