Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fallen Southern Gothic—The Broome Monument

Lot 355
Hill View Cemetery
New Franklin Road
LaGrange, Georgia

Hill View Cemetery from the Dallis family plot. Photo 2011, by
Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

There’s always an issue of where to start. I figure, where else but my own hometown and the old main cemetery here, Hill View? I’ve driven or ridden past Hill View many times since I moved to town at the age of three. There were always monuments there that have intrigued me, but I never took much time to stop. At some point in my childhood I took a class in gravestone rubbing from the local art museum and that gave me some time to explore the cemetery. After making the decision to start this blog, I figured a visit would be in order and I was amazed and saddened; amazed by the incredible art that exists there and saddened by the state of the cemetery.

A fallen Gothic Revival monument to Mrs. E. J. Swanson,
consort of S. W. Swanson, died May 28, 1842. Photo 2011,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Hill View Cemetery is, as far as I can find, the old main city cemetery. Forrest Clark Johnson’s book on the cemetery does not reveal when the cemetery first opened, but I’ll assume it opened not long after the incorporation of the city in 1828. Standing there among the monuments, it’s obvious that so many of these people were instrumental in the creation of the city as their names occur in streets and other locations. Also there is some truly incredible funerary art can be found here. While the cemetery is basically maintained by the City of LaGrange (they cut the grass and such), so many of the monuments really need restoration and preservation, which I presume is not their responsibility.

The cemetery is part of three major cemeteries all located together: Hill View, Shadowlawn and the Hill View Annex. Hill View lies south of Bacon Street with its Annex located north of Bacon Street. Shadowlawn is due east of the Annex, across Linden Avenue. Both the Annex and Shadowlawn Cemeteries are starkly modern in comparison with the original Hill View with its trees and old monuments.

The Broome family plot under a shady cedar tree. The plot
lies within the fence. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

On my first visit, I was drawn to a handful of monuments one of which was the monument to Rufus Broome and his wife in the Broome family plot. The plot is nestled in the shade a cedar tree, a species with symbolic meaning in cemeteries. Part of the plot is surrounded by a low marble wall with a section adjacent surrounded by a marvelous ornamental iron fence in Gothic Revival style. Sections of the fence are completely intact while other sections are missing. Within the fence is the marvelous Gothic Revival monument to Colonel and Mrs. Broome.

The Rufus and N. W. Broome monument. The pillar that once
topped the tomb lies on the left with the pillar's base on the right.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Colonel Broome first appears in the city’s history in 1836. The eight-year-old city of LaGrange was at that time on the frontier and still under threat from Muskogee or Creek Indians who still lived in villages just over the state line in present day Alabama. The Creek War of 1836 broke out among the Upper Creek who still lived in Alabama in response to the theft and deception of land speculators and settlers after the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta. Volunteers in LaGrange formed two companies of soldiers under the marvelously named Colonel Julius Caesar Alford who headed south to Columbus while Colonel Broome remained behind to defend the city. Women and children were barricaded in the newly built brick courthouse for protection. The courthouse briefly bore the name Fort Broome.

Street sign for Broome Street. The street runs alongside the old
Broome homestead at Broome and Main Streets. Photo 2011,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Old LaGrange National Bank Building, sitting on
the site of the Broome homestead. Photo 2011,
Lewis Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

Broome was born in Nash County, North Carolina and had moved around a bit in east Georgia before he and his wife, Nancy Williams Pitts, moved to LaGrange in 1830. Broome was a planter and a merchant and served as one of the original trustees of the LaGrange Female Academy, predecessor to today’s LaGrange College. The family home, located at the corner of Main Street and Broome Street, was torn down for the LaGrange National Bank Building in 1917 which now houses the Troup County Legacy Museum and Historical Society. Broome died in 1855 and his wife, two years later.

Pillar in situ. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

What attracted me to the monument was the marvelous Gothic Revival design. Most of the monuments in Hill View are of Neo-Classical or Victorian design, with less than a handful that are purely Gothic in nature. The monument is now in pieces, but originally it was a large base topped with a Gothic style pillar. The pillar now lies next to the large base, with the base of the pillar lying on the other side of the main base. Quite possibly, there was a finial topping the pillar, but a quick glance around the site does not reveal it.

Lower portion of the pillar with ivy leaf ornament. Photo 2011,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Top portion of the pillar. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
Base of the pillar, note the scoring in the marble. Photo 2011,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Gothic architecture originated in the great Medieval cathedrals of Europe and, over time, spread to other buildings. The style saw a revival in Britain in the mid-18th century with its popularity spreading to America in the mid-19th century. Therefore, this monument is an early example of Gothic Revival. The pointed arch, used in cathedrals for its great strength, is one of the primary elements of this style. On the base of the monument, pointed arches are carved on all four sides. Each arch contains tracery, or ornamental interior support, in the form of a quatrefoil, a four petaled flower. To me, this flower appears to be a stylized dogwood (Cornus sp.). The tracery comes to a point with a stylized English ivy (Hedera helix) leaf which is also found on the pillar. The tracery also creates two arches within the main arch, which also may be symbolic. The whole arch is decorated on the outside with three curled acanthus (Acanthus spinosus) leaves on either side.

Tracery detail. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
Detail of the dogwood-like flower in the tracery.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

There is a good deal of symbolism within this stone. The arch itself, being divided by the tracery into two smaller arches may be a symbol of a couple joined in holy matrimony, but further a larger whole divided in two may perhaps be a reference to the Trinity. The stylized dogwood would be a reference to the Crucifixion. The legend of dogwood says that wood from that tree was used to make the cross upon which Christ was crucified. In punishment, God caused the tree to whither and the flowers to bear the marks of the cross.

Closeup of the acanthus leaves. Photo 2011, by Lewis
Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The ivy leaf, in funerary art, symbolizes immortality and faithfulness as ivy is an evergreen. The acanthus leaf is also a symbol of immortality and rebirth. Combined, these two elements add not only symbolism, but a florid levity to the stringent Gothic lines. Overall, these elements create an aesthetically pleasing monument.

Signature of J. Baird. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all
rights reserved.

It also should be noted that this stone is signed by the artist. A small signature reads, “J. BAIRD/PHIL.” A quick Google search revealed this to be John Baird of Philadelphia who operated a large operation carving headstones and monuments throughout the mid-late 19th century. Certainly a stone with this grandeur and pedigree would have been expensive and spoken to the wealth of Colonel Broome and his family. It’s also interesting that the family would have gone as far as Philadelphia to procure a monument.

Grave of Julia Broome, died July 31, 1850. Photo
2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Grave of Elizabeth Broome Craybill and infants.
Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The monument is surrounded by the graves a of the Broome’s children, including three daughters who died in their teens. Besides the minimalistic ledger graves which consist of slabs of marble, there is a neoclassical wreathed urn atop the grave of Elizabeth Broome Craybill and her infant children, a highly ornamented cradle grave for Julia Broome complete with a wreath of flowers and a fringed drape over the top and the simple headstone of Martha with a pointed arch and caps. This plot represents the range of architectural styles found in America around the middle of the 19th century.


“Front” side:

Left side:
DIED JAN. 1, 1855

Right side:
BORN AUG. 28, 1798
DIED AUG. 31, 1857

Creek War of 1836. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 12 July 2011.
Funerary Art Symbolism. Oakdale Cemetery. Accessed
     12 July 2011.
Johnson, Forrest Clark, III. Histories of LaGrange and
     Troup County, Georgia, Vols. I & III. LaGrange, GA:
     Martha S. Anderson, 1987.
Johnson, Forrest Clark, III. Histories of LaGrange and
     Troup County, Georgia, Vol. VI: Memories in Marble:
     Hill View and Hill View Annex Cemeteries, LaGrange,
     Georgia. LaGrange, GA: Jackson Printing, 1993.
LaChiusa, Chuck. “Cemetery Symbols Found in
     an Architectural Museum. 2002.
McAlester, Virginia & Lee. A Field Guide to American
     Houses. NYC: Knopf, 1984.


  1. Wow. What great pictures, Lewis. Neat way to see your hometown!

  2. I found your blog by doing a search for Hill View. I've never been here but a lot of my ancestors are buried here. Thanks for the pics!