Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Grave marker symbols and a secret society

This is the grave of Henry Noble Taylor, known to his friends as Harry, who rests in the University of Virginia Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Taylor was a journalist and a war correspondent for the Scripps-Howard newspapers. He was killed on the job by machine-gun fire in the Congo on September 4, 1960. The inscription on his footstone reads: “He died to find and tell the truth.” 


While many of us delight in discovering grave markers with symbols from society and fraternal orders, it was fun to see the mark of the Seven Society, one of the secret societies of the University of Virginia. The Seven Society was founded in 1905. Their symbol includes the number 7 surrounded by the signs for alpha (A), omega (Ω), and infinity (∞). 


Siskiyou Daily News, September 8, 1960.
The inner workings of the Seven Society remain secret but their philanthropic gifts to the University include great flair. Gifts from the Seven Society have varied with donations including numerous sevens. In UVA Magazine, Robert Viccellio explains, “One notable example occurred during Final Exercises in 1947, when the commencement address was interrupted by a small explosion at the front of the stage, followed by a check for $177,777.77 floating to the ground. The money established an interest-free loan fund for any student, faculty or staff member who was in financial trouble.” 


Membership is revealed only upon a member’s death when a banner appears during the funeral. There is also a tradition of wreaths in the shape of the number 7 with black magnolias.  



Robert Viccellio, “Wrapped in Mystery: A Guide to Secret-and Not-so-Secret-Student Organizations at UVA.” Virginia Magazine, UVA Alumni Association, 2012, 

Siskiyou Daily News (Yreka, California), 08 Sep 1960, page 6.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

...a student memorial in a university cemetery...

I have a new research project that I have started and was searching for a particular grave; yet I’m always distracted by cemetery memorials and epitaphs, which make me curious to learn about those who are interred in the cemeteries that I visit. 

Saturday was a beautiful day to be in the cemetery. I headed to Charlottesville to the University of Virginia Cemetery that was founded in 1828 and used as the burial ground for many of the prominent individuals from the university. 

Thomas Jefferson never made plans for a cemetery on the university grounds but disease, explicitly the typhoid epidemic in Charlottesville made the space necessarily.  


In this particular cemetery, numerous epitaphs note how each individual was connected to the university from professors, librarians, doctors, students, and even the children of those who worked for UVa. 


The memorial of John A. Glover
I’m intrigued by unusual deaths, deaths of students, and nearly anything circus-related so the grave of John A. Glover, who died on April 11, 1846 at the age of 21 years and 6 months piqued my interest when I saw that a Find A Grave bio noted that Glover was killed by the elephant keeper of a circus that came through Charlottesville. The source was listed as a letter from C.C. Wertenbaker, who was the son of UVa’s first librarian William Wertenbaker, to Prof J.A. Harrison (1897) in The Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, Volumes 1-4. Professor Harrison had been inquiring about the history of the cemetery when Wertenbaker, who may have also enjoyed the unusual, shared details about the tragic incident.



Richmond Enquirer, March 26, 1846
After doing a little research, I learned that John A. Glover of Alabama had been a beloved student and his classmates offered a “tribute of respect” in that they believed the murder was “an atrocious murder” so they would wear black armbands, or the “badge of mourning for a period of thirty days.” (Richmond Enquirer, Tue May 26, 1846, page 4). 

Richmond Enquirer, April 21, 1846
The murder occurred when there was a fight at the the exhibition of Raymond & Co’s Menagerie of Animals. Glover, considered “an unoffending bystander, in no way participating in the conflict, received a blow on the head with a stick or heavy bludgeon, which occasioned his death in a few hours.” (Richmond Enquirer, Tue April 21, 1846, page 4). The article continues by noting that the person who had been arrested was discharged. 


David Maurer of Virginia Magazine goes into more detail about the incident pointing that Glover was not necessarily free from blame as he “foolishly tossed a burning cigar into the arena” of a lion pulling a cart with an animal trainer. Glover’s actions spooked the lion and caused an uproar. Maurer writes, “In a moment of blind rage, the infuriated trainer picked a large tent peg off the ground and struck the student with it” and explains that according to Wertenbaker’s letter, the man was tried for murder but acquitted. An evening that was intended to be a fun outing for some students turned into a tragic event. 

David Maurer. “Set in Stone: The Serenity of UvA's Cemetery Belies a Colorful Past.” Virginia Magazine. UVA Alumni Association. Accessed March 29, 2022. 

Richmond Enquirer, Tue April 21, 1846, page 4.

Richmond Enquirer, Tue May 26, 1846, page 4.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Feminist, writer, and game designer, Lizzie Magie's grave in Columbia Gardens Cemetery

Grave of Lizzie Magie in Columbia Gardens Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Yesterday, I went out to visit the grave of feminist, writer, and game designer, Lizzie Magie. Born Elizabeth J. Phillips on May 9, 1866 in Illinois to Mary Jane Ritchie Magie and James K. Magie, her father was a newspaper publisher and an abolitionist who traveled with Abraham Lincoln in the 1850s. 

Photograph of author Lizzie Magie in My Betrothed, and Other Poems (1892), The Brodix Publishing Company, unknown photographer.

In the 1880s, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she worked as a stenographer and typist at the Dead Letter Office. Magie received a patent for her invention that allowed paper to go through the rollers more easily thus making the typewriter more user-friendly. This was during a time that it was quite rare for women to obtain patients. 

While I could find a good amount of information about Magie as a game designer and entrepreneur, finding information about her as a writer was a bit more of a challenge. 


In 1892, she published a collection of poems, My betrothed, and other poems.


In 1895, her story, "For the Benefit of the Poorwas published in Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. This ending of this story was rather unexpected and if you read it and know me, you'll know that I love endings like this. 

And, in 1897, she had her short story, “The Theft of a Brain the Story of a Hypnotized Novelist and a Cruel Deed,” published in Godey's Magazine. I rather enjoyed this latter story about an aspiring novelist named Laura who just needed a little time to sit down and write her great American stories. She found the time when she was hypnotized but unfortunately, the professor who was the one who hypnotized her was not so trustworthy and shenanigans ensued. There were some aspects of the writing that were a bit dated but overall, I thought it was entertaining and I really liked the premise of the story and the characters for the most part.  

What Magie is most known for was popularizing the circular board game. In 1903, Lizzie Magie invented The Landlord's Game, and applied for a patent on her board game. Decades later after her patent had expired, Parker Brothers published Monopoly. Charles Darrow was credited as inventing the game until economics professor, Ralph Anspach discovered Magie's patents. He wrote a great tell-all book The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle (2010) about this.  


Landlords Game® ~ 1906, board game. Designed by: Lizzie J. Magie (Phillips); Published by Economic Game Company, New York, 1906; Patent Filed: Mar 23, 1903 - No.149,177 - Lizzie J. Magie; Patent Granted: Jan 05, 1904 - No.748,626 - Lizzie J. Magie; Image courtesy of Thomas Forsyth owner of the REGISTERED TRADEMARK "The Landlord's Game®" - See

Magie passed away on March 2, 1948. She was buried beside her husband Albert Wallace in Columbia Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. 

Saturday, March 5, 2022

A cemetery mystery in progress


A few weeks ago, I took a quick excursion during lunch to a cemetery that is rarely open to the public without special permission. Since I have a research project connected to this place, I wanted to snap a few pictures of some specific graves. Cemeteries are rarely quick excursions though and my fella says that I am always finding a mystery. On this particular visit, I had a graveyard and literature nerd moment. 


I went to Pet Memorial Parks, LLC, in Henrico, Virginia. I parked, got out of my car, and as I looked over, there were a few graves on the edge of the cemetery. The names seemed familiar. Could these be Ellen Glasgow’s dogs? Without doing any research, I knew that the years would be about right, and I knew her dogs’ names. And, I believed that her dogs had originally been buried here. 

The cemetery did not have records about Jeremy or Billy, which I have now supplied them with, but they confirmed that Pal, the middle grave, was one of Ellen Glasgow's dogs. Researching and collaborating for the win! 

There is a mystery here, and I have been researching to find answers. I will note that I doubt many people care if I find answers or not, but I care and that’s what research is all about. 


I’ve been trying to find more sources, which led me to Virginius Dabney’s Across the Years (1978). Dabney wrote the obituary for Ellen Glasgow’s dog Jeremy for the Richmond Times Dispatch. A copy of the obituary is included in the book’s appendix. In his book on page 169, it reads that when Jeremy died in 1929, he was buried in the garden. But this doesn’t seem to be where the story ends. The local legend has always been that in Ms. Glasgow’s will, she requested for the bones of her dogs to be reinterred and buried with her in Hollywood Cemetery. Tour guides still share this legend. I know I've shared it before. Numerous books cite the legend but I wanted to know more.


I’m curious about how the legend started but I’m more interested in determining if there is, in fact, any reason to believe that the dogs’ remains actually were moved. 


In 1934, Glasgow purchased six grave plots at Pet Memorial Park and "some of her dogs were buried there" and some were moved from her garden to the cemetery. But which dogs? As you can see from the screen shot, I only had access to a short preview of E. Stanley Godbold’s 1972 book Ellen Glasgow and the Woman Within. Godbold is a historian and his first book was focused on Ellen Glasgow. I purchased a copy of the book since I could not see more details through Google Books, which certainly left me with a cliffhanger! 

The graves of some of Ellen Glasgow's dogs
I also found mention of the dogs being disinterred from Pet Memorial Park so that they could be buried with her in 1945 upon her death in Christine Quiglry’s The Corpse A History (2015). There was no footnote that I could see from the preview so I would need to access the full text to find citations if I really thought it was a viable text, which I don’t think it is. I’m sure it just perpetuates the rumors. 

So while I am waiting for the Godbold’s text, which is somewhat important, I contacted the cemetery to see if they had records. As you can imagine, old cemetery records go missing. The same is true for an old pet cemetery. Fortunately, the current owner has been in contact with the daughter of the original owner and I have been able to start a correspondence and receive more information. 


This is where I am. A somewhat clear answer- no, the dogs were never dug up along with more gruesome details that I plan to include in an article that I will be working on. For now, I’m enjoying the mystery and you fine readers now know that I haven’t fallen off the planet.   

And not exactly a coincidence, I visited Ellen Glasgow's grave in Hollywood Cemetery last week for a photoshoot. A photographer from Richmond Magazine wanted to take a few pictures of me there for an article the magazine is doing about my book, Women Writers Buried in Virginia. In honor of my recent mystery, I wore my Frankenweenie brooch by Lipstick & Chrome.