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. https://uvamagazine.org/articles/set_in_stone/. 

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment