Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Hell is full of such angels!" Part III

When I first examined the gravesite in 2004, the Cleveland tombstone was still standing. It is now resting flat on top of a slab of concrete. Two major items are missing from the tombstone. There is no sign of the “sculptured two hands, each holding a pistol” mentioned in the Liberty Tribune. On this particular point, I believe the newspaper probably embellished the story. If the two hands holding pistols were part of the original tombstone R.M. Peck would certainly have mentioned it. The second missing piece is the famous epitaph. Days after first viewing the tombstone, I contacted Randy Thies at the Kansas State Historical Society. The following is his report:

Observations of Randy Thies, Cultural Resource Specialist and Archeologist with the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, Kansas.

December 2004.

"Well, here's my observations. I don't think anything got washed away,and I don't think the current gravestone is a new stone. This current gravemarker is the original stone, in my opinion. I make that judgement due to the style of the lettering and associated sculptural characteristics, the fact the gravestone is made of marble, and the fact that gravestone is quite thin and was probably quite tall, all of these being characteristics common to gravestones of that time period. The concrete, however, is obviously new, not something that would have been used back in 1862. The stone is set in the concrete to a depth that brings the concrete right up and even encroaching on the circular sculptural depression that contains Cleveland's name. This is not something that anyone would have done purposely, so it seems obvious that the gravemarker has been reset, probably after being broken off at ground level after being struck by something--maybe vandalism, getting hit by a mower, hit by a log in a flood, whatever. Structurally, because the gravestone is tall and thin, it would have been easily broken. I strongly suspect the "One here less..." epitaph was somewhere below the name but it is impossible to know just how far it was located below the circle. It seems obvious that the gravemarker was formerly quite tall, so it is not certain where the ground-level breaking point would have been. Most likely, the broken upper part of the stone was placed up against the remaining lower part of the stone,and the two pieces were then reset in concrete, a move that probably resulted in the epitaph being covered--and it will be covered forever,because it would be difficult if not impossible to remove the concrete in such a manner as to enable restoration of the stone, assuming the city would ever actually allow anyone to undertake such a project. I was able to get permission from the city clerk to dig soil out from in front of the stone to enable viewing of the hoped-for epitaph, but the city facilities manager was aghast that such permission had been granted tome. I doubt that they would permit any intrusive restoration efforts whatsoever."

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