Today, I went through some of the photos I took at Glenwood Cemetery in Chipley, Florida, where I visited Emmett’s parents, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, and Elizabeth V. Wilson.
I took these two photos the last time I was in Chipley; I didn’t have a lot of time that day to hang out and study them, so I made a point to study the stones closely on my second trip.
I don’t have a lot of personal information about Emmett’s father or mother, so whatever I can glean from the cemetery is important. The headstones don’t just mark a plot; they can give you clues about the person.
This time, I took a lot of photos of the headstones and burial plots, and I took along my friend, sister and Chipley resident Pam. She knows the cemetery well, and it was helpful to hear her take on the Wilson’s markers as we walked through the cemetery together.
First, the two stones together.
There’s almost 30 years difference between the two burials. The stones are similar in height and style. Dr. Wilson had remarried almost two years after the death of his first wife, Elizabeth; his headstone was selected by the second wife, Kate Langley Jordan Wilson. It’s interesting that she kept the style fairly close to that of the first wife’s stone.
Or not. It’s possible that Dr. Wilson, in his final days, asked to have a stone like his wife’s. Or, maybe the grown Wilson children weighed in on this. But honestly, I don’t think so. Kate Langley Jordan Wilson was a strong woman and did what she always felt was the right thing. I think Kate picked this out of respect and honor to her husband: She knew that Dr. Wilson loved his first wife dearly. While Kate and Dr. Wilson had a good marriage, he never really got over Elizabeth (like Kate never got over her first husband either — but that’s a story for another post).
Kate isn’t buried next to Dr. Wilson, by the way. She’s buried next to her daughter, in a separate plot quite a distance away in the cemetery. (There is also 30 years’ difference between Dr. Wilson’s death and Kate’s death. Kate’s daughter, John, took charge of the estate and Kate’s funeral, for the record.)
Let’s take a close look at the carvings on the Wilson stones. I took several shots of what was carved into the markers. Both markers have interesting designs on all four sides. I’ll start with Elizabeth’s.
Here’s the back of Elizabeth’s stone.
Several different sources report that the calla lily was used on headstones to symbolize marriage; also, resurrection. The Easter lily was a symbol of purity, virtue; also, resurrection. The rose in full bloom was a symbol of eternal love; also, someone who died in the prime of life — which is what happened to Elizabeth.
There is the same carving on the north and south sides of this stone:
Here’s another photo of the carving on Elizabeth’s stone, with contrast added:
I can’t figure out what kind of plant that is. It looks like a kind-of lily if you look at the top of the plant. If this is an entire lily plant, several sources report that it represents resurrection. Elizabeth was a much-beloved member of this family; this would be a loving touch to her memorial.
Here’s the base of her stone:
I love this sentiment; I can imagine the family selecting this for their mother, and I really believe they thought this about Elizabeth. However, I saw this exact same sentiment carved on the stone of another woman in the cemetery (the deceased wife of a sheriff). I think the stone mason probably showed the family a variety of different sentiments that would be appropriate for their beloved wife and mother, and they picked this one. I admit that I was a little saddened to find the exact same saying on another stone in the cemetery, and to think this wasn’t original to Elizabeth.
There is a foot stone on Elizabeth’s grave:
Pam noted that Elizabeth must have been a small woman. The distance between the headstone and the footstone is a little over five feet. Emmett and his brothers were tall (six feet tall on average); they clearly got their height from their father.
Now, we turn to Dr. Wilson’s stone:
One of the first things that struck me about Dr. Wilson’s stone is that the brass plate appears to have been edited. On the left side, second line, the abbreviation “PVT” has been removed.
His rank during the Civil War was, officially, private, though he later had a field promotion to an officer’s rank at Appomattox, at the very end of the war (which might not have been considered an official promotion). I wonder who had the brass lettering removed — perhaps Kate?
Take a look at the carving at the top of the stone:
Note also the cross-and-crown engraving at the top of the stone, symbols of victory and Christianity.
I think it significant that this is on Dr. Wilson’s stone. There wasn’t an established Episcopal parish in Chipley until around 1920. I spoke with the local pastor several months ago, who told me that Episcopalians living in Chipley back in the day either would have had to travel to attend services in Marianna (at St. Luke’s) or Geneva, or Dothan, Alabama.
Both Dr. Wilson and Elizabeth were practicing Episcopalians. If Dr. Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson were devout, it must have been hard to be physically separated from the actual practice of their faith. Perhaps the Wilsons did their own “Sunday school” at home on occasion, but that’s not the same thing as receiving the sacrament each Sunday.
As I thought about this, I drew a conclusion that Kate, who was a staunch Baptist, apparently respected Dr. Wilson’s faith; she didn’t try to ‘make him over’ as some people may do when they marry into a family. I think this is quite telling about the person Kate was, and the regard she held for the family she married into.
This one is hard to figure out. The plant looks more like a type of tree branch (which is why I thought ‘dogwood’ first), but the plant looks shamrock-ish. Perhaps clover? If so, it would be a nod to Dr. Wilson’s Irish heritage.
At the base of Dr. Wilson’s grave are two markers:
And this one:
So, that’s what I have from the second trip to Glenwood Cemetery.
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