Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cemeteries Worth the Visit – Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana

Highland Lawn Cemetery
Map of Cemetery Grounds

Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, Indiana began in 1884.  The City of Terre Haute purchased 139 acres of “hills and hollows” from Ray and Grace Jenkins for $15,000.  In the true Rural Cemetery style it was designed into well-grouped trees and shrubs, with the artistic placement of lakes, valleys and meandering paths by Joseph Earnshaw.  His goal was to draw attention to the cemetery landscaping instead of the large monuments and mausoleums.  Highland Lawn is the second largest cemetery in Indiana, with Crown Hill in Indianapolis being the largest.

The Chapel
The Chapel in 1914
The cemetery’s chapel, built in 1893, is of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. It was designed by architect Jesse A. Vrydaugh and cost 10-thousand dollars to complete.  It is located on the highest hill in the cemetery.  The Chapel features gabled roofs, a domed brick basement and stained glass throughout.  It was renovated in 1988 at the cost of $65,000.

Highland Lawn Cemetery
The entrance in 1897
The entrance to the cemetery features a Romanesque Revival Bell Tower.  It was constructed of Bedford, Indiana limestone in 1894 by the Heidenreich Company.  The adjoining arch was designed by Paul Leizt of Chicago and constructed by Edward Hazledine. The attached Rest House was built in 1909 as a waiting station for the interurban.  Built by W.H. Floyd in the Colonial style, it is now the cemetery’s offices.

Section 2 where
Samantha McPherson was buried
The first person buried here was Samantha McPherson who died of typhoid and was buried on October 29, 1884.  She was 30 years old. Highland Lawn now has almost 27,000 graves.
Stein Mausoleum

Cummings Mausoleum
Crawford Mausoleum
Highland Lawn has numerous mausoleums located throughout the cemetery. Each is individually owned.  Some hold only two bodies, others hold up to sixteen.  The mausoleums were built mainly from granite and marble. Other markers and stones depict interesting funerary art and sculpture, another way to promote social standing.  In this cemetery, the larger the monument, the more prosperous and well–known the family. 

Blumberg Mausoleum
Davis Mausoleum
Among those mausoleums in the cemetery, two have well-known legends concerning them.

John Heinl
The best know story involves Terre Haute businessman John Hienl and his dog, Stiffy Green from the early part of the 20th century.  Heinl, pipe in hand, and Stiffy Green, so named because of his stiff walking gate and startling greenish colored eyes, would stroll through town, visiting with the folks they met.  Stiffy Green was friendly but ferociously protective of Mr. Heinl and did not allow anyone to get too close to his beloved master.

Heinl Mausloum
When John Heinl passed away on December 31st, 1920, Stiffy was inconsolable.  He sat be the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors.  There he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life.  Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors. 

Stiffy Green
Stiffy mourned himself to death. Heinl’s wife paid tribute to his unwavering love and devotion and had him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so long on those cold mausoleum steps.   Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master. 

An evening walk
But it wasn’t long before visitors began noticing that Stiffy had mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back.  Rumors spread that early in the morning or at twilight you could see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke in the air and a low voice talking to his devoted companion who would answer with a happy bark. 

Vigo County HIstorical Society
But all good things must come to an end – even in death.  Vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. In 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye.  The family decided it was time for Stiffy be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him.  There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum. Today, Stiffy Green is still on guard – unless he and John are taking an evening stroll in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Sheets Family Mausoleum
1920's Style Phone
The second well-known story involves the Sheets family mausoleum, where Martin Sheets, his wife Susan, and baby Ethel are interred.  Born in 1853, Martin lived into his early 70’s, passing in 1926.  He saw many technological changes come about during that time.  One new-fangled invention he found an odd use for was the telephone.  Martin had one installed in the family mausoleum, just in case he was buried unconscious, but alive, and needed to summon help. It was stipulated in his will that a phone line be run from his crypt to the cemetery office.  He set up an account with Indiana Bell Telephone that kept the line paid for and active, just in case. 

Indiana Bell
The story could end here as a very odd but interesting bit of cemetery lore, but it doesn’t.  When Sheets’ wife, Susan died years later, she was found in the kitchen with the phone in her hand.  Many assumed she had been attempting to summon help.  But according to legend, when the mausoleum was unlocked to place Susan’s casket next to her husband, cemetery workers discovered the phone in the crypt was off the hook!

Off the hook
Eighty years after Martin Sheets was placed in the family mausoleum, the phone line was disconnected from the cemetery office, never known to have been physically used.

Debs Political Poster
Eugene Debs
Highland Lawn is also known as the burial place for many famous people, including politicians Eugene Debs, Socialist Presidential candidate who ran for the office five times in the early part of the 20th Century.  

Theodore Hudnut's Grave
Funeral Cortege for Voorhees
Also buried here are Daniel Voorhees, a U.S. Congressman and Senator from the mid-1800’s, and inventor Theodore Hudnut, who developed a way to remove oil from grain, producing Mazoil cooking oil.

Elk's Rest
Highland Lawn Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for its significance in landscaping, one of only two Indiana cemeteries so designated.

Angel at cross
A waiting friend
The cemetery is located at 4420 Wabash Avenue, just east of the city.  It no longer has its own web page.  The Cemetery Superintendent is Lennie Snyder. For assistance with any genealogy questions, contact Roxe Ann Kesner, Cemetery Clerk or her assistant, Helen Kester at (812) 877-2531.  A true Facebook page does not exist.

View of cemetery from southern hill
Bench marker in the snow
Highland Lawn is a cemetery where you can spend a day admiring mausoleums, exquisite artwork and sculptures.  Even in winter, it’s beauty and tranquility shine through!

~ Joy


  1. The Highland Lawn cemetery is a very interesting place to visit. I believe most cemeteries have amazing stories behind them, but this got me very interested. :) The mausoleums' designs are quite beautiful. Thanks for posting this one!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it Loria! It is definitely a cemetery worth visiting!

  3. Beautiful cemetery! Favorite place to go for a run. There's a road that connects the cemetery to the National Road Heritage Trail.

  4. I should have said there's a road at the back of the cemetery that connects to the National Road Heritage Trail!

  5. What a gorgeous place to walk or run in! Always something to see...Enjoy!!

  6. I believe the Cemetery Superintendent Lennie Snyder is the present Exhaulted Ruler of the Elks Lodge #86 in Terre Haute.

  7. Thanks for this interesting page on your visit to Highland Lawn. My grandfather, George Boyer, was Superintendent of Highland Lawn (and Woodlawn) from 1948 until his death in 1962, under former long-time Terre Haute Mayor Ralph Tucker. Cemetery secretary during those years was Marion Pettus, who went on to serve as Superintendent following my grandfather's passing. Cemetery handyman was Fred Sellers. Fred could build anything and fix anything. I grew up spending my summers with my grandparents in the white bungalow next door to Highland Lawn at 4520 Wabash. The cemetery was my playground. I walked and rode my bike on the roads endlessly. No computers in those days--all cemetery records were kept in thick books in the office. I can still smell the scent of those old books and feel the cold stone floors of the office, and I can hear the click of the old Royal manual typewriters. I visited the Heinl mausoleum often, and I'd peek in the iron & glass door to say hello to Stiffy the dog. There was no vandalism in those days--a different time. You are right--there is so much history here, and it's a special place to visit. My childhood friends used to ask me if I was scared living in a cemetery. I'd laugh because my grandmother always told me, "Dead people won't hurt you...it's the live ones you have to watch out for!" If you ever return to Highland Lawn, please give a hello to my grandparents, George & Ruth Boyer, who are buried in section 18 right by the office. Thanks for giving me this page of memories.

    1. Thank you for sharing Carolyn!! What wonderful memories!! I will make sure to say 'Hello' to your grandparents on my next visit.

  8. can you tell me more about the Blumberg? i have a vwery interesting picture of it i just took today!

  9. Loreal,

    The Blumberg Mausoleum is where Fannie, and her husband, Benjamin are interred.

    Fannie (Burgheim) Blumberg was a local Terre Haute author, artist, and philanthropist.

    She wrote several stories for children that were published in John Martin's Magazine in the early 1900's. Over 25 of her stories were published, along with five books.

    Fannie also painted watercolors and oils, which are on exhibit in several museums and galleries throughout the U.S.

    She, and her husband, Benjamin (a Terre Haute attorney,) also provided the funds for the Art Center at DePauw University in 1956.

    Fannie died on July 9, 1964. Benjamin died on April 1, 1971.

    The lions are depicted to be guarding the entrance to the mausoleum. One lion sleeps while the other watches, so there is always one that is "on guard."

  10. Thanks for writing about this cemetery. I too love walking cemeteries and plan on coming to this cemetery in May. I have done genealogy for many years and have just recently found out that my great grandmother is buried there. I was told that when she was buried in 1924 that this was a paupers cemetery.

    1. There may be a paupers area here, but the cemetery was started and maintained as a Rural cemetery, with landscaping, mausoleums and monuments.

  11. One of the things that cemetery folks such as yourself must contend with from time to time is the grave robber. If you have not already met one, you have now. I just stole your picture of Eli Harvey's Elk monument and posted it here.
    In order to post a picture on wikipedia I have to either be the photographer or get copyright clearance from the owner, in this case, probably you. If you go to the Eli Harvey article you will see your picture in a chart of his Elks. Clicking on the picture will get you to it. Go to the talk page and identify yourself and the copyright owner. If you want to remove it, I will help you. If you want to leave it there with you listed as the copyright owner then you will, I hope, have a change to do that. I have never done thins sort of thing before, grave robbing is new to me, but I am always open to new things. See you around (love your blog) Einar aka carptrash on wikipedia