Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cemeteries Worth the Visit – Oak Hill Cemetery, Crawfordsville, Indiana


Oak Hill Cemetery
Oak Hill Cemetery is located in Crawfordsville, Indiana.  The cemetery was founded in 1875.  Before that a tract of land near Wabash College was used as the cemetery for the town.  It went by various names during the 1800’s including Crawfordville Cemetery, Presbyterian Cemetery, Mills Cemetery, and the Town Cemetery. Many remains were reportedly removed to Oak Hill Cemetery in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  The Crawfordsville Masonic Cemetery, founded in 1866, was acquired by Oak Hill Cemetery in 1997.

James Lee's White Bronze
Cemetery Grounds
There are over 8,000 interments in the cemetery including Indiana Governors, US Congressmen, and the first boy born in Montgomery County, Indiana.   James Lee was born on August 8, 1825.  Lee served as Montgomery County Commissioner from 1870 until December 1876.  During his administration the current Montgomery County Courthouse was built at a cost of $150,000. The building’s corner stone bears Lee’s name.  Lee died on April 28th, 1884 and rests with his wife Mary Ann, under a white bronze monument.

Inscription on Monument
Nathaniel Willis & Daughter
Crawfordsville native, Nathaniel Parker Willis suffered a tragic death.  He was born on August 21, 1868 and apprenticed for Bayliss Hanna, publisher of the Crawfordsville Record before setting out as a salesman.  His first wife died young and he remarried several years later to Hattie Bell of Ladoga. They had one daughter, Mary Frances Willis. Reports indicate the marriage was not a happy one.  In fact, Hattie took Mary and ran away shortly after they moved to Indianapolis.  Willis searched for his daughter until he discovered her living with her mother and her new husband, W.Y. Ellis in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Willis went to court in Little Rock to secure permission to have his daughter visit him at his hotel there.  On July 27, 1909 while in the Little Rock courtroom, Willis was shot to death by W.Y. Ellis, his former wife’s husband. During the Ellis trial it was shown that Willis had followed all legal manners to secure his rights to visit with his daughter, and had devoted his life to finding her.  His stone stands as a tribute to his dedication as a father.

Did Wabash Win?
Ralph Wilson
Ralph Lee Wilson was only 20 years old when he died as the result of a tragic accident.  Wilson played on the football team for Wabash College during the 1910 - 1911 season, his freshman year.  During the fourth game of the season against Washington University in St. Louis, Wilson fractured his skull during a tackle.  When Wilson regained consciousness he asked, “Did Wabash win?”  He died the following Sunday.  Wabash did win the game that day, 10 – 0, but the rest of the season was cancelled. A memorial was created in honor of Wilson and hangs on Hollett Stadium. On Wilson’s stone, the Wabash College pennant and his immortal question -  “Did Wabash Win?” still tugs at your heart, over one hundred years later.

Mahlon Manson
Manson's Monument
Civil War Union Brigadier General Mahlon Dickerson Manson is buried at Oak Hill.  Manson was severely wounded in the Atlanta campaign. Unable to return to service, he resigned in December 1864.  He served in the U.S. Congress from 1871 to 1873 and was Lieutenant Governor of Indiana from 1885 to 1886. He died on February 4, 1895 in Crawfordsville.

Lew & Susan Wallace
Lew Wallace
General Lewis ‘Lew’ Wallace and his wife Susan are buried here.  Wallace was the 11th governor of New Mexico Territory.  He served as a Major General for the Union Army in the Civil War, leading troops into the Battle at Shiloh. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Wallace served as the judge in the military trial of the Lincoln conspirators.

Lew Wallace Writing
Wallace's  Novel
Wallace was also the author of one of the best selling novels of the 19th century and what was considered the most influential Christian book of the 1800’s - Ben-Hur a Tale of the Christ (1880).  This is the book that several movies of the same name have been based on.  Wallace died February 15, 1905 at the age of 77.

Susan Wallace
Susan Wallace, the wife of Lew Wallace, was also a writer.  Her writings were published in over thirty magazines, journals and books of poetry during her lifetime.  She also wrote and published six books: The Storied Sea (1883), Ginevra (1887), The Land of the Pueblos (1888), The Repose in Egypt (1888), Along the Bosphorus and Other Sketches (1898) and The City of the King (1903).  After Lew Wallace died, Susan completed his autobiography.

Tree Stone with Chair
Tree Stone with Broken Branch
History is plentiful in Oak Hill Cemetery where countless city founders, movers and shaker are buried.  There are numerous tree stones of varying detail.  Most with hand carved objects showing the interests and enjoyments of those whose resting places they now mark.

White Bronze Monument
Close up of Detailing on White Bronze
White bronze monuments are also abundant.  From small ‘stones’ to large, intricate monuments, the symbols and epitaphs are easily readable, providing a glimpse into the lives of those resting here.

Oak Hill Cemetery
Angel Statue
Oak Hill Cemetery is located at 392 West Oak Hill Road in Crawfordsville, Indiana.  The office is open Monday through Friday.  Jim Clouse is the Superintendent and Suzi Petrey is Office Manager.  The phone number is (765) 362-6602.  The cemetery does not have a web page or Facebook page.

Egyptian Planter
Guarding the Grave
Plan to spend an afternoon at Oak Hill Cemetery, strolling the rolling grounds covered with towering oaks and maples.  This is a cemetery full of surprises, so take the time to wander among the graves and look for those small details that can tell a lifetime of stories.



  1. I enjoyed reading your very interesting post, especially each one about all the fascinating people buried in this cemetery! Great job!

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