Saturday, January 1, 2022

Unrest at Elks Rest in Terre Haute Indiana

Tombstone Tourists are all about history, heritage, and preservation. We want to save the stones, the cemeteries, and the stories for future generations. That’s why when I received a link to an article by Terre Haute Indiana Tribune Star staff writer David Kronke a couple of weeks ago, I immediately put out a call for any volunteer restoration groups willing to help “Save the Elk.”  

The Bronze Elk

According to the article, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 86 in Terre Haute, Indiana, had planned to auction the bronze statue after publicly stating they couldn’t afford to refurbish it.


It is worth noting the Elks Lodge owns the plot of land where Elk members are buried and the statue stands. A cemetery plot is sold like any other piece of real estate; the buyer signs a deed for the land, tiny though it may be. The original deed goes to the purchaser, and a copy is filed in the courthouse and with the cemetery. Therefore, Highland Lawn Cemetery owned by the City of Terre Haute, does not own the statue and has no control over its sale or removal.


Bronze Elk

No sooner had I sent out pleas for assistance than questions began to surface. “Who had said the statue needed restoration?” “What type of refurbishing was needed?” “Had Elks Lodge No. 86 asked for or sought any assistance in refurbishing the statue?” One Facebook reader cut to the chase and called it a “money grab, pure and simple.”



Refurbishment Plea is Suspect

Locals felt the same way. Many said this wasn’t about the statue needing repairs; it’s about a fraternal club needing money due to suffering financial problems …again.

The community rose in protest when Maple Avenue Auction released a notice of the sale. The Elks leadership set the minimum bid at $30,000, and the buyer must also pay all moving and repair fees.


According to Tommy Kleckner, director of the Western Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, no matter how much the Elks would receive from selling the statue, it wouldn’t match “its intrinsic historical value.”



Save the Elk

When Terre Haute resident Dot Lewis heard about the pending auction, she decided to do something about it. Lewis has formed the Facebook group, Save the Elk (Elks Rest) @ Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana.

She created the group on December 17, 2021, and it now has over 100 members.


Lewis hopes to draw attention to the possible plight of the elk and create a public forum to protest its sale and removal. When I queried her about the potential auction, she explained that the statement made by the Elks that they need to sell the statue due to refurbishment “is simply not true.” The decision to sell the elk was a “private decision…made by the leadership of local Elks Lodge No.86 without public or membership notification or discussion.”


Elk Lodge No. 86 in Terre Haute, Indiana

According to Lewis, “It is a justification for their unethical tactics and greed. They are selling it because they want money for their lodge.” Lewis went on to say that neither “the Elks nor us (Save the Elk) need resources for refurbishment.”


A cemetery sexton I spoke with said that a bronze statue might need the joints rewelded due to metal fatigue, but historians would not consider removing the century-old patina. 


History of Harvey’s Elk

Eli Harvey

The 14-point elk has overseen the graves of nearly two-dozen Terre Haute Elk members for almost a century. Sculptor Eli Harvey designed the elk statue in 1904. Harvey spent weeks inside a shed to gather the correct dimensions, and attitude, of an elk stag in rut. Some believe that Harvey could “touch the soul” of the animal. His bronze elk sculptures represent the emblem of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and it was his most popular work. The statues, cast in 1905, were available in statuette and monumental versions. The elk was originally known as the “Bull Elk.” The monumental Highland Lawn Cemetery statue is known locally as “Elks Rest.” An attached plaque reads: “Elks Rest, BPOB No. 86,” and a clock face depicts the time as 11:55.


Located at the entrance gates, the elk is the first destination on the cemetery
walking tour and listed on the Waymarking site in “Smithsonian Art Inventory Sculptures” pertaining only to outdoor public sculptures.

Lodge No. 86 purchased the statue in 1927 and dedicated it at the fraternal cemetery plot the following year.


Elks No. 86 Has Sold Other Historic Artifacts

Revolutionary-era Cannons

Lodge 86 is the same group that sold the historic Revolutionary-era cannons displayed at Fort Harrison. The site was once the location of the Elks Lodge Country Club and Golf Course.


Elk Statue at Dedication in 1928

Families are appalled that Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks No. 86 would choose to sell off this symbolic statue that oversees their dead. This considered action doesn’t ring true to the Elks mission statement:

“… the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through *benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.” 

(*Benevolent means “charitable, non-profitmaking.”)


Is it Legal?

That depends on whom you’re speaking with. Several attorneys have voiced the possibility that legal action could be considered.

According to an Indiana law, it is illegal in Indiana to sell anything placed on or in a grave.

IC 14-21-2-4 Purchase or sale of items removed from cemetery prohibited

Sec. 4. A person may not buy or sell any of the following that have been removed from a cemetery:

(1) Grave memorial.

(2) Grave artifact.

(3) Grave ornamentation.

(4) Cemetery enclosure.

(5) Other commemorative item.

As added by P.L.100-1999, SEC.1.

The statue would be considered a commutative item, which an attorney explained, “The Elks Lodge can get rid of it, but just not sell it.”


What Can Be Done?

• A lawsuit could be brought by concerned citizens against the Elks Lodge No. 86. 

• The City of Terre Haute, the State of Indiana, or a group of concerned citizens, or historians, could consider purchasing the statue and allowing it to remain permanently in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

The city could also apply for an Indiana Historical Marker for the elk possibly in time to stop a sale.

You could consider filing a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General.

• For other suggestions, visit Save the Elk on Facebook. 


And we must consider, what precedent does this potential action set for other historic markers and monuments around the country?

As Dot Lewis put it so succinctly, “What kind of fraternal society…would be so disrespectful to its deceased members (as) to sell off what is symbolically a grave marker?”


For now, the auction is on hold.


 Visit the Terre Haute Lodge No 86 Elks page to voice your opinion to the Terre Haute Elks.

Send an email to the Indiana Elks Association.

Contact the National Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.



Wishing you and yours a safe and happy New Year!

~ Joy 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dining with the Dead


October is always a great time to ponder the oddities of life, the weird things we notice but then promptly forget.


When asked, we can quickly conjure up haunted houses, insane asylums, and spooky rural roads for common sites of paranormal activity. But haunted restaurants are a thing, too. And there are a lot of them in the U.S. Today, let's whet your appetite for the macabre at the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis.


Johann Adam Lemp

Named one of the “Ten Spookiest Buildings in the World” by CNN Travel, the Lemp Family Mansion has had numerous paranormal groups investigate. But why does this stately home have such a tragic reputation? Maybe it has something to do with the four suicides here – two in the same room.

Johann Adam Lemp arrived in the U.S. from Germany. He operated a grocery for a few years before delving into the brewing industry and starting the Western Brewing Company.


By the 1850s, Lemp’s Extra Pale Ale was a huge success, and the family became part of the reigning beer empire in the city.


William Lemp Sr.

 Adam Lemp died in 1862, and his son William took over the business.

In 1876, William Lemp, Jr. purchased the mansion from his father-in-law to use as a residence and headquarters to the brewing company.



Although the Lemp Western Brewery was the first to have coast-to-coast beer distribution with their “Falstaff” label, obstacles were mounting in the way of their brewing success – mainly the Anheuser-Busch family.


The first family death occurred in 1901 when Lemp Sr.’s heir-apparent son, Fredrick, died of heart failure at 28.

William Lemp Sr. was inconsolable, and three years later shot himself with a .38-caliber revolver in his brewery office.


William Lemp Sr.

His son, William Lemp Jr. moved his family into the mansion and kept it as the company’s headquarters. With Prohibition bearing down, the Lemp family knew their lives would be changing.



The Catacombs
As the spoiled son of a rich man, Lemp took up a decadent lifestyle.
He demanded his wife spend $1,000 a day so others could see how affluent they were. He began entertaining “friends” in the catacombs created under the mansion.  


It was rumored that Lemp Jr. had an illegitimate child with another woman. The boy was said to be born with Down syndrome, so to keep gossip at bay, Lemp hid the child in the attic, forcing him to live there with only servants to tend him.


Known as “Monkey Face Boy,” the unwanted child remained hidden away until he died in his thirties. He is possibly one of the “long-term residents” of the mansion.


Elsa Lemp Wright

Elsa Lemp Wright, Lemp, Sr’s daughter, shot herself in her home on March 20, 1920. She was said to be despondent over her failed marriage.




Lemp Brewery

In 1922, William Lemp, Jr. sold the money-making “Falstaff” logo to another brewer. He then sold the brewery buildings for a pittance of what they had been worth before Prohibition. On December 29, William announced he would sell the mansion. With that, he went into his office and shot himself in the heart - 18 years after his father’s suicide.


The family decided not to sell the property, although they would no longer preside over a brewing empire in St. Louis.

In 1949, Charles Lemp – William Jr’s brother, took his life in the same office, ending the family’s residency in the building.


The mansion was soon sold and turned into a boarding house. It was then when talk of spirits began to fly. Investigators have suggested that up to nine spirits reside in the home, mainly in the attic, on the stairs, and in the basement near the entrance to the catacombs - referred to by restaurant staff as “The Gates of Hell.”



Employees and patrons have reported hearing footsteps when no one was in the vicinity. The sound of rapping has been heard along with the occasional appearance of an apparition. Doors lock and unlock themselves, and the piano will play when no one is nearby.


In 1975, Dick Pointer saw the ghost angle as a business opportunity and turned it into a restaurant and hotel.


Today the Lemp Mansion has been restored to its turn-of-the-century style. It now boasts a fine dining restaurant, dinner theatre, and inn. Tours of the facility are available.


Now is the perfect time for a ghostly get-away to the Lemp Mansion. Haunted history tours are offered, but October events sell out quickly. Regular Monday evening tours are held year-round.


Although I have not spent the night, I have dined here. And it is indeed well worth putting on your bucket list of “must-see” places, especially during the witching month.

~ Joy