Missouri History Museum

Missouri History Museum (St. Louis, Missouri)

Sunny recommends this site: “I spent the weekend in St. Louis, and my husband and I went to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park one afternoon. That is one MORBID museum! I mean, I love the macabre as much as the next girl and there were some things that even made me sit back and go, ‘eww’. Like the death mask of the child who died during the cholera epidemic in 1849, complete with a tiny coffin. (With a picture of the child from when she was alive with her mom!) Or the collection of pictures of dead people taken by their grieving families as mementos. Or the slavers’ chains you can actually PUT ON around your ankles. Or (and this was my favorite) the collection of coroner’s notes from autopsies done on the bodies of people killed during the Camp Jackson Affair of 1861. WAAAY less sanitized than the Smithsonian, lemme tell ya. An engaging way to spend an icy afternoon in St. Louis.”


Marais des Cygnes Massacre Site

Marais des Cygnes Massacre Site (Pleasanton, Kansas)
Per the website, “In May 1858, proslavery men gunned down 11 free-state men in a ravine that is now this important landmark. The shootings shocked the nation and became a pivotal event in the Bleeding Kansas era. Take a drive through this now beautiful natural setting and experience the site through outdoor exhibits.”

Memory Hill Cemetery

Memory Hill Cemetery (Milledgeville, Georgia)
A Comtesse Travelogue to the slave graves of Milledgeville.

Trudging Up Memory Hill

Memory Hill Cemetery 

Milledgeville, GA – April 20, 2003 

Memory Hill Cemetery
Liberty and Franklin Streets
Milledgeville, GA
Website: http://www.friendsofcems.org/MemoryHill/default.asp

I was stationed in Augusta, Georgia for several weeks in 2003 for a grueling work project. During my weekends, I took excursions to various towns to try to immerse myself in some of the dark history in the state. And let’s face it, there is a LOT of it here. The thing I found most interesting about Georgia (as with most of the South), is the way that much of that dark history goes unmentioned. You don’t see museums dedicated to the history of slavery here. That whole chapter of history seems very much to be swept under the rugs. However, the evidence of slavery and segregation scars the countryside, if you know where to look for it.I had read an article about “slave grave markers” and my curiosity was piqued. It seems that there was an old tradition in the 19th century of putting 1-3 chain links on the gravesites of slaves. One link meant that the individual interred was born into slavery, but lived most of their adult life free and died free; two links meant they were born into slavery, lived most of their lives in slavery, but died free; and three links mean they lived their entire life as a slave. I found it very sad to think that the entire measure of their lives could be symbolized by three chain links, and decided that I had to find some of these slave markers myself, to pay homage to the forgotten men and women buried beneath them. (Update 5/29/11 – Adam Selzer suggests an alternate explanation for the three links: “The three links of chains are often said to signify being born, living, and dying in bondage around town, but it’s not quite accurate. There are certainly slave graves in Memory Hill, but the three links of chain are actually symbols denoting that the buried person was a member of the Odd Fellows, the secret club that workers joined while their bosses joined the Freemasons or Shriners.” I hope that’s not true… it’s very unpoetic.)On an overcast April day, I set off to Milledgeville, Georgia to try to find historic Memory Hill Cemetery. I wish I’d done a bit more homework because I later read about numerous very interesting historic graves that I was completely unaware of on my trip, so I consider this visit to be sadly unfinished business, but I did find the slave graves that I was looking for, and for that reason the trip was satisfactory. I also managed to stumble across an old asylum (see part two of the travelogue), which was doubly interesting. So, without further ado, here’s my trip to Milledgeville…

On my drive to Milledgeville, I came across this abandoned old “Country Store,” which I thought was quite photogenic. There were lots of reminders of the past like this littering the backstreets.

Here’s the Milledgeville City Hall. Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia from 1807 to 1867 and is filled with grand old buildings befitting such an honor. This one isn’t one of them, but it is nice.

This is one of my favorite buildings in Milledgeville – the Old Baldwin County Courthouse, built in 1885.

I always get a kick out of fallout shelter signs. They are such a throwback to the ’50’s. You never see these things in California.

After photographing the Old Courthouse, I finally arrived at Memory Hill Cemetery. The first gravestone that caught my attention was this modern one in the shape of a fiddle – the grave of Randy D. Howard (1960-1999), “World Champion Fiddler”. Randy died after a bout with cancer.

Memory Hill Cemetery was originally designated as one of the four public squares of twenty acres each in the Milledgeville town plan of 1803. It later came to be known as Cemetery Square. Many people associated with Milledgeville and Georgia history, such as L.Q.C. Lamar, Congressman Carl Vinson, and Flannery O’Connor, as well as early Georgia governors, legislators, college presidents, slaves, and soldiers, are buried here. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that Flannery O’Connor was buried here during my trip, or I surely would have sought her grave out, being a huge fan of her work. Damn!!

I thought this grave with the lamb lying down (which kind of looks more like a camel lying down to me) was kind of creepy.

youngest daughter of
E. S. & J. S. Candler,
Born 25th July
Died 28th January
1 year 6 months
& 3 days.

This is one of the most interesting inscriptions I’ve run across in some time. I love it when they tell you how they died.

memory of
who died on the 16th
July, AD 1845, from the
accidental discharge
of a cannon at the
funeral obsequies
Honest, mirthful and beloved
he acquired the title of
It lives with his

This section of the cemetery contains the remains of the sadly forgotten patients of the nearby Georgia Lunatic Asylum (from 1842-1858). I stopped here for a minute and tried to imagine what sort of horrors a psych patient would have faced in the period of 1842-1858! After shuddering violently for a few seconds, I moved on…

This was an interesting gravestone as well:

He was an orderly, industrious and respected
citizen – a native of
Aged about 50 years at the time of his death and
shot down by a Federal Soldier on the 30th day of
Nov. 1864,
on the advance of Gen. Sherman’s Army on

I loved this memorial fountain – there should be more of these in cemeteries, don’t you think?

In memory of my play-mate
JULY 15, 1909

In the very back of the cemetery I found the slave burial area. Of course, even in death, the bodies of the slaves were segregated from non-slaves. I wandered about taking photographs of the poignant chains that serve as the only memorial to the men and women buried beneath them.

Since I didn’t know any better at the time, I neglected to visit the Devil’s Gate, or the grave of Flannery O’Connor at the Memory Hill Cemetery. Instead, I drove over to investigate the beautiful gothic Old State Capitol Building, built in 1807. The Old Capitol is considered the first example of Gothic architecture in a public building in the United States. It served as the seat of government for the State of Georgia from 1807 to 1868 and in its legislative chambers the Secession Convention was held in 1861. The beautiful gates at the north and south entrances to the square were constructed in the 1860’s, after the War Between the States, of bricks from the arsenal destroyed by Sherman’s soldiers. Three times the building was partially destroyed by fire. Since 1879, Georgia Military College has occupied the historic site. The building was renovated in 2000 and now houses a regional historical museum and the newly restored Legislative Chamber, where some of Georgia’s greatest debates took place, including the Secession Convention.


The Georgia Lunatic Asylum

For additional information see:
Memory Hill Cemetery

Anyone have any additional stories, tidbits or photos to add?
If so, by all means, write me!

The Haunted Pillar

The Haunted Pillar (Augusta, Georgia)
Comtesse Travelogue to a pillar which local lore believes will bring misfortune or death to anyone who touches it!

A Most Peculiar Pillar!
The “Haunted Pillar”
Fifth and Broad
Augusta, Georgia
January 12, 2003

I was assigned to a tedious work project in Augusta, Georgia from December, 2002 to June, 2003. During my time there I heard about a pillar in the downtown area that locals believed was “cursed”. There are many legends that surround the origin of the pillar and how it came to be cursed. Some say that the pillar was once a whipping post for slaves. Some say that it was a pillar on an old slave market. Most seem to believe that the ghosts of the dead slaves will haunt you if you touch the pillar, and that the pillar can never be removed or destroyed. Here are a couple stories from Roadside America:

“There is what is called The Whipping Post. It was used in the Old South to punish slaves that misbehaved and such. Every attempt to remove this post has ended with the post still standing and the person dead or severely injured. One story I heard was that a slave chained there was into voodoo and cursed it, saying it would remain there forever as a reminder of the wrong done to his people. It’s quite interesting to see, and the people will readily tell you the stories about it if you ask.”

“I am a resident of Augusta, and the whipping post was not a whipping post at all. It is actually a pillar that was part of the old Lower Market which stood in the middle of Broad Street. The local legend is a black preacher, upset that local authorities prohibited him from preaching at the market, placed a curse on the actual pillar, which stood directly behind where he was trying to preach. Shortly thereafter, in 1878, a rare cyclone struck and leveled the entire market excluding the pillar. A year later when construction on a new market began, a local grocer bought the pillar for $50 and moved it to the corner of 5th and Broad. The tow men moving the pillar were struck by lighting.”

It’s a fun legend, but there really isn’t much to substantiate it. The second story above got the origin correct: the pillar once was part of a farmer’s market that stood at Broad and Fifth from 1830 until February 7, 1878 when a rare winter tornado destroyed it. In 1935, an automobile struck the pillar and reduced it to a pile of brick and cement. The driver was unhurt and the pillar was rebuilt by a local market owner. On Friday the 13th, 1958, the column was toppled by an oversized bale of cotton on a passing truck. The driver was not injured, but the column was moved eight feet back from the curb to protect it from further mishaps.

As for the preacher’s curse, nobody knows whether that really happened or not, and, as with all legends, nobody ever will. But the pillar lives on to frighten schoolchildren to this day.

Anyone have any additional tidbits or photos to add?
If so, by all means, write me!