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Elmwood's Hidden Treasures

June 14, 2013

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Elmwood has long been committed to the preservation of the 160 years of Memphis history buried within its grounds.  Over the past several years it has expanded this commitment to a focus on the restoration of gravestones that have become too weathered and soiled to be read, or which have been damaged, and/or have sunk beneath the ground.

The sunken stones are of special interest.  Over the years stones have fallen and with time leaves, grass cuttings and the weight of the stone have caused then to disappear beneath the ground and out of sight.

Volunteers who have completed Elmwood’s Stone College locate these stones using probes.  Once a hidden stone is found the volunteers use the ‘best-practices’ methods as advocated by the Association for Gravestone Studies to raise the stones, and then see that they are re-set and cleaned.

Families placed these stones upon the graves of their loved ones so that their lives and stories would be remembered.  Elmwood believes that this intent should be honored.  The stories of the individuals buried there are the true legacy of Elmwood.

Elmwood volunteer and Stone College Dean Cathi Johnson has been actively searching for and raising gravestones and enclosures for the past couple of years.  Just recently she was looking around in the Fowler Section and came across more than one long lost gravestone.

One very special one belonged to Susan Esther Murphy.  Susan was the daughter of Alonzo and Bertha Murphy.  She was born in August 1, 1917 and died at the age of 7 months on March 18, 1918.  Her parents marked her grave with a lovely enclosure that over the years had slowly sunk beneath the ground giving the appearance that the grave was unmarked.

Thanks to Cathi’s efforts little Susan Murphy’s final resting place, and the marker that her loving parents placed on her grave over 95 years ago as a memorial to her and her brief life can now be seen by all.

Dale Schaefer

Historian 

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