I love cemeteries, y’all know that. They’re peaceful and no matter where they’re located they’re almost always devoid of all people. Last week after visiting the Knox County Poorhouse I headed to Mound View Cemetery. It didn’t seem like it would be that big of a cemetery. My main reason for going was to search for a headstone I had seen a photo of online that read “Little Men”. I really really love headstones that say things that are a little bit out of the ordinary (“home for the friendless“, the girl in blue, and “fatally burned…by the explosion“) Upon a little bit further research I found that these “little men” were actually the Wild Men of Borneo. I didn’t really know too much about them but I felt like I had heard that name before so I was definitely interested in finding the headstone.
Hiram and Barney were two mentally disabled brothers from Knox County. They were apparently sold to Doctor Warner in 1852 by their desperate mother after the passing of their father. Hiram and Barney were given new names, Waino and Plutanor, and a sensational back story about being from the island of Borneo, where they had been captured after an intense struggle. They were each around 40 inches tall and weighed about 45 pounds but could perform feats of great strength such as lifting heavy weights, and wrestling with audience members on stage. It is said that they could each lift around 300lbs on their own. They eventually became involved with P.T. Barnum and his traveling show. During their 25 years with him the pair made over $200,000 which in that time was an incredible sum of money.
I’m very interested in sideshow history and any headstone I can find information on is pretty cool my book, so this was definitely an awesome find. I’m actually surprised it took me this long to hear about it. I’m curious who chose to put “little men” on their headstone though. “Wild Men of Borneo” seems like a better fit if that’s what they went by…
Anyway, before even being able to find their headstone I was already more than impressed with this cemetery. It was easily in my top ten, mostly because it was absolutely teeming with symbolism! Lots and lots of older headstones have symbols on them. It’s nothing new for me. Over time I’ve become familiar with many of them. Some are so common I don’t think anything of them when I see them but everywhere I looked in Mound View there were symbols! It ended up being the majority of what I photographed.
I’m going to list a few of my favorites, see if you can find them in the photos…
anchor – hope or eternal life
arch – the passage to heaven
dove – peace, messenger of God
hand pointing up – hope for heaven
lamb – innocence, often found on the gravestones of children
upside down torch – the end of life, or a life extinguished
willow tree – perpetual sadness or mourning
wreath – victory in death
We have some really incredible cemeteries in Ohio, like this one. The one thing we don’t have going for us is that we aren’t very old, at least not compared to some other parts of the US that are a little further east. Symbols on graves aren’t all that popular anymore and haven’t been for a while so there are tons of them I’ve never actually seen in person. That’s not to say they aren’t in my state, I may have just not found them yet. I even have a list of symbols I’d love to find. Ranking high near the top is a skull and crossbones, just because it seems so stereotypical and like something that would a Halloween decoration instead of a real headstone, I guess. Thinking about finally finding one gets me all excited. Heading east this year is a must!