Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rose Hill Cemetery

This week marks the beginning of Ben and I taking full advantage of what Bloomington has to offer.  First on the list: Rose Hill Cemetery.  

When I first saw that this was on the list of 101 Things to do in Bloomington I was quite surprised.  We drive by the fairly large cemetery often enough, but it's a cemetery.  In Bloomington.  It turns out that RHC is kind of a big deal.  Bloomington was established in 1818 and made the county seat of Monroe County in 1819.  RHC is the city's first cemetery.  There's even an official guide that you can download before going which gives you the history of the place along with a handy list of gravestone symbols and iconography that proved to be useful.  One of the symbols, for example, is "FOE" or, the Fraternal Order of Eagles which is associated with the theatre!  We didn't see any of these, though...

The area was originally wooded and is named for the wild and cultivated roses that once grew there.  I especially enjoy the fact that the original site was simply called the "Grave Yard, marked only by "GY" carved into the trunk of a large oak tree near the entrance.

The guide also lists and maps out locations for twelve Bloomington (and a couple national) celebrities.  It was a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in some Bloomington history.  It was a hot day, but we had a surprisingly wonderful time, and I recommend it to anyone with any sort of historic curiosity (or if you just happen to like cemeteries, this is a good one).

Ben was really excited to see this, as we were planning a Christopher Nolan Batman marathon for that night in preparation for the new movie.

This is a portion of the infant burial section.  It's very sad and certainly the most sobering portion of the cemetery.

Interesting head stones.

RHC is home to two American celebrities who got their start at Indiana University, Bloomington:

Howard "Hoagy" Carmicheal, an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. He is best known for composing the music for "Stardust", "Goerdia On My Mind", "The Nearness of You", and "Heart and Soul". He started at IU as a Law student!

Zoologist, Alfred Kinsey, founded in 1947 what is now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey Scale. His research on human sexuality is foundational to the modern field of sexology and provoked controversy in the 1940s and 1950s.  My favorite quote from his wikipedia article is this "It is likely that Kinsey's study of the variations in mating practices among gall wasps led him to wonder how widely varied sexual practices among humans were."

We discovered some tokens of appreciation at the foot of Kinsey's headstone.

The New Spencer Addition of the cemetery had some interesting things, but the Old Spencer Addition was especially fascinating as it includes the oldest headstones.

I really liked these treestones which were popular in Victorian times and could be ordered through Sears and Roebuck.  When depicting a broken stump, it refers to a life cut short.

The Honorable Paris C. Dunning was #1 on the map.  He was in the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate in the mid-1800s.  His wife, Sarah, has a really cool headstone.


Left: Veterans from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812
Right: First Indiana University President

You can feel the history in the air.  There was a creepy feel to it as well because many of the stones can no longer be read and some are broken or falling over.

Then I discovered the "creepy cemetery" setting on our camera; perfect! So here are some pictures with that.  (It's actually the "toy camera" setting, but I think I'll write and request it be renamed)


  1. I love your "creepy cemetery" setting. :) I love cemeteries! Wish I could visit this one.

  2. Sounds like a great way to get into the history of the place. From revolutionary war vets to Hoagy Carmichael and Alfred Kinsey, what an interesting mix.


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