During our travels the last week of March one of the most unusual cemeteries we visited was Maplewood Cemetery in the city of Mayfield in Graves County. One lot put this cemetery at the top of the list – that of Col. Henry Wooldridge. During his lifetime he ordered two statues of himself – one astride his horse, Fop, and one standing beside a lectern (this was sculpted of marble in Italy, the other statues of sandstone in Mayfield), his mother, four brothers and three sisters, two nieces, his two favorite dogs, Tow-Head and Bob; a fox, a deer, his sarcophagus and a memorial pillar commemorating the family, to adorn his grave. It is known as ‘the strange procession that never moves,’ and draws quite a number of visitors to the cemetery each year. I can imagine a nighttime stroll through the cemetery during a full moon could startle some visitors.
In the 2009 ice storm the statues were damaged when a large tree fell onto the monument. Heads were knocked off as well as other parts of the structure. $78,000 was spent to repair the monument.
Henry Wooldridge was a horse trader and commissioned the statues in the late 1800’s and died May 30, 1899. They have been featured on the television program “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” and in the movie “In Country,” and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was said that Henry Wooldridge was well off financially – which is most likely true with the amount of statuary in his burial plot. According to a Nathan Yates, he always drove the best horses and had the finest London buggy.
Until his death he wore an engagement ring belonging to a Tennessee girl whom he had loved in his youth. She was killed when thrown from a horse shortly before they were to have been married. According to older newspaper articles she was Susan Neely, one of the women in the back of the plot. This woman has also been listed as his sister, which is more likely due to her date of birth – I doubt Henry would have married a woman seven years his senior.
From The Paducah Sun Democrat, Sunday, January 6, 1935 –
‘Uncle Henry, so the story goes, was serious in his anticipation of death and many years before he died bought his casket and burial robe and had them stored by an undertaker. According to legend, one night the building occupied by the undertaker was burned and Uncle Henry stood out in the street as his robe and casket burned. After the fire the robe and casket were restored.’
When Ritchey and I arrived, the monuments had been restored several years, and without knowledge of the storm, one would think nothing was amiss.
Some have mentioned that Henry must have had a falling out with his father, since he is not memorialized by a statue. The elder Josiah Wooldridge, born in 1778 in Prince Edward County, Virginia, died April 7, 1825, in Williamson County, Tennessee. Henry was only three at the time and probably remembered nothing about his father.
Henry’s mother, Keziah Nichols Wooldridge, is found in the Williamson County, Tennessee, Census of 1830, as head of household. Included in the census is one male 5-10, Henry; one male 10-15, Alfred, and two males 15-20, William and John. There is one female 5-10, Minerva, one female 15-20, Susan and Keziah, 40-50. In checking the marriage records for Williamson County there is a notice of marriage bond for Narcissa Wooldridge and William J. Berryman, bond dated February 24, 1829, and marriage February 26, 1829. William Berryman is listed just below Keziah Wooldridge in the 1830 census, with wife and one female child under five.
Josiah Wooldridge left no will when he died in 1826 – he was only 48. His inventory, returned by Keziah as his administratix, included 1 Negro man Charles, age above 45 years; 1 Negro man Jim aged about 26 years; 1 Negro woman Delilah aged 22 years; 1 Negro boy William aged 3 years; 1 Negro boy Jackson aged 2 years; 1 Negro boy Reuben aged 17 years; 1 Negro boy Adam aged 12 years, 1 cupboard, 1 table, 2 jars, 1 trunk, 1 desk, 6 chairs, 1 table, 4 beds and furniture, 1 bedstead, 1 loom, 1 saw and auger, 2 tools of old iron, 1 funnel, 2 brass locks, 3 pair cards, 1 bell, 1 pair candle molds, 1 log chain, 1 bull tongue, ploughing utensils, 1 pair still yards, 2 men’s saddles, 4 wheels, spinning, 1 churn, 1 woman’s saddle, 2 barrels, 1 oven, pewter dish, 4 axes, 1 gun, some corn, 45 hogs, 52 geese, 3 cows and calves, 7 goats, 4 head of horses, 1 lot of oats, 1 pair of cart wheels, 2 still and tubs, 1 still, 3 ploughs, 2 guns, shot, 1 scythe & cradle, 2 stacks of rye, 3 sheep, 1 grindstone.
In 1829 Keziah brought to court the settlement information for her deceased husband. At the end she lists ‘By the support and maintenance of the children of Josiah Wooldridge, deceased, for year 1825 – $240.’
And ‘By boarding, clothing, etc., of Narcissa Wooldridge, Alfred N. Wooldridge, Susan Wooldridge, Josiah Wooldridge, Minerva Wooldridge and Henry Wooldridge, a part of the children of Josiah Wooldridge from the 1st of January 1826 until July 15th, 1829 – $337.74.’ I’m not sure why John and William are not listed as they were living with their mother in the 1830 census. Perhaps they were old enough to provide for themselves? In 1826 John was 19 and William 15.
Information on base of statues:
- Keziah Nichols Wooldridge, born in Davidson County, Tennessee, July 6, 1790, died January 7, 1846, aged 56 years.
- Josiah Wooldridge, born in Williamson County, Tennessee, died August 8, 1859, aged 35 years.
- Minerva Nichols, born 1820
- Susan Neely, born 1815
- Narcissa Berryman, born 1809Henry G., born in Williamson County, Tennessee, January 29, 1822, died May 30, 1899
- Alfred N. Wooldridge, born 1813, died in Alabama
- William Ferdinand Wooldridge, born October 1, 1811, died in Graves Co., Ky., November 1, 1879
- John H. Wooldridge, born in Williamson County, Tennessee, 1807, died in Maury Co., Tennessee
Wednesday, May 31, 1899
In his will Henry Wooldridge gave the house he lived in, in the city of Mayfield, on the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street to Thomas J. Noah and his wife, Mary Ann Noah. They cared for Henry until his death. H. G. Wooldridge, Jr., son of William Wooldridge, and Henry’s namesake, was given his watch and walking stick. Note of W. J. Neely, held by Henry, to be forgiven.