That’s because they grow in them.
At least at the Lindon Grove Cemetery in Covington, Kentucky, that is. The cemetery is named after the grove of Lindon trees that once grew naturally in this part of town, so trees are important here. Lindon Grove is not just a Cemetery. It’s also a city park and certified arboretum. Many of the older and larger trees in the cemetery are marked with plaques designating both species and native origination.
Of course tombstones aren’t intentionally planted in the trees, but as the trees grow they encroach upon nearby tombstones, nearly swallowing them. The photograph below is probably the most picturesque I found, but there are a great many tombstones growing in the trees here. Some are still identifiable; others are more tree than stone.
Of all the cemeteries I’ve ever visited, this one ranks among my favorites. It’s not a typical, run-down, Halloween-type graveyard, although it is one of the many I have seen that once suffered from neglect and vandalism. Despite the absence of play equipment, children feel welcome here. I brought my granddaughter with me, and she was just as entranced by the trees, tombstones, and gently rolling landscape as she would have been in a playground.
This particular graveyard sits on the northern edge of the former Confederate States of America. Just two miles away, across the Ohio River, lays the land of freedom for African Americans still in the bonds of slavery. This is Underground Railroad country and a former hotbed of strife where brother fought against brother. Kentucky was the first southern state to fall back in to Union control.
This particular cemetery does not hide its dark past; it embraces and rises above it. Set up as a public cemetery by a local Baptist Theological Institute, it began as a fully integrated cemetery including a pauper section where those who could not afford a proper burial were buried for free. A veteran’s section includes memorials for all United States’ wars since the cemetery’s establishment in 1843. Black and white, bond and free are all buried here.
Civil War history is prominent in Lindon Grove. Because Kentucky did not last long as a Confederate State, both Union and Confederate memorials are laid row by row with Union stones facing off against Confederates. A wide pathway separates the two in semblance of the uneasy front line of a battlefield. Interestingly, and certainly not intentionally, if one looks north towards Ohio, they can see the tips of Cincinnati’s towering skyline above the the war memorials as a reminder that freedom from the bonds of slavery was not far away.
At Linden Grove, contemporary life is inspired to mingle with the past. Pebbled walkways meander through the park encouraging foot traffic. Historic walking tours through the cemetery are occasionally offered. The serenity of the area is perfect for yoga enthusiasts. There are also picnic tables for a relaxing repast with family and friends. In the warmer months, the cemetery turns into a theater where theatrical performances and movies are provided for family entertainment. And of course the tombstones make great conversation pieces.
There is so much history here. The cemetery is actually included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Among the prominent members of the cemetery, are the city’s founders, politicians, soldiers, and every day heroes including slaves, freed slaves, and their free progeny. One memorial marks the grave of B. F. Howard, a black railroad porter, and founder of the first African-American Elks Chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio. Another belongs to Dr. Louise Southgate, a female physician and early women’s rights activist.
It does not take much digging to find information on the many stories that are buried here. After just one visit and a quick Google search I had everything I needed for several blog posts. I could spend days digging through the mounds of historical information available at the Historic Linden Grove Cemetery & Arboretum website, and I could fill the rest of my lifetime telling stories from just this one cemetery. As Dave Schroeder, former director of Kenton County Public Library put it, “. . . If . . . you start writing down the names of some of the folks and look at the dates of birth and death and do a little research, you can learn so much about the community and what it was like at the time period just by taking your stroll through the cemetery.” My sentiments exactly.
If you try it, let me know! I’d love to share the stories you find.