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Moment of Indiana History

A Stone of One’s Own

The building block of the nation’s public landscape is equally renowned for its role in private life.

Indiana limestone harvested from a 30-mile-long, two-mile-wide vein running, approximately, from Stinesville to Mitchell has supplied building materials for three-quarters of all the stone structures in the United States.

Such national landmarks as the Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and the Washington Cathedral were constructed with the material known alternately as Salem, Bedford, or Oolitic stone.

But the building block of the nation’s public landscape is equally renowned for its role in private life. Cemeteries around the country are populated with limestone grave markers carved by Indiana artisans between 1895 and 1935, the industry’s boom years.

Founded in 1897, Bedford’s Cross and Rowe Monumental Works was prominent among the area’s many limestone suppliers producing funerary art: “Rustic Monuments, Settees, and Log Curbing,” as an early ad ran.

Although Cross and Rowe’s ceremonial statuary is showcased in the Chickamauga Battleground Memorial near Chattanooga, Tennessee, the tree stump tombstones for which the firm are widely in evidence. The rustic sculptures replete with bark, knots, and the occasional mushroom or sprig of ivy were hand carved by the firm’s artisans, many of whom were immigrants from Germany, England and Italy.

At least two artisanal pieces in Bedford’s Green Hill Cemetery honor the carver’s life. A life-sized stone craftsman stands in Green Hill’s southwest corner as a monument to the Journeyman Stonecutter’s Association.

A second piece is more personalized. When 23-year-old stone carver Louis J. Baker was struck by lightning, fellow artists reproduced Baker’s workbench, as he had left it. The stone replica of Baker’s wooden bench supports a limestone slab, on which rest a mallet, hammer and chisels—a work in progress for perpetuity.

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