By DAVID GREEN
When I look at the photograph of the old mausoleum at Oak Grove Cemetery, I’m just amazed. It was an enormous structure. It must have been very impressive.
According to the Morenci’s history book, it was built in the south part of the cemetery and many families were interred there and “the visitors rooms were well furnished with sturdy wood chairs and tables.”
Now, it seems like such an odd concept to inter families within the rooms of a large stone building. Nearly everyone ends up under ground, and only a few smaller private mausoleums are standing in Oak Grove.
Most everything I’d ever want to know about Morenci’s mausoleum is included in a front page story from the Observer dated Aug. 14, 1908.
The slogan on the front page of the paper reads “A Good Paper in a Good Town,” and just to keep it friendly with our neighbors to the south, a second slogan reads “On the Line of Two Great States.”
This was quite a few years after the State Line Observer was changed back to the Morenci Observer.
Bob Price loaned this 1908 copy to me and what a gift it was.
There was obviously an effort to make this mausoleum the best around. It was compared to one that was recently dedicated in Shelby, Ohio, and Morenci’s promised to “Eclipse in Splendor and Stability” the Shelby building.
Morenci’s version was built with corrugated and pure white stone to surpass the finest Bedford stone.
And get this:
The water-proof compound used in the cement is another important factor, showing the determination of the builder to give the structure in Oak Grove cemetery the benefit of every improvement and discovery known to cement building.”
In Shelby, there were only three outside supporting columns. In Morenci, there were five and they extended outward twice as far as Shelby.
The entire article seems to give off a “nyaaa, nyaaa, nyaaa” flavor toward Shelby and its new mausoleum.
Much was written about ventilation. Each crypt included two pipes to allow “the gases of the body to escape.” One pipe was for heavy, foul gases that led underground; the other to convey lighter gases up through the roof.
The roof included a beautiful domed arch and skylight. There were copper eaves and flushing, while Shelby used inferior materials.
There was a well-ventilated rest room for ladies and a receiving vault where bodies could be kept for as long as desired before placement in the crypt.
Finally, there was 1,700 square feet of handsome marble interior finish, furnished by the local dealer, Fauver & Marshall.
Beauty and durability, an ornament to Oak Grove cemetery—at least until 1954. Forty-six years after it was constructed, it came down. State officials condemned the building. It was demolished after someone had the task of removing the remains from the crypts and burying them in the ground.
When I read about the marble interior—the very beautiful marble interior—a light, likely fueled by body gases, went off above my head.
I quickly called my father and asked where the marble slabs came from that are used in the back office to set up printing jobs. I knew what he was about to say: From the old mausoleum.
The bodies went into the ground, but a few pieces of the former beauty live on here at the Observer.