Green Hills Cemetery, Waynesville, NC
We hopped on I-40 west and made the 30 mile drive over to Waynesville. After a couple of wrong turns we finally found the entrance to the cemetery.
The setting was stunning. The aptly named green hill was ringed with mountain views. Most of the peaks were white from recent snows and glistened in the morning sun.
Before getting out of the car we did a drive-through to see if there were any obvious candidates. We spotted a couple and found a good place to park and explore.
2. Welch Family Graves
The first candidate was part of a family plot for the Welch Family. There were actually two angels – one for a young son, William, and one for the mother, Virginia.
My research notes only had Virginia Welch listed, not the son. Even though William Welch wasn’t on my list, I’d be surprised if his cherub didn’t come from Wolfe’s shop, too.
Virginia’s sculpture is quite different from the Oakdale monument. It wasn’t an angel, per se, but a woman with a stone background. It certainly doesn’t fit the description from the novel.
Young William died in 1906 and Virginia Welch died in 1910 at the age of 31. She had been married to Samuel Clingman Welch, a prominent attorney in Waynesville who had served as counsel for the Southern Railway. Samuel died suddenly just one year later.
That left us with one more to find in this cemetery.
3. Ina Otelia Davies Grave
We spotted this one as we drove around, but as we approached on foot we weren’t sure if it was the correct monument. The name plate at the base was so weathered that both Alan and I thought it said “James” instead of “Davies.”
Actually, Ina is the daughter and her mother was Katherine Elizabeth Davies, but both use the same monument. According to my notes it is thought that this is the first of the Wolfe statuary.
It’s not actually an angel, but a statue of a woman. That, in addition to the name, threw us off a bit.
Katherine Davies was married to Judge Daniel David Davies (Triple D – he would have made a good Stan Lee character), originally from Wales. The judge moved to Cullowhee after his wife and daughter’s death and lived to the age of 94
UPDATE: I was able to find an article in the Asheville Citizen from 1899 that states that W. O. Wolfe erected this monument for Otelia Davies, daughter of D. D. Davies.
There were some other interesting headstones – a pair of Woodmen of the World monuments, a stone angel bear, and a headstone with a train engine. The cemetery has some interesting stories, I’m sure, but it was just too cold to explore.
We drove back down through Waynesville. The main street surprised me, both in its length and amount of activity. Waynesville is larger than than I remembered.
Green Hills Cemetery, Asheville, NC
While doing my initial research this caused me no end of problems. I didn’t realize that there were two “Green Hills” with Wolfe angels. I guess it stands to reason. Just think about how many “Forest Lawns” there are across the country. I managed to get things sorted out, so Alan and I were retracing our steps eastward along I-40 back toward Asheville.
Even so, we were a bit stymied at first. My GPS took us on a road that ran between two rather large cemeteries. The one to the northeast (right) had access, but there were “No Trespassing” signs everywhere. There was no access to the cemetery to the southwest. Eventually we found that the correct entrance was on a completely different road.
This turned out to be a cemetery of angels. There were angels at the entrance and throughout the site. Finding the correct two would be a challenge.
After making a quick pass and not really spotting anything we decided to check out some of the first that we saw.
There were two problems with this. First, they looked too modern. Secondly, they were in a columbarium. I don’t think cremation would have been as popular in Wolfe’s time. Logically, we should be looking for an older section of the cemetery with graves from the early 20th Century.
I decided to check my Find-a-Grave app on my phone so that I could at least see how the monuments should look. Thus armed, we were able to find both Wolfe monuments fairly close to each other.
4. Sallie J. McLellan Grave
This one was a traditional angel.
According to the inscription, Sallie died at the young age of 33. An unnamed infant is buried with her but a date of death is not given for the child. I would hazard to guess that she died in childbirth.
UPDATE: Sallie did not die in childbirth, but her death was tragic none-the-less. She was severely injured in a buggy accident and succumbed to her wounds.
Her husband, David J. McLellan, was a Civil War veteran. His first wife died in 1887 and he married again after Sallie’s tragic death.
5. Norma Byerly Brank Grave
Not far away is the grave of Norma Byerly Brank. This angel is draped in a mourning posture over a cross.
I like to try to find out something about the families and individuals whose monuments we seek. This one had me perplexed. Norma died in 1955, well after the time that the Wolfe shop was active. The scant information I have on her is from Find-a-Grave.
We were doing very well in finding Wolfe statues. At this point I’m going to stop calling them angels because not all of them are. However, they do seem to be all images of women.
It looked like a funeral graveside service was about to get underway and Alan and I wanted to leave before the mourners arrived. As with the Green Hills in Waynesville, we could have spent lots of time here exploring.
When I got home later I solved the mystery of the off-limits cemetery on the other side of the road. I found the name of the cemetery through GNIS data then looked up its Find-a-Grave listing. Violet Hill Cemetery appears to have been a largely African-American burial ground, anchored by Harmony Hill Church. We also found a small Jewish cemetery to the south of Green Hills. Even in death, segregation was a way of life.
Continued on page three…