Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, NC
The next target was just a short jaunt away. I had visited Riverside a couple of years ago with Keith Dover and we had rambled over the site extensively. I found all but one of the Wolfe statues on that trip, so I had a better idea of where I was heading on this visit.
Wolfe Family Graves
Our first stop was at the Wolfe Family Graves. Signs along the cemetery road indicated notable sites, including the graves Thomas Wolfe, Zebulon Vance, and O. Henry.
Several members of the Wolfe family are buried here. Parents William Oliver and Julia Elizabeth share a headstone.
Thomas Wolfe’s grave was to the right of his parents. The stone features two quotes from his novels, neither from Look Homeward Angel. A stone flower vase has become a place for offerings and mementos, usually in the form of ink pens left by pilgrims. On my previous visit the vase was full. It looks like it’s been cleaned out, with only a few pens.
Sister Mabel is to the left of the parents. In the novel she is portrayed as the character Helen.
Somewhat behind these three monuments are two low stones marking the graves of the twins, Grover and Ben. I hadn’t realized that Wolfe use the same names in his novel until I revisited this place. They were named for the competing presidential candidates, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison.
As in the novel, Grover died at the young age of 12 from tuberculosis. Ben, who figures prominently in the novel, died later, but still young at age 26. He succumbed to pneumonia after a bad case of the flu.
According to my notes there were four Wolfe statues in Riverside. I had found three previously, but today I really wanted to try to find all four. The first was just around the corner from the Wolfe plot.
6. Margaret Loughran Grave
On my first visit I thought I had missed this one and only identified it as a Wolfe monument later as I was reviewing my photographs. It’s a small angel for a child, similar to the William Welch angel in Waynesville, though more intricately detailed.
Small shells had been left as mementos on the base of the monument.
Even though she died at a young age I was able to find out something about Margaret. Her father, Frank Loughran, owned multiple hotels from Asheville to Hickory. When Margaret’s sister, Adelaide, married John Gill of New York there was a large article in the society news section of the Asheville Gazette. Margaret is mentioned as a “dainty flower girl” for the ceremony.
7. Lucy Ann Cliff Grave
The grave for Lucy Ann Cliff was our next stop. Her monument is located on a steep hill with other members of her family. It also features an angel draped over a cross.
This angel had also suffered some damage and had been subsequently repaired. From the cracks it looks like the entire sculpture might have been knocked off its base at some point.
I don’t think this was malicious. As we drove through the cemetery I saw where large tree limbs had recently damaged other memorials, which were being restored.
Three of Lucy’s grandchildren are buried behind her angel.
Lucy Ann Bannister was born in Leeds, England, and died in 1914 at the age of 77. Lucy’s husband, Dr. Charles Cliff, is missing from the family collection, and there’s a good reason. In 1904 Cliff sued for divorce.
There’s no indication as to whether or not the divorce was granted, but Dr. Cliff’s obituary states that he left behind a widow and there are no records of a remarriage. Cliff died in Swannanoa in 1911 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, ruled accidental.
His marker is a humble hand-carved monument.
Lucy’s children probably purchased and erected the monument, which has the word “Mother” prominent across the base. This sounds like there was quite a story here, probably worthy of a Wolfe novel as much as the angel.
8. McElveen Mausoleum
This is the one I missed on my previous visit. Actually, I photographed it, but the angel wasn’t visible. Here’s the mausoleum when I visited in 2017:
There’s actually a statue under all of that greenery. Over the past two years someone has been doing some trimming. Here’s how we found it:
No wonder I missed it the first time. On today’s trip the statue stood out prominently on top of the ridge.
This is a beautiful sculpture and it’s a shame that it was lost to the greenery for so long.
Yet, even the greenery adds an air of mystique to the mausoleum.
There are several members of the McElveen family interred in the mausoleum, but I haven’t been able to find much history on them. There is a plaque to the memory of Ella Pace McElveen.
9. Fannie Jackson Reynolds Grave
Not far from the mausoleum is the grave of former NC governor and US Senator Zebulon Vance. Behind that is a figure that has, sadly, lost her head. This is the grave of Fannie Jackson Reynolds. (Alan and I commented that you don’t hear names like “Zebulon” and “Fannie” anymore.)
Inscriptions on the monument state that Fannie was the daughter of Judge William L. Jackson of Kentucky and the wife of Robert R. Reynolds.
Robert Reynolds was a lawyer and US Senator, and Fannie was the first of his five wives. Fannie died young at the age of 24. Her second child was born early in 1913 and she died in October of that year of typhoid fever. On a side note, one of Reynolds’ wives, Evelyn Walsh, is said to have succumbed to the Hope Diamond Curse in 1946.
As for the damage to the statue, all of the references used the word “decapitated” which, to me, indicates that it was probably done through vandalism.
Alan and I explored a few more graves but we both agreed that we could spend an entire day here exploring. Not just the Wolfe family, but many of the characters from Look Homeward Angel are buried here. The Riverside’s website has put together an excellent table showing the character from the novel, their real-life analog, and the location of their grave within the cemetery. We will want to come back to Riverside.
Continued on page four…