Woolridge monument niece

A lovely niece is among the perpetual guests at Henry Wooldridge's graveyard party in Mayfield, Kentucky. Wooldridge himself sits on horse Fop.
Photo: Bill Bishop

Col. Henry C. Wooldridge (born 1822 in Williamson County, Tennessee) was the last twig on his branch of the family tree. And those of us who share his genealogical predicament may also have shared his concern. Who'll bother to remember us once we're gone?

An avid hunter and well known horse trader in Western Kentucky, it wasn't in Wooldridge's nature to curl up like a pillbug, even at the prospect of death. Instead, he got busy commissioning a legacy to outlive him — stone is much more reliable than progeny!

woolridge whole scene

A marble statue shows Wooldridge leaning on a column (that's Italian!). Kentucky-made sculptures include family members, hunting dogs and a deer (whose ears were broken by vandals).
Photo: Bill Bishop

At age 70, he bought a large plot in the Maplewood Cemetery north of Mayfield, Kentucky, and had installed there a fine marble statue of himself that had been sculpted in Italy. He then hired William Lydon, a stonecutter at the Williamson Monument Company in nearby Paducah to begin an ambitious work of funerary art — to create a dozen more likenesses of Wooldridge's favorite people and animals, all made to keep him company for eternity.

Here are the colonel's three brothers (who were not, in fact, the identical triplets they appear to have been); a pair of pretty ladies (his two nieces); the Colonel himself astride Fop, his favorite horse; his two constant hunting dogs; and even their quarry: a deer and one very baffled looking fox.

woolridge hound

Wooldridge insisted that his two hunting dogs go with him, at least sculpturally, to his final resting place. The Kentucky pieces were carved out of “Bedford stone, a cross between limestone and sandstone,” writes Ellsworth Taylor.
Photo: Bill Bishop

Installed along the back of the plot are three more sculptures, of Wooldridge's jolly and busty mother and two sisters, these made by Mayfield's own Percy and Radford monument company.

According to Ellsworth “Skip” Taylor, who included the “Mayfield Monuments” in his pioneering exhibition Folk Art of Kentucky (1975), “Henry C. Wooldridge died on May 30, 1899, one year after the funerary monuments were completed.” After a lifetime horse trading and hunting, Wooldrige's timing was impeccable. He is buried here in a plain vault, alone, having passed on to a happy and convivial — and unforgettable — hunting ground.

woolridge monumant sign

Also known as “The Mayfield Monuments,” Wooldridge's funerary art collection at Maplewood Cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo: Julie Ardery

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.