Strange Stones - Michigan Cemetery Tales and History

The Veiled Lady of Elmwood Cemetery

Written by | Amberrose Hammond

Standing tall and imposing at 12 feet in Detroit’s historic Elmwood Cemetery is a stunning Carrara marble stone carved with a floating, veiled woman. The craftsmanship is gorgeous but years of weather wear on the veiled face gave the beautiful stone a slightly spooky vibe. But what is fascinating about this piece is the amount of drama this expensive stone went through to reach its final resting place as a memorial for Joshua Waterman’s wife Eliza, who died on December 29, 1865. A graduate of Yale, Joshua Waterman made his money in mortgages and real estate and was a generous philanthropist to the Detroit area. 

Strange Stones - The Veiled Lady of Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit

The artist behind this $10,000 sculpture ($270,000 today) was Randolph Rogers, who lived in Ann Arbor during his childhood and later moved to Italy to pursue his passion for sculpture. Rogers’ talent was widely recognized. The US government commissioned him to create several notable works, including the bronze Columbus Doors at the US Capitol and the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Detroit’s Campus Martius.

Michigan_Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Detroit

Photo Credit: JJonahJackalope, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

But the journey to its final resting place in Elmwood was far from easy. The stone was shipped from Rome to the U.S. in 1876, but disaster struck when the ship sank off the coast of Spain. For two long years, the tombstone lay submerged before it was finally recovered. And even then, its troubles were far from over when it landed in the United States. As it traveled by barge along the Hudson River, it plunged into the water and had to be rescued yet again.

Despite the setbacks, the tombstone was eventually placed on the Waterman lot. But fate wasn’t done with it just yet. On Saturday, November 29, 1919, around 6 p.m., a fierce windstorm with 84-mile-per-hour winds, tore through the city, causing extensive damage, injuring many, and killing seven people. The high wind knocked the stone over causing it to break at the base. The repairs made to it can still be seen to this day. 

Appreciate the haunting beauty of The Veiled Lady for yourself by visiting Section F, Lots 71 and 72, in Elmwood Cemetery, 1200 Elmwood St., Detroit, Michigan, 48207.


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