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Cemetery figures.

The Wooldridge Monuments

Field review by the editors.

Mayfield, Kentucky

In May 1899 the Mayfield Monitor ran an obituary for Henry Wooldridge, "a very eccentric man." He was a local horse breeder and spent most of his 77 years living with relatives. Like the pharaohs of old, he wanted to take them with him when he died. Not literally, but in limestone.

"The strange procession, which never moves."

A fox and one of Henry's dogs.
A fox and one of Henry's dogs.

Henry Wooldridge commissioned the Wooldridge Monuments, a collection of 18 life-sized statues of humans and animals, including a horse named Fop and two dogs named Tow Head and Bob. All 18 are crammed into Henry's 17 x 33-foot plot in Maplewood Cemetery, and all face due east. They've been the subject of news stories since before Henry was dead -- he made certain that all the statues were carved and in place before he died -- and have been featured on post cards since the 1920s. At some point early on they acquired the moniker: "The strange procession, which never moves."

The human statues are of Henry's mom, Keziah; brothers Alfred, W.F., John, and Josiah; sisters Susan, Narcissa, and Minerva; and two of his nieces: Maud and Minnie. According to local lore, Henry's father was left out because he'd left Henry's mother when Henry was a boy. Another legend is that Henry included only those relatives who were already dead, and that because he supplied no visual references to the sculptors, they had to make their best guesses as to what the deceased looked like. Viewing the nearly identical stone-faced statues of Henry's brothers, that story is easy to believe.

Procession of statues.

Henry allotted two statues to himself: one astride the horse, the other standing beside a lectern atop a pedestal. This second statue is carved in marble, supposedly in Italy. Despite the surfeit of statuary, Henry is the only one actually entombed here, in an above-ground marble vault whose lid is carved with a double-barrel shotgun.

The Wooldridge Monuments had their closest brush with glamour in September 1984, when they were visited by Hollywood star Jack Palance to film a segment for the Ripley's Believe it or Not! TV series. Mayfield still cites this as a significant moment in the Monuments' history.

After the storm.
After the 2009 ice storm.

They made the news again on January 27, 2009, when an ice storm toppled a big tree directly into the burial plot, knocking off heads, sending stone bodies flying, and generally smashing all the statues except the three ladies in the back row. For over a year the monuments lay in pieces -- and they likely would have remained that way had the storm not ravaged the rest of Kentucky, too. Federal disaster money was made available to Mayfield, and it covered most of the $100,000 needed to repair the monuments (Henry supposedly spent only $6,000 to have them built). The restorers did excellent work; you have to look hard to see the repairs.

Henry Wooldridge on horseback.
Henry Wooldridge on horseback.

Henry was a lifelong bachelor, but his siblings were prolific. Over 60 Wooldridge descendants gathered at Henry's grave on the anniversary of his death in 2012, honoring the man that the Mayfield Monitor said was known to all as "Uncle Henry." You should visit, too; a few pennies of your tax dollars helped save Henry's grave.

Also see: The Davis Memorial, Hiawatha, Kansas

The Wooldridge Monuments

Maplewood Cemetery

611 N. 5th St., Mayfield, KY
Hwy 45 into town, past the stoplight. Up the hill with the covered bridge on top. At the base of the hill, take a left (one way street), come around to the base of a hill, and turn right into Maplewood Cemetery. Near Watson's grocery, corner of Lockridge and N. 6th St. The grave is in the southwest corner.
Gates open dawn-dusk. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Replica of MonticelloReplica of Monticello, Paducah, KY - 21 mi.
Grave of a BuildingGrave of a Building, Paducah, KY - 20 mi.
Mushroom Man with Pizza and BeerMushroom Man with Pizza and Beer, Paducah, KY - 22 mi.
In the region:
Only Way Between Kentucky and Missouri, Hickman, KY - 34 mi.

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