Davis Memorial in Hiawatha, Kansas.

The Strange Grave of John Milburn Davis

Field review by the editors.

Hiawatha, Kansas

John Milburn Davis was wealthy and very sad. His wife of 50+ years, Sarah, had died. After mourning in private for a couple of years, Davis decided to make his grief public. He commissioned the construction of an elaborate grave monument, begun in 1932 and not completed until 1940. Ten life-size Italian marble statues depict John and Sarah as they age. The 11th statue is of John alone, missing his left hand (he'd lost it in a farm accident), sitting next to "The Vacant Chair" where Sarah would have sat. This set of statues is made of granite, supposedly because Davis had exhausted his life savings on the project.

Davis Memorial.

One statue, of a kneeling Mr. Davis next to a kneeling angel version of Mrs. Davis, had been decapitated before our last visit. Teens at the Hiawatha Pizza Hut had some leads: "That head was throwed in a pond is what we heard" (It was later recovered and reunited with Davis's body).

John Davis reportedly enjoyed spending his last lonely years hanging around his work in progress, explaining it to visitors. He died, age 92, in 1947. At the time the town hated him for wasting his money on himself, but it has since profited considerably from having one of the most popular oddball attractions in Kansas.

Also see: Wooldridge Monument, Mayfield, Kentucky

The Strange Grave of John Milburn Davis

Mt. Hope Cemetery

E. Iowa, Hiawatha, KS
Mt. Hope Cemetery. East of town, on the north side of E. Iowa about a half-mile east of US Hwy 73/159.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
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Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
Second Largest Hand Dug Well in Kansas, Seneca, KS - 29 mi.

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May 24, 2018

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