Cemetery of the Week #130: the Wooldridge Monument, Mayfield, Kentucky

Since 1899 many tourists have visited Maplewood Cemetery, according to this vintage postcard.

Since 1899 many tourists have visited Maplewood Cemetery, according to this vintage postcard.

The Wooldridge Monument
Maplewood Cemetery
East Cemetery Street at North 6th Street
Mayfield, Kentucky 42066
Telephone: (270) 251-6210
Founded: 1890
Size: 17 feet wide by 33 feet long
Number of interments: 1

Once his first and only love died in a riding accident in Tennessee, Henry G. Wooldridge never married. After serving in the Civil War, Colonel Wooldridge moved to the Mayfield, Kentucky area around 1880, when he was nearly 60. He bred, raced, and sold horses there – and outlived all of his immediate family.

Toward the end of his life, Colonel Wooldridge decided to leave an enduring monument to his family. He ordered a collection of 18 statues to be carved. One, a portrait statue of himself standing at a lectern, was carved of marble in Italy. Most of the others were carved of native Kentucky sandstone in Paducah, Kentucky between 1890-99. Will Lydon, a sculptor for Williamson and Company claimed in 1930 that he had carved two-thirds of the figures himself. Now they are recognized as important examples of Kentucky folk art.

When the statues were ready to ship, the Illinois Central Railroad supplied a special flatcar to transport the statues from Paducah to Mayfield. Legend has it that the Mayfield town drunk was in Paducah at the time, so he hitched a ride astride Col. Wooldridge’s horse, riding into town in style behind the statue of Wooldridge himself.

With Wooldridge looking on, the statues were installed on a plot 17 feet wide by 33 feet long in the Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield. The collection includes two statues of Wooldridge – the one astride his favorite horse Fop and the other of him standing beside a lectern. Other figures represent his mother Keziah, four of his brothers, three of his sisters, and two nieces. His hunting dogs Bob and Towhead, follow a fox and a deer.

The colonel died on May 30, 1899. He is the only person buried in the plot. His coffin lies inside the stone sarcophagus, which had an Italian marble slab on top.

Ektachrome postcard from the 1950s

Ektachrome postcard from the 1950s

As you can see from the postcards, the fence around the plot has undergone several iterations. The original iron fence was replaced during the 1950s by chicken wire. That was replaced again by a fence similar to the original, placed by the Mayfield Masonic Lodge, of which Wooldridge had been a member.

The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The historical plaque at the grave site calls Wooldridge an animal lover, famous fox-hunter, and Mason. Ripley’s Believe It or Not featured the monument on its television show in September 1984.

On January 27, 2009, a 300-year-old oak toppled onto the statues after an ice storm. Only the three female statues at the back and one of the dogs survived unscathed. The horse and several other figures, including both statues of Wooldridge, were decapitated. Federal disaster money collected by the city of Mayfield went to repair its chief tourist attraction. You can watch a lecture about the restoration of the statues on Youtube.

The monument was rededicated in October 2012.

Please watch this beautiful (and short) video about the monument:

Useful links:

A satellite map from the Billion Graves site

The City of Mayfield page about the Wooldridge Monument

Roadside America feature on the monument

Road trip article about the statues

Other monuments in the Maplewood Cemetery

More information on the postcards above

One response to “Cemetery of the Week #130: the Wooldridge Monument, Mayfield, Kentucky

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