The Herald Bulletin

July 8, 2013

Scott Underwood: 19th century sculptures grace area near riverwalk

By Scott Underwood
The Herald Bulletin

— Anderson’s Riverwalk overlook near the intersection of High Street, Grand Avenue and Alexandria Pike is a pleasant place to eat lunch or just to take a breather from the hustle of your daily life.

But as you listen to the chirping of unseen songbirds and watch the chocolate waters of the White River flow past below, you can’t help feeling that someone is watching you, as well.

If you look over your shoulder, back to the north, you’ll find the culprits.

Stone likenesses of Charlie Ingersoll Hilligoss and Gertrude Pauline Hilligoss stare back at you across Grand from West Maplewood Cemetery, where they have stood at attention since the late 19th century. Gertrude died in 1881. She was just 5 or 6 years old. Charlie, 15 or 16, died six years later.

Their likenesses are nearly life-sized. Charlie rests an arm on a short pillar at his side. Gertrude, a book on her lap, sits on a large rock. Someone has tucked artificial red roses, dusted in gold, in the crooks of their arms. Their faces are expressionless. You can guess that the sculptures were based on photographs, in an era when long exposures meant serious visages, taken not long before their untimely deaths.

The inscription on their shared tombstone reads: “We know that life is all the sweeter that they lived ... And death is all the brighter that they died.”

You can find photos of the Hilligoss children’s statues on Facebook, along with speculation about how they died. This description comes from www.cemeteries-madison-co-in.com:

“Their father Dr. Hilligoss commissioned these stone portraits that face busy Grand Avenue. ... The column Charles is leaning on symbolizes a noble life; Gertrude’s book stands for the divine word. ‘The Children’ have become something of a land mark in the north Anderson area. Their likenesses are always decorated ... with the appropriate symbols and garlands for the holiday or season.”

Sitting on a bench at the nearby Riverwalk overlook, you can look south toward the Third Street bridge and, when there is no traffic, hear the easy rush of water over a low dam. You wonder whether Charlie or Gertrude ever stood in the same location, long before the riverwalk was built, and watched ducks bobbing on the river or perhaps a row boat ease past.

Editor Scott Underwood’s Monday column will be devoted through the summer to Green Spaces of Madison County.

Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845 to suggest topics for the series.