Grace Galloway: The Lady in Glass

Grace Galloway: The Lady in Glass, Jamestown, New York

I arrived in Jamestown, New York to do some research and exploring of the region. I had a number of places I to visit and high on that list was Lake View Cemetery – also spelled Lakeview – to pay my respects to those buried there. Though I had visited the cemetery on a journey through the region many years ago, I had only made one stop on that trip – the grave of Grace Galloway.

As I drove through the gates of the cemetery, I was greeted by a maze of roadways which snake their way around the stones. Although it had been years since my last visit, I instinctively knew which direction I had to go to find Grace’s grave.

Lake View Cemetery was not the first cemetery used by the residents of Jamestown. The first cemetery was located near the present junction of Clinton and Fourth Streets. Residents did not like the piece of land due to the hard, rocky soil that it was not near any roads at the time, and the cemetery was never fenced so cows wandered through it freely. A second piece of land was selected that is currently the James Prendergast Public Library and Dow Park.

When Jamestown outgrew the original cemetery grounds, it went in search of a new piece of ground that would serve as a burial location for its residents. When Lake View Cemetery was incorporated in 1858 it consisted of a mere thirty-eight acres. Since the first burial in 1859 the cemetery has grown to over one hundred and fifty acres. Note: It seems to be a debate on the number of graves that were actually moved from the second burial ground to Lake View. A 1875 article from the Jamestown Journal reports that many of the graves had not been moved because they had been unmarked and forgotten.

I parked the vehicle along the side of the roadway and got out to study the monument.  Grace’s grave is not one that brings people from all over the world, but is one that is talked about by locals and has been the basis of a number of local legends and rumors As I studied it, I realized why stories are whispered about the monument – the likeness of Grace Galloway appears as if it could step down from the pedestal at any moment.

The marble statue stands five foot, six inches tall, which was Grace’s height when alive. Looking even closer, I was able to make out the smallest details in the ruffles of her dress, to the detail of the lacework, to the flowers she holds, to the ring on her finger. Note: I’ve read in a couple places that the likeness of the face does not match Grace’s pictures. After carefully studying a number of pictures I found online, the statue, more than a hundred years after being placed upon the marble pedestal still closely resembles the pictures of Grace that I’ve been able to locate.

The stories that are told vary. The most popular version of the story is that Grace died either the night before, or the night of, her wedding. Interestingly, this version of the tale has adapted over the years and in modern versions Grace was on her way to the school prom when she was killed. Another popular version of Grace’s story is she died of a broken heart because her betrothed ran away shortly before their wedding.

Among the stranger stories connected to the statue is that Grace’s body is encased in the marble figurine, which is not true – she’s buried near the base of the monument. Her resting place is marked by a simple stone with her name, birth year and death date on it.

Another story that is a little on the strange side claims the reason the figure is encased in glass was to keep it in place. According to the story, the marble figurine supposedly stepped down each night and wandered about the cemetery – the glass that now surrounds it was placed to keep the figurine in place. While the figurine no longer walks, this does not stop people from claiming her spirit wanders among the stones at night weeping for her lost love.

However, while the stories are interesting, they are far from the truth. Grace did not die of a broken heart or on her wedding day, or on the way to the prom. As far as the statue stepping down and walking around the cemetery – I find that one a little hard to place credence in.

Grace Laverne Galloway was the only daughter John Galloway, who made his fortune in the oil fields around Titusville. Although Grace was known for her generosity and cheerfulness, it was her natural talent that most people remember. She was born with an amazing, singing voice and was a promising opera singer. Grace often sang at Chautauqua Institution before her parents sent her to Boston to study music.

It was while she was in Boston, that Grace contracted tuberculosis. Wanting the best for her, her parents sent her to Asheville, North Carolina in hopes of finding a cure. In November 1898, while returning to Asheville after a visit to her family, Grace died in Pittsburgh. She was only twenty-seven years old.

After her death, her parents wanted a fitting memorial to their only daughter and had a life-like statue of Grace commissioned and placed at the family plot. An artist from Pittsburgh did a model in clay from a portrait of Grace and it was sent to Italy, where the sculpture was done in marble. In December 1901, the memorial was set and soon after,  four pillars were erected and the statue was encased in glass to protect it. The original glass would be replaced with plexiglass years later after someone shot holes in the glass enclosure with a BB gun.

Note: One of the stories about the statue of Grace Galloway that often is told states when the statue was first placed, it actually had the dress on used to create it. Many of the modern stories tell that the dress on the statue is a real dress due to the fine details in the marble work. I have not been able to find a definite source saying the statue originally wore a real dress or if this is just another word of mouth story that has grown up around the statue. Examining a number of early pictures of the statue, it does not appear to have on a real dress, so until I find definite proof, I personally think the story of the real dress is just another legend.

Studying the statue, I could not help but being taken in by the figurine standing enclosed in glass – an eternal memorial to a loved one taken away so early in life. There is a love in this memorial that I’ve never seen before – a love that shows the grief of a father who lost his only daughter.

With the thoughts of a life cut short and the grief of a family, I left Grace standing guard over the family plot as I turned my attention to the most famous burial on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery.

Note: The visit to Lake View Cemetery continues in I Love Lucy and George Kendall.

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