Davis Memorial - Atlas Obscura

Davis Memorial

Mt. Hope Cemetery
Hiawatha, Kansas

This massive marble memorial was built bit by bit either out of devotion or spite, but at the expense of the surrounding town. 


John Davis met his wife Sarah near Hiawatha, Kansas, in the 1870s, and they settled down to a simple and prosperous farm life. When Sarah died in 1930, John set about creating a vastly expensive memorial to his beloved that some say was built simply to squander their fortune, yet others believe was solely for love. 

When Sarah Davis passed away, her burial site was marked with a simple headstone that reflected the quiet life she and her husband had led, despite the vast wealth they had also accrued. But soon after Sarah had been placed in the ground, John had her stone removed and replaced with a marble statue, which was just the beginning. Over the next decade John installed 11 total marble or granite statues, many of which depicted Sarah as a young woman, old woman, and even as an angel. There was also a statue of John resting in comfortable armchair next to an identical, empty armchair.

The cost of the memorial became astronomical, which upset locals who were suffering under the poverty of the Great Depression in a small town that did not even have a hospital. Many believed that John was simply trying to squander his fortune so that Sarah’s family, who had always hated the man, could not touch it. Still others believed that he was simply an eccentric with a permanently broken heart. For his part, John was heard to say on the situation, “…it’s my money and I spent it the way I pleased.”

As the monument grew in popularity, John built a marble wall and canopy around the statues so that visitors would not be able to walk directly among them. He also continued to visit the grave until his death in 1947. Despite people disliking the memorial during its construction, it has managed to become a huge draw and boon to the town of Hiawatha.    

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