Indignity in death

Unmarked graves in Bloomington
indicate long history of racism

She climbs the shallow hill of the cemetery, walking slowly and carrying fresh flowers. At Plot C43, she spreads a blanket and sits. She talks to her parents in front of their headstone. She talks to her grandfather, buried just a few feet to the left. As always, she tries to talk to her great-grandfather, Halson Vashon Eagleson Sr.

But Vivian Bridgwaters doesn’t quite know where he rests beneath the ground.

H.V. Eagleson doesn’t have a headstone at Rose Hill Cemetery. He’s one of many members of the Eagleson family in C43 that aren’t marked, said Bridgwaters, his great-granddaughter. Bridgwaters knows they’re buried there. But without headstones, it’s hard to know exactly who she’s talking to sometimes.

Dignity in death isn’t universal, but it should be, the living say. Dignity can be embodied in a headstone, a memorial to a life and a remembrance for the family members still here to think of them. But this common decency hasn’t always been afforded to Black people like the Eaglesons. Disproportionately, minorities are buried without tombstones in the United States. Many financial and racist barriers often prevent Black people from obtaining the headstone — the dignity — their families desire.

“When you have monuments, it speaks to the relevance of the person, of their life, of their contribution, their legacy,” Bridgwaters said. “To have my great-grandfather’s monument would speak to not just the Black community — which it would be uplifting for as well — but for Bloomington as a whole.”

A woman wearing an orange collared shirt with purple and blue designs sits in an armchair. She is looking at a black and white photo of a family and pointing at a man pictured in the top right of the image.

Mallorey Daunhauer

Vivian Bridgwaters, the great-granddaughter of H.V. Eagleson Sr., speaks about a family portrait Oct. 11, 2021, in her home in Bloomington. Eagleson's family made history at Indiana University by becoming the first Black IU athlete and the first Black IU female graduate. Eagleson Sr. himself was a prominent Black figure in the Bloomington community, owning his own barbershop in the heart of downtown. Bridgwaters has been speaking with the Monroe County Cemetery Committee since 2016 about getting a headstone for her great-grandfather.

Face west from Plot C43 and only a few dozen yards away is a stone for a Negro League baseball star, recently added after 50 years without one. Turn to the east and there’s a Black Revolutionary War veteran who went centuries without a headstone. They are some of the few who’ve finally had remembrance afforded to them.

Most cemeteries have unmarked graves. Some have dozens, others hundreds. Old cemeteries like Rose Hill have sold almost every plot, yet have large swathes of open space. The families of the dead know their loved ones are buried there — tucked away beneath the ground without anything to remember their lives or their deaths.

Cemeteries are often crowded this time of year. The holiday season reunites families. It’s a time for celebration and happiness. But it’s a time for grieving, too.

And grieving is much harder when you know your loved one is buried with no marker.

No one knows exactly how many Black people are lying without a headstone across the country. It is a national problem, and in recent years many groups have found or dug up these unmarked graves.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the last year, archeologists and forensic scientists have found a total of 35 graves at a mass grave site in the Black portion of an Oklahoma cemetery. It is believed those in the grave, who had been left unmarked, were killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.


Some Black people were buried without a marker to be hidden. There is purposeful forgetting — an insidious form of racism, burying history without any recognition.

In southern Indiana, among the world’s largest producers of limestone, headstones are an art form. There are obelisks and figurines and tree trunks to mark the dead. But limestone weathers quickly compared to other rocks. Many westward-facing stones are hard to read after decades of battering from eastbound winds.

When it first opened sometime between 1818 and 1820, Rose Hill Cemetery was just called the “Grave Yard” — the main cemetery in town. It’s Bloomington’s second oldest cemetery, and many of the town’s most famous citizens are buried there. The names carved there first on headstones made of Indiana limestone now name the town’s streets. Dodds, Sample and Ballantine. Atwater, Kirkwood and Rogers too.

A brief tour of Rose Hill Cemetery

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Rose Hill Cemetery, known simply as "Grave Yard" at its inception around 1818, contains layers of local Bloomington history.

Many prominent Bloomington figures are laid to rest here, including past IU presidents, athletes and musicians.

While cemetery records indicate who is buried in the cemetery, not all of these graves have headstones.

It's difficult to estimate the number of unmarked graves in Rose Hill. But nearly every plot on the cemetery map has been sold. Most are six-person family plots, but they range from one to 12 people.

The oldest section of the cemetery, the Old Spencer Addition, probably has the most unmarked graves. Cemetery records show 851 burials and 779 headstones in the section, but many burials have gone unrecorded.

When looking at a bird's eye view, there are visibly fewer headstones compared to the rest of the cemetery, which indicates a higher proportion of graves could be unmarked.

Finding the true total of unmarked graves would require scanning the area with expensive radar equipment to see where unmarked bodies are buried. So the exact number will likely remain uncertain for the foreseeable future.

The stories inside the cemetery detail the history of Bloomington and this nation, for better and worse. Bloomington’s founders, all white men, were originally buried on Ninth Street. But when a Black man was later buried there, their families had the founders bodies moved to Rose Hill, local historian Tony Mitchell said. The stories date back to the Revolutionary War and Andrew Ferguson, one of a small number of Black men to fight in the Colonial army — who, unbeknownst to the founders’ families, was already buried at Rose Hill when the white founders were moved there.

Despite all the different types of memorials, they all have a few things in common. They all have a birth date and a death date. And they all have a dash between those dates. That dash, Pastor Eddie Howard of Bloomington’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said, is the most important part of the stone. It’s what that dash represented — a life, no matter how long or short, a life with memories all tied up in a little line.


Markers are memories, Howard said, and not everyone is so fortunate as to have anyone remember them.

“We don’t keep memories alive for future generations,” Howard said. “A headstone is important; it connects to a lot. Headstones are what gives them that life back. Without that, it’s like they’re lost.”

His own grandmother, buried in Alabama, didn’t have a headstone. With no place to visit her, Howard said it was easy to forget the fact that she didn’t have a marked grave. With no place to visit her, it was easy to forget his memories of her.

And when his family finally got her a stone, Howard remembers hearing stories about his grandmother he’d never heard before. The headstone brought back a lost life story.

But Howard didn’t know how many families had loved ones missing headstones quite like his own. That fact brought tears to his eyes.

In the church’s sanctuary, Howard strolled along the wall, pointing out the names on the stained glass. He hadn’t always paid attention to just what those names meant. So it was a look of shock when suddenly, looking to the other side of the church, a newly familiar name was written in the window.

“H.V. Eagleson Sr.”

The stained glass, in the back corner in one of Bloomington’s oldest sanctuaries, is H.V.’s only current memorial.

The words 'H.V. Eagleson, Sr.' appear in the middle of a stained glass panel. Surrounding the name are orange and yellow panels of colored glass.

mallorey daunhauer

H.V. Eagleson Sr.'s name appears in a stained-glass window Nov. 3, 2021, in the sanctuary of Bethel African American Episcopal Church in Bloomington. Eagleson was a prominent member of Bethel AME, and his son, Preston Eagleson, was a pastor at the church. Without a headstone, the stained glass piece is H.V.'s only memorial.

The calendar sits on her small round coffee table next to a picture of her great-grandfather, open and waiting. It’s been there for more than four years, turned to a page about H.V. Eagleson. It’s a 2016 calendar and the photo shows the empty grass in Plot C43.

“During 2016, there are plans to place a monument for H.V. Eagleson in lot C43 of Rose Hill Cemetery where he and other Eaglesons are buried,” a graphic over the photo reads.

There still isn’t a headstone.

H.V. isn’t a Bloomington native, but his history and his family’s history permeate the makeup of this town.

There are conflicting records, but Bridgwaters believes H.V. was born in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1851 and raised in an orphanage until he was 14. He later moved across the Great Plains and Midwest before arriving in Chambersburg, Indiana. There, H.V. learned to be a barber and later moved his family to Bloomington in the early 1890s, where he opened his own shaving parlor and provided better educational opportunities for his children near Indiana University.

Five of H.V.’s six children attended IU. One of those was Bridgwaters’ grandfather, Preston Eagleson, the first documented Black athlete at IU. Starting in 1893, he played on the football team. Preston became a beloved pastor at the AME church, and H.V. was ordained there before him. And that’s why his name is in the sanctuary’s stained glass window.

courtesy of IU Archives

Preston Eagleson, top right, poses with teammates for a photo in 1893. In November 1892, an article in the Crawfordsville Daily Journal said, “Eagleson, the phenomenal colored player on the IU team, is but 16 years old and is a freshman. He will be celebrated when he graduates if he keeps improving.”

Elizabeth Eagleson Bridgwaters, Preston’s daughter and Bridgwaters’ mom, was the first Black woman elected in Monroe County, serving on the Monroe County School Board. Frances Marshall Eagleson — namesake of IU’s Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center — was the first Black woman to graduate from IU. She married Bridgwaters’ uncle, Wilson Vashon Eagleson. Wilson became a football, basketball and baseball coach at North Carolina Central University, whose mascot is now the Eagles, named after the Eagleson family. Frances’ and Wilson’s son Wilson II became a Tuskegee Airman.

But it was H.V.’s barbershop — located back then near the intersection of Kirkwood and College Avenues — that first brought the family fame in town.

A black and white photo of a man with a mustache appears in an advertisement for 'Eagleson Shaving Parlors.' The ad reads, Students shop. Hair cutting, shaving, shampooing, singeing, and professional massage. hot or cold bath with attendant. razors honed. H.V. Eagleson prop.

courtesy of iu archives

H.V. Eagleson Sr. appears in an advertisement for his barbershop in the 1907 Arbutus yearbook. Jordan Avenue, named after former IU President David Starr Jordan who was infamous for his support of eugenics, will be renamed to Eagleson Avenue next year to honor the achievements of Eagleson Sr. and his family.

“I knew that we were a prominent family,” Bridgwaters said. “But not a wealthy one.”

H.V. didn’t have the opportunity to pursue a job with higher wages than a barber. Prejudice over the color of his skin prevented him. He mostly cut white people’s hair, Bridgwaters said. If he did cut a Black client’s hair, white people would stop coming to the business.

H.V. would sometimes cut Black people’s hair after the shop was closed, but he had to use different scissors. White people didn’t want their hair cut with the same tools.


The money H.V. made at the barbershop was saved for an orphanage. H.V.’s lifelong goal was to open an orphanage after his own upbringing in one and help Black children in the Bloomington area get an education. He opened his orphanage for Black children called Industrial City in Unionville, Indiana, in 1910.

H.V. died in 1921, beloved in Bloomington’s Black community. But his family wasn’t able to afford a headstone.

“You don't think of barbers as being wealthy people,” Bridgwaters said. “But he was wealthy in terms of his influence in the Black community.”

Racism meant prominence didn’t equal remembrance. Bridgwaters always knew her great-grandfather didn’t have a headstone. When she went with her mother, Bridgwaters didn’t remember him ever having a stone. A 1976 Rose Hill record claims H.V. had a stone at that time, but if there was, it has since disappeared.

There are only three headstones in Plot C43, and they lay about 10 feet apart. One is an Eagleson stone, with four names on it, including Preston and Vashon Jr. Another is a Bridgwaters stone with three names, including Bridgwaters’ mom Elizabeth Eagleson Bridgwaters and father Albert Louis Bridgwaters. And the final is a single, military-style stone for Walter V. Eagleson, another of H.V. Sr.’s sons.

A gray and white headstone carved with words weathered over time that are a bit difficult to read. You can make out the name 'Walter V. Eagleson' at the top of the stone. The photo was taken at sunset and you can see the sun right by the top corner of the headstone.

mallorey daunhauer

An Eagleson family headstone appears Nov. 5, 2021, in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington. The Eagleson family patriarch, H.V. Eagleson Sr., does not have a headstone, but local group The Dignity Project is looking to change that.

“It was always something that I wanted to see happen,” Bridgwaters said of getting a headstone. “I thought it was an issue. And I had left the calendar on my coffee table. Just as a reminder of something that I needed to follow up on and that I wanted to try and move forward.”

She called the Monroe County Cemetery Committee director in 2016, trying to become involved in the effort to get H.V. a stone. The actual plans were unclear, but Bridgwaters was happy to at least know there was an intention to get a memorial.

Then, the committee director changed. The director has changed multiple times since 2016, and the plan kept getting pushed off. Then COVID-19 hit and the Eagleson memorial was not a priority until finally, in 2021, Scott Emery remembered the Eaglesons.

It was 9 a.m. and Scott Emery was an hour early, parked in his worn white Silverado. The truck bed was full of shovels and history books, epoxy and brushes. But those could wait for now. He walked around to check on the cemetery first. He wore hiking boots and a faded white Monroe County History Center T-shirt, pointing out each broken or sunken stone — and the ones you can only still see because of him.

It’s his job to fix them.

“I kept going, ‘Somebody needs to do something about these,’” Emery said. “And then I realized I was somebody.”

Emery is the chair of the Monroe County Cemetery Committee, a group of volunteers who take care of the county’s cemeteries. On this Saturday morning, they were at Rose Hill, one of the group’s first in-person meetings in months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their task that day was to enter the Spencer Addition, the oldest section of the cemetery, and fix weathered and damaged headstones. Some stones had fallen over. Others had collected so much dirt and lichen that they needed to be cleaned. Others still had sunken into the ground from the weight of gravity and time.

Physical damage to stones can come from reckless lawnmowers or someone not carefully walking through the grounds. Other damage can come from theft and landscaping.

a woman in a purple shirt and a blue face mask with a pair of sunglasses on top of her head scrubs a headstone that's sitting on a carpenter's work bench
a woman with short white hair and a striped white pink and orange shirt leans over a headstone balanced on a work table as she scrapes the side of it with a piece of plastic

Mallorey Daunhauer

MembersA member of the Monroe County Cemetery Committee works Sept. 18, 2021, in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington. The committee members cleaned, located and replaced parts of headstones. The volunteer effort was led by Scott Emery, Monroe County Cemetery Committee Chair.

Kathy Koontz, a volunteer, picked up a headstone and set it on a table. The name on the stone was difficult to read. Older stones like this one can’t handle chemical cleaners, which risk damaging them more. So she used water and a brush to clean, brushing a memory back to life. Another volunteer dug up a sunken headstone and Emery filled the hole with new dirt and wood planks to keep the stone upright above ground.

Re-setting stones is a frequent task Emery finds in his cemetery clean-up outings every few months. He often finds more history in doing so. Emery said he’s dug up Civil War artifacts and children’s toys.

It’s a never-ending task. Finish one round of cleaning and repairing the cemetery, and it will be right about time to start all over again. There are never enough volunteers available to handle the workload.

“I get paid in satisfaction,” Emery said.

Emery joined the Committee in the 1990s and worked his way up over the last three decades to become its leader. He said an effort like the one to create headstones for unmarked graves is not common throughout the country — but it should be.

Digging up the past: Monroe County Cemetery Committee

Mallorey Daunhauer

The Monroe County Cemetery Committee does reparations work Sept. 18, 2021, at Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.

Many years on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Emery said he and other committee members would go to Rose Hill to look for names of those they know are dead and buried there but who may not have headstones. Emery found many large expanses of what he called “prime location” with just grass and no headstone. But he knew the ground beneath him wasn’t empty.

Through those searches through the cemetery, the Committee found George Shively’s unmarked grave. He became the group’s first fundraising project to purchase a headstone — giving dignity in death for someone who had it withheld.

They call themselves The Dignity Project. The living, working to give memorials to the dead.

Rose Hill’s records report everyone buried there since 1897 and can help narrow down where a person without a headstone might be buried, but without headstones, there’s still uncertainty. There might be one headstone in that area, but 20 people beneath the ground, invisible to anyone walking past.

Methods like ground-penetrating radar can reveal exactly where a person is buried. But that is costly, and out of the committee’s budget.


The Dignity Project relies on families to reach out to them requesting a memorial for their loved one. There are so many unmarked graves, and by nature they are difficult to find.

So after years of the project getting pushed down the road, Emery was glad to get a call from Bridgwaters about H.V.’s grave. He checked the Eagleson family plot and saw the few stones there. But his eyes were drawn more to the open grass without anything to mark the bodies.

Headstones are expensive, often costing more than $10,000. Replacing them is a challenge and requires a large effort, often beyond what the small groups of volunteers can handle.

It’s difficult to dig up these histories, to mark the missing lives. They’ll never attend to every unmarked grave. There are too many of them. But Emery and his group of dignity seekers see that as their own duty.

“It’s a privilege that should be afforded to anybody,” Emery said of the dignity a memorial brings. “And it shouldn’t be limited by anything.”

Today, Bloomington is a small blue town in deep red southern Indiana. Many view Bloomington as a progressive college town, but not everyone feels welcome here.

In 1945, Black students in Bloomington couldn’t live in dorms or eat at any restaurant around campus. George Taliaferro, an IU running back who became the first Black player drafted to the NFL, helped begin integrating restaurants here when he asked then-IU President Herman B Wells for help. Wells planned to get lunch with Taliaferro at the Gables restaurant, now BuffaLouie’s. At first, the Gables refused, but Wells said he’d ban all students from Bloomington restaurants in response. The Gables relented.

a sepia toned photo shows 5 white people sitting at a bar top with sailor hats and outfits from the 50s. they are holding drinks that look like coca cola with straws and chatting.
a girl with a blazer, a pearl necklace and a 50s style curled hairdo smiles as she listens to a man with a plaid sweater talk. they're sitting in a booth at a restaurant, both with books in front of them and a glass of soda

courtesy of iu archives

LEFT: A group of IU students sit together at the Gables Restaurant, now BuffaLouie’s, in December, 1941. Bloomington restaurants denied Black customers until four years later. RIGHT: George Taliaferro, right, is shown Dec. 15, 1945. Taliaferro was an IU running back who became the first Black player drafted to the NFL. In his time at IU, he helped to integrate Bloomington restaurants and theaters.

For centuries, Bloomington’s Black residents have not felt safe. It’s a town that brands itself as liberal while reckoning with a deep history of violent racism, Elizabeth Mitchell, a Bloomington historian, said.

Keith Parker got death threats as IU’s student body president in 1970

Keith Parker was IU’s second Black student body president and a member of the Black Panther party. During his time in office, he was approached by a local KKK leader who was an IU truck driver, investigated by the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program and the target of frequent death threats.

Audio by carson terbush • music by nick jurkiewicz

Until the last year, there was both a street and building in Bloomington named after former IU President David Starr Jordan, infamous for his belief in and support of eugenics.

“Nothing has changed for a person of color in America,” Mitchell said. “The same problems that we had years ago, we are still addressing those problems today.”

That goes back to before the Civil War, when Bloomington was a stop on the Underground Railroad. But slave catchers lived on the square then too, looking for carts and wagons that might be hiding slaves. Mitchell said those catchers often included IU students.

“Indiana is not a Southern state,” Bridgwaters said. “But it hangs right on the border.”

Vivian Bridgwaters discusses barriers to Black success in Bloomington

Vivian Bridgwaters attended IU in the 1970s, but moved to other states for the majority of her professional life due to a lack of opportunities for Black Bloomington residents. Many of her family members, including her aunt, Frances Marshall Eagleson, the first Black female graduate of IU, were also unable to find jobs in town that met their qualifications.

Audio by carson terbush • music by nick jurkiewicz

Bridgwaters said when she was in high school in the 1960s, she remembers it took a strong uprising from Bloomington’s Black community to convince the town’s mayor to prevent a KKK march planned to take place in town.

In 1922, white IU students affiliated with the KKK kidnapped Halson V. Eagleson Jr., attempting to prevent him from becoming the first Black person to earn an “I” letter for the marching band. Eagleson was found and the capturers were tried by an all-white jury, but never charged. Eagleson would later receive the “I.”

Bridgwaters was still in high school in 1968. On Dec. 26 of that year, two local men with ties to the KKK firebombed the Black Market, a shop located in what is now People’s Park. Bridgwaters went to the Market often. There were clothes, jewelry, soaps, oils and books that represented Black culture, Bridgwaters said.

a man leans on a counter mid-laugh. behind him is a wall decorated with drawings of significant black figures from history.
a man in a sweater and sunglasses stands in front of the facade of the black market, which is made of paneled wood. there is a sign above the door that reads 'the black market' in stylized lettering. two black silhouettes are situated on either side of the sign.

courtesy of iu archives

LEFT: A man laughs inside the Black Market, a shop on Kirkwood Avenue that was a popular gathering place for Black students. On the night of Dec. 26, 1968, two men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan threw firebombs into the Black Market, causing it to permanently close. RIGHT: IU graduate student Rollo Turner stands in front of the Black Market, which he helped create to provide a space where Black students could feel a sense of belonging, in 1968. Keith Parker, former IU student body president and a friend of Turner’s, said the bombing of the store changed something in Turner.

“It was just another punch in the gut,” Bridgwaters said of the bombing. “You feel like some acknowledgment of your culture and how you view the world is being accepted in your hometown, only to find that there is racism that was still so deep that they couldn't even allow that one little market, that one little place, where we could gather and buy things that expressed our heritage in terms of the African piece of it, that that had to be destroyed. Even that couldn't survive.”

‘A punch in the gut’: The aftermath of the Black Market bombing

Vivian Bridgwaters and Keith Parker, former IU student body president and Black Panther, discuss the aftermath of the Black Market bombing in Bloomington. Vivian was a high school student in Bloomington when the shop was firebombed by two men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan on Dec. 26, 1968. Keith was a college sophomore living in Indianapolis.

Audio by carson terbush • music by nick jurkiewicz

When Mitchell first moved to Bloomington in 1979, she went back home to Indianapolis every weekend because she felt so uncomfortable living here as a Black woman. In 1983, Bloomington police officers killed Denver Smith, a Black IU student and football player, by shooting him four times.

Mitchell’s husband worked with the state police and was stationed in Bloomington. Mitchell worked there too, and she remembers being called the N-word every night.

Mitchell is a researcher now, focusing on finding and telling Black stories in Bloomington and Indiana. She participates in plays with Resilience Productions, a local theater group she co-founded, showcasing unknown or un-celebrated Black contributions in Indiana. That interest came after she said a white man who worked with her at the police told her Black people hadn’t done anything for America. She wanted to prove him wrong.

And she has seen racism still prevalent in Bloomington.

Local historian Elizabeth Mitchell recounts racism she experienced in Indianapolis and Bloomington

Mitchell attended Arlington High School in Indianapolis starting in 1967, the first year Black students were bused there to integrate it. In 1979, Mitchell started working at the U.S. Postal Service in Bloomington, where she would be the first and only Black female employee for 35 years.

Editor’s note: This audio clip contains a racial slur.

Audio by carson terbush • music by nick jurkiewicz

In 2019, Bloomington community members found KKK flyers around town. Around the same time, it was discovered a vendor at the Bloomington Farmer’s Market had strong white supremacist ties. On July 4, 2020, former Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker was pinned to a tree near Lake Monroe by two white men. The men can be heard saying they would “get a noose” in a video of the altercation. The attack garnered national headlines at the peak of Black Lives Matter protests and made Booker a prominent voice in the area.

Now, over a year later, Booker has been charged by a special prosecutor with felony assault and criminal trespassing. The case is ongoing.

Mitchell said Bloomington still is not always an inclusive and accepting town of minorities. That’s why it made her angry to learn about all the unmarked graves in Monroe County, especially for a family like the Eaglesons.

“The history book is America’s photo album,” Mitchell said. “How would you feel if you weren’t in your family’s photo album?”

Guy Loftman, former IU student body president, discusses racism in IU fraternities in the 1960s

Loftman started at IU in 1963 and was elected student body president on the Progressive Reform Party ticket in 1967. He was a founding member of IU’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

Editor’s note: This audio clip contains racial slurs and swearing.

Audio by carson terbush • music by nick jurkiewicz

Mallorey Daunhauer

Tony Mitchell eats lunch Sept. 17, 2021, in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington. Mitchell sat on the gravesite of J.B. Crafton, a man lost on the Titanic, to enjoy a burger from Hinkle’s. Mitchell has been going to Hinkle’s since he was a child and always gets the same order.

He parked his blue Ford near the gravesite, pulled out his walking stick and his greasy brown paper bag from Hinkle’s. He was looking for his lunch buddy.

The living who love this place have more friends among the dead than those still alive with them. At least that’s what Tony Mitchell says.

Tony often eats lunch at Rose Hill, and typically, he’s not sure if he’s eating alone. He unwraps his Hinkle’s cheeseburger and crinkle fries to have a conversation with a stone. J.B. Crafton’s stone, that is. He sits next to J.B., or maybe it’s better to say he’s sitting on him. J.B.’s body isn’t there; he died on the Titanic. His body is somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

A friend of the dead: Tony Mitchell

mallorey daunhauer

Monroe County historian Tony Mitchell talks about his passion for cemeteries and the history behind them.

“J.B. let’s eat, you don’t mind do you?” Tony says.

He chomps on his burger and sips his Diet Coke, his walking stick leaning against J.B.’s grave.

“How’d that ticket work out for ya,” he jokes.

Tony’s best friends are dead. But he didn’t know most of them when they were alive anyway, despite his family tracing Bloomington roots back to the 1820s. He’s come to meet them all through years of strolling through the cemetery on days off. He works with Boy Scouts, too, and is fascinated by Bloomington and its history. Ask him any Bloomington trivia question: What statue is atop the Monroe County courthouse? Tony knows — it’s a fish, by the way.

One final sip on his Diet Coke and Tony stands up to begin the tour. He gets up and turns to the east, checking his compass as he walks along the headstones. Tony stops at 39 degrees north, -86 degrees west, and looks down at Andrew Ferguson. His stone is flat along the ground.

Andrew Ferguson

Capt harris' va militia

revolutionary war



Ferguson was one of roughly 5,000 Black soldiers in the Continental army. He was wounded in the head by General Charles Cornwallis’ troops near Guilford, North Carolina. Ferguson spent months recovering in Virginia, where he was born, before spending the last few decades of his life in Bloomington.

He didn’t get a headstone until around 150 years after his death.

No one really knows why. There is not much documented history on Ferguson other than census records, according to a Herald-Times report in 2008.

a man with a black hat that says 'army', sunglasses, and a floral patterned hawaiian shirt grips a walking stick. he's talking and he's standing in the grassy area of a cemetery, surrounded by headstones.

Mallorey Daunhauer

Tony Mitchell gives a tour of Rose Hill Cemetery on Sept. 17, 2021, in Bloomington. Mitchell is a Monroe County historian whose passion for the town’s rich past was sparked by his own family genealogy in Bloomington. Some of Mitchell’s ancestors are buried in Rose Hill.

Tony turns around and leads the way back to the Ford, passing the Eagleson plot on the way. He’s shown the cemeteries’ oldest portions, but he finishes the tour on four wheels. He drives onto the pavement and hums “Say, Has Anybody Seen my Sweet Gypsy Rose” by Tony Orlando & Dawn. The truck winds through the cemetery and stops on a curve next to a gravestone.

The face of George Shively, printed on his headstone, stares back at him.

Shively was one of the greatest Negro League baseball players of all time and in the Hall of Fame. For decades, he didn’t have a headstone either. Negro League players did not make the same salaries as their white counterparts playing Major League Baseball and despite far outperforming scores of white athletes, Shively and his family weren’t able to afford a headstone.


More than 50 years after Shively’s death in 1962, a page in the History Center’s yearly calendar planned to feature Shively’s athletic achievements. But before it printed, Emery went around Bloomington’s cemeteries looking for headstones of the athletes mentioned in the calendar, and there was no trace of Shively. The calendar ultimately stated that Shively did not have a stone, prompting Bloomington residents to fundraise to purchase a proper memorial.

Money came in quickly, and by April 2015, there was a ceremony to unveil the headstone attended by over 100 people at Plot C23, no more than 75 yards from H.V.’s unmarked grave. At the ceremony, the attendees held hands and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

Tony kept driving, slowly, windows rolled down so he could point to the different sites. He stopped at Hoagy Carmichael’s gravesite and even briefly pointed out his own family members buried in Rose Hill.

The tour was over then. He drove back to the main gates and waved goodbye to his friends.

Written in stone: Casey Winningham

mallorey daunhauer

Stone carver Casey Winningham discusses how headstones act as a part of the grieving process for survivors of those who die.

Bridgwaters didn’t know the city was changing the street name. She was at home when her sister Betty called her.

“Did you know…” Bridgwaters recalls hearing on the phone

“Have you seen…”

She didn’t know. She hadn’t seen.

But her family told her to check the newspaper, so she got a copy of the Herald-Times. When Bridgwaters opened the newspaper on Sept. 15, she saw her great-grandfather’s name below the headline: “Bloomington approves renaming Jordan Avenue after prominent Black family.”

Many names on the headstones at Rose Hill can be found on Bloomington’s street signs. And soon, Eagleson will be one of those too.

It’s not a headstone — not yet at least. But it’s recognition. It’s recognition replacing a name directly tied to racism in Bloomington. “Eagleson” will be a marker in Bloomington.

What is now Jordan Avenue between East Davis Street to East 17th Street will become Eagleson Avenue this February. That stretches directly through IU’s campus, including right past the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and Wells Library.

In December, IU officially approved the renaming of the city-owned section of what was Jordan Avenue to Eagleson Avenue, as initially proposed and approved by the Bloomington City Council this fall.

Vivian’s mother, Elizabeth Eagleson Bridgwaters, recounts experiences as a child in early 1900s Bloomington

Elizabeth Bridgwaters grew up during segregation. She later became the first Black elected official in Bloomington as a member of the school board. She raised nine children and was dedicated to promoting education in the community. In 1999, she was voted Monroe County Woman of the Century by the Herald-Times. This audio was recorded in a 1993 oral history interview with Duane Busick.

Editor’s note: This audio clip contains a racial slur.

Audio courtesy of monroe county history center and Duane Busick • music by nick jurkiewicz

Bridgwaters was thrilled when the story published, beaming as she recalled her memories of that day. She smiled sitting in her chair reading the paper and turned to look at a photo of H.V. resting on the mantle.

She looked at the photo of him, and she proudly gave him a thumbs up as if to announce, “We did it.”

The thumbs up acknowledged that finally, 100 years later, there would be dignity in the memory of his life for the entire Bloomington community.

There will be a ceremony in February 2022 when the new street sign is unveiled. Bridgwaters said she plans to be there.

Eagleson will finally be afforded remembrance beyond his church window. On a headstone and a street sign, he will join the famous names at the foundation of this town’s landmarks.

The project has not made much progress yet, Scott Emery said in November. Fundraising efforts are being established, but most of the decision-making comes from discussions with the Eagleson and Bridgwaters families. Many decisions — such as what type of headstone they’d like — have yet to be made. Recent health emergencies in the Bridgwaters family have taken precedence.

As such, no timeline exists for when the stone might be unveiled.

Bridgwaters lives across the street from Rose Hill now. It being too much for her to walk, Bridgwaters drives over to visit her family every few months these days — whenever it feels right, she said.

Soon, she’ll have one more headstone to bring flowers for. And she’ll know exactly when she’s talking to her great-grandfather.

Carson TerBush contributed reporting.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Frances Marshall Eagleson as a child of H.V. Eagleson Sr.

mallorey daunhauer

Headstones are seen Nov. 5, 2021, at Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington. The Dignity Project is raising funds to purchase H.V. Eagleson Sr. a headstone, but a timeline for the project has not yet been put into place.