Henry G. Wooldridge was a passionate man. There were two loves in his life: racing horses and his beloved wife. When Colonel Wooldridge tragically became a widower because of a riding accident in Tennessee, he lived a simple life of breeding horses while living with the remainder of his extended family. Around 1880, he came to Mayfield, KY to live and it was there that he stayed until his death in 1899.
The stories about Col. Wooldridge are varied. Some say he was an egotistical man, evidenced by the fact that his image is displayed in the Wooldridge Monuments twice. Others say that this lifelong bachelor was a devoted family man and that he commissioned these monuments in order to have some semblance of sanity in the years after 1892 when his last sister passed away. Whether it is a lasting legacy that you see in this monuments, an unwritten novel of life perhaps, or maybe just a tribute to a family that was loved immensely, what you will find here is a tale that is as old as time: the need to take something with you when death arrives at your door.
The Strange Procession That Never Moves
To see the Wooldridge Monuments, you’re basically just coming to Mayfied to wander through a cemetery that you would normally find in every community. Maplewood Cemetery is expansive, yet there within town so that you can easily reach it on a visit. It’s not the biggest town, with a population just over 10,000, but it is steeped in history. The area was purchased in 1818 by Andrew Jackson and you’ll hear each footstep ring with the echoes of history as you explore the town and make your way out to the lonely plot where Col. Wooldridge is buried alone with the monuments he personally inspected during final delivery and their installation in 1894.
All of the monuments are placed on Wooldridge’s 17×33 foot plot, which means they are packed in there tightly. So tightly, in fact, that when a 2009 storm blew into the area and an oak tree snapped, it literally decapitated all of the monuments, with only the dogs and his sisters remaining intact. The community rallied for a restoration effort for a year to get the money to restore the monuments, which has now been completed thanks to Federal disaster funds that were awarded and the procession that never moves continues to await your arrival.
The final bill? About $100,000 for a complete restoration. Wooldridge spent $6,000 to have them created, which means the restoration cost as much today as it did back then to have them carved in the first place.
Did Wooldridge Have Issues With His Father?
It is interesting to note the family members that are included in this monument. His mother, his sisters, two of his nieces, and his brothers are all included in the procession, but not his father. There’s even a fox and a dog! According to the local stories, there’s a couple of reasons why this might be. First, and the most common reason cited, is that Wooldridge’s father left his mother when he was a boy and because Wooldridge was such a passionate family man, he kept the resentment burning for his father until the day he was entombed in the metal vault with shotgun barrels there with his family. Another story suggests that Wooldridge only wished to memorialize in limestone those family members who had already passed away.
O\In 1984, Jack Palance visited the cemetery with a film crew for Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! to talk about the Wooldridge Monuments. If you’re an American, maybe a visit is worth your while as well if you happen to be in the area. After all, you helped to pay for it to be restored!