The date was April 23rd, 2019 and it seems like a “lifetime” ago—something not to be taken lightly when said in a cemetery. We lost a prized and picturesque monument, or so we thought, due to an unkind act of nature. For an individual in charge of a preservation program aimed at caring for hundreds of previously downed and damaged gravestones and markers, it was certainly not an “uplifting” moment.
This was nearly a full year before we would be panicked and quarantined due to a respiratory virus whose name, up to that point, was more commonly associated with a Mexican beer than an international pandemic. I’m noticing more and more how that period of 2020 was like a time warp, and certainly has thrown all of us off in remembering events and measuring/calculating time. A true speed bump for a historian with a great memory of past events. But I digress.
It was particularly painful to see this lovely statue get damaged. A violent electrical storm brought with it strong winds and, we deducted, a lightning strike which felled a neighboring tree. There was a “silver lining,” however, in the fact that the tree fell in such a way that didn’t pulverize the statue with a direct hit. A limb was responsible for the principal damage as it sheared the figurine’s bowed head, which was attached to the right hand which snapped at the wrist. A stray finger was also a casualty, but I quickly gathered these pieces up for future repair.
The toppled monument in question has its home in Area L, behind our Key Memorial Chapel. For over a century, the sculpture of this mourning woman has sat atop a large two part base, the centerpiece of a cemetery plot surrounded by smaller raised footstones. These belonged to the family of Bion E. Bopst—pronounced “bôw-pst” with a long “o.” Although this surname seems rare, we have 49 interments with this moniker buried throughout Mount Olivet. Plus, it’s fun to say Bopst, especially Bion Bopst!
I did a search on the internet to see if I could find a name meaning for Bopst. Here is what I disovered on a site called www.4crests.com:
“This surname of BOBST was a Russian and Jewish nickname from the word BOBR meaning 'beaver'. It related to the brownish colour of the owners hair and complexion. The name has numerous variant spellings which include BOBROFF, BOBROWSKY, BOBSTE and BOBZEN.”
The Bopst monument, as I’ve referred to it for seven years now, is among the most beautiful in the cemetery. In my first year on the job here, I took several pictures for use in marketing materials for Mount Olivet such as brochures, our website and Facebook. Ironically, I also used a beautiful fall time photograph I had taken for a title page within a PowerPoint presentation I often give on the preservation mission we have here at the cemetery.
Lot 192 was purchased by Mr. Bion Eugene Bopst in 1901 as a place to re-inter his first wife, Mary E. (Bruchey) Bopst. Mary had originally died five years earlier in November of 1896, at the tender age of 37. She was originally buried in Utica Cemetery in the quaint hamlet north of Frederick City and along Old Frederick Road that boasts one of the county’s oft-photographed covered bridges. Today, the adjoining church is known as St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran.
I don’t know what prompted this move to Mount Olivet, but I deducted that her burial at Utica could have been precipitated by the presence of relatives tied to her mother's (Margaret Jackson Bruchey) Jackson family that had ties to the Woodsboro area. Regardless, Mary Elizabeth (Bruchey) Bopst was re-buried here in Mount Olivet on November 14th, 1901.
I could not find any further information on the exact date of the memorial placement of our “mourning woman” on Area L, but I would surmise that it went in at the time of Mary’s re-interment, which would have generated a central “family” monument with her last name to give proper context to her individual, raised foot stone. However, it has Bion's name prominently displayed on it's base so maybe it did not appear until the 1940s?
Maybe Mary's stone from Utica could have been re-purposed here originally, until a later time when the mourning woman monument and foot stone theme were employed. However, I immediately think of two like “mourning women” statues in Mount Olivet that I have written about in the past (John H. Williams Lot in Area R and the Lycurgus Hedges Lot in Area C) whose principal family members died in the decade of the 1890s. I just wish I had old photos of Area L that would definitively clarify its existence.
The next individual to be placed here would be a woman named Anna “Annie” S. Betson (1857-1913). I could not find a true familial relationship to Annie with the Bopst family, but easily learned that she was a longtime housekeeper, and I’m sure served an important support and confidante role in assisting the widowed Mr. Bopst after the loss of his young wife. They can be found living together on West 7th Street in the 1900 and 1910 US Census records.
Annie would be laid to rest here in Mount Olivet's Area L/Lot 192 upon her death in December 1914, just a few days prior to Christmas.
Two years later, Bion would “quietly”(as stated in the local paper) marry Miss Grace Estelle Orem. This occurred in January, 1916. Mr. Bopst would outlive his second wife as well. She died at age 58, in the year 1938.
That brings us to our lot-holder and main man in the lives of the three women buried in the shadow of our headless statue. The irony here is that it would have been more fitting to have a weeping man statue to symbolize the years of grief experienced by Bion Bopst with the loss of two wives and a dedicated friend/housekeeper in Annie Betson.
Bion E. Bopst was born March 11th, 1858 in Shookstown, northwest of Frederick City on the eastern side of Catoctin Mountain. His name derives from Ancient Greece with a meaning of “life.” In science fiction, a bion is a robot or cyborg—hence the word bionic. Bion Bopst was the son of Mary and Daniel Bopst, farmers who are buried in Mount Olivet’s Area Q/Lot 63.
While researching, I found that Bion’s brother, Milton and sister-in-law Rose Bopst are buried in the same lot as his parents. Sadly, Milton was killed in 1904 in a tragic railroad accident while working for the old B&O.
The Bopst family moved in town and can be found on West 6th Street in the 1880 census. I found that first wife Mary Bruchey was a West 6th Street neighbor and this propelled the relationship. Bion is shown as being employed as a cooper, something his obituary 60+ years later would confirm.
There being no 1890 census, I could not pinpoint when the couple married. I would later be notified by a relative that it was in 1889. Bion and Mary would have not have any children.
I found a reference to Bion’s line of work around 1890 however. In 1891, he can be found as a laborer in the Public Printing Division of the US Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.
Just weeks before Mary’s death, Bion opened a grocery store on East 5th Street, presumably at 100 East 5th Street. An advertisement in a 1907 newspaper states that Mr. Bopst was in the process of liquidating his stock and equipment at this location.
I had my research assistant Marilyn Veek conduct some research on the home residences of Mr. Bopst. Apparently, he did a great deal of buying and selling throughout his life. Bion bought what is now 202 & 204 East 6th Street in 1893 and sold it in 1923. I would offer a guess that this could have been the home of his parents or in-laws. He bought what is now 206 & 208 East 6th in 1900 and sold 206 in 1923 and 208 in 1936. He also owned the following properties at various times:
34-40 West 6th from 1898 to 1923
13 West 6th from 1907 to 1936
14 & 16 West 6th from 1907 to 1938
18 West 6th from 1908 to 1938
2 properties on the N side of West 7th, one from 1889-1890 and another from 1895 to 1898
711 & 713 North Bentz Street from 1911 to 1923
another property on North Bentz from 1919 to 1922
part of the east side of Klinehardt's Alley between 5th and 6th from 1902 to 1909
part of the east side of Bentz Street between 5 1/2 and 6th Streets from 1906 to 1909
Bion Bopst bought his "Home Property" at what is now 33 West 7th Street (NE corner of 7th and Bentz) in 1902 and sold it in 1943.
From the looks of all this real estate activity, it appears that Bion Bopst was doing well financially, working as a professional landlord after his grocery store ownership days. As I honed in closer in hopes to learn more about the store, I found a few articles that pointed to a down period for Bion, as he seems to have had some run-ins with the law.
Bion appears with second-wife Grace in the 1920 and 1930 census. She is noticeably absent in 1940 because she had died in 1938 as mentioned earlier. Bion passed on July 8th, 1944, a fact that would be carved incorrectly on his foot stone in Mount Olivet. This is puzzling to me, but I guess no-one of note was there to supervise the work in the form of a widow or child. Perhaps, the stone was added much later?
Last summer, our staff removed the entire sculpture after a restoration expert told us that it would require a series of repair phases that needed to be done at ground level. A backhoe was employed to lift the statue from its pedestal, and the headless marble body was brought to our maintenance shop area. Meanwhile, the base was duly cleaned with D2 solution by our Friends of Mount Olivet "Stoner" stone cleaning group as we’ve talked about before in previous blogs.
At the end of September, our old friend, Jonathan Appel, returned to the cemetery from his New England home to continue a re-pointing and re-bronzing project involving the Francis Scott Key monument. Mr. Appel is one of the country's top experts in cemetery monument restoration and owns Atlas Preservation with a home base of Southington, Connecticut. He is no stranger to Mount Olivet as he has regularly presented cleaning and restoration workshops over the past six years.
Jonathan Appell has well over 25 years of experience preserving, restoring, and repairing gravestones and monuments all over the country and has conducted a “48-state Tour” of preservation training workshops over the the last two years. A recent work project of note is “the Knight’s Tomb” in Jamestown, quite possibly the oldest existing gravestone in America, dating back to the 1630s. We feel fortunate to have had him repairing many of own here in Mount Olivet.
The Bopst monument was a pretty complex fix, and we had the necessary expert to do the job. I marveled in watching him drill holes in the marble torso, head and appendages in an effort to rejoin these parts with metal pins and proper epoxy solutions. These are repair efforts requiring precise skill and confidence, certainly not for the meek as there are not second or third chances to re-drill at carefully calculated angles in which to compensate for precise placement of a bowed head as opposed to an upright head placed on level shoulders.
Jonathan completed the job at hand, including the re-attachment of one (a hand). This finally got the statue back in one piece after nearly a three-and-a-half-year hiatus. The figure was then cleaned with D2 and brought back to the way the statue looked on the day it was originally brought into the cemetery.
We had hoped to place the mourning woman back on her pedestal at the Bopst lot in fall but Jonathan’s busy schedule, coupled with the holidays and a few bad strokes of weather on our end (when we had opportunity of him traveling through the area) precluded us from making this happen.
We did however complete the task on February 21st, 2023. I know it’s just a big piece of marble, but how gratifying it is to have her back up there on her base for all to enjoy. I truly love this monument.
Besides, I was growing weary of explaining to curious visitors and lot-holders why we were displaying a headless statue in our cemetery. That’s something to be left to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
If you'd like to help us in our mission of repairing damaged historic gravestones in Mount Olivet, consider joining our Friends of Mount Olivet membership group, or feel free to make a tax deductible donation to the Mount Olivet Preservation and Enhancement Fund. (Click logo on the right for more info).
Next Prospective FOMO Member meeting is Wednesday, March 22nd at the Key Chapel with a lunchtime lecture presentation by author/historian Chris Haugh starting at 12 noon. (No obligation to join.)