|Birth: ||Jun. 9, 1813|
|Death: ||Feb. 1, 1887|
VALLONIA -- Surrounded by soybeans in a field off South Indiana 135, the sweet-faced stone angel stands, back to the road and oblivious to the passing of time and cars.
The monument, long called "The Angel on Angel Hill" faces northeast in Smith Cemetery, spreading her wings as she looms over the eternal resting places of wealthy businessman Henry G. Smith, his wife, Eliza, and several members of the Smith and Hunsucker families.
The Angel, a 15-plus-foot French marble monument placed after Henry G. Smith's death in 1887, stands vigil over a cemetery that's just south of Vallonia, in the center of a field owned by Lonn and Cheryl Stuckwish of Vallonia.
A narrow path leads through the field to The Angel and the cemetery, one of 15 known cemeteries in Driftwood Township and 210 in Jackson County.
The tiny graveyard, surrounded by iron fencing, contains at least 35 grave sites. The Angel watches over them from atop a pedestal, clutching a flower in her right hand and a bag of flowers in her left.
The Angel has long been a conversation piece and historical marker in this town of 592 people.
And she's the stuff of great speculation, too, most of which can't be tracked for accuracy without talking to Driftwood Township historian Edna Mae Smith, who's 73 and no relation to Henry G. Smith, and Bill Hunsucker, who tends the cemetery and is Henry G. Smith's great-great-great-grandson.
For example, although it's never been proved, a quarter is said to be buried in The Angel's hand, as a testament to Smith's love of money.
Jackson Countian Laura Payne, 91, said she heard the quarter story from her father, Henry Shafer, as a child.
"They said Mr. Smith loved money so well that he had a washpan full of coins," she said. "They said he would lie in bed and run his hands through the coins, and that's the reason they took the coin and buried it in The Angel's hand."
Edna Smith doesn't disagree, though she's never actually seen the coin.
"It is supposed to be a coin in there," Smith said.
Hunsucker scoffs at the thought.
"That's just an old story," he said. "It's not true."
Other old stories, though, are accurate and fascinating.
Henry G. Smith, originally from Louisville, was born June 9, 1813. He came to Jackson County in the 1840s.
"He and his father didn't get along well, and he came here as a farm hand and sharecropper," said Hunsucker, whose great-great-grandfather was Charnel Hunsucker, husband of Henry G. Smith's daughter, Julia.
One day, a lawyer from Vallonia rode up on a horse and announced that Smith's father had died and bequeathed his son $40,000.
"So Henry started buying a lot of land," Hunsucker said. "He married Eliza Settles, a wealthy woman. At one time, they were farming about 1,500 acres in Driftwood Township.
"He also owned a bank at one time. He didn't have much mercy on the people who didn't pay back money."
Edna Mae Smith loves the story of The Angel, which she first heard from one of Henry Smith's daughters, Beldora Smith Burrell. Burrell was born in 1853 and died in 1934, and is buried in Vallonia Cemetery.
In the early 1930s, Burrell gave a very young Smith the story of The Angel.
Smith and her grandmother, Viola Waskom, lived next door to Mrs. Burrell on Vallonia's Main Street.
Mrs. Burrell, Smith said, was a "very demanding woman" who used to sit on her front porch dressed completely in white.
"We were very poor, and my grandmother cleaned and washed for Mrs. Burrell," Smith said. "She baked bread for her every Friday."
The way the story goes, after Smith's death, Burrell wanted a proper monument to her father, deciding on one that was shipped from Paris to New York.
The Angel came by train to Seymour. Burrell hired teamsters to tote the monument to Vallonia.
Burrell's flowery description of her father's monument said that she prepared a log wagon and "with four highly trained draft animals, took it to the graveyard and placed it on the pedestal, as though to remain there while stars their vigil keep."
Of the angel, Burrell wrote:
"The angel's face has a look of sweetness and beauty, as it gazes serenely toward Vallonia, as though the brooding spirit of the sleeping man below still watches and guards the town which he loved in his life."
Hunsucker, 40, does his share of guarding, too.
A farmer, Sylvania employee and history lover, he started caring for the property, for which the family owns right-of-way, in 1982.
"When I first went in, there were trees that were 6 and 8 inches in diameter around the tombstones," he said.
"You couldn't see anything but the top of The Angel. I said, `Something's gotta be done about this.' It just wasn't fair to the people buried there."
Hunsucker cut all the overgrowth down, dug out roots and planted bluegrass which now blazes with color.
And he slightly elevated the tiny tombstones of infants, many of which were covered up and sinking into the ground.
"They needed to be seen," Hunsucker said.
They are -- along with a French marble angel that draws tourists and locals and those just curious about an angel surrounded by soybeans.
"Whenever I'm up there mowing, I'll get car after car of people stopping to ask me about it," Hunsucker said.
He doesn't consider himself noble for preserving The Angel's surroundings.
He considers the past, and the lives of those before him, sacred.
"I just wanted to make it look nice," he said. "It's family, and I'm part of the family."
From the Columbus Republic 11 Jul 1999
The Angel of Angel Hill
15-foot marble monument has created lasting impressions in Vallonia
By Britt Kennerly
Eliza M Settles Smith (1815 - 1873)*
Created by: Casey Winningham
Record added: Nov 09, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61372039