(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

The Pippen Angels are among the most tragic and beautiful cemetery monuments in Alabama

In Courtland Cemetery, established ca.-1820, four eerily beautiful cherubs mark the graves of children taken much too soon. The angel statues, set atop pedestals all in a row, represent children of differing genders and ages who are buried beneath them.

I’ve looked for information on who carved the angels (I refer to them as the Pippen Angels) but, to date, I have found none. I only know they were commissioned by Samuel Stewart Pippen and his wife Lida Foster, who were prominent citizens of Courtland, Ala., at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, Samuel’s obituary in The Decatur Daily in 1930 refers to him as a “widely beloved Courtland resident.”

One of the Pippen Angels, Courtland Cemetery, Courtland, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

He was apparently a businessman of some sort, and certainly had enough money to spend on the elaborate monuments on his children’s graves, but I can’t find his specific occupation. Sam and Lida suffered the loss of four of their five children – I found a listing for a surviving daughter, Tilly Pippen – all by the age of 7. At the time, when several children died in one family, it was often the result of yellow fever epidemics but in the case of the Pippen children, only two died in the same time frame.

An angel depicting a young girl with curls marks the grave of Susie Mahala Pippen, who died at age 7. Her monument says she was born April 24, 1899, and died Dec. 8, 1906.  

Her brother, Cole Foster Pippen, who was born March 30, 1903, had died two days before, on Dec. 6, 1906. It is possible they died of influenza or fever that spread among the children.

Another child, whose grave says only “Infant Son Pippen,” died shortly after birth in 1896. The fourth, James Coleman Pippen, who was born June 10, 1901, was not quite a year old when he died May 13, 1902.

While it is always sad to see graves of children, the monuments are beautiful tributes left by their parents, Samuel (1871-1930) and Lida (1878-1951).

On Sam’s entry on FindaGrave.com, someone posted his obituary from 1930, but it gives frustratingly few details about his life:

“Funeral services will be conducted Thursday morning at 10:30 o’clock for Samuel Pippen, widely beloved Courtland resident, who died suddenly Tuesday. The services will be conducted at the family residence in Courtland by Rev. Denby and interment will follow in Courtland Cemetery, Brown directing.
The deceased is survived by his widow, one daughter, Mrs. Tilly Pippen Meigs; one brother, E.H. Pippen; four sisters, Mrs. H.B.Bynum, Mrs. E.V. Chardavoyne, Mrs. Newton Ford, all of Courtland, and Mrs. John Hill of Columbus, Miss.” DECATUR DAILY – March 12, 1930

There is not street address listed for the cemetery but it is marked on Google maps.

The Pippen Angels, Courtland Cemetery, Courtland, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

The Pippen Angels seen from the side, Courtland Cemetery, Courtland, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

Susie Pippen’s grave, Courtland Cemetery, Courtland, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
The home built by Samuel Pippen ca.-1905 still stands in Courtland, Ala. The family was living in this home when two of their children died in December 1906. (Photo by Spyder Monkey | Wikimedia Commons)
We also came across this unusual headstone in Courtland Cemetery, which says only “Dora and her baby,” with no dates or more information. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)
What is known as a “table” tomb in Courtland Cemetery. The cemetery also has examples of beautiful cast iron work, like the fence seen above. (Photo by Wil Elrick | Permission Required)

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