Hidden History: ‘Marble man’ chiseled his legacy in Osage County cemeteries

Matthew Waddle special-ordered stone from Vermont in 1902 for John and Margaret Sowell’s monument, now located at Vassar Cemetery.

By Wendi Bevitt

Matthew Waddle’s name has been relegated to Osage County’s history, but as you venture to most cemeteries within the county this Memorial Day, you’ll see evidences of his work everywhere.

Matthew Waddle owned and operated a successful monument business in Lyndon, Kan., from the 1880s until his death in 1907. The Ohio native first lived in Ottawa, Kan., where he got his start as a salesman for Hanway Brothers Monuments in 1876.  Hanway Brothers, owned by John Hanway, executed fine monuments and employed highly skilled workmen with the most up to date tools. They were the oldest marble company in the state and highly regarded for their monuments and fair dealings.  John Hanway’s father, James, was a stone cutter and had been an associate of John Brown. The Hanway Brothers firm created the John Brown statue that now stands in Osawatomie.

Matthew Waddle made Hiram Ward's stone that is in the Burlingame Cemetery. Osage County history tidbit: Ward was a staunch opponent of the gambling and horse races at the Burlingame Fair. Apparently he got that nixed, but when he died in 1895, it didn't take long for them to get reinstated.

Matthew Waddle made Hiram Ward’s stone that is in the Burlingame Cemetery. Osage County history tidbit: Ward was a staunch opponent of the gambling and horse races at the Burlingame Fair. Apparently he got that nixed, but when he died in 1895, it didn’t take long for them to get reinstated.

Before 1883, Waddle had left Hanway and was working for Fernald Brothers, of Topeka, Kan. Fernald Brothers also created grand monuments and holds the distinction of creating the Kansas memorial tablet in 1882 for the interior of the Washington Monument in the nation’s capitol.

By 1885, Waddle settled in Lyndon and struck out on his own utilizing the knowledge gleaned with Hanway and Fernald. His business grew rapidly and he was creating monuments across Osage County of “the highest class of work”. Because of his excellent craftsmanship, he also sold monuments throughout the state and held the distinction of creating “the finest monument in Franklin County”, although that monument has not been identified at the time of this article. Business was going so well, that in June of 1895, he delivered 25 monuments to Burlingame Cemetery alone.

Waddle’s marble came not only from local suppliers, but he could special order quality stone from elsewhere. One such stone was that of John and Margaret Sowell’s monument located at Vassar. The marble was ordered after Mr. Sowell’s death in 1902 from Rutland, Vermont, at a cost of $200. Transit for the stone proved disastrous however, and flooding that year led to its disappearance en route.

The flooding of 1903 and subsequent years was so bad that it led to flood control plans that were implemented during the 1930s with the New Deal Era programs.

After much dispute with the shipping company about the lost stone, Waddle finally was able to fill the order when a stone arrived for the Sowell monument in the spring of 1904.

In later years Waddle’s son Jeff assisted him in carving the stones, primarily with the finishing touches. After his father’s death, Jeff continued the business and built a new marble shop in the lots north of the county courthouse.

Matthew Waddle’s monument can be found in Lyndon cemetery, made with love either by his own hand for his wife who died before him, or by his son after Waddle’s passing.

There are undoubtedly hundreds of monuments created by Waddle standing as a testament to a man prolific and talented in his work and to those he memorialized for all eternity.

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Matthew Waddle and his wife share a monument in the Lyndon Cemetery made by him or his son, Jeff, who carried on the family marble business.

Photos by Wendi Bevitt.


wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She has lived in Osage County for 18 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.


One Response to Hidden History: ‘Marble man’ chiseled his legacy in Osage County cemeteries

  1. Paul Schmidt says:

    These are very interesting and well written! I enjoy this kind of local history very much! Thank you!

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