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Johannes & Ruth Decker

Source:  Battle Creek Enquirer online:

Battle Creek Enquirer.com - 5/13/2008

Retrieved July 12, 2008

Mary of Oak Hill Cemetery cries no more

Mary Correll • Reader Submitted • May 13, 2008

The Legend:
In Oak Hill Cemetary, Battle Creek Michigan.

There is a unique Statue. She is called Mary the Crying Statue. As the Legend goes the Statue is of The Blessed Virgin Mary,

every night at the stoke of twelve, the statue Cries. It has also been said that the reason that the statue cries is because she killed her children and then herself. She will continue to cry through eternity.

As a side note; Some have said that when the statue was created tubes were inserted from the base to the eyes to draw up moisture, so that she will cry. This is not true of coarse, just people trying to find a logical reason for the crying.

I spoke with a caretaker at Oak Hill who told me that people have even cut holes into the fence to get to the statue at night.

Busting the Myth:

The crying Statue does not cry, the crying Statue never cried.

Mary the crying statue was not fashioned after the Virgin Mary at all.

Deba Stanley, The Care taker at Oak Hill Cemetary has a theory that the Statue was fashioned after a Muse called Thalia, The muse of Comedy,

The real story about this statue is in the person who had it made. The real story has nothing to do with Legend that has been created about the statue.

Who were Johannes and Ruth Decker?

Where did they live?

How could they afford this expensive Statue?

Two children born at separate times, never growing up.

Did they have other children?

What made them choose this particular design as a grave marker.

I have been hearing this Local urban legend for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, In the 1970s I was in my teens, sitting before the statue, waiting all night for her to cry. Only to be left with a sore neck for my efforts.

She never cried.

Story over, case closed right? Not quite. There had to be something behind this legend.

Looking at this magnificent work of art, one must realize that these people had to have an artistic eye. They could apprieciate the finer things in life.

The Burial Plot its self was purchased by Garrett Decker, and surrendered to Johannes Decker in 1872, the year Lila, Johannes three year old daughter died.

What was the relationship between the two Men? Johannes was not listed as one of Garretts sons or brothers. Perhap's they were only friends.

Looking at this Statue it is easy to see the fascination that Battle Creek has with her.

A mystical Statue that crys.

Do we really want to be known as a community of backward fools that will believe anything?

I actually heard someone say that they had seen the statue cry.

If you look at the water stains you can see that they go over the eyes, from the years of rain coming down on the statue, not from the eyes.

I personally think that this legend was created because we know so little about the people who gave us this Beautiful Statue.

It is sad to think that we would show our respect by creating such a hurtful myth.

Clearly Mary did not murder her children. There was no Mary.

Lila the Oldest child, died of Scarlett Fever in 1872.

Baby was not born until 1875. This child died that same year.

What this child died from is not clear, Possibly, it was a still birth, because the child was not given a name. These are facts.

Where is the legend? No tears, no murder.

Just a beautiful gift to our community.

Perhaps the myth will go away if we get to know the people who gave us this gift. These are people who resided in our community until the early 1900s.

One thing is clear about these people. They were creative and educated. In our times, we call it Living Outside the box.

Perhaps, they were modest in their living. Just simple people living out their lives quietly. So maybe there is no story.

I get the feeling that there is though.

To cast a woman who loses two children in infancy as a murderer is not only sad, but it is cruel. This legend needs to go away.

We need to apreciate this statue for what it is, a work of art.

The Statue:

In April of 1911 Grief stricken, Ruth Decker commisioned Sculptress Nellie V. Walker of Chicargo Ill, to create a Statue for her, as a Memorial to the love of her life.

Nellie created the Design for the Statue and gaveit to A. G. McNaughton of Battle Creek, He Cut the Statue. A solid Granite slab, 6 feet high was shipped to Battle Creek which forms part of the Magnificient bronze figure of a woman that typifies Memory.

Nellie also created a working model of this Statue which took first place in 1911, at the Art Institute in Chicargo.

The People:

Johannes Decker was born on March 27, 1839, to Josiah and Mary Decker , They lived in Ulster county, New York. Josiah Decker was of Holland Decent.

Johannes was educated in New York. He learned about Dry Goods and was given a job as a clerk in Battle Creek. He then returned to New york when he was given a job in the silk department at A.T. Stewart of New York city. He worked in New York throughout the first world war.

He became familiar with Dry Goods and Business Methods which became valuable to him years later.

In 1866 he returned to Battle Creek and was given a clerkship, he met Ruth Whitmore. Ruth Whitmore was the Daughter of Giddings and Susan (Houston) Whitmore of Fredonis Township. He may have met Ruth earlier, However the record from Calhoun County Michigan history, states they met in 1866. Johannes Partnered with S.M. Ashby to form Decker and Ashby Firm. There was some kind of falling out with the two young men and he left the partnership.

On September 4, 1867 Johannes and Ruth were Married.

Johannes was engaged as a traveling salesman for Mills and Gibbs, a New York firm, selling dry goods and notions.

During this time in 1869, The Deckers were over joyed at the birth of their first daughter, Lila. Lila Decker was the light of their lives. Sadly at age three in 1872 their beloved Lila contracted Scarlett Fever and passed on. They were inconsolable for two years, then in 1875 Ruth found that she was going to have another baby. New light entered their lives as they planned for their new child. All hope was lost with the death of this child, before the child could be named. The child is only known as Baby.

In 1899 Johannes severed his connection with Mills and Gibbs and became a Real Estate Agent.

Johannes Decker was known for being honest and dependable. His honest and open approach to his business affairs won him the respect of the entire community. His entire life was devoted to his community and his home. Mr Decker had a wide circle of trusted friends. His friends were confident in the fact that he was entirely worthy of their trust and respect, they knew that he would be able to achieve any task that was set before him.

Republican in beliefs, Johannes Decker was inteligent an expressed his Politicle views often. Although, he would not accept any offer of political office.

Battle Creek lost a wonderful leader on January 19, 1910. Johannes was 71 years old at the time of his death. Ruth never got over the loss of her one and only love. Ruth passed in 1925.

Information for this Article was taken from:

Calhoun County, Michigan History

Willard Library, Battle Creek Michigan

Debra Stanley, Caretaker Oak Hill Cemetary

[Note:  article is as presented on the website with no corrections]

[Article no longer available on Battle Creek Enquirer website, photo found & posted here from another site - 8/13/2008]



August 13, 2008