Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio is the third largest cemetery in the United States. Within its gates is the 9-10 feet tall Fritz Tree Memorial carved in sandstone by H. Suhre in 1873. His mark resembles a tire, H. Suhre/Maker. Herman W. Suhre was a German immigrant who established the Suhre & Oberhelman monument company.
The oak tree (Germany’s national tree) is embellished with ivy (symbolic of immortality), and oak leaves and acorns (ripe old age). Ivy vines emerge from the ground giving the impression of four legs. A sculpture near the ground reveals two hands holding a long handled axe which undoubtedly created the hatch marks on the trunk and the severed limbs with smooth cut surfaces for engraving.
The marble figure on top of the monument represents the Fritz family’s German heritage and is a representation of ‘Germania’; historically a robust woman with long, flowing, reddish-blonde hair, wearing armour, wielding a sword and holding a shield. This statue holds the sword in her right hand and in her left hand is a wreath resting against a shield decorated with stars and stripes.
Directly beneath Germania is the statue of a priest dressed in long robes with lace trim. Standing on two severed branches, it gives the impression that he is in a pulpit. An open book resting on a log at the base of the tree may have fallen from his hands. Depictions of an open book are often used on the gravestones of ministers or clergymen. However, it is sometimes found on gravestones of very devoted religious people.
The memorial, adorned with iconography, contains many epitaphs to members of the Fritz family.
Oak leaves and acorns droop over a joint epitaph for Wilhemina/Fritz/Wife Of/J. Fritz Born/June 18, 1837/Died January 1/1876/Age 38/Years 6/Months. A feminine hand denoted by the flower on the cuff points with outstretched finger to Wilhemina’s inscription. Her husband, Jacob/Fritz/Born Aug 2/1833/died March 20/1884 was a butcher at Salisman Sausage Co. in Cincinnati.
Katharina/Fritz/Born Oct 30/1841/Died Jan 29/1904. A hand descends from Heaven with outstretched finger pointing to her epitaph.
A joint epitaph for William and Elizabeth is attached to a sculptured log. A vine separates the two inscriptions, Wm Fritz/April 11, 1858/April 29, 1911 and Elizabeth/Fritz/1863-1937. Situated at the stump of a branch is a padlock attached to three links of a chain (everlasting love) or it could be symbolic of the key to the gates of Heaven.
A hand emerges from within oak leaves and acorns with outstretched finger pointing to the epitaph of a young boy named H.E. Charles Fritz Born/Nov 15th 1862/Died May 18th 1873/Age 10 years 6 months 3 days.
A hand with outstretched finger pointing down symbolizes the hand of God descending from Heaven. The finger points to the epitaph of Jacob F. Fritz/Oct 31, 1884/May 24, 1927. The scroll also contains a Masonic symbol.
A hand descends from Heaven with outstretched finger pointing to the epitaph of Lillian Fritz 1889-1963.
In the upper regions of the tree is an anchor with entwined snake (symbolic of immortality). The anchor is suspended by a chain hanging from a protruding scroll. The scroll contains an inscription using Blackletter font, part of which reads Geboren Warden which means to be born.
The fight between good and evil is represented by a dove (peace) pecking at the tail of a squirrel (Satan). There is what appears to be a padlock above which is also a Freemasons icon.
A ribbon wreath encircles a small bouquet of flowers.