The beautiful and historic St. Luke’s Episcopal Church has been the site of many happy events in Cleveland, Tennessee. But it comes from one of the most sad families in the city. In 1872, John Henderson and Myra Adelia Thompson Craigmiles gave the church to the city in memory of their daughter Nina.
On August 5, 1864, Nina was born. Several accounts of the past say that she liked riding in a horse-and-buggy. Nina went on a buggy ride with her maternal grandfather, Dr. Gideon Blackburn Thompson, on October 18, 1871, when she was seven years old. It was the day of St. Luke. Some stories say that Dr. Thompson was in charge that day, while others say Nina was in charge and going too fast.
The buggy crossed the railroad tracks in town just as the train was coming, which makes no sense. Dr. Thompson was thrown away from the wreckage and was able to live, but Nina died right away. Nina’s tragic death shocked everyone in the town, but her father, who loved her so much, is said to have been the one who hurt the most.
In the first part of his will, he wrote, “I want to be buried very clearly in the lower-left catacomb in the vault or mausoleum where the ashes of our sweet little Nina sleep.”
The Episcopal church was important to the Craigmiles, a well-known Cleveland family. Before Nina died, the congregation met as St. Alban’s Church. Since they didn’t have their own building, they met in the Presbyterian church. In honour of Nina, John Craigmiles chose to build an Episcopal church. Nothing was left out. In the churchyard, the Craigmileses built a mausoleum out of Carrara marble that cost almost as much as the church. It would hold Nina’s body and could be used for other Craigmiles family burials in the future.
“That October 18, 1871, Nina Craigmiles, then about seven years old, the only child and daughter then living of respondent and the testator, was accidentally killed; and in her memory, the testator and respondent in 1872 built a church, to wit, St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church in said town of Cleveland, and two or three years later, the church was sold to the Episcopal Church.”
The church was named St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church after Nina when it was finished. In 1872, on St. Luke’s Day, it was blessed.
Historians say that the building is one of the few remaining Oxford Movement Gothic churches in the world. Only electricity, air conditioning, and heat have been added over the years. With its Gothic spires and statues of angels holding lambs and crosses, the mausoleum is also a work of art. “J.H. Craigmiles” is written in metal above the doors. The words “Nina, October 1871” are written on the doors.
In the middle of the mausoleum, in a marble sarcophagus, Nina’s body is buried. A crown and cross are carved on top of a fringed blanket. “Born August 5, 1864” is written on its side, next to a carved ivy drape. NINA is the daughter of John H.E. Cragmiles and M. Adelia. “Slept on October 18, 1871.”
In 1899, John Craigmiles died of blood poisoning after getting hurt in a fall on an icy city street. He went to Heaven to be with his beloved Nina. Adelia lived for almost 30 more years, but her death would also be a shock. She was hit by a car while crossing a Cleveland street when she was 80 years old. Even though she married Charles Cross again, she is also buried in the Craigmiles mausoleum.
Today, the Craigmiles mausoleum is a popular tourist spot in Cleveland, both because of how beautiful it looks and because of how mysterious it seems. Sometime after Nina was buried, red stains started to show up on the white marble outside of the mausoleum.
There was no way to get rid of the stains. The story goes that the red-stained marble blocks were replaced several times, but the red marks always came back. Many people say that they have seen ghosts at the crypt, which is common at places where terrible things have happened. Some people say they saw a little girl dressed like she was from the 1800s playing in the area.
Today, the blood-red stains can be seen on the mausoleum. This is another example of how a young girl who died too soon changed the history of the area.