Corinne Elliott Lawton: Update, 8/8/2013

Oh, y’all, I am done.  I’ve had it with liars.  Liars lying about people that are dead and can’t defend themselves?  A new low.

I received a comment on the blog about the stories that are told on the cemetery tours.  Every year the lies get grander, and they really make the Alexander Robert Lawton family to be horrible, spiteful, condescending, plotting, and pure evil.

I have posted a lot about Corinne Elliott Lawton over the past few years.  It started innocently enough when I included a photo of her marker in a LawtonFest Christmas-time post.

Since then, my hits on the blog are always highest for a Corinne post.

My very first post that mentions Corinne.  Click here.

Her obituary which caused a commotion.  Click here.

Then earlier this year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Click here.

A letter of condolence from W. W. Paine.  Click here.

A letter of condolence from J. E. Johnston.  Click here.

A letter of condolence from Sarah B. Adams.  Click here.

Sarah Alexander Cunningham answers the mystery of Corinne’s death from beyond the grave.  Click here.

An anniversary of Corinne’s death.  Click here.

The arrival of Corinne’s life-size portrait.  Click here.

And yet, the post that the google search takes us to so often is the one about her obituary.

Yesterday I received my most recent comment, and after I read the stories (damnable lies) that are still being told, I felt myself spontaneously combust.  At least my brain did.  I’m not angry at the poster; I appreciate the fact that the poster took time to share.  I hatehatehate the fact that these horrible stories are what the poster remembered and shared, and is probably remembering and sharing with others at home on another continent.

Chris McEvoy Says: August 7, 2013 at 10:44 am | Reply   edit

Hi from London! I visited the beautiful Bonaventure Cemetary, and was actually there last week, and I was taken aback by the serenity and sadness of Corinne’s grave.

We were told that Corrinne weighed herself down with rocks and threw herself in the river, indeed at protest against not being permitted to marry the man she loved, she would rather die than marry a man she didn’t.

In reference to her statue, we were told it it is actually facing away from the status of Jesus at the kingdom of heaven, as she had committed suicide, thus would not be permitted in.  Her clothes also give reference to what her family thought of her, as a woman with no morals.  The loose clothing and exposed shoulder.

Corrinnes story is beautiful as it is tragic … and there is a lot of energy round her grave.

A truly amazing place!

Chris McEvoy / London

ruthrawls Says: August 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Reply   edit

Hello Chris, and welcome to the blog! I am horrified at the stories you were told.  Did you read my follow-up post with the real story about what happened? I’d like to address your points, and if it sounds like I’m angry, I’m not angry at you personally, just angry that these myths are still perpetuated.

  • 1.  There are no rocks here.  There’s no bedrock.  There’s no river rocks.  She couldn’t have possibly have weighted herself down with rocks.
  • 2.  She couldn’t have thrown herself in the river.  There’s no riverbank or cliff.  The river is far out past the pluff mud, and that pluff mud will hold you fast, and weighted with rocks?  No.  It’s a tidal river that ebbs and surges.  She’d need a boat, and probably an accomplice.  Nobody’s every mentioned a boat or an accomplice.
  • 3.  I’ve read her mother’s diaries.  When Nora and Louise were getting married, there were many entries regarding the wedding arrangements, the parties, the clothing, etc.  There’s no mention of Corinne’s engagement before the time of her death, and no mention of a fiancé.  There’s no mention of unhappiness or family turmoil.
  • 4.  She didn’t commit suicide.  She died of yellow fever.
  • 5.  She wasn’t buried in Bonaventure first.  She was buried in Laurel Grove.  When she was re-interred at Bonaventure, there was no statue of Jesus at the archway.  It hadn’t even been commissioned and carved yet, because it was created for her father who died in the 1890′s.
  • 6.  That statue of Jesus?  He’s not even looking at her.  He’s looking across the cemetery.
  • 7.  Her family adored her.  Read her mother’s journal.  If her family had been disgusted with her, then why did her sister name her daughter “Corinne” in memory of her?  Why did her family mourn her passing on every anniversary of the date?
  • 8.  Loose morals?  Somebody needs to prove that to me.  I’ve been to two historical libraries in two different states, and I’ve read copious letters and journal entries from many different people, and loose morals are never even hinted. I would suggest that the people with the loose morals are those that perpetuate the soiling of an honorable family’s name, all in the name of sensationalism and making a buck.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I appreciate your voice in this discussion.  Thank you for sharing.

I could probably come up with more points.  Mrs. Stewart in high school composition class said we only needed three to support our thesis statement.  Is 8 excessive?  It doesn’t seem like enough, somehow.

If anyone needs me, I’ll probably be dousing my flaming head in a bucket of water.


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7 Responses to “Corinne Elliott Lawton: Update, 8/8/2013”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Ruth, do get in touch with Shannon Scott who gives tours there. You will like him and I know he would rather have the facts than fiction. Most of his tour was in fact history rather than ghost stories. Maybe if one person starts telling it that way, the others will have to follow suit. It is still a sad and haunting story, just read Gen. Johnston’s description of her qualities, and then the portrait later, her mother’s sadness, just as compelling as a suicide.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      In January of this year, the admin on the Bonaventure FB page posted that they were traveling out of state & had found a photo of Corinne which would be revealed at the tour. They also stated that they had found a photo of her as a child. It appeared that they had gone to the University of NC @ Chapel Hill, which is where Sugar & I went in March of this year. If they did go to Chapel Hill, then they had access to all the files, including the one with the time period of Corinne’s death, which had the correspondence including the letters of condolence which I published on the blog. We also found a photo of a child, but it was unidentified and could just have easily been a photo of Corinne’s sisters, Louise or Nora.
      I don’t think that anyone will want to correspond with me since I have called them liars. Sugar is hot and ready to mount a complaint campaign. After all, it is HIS family who is being maligned.
      Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll mull it over.


  2. Sharon Says:

    Well, Ruth, I think the only real solution here is to get that tour guide license and do it yourself! Just the Lawton site and maybe a few of the other Sugar relatives, you know the “Real History” tour-now that I would love to attend. sincerely. I would rather hear the history than the fables. Maybe a period costume(s)?
    Anyway, I will post to their website just because I do not like injustice or gossip.


    • ruthrawls Says:

      OK, after Sugar retires we’ll get right on that.
      You are probably the perfect person to make that connection because you have gone on the tour. That, plus you are fearless. I see where your daughter gets it from (that fearless thing).


  3. Shannon Scott Says:

    Greetings all. I thought I would take would take a moment to introduce myself and express that I have really enjoyed perusing this blog and all that it has to offer to history buffs like myself. I think if I could summarize my post here, it would be, “History Happens One Way & Stories Happen Another.” Some 20 years ago, as a young art student, Corinne’s statue inspired me to the Georgia Historical Society where I was first introduced to some of the life and times of Corinne via her diaries, obit and some letters. Over time I would come to also hear the version about Corinne’s wedding day death in the Wilmington River, but also another of her dying in Italy and her body being returned to Savannah. The fact that these stories existed before and during the time I became a tour guide (c.1991), demonstrates to me that they had been around for a time, although I have no way of knowing how long. The fact that they have persisted? Let me address that momentarily. As far as my own tours in Bonaventure I have always spoken of the Lawton family in the highest regard, referring to them as one of the great empire building families of The South. My travels to cemeteries throughout South Carolina, and Georgia in particular, have revealed to me that they are well represented in many aspects of Southern history. Its always kind of a treat to discover the name in a random country cemetery or old plantation one. As someone who loves history, and also being an artist, I have come to see that although it is important to represent the telling of a figure’s life in the most accurate way one can, I’ve also learned that some characters, take on a life of their own inside the mythos of a town or a place. Surrounding facts become blurred in the name of the myth and the myth becomes a part of them and in ways, a part of us. I think this is the value and evidence of Corinne’s legacy and that of her plot’s at some level. There is what is fact and then there is her myth. And if her statue were not so hauntingly beautiful, we probably not be here having this conversation! The power of art! Her statue speaks to people. For some she was the rebel who refused to be shaped by what society wanted. For others she is a figure of unrequited love and a life cut short. For me, I have always tried to portray her as an individualist, a strong character within the family whom they deeply loved and made them more colorful and richer in reputation. And granted, even with what I have read in the archives, because I cannot speak to her or interview her, she is like a character that I have to imagine, and as a storyteller, I have to “create.” Even so, I have always tried to paint her in a light of strength, independent, fiery, witty, charming, beautiful, alluring, defiant, creative, empathetic, loving, and special in the eyes of all who knew her. Even though my time with her is near my tour’s finale generally, and often only 5 minutes, I like to believe that I leave most people in love with Corinne. In my own way, I’ve loved her for 25 years and would give anything to travel back to meet her. You know, the whole, “Somewhere In Time” effect? Exactly. Over many years as a writer and self proclaimed storyist, I have realized that history and myth often blend or crash together by pure happenstance. One theory I’ve had is that when Corinne’s monument was moved from Laurel Grove to Bonaventure, there’d already been a dozen recorded suicides from the bluff, and in total today, some 40. Perhaps before the world was talking about Bonaventure in a light of “The Book,” they were talking about the ground’s and the eternal rivers inspiring such ends. Like the New Orlean’s minister that in 1847 left his wife a suicide note in NOLA, citing that he was headed to Bonaventure to commit his final act, because it was a “beautiful place to die.” Some 30 odd years later, maybe these details, along with other cultural influences in poetry, literature, theater, opera, music, and all of that, made Corinne some figurative maiden for it in some fisherman’s imagination or some young poet idling about, later trying his hand at a yarn while carousing inside of F.D. Ruckert’s Tavern on Broughton. Those stories various, then dominoing from the 19th century all the way to the internet? Yes, hard to say when and where the “aberration” of Corinne’s life or death story began. As to the storytellers of today, encircling the Lawton plot? I don’t think they mean to offend. I think they know that her appeal is that everyone has lost someone or lost someone early and didn’t want to let go. Corinne, especially as the exquisite statue with despondent, longing face, is about that love people feel and the loss of the person connected with it. Perhaps Corinne’s statue even plumbs at their inability to speak it. She is in marble, evidence for onlookers, of their emotion’s potency and validates their love’s death. In that vein, the myth isn’t all bad. In my opinion, tours of today are not the original culprits. Even though confused, they’re only magnifying what has been an existing local tale and now even broader internet story. Granted, I agree with the view that its essential to have the whole story, and on that note, please know that I’ll do my part to steer the story of Corinne closer to her actual life one by sharing the information found here with other guides. I know they will all be appreciative. Speaking of which, I appreciate you giving me some extra space on your great blog and look forward to learning more. Believe me, I have plenty of questions and maybe insights of my own to share with you. Incidentally, my App company is currently working on a Tour App for Bonaventure Cemetery and now is really a great time to set the record straight for the future.


  4. Corinne Lawton Jordan Says:

    I have been trying to find info about Corinne as part of my research into my Lawton family. My grandmother was Corinne Lawton(1879-1964) of Macon, daughter of Richard Furman Lawton and Caroline Willingham. She married Robert Greene Jordan of Talbot County, GA. I am named for her, and she spoke to me as a child of Corinne Elliott, who she was named for. She only said she was a ” cousin” who passed away from illness. There was never any mention of tragedy or scandal.

    Corinne Lawton Jordan
    Greenville, SC

    Liked by 1 person

    • ruthrawls Says:

      Hello, Corinne Lawton Jordan, and welcome to the blog! There are lots of things about the Lawton family on this blog! Plus Sugar has lots of books and resources, so send us your questions. We are so excited to meet you!


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