Born: September 21, 1846 Died: January 24, 1877
Her name was Corinne Elliott Lawton, and she is buried at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. She was born into privilege, coming from the very wealthy and proud family of Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton, CSA, Civil War.
As the legend goes, when Corinne was of age, she met and fell in love with a man who was “beneath her station” in society. Her parents were dead set against her getting married to someone from “across the tracks”, and made arrangements for Corinne to marry a wealthy man of Savannah Society.
After meeting the man her parents wanted her to marry, she told them that she could never love him, to which her father sternly told her, “You will LEARN to love him…or you will learn your station!” Time passed, and all the arrangements were made for the wedding: The Gown, the Church, The Bridesmaids, The Best Man, floral arrangements, etc. She had sadly given up, and been drained of hope.
The story goes on to say that one day before the wedding, despondent and heartbroken, she rode her father’s best horse to the banks of the Savannah River, leaped in and drowned herself in a final act of defiance. Angry and griefstricken, her parents had Corinne buried outside the family plot, then commissioned famous sculptor Benedetto Civiletti from Palermo, Sicily, to create her statue. She is depicted as sitting by a Cross wearing a long gown with one shoulder bare. Her eyes have no pupils, a garland has slipped from her hand and she looks as sad and lost as she seemed to be in life.
Some consider her monument’s position to be a familial jab. Her statue faces away from the Lawton family plot, a lifesize sculpture of Jesus Christ smiling at her back. It’s a scandalous tale that’s often repeated on cemetery tours and in passing, but it is more than likely just creative fiction.
Corinne Elliot Lawton most likely came to her premature end after a “short illness” — just as her obituary read. There is no mention in her mother’s diary about an ill-fated love affair, or any shame brought to the family in the wake of her daughter’s death. The position of her monument in relation to that of her family’s is probably due to the fact that her grave was relocated to Bonaventure after the death of her parents (who also had the statue of Jesus erected in their name).