dollhouse

Arlington East Hill Cemetery’s famous Cline dollhouse.

It is a tragic reminder of the loss of a child.

It sits quietly at the back of the Arlington Cemetery, where it has for the past 98 years. It is a tribute from a father to his ailing daughter, the marker of her final resting place and a mysterious and speculative location for almost a century.

Lova Cline was born in Arlington in 1902, disabled from her day of birth. She had no neurological or muscular control over her body whatsoever. As she grew older, she was unable to sit up, bathe herself, feed herself and live the normal life of a child. She had to be carried everywhere, but it was a labor of love for her parents, George and Mary Cline, who tended to her every need, and willingly so.

Lova’s sole pleasure in life, aside from the love of her parents, was a dollhouse, handmade by her father. The dollhouse stood five foot high and weighed 400 pounds. It was filled with antique furniture, again handmade by George Cline’s loving hands. Lova’s mother added antique dolls to the house for a finishing touch.

Though Lova could not fully enjoy the dollhouse like a normal child would, it was said that her only pleasure was gazing at the dollhouse built for her by her father.

In 1908, Lova Cline passed away at the age of six. Her father had the dollhouse moved to her gravesite at the cemetery nearby, so that his little girl could keep her favorite toy with her on the other side. In 1945, Lova’s mother died. George Cline wanted the dollhouse destroyed after Mary’s death, but the cemetery caretaker at the time, Blount Sharp, talked him into letting it stay in the cemetery. George Cline died one year later in 1946, and Lova’s remains and the dollhouse were moved to her parents’ gravesite.

Today, the white dollhouse with its picture windows and gabled roof sits beneath an old elm tree. Nearby, a small monument marks the site of Lova and her parents’ final resting place. A plaque rests in front of the dollhouse telling Lova’s story, along with the only known likeness of the little girl, a picture of her in her casket.

The monument still draws attention from passersby, and tokens of remembrance for the little girl, such as toys and dolls, typically adorn the front of the house.

After the death of Lova’s parents, the Arlington community took care of the little house. George Cline’s will named his daughter’s namesake, Lova Ward Wooten, as caretaker of the dollhouse. After Wooten’s death in 1999, the duty of caretaker was passed down to her daughter Shelia Hewitt, also of Arlington.

Over the years, the house has been repaired and refurbished several times. During one refurbishment, the dollhouse was taken to Tweedy Lumber Company in Carthage and completely remodeled with a metal roof, re-caulked cracks and a new foundation.

But the facelifts generally came from a much more sinister act. As many times as the little house has been remodeled, it has been vandalized.

“Finally, we replaced the furniture and other articles with cardboard replicas and inexpensive furnishings,” Hewitt recalls in Charlene Perry’s “Haunted Henry County, Vol. I.”

With the removal, whether from vandals and theft, or by the caretaker, of the antique furnishings and relics, the vandalism has finally stopped.

According to local lore, Lova may be angry at the vandals for taking her dolls and furniture from her one source of true happiness. A recent photo of the marker shows an “orb” hovering nearby. An orb is a shining ball of light that is thought to indicate a departed spirit. There is also a legend that the house appears to be lighted from within at dusk, and that occasionally, the little dolls in the house seem to be moved around, even though the base of the house was bolted down more than 20 years ago.

When asked about the activity, Hewitt said that she had never been aware of anything paranormal.

“I’m the only one who takes care of the house, and if I ever do see anything, they’re going to have to find another caretaker.”



Rushville Republican staff writer Elizabeth Gist can be contacted at (765) 932-2222 or via e-mail at elizabeth.gist@cnhimedia.com. To add a comment visit our Website at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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