Cemetery chairperson: Return Madonna's missing parts, no questions asked

More than a century ago, a heartbroken man had a statue of the Madonna erected at his young wife's gravesite in the Old Roswell Cemetery.

Surely, he did not expect that the saint would one day be left watching over the grave without her bowed head or praying hands.

Yet at some point before 2008, the statue was shoved from its nearly 10-foot pedestal and later found, decapitated and handless. The torso was broken in half. The head of a serpent around the statue's base was also missing.

This summer, the Madonna was restored and raised once again — despite its very evident flaws.

Now the Roswell Historical Society is trying to find the missing parts via outlets such as social media.

Janet Johnson, the society's cemetery chair, speculates that the parts may be at someone's home.

Margarette Swindall Crowley — or Maggie, as the headstone reads — was 25 years old when she died in 1901 about a week after giving childbirth to a son, Johnson said. Her son died before his second birthday and was buried next to her.
Other members of the prominent and wealthy family, including two of her brothers-in-law who served as mayors of Roswell, are also buried in the cemetery.

Johnson believes Crowley's husband was trying to honor her every way he could. In addition to the Madonna, the gravesite had a reflecting pool with engraved hearts around it.

"It's desecration," Johnson said. "It's beyond vandalism."

But she says that the offense can be forgiven — if the parts are returned.

"We will take any of the three," she said. "No questions asked."

While other statues in the abandoned municipal cemetery have been vandalized and relieved of their heads, Johnson said the damage done to the "Madonna with Serpent and Crown" is the most striking.

The Roswell Historical Society can be contacted at 770-992-1665 or societyrhs@bellsouth.net with any information.