Over time, the thoughtfully placed shells would sometimes be accompanied by some sand from the beaches of North Carolina at the foot of the gravestone.
Since the group started leaving the shells several years back, according to Hoschouer, other visitors have started leaving smaller shells of their own.
Not specific to just the Wright brothers' graves, but many people also leave pennies or other coins after stopping. There are multiple meanings of significance behind leaving pennies on gravestones. Throughout history, people have left pennies or other coins as tokens of good luck, signs of respect to fallen soldiers and even as a tribute to the Greek mythology and paying the ferryman of Hades to cross the rivers Styx to reach the underworld.
The Wright Family Burial Site at Woodland Cemetery. Photo by Jim Witmer
“In the summertime or the fall when I’m giving tours to children, and they always ask this question, they’re like ‘Well what can we leave?’" said Angelina Hoschouer, Woodland’s manager of development and marketing. "Well, there is an Oak Tree right in front of the Wright brothers … we’ll pick up an acorn and lay that on their headstone and then that way, they know that you were there. So, sometimes, you know, it could just be as simple as laying a single flower.”
Even though Woodland staff does love to see the special gifts, graves do get cleaned-up every month or so to maintain the integrity of the site.
“We used to keep a lot of that stuff, but it’s just gotten to the point that we just can’t keep all of that stuff,” Hoschouer said.
Coins collected from graves — right down to every last penny — go to the Arboretum Foundation to purchase new trees and support the upkeep of Woodland.
To celebrate Dayton's 200th anniversary, Two bowler hats, traditionally warn by Orville and Wilbur Wright were sculpted into a bench in a grove of Wright Brothers Sugar Maple Trees near the entrance at Woodland Cemetery. Photo by Jim Witmer