Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter in the Cemetery

I want it cold. I want a mess made in the snow so that the earth looks wounded, forced open, an unwilling participant. 

Forgo the tent, stand openly to the weather, get the larger equipment out of sight, it’s a distraction, but have the sexton, all dirt and indifference, remain at hand

Go to the hole in the ground, stand over it, look into it, wonder, and be cold…

… but stay until it’s over, until it’s done. 

-Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays and Well Wishes!

I hope that everyone has a safe and joyous holiday season! It's a great time of year to visit churches and cemeteries to take in all of the holiday decorations and snowy scenery. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Draped Urn

The widely used draped urn is one of the many symbols that humans have used to represent their views towards death and the immortal spirit. The urn itself represents a classical funeral urn used for cremains. A revived interest in classical Greece led to the prevalence of the draped in urn in cemetery symbolism, even though cremation was not terribly popular at this time ( mid to late 1800s). The urn was also thought to stand for the fact that we all return to ash, or dust; the state from which God created us.

The meaning of the drape on the urn can mean many things to many people. Some feel that it symbolizes the final, impenetrable veil between the living and the dead that awaits us all. To others, it symbolizes the human shedding their mortal body and trappings to join God in Heaven. The drape can also stand for the protective nature of God over the dead and their remains, until the Resurrection occurs. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Broken Bud

Emma A. Wolboldt
Died Feb. 18, 1875
Aged 1 yr. 3 Ms. 

The loss of a young life is sometimes symbolized by a broken bud. The snapped branch represents a life cut short... before they have had time to grow, bloom, and flourish. This symbol is almost exclusively used on the gravestones of young people. 

On an interesting note, from the research I've done on Find a Grave (which is a wonderful website that I highly recommend for anyone searching for grave/cemetery records), I've found a photo of young Emma's mother, Sarah:

(She is the one in black, sitting down)

Also, this gravestone has been lovingly cleaned and repaired by someone, whom I am assuming may be a descendant (who may have also left the flowers):

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Keifer Croco, the Croco House, and the Underground Railroad

Keifer Croco was a pretty fascinating man. He was a rural farmer, but he was also passionate about abolition. His home was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and he cared for many slaves on their journey to freedom (The Croco House is a private residence, so the actual place where he hid slaves isn't open to the public). A local mob who disagreed with his stance on slavery once assaulted him and crushed his skull. He survived and wore a gold plate in his head for the rest of his life. Pretty amazing man, right? Here are links to his Find A Grave page, as well as a photo of his home:

Keifer Croco's Find A Grave page: 

The Croco House: 

Monday, November 26, 2012

William McKinley's Assassination and Grave Journey

William McKinley is an interesting president and human being, more so than most people realize. Although it was a brief conflict, he was a wartime president during the Spanish-American War. His presidency also ushered in a time of great prosperity in America, largely due to his insistence for high tariffs on foreign goods (which protected American industry and its workers; if foreign products are more expensive, people are inclined to buy American). He also cared for his wife Ida,who was frail and sickly, with great compassion and tenderness. However, I would like to take a more in depth look at his assassination and burial.

An anarchist named Leon Czolgosz waited for his opportunity to kill McKinley, to get close enough to him to have a good shot. The McKinley's were touring the U.S., and they were making a stop at the World's Fair in Buffalo, N.Y. The president planned to hold a meet and greet at the Temple of Music (a concert hall,which was demolished after the fair ended) on September 6th, 1901. The gun was concealed in a hankie, as Czolgosz joined the throng of people who wanted to meet the president, and the president was shot twice in the stomach. One of these bullets lodged itself deep in the president's abdomen, and although the president appeared to grow stronger in the coming days, he had gangrene deep inside his body. The president died on September 14th, 1901 (and it was his death that led to the Secret Service having a primary role in protecting the president).

President McKinley's body was to lie in state in Buffalo and Washington, before being taken home to Canton, Ohio for his funeral. A silent film of his funeral procession into West Lawn Cemetery can be seen here (it's pretty amazing, considering this happened over 110 years ago): 

A large scale monument was planned for the final interment of the president. Until this monument was completed, the president's body was to rest in the receiving vault at West Lawn Cemetery:

The receiving vault seems archaic to us now, but it was necessary before machinery made grave digging possible in winter, when the ground freezes. Those who died during the winter would rest in this vault until their grave could be dug in the spring. In President McKinley's case, he would stay there until his monument was completed in 1907. Mrs. McKinley visited her husband almost everyday in the receiving vault, until her own death in May of 1907. The attachment that the Mr. and Mrs. McKinley had to each other was profound, and Mrs. McKinley never stopped mourning or fully recovered after his death.

McKinley Memorial was completed a couple of months after Mrs. McKinley's death, and the president, his wife, and 2 daughters were re-interred in the grand monument. Driving up to the monument takes your breath away; it's right in front of you as you pull in the driveway. The monument is really an amazing sight, and pictures can't do it justice:

The memorial and museum are open to the public, and more information can be found here, about visiting or history in general:

West Lawn Cemetery is practically next door, so I would also recommend visiting the cemetery. They are both gorgeous and full of history, so what's not to love?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interesting artwork

What's so amazing about this artwork is that the headstone itself is located in a simple prairie cemetery. Most of the headstones are plain and barely readable, but this one is vibrant and beautifully decorated. The gates represent the entrance to Heaven, and the dove most likely represents the pure soul of the individual passing on to their eternal rest in Heaven (there is also a faint Masonic Square and Compass at the top of the headstone, which I talked about in a previous post). 

It is a bit hard to see, but this headstone was designed to look as though it was draped in a cloth with frills and tassels. Before the modern funeral home came into popularity, the deceased would lie in state in the parlor of their family home. Typically, everything would be decorated to reflect the mourning period that the family was going through. One of the most common of these decorations would be heavy black draping for all of the furniture in the parlor. This headstone reflects the common mourning decor of the time, and it's pretty unique!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Freemasonry: The Square and Compass

Freemasonry can seem pretty confusing and elusive, with all of its secret rituals and symbolism. It is said that the organization began as a group of men who all worked on the construction of European cathedrals in the 1500s. Due to their occupation, these men were known as Free Masons, and the name remained intact even after the society evolved. Today, many fantastic theories about the Masons have emerged, including the belief that the are trying to secretly take over the world, or even that they are a Satanic order. I recently purchased a copy of the morals and dogma of the Masonic order, and this message was printed boldly on the title page:

It would seem that the society wants their ways to remain private! I have yet to make up my mind on whether or not the Masons have ill-intent for non-members or not, so I will have to do more research...

Today, from my understanding, the Masons are essentially a fraternal organization that is rooted in the belief of a Supreme Being, which is inclusive to gods of many faiths. The connection of this faith to everyday life is seen in one of the Mason's most recognizable symbols, the Square and Compass (which can be seen clearly here:[1].gif) :

At the top of this Mason's tombstone, the Square and Compass can be seen plainly. The Square and Compass can be interpreted in many ways, and there is no one way the Mason's interpret it. From what I understand, the square serves to remind Mason's to keep their actions in check and "square" with what the Supreme Being would want from them. The compass stands to represent the belief that Mason's must maintain a balanced relationship with both mankind and the Supreme Being in order to be a proper Mason. The "G" in the middle of the symbol reminds the Mason that a relationship with God (or Great Architect of the Universe) is central to making accurate judgments on how to carry oneself. Without this reasonable, even approach, then the Mason would be out of control and going against their fellow man and the higher power (correct me if my interpretation is totally off base!). It would also seem to me that these tools of measurement are a reference to the stone builder origins of the organization.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Love your art, love your unique self

Cemetery art and photography are two of the many things that I enjoy that makes me unique. 

I take photos to capture  the stories behind the headstones. These photos also explain a part of myself and how I see the world. I don't care so much that my photos are of excellent quality or represent a subject matter that lots of people will enjoy. What matters to me is that taking photos brings me down a much needed path of self expression. If others enjoy them and learn something, I'm flattered! If not, oh well! I am still satisfied with my artistic abilities. The fact that I'm expressing a true part of myself to others, whether they like it or not, is all that matters. Everyone should have something, whether it's art or some other outlet, that they can use as a means to learn about themselves and the world around them.

The point I'm really trying to get to is that it seems like not many women my age really express themselves in a way that is truly their own. So many girls try to project an image that they feel others, especially men, will respond to in a positive manner. Some in my generation feel as though Lady Gaga is a revolutionary artist. She plays it safe, though, and her creativity is bound to stereotypically female areas. It's fashion, perfection, and sex that she sells as her own brand of creativity. Her expression lacks the sincerity and passion that I see in other artists; she clearly constructs her image in a marketable way. Could she be doing it for the attention or the money, as so many others do?  How boring!

It's as though women have taken a step in the wrong direction, against their own self-respect and individuality. They often try to be what they think men want (or be what other females expect them to be like, to a lesser degree) in order to receive attention, even though it might be the wrong kind. I hear women say things like "Oh, my boyfriend/husband wouldn't let me do this or that!" If someone told me that I couldn't be who I am or pursue my hobbies without their permission, that sure wouldn't go over well with me, and they wouldn't be a fixture in my life for too long!

I usually don't touch on topics that don't explicitly have to do with history or cemeteries, but I thought this was important. All women should have the self-confidence and support that inspires them to be special and create something that matters to them. I'm glad that I am independent and my own person. My blog and photos are a reflection of my personal expression, and I wish more women would express themselves and prove to themselves that they are capable of fantastic things! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Words of Cemeteries

Within its gates I heard the sound
Of winds in cypress caverns caught
Of huddling tress that moaned, and sought
To whisper what their roots had found
-George Sterling-

Things blossom in their time. They bud and bloom, blossom and fade. Everything in its time
-Neil Gaiman-

Let not death, nor the graveyard overcome you with fear, for every seed buried in its cold ground, resurrects forth anew, into a blossomed life
-Anthony Liccione-

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe, spooky Halloween! It is the day of the year where those who have passed before us are closest to us. Remember them, and all the lessons they can teach us, if we stay silent and listen to the tombstones...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Gaspee Affair

Let me set the stage: It's 1772, and tensions are running high between the American colonies and Great Britain. The colonists have grow tired of the strict trade regulations that have been put in place by Great Britain. These laws exist solely to keep Americans from conducting business with other countries; if Great Britain no longer holds a trade monopoly in the colonies, then the colonies are no longer a profitable venture, and The Crown needs the colonies for profit and for raw materials. This angers colonists a great deal because they are inhibited in matters of trade and must pay a great deal in taxes, neither of which they have a say in because the colonies are not represented in Parliament. All of this strain and struggle led to the burning of the HMS Gaspee. The ship was located off the coast of Rhode Island, and the ship was causing great strife for the local merchants, who were obviously not following the rules that had been put in place for colonial trade. A group of the Sons of Liberty rowed out to meet the ship, and the rest is history. Essentially, this was one of the events that sparked further rebellion against The Crown and led to the American Revolution. 

A man named Benjamin Page, who took part in setting the Gaspee ablaze, moved from Rhode Island to Ohio, and his remains rest here. The histories and personal stories that lie in cemeteries are numerous, and just waiting to be discovered. 

More information on the Gaspee Affair and Benjamin Page:

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Rural Cemetery and Louis Bromfield

Small cemeteries on the rolling prairie are where most of our American ancestors were laid to rest. Many of these tiny cemeteries have been lost to the ages as they are reclaimed by nature. This particular cemetery is the final resting place for many of the early founders of the area, as well as famed author Louis Bromfield. He died in the 20th century, well past the peak of the pioneer cemetery. Cemeteries were not small affairs by this time; as America grew more industrialized, populated, and wealthy, cemeteries reflected this shift in the size and grandeur of its tombstones and monuments. Burials no longer took place on the small farm-parcels of land were set aside for the specific purpose of burial, far away from homes and farms. However, Bromfield celebrated rural America, and felt that organic farming techniques would help conserve the land and resources we had. Bromfield bought a large tract of land, which he called Malabar Farm, and this cemetery was a part of that farm. This was well over 60 years ago, and we are just now beginning to see how imperative it is that we preserve our natural resources and use more sustainable, nature friendly ways of farming. It is fitting that Bromfield and his family are buried alongside these resourceful pioneers who lived off of the land. It would have been uncharacteristic for Bromfield and his family to have been buried far away from the land they farmed and wished to stand as an example for future generations of the importance of a lifestyle in harmony with the natural world. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall colors

Everything about fall makes a visit to the cemetery that much more beautiful, even more visceral. The crunch of the leaves under your feet during a crisp, cool morning walk in the cemetery can really give you a peaceful, transcendental feeling, even if just for a few minutes. Days like today really make me wonder how some people find cemeteries to be such morbid, scary places. 

Happy fall, everyone! Get out and enjoy it while you can. These colors and temperatures won't last for long...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Halloween Mood

When the crypt doors creak
and the tombstones quake,
spooks come out for a swingin' wake

Happy haunts materialize
and begin to vocalize

Grim grinnin' ghosts come out to socialize

-"Grim Grinning Ghosts (Haunted Mansion theme)"

It's officially October, and I don't know about anyone else, but I'm full of Halloween spirit! Yes, cemeteries are repositories of history, but they are also home to the suffering and turmoil that its permanent human guests endured in life. As summer color fades, the falling leaves and cool weather give cemeteries an eerie feel they just don't have in summer. An overcast, rainy fall day can make you feel as though you're not alone, or that a zombie may shuffle out of the shadows at any minute. 

Here are some Ohio ghost stories to get you in the Halloween spirit if you aren't already feeling it:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Copus Massacre

It's time for an Ohio history lesson. Don't get too excited! 

"James Copus
and three soldiers
George Shipley
John Tedrick
and Warnock (From what I've heard, the soldier who lost his life was named Robert Warnick?)
Killed by the Indians
Sept. 15 1812

So, I'm taking a leisurely drive today, and I drive past a well worn sign that is directing me to the Copus Massacre memorial. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I trucked down this little gravel road until I came upon this fenced in obelisk in the middle of the woods. It's a pretty uninspiring spot if you don't know the history behind the events. I'll post a link with the full story, but here's the short version:

James Copus and his family got along pretty well with their Native American neighbors. They all lived in relative peace around the area of present day Charles Mill Lake. However, soldiers popped up one day and wanted the Native Americans to move along and leave their land because the government was afraid they would turn violent. Mr. Copus tried to stick up for them, but to no avail. The only agreement he could come to with the military was for the Native Americans to temporarily move, on the condition that their homes would be left as they were. The Natives trusted Mr. Copus, so they went with the plan. This is the point where the soldiers ruined everything. As soon as the Natives were just a short distance away, the soldiers  stole all the valuables the Natives had and set their village on fire. Mr. Copus was extremely upset because the trust that was between his friends and family and the Natives was shattered. In short, the Natives rebelled as a result of the destruction of their homes, and Mr. Copus and three soldiers were killed in the melee. 

Although these violent deaths are bloody and terrible, I can fully understand the anger of the Natives. Americans have a long history of breaking promises and stealing land/resources from Native Americans. Mistreatment like this is bound to result in some sort of bloodshed. Maybe I'm callous, but I cannot consider these soldiers heroes because they committed such a dishonest, cowardly act, and reaped the consequences of their actions. The Copus family and their neighbors were caught in the middle, so I do feel very sorry for them because they tried to create a peaceful balance with the Native American neighbors. The abuse of Native Americans in our country is truly one of the most shameful acts we have committed as a nation (an act that we often times like to forget happened). 

Full article on The Copus Massacre:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Death and The Civil War

This picture may seem typical or even boring to the viewer, but I cannot help but look at it and be moved.

I have just watched an excellent documentary called Death and the Civil War, which was based on Drew Gilpin Faust's book, entitled This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. We all know that The Civil War was terrible, but I have been floored by how this documentary really brings the death and suffering to your heart. This war shook Americans to their core, and our ideals about religion and death were changed forever. We have never had a war before or since that was so close and personal; where we lost so many young men in the prime of their life. I cannot help but think that, if The Civil War were to happen today, America would not recover. In the 1860s, Americans pulled together and completed the grim tasks of caring the dead and dying, but could we find enough resolve in ourselves today to do this? I just don't think so. We've lost a lot of our ability to communicate and commiserate, be it because of the coming of the digital age or growth of population past the point where we can know our neighbors personally, who knows. I'm amazed and deeply in debt to those who came before me, and lived so bravely during this time.

Looking back at this photo, I think these men are lucky. They survived the war, and not only that, they are buried in their homeland with a proper headstone. So many young men died in the heat of battle, and were rolled into a shallow grave without even their name being recorded. So many families never got to bring their men home. I can't imagine having a brother, friend, husband, son, or father die in battle, and never knowing how they died or where they were buried. There is something so unsettling about that, and that is why I feel that these men are lucky. 

Here is a link to the documentary and book: 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Study in Sculpture - Part 1

This is the first time I've ever seen a sculpture in a cemetery in a rural, conservative area with an exposed breast! I'm not sure if this would have been considered scandalous or not at the time...

After a bit of research, I've come up with a few possible purposes/meanings for this sculpture. The first of these theories is that she is a representation of charity. Charity was usually represented by a statue nursing an infant or getting ready to nurse an infant, so I'm less inclined to think that this was the intention of the sculptor.   Sometimes exposed breasts were meant to be a nod to motherly love, protection, devotion, etc. This may be true, but I don't feel that the statue is entirely motherly in nature. The third option and the most likely, in my opinion, is that this statue was meant to portray a mourner. The woman's hand rests on her face, and her entire posture suggests that she is not meant to seem happy. To me, she looks tired, desolate, dreary; clearly, she was meant to stand as a testament to how much this person was missed. She also holds a funeral wreath that says to me (but I'm not sure) that her purpose is a mourner above all else. The exposed breast may suggest nothing more than the sculptor or family's love of ancient Greece, or the statue may be going a step further to perhaps try to show that the mourner exudes a more motherly and tender approach to her grief. 

I love being able to reach multiple interpretations for the intent behind a sculpture! Hearing other people's perceptions is also very interesting! 


This quote is remarkably well preserved and readable, even though it is around 180 years old! 

"O come, sweet Jesus, quietly come,
And ease my acheing breast;
I long to reach my heavenly home,
To be with Christ is best."

I wonder who wrote this poem, or where it came from?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our pets

Have you ever seen a marker for someone's pet that is this old? I assumed that memorials for pets were a relatively new thing. It would appear that considering one's pet a part of the family isn't a totally new thing, but I've never seen anything like this before.

I didn't write this poem, but I wanted to re-post it since I'm an animal lover. Losing a pet can be really difficult, and this poem is a pretty heartfelt way to cope with the loss:

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... 

-Author unknown...