Archive for April, 2010

Some of the most poignant grave markers I see are the ones that contain only single first names. Cemetery visitors know the ones I am talking about. They’re not individual head or foot stones around a bigger family monument. They may have an association with a nearby family plot, but it’s not possible to identify which one anymore. They don’t “match” in style or decoration the monuments that surround them. They are alone, even as they sit among their fellow dead in the cemetery.

Gertrude’s zinc monument sits in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

In another section not too far away, Laura’s monument sits perched on the edge of her section, just before the ground drops away.

The thing that makes these monuments call out to me is their very mystery. We don’t know anything about the person buried there. Were these two women mere infants or elderly great-grandmothers when they died? Were their lives cut off by accident, disease, violence, or did they simply succumb to old age? Are they buried under merely their names because no one cared enough to record more, or because the family was so bereaved that it was all they could manage?

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Another edition of our Celtic crosses’ series, and we’re still visiting Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. The ones I have today are carved as decoration into a larger monument, rather than standing alone.

The first Celtic cross I want to showcase is for Edward Stager Wright. I’ve actually found this name online as the author of a book on traveling called Westward Round the World, but I’m trying to confirm that this marker is for that writer.
Edward Stager Wright

One of the challenging things about cemetery photography is that you can sometimes come home with photographs with insufficient identifying information. Maybe you meant to photograph the monument from a different angle and got distracted, or maybe that blurred photograph that you deleted was the different angle, but it all comes back to a photograph lacking information. So here’s a lovely carved Celtic cross in a family’s monument at Lakeview:
I know that my redeemer liveth

Albert Lee Withington was a book collector. In 1892, he was the treasurer of the fledgling Book Fellowes that became the Rowfant Club (Kent, Lancour, and Daily, The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, volume 39).
Albert Lee Withington

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An earlier version of this post appeared in my LiveJournal before I started this blog.

A few weeks ago on the way to friend’s birthday party, we drove through Erie Street Cemetery. I was hoping to find a tombstone that wasn’t there – or more precisely, that other people had told me wasn’t there.

In 1900, an 11 year old newsboy in Cleveland named Alfred Williams committed suicide by taking rat poison. Contemporary accounts painted a picture of a child who had a very hard life: an uneducated unskilled sickly boy with a deceased father and an institutionalized mother who ended up in a strange city struggling to survive. His situation was desperate and it seems the boy did not see any possibility that it would get any better. Upon finding out that his body would be either buried in Potter’s Field or perhaps even donated to the medical school, the other newsboys of Cleveland raised enough money to pay for a plot in Erie Street Cemetery and a funeral. They didn’t have enough for a tombstone, but the owner of a local monument company was so moved by the boys’ generosity in grief that he donated one.

The tombstone was said to be very distinctive – a little newsboy wearing a hat with his bag on one side and a paper under his arm. A photo from a 1910 Cleveland Press article showed it read “Alfred Williams/Died Oct 11 1900/Aged 11 Years/ He was a newsboy without father mother or home who was buried by his newsboy comrades.” But whenever I read about the tragic event, the notes indicated that no one knew where the tombstone was anymore. Then I found A Grave Addiction’s post about her trip to the Erie Street Cemetery, and a photo that looked familiar. (On her post, click on the photo called “Little boy carving.””)

We drove into the cemetery, and I found the tombstone in 10 minutes. The epitaph is mostly erased, but it’s pretty clearly the same newsboy carving as the 1910 photo. The tombstone is sort of by itself in an open area, no trees or brush anywhere near it, so I’m not entirely sure how it was lost.
Alfred Williams, newsboy

For those close enough to Cleveland to make the trek who want to see it for themselves, enter Erie Cemetery from the gate on 9th Street, directly across from Progressive Field. Walk to Joc-O-Sot’s monument on your right. Go about 10 feet past Joc-O-Sot, and then make a 90 degree turn and start towards the wall – in about 40 feet, you will find the small white marker.

I’m going back in a few weeks to make sure it’s really there.

For more information on Alfred Williams’ short and tragic life, see the chapter in John Stark Bellamy II’s The Killer in the Attic and Cleveland Cemeteries by Vicki Blum Vigil. I found one or two books where the authors reminisced about Cleveland from the early 20th century that mentioned Williams’ grave, and my Google search indicated that his story has been used in some academic explorations of childhood that I couldn’t access yet: Vincent DiGirolamo’s “Newsboy Funerals” and Kathy Merlock Jackson’s Ritual and Patterns in Children’s Lives.

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Sometimes when I am doing cemetery photography, my aesthetic sense and my intellectual interest end up butting heads. I love the look of this photo:
Boston Massacre
It’s visually interesting – the sparse dapples of sunshine that have manged to slip past the shade tree’s branches to actually fall on the tombstone and flag make it look different. When I look through my old photographs from this trip to Boston, this still catches my eye.

But the shade and sunshine obscure the writing on the tombstone. Can’t tell what it is? It’s the marker for the five victims of the Boston Massacre and Christopher Snider, a young man who was shot two weeks before the event during an altercation between Loyalists and colonists sympathetic to the revolutionary cause. The stone is in the Old Granary Burial Ground in Boston. Someone has helpfully posted a more readable photo on Find-a-Grave.

I still enjoy the photo visually. I guess I’ll just have to make it to Boston again to take more photos…

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Lakeside Cemetery

Lakeside Cemetery

Recently I took a drive out to Lakeside Cemetery in Bay Village, Ohio. As the name implies, Lakeside sits directly on the shore of Lake Erie, surrounded by a little iron fence and tucked neatly in between two private homes. The entire cemetery is only about half of an acre, with a single unpaved lane looping through it. And you know what? It’s beautiful. Even for someone who finds cemeteries in general to be lovely places to spend an afternoon, Lakeside is special.

Lakeside Cemetery

The first burial in the cemetery was in 1814, when Rebecca Porter and her infant son Dennis drowned in the lake. The Porter graves have a shiny, newer granite monument to mark them, but their original headstones still stand.
Asahel and Rebecca Porter


Asahel Porter, a War of 1812 veteran, was the brother-in-law of Reuben Osborn, another early settler who owned the land that became the cemetery.
Reuben Osborn

Reuben’s wife Sarah was the sister of the unfortunate Rebecca, commemorated forever as the first to be buried there.
Sarah Osborn

The Cahoons, Joseph and Lydia, have a new monument as well, honoring them as the first setters in the township. A park not far down the road bears the Cahoon name and is the site where the family originally settled.

There are also plenty of older tombstones, chronicling the sorrows now forgotten that people here experienced.
Richard Foot

Joel Cahoon, drowned

William Scholl

The only statue in the cemetery is on another Cahoon family monument, but the cemetery is so tiny that the mourner atop the pedestal can easily be imagined to be looking over all the graves in this tiny patch of waterfront.
Cahoon monument


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I did not grow up in a cemetery-visiting family.  I remember one trip to my Great Uncle Lou’s burial where I actually entered a cemetery as a child.  Even though I know we drove by them often enough, my grandmother never took me to visit her parents’ graves.  Some of my family chose an alternative to burial or even cremation with a marker in a memorial garden.  So the idea of walking into a cemetery, let alone with a camera, was foreign to me.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, I had the unique opportunity to take a road trip course on the History of the American West.  For approximately 3 1/2 weeks, the professor and students traveled in two university vans in a loop around a significant swath of the western states and visited places that were significant in history.  And in the course of that trip, we visited famous graves.

At that time, I wasn’t quite sure it was “ok” to photograph tombstones, which explains the dearth of photographs in this post.  We visited Lincoln’s Boyhood Home, which includes a pioneer cemetery with the grave of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. I bought a postcard with a professional photograph of her tombstone – something I never imagined existed – but I felt a little embarrassed and strange about buying it. The postcard is now lost. The closest thing to a tombstone photo is a picture of the metal marker across from the visitors’ center.
Lincoln Boyhood Home marker

A bit later in the trip, we ended up in Deadwood, South Dakota, in Mount Moriah Cemetery. I could kick myself now for all the photographs I didn’t take. Mount Moriah’s most famous residents are “Wild Bill” Hickock and “Calamity Jane” Martha Cannary Burke. The only photos I have from this historic site is one of David clowning around with the sign pointing to the “David” section…
…and one of the sign indicating the location of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane’s graves. But not the graves themselves. I could go back and smack my 20 year old self.
Mt. Moriah Cemetery - Deadwood, South Dakota

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In Lakeview Cemetery, there is an interesting monument to the Newberry family. The plot looks like most family plots, with one large family monument surrounded by markers for individuals.

Newberry Monument

But on the side of the Newberry monument are two cenotaphs of sorts – metal plaques that memorialize members of the family whose remains lie elsewhere.

Newberry Monument

The first tells us of Roger Cleveland Newberry, who was 26 years old when he died in World War II. According to the records in the Cleveland Public Library Necrology file, Newberry left behind a mother and a brother William Jr. who was also serving in the war when he died in action in 1943. His father, William Belknap Newberry, Sr., had already passed away in 1930.

Newberry Monument
The second plaque is for Roger’s nephew, John van Winkle Newberry, his brother’s son. John must have been a sailor – the marker tells us that the reason John is not here in Lakeview with the family is because his ashes are somewhere in the ocean.

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The Old Hudson Township Burying Ground
This weekend on the way to friend’s housewarming, we visited the Old Hudson Township Burying Ground.  When I read about the cemetery, a number of sources remarked that it was like an old New England cemetery – and based on my limited experience, I would say it is, or at least it fits our imagined picture of a New England cemetery.
Part of the reason for that is that the cemetery is just that old – the first burial was in 1808 and the last was in 1900, and most of the readable markers date from before 1850.
George R. Smith
Laurey Case
Charles Backus Storrs

The upkeep of the cemetery puts others to shame. The straight, neat rows of tombstones are punctuated by small flowering trees, and fallen tombstones seem to be righted with expediency.  The cemetery sits on the property of Western Reserve Academy, across from its neatly manicured sports’ fields on Chapel Street that terminates in front of a red brick, old-fashioned (dare I say?) New England style chapel. Western Reserve Academy was once Western Reserve College and Preparatory School (1826-1882) and gave birth to what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Rev. Caleb Pitkin
The cemetery is intertwined with the school, its confines populated with founders and early professors of the school, as well as a few students.
Professor Jarvis Gregg

Flavel Loomis
The archivist at Western Reserve Academy has an interesting website with historical photos and information about the school’s history and alumni here.

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Hill of Tara
For today’s tour of cemeteries, let’s go somewhere a little different…like Ireland. I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland last year, and my travels took me to the Hill of Tara.
Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara is the legendary seat of the High King of Ireland and figures prominently into much of Irish lore and history. Some scholars theorize that the Hill of Tara was a capital for the pre-Celtic people of Ireland, and it was later the place where the High Kings were crowned on the Stone of Destiny.
Stone of Destiny
Legend states that St. Patrick lit a fire on the nearby Hill of Slaine to symbolize the light of Christianity coming to Ireland, which caused the High King Laoghaire to have him brought to Tara to explain himself. Patrick lit his fire one day before the King would have lit a bonfire to celebrate the arrival of spring, and so he essentially was usurping the King’s authority. According to the tale spun by our tour guide, Patrick so impressed the King as they debated religion that he was given leave to preach to the Irish without royal hindrance. (Our tour guide was a very good storyteller.)
St. Patrick statue on the Hill of Tara
Whatever Tara’s actual use in ancient and medieval times, it is symbolically important to the Irish, and was used as a camp in 1798 by United Irishmen rebelling against the English. In 1843, Daniel O’Connell, a member of the Irish Parliament, held a demonstration there to protest the Act of Union (formally uniting Great Britain and Ireland) and urge its repeal.

Hill of Tara Visitors' Center
And what has all this to do with cemeteries? The Visitors’ Centre is a converted church, and it has a small, still active churchyard. Information at the site indicates the church was built in 1822, but the original church dates back to Hospitallers of St. John in approximately 1212 AD.

Tombstones on Hill of Tara
This is something I saw more than once in Ireland. The church could be in absolute ruins, but there would be relatively recent burials in the church graveyard.

Mongey Monument on Hill of Tara

I thought this tombstone was one of the most interesting:
O'Keeffe Tombstone on Hill of Tara

Here on this windy, sometimes even harsh, hillside, generations of Irish families are still adding their names to monuments and being buried where millions of tourists will pass by before the winds and rains obliterate their names from the rock. I wonder whether they consider that, thinking that their names may be carried further in death in tourists’ photos than they themselves traveled in life.

Hill of Tara

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I took a trip today to East Cleveland Township Cemetery, and it was beautiful.  There were beds of violets  flourishing everywhere, and a few of the graves had other flowers, like tulips, blooming.



I hope this photograph gives some concept of the thickness of the flowers on the ground.
Bed of flowers

Violets are one of my favorite flowers. I have never seen them in such proliferation.

Hier ruht Rosie

I took a lot of wider shots than usual today to capture the flowers framing the grave markers.

Sweetheart Dietz

I did take a few photos of just the flowers themselves.


The randomness of some of the bulb flowers like tulips makes me wonder if they were placed before some of the restoration efforts. Or maybe the flowers shifted over time.

Lonely tulip

Gray family

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