Archive for July, 2010

One of my favorite things about visiting East Cleveland Township Cemetery are the porcelain portraits on some of the stones, more than in any other cemetery I’ve seen in this area. That is directly correlated with the number of southern and eastern European immigrants (and their descendants buried here), as evidenced by the names and languages represented on the tombstones.

According to Marilyn Yalom’s The American Resting Place, these immigrants brought the tradition of these portraits, on ceramic, enamel, and porcelain with them to the United States. The technology to imprint photographs onto these substances was developed in the 1850s. According to Yalom, these immigrants would send photographs of the deceased back to artisans in Europe until American firms started to manufacture their own portraits. The first of these, she reports, was made in 1893 in Chicago, another city teeming with immigrants.

In a cemetery like East Cleveland Township, where the deceased have left little in the way of a documentary legacy (some of the records were even burned in a gatehouse fire), the preservation of a likeness in a photograph on their tombstone is a precious thing indeed.

I’ve already shown you the portraits of the Moyer children, preserved on their tombstone almost a century after their deaths.

Charles Scherer, dead at age 35 or 36, rests under a stone with his portrait and the epitaph “here rests my love.” It must have brought some comfort to be able to look upon his visage when grieving.

Charles C. Scherer

The marker for Frank Persa, laid by a son or daughter, rests against a tree. His portrait is well-preserved.

Father Frank Persa


Michael Strung’s portrait has some scratches, but you can still clearly make out a middle-aged man with a bushy mustache.



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This cross for the Stanleys at Lake View Cemetery has very intricate carvings, including a tree trunk coming up through the body of the cross.


The more recent LaRicca monument has a very sleek design with intricately detailed carvings to contrast with the smooth lines of the cross.

LaRiccia Monument

The Brooks cross is carved all over with leaves and flowers.



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Sometimes a tombstone calls to me, and I just have to go and take a photograph of it. That was how I felt when I was leaving East Cleveland Township Cemetery on my last visit and my eyes fell on this stone for two children.


Maybe it was the relatively intact porcelain portrait of young Michael Moyer, or the tragedy of the damage to little Eva Moyer’s portrait. Maybe it was the German inscription on the top, reassuring that “Jesus loves the children,” or the heavenly handshake inscribed above their names. I just knew that I had to go look at it, photograph it, and share this tombstone with others, so that little Eva and Michael would be remembered a little longer.



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I found out about a Civil War soldier who died at Andersonville and buried at East Cleveland Township Cemetery. I already wrote about Andersonville here as part of my description of the death of Albert Hotchkiss, whose lies in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York. I have starting attending meetings of the Collinwood-Nottingham Historical Society when life doesn’t otherwise get in the way, and the president of that group has done research on Civil War soldiers from the Cleveland area. She let me know about Charles C. Dille. Dille’s and Hotchkiss’ stories are similar – each ended up imprisoned in the hell that was called Andersonville and died there, far from the home and family they knew. Both were later moved and reinterred in the family plot in a Northern cemetery. Dille’s father Asa and uncle David were both prominent early settlers in east Cleveland and Euclid, and a local road still bears their surname. Charles Dille has three grave markers – his name is on the family monument, a reddish stone column with multiple generations recorded. He has an old headstone, worn with time, and a newer, government-issue military headstone. And the death dates don’t match. According to the family monument and old headstone, Dille died in August of 1863. The government headstone proclaims his death date was a whole year later, in August 1864. According to the research presented by Nancy Fogel West in her history of East Cleveland Township Cemetery To Dwell with Fellow Clay, the military monument is correct – Dille wasn’t even captured until May 9, 1864, in West Virginia.



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According to some websites that analyze tombstone symbolism, a hammer can be a symbol of creation. However, based on the realistic carving of a modern hammer on Homer Woodburn’s grave marker, I’m going to guess that’s it’s more likely a representation of his profession. I am still trying to confirm that this passage in History of the Western Reserve refers to this Homer Woodburn. The passage refers to a contractor of that name who lived in Dayton, Ohio, in the early 20th century.


Tombstone for Homer M. Woodburn, with a hammer engraved between birth year 1869 and death year 1948

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I hope I can do this topic justice – I don’t know much about Chinese history.

Over the course of the 19th century, foreign powers controlled more and more of China. They carved the country into “spheres of influence” and claimed exclusive trading rights in regions. The interests of the Chinese were largely ignored as countries like Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United States argued amongst themselves about China’s future. Simultaneously, a significant population of Christian missionaries attempted to convert the Chinese people. Olivia and Per Alfred Ogren, a young Swedish couple, were part of the Chinese Inland Mission.

In 1898, a group of Chinese peasants organized into an organization called I-ho ch’üan (“Righteous and Harmonious Fists,” called “Boxers” by the Europeans and Americans). They were opposed to the foreign involvement in China and the ruling Dynasty, fearing that Chinese culture was being lost due to imperialism. Beginning in Shanxi (Shantung) province, they killed Westerners and Chinese Christian converts and destroyed their institutions and businesses. They gained even more power when the Empress Dowager endorsed their movement and condoned the killing and expulsion of foreigners. By 1900, the uprising had reached Beijing, and the foreign powers sent troops to quell it.


Unfortunately for the Ogrens, the intervention came too late. According to accounts of their experience, the local magistrate initially helped the Ogrens escape by the river, but they were captured and sold to the Boxers when they docked. Alfred escaped and Olivia and baby Samuel were released (possibly through bribery or a kindly official). The magistrate’s secretary found them hiding in caves and brought them (and a few other surviving missionaries) to the local jail for their own safety, where Alfred died of starvation or his wounds or both. Olivia gave birth to a baby girl named Ruth while in the jail. Olivia and her babies finally departed China by way of the port city of Hankou in February of 1901. Mrs. Ogren write a book about their ordeal, and son Samuel edited it. This story is pieced together from multiple Google books that mention the subject, none of which fully agree with one another.

But all of the stories end with Olivia Ogren returning to Sweden, two small children in tow. None of them give any hint that her grave would be found in Ashtabula, Ohio, in the United States.

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Anyone who knows me very well knows that poor spelling and grammar are pet peeves of mine.* In particular, I am a stickler for the proper use of apostrophes.  I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves with relish, and only keeping the book intact for future amusement has kept me from employing the punctuation repair kit it contains.

So I had to laugh a bit when my friends immediately pointed out that poor John Milligan had an error engraved into his tombstone.  Oh, dear stonecutter, the possessive should be whose, not who’s.
John Milligan

* By stating this, I have almost guaranteed that I will make some sort of error in this post.

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Looking through my photographs from Old Hudson Township Burying Ground, I found tombstones for classmates.  You may recall that the graveyard adjoins the campus of Western Reserve Academy.

If you look carefully, you can read the words “Our Classmate” above Jacob Harshman’s name.  As far as I can see, he died in 1861.


Tunis V. Wilson died in 1849, less than a year after he graduated with the Class of 1848. The tombstone doesn’t tell you why he was buried by his alma mater. In the 19th century it was much more common for young men and women who completed advanced education to remain at those institutions as instructors after completing their studies. Maybe that is why he sleeps so close to the Academy.


Finally, we have the detailed stones for Flavel Loomis, native of New York state.  Loomis died while enrolled at the school at the age of 22, and, his gravestone informs us, his classmates buried him and provided his memorial.


We don’t live in a culture where dying while in school or within a year or two of completing school is a common occurrence. Yet, before the days of our advanced medical technology, it happened frequently. It is striking how different the world of a hundred or so years ago was.

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This cross is the only Celtic cross I found when I wandered around Ashtabula’s Chestnut Grove Cemetery. The cemetery is on one really big hill, with very little flat ground, so I didn’t get around as much as I might have liked because I became very hot and tired.



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The anchor is an old symbol of hope, dating back to when early Christians used it as a disguised cross.



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