Archive for August, 2010

Mrs. Ruth, Relict of Rev Joseph Tracy

One of the terms I wasn’t familiar with when I first started visiting cemeteries was relict.


According to a number of etymological dictionaries I have checked, relict comes from the Latin relinquere, which means to relinquish or leave behind. There were related nouns in Latin that meant left behind or abandoned – relictus and relicta (masculine and feminine). The term emerged according to these etymologies by the mid-15th century and was considered antiquated by the early 20th century. Some of these dictionaries state the term is gender neutral, but others specifically state that a relict is a widow, and that’s the only way I’ve seen it on tombstones thus far.


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In memory of Jonathan Bliss, who died Nov. 16, 1823, in the 42[nd] year of his age.  See other side

He left us such clear instructions. I wonder what he thinks of the fact that we can’t follow them.

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Cleveland’s Woodland Cemetery has a firefighter section, guarded by this little guy. I am assuming that he is a replacement. If you look very carefully under his body in the first photo, you can see a hole that used to hold a monument in place over the base. It saddens me to think that the original monument was damaged or destroyed, but the puppy is so sweetly touching that he seems a worthy memorial. He sits, perhaps too young yet to go to fires himself, with a lantern in his mouth and an expression of concern about his masters on his face. His body is poised in a perpetual state of anticipation, ever watchful.


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Today is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s delivery of his “I have a dream…” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. I don’t have a photograph of King’s grave, but this statue stands in the park outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It may not mark his body’s final resting place, but statues like this of influential figures serve some of the same purposes. They provide a focal point for memory and a place to talk about what that person did and why it is important.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Statue

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Sometimes beauty is in simplicity, and these crosses today are good examples of that.

The plot for the Severance family is overseen by this large, simple stone cross.

Mary Frances Bolles’ gravestone is this cross, with her birthdate, name and death date engraved onto its face.

Mary Frances Bolles

This cross marks the family plot of the Robinsons and Ewalds.

Robinson/Ewald Monument

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Walking through Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula a few weeks ago, I snapped the photograph above. Why? Because I recognized the monument style as being almost identical to something I had seen before in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland.

Sure enough, when I got home and compared the photographs, the similarities were striking.

Mercedes Escobar

I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this at this point, but it still gives me a little thrill when I can bring together photographs from two different cemeteries. First of all, the funerary industry is a business, and it isn’t surprising that a monument might be duplicated and appear in more than one place. And even if the monuments aren’t identical, the aesthetic and symbolism were a shared cultural experience, so artists would reach for the same set of images when creating memorials.

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My friend Nico send me this article today. Customs officials at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport discovered 52 pounds of marijuana packed inside a concrete shell when they x-rayed a tombstone being shipped by DHL.

The customs officials were surprised, but I found it an interesting coincidence. Zinkers, which I have shown before, are hollow markers. You can see that this one at Woodland Cemetery has been damaged and is bulging slightly.


A lot of people will tell you that the hollow zinkers were used during Prohibition by bootleggers to conceal alcohol.

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As I had advertised in advance, this past Sunday was the Historic Cleveland Cemeteries Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by the Woodland Cemetery Foundation and the Monroe Street Cemetery Foundation. Monroe Street Cemetery is unfortunately closed due a the gate collapse, so the scavenger hunt started at Erie Street Cemetery.


At Erie Street Cemetery, participants received a crossword puzzle and then had to visit a dozen or so graves marked with balloons to solve the puzzle. Once the puzzle was solved and confirmed as correct, you drew three cards for your poker hand and could set off for Woodland Cemetery.


At Woodland Cemetery, which is much larger and provided a lot more opportunity for clues, the challenge was steeper. To participate, you chose a quadrant of the cemetery and then received a map of that quadrants sections and a series of photographs of epitaphs from tombstones. For each tombstone, you received the section and lot (and grave number if applicable) and the epitaph both photographed and written.


You had to locate the monument and discover the family name associated with the epitaph.


After completing that, you received the final two cards for your poker hand, as well as any bonus cards (obtained through bonus questions or purchase). There were monetary prizes for the best poker hand, dead man’s hand (which went unclaimed), and the worst poker hand.


The afternoon also included raffles and a Chinese auction for gift baskets donated by local businesses and organizations. We left with both gift certificates for a local restaurant we frequent, but I did not win the Monroe Street Cemetery gift basket that I was hoping for. Maybe next year.


All in all, it was a delightful day, and I look forward to more events like it!

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Emily Jessup

In Oxford Cemetery in Oxford, Ohio, you can find this monument to Professor Emily Jessup. The light is a little unusual in the photograph, so below I have typed for you the information on the tombstone:

Emily, daughter of William and Nancy O’Dell Jessup,
Born Wilton, Conn., Sept 3, 1824,
Died Oxford, Ohio, Sept 25, 1893.
Pupil, Teacher, Associate Principal, Mount Holyoke Seminary, 1843-1862
Teacher, Western Female Seminary, 1862-1893

Mount Holyoke Seminary, Jessup’s alma mater, exists today as the women’s institution Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke in 1837 to provide access to higher education for young women, against whom the doors of universities were generally closed. The seminary was the first college for women in the United States, and provided inspiration and practical guidance for other women’s colleges to follow. Mount Holyoke counts itself the first of the Seven Sisters: Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Radcliffe colleges; all institutions for the education of women.

According to Mount Holyoke’s records, Emily Jessup graduated with the class of 1847 and then taught at the institution for approximately fifteen more years. She, like many of her colleagues, then took that experience to Western Female Seminary, another women’s college.  Considering she graduated a year ahead of Helen Peabody (the first principal of Western Female Seminary) and then would have been her teaching colleague for about four years, it seems reasonable to assume that Peabody had a hand in convincing Jessup to move westward. We know what Professor Jessup looked like thanks to archival photographs on the web.  Despite health issues that necessitated the use of a wheelchair, Jessup instructed for 30 years at Western Female Seminary, until her death in 1893.

As we leave Emily Jessup today, I want you to look one more time at her tombstone, and reflect on the uniqueness and daring of her life.  In an era where women’s rights were severely circumscribed and American society prescribed a very rigid role for women of Jessup’s race and class, she defined herself by educational and professional accomplishments.

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Just a reminder that this is today, starting at 1 pm at Erie Street Cemetery. According to the website information, it costs $15 and there are possible prizes. I’m not affiliated with it in any way, I just love the concept and encourage support of local cemetery foundations! Expect more great photos from the adventure and a full report later this week.

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