Archive for January, 2012

Nisbet (3)

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy

The epitaph on Anne Nisbet’s stone is from the Biblical Book of Matthew (5:7). Before I even looked up this verse, my first thought upon seeing it was the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you. And looking at interpretations of this passage, it seems to work similarly on a different scale: God will grant you mercy if you give it to others.

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Inez Jordan Jones

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Reed Pilcher (6)

Major James Evelyn Pilcher
Born Adrian, Michigan
March 18, 1857
Died Savannah, Georgia
April 8, 1911
Surgeon U.S.A. 1883-1911

He endured patiently
He fought valiantly
He finished his course.

I think that most of us hope to go to our grave the way that Major Pilcher did. As his epitaph assures us, he completed his life’s work (finished his course). Assuming his epitaph is reflective of how he felt, this is not a man who died thinking “If only I had…” His epitaph asks us to take comfort in the fact that he died having done and achieved what he set out to. We should all be so lucky. I don’t know many people who can say that, but I did know one other. My paternal grandfather passed away just over five years ago this month. The last time I saw him was at Thanksgiving dinner. (I missed Christmas with him because there were storms I didn’t feel safe to drive through between where I was living and home.) Pap slept a lot and ate his meals on the living room tan sofa with a pineapple print, in front of a television that showed a selection of old westerns and detective shows. That last Thanksgiving, I had gone to sit next to him on the couch during a brief time he was awake. While we sat, a commercial for a cruise line came on tv. He surprised me by turning to me and saying “You know, Ash, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in my life.” He listed off the things he had done, the places he had seen, and being a father and grandfather. Did he know in that moment that he had little time left? Maybe. He told me once that he never expected to live to see me graduate high school, let alone finish both college and graduate school. Maybe he just knew that it was something I needed to hear. It did give me a measure of comfort when, two months later, he passed away in his sleep. It was a conversation between just the two of us, and he gave me a precious gift when he said those words to me.

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Reed Pilcher (5)

George Edward Reed was the 15th President of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. I could tell you more about Reed, but I brought him to your attention to talk about Dickinson College. I grew up one of the far-flung suburban developments that sprung up on south central Pennsylvania a little before I was born. We were located almost exactly halfway between Mechanicsburg and Carlisle. We went through Mechanicsburg more often – it was on the way to my grandparents’ house and my school district swooped eastward along one side of thte Mechanicsburg district but stopped before reaching Carlisle in the other direction. But Carlisle was where my dad worked more years than not, and it was also the county seat, so we had to travel there for a lot of official business like finalizing my brother’s adoption papers, watching his naturalization ceremony, and taking care of things like driver’s licenses and car registration.

And in Carlisle, just down from the county courthouse and the theater where I performed in “The King and I” in high school, is the shaded campus of Dickinson College. Its gray stone and red brick buildings fit with the historic nature of the county seat it resides in, all looking old and dignified. It’s a well-kept campus, and a popular backdrop for portraiture. I had my senior photos taken there. The private college is also small – my high school class had nearly the same number of students.

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When doing research on Sophronia Bulfinch Pike, I found, among other items, a post with her “most famous recipe,” Western Fudge Cake. Pike was a member of the Home Economics Association, but I couldn’t find much else about her other than what is inscribed on her tombstone. It was a little disappointing, because a Google search turns up all sorts of tantalizing hits, but when you click into the document and try to find her name, you can’t. She must have been an interesting woman. From what I can read in those snippets, she was one of those women of the 19th and early 20th centuries who went to college and then had a career rather than marrying.  One of the summaries indicated she had taught at Western College for Women, her alma mater, for almost 50 years.

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A NSDAR Real Daughter was a member of the the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution who was in fact the daughter of a Revolutionary War patriot.  I use the word “patriot” rather than “soldier” because the DAR recognizes any woman who can prove that their direct, blood ancestor “aided in achieving American independence.”  This broader definition includes such things as signing the Declaration of Independence, participating in the Boston Tea Party, supplying medical care to the wounded, and providing material support to the Revolution.  As the first DAR chapters were founded in 1890, there were not a huge number of “real daughters” still alive to join, but Anne Stevenson Marshall was one.

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William Denny
Born Chester Co. PA.1737
Settled near Carlisle 1745
Coroner 1768-1770
In service with militia 1778
Comm. of Issues 1780
As Contractor build Carlisle Court House 1765
Died about 1800

Agnes Denny, His Wife
Born 1741 Married 1760
Grand-daughter of Richard Parker who settled near Meeting House Spring 1724
A woman of great energy and intelligence, a devout Christian

I broke up the inscription on the stone so that it is easier to read, since William Denny’s accomplishments are run together and just flow from line to line without clear punctuation. This stone has a plethora of information about a man of many talents, but the line that caught my eye was actually about Agnes Denny. The stone notes that Agnes was the granddaughter of a “Richard Parker who settled near Meeting House Spring” in 1724. I think I know the Meeting House Spring. The Silver Spring Meeting House, now the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church, is where my mother and stepfather attend church and were in fact married. The name derives from the Silver family, that owned the land nearby the spring. There has been a congregation meeting at the site since at least 1734, and the current stone church building dates from 1784.

Silver Spring Meetinghouse

Silver Spring Presbyterian

Silver Spring Presbyterian

Silver Spring Presbyterian

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I found this grave offering, a pink ribbon tied in a bow, around this monument. Because the bow is situated centrally over the Katie Callio panel, I’m going to assume that it was left for her. (Even if it wasn’t, the other names on the monument aren’t much newer.) It makes me wonder who brought the ribbon here and left it. Maybe it was originally part of a floral arrangement? Was it a family member – someone interested in genealogy who found this woman in the family tree? Just someone who felt a connection to this monument when they read the inscription?

Callio (2)

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Bellman (2)

Bennett T. Bellman was a man of many hats, as testified by his tombstone. Perhaps most interestingly, I have encountered him as part of my research on others who rest in Cumberland County’s cemeteries. He was one of the authors of History of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and wrote An Historical Sketch of the Borough of Carlisle and The Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania: Cumberland County. The one book of his poetry that I have been able to find referenced is called The Lighter Lyric – And Other Poems. You can also find his poems in various 19th century publications cataloged in Google Books. I found the text of one of his poems, “On the Conodoguinet,” which appealed to me particularly because I grew up near the Conodoguinet Creek and so feel a strange sort of a connection to a man who died more than 70 years before my birth.


When the birds are in the bushes and the sun is in the sky,
Where the golden song of thrush is, when the fleecy clouds are high,
In the balmy air of Springtime, when the blossoms bloom in May,
I take my boat and row and float, far from the world away.

Between blue distant mountains are fair Cumberland’s green hills,
With sunshine on her fields afar and ripples on her rills,
With the blossoms on her branches all ablooming in the May,
In a world that hath no sorrow, in the sunshine of to-day.

Here old Conodoguinet widens with reflections of its trees
That show within its crystal depth unruffled by the breeze,
In its bosom holding fondly there a glimpse of azure sky
Which doth bend, a dome above me, but below me, too, doth lie.

With Nature healthful, pure and sweet, now in her smiling mood,
I fain would lay me at her feet, into her courts intrude,
Learn the deep wisdom here that dwells amid her silent hills
In song of bird in leafy dells, in ripple of her rills.

On yonder looming limestone bluff o’er which the sky doth shine,
I see the oak and elm trees, 1 see the darker pine.
Whose sweet balsamic odor is now wafted on the breeze
Sweeter than perfumed air that blows among Arabian trees.

Within a sylvan scene like this, what soul could e’er repine?
To drink the sunlight here is bliss, like old Olympian wine.
For in the sun and wood and stream, I feel the throbbing heart
Of the great Mother who doth hold us all of her a part.

Her “still small voice” one moment fills the vasty vague immense.
One moment with her pulse I thrill through every wakened sense,
She kindly looks upon me, so ! — my heart hath once beguiled,
And though she turn and leave me, lo! I know she once hath smiled.

So, floating on the stream to-day, I have this lesson learned —
Like to a wandering prodigal to her I have returned,
And fain would let men fight for fame, or learning of the books.
If one may stay with Nature here, beside her running brooks.

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