Archive for June, 2012

Pennsylvania Women Plaque

This is something a little different – this plaque is inside the Pennsylvania state monument at Gettysburg. I am not aware that there is anything else like this on the battlefield proper (but I’ve been wrong before). What it made me think about was that here is a plaque with no names, just dedicated to the loyal women of the commonwealth, and yet it probably contains more information than most of their tombstones did.

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I want to know why there are roller skates on this tombstone. It calls to mind one of the words of wisdom from the seniors the year I was a freshman in high school: “Leave them laughing or leave them wondering what the heck you meant.”

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Hirt (2)


Hirt (3)

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This stone got me thinking about the use of the name “John Doe” in our culture to discuss someone whose identity is unknown (or in some cases, being obscured). From the little bit of research I’ve done, the use of John Doe or some variant as a placeholder/fictitious name dates back to the medieval period in English. I’m going to theorize that this John Doe actually used that name, since someone took the time to replace his tombstone almost 140 years after he died.

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Those of you who have been reading for a while are aware of my affection for zinc monuments, or zinkers. While they were being sold, they were marketed as “white brass,” but, really, they’re zinc. Weather and age give them a unique patina that ranges from gray to a pale blue, depending on how the light is hitting it. They aren’t terribly common, but most cemeteries that date from the later 19th or early 20th centuries have at least one. Once you locate one, you will never mistake that look for anything else.

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I found this one at Strongsville Cemetery. I like the way that the monuments ape the symbolism and style of the more expensive cemetery monuments of the day but have the interchangeable base panels to be able to add the names and information for more family members as time passes.

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I’m trying to get caught upon my blog posts. My apologies to my faithful readers. I’m actually participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, and it’s coming along well, but it has meant sacrificing on some other things, including making sure I get a daily post up in this blog. I’m in the home stretch and set to make the goal, but you have probably noticed that posting is infrequent and a lot of my entries are shorter.

So, onto today’s topic:
Southworth (2)

The thing that struck me about the epitaph on this stone was the flexible meaning of the word “brother” in our culture. The primary assumption I would make is that the monument was erected by the siblings of Jedediah Southworth. But there are lots of ways to be siblings – full, half, step-, or adoption. We also use “brother” as a term to indicate close emotional ties that might not be mappable to a future geneaology. Our fellow soldiers are our brothers in arms. We may decide as children to be become blood brothers. We use the term for fictive kin, for friends so close they become our chosen family.

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John Milligan

I think this is the first and only time I have yet found the word “terminated” on a tombstone.  I was a little surprised, because I think in our modern culture, “terminated” has a rather negative connotation.  I hear it all the time at work – officially, people are not fired, their employment is terminated.  The Terminator is a creature sent back from the future to kill specific people and alter the course of history in the move of the same name.  Tombstones are often meant to provide some measure of comfort to those who remain, and “terminated” seems a harsher word than is usually used.

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Tumuli are a fairly rare form of funerary monument in the United States. A tumulus is a large burial mound, and the concept is ancient – you can find them in Europe. In ancient times, they were particularly associated with warriors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two in the same cemetery.

This example is in Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland.


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Redlein (2)

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Maeker (6)

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Maeker (2)

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