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Posts Tagged ‘chestnut grove cemetery’

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I’ve written before about the use of sleep as a euphemism for death. One of the most common iterations of this metaphor is the simple epitaph “asleep in Jesus” that I’ve found on a tombstone in nearly every cemetery I’ve visited. It is, I suppose, intended to add an additional layer of comfort – not only is your loved one not dead, but merely sleeping, but he or she is sleeping safely in the arms of the Christian savior and son of God.

Bates

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All that’s beautiful in woman
All we in her nature love
All that’s good in all that’s human
Passed this gate to God above.

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Phi Beta Kappa is probably one of the best known collegiate honor societies in the United States. It was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, making it the first Greek letter fraternity for college and university students, the oldest liberal arts honor society, and one of the oldest undergraduate organizations in the country. Ohio Chapter Alpha was founded at Western Reserve College in 1847 (from the University archives).

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Philbin (2)

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I’ve written about draped urns before, but I haven’t written about the symbol of drapes or curtains all by themselves. Most people who study cemetery symbolism agree that the depiction of draperies on a tombstone is a symbol of mourning. Into the 20th century, it was customary in the United States to put out black drapes (not just as curtains, but over mantlepieces, furniture, and other decor) during a period of mourning.

Spayd detail

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Everyone has aesthetic preferences, and we’re coming up against one of mine. I don’t find the urn (sometimes draped and sometimes not) to be a particularly visually interesting symbol, and that is why it is so underrepresented in my photographs. Douglass Keister comments in Stories in Stone that the urn is a good candidate for the most commonly used funerary symbol of the 19th century. Based on the cemeteries I visit and their 19th century origins, I should have many more photos of urns that I do, but I just don’t usually feel compelled to press the shutter button.

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The urn itself represents a vessel for holding ashes or cremated remains. Keister points out this makes the urn an odd choice for a popular symbol, as cremation was a much rarer practice in the 19th century when the urn enjoyed its heyday as a symbol. The urns we are looking at are carved representations rather than functional urns. When it is present, the drape may represent “the veil between earth and the heavens” (Keister 137).

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According to the “this day in history” calendar I check when I am looking for inspiration on what to write, today is the anniversary of the incorporation of the Boy Scouts in the United States.

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Douglas Robert Mason is buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio.  His tombstone has a large Boy Scout symbol engraved in the center and then notes “Pack 14 Plymouth, Oh.”  I haven’t been able to find anything on Mr. Mason or a Pack 14 in Plymouth, but I am going to have to guess that he was a devoted Scout Master or other volunteer to have the Boy Scout emblem as the centerpiece of his memorial.

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