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Posts Tagged ‘cincinnati’

One word: oxidation.

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One of my favorite decorative elements on old tombstones are the little rosettes and carvings that appear on the shoulders of the stone.

Crosby (2)

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Ellis (13)

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Ellis (7)

Ellis (8)

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Ellis (12)

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Horton (2)

I was talking to some friends not long ago about my cemetery photography, and one of them mentioned that she and her husband had been geocaching in Lake View Cemetery recently. She told me she liked benches as grave markers because they were so welcoming – an invitation to stop, sit, visit, and contemplate. Next time I go to a cemetery, I need to take the time to sit on one.

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Huber (3)

One of the hardest things about understanding history is divesting yourself of the contemporary ideas in your head and looking at things in a way that more closely resembles the point of view of those who lived it. It’s never possible to do entirely because you can’t set aside the framework through which you view and interpret the world. We historians know what happened next, and avoiding the pitfall of treating it as an inevitable conclusion that everyone who paid attention would have seen coming is a challenge. One of my favorite books is James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, in which he argues that the way we teach history is boring and uninteresting for these very reasons. How did I get here from George Huber’s tombstone? It’s the words “during the rebellion.” The rebellion is, from the dates, the Civil War, but the decision to call the conflict in our history books and classes “the Civil War” was something that came after the fact. The men who marched off to Antietam, Gettysburg, and Shiloh didn’t necessary call the war they were in “the Civil War,” and so that’s not what their families placed on their tombstones when they failed to return home.

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Henderson (4)

Sophia and Hugh Maxwell had been married for just one week when she died of cholera. It’s hard to imagine the changes that occurred for Mr. Maxwell – he went from being single to a married man to a widower in a matter of days.

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Fleetwood

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Querner

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Wiehlert (7)

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Benninger (3)

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Heis

Loge (4)

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Sprigman (3)

So I was paging through the photos I took recently at Spring Grove Cemetery, and I noticed the letters “obt” where i would normally expect to see “died” or some other euphemism for death. I hadn’t noticed this before, so I looked it up and found that obt. is an abbreviation for obiit (an abbreviation that only removed 2 letters? why?), which is Latin for “died.” Makes sense – Latin has been considered one of the languages of the educated for a long time. But I took 3 years of Latin in high school (plus a year of loose independent study when I transferred to a school that did not offer a 4th year of Latin), and I have retained a reasonable amount of my vocabulary from that, but I don’t remember encountering the word before. I’m not sure why. We learned a lot, not just about Latin, but about Roman culture and history, and there was certainly a lot of killing and dying in the political history of Rome.

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