Posts Tagged ‘college corner’

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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Margaret Brown

In sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection unto eternal life was deposited here the mortal body of Margaret, wife of James Brown & daughter of Wm. & M. Caldwell.

This is to date the most poetic euphemism for death that I have seen in a cemetery. It’s delightfully old-fashioned and poetic. It conveys a sort of quiet faith and emphasizes the line between the body, which is entirely earthly, and the spirit, that will emerge to enjoy a heaven in perpetuity. I’m sure it is intended to comfort – look, only Margaret’s body will remain here.

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O death! Where ends thy strife?
In everlasting life.

I found the epitaph on this tombstone in a 19th century periodical called The Casket, or, Flowers of Literature, Wit, and Sentiment. It was part of a piece entitled “Questions and Answers” by a James Montgomery. An epitaph coming from a publication called The Casket struck me as funny.

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The 1870 census lists one John Marshall, an instructor at the Morning Sun Academy in the Ohio town of the same name. At the time of that census, Marshall was 32 and married. From what I’ve been able to dig up, the Morning Sun Academy was open from the 1850s to the 1870s. I don’t know what caused John Marshall’s demise, but it appears he was well-loved enough that people who knew him as a teacher helped pay for his monument in the cemetery.

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A number of other cemetery bloggers have weekly Wordless Wednesday posts, and I thought it was a neat idea. I don’t think I’ll do it every week, but I did find a tombstone in my photo collection that really doesn’t require a lot of comment, because it already says it all.


Rev. Alexander Porter

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When I walk through an old cemetery, the thing that strikes me first about life before the mid-20th century is the child mortality rate – there are far more graves of infants and children than we are used to seeing today. But the thing that I find harder to remember is that life expectancies were overall shorter and that passing safely through childhood was still not a guarantee of surviving to a ripe old age. These three stones at Historic Hopewell Cemetery struck me as I was paging through my Flickr collections.

The first is for an infant son of Samuel and Margaret Buck.


Not too far away are this baby’s sisters, Sarah and Mary Jane. Sarah died just a month before her brother, at the age of eighteen.


Mary Jane died two years later in 1849 at the age of 22.

Mary Jane Buck

Did the Bucks have any more children, or did their family line die out in 1849? I don’t know. I didn’t find markers for any more Bucks in the cemetery, so I don’t know if they all rest there in additional unmarked graves, or if they moved away, leaving three children buried in a rural Ohio cemetery.

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My grandparents are in a memorial garden and therefore have one of those flat rectangular stones with a metal plaque on top. It is slightly raised but the basic idea is that the marker lies flush with the ground and makes life easier for maintenance and landscaping. (I sometimes question this – if maintenance ease is the goal, why do they have the big metal vases that can be pulled up and allow wreaths and decorations that would still get in the way?) I know my grandmother selected the marker, but I am not fond of it, particularly because of its flat nature. I think it’s because I’ve seen too many stones which have fallen and sunk like these.


I think I’ve seen them in every cemetery I’ve visited – once upright tombstones that are broken and lying on the ground. The dirt and grass start at the edges.


If the stones aren’t picked up and reinforced to stand again, in another few years, there will be only a fresh new patch of grass and maybe some wildflowers.


How much history do we lose every time vegetation grows over a tombstone?

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Anyone who knows me very well knows that poor spelling and grammar are pet peeves of mine.* In particular, I am a stickler for the proper use of apostrophes.  I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves with relish, and only keeping the book intact for future amusement has kept me from employing the punctuation repair kit it contains.

So I had to laugh a bit when my friends immediately pointed out that poor John Milligan had an error engraved into his tombstone.  Oh, dear stonecutter, the possessive should be whose, not who’s.
John Milligan

* By stating this, I have almost guaranteed that I will make some sort of error in this post.

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