Posts Tagged ‘historic hopewell cemetery’

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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Mary Jane Buck

As I’ve looked for ghost stories about cemeteries, I’ve discovered that there are lot more supposedly haunted cemeteries than haunted graves. In other words, the tales of ghosts and otherworldly happenings are frequently vague. Historic Hopewell Cemetery is no exception. If you believe the stories, Historic Hopewell Cemetery is the location of a eerie, supernatural light that brings bad luck to those who come too close. The light isn’t associated with any particular monument or resident. Not much to write a blog post about, really. Luckily there are visually interesting monuments there that I can show you. You’ll have to imagine the darkness and creepy light yourself, though.

Rev. James M. Orr


Margaret Vandegriff

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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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Louise Behnke tombstone

We’ll start today with Louise Behnke’s broken tombstone in Adams Street Cemetery in Berea, Ohio, and its carved handshake. According to Douglas Keister’s Stories in Stone and numerous cemetery symbolism guides on the internet, carved hands that appear to be clasped or in the midst of a handshake indicate one of three things: earthly goodbye, heavenly greeting, or matrimony.

This monument for the Towns is in the Old Hudson Township Burying Ground.


Looking closely at the monument for Elizabeth Brown on the right in Historic Hopewell Cemetery, the words “Farewell mother” above the carving indicate that these clasped hands are clutched in farewell.

George and Elizabeth Brown

J. Monahan’s marker in Erie Street Cemetery features clasped hands.
J. Monahan

It’s not really possible to distinguish whether the sculpture was thinking of goodbyes or hellos, but the third option (matrimony) is usually reflected by two different sets of cuffs on the wrists of the disembodied hands. One cuff will look more feminine and the other more masculine. It’s hard to tell if the Wolfs’ monument in Lakeside Cemetery includes a difference in the cuffs because of the wear on the marker.

Alfred M. and Carolina Wolf

The monument for the Casinos who died in the Cleveland Clinic disaster has very clearly differentiated feminine and masculine cuffs, implying that the clasped hands are there to let you know that the two buried here were married.

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