Posts Tagged ‘weeping willow’

I’m not lucky enough to see many tombstones with this particular combination of symbols, but those I have seen have all been gorgeous. A woman mourns at a tomb topped with an urn under the shade of a weeping willow tree, a representation of the grief felt by the bereft loved ones of the deceased.

Loudon James (2)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Loudon James (3)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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Harrisburg Cemetery has a lot of lovely old funerary art, and willow trees are a personal favorite of mine.

I’m guessing based on proximity to another monument that the surname on this one is Haehlen as well. It’s a slightly different style of willow than I’ve posted in the past.


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We had a weeping willow tree in the backyard when I was growing up. It was an old tree, probably left standing in the yard when the rest of the woods were pared back because it was so distinctive and pretty. I loved it – it was one of my favorite places to play during the summer when the arcing branches and leaves created a little canopy, their leafy fingers stretching almost to the ground. We would pull the last foot or so of the leafy tendrils and use them as whips or ribbons – we did a lot of damage to that tree, even as we loved it. It’s just a stump now, but the yard I see in my mind’s eye still holds it. It’s probably why I’m so drawn to willow carvings in cemeteries even now.


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Rumsy Reeve

To the memory of Rumsy Reeve, who was born July 31st 1790, and who was unfortunately, by the falling of a tree, deprived
of his life Feb. 4th 1832

Thus suddenly, the judge of all will come to judge the world and take his followers.

Rumsy Reeve’s death was caused by a falling tree. It must have a been a sudden and unexpected tragedy, and one wonders whether he was alone or with others. Was he crushed immediately, or did he suffer? Who did he leave behind to mourn him?

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I grew up on a rural cul-de-sac, surrounded by farmland. If you leave my father’s house, the first main road you come to is called Old Stonehouse Road. I don’t claim to know which of the aging gray stone farmhouses along its length gave the road its name, but you see enough of them to understand how it might have come about. Old Stonehouse winds down past an alpaca farm, plenty of fields, and the Bricker farm on the corner where my mother used to pick strawberries in the early summer. If you head south, through the tiny village of Allen (better known as Churchtown) that is little more than a crossroads, you come back out into more farm land. Just as Old Stonehouse intersects with State Route 74, on the left hand corner, there is a tall set of trees with a row of tombstones in front of them. The sign says that it’s Bethel Cemetery.

Bethel Cemetery (2)


The years have not been kind to Bethel Cemetery. All of the remaining stones were at some point reset onto a single, long concrete pad. It’s a jumble of headstones and footstones, many re-broken since being set on the concrete. Some of them are barely readable and others are only recognizable as grave markers because of their location.

Bethel Cemetery (3)

Bethel Cemetery (13)

Bethel Cemetery (10)

Rachel (2)

Bethel Cemetery (5)

There are 5 intact, still standing headstones.



Genzel (2)

Hockley (2)


I suspect it is the cemetery’s relative isolation and proximity to the road that has contributed to its deterioration. There is no fence, no wall, and no house close enough to it to keep an eye on it. It’s right along the road, a convenient target for would-be vandals. It clearly hasn’t had a lot of maintenance work done in a long time. But someone cares, as evidenced by the four or five scattered GAR markers and bouquet of flowers that adorned the central marker when I visited.

Bethel Cemetery


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Not all cemetery symbols correspond numerically to the number interred under the monument, but weeping willows sometimes do. Even when the names and details are nearly obscured, you can sometimes count the weeping willows carved into the top of the tombstone and make a guess at how many names once appeared on the surface below.

In Chester Township Cemetery, Austin and Beecher Turner share a stone with two willow trees on it.


Three willow trees adorn the tombstone for three sons of the Lauterman family in the Olde Hudson Burying Ground.


Lambs sometimes have this same ratio of lambs aboveground to coffins below, but I can’t think of many other cemetery symbols that do.

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Laurey Case

Sally Brown

The weeping willow seems an obvious funerary symbol because its name bespeaks an easy connection to grief and sorrow. However, according to Stories in Stone, the willow is also a symbol of immortality in a number of cultures. Weeping willows engravings are incredibly common on early 19th century headstones.

Leonard Adams


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