The Funny Bone articles have garnered quite a lot of attention over the past months, and not just because of Halloween (although that did help some). Since there has been such a demand, I thought I’d post a few more, but through the context followed by Janet Greene in her book, Epitaphs to Remember: Remarkable Inscriptions from New England Gravestones.
The most eccentric epitaphs seem to fall within the early American pioneer and colonial times and this should not be surprising. Daily life could be hard, short, and brutal. Speech patterns would have naturally reflected the sawn down bluntness, offering no space for sophisticated phraseology. You were born, you lived, you married, had children (sometimes quite a number), and you died.
As the generations passed, life became settled and comfortable. Room was made for a more delicate speech style that would reflect in a community’s gravestones. These differences will be seen in later articles.
Tombstone samples through 1775:
Rebecca Nurse, hanged in Salem in 1692 at age of 71, and later exonerated. This engraving appears on a monument in Danvers, Mass
“Accused of witchcraft
‘I am innocent and God will clear my innocence.’
Once acquitted yet falsely
Condemned, she suffered
Death July 19, 1969,
her Christian character even
then fully attested by forty of her neighbors.”
Dr. Isaac Bartholomew, died 1710 in Cheshire, CT
“He that was sweet to my repose
Now is become a stink under my Nose.
This is said of me,
So it will be said of thee.”
Marcy Hale, died 1719, age 38, Glastonbury, CT
“Here lies one whose
She was stroke dead
By a clap of thunder.”
Mrs. Jean Wilson
“Here Lies the body of
Mrs. Jean Wilson
Spouse of the Reverend John Wilson
Who departed this life April 1
A.D., 1752, Aged 36 years
She was a Gentlewoman of Piety
“Here lies the body of Mrs. Mary wife
Of Deacon John Buel, Esq., She died
Nov. 4, 1768 at age 90
Having had 13 children
274 great-grand children
49 great-great grandchildren
336 survived her.”
This may or may not be a real tombstone inscription as it’s reported both in Hatfield, Mass and Pownal, Vt.
“Here lies as silent as clay
Miss Arabella Young.
Who on the 21st of May, 1771,
Began to hold her tongue.”
Daniel Hoar, 1773, age 93, Concord, Mass
“By Honest Industry &
Prudent Economy, he acquired
A handsome fortune for a man
In Private Character. He enjoyed a
Long life and uninterrupted
State of health, Blessings
That ever attend Scriptural
Exercises and Temperance.
Here the last end of the Mortal Story…He’s Dead.”
(c) 2008 by G.E. Anderson