Tag Archives: Snapshot Stories

The Titanic’s real J. Dawson


J. Dawson, Titanic victim

1997 marked the debut of Titanic, James Cameron’s $200 million dollar movie that profiled an early 20th century Romeo and Juliet attraction between an itinerant Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and high society girl, Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet). It’s a fictionalized story set within an almost century-old tragedy.

Or so it seems. Did you know that there was an actual J. Dawson as a registered crew member on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic?

Who was this man? Was his story the impetus for Cameron’s blockbuster movie? Or is his life a simple footnote within the Titanic drama?

Unfortunately, J. Dawson didn’t survive the icy Arctic waters on that April night. His body was recovered from the sea one month after the tragedy and buried in a Nova Scotia cemetery. He now rests under the occasional layer of flowers, photographs and movie ticket stubs.

Senan Molony, a journalist and dedicated Titanic researcher, discovered that Joseph Dawson was the son of a failed Irish Catholic priest and worked on the ship as a trimmer. A trimmer is basically a stokehold slave designated to channel coal to the firemen at the furnaces. He was responsible for keeping the black mountains on a level plateau at all times so that no imbalances caused a threat to the trim, or even-keel, of the ship. Yet Joseph’s life leading up to that fateful night followed a series of ironic ups and down that are movie worthy in their own right.

Read the whole story here.

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Snapshots: Ye old farrier

Rudolph Celinas: World War I horseshoer


World War I irrevocably changed the view of warfare in a number of ways. The trench bogs, the introduction of tanks, weapons of mass destruction (mustard gas) and the last-gasp reliance on horses for either hauling artillery or cavalry officers through the endless mud and muck.

Animals were integral to the war effort. According to the RootsWebAncestry.com website, the US Army had six classes of animals to fulfill military hauling requirements. These were:

• For the cavalry: Active horses from 950 to 1,200 pounds

• For hauling light artillery: Strong active horses from 1,150 to 1,300 pounds

• For hauling siege batteries: Powerful horses from 1,400 to 1,700 pounds

• For hauling wheelers above 1,150 pounds or leaders above 1,000 pounds: pack and draft mules

Naturally, these animals required care and the Veterinary Corps stepped in to help out. Below, is some film footage from 1918 showing some of the various steps taken to prepare a horse for the war effort.

While today’s military veterinarians still take care of the ceremonial horses, they also look after sniffer dogs currently helping out troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Snapshots: The Spanish Mason

Check out all the relief carvings behind the statue (ladder, shovel, compass, level, etc.). If this isn’t an example of a Mason, then I don’t know what is.

Cementiri de l’Est, Barcelona

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Skip Spence

Skip Spence

Anyone remotely familiar with the music from the late 1960s, will remember Jefferson Airplane. Singer/songwriter Skip Spence was the drummer featured on their debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.

A brilliant artist hounded by mental illness and drug addictions, Skip eventually died of lung cancer in 1999, and is buried in Soquel Cemetery near Santa Cruz.

A more complete biography is here, as well as on the Jefferson Airplane website

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Gonna be bright, bright, sunshiny day


A serene view

A serene view

Celebrating sunshine, flowers, and green, green grass. Such a nice change from all that ice and snow, eh?

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What was once old, is new again


One of the best things about wandering old graveyards is the names.

1925 was the most popular year (365 girls) for parents naming their daughters Ophelia, while in 2000, only 21 girls sported the name. Yet according to Social Security Administration data, the name seems to be growing in popularity once more.

As of 2013, there were 184 Ophelias out there. Makes me wonder how many will be out there in 2025, the 100-year anniversary of the original peak.

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Old surfers never die…

Forever surfing

They just get board.

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Memory Eternal

Oh Lord, Save

This wooden marker is also located in the Soquel Cemetery in Soquel, CA. The carving is in Russian and is pronounced, Gospodi Xranii, and means Oh Lord protect.

Russian Orthodox funerals are possibly the most achingly beautiful and comforting services one could ever wish to attend. Below is a sample of a cappella funeral music from the Memory Eternal (Vechnaya pamyat) piece that is typically the last part of the service.  Makes the hair stand up on my neck every time I hear it.

If you like a cappella, turn up the volume toward the end to really get an appreciation of the tremendous power exhibited by the bass section.

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What will survive of us is love


An imaginative headstone for Alan Robert Selfridge, located in Soquel Cemetery, Soquel, CA.  The saying on the marker is “What will survive us is love.”

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A herb garden patchwork quilt for Louis

Gardeners Patchwork Quilt

So for the past several posts, I’ve showcased traditional stone carvings and symbols. Well here’s a modern twist for you.

Seriously, if this guy was the gardener this headstone claims he was, that garden must have been quite a sight to see.  The patchwork quilt of herbs headstone (click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see the detail better) is located in Soquel Cemetery, Soquel, CA.

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The graveyard at Graveyard Vineyards

Graveyard Vineyards 2

I promised you some symbols for January and what better way to start things off than by introducing you to a really neat place I visited down in Paso Robles, CA; Graveyard Vineyards.

Paso Robles, CA (about 40+ miles from Hearst Castle) is making its mark as one of the places to visit for wine. If you prefer boutique wineries to big, sprawling corporate ventures, Graveyard Wineries is about as boutique as you’re going to find. After all, few wineries can claim their own historical cemetery.

Graveyard Vineyards 1

According to the website: “This landmark began back in the 1860’s, when the surrounding area of land was the town of Estrella and the original landowner donated an acre of his property for the new First Presbyterian Church. Once the church was built, the landowner’s wife passed away and was buried next to the church, creating the “graveyard”. Many towns’ people followed suit until the church burnt down in 1896. Neither the town of Estrella nor the church lasted, but the little graveyard continues on to this day. It is now named The Pleasant Valley Cemetery and is cared for by community volunteers just as in the 1800’s.”

The actual cemetery is rather small, but just about all the stones are well-preserved, including the carvings. I chalk that up to the dry, hot weather. There were several interesting examples of symbols I’ll share throughout this week – here’s one of the better known ones out there.


And no, this symbol does not mean, “pull my finger”.

Rather, it symbolizes the hope of heaven, of going to a better place.

When you do get around to visiting the tasting room at the top of the hill (and you really should), don’t forget to look down at the flagged walkway leading into the main area. It’ll give you a good idea of just how devoted some of the vineyard’s followers are. I particularly like the brick on the upper left that was given by the local homicide department.


Oh, and as far as the wine goes? I recommend the Paso Tombstone White and Red. If you love dessert wines, then you absolutely cannot go wrong with a chocolate port-styled concoction aptly named Deliverance.

Wine and cemeteries. What more could you want?




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Snapshots: The race car driver


Crown Hill Cemetery


George L. Smyth was born 1899 in Nova Scotia. Smyth was an early race car driver from the 1920s to the early 1930s, handling a variety of cars that included a 1915 Stutz, a Begg and a McDowell 

On March 4, 1934 he participated in his last race, a fifteen mile race for AAA Pacific Coast Big Cars in California. 

The track became so overblown with dust, drivers had difficulty seeing the course. One car, slowed by engine problems, conked out in one of the turns. The raised dust was so effective in hiding the disabled car that by the time Swede drove into the turn, it was too late to swerve away from a collision. The impact caused Swede’s car to roll, causing fatal injuries to him and two others. 

Source: Motorsport Memorials 

Check out this car racing clip from the 1940s. How times have changed! 

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Snapshots: The Groom women’s memorial


These three headstones are a bit unusual because if you look at the names ringing the top arched part of the stone, they are all women’s names. From left to right, Sara, Louisa, and Emily.

I don’t remember seeing any other Groom family headstones aside from these three. In fact, it was the clumping together of the stones that made me stop to photograph it.

The other thing I just learned when I was posting this, is that I’d assumed, after a very quick look, the star on the top portion of the stone was a worn Star of David.

Nope. According to the Gravestone Symbolism site, it’s a six sided star representing Creation. I learn something new every day.


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Snapshots: Guardian Angel

Barcelona_angels 2

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December 10, 2014 · 05:30

Snapshots: Angelic ascension

Angelic Ascension


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Snapshots: Japanese zen

Jizo family

Even with the overcast skies and occasional raindrops, the visit to Auburn Pioneer Cemetery (now home to some of the original Japanese settlers of King County) yielded some nice photos, especially the jizo guardian deity statues. This particular story of the Kato family is very sad and can be found here.

Some close up shots from the statue on the left…

Jizo statue   Jizo stone closeup

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Snapshots: New Orleans Angel

NOLA cemetery

Here’s something you might see peering benignly down at passers-by the next time you take a wander through the New Orleans cemeteries.

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Snapshots: The Three Wives of Ebenezer Clarke

Ebenezers Wives_Abney Park

Just to recap what’s on this busy man’s stone:

Ebenezer Clarke died in March of (I think it says 1875).

His first wife, Louisa Ann, died in August, 1857, aged 68.

His second wife, Sarah, died in June of 1870, aged 62.

His third wife, Mary, died in August, 1875, aged 75. She managed to survive her husband by only a short time.

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Snapshots: The Mysterious Face Stele from Tayma, Saudi Arabia

Courtesy Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Courtesy Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

Following up from Wednesday’s funerary marker from Qaryat al-Faw, this watchful eye stele hails from the ancient trading city of Tayma. Inscribed in Aramaic, the stone’s inscription reads, “In memory of Taym, the son of Zayd.”

Tayma is located in the NW corner of the Arabian Peninsula and dates to the 3rd millennium BCE. Located near a plentiful water supply and the incense trade route, Tayma was a well-known and prosperous trading city for thousands of years.



Steles of this type were also common in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula, suggesting regular contact between these two trading areas.


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Snapshots: Funerary slab from Saudia Arabia

Photo courtesy Asian Art Museum

Photo courtesy Asian Art Museum

This stone is a funerary slab written in the oldest known use of Arabic script (Southern Arabic) and dates to about the late 1st millennium BCE. The stone was found at the Qaryat al-Faw site in Saudi Arabia, the location of one of the most prosperous cities along the trade routes.

What makes it unusual is that the inscription asks for the help of several deities to guard against the desecration of the family grave.

Maps_Quaryat Al Faw

This stone is part of  the Roads of Arabia exhibit currently going on through January 18, 2015, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Roads of Arabia showcases the art, culture, languages, and religious influences that passed through the Saudi Arabian peninsula via the historic trade and pilgrimage routes, before Islam became the predominant religion.

Influences came from Yemen, Iraq, and the Mediterranean and are easily seen in the various relics on display. What completely took my breath away was the sheer number of items referencing the existence of various deities–items I honestly did not think existed anymore, given the country’s general tendency to destroy archeological artifacts and sites.

This exhibit is truly a rare, multi-cultural peek at what life and culture was like once upon a time in what is still, one of the harshest environments of the world.

I want to express a special thanks to the Asian Art Museum for providing me with photos of the exhibit. My initial disappointment at not being able to photograph the funeral headstones and markings quickly faded when, after I explained that the BTG readers would probably be very interested in seeing these relics, they so graciously provided me with a terrific press kit.

There are a couple more neat photos I’m going to post after this, with a very special, longer article to come in December.


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Odds and Ends: Tahoma National Cemetery

Lincoln Tablet_1

Many thanks again to JoAnne Matsumura for sending this very interesting newspaper clipping from August, 2009 for BTG’s weeklong honoring of Veterans’ Day.

This tablet, inscribed with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, was one of 131 tablets that were installed at various national cemeteries across the country.

It commemorates Lincoln’s 200th birthday and celebrates the start of what is now the National Cemetery Administration which oversees veteran burials. What’s really striking is how one cemetery in one state (Washington) has so many veterans of so many wars. Take a look.

Lincoln Tablet_2

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Snapshots: Before the Air Force…

…there was the Army Air Service.

James L. Claghorn

The United States Army Air Service was the forerunner of the Air Force and established in May, 1918 after the United States entered World War I.

The first U.S. aviation squadron to reach France was the 1st Aero Squadron, an observation unit, which arrived in France in September, 1917. After other squadrons were organized at home, they were also sent to France to continue training. It was February 18, 1918, before any U.S. squadron entered combat (the 103rd Aero Squadron, a pursuit unit flying with French forces and composed largely of former members of the Lafayette Escadrille).

Flyboys, a 2006 film, follows the enlistment, training and combat experiences of Americans who volunteered to become fighter pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille, the 124th air squadron formed by the French in 1916. The squadron consisted entirely of American volunteers who wanted to fly and fight in World War I during the main years of the conflict, 1914-1917, before the United States later joined the war.

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Snapshots: Where there’s a war, there’s a nurse

Blanche Hackett: WWI Army Nurse Corps


The Army Nurse Corps.

In the U.S., the need for nurses was recognized as early as 1775 when General Washington requested that the fledging U.S. government send nurses and matrons to care for injured Revolutionary War soldiers. Thankfully, such assistance wasn’t limited to behind-the-lines facilities. For example, take volunteer Molly Pitcher who carried water under fire to help keep her husband’s artillery gunners hydrated.

By the time the Civil War erupted, nursing support had become more official.

According to the Army Nurse Corps website, “Approximately 6,000 women performed nursing duties for the federal forces…often performing their humanitarian service close to the fighting front or on the battlefields themselves.” One of the most famous personalities from this time, was Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.

The Spanish American War in 1898 proved to be one of the deadlier arenas due to typhoid and yellow fever contagions. While less than 400 American soldiers were killed in combat during this war, more than 2,000 contracted yellow fever during the campaign.

Among the nurses, fifteen died from typhoid, one died from yellow fever.

In February, 1901, the Nurse Corps finally became permanently attached to the Army Medical Department, eventually offering over 12,000 active duty nurses for the World War I battlefield hospitals.

However, by the time the U.S. entered World War II, the number of active duty nurses had dropped to 7,000. Yet it took only six months before these numbers jumped back up to their original WWI levels, eventually reaching 57,000 active service nurses by the time the conflict ended.

But this war was different. Not only did Army nurses patch up wounded soldiers, they also experienced both the horrors of working under direct enemy fire and POW concentration camps.

A similar experience followed during the Korean War.

In Korea, nurses mostly served in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (M.A.S.H.) located close to the front lines. On occasion, these military exploits from the immortal and glamourized M.A.S.H. movie and TV show episodes, can still be seen on late night television.

Hollywood had a little more trouble dressing up Vietnam.

Vietnam nurses

While TV producers may have overlooked the thousands of nurses serving in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973, The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation stepped into the breach with a poignant sculpture remembering those who had served. The statue is located near the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington, D.C..

In today’s far-flung conflicts, the need for well-trained military medical personnel is no less critical than it was back in George Washington’s day. However, unlike Revolutionary War times, the risks to nurses and combat medics are now so much greater.

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Snapshots: WWI Siberian Front


Private Wotruba at rest beneath Mount Si


The specifics of Private Wotruba’s military career are not known. However, there’s a very good chance he might have been one of those who played a fascinating  (and often overlooked) part in the World War I Eastern Front.

The 62nd infantry served in Europe (reaching France as the armistice was signed). During the latter part of August, 1918, some five thousand men and nearly one hundred officers were transferred from the 8th Division to the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia (AEF).

The AEF had two purposes: rescue 40,000 Czech Legion soldiers attempting to make it through Bolshevik lines to Vladivostok and to protect the military supplies originally sent to assist the now-toppled Czarist monarchy. Another part of the AEF was sent to protect the ports of Murmansk and Archangel in what’s known as the Polar Bear Expedition.

Was Wotruba one of these soldiers? Perhaps, but without knowing his career details we can only guess. Two possible factors do lend credibility. Wotruba is either a Byelorussian or Bohemian name and he may even have spoken some Russian. If this was the case, he would have contributed authenticity to a high risk expedition wandering around the inhospitable Siberian steppes. Again, this is only speculation, but it’s interesting to wonder.

History and movies do their best to portray the miserable existence of Western Front trench warfare but forget about the terrible Eastern Front where soldiers were forced to function in sub-zero temperatures. Below is some video footage on the Czech Legion fighters.

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Snapshots: Who Am I?

Woodinville Mead_MD Man

This headstone is located in the Woodinville Mead Memorial Cemetery in Woodinville, WA. If some of you are thinking the name sounds familiar, you’re right. Woodinville is home to Chateau Ste. Michelle and the Red Hook microbrewery.

But long before these all came about, this area of King County was so heavily forested that tree stumps were used as shelters and even temporary housing. Sawmills sprouted at various sites throughout what was to become Washington Territory so that by 1889, the year of statehood, 310 mills from the Columbia to the Canadian line, were cutting 1.06 million board feet of lumber.

Yet loggers had little use for the cleared land. As they moved deeper into the forests, the farmers came along and discovered the rich soil.

Thus, the farming community of Woodinville came about.

The original “cemetery” was located on the Ira and Susan Woodin property. First used for burials in the late 1870s, it was officially deeded to the citizens of Woodinville on April 4, 1898, ten years after this unknown tenant took up residence.

Stones like these are like catnip to cemetery enthusiasts and mystery writers alike. Who was he? Did he play a part in Woodinville’s history or was he just passing through? More importantly, isn’t it interesting how an ostensibly simple community cemetery still manages to retain a fascinating sense of mystery for its visitors?

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Snapshots: Celtic Cross headstone

Abney Park

I don’t know about you but by now, I’m so done with all the post-November 4 election results/talking heads/endless analysis chatter and very ready to get back to doing normal things, like finding interesting headstones.

This fabulous Celtic cross is in the Abney Park cemetery in London. Since most of the headstones there date back to the mid 1800s, I’m guessing there’s a good chance this was carved by hand.

The angel lurking behind it isn’t too shabby, either.

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Restoration: The Voodoo Priestess of New Orleans gets a facelift

Marie Laveaux

Before restoration

Marie Laveau’s crypt, arguably the most visited place in all of New Orleans besides Café du Monde, has received a facelift just in time for Halloween and All Saints Day.

Restoration efforts costing approximately $10,000, have provided a protective fence, fresh plaster, and a new roof. In addition, several rounds of soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing cycles were needed to completely remove both the pink paint that has covered the site since December, 2013 and the years of graffiti X’s marking the spot.


Why all the X’s?

Years ago, a rumor started floating around that if people wanted Laveau to grant them a wish, all they had to do was visit the grave, draw an “X” on the tomb, spin around three times, knock on the tomb, and yell out the wish. If the wish was granted, they had to come back, circle their “X,” and leave an offering.

Now the tomb has been restored to pristine condition and there are security cameras installed around it to ensure it remains that way.

After restoration

After restoration


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Elizabeth Siddal: Pre-Raphaelite muse and supposed vampire

Elizabeth Siddal 2

Two thumbs up to BTG fan Carl Funk who reminded me about one of Highgate’s most important residents, Elizabeth Siddal.

Elizabeth’s the one who helped inspire the dreamy, gorgeously flowing paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and most of us are probably familiar with her via Sir John Everett Millais (she was his inspiration for his Ophelia painting).

She was also the primary muse for poet and artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who later married her.

The story behind the famous Ophelia painting goes something like this: “While posing for Millais’ Ophelia in 1852, Siddal floated in a bathtub full of water to represent the drowning Ophelia. Millais painted daily into the winter putting lamps under the tub to warm the water. On one occasion the lamps went out and the water became icy cold. Millais, absorbed by his painting, did not notice and Siddal did not complain. After this she became very ill with either a severe cold or pneumonia.”

The other story that haunts Elizabeth is the vampire myth.

After dying from an overdose of laudanum (an opium mixture) in 1862, she was buried in Highgate Cemetery. Rossetti was so distraught, he slid the only existing copy of his poems into her coffin to be buried with her.

Respectfully borrowed from Snovits Apple

Respectfully borrowed from Snovits Apple

By 1869, Rossetti had stopped painting and began focusing on his poetry. However, he became obsessed with retrieving his original poems from his wife’s coffin and after finally obtaining permission, he had her coffin exhumed and the book of poetry removed.

Interestingly enough, the exhumers found Elizabeth’s body was so well-preserved (complete  with long, flowing red hair that filled the coffin) after having died 7 years earlier, it gave rise to the rumor that she was a vampire.

It’s assumed that her long-term addiction to laudanum is most likely the reason for her body remaining intact for so long.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos of her grave when I last visited Highgate as the site’s apparently now off-limits to visitors. However, I did find some wonderful photos over at the Snovits Apple blog and I do hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed one of them to share with you all.

Speaking of sharing, check out Carl’s song, The Angel of Swain’s Lane, a wonderful, Bob Dylan-esque song that pays tribute to Elizabeth Siddal.


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Snapshot Photos: What kind of headstone is this?


Pulled this headstone out of the archives and said hey, this is a bit of a puzzle to make the BTG readers think for a bit.

While you’re doing that, here’s a little background: The stone commemorates Johann Koch, a man who claimed both a fiery temperament and a strong prejudice against communists. Born near Heidelberg, Germany, he emigrated to the United States in 1900 and eventually, Woodinville, Washington, where he worked as the village blacksmith for many years.

Yup, you got it.

Mr. Koch didn’t want just any old headstone marking his life. He wanted an anvil.



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Snapshots: Woodmen of the World

Woodmen of the World examples

If you’ve ever wondered about all those stone tree stumps in the cemetery, wonder no more. You are in the presence of a Woodman of the World.

Woodmen of the World was (actually, still is) a privately held insurance company located in Nebraska. Prior to 1930, the company was best known for providing its members with a variety of tree stump-styled headstones, as seen above.

The headstones typically included carvings of the tools of the trade (an axe, maul, and a wedge). Some might also include a dove to represent peace or the Latin phrase, Dum Tacet Clamat (Though Silent, He Speaks).


Dum Tacet Clamat




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Snapshots: Meet me at the corner of Jessamine and Magnolia

NOLA cemetery 2

Wonder if the Google car’s been through here yet?

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Snapshots: World War I Tank Corps

George E. Stober

George E. Stober: Sgt 319th Company Tank Corps

This seemed like a timely post considering the new tank movie, Fury, is opening this week.

The WWI trench warfare stalemates probably did more to develop the idea of tanks from drawing board to reality than anything else. In a nutshell, the tank was intended to bring the firepower of artillery and machine guns across the morass of No Man’s Land while providing more protection than a purely infantry unit could carry

However, the drawbacks could be significant. Traveling only at about walking pace and vulnerable to direct artillery hits, the interior of the tank was also heavily contaminated with carbon monoxide and other fumes from the weapons. Additionally, internal temperatures could reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

It wasn’t until 1917 when General Pershing finally requested that 600 heavy and 1,200 light tanks be produced in the United States. A total of eight heavy battalions (the 301st to 308th) and 21 light battalions (the 326th to 346th) were raised, but only four (the 301st, 331st, 344th and 345th) saw combat.

Check out the World War I tank footage video below.   4culture_black


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Snapshots: The Golden Dragon Mausoleum, Malaysia


Undulating for 1,000 feet, the Golden Dragon Mausoleum is made from more than 10,000 ceramic tiles and holds hundreds of Chinese family remains, transporting their souls safely to the celestial realms.

Courtesy of Nirvana Memorial Park

Courtesy of Nirvana Memorial Park

Want to go? The dragon is located in Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih, Selangor, a town approximately 25 minutes southeast of Kuala Lumpur.

Nirvana Memorial Park

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Can you help save Flight Lieutenant George Arthur Marrows?

An appeal asking for more information about Flight Lieutenant George Arthur Marrows appeared in yesterday’s Gainsborough Standard.

Courtesy Gainsborough Standard

Courtesy Gainsborough Standard

Flight Lt. Marrows was the pilot of a Halifax bomber which took off from RAF Breighton on 7th June 1944 to bomb rail communications. It crashed near Bretigny-sur-Orge killing all seven crew. All are buried in Bretigny-sur-Orge Communal Cemetery.

The local restoration society would like to repair Flt. Lt Marrow’s headstone in the Gainsborough cemetery as it’s broken and the inscription is very difficult to read. Anyone with information please visit http://www.friendsofthegeneralcemetery.com.

Read the entire article here.

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Snapshots: William and Catherine Booth

William and Catherine Booth: Salvation Army Founders


Known for its thrift stores and Christmas time bell ringers, The Salvation Army is now located in over 120 countries and remains a symbol of help to those in need—specifically, displaced Pakistani families and closer to home, those still suffering from the after-effects of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina

Established almost 150 years ago by William and Catherine Booth, the organization originally focused on three “S” words; soup, soap, and salvation—things very much needed in London’s East End where it was based. Mid-to late 19th century London was the time for industrial expansion, growth, and development. To say that life was brutal would be an understatement for those unfortunate enough to fall between the economic cracks while living in the time of Jack the Ripper

The Booth’s emphasis on social help in one of the poorest areas of London eventually turned into the foundation of In Darkest England and The Way Out, a book comparing London unfavorably to other developing nations at the time. 

It’s doubtful the founders could have ever imagined just how far their small ministry would eventually reach. Service statistics for fiscal years 2007/2008, the years prior to the current Great Recession, show the Salvation Army helping over 29 million people, serving over 69 million hot meals, distributing over 21 million items of clothing, furniture, and gifts, and offering lodgings to over 10 million people. 

It will be interesting to see the numbers for fiscal years 2009/2010. 

William and Catherine Booth are buried in one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries, Abney Park, located at Stoke Newington High Street.


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Anne Frank’s marker at Bergen Belsen

Camp marker. Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig


A little while back, I received some interesting photos from a world-traveling photographer friend of mine, Sabine Ludwig, who decided to stay local for one of her more recent trips. I’m glad she did.  

The Bergen Belsen death camp is located in northwestern Germany and between 1943 and 1945, countless numbers of people died there from shooting, hunger, and disease. Bergen Belsen also holds the distinction of being the first camp entered, liberated, and documented by the Western allied forces.  

Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig


Probably the most famous inmate (although she certainly never anticipated this celebrity) was Anne Frank who hid with her family in a secret annex of rooms in her father’s office building in Amsterdam. The entrance to their living quarters was guarded by a bookcase.  

Betrayed by an unidentified informer to the local police, Anne and her family were arrested, split into male/female contingents and sent to separate concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were first at Auschwitz and eventually, transferred to Bergen Belsen.  

A few weeks before the camp was liberated in 1945, a typhus epidemic swept the camp.  

Anne did not survive.  

Her father, Otto Frank, did survive and attempted with mixed success, to publish Anne’s diary. It was only in the mid to late 1950s, after a Broadway play and a movie, did the book finally take off.  

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What was once a tremendous carving…


The San Francisco National Cemetery is located in the northern end of The Presidio and holds a large number of interesting headstones scattered in between the usual military-issue markers. Earlier this year, BTG profiled an immense Book of Life located near one of the roadways and almost impossible to miss.   

Dr. Clarence A. Treuholtz: 1876 - 1913


One marker that’s not quite so prominent but offers a poignancy all its own, is the half-destroyed memorial to 37-year old Dr. Clarence A. Treuholtz, a captain in the Army Medical Corp, who served at various Army posts in Alaska, New Mexico, and Arizona – specifically, Fort Apache, a post that later became the home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1923.   

There are two particularly sad items of note about this headstone. The first is that while Dr. Treuholtz is buried here, his wife Elizabeth, is not. The second sad note is the blatant vandalism marking the spot.   


Once upon a time, this must have been a magnificent carving of an eagle perched on a rocky outcrop. Now, only a broken set of clawed stumps remain.   


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Snapshots: So you think you can cook…

Clarence Metz: Army cook


I admit it. I’m a Top Chef fan.   

Not that I can whip up such amazing creations myself, but I really enjoy seeing how these talented chefs pull off the seemingly impossible in such a limited amount of time. And under some really difficult environments.   

But did you ever see those episodes where the contestants are told they must cook a gourmet meal for 300 people? And even though the serving portion usually ends up being some spoon-sized, artistic dollop on a tiny plate, the contestants usually all have the same freaked-out expression on their faces.   

One meal for 300 people?   

Oh. My. God.   

(Cue the laughter from all those current and ex-military cooks)   

Let’s look at this challenge from a military perspective.   Continue reading

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April 15: The Titanic’s night to remember


The bow of the Titanic


Almost 100 years ago and in the early hours of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank into the history books. Out of approximately 2,227 passengers plus crew, approximately 700 people survived. After the disaster, some 320 bodies were recovered for burial at Fairview Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, including a J. Dawson, the unanticipated hero of James Cameron’s movie, Titanic. The remaining 1,500 became an unwitting part of one of the most fascinating cemetery memorials of all time.    

The story is well known.    

A glorious passenger ship surpassing the scale of all those previously built. The RMS Titanic was a floating palace that included swimming pools, squash courts, elevators and steam baths. The First Class lounge was in the Louis XV style while the Smoking Room had mahogany paneling highlighted with mother-of-pearl. A verandah, complete with flower-packed trellises, allowed for post-prandial relaxation while the formal Reception Area anticipated the evening’s fine dining. However, the type of food served certainly differed according to class.    

Life was very good. At least until the iceberg showed up.    

Continue reading

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4,000 year old cemetery in Northern China

Small River Cemetery #5


This morning, The New York Times reported that archeologists have re-discovered a unique cemetery, called Small River Cemetery #5,  located on the eastern edges of the fierce Taklimakan desert. The cemetery is unique for several reasons: 1. the desolate location; 2. distinct European features, plus DNA markers, of the preserved mummies; and 3. the apparent civilization’s focus on procreation for survival’s sake in a harsh land. 

Read the full story here.

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Snapshots: Sculpture in Barcelona’s Cementiri de l’Est


Established in 1773, this cemetery was originally placed outside the eastern city limits for hygiene reasons. Generations of interesting statues fill the various nooks and crannies here. 

At rest...


While many of the carvings (and mausoleums) are now vandalized and broken, a few statues remain intact. This is one of them. 


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Snapshots: The Presidio’s book of life


Situated in the middle of the San Francisco National Cemetery is a magnificent example of a Book of Life. According to Douglas Keister’s, Stories in Stone, “An open book is a favorite device for registering the names of the deceased, in its purest form, an open book can be compared to the human heart, its thoughts and feelings open to the world and to God.”

This one is so realistically carved that it’s almost possible to imagine turning the pages.

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Snapshots: The mailman


Lakeview Cemetery


Martin W. Hubbard was the first postmaster of Hubbard from 1850 – 1887. 

Hubbard started his work career as a logger before becoming the postmaster. Local mail was distributed from his home and any mail heading to Seattle, was rowed across Lake Washington. Interestingly enough, research has shown that most loggers at that time never knew how to swim. 

In 1886, the town was renamed Juanita. 

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Snapshots: Ada’s piano


Lakeview Cemetery

Little is known about this marker raised…

“…In sweet memory of Ada, beloved wife of W. H. Plachy.

July 10, 1869 – July 22, 1895”

Ada was 26 years old when she died. Her husband was a civil engineer and the first water pipeline surveyor for the Seattle area.

Note: the piano shown is listed as a forte piano that retains some of the earlier harpischord sounds. This instrument was the forerunner of today’s piano.

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Snapshots: The soldier


Fall City Cemetery

Pacific Northwest cemeteries have a wide variety of military markers for every conflict since the Civil War. Sometimes, the smaller cemeteries are those with the greatest number of veterans.

Take George Kelley, one of the integral founders of Fall City, WA.

According to Jack’s History of Fall City, George Kelley was part of Company 1, 64th regiment of the Illinois Volunteers. This regiment saw first-hand action at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, the siege of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea, an infamous campaign that began with Sherman’s troops leaving Atlanta, Georgia on November 15 and ending with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21.

Kelley later participated in a military Grand Review in front of President Lincoln.


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Snapshots: A long-lived life


Fall City Snoqualmie Indian Cemetery

This is not a typo.

According to Jack’s History of Fall City, Grandma Moses, a Snoqualmie Indian elder, presents an intriguing surprise. A tribal councilwoman noted that: “We had many members who lived a long time. Although no one kept records, they marked their birthdays by notching a wooden stick.”

130 years.

Impossible, right?

Maybe not.

Unlike us, Grandma most likely spent her life in the fresh air, walking long distances and eating fresh food. She also drank the local water which has a high mineral content and is also known as “hard water”. Hard water typically contains calcium and magnesium, minerals all too lacking in today’s diet. With all these factors in her favor, who’s to say she couldn’t live to at least 130 years?

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Snapshots: Mysterious family crests


Below is an unfamiliar carving that looks very much like a Finnish family crest. It was found on a Woodmen of the World headstone dedicated to David Lunden, born 1875 in Finland. Lunden later emigrated to the US to find work in the Black Diamond coal mines.

unknown fraternal organization

On November 6, 1910, an explosion rocked the Lawson Mine, causing a slope cave in. Sixteen miners were killed that day, including Lunden who was working as a fire boss. Records show that most of the miners earned less than $4/day for their work.

Blog post_Lunden crest




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Snapshots: A Scandinavian Logger


The simple, clean lines of the Scandinavian culture are readily seen in Crown Hill Cemetery, Ballard, WA.  But wander around for a bit and a number of surprises will appear, scattered throughout the rows of simple, flat-lying stones.

Here is an overview of one beautifully carved stone, along with a closeup:

      Rust_cropped       Closeup_CrossCarrying

Below is an example of a Woodmen of the World stone (with a dove and olive wreath) memorializing one of the many Scandinavian loggers who lived here. 


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Snapshots: The chess player

Sometimes, it’s not just the historical stones that catch the eye, but a more recent one. Here is a beautifully understated memorial for young a chess wizard.

Chess player_websize

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Snapshots: The Village Blacksmith

This past weekend included a visit to the Woodinville Memorial Mead cemetery. Originally a logging community, Woodinville turned to farming with these roots still seen today in the local wineries and Red Hook microbrewery.

One of the more interesting finds in this cemetery, was a blacksmith’s anvil memorial stone for Johan P. Koch (1877-1952).

Approaching the memorial layout…the anvil can be seen in the left side, behind the main stones.

approaching anvil_websize

And closer views of it…

Blacksmith's anvil Websize        Blacksmiths anvil_up close Websize

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