Tag Archives: Travel

The Secret Garden…

Treasures from Highgate Cemetery

A 170 year old cemetery is not typically on a “To Visit While in London” list.  However, Highgate, a mysteriously overgrown and historically elegant cemetery should be a definite addition as it represents a unique view of Victorian tastes and social pretensions.

Curiosity is whetted by the some of the more fascinating tombstones such as Nero the Lion, protecting owner George Wombwell who was the English forerunner of Barnum and Bailey. His collection of exotic animals became a highlight of British town fairs in Victorian times. Over there is the column to scandalous George Eliot who deliciously shocked society by openly living with her married lover. Then shocking them all again by marrying a man 20 years her junior. Beyond that curve in the path is Elizabeth Siddal, the model for drowned Ophelia who is still so familiar today. And of course, bare knuckle prize fighter, World Heavyweight Champion Tom Sayers is here, watched over by his faithful dog.  

 

And there are so many more tombstones tucked away in various nooks and crannies of Highgate. But perhaps the most important question of how all of this came to be, should be answered first. 

Highgate was one of seven cemeteries established in Victorian times to accommodate a rising demand for burial plots. Traditionally, the dead were buried in and around the local churchyards that operated as the common focal point in smaller town society.  To this day, old family generational plots dotting the English countryside can still be seen.  However, during Victorian times something occurred that dramatically changed this aspect – something called the Industrial Revolution.  More jobs were to be found in the factories than on the farms, thus more people were migrating to the bigger cities.  More people in larger cities meant a greater strain on urban resources resulting in fewer available burial sites. As a result, burials beneath church floorboards, the re-use of plots, river-dumping and body snatching by medical students, became the norm. To counter these occurrences, seven cemeteries were established in and around London. Out of these seven, Highgate arguably became the most elegant and socially desirable of them all and today, the visitor finds many unique architectural treasures from the Victorian period.

 

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Soquel Cemetery: Generations of Metaphors

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Soquel, California (pronounced “so-kell”) is a quiet town off the Northern California coastline, rooted within Spanish land grants dating back to 1776. Located approximately 70 miles south of San Francisco, most beach tourists driving the winding Highway 1 route to Santa Cruz beach spots rarely give it a second thought. However, those opting for the quieter, redwood tree-lined back roads have an opportunity to see this town first hand.

To the left and on the hill from the main four corners is a beautiful New England-styled church. Straight down the street is the unique Porter Memorial Library built in 1912 while to the right, is the Ugly Mug coffee house. But it’s the spot just outside of town at 550 Old San Jose Road that draws the most interest from fans of Skip Spence and genealogists tracing family history.

cemetery sign_SP

Photo by Shelly Peters

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The high altitude cemetery at Aconcagua

Flickr photo by photonooner

Aconcagua reaches upward to 22,841 feet and is located in the Mendoza Province of Argentina. It is the highest mountain in the Americas and the highest mountain outside of Asia. While Aconcagua is one of the magnificent Seven Summits, no technical hiking skills are required to hike it. Instead, a very high level of physical fitness, stamina, and perhaps the ability to control one’s temper when navigating the endless slag fields is recommended. In 2009, it was estimated that over 8,000 permits were issued to hikers looking to add this peak to their ascent bag.

Flickr photo by Russ Osborne

Not everyone is successful.

Last year, the BBC interviewed the chief park-keeper, Daniel Cucciara who commented: “Most visitors to the park are from the United States or Europe. Forty percent of the tourists who come here do no preparation at all. If you come to Aconcagua you need to have a mountain culture, you need to have climbed other mountains…you need to have trained for two or three years in gymnasiums, done a lot of running, and even then this doesn’t mean you are going to make the summit. You never know how your body will respond to such high altitudes.”

That’s potentially 3,200 people who, for whatever reason, decide to risk altitude sickness, navigating with crampons in the dreaded White Wind of Aconcagua,or worse, pulmonary embolism, without first undergoing this strict training regimen. In 2009, 280 people were evacuated from the mountain. Some of those who didn’t make it are remembered with boots and gloves in a small cemetery not too far from the mountain’s brooding gaze.

More resources:

More cemetery photos via Flickr:

Still want to climb Aconcagua? Visit SummitPost.org

Note: while this video offers stunning views, the music is a bit dramatic.

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Comet Lodge Cemetery: Limbo Part II

Part II: From 1938 to present day

Woodmen of the World memorial

In 1938, Odd Fellow members still owning cemetery land parcels fell behind in property tax payments. The county foreclosed and became, whether through design or accident, the new owner of Comet Lodge Cemetery. For the next fifteen years, questions over what was purchased, restoration permissions, and street widening ordinances, drifted back and forth between the city treasurer, council, and local improvement societies.

Eventually, official non-action moved the questions to the back burner and the county seemingly forgot that it ever owned a cemetery. Comet Lodge Cemetery became both a home for transients and a byword for ‘eyesore’ for several more decades.

A circle of headstone bases

Almost 100 years after its official Odd Fellows designation, new attempts to build on cemetery grounds ignited a public fury. Preservation Seattle noted that in 1987, a local resident began clearing the site in what appeared to be a simple restoration effort. That illusion quickly vanished.

“When he began bulldozing the property, and the graves of the 200 or so individuals buried there, the real plans became vividly clear [and] quirkier than anyone realized. What initially looked like restoration activity was really part of the man’s life-long dream to live on a cemetery. He intended to build his house there.”

Another report offers more details.

A group called Elysian Fields claiming ownership of Comet Lodge Cemetery, decided to build a “caretakers cottage” on the site and plant foodstuffs for the local community. By the time the Washington State Cemetery Board brought in an order to cease and desist, the majority of headstones had been bulldozed to the south end of the property.

Since that time, twenty restoration attempts for Comet Lodge have been made. All have failed. Even HistoryLink’s 2009 work only managed to relocate twelve headstones while the remaining markers are little more than broken bits and pieces. Out of the hundreds of missing headstones, only six remain in their original plots.

A serene view

Today, King County and the Washington State Cemetery Association retain custodial responsibility of the site. Only a few aesthetically placed headstones remain to tell passers-by of its original purpose and Comet Lodge now seems more a park than a cemetery. However, for one resident living near the old Baby Land portion, the calm appearance will never deceive. The decades-old scandal, plus certain inexplicable activities within her house, have rendered the property un-saleable.

Online sources:

City and County records of Comet Lodge destruction

These are matters of grave importance. PDF, pp, 4, 16

No stone unturned: One man’s lonely battle to save the graveyard City Hall would rather forget

Washington State law concerning abandoned cemeteries

Interment.net: Cemetery records for Comet Lodge

Newspapers:

• Seattle Post Intelligencer: “A grave commentary on an old cemetery.” October 16, 1997.

• Seattle Times: “New life for an old cemetery: Project organizers want to turn it into an horticultural park.” September 25, 1985.

• Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Cemetery slated to make a resurrection: Comet Lodge site will be turned into a memorial park.” June 17, 1999.

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Comet Lodge Cemetery: A century in limbo

Part I: From the beginning to 1931

An inscrutable reminder

Maybe it was the greed or a need to sweep political embarrassment under the proverbial rug. Perhaps it’s simply an old Indian curse on those foolish enough to disturb a sacred burial site. Whatever the reason, this cemetery has suffered a century’s worth of indignities including abandonment, foreclosure, bulldozing, and housing development. And what began as a five acre cemetery plot, now remains a mere 2.3 acre knoll languishing between a multitude of single family homes.

It’s a story almost too strange to be true.

Comet Lodge Cemetery was a Duwamish Indian burial site long before actual land ownership passed to the International Order of Odd Fellows in 1895. Offering fine hilltop views of south Seattle, it seemed a pleasant resting place for those early settlers such as Emma Rigby, one of area’s first female doctors.

But peace reigned for only twelve years.

An early German settler

In 1905, a booming population, plus a need for more residential housing tract land, caused the City of Seattle to move 700+ bodies from the county pauper’s cemetery to an undisclosed location in south Seattle. No transfer records seem to exist but it’s generally assumed the new burial location was the Odd Fellows Cemetery as the site became known as the Georgetown Potters’ Field.

Over the next two decades, the Odd Fellows Council began selling off specific parcels to individual members who then re-sold the plots, regardless of whether they were occupied. One local enthusiast told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that his master’s thesis research had revealed the cemetery had even been split in half in 1908 to accommodate the building of eleven new homes.

In 1927, land records show the City of Seattle purchasing portions of “Baby Land”, a section of the cemetery devoted specifically to young children and infants. No records of disinterment can be found but this portion was later zoned and developed for residential housing.

The Odd Fellows Council finally dissolved in 1931, abandoning cemetery upkeep responsibilities to the families of those buried at the site. Initial attempts were made to keep the cemetery cleared but sheer size proved overwhelming. The cemetery fell into disrepair and headstones became trapped in a mass of blackberry bramble overgrowth.

Coming up next. Part II: 1938 to present day

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Teddy’s Story: Decoding the kanji stones

This week’s guest post comes from Kristy Lommen whose website serves as a tribute to the Auburn area’s Japanese communities, both past and present. Over the past year, Ms. Lommen worked with Yoshiko Kato to decode as many of kanji stones as possible before they faded away. Here is one of their discoveries:

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

When Yoshiko Kato visited the cemetery to translate the kanji stones, I was particularly excited when she reached the fourth marker in the first row. Although the family surnames had been previously translated from most of the stones, this particular stone was marked on our transcript with only a mysterious, black question mark. We had, at that time, not even the least idea who might be buried in that grave.

Yoshiko kneeled in front of the marker, leaning forward and backward alternately in order to make sense of the nearly illegible marks. She resorted to using a finger to attempt to trace the kanji, gleaning by feel information that proved to be too faint to read by eye.

At this fourth stone she almost immediately announced that “Sato” was the family name, but the given name seemed to puzzle her. She was expecting a traditional Japanese name, but after studying the writing for some time, she reached a different conclusion. “Teddy,” she said, rocking back on her heels. “You know, like a teddy bear? It says Teddy. Teddy Goro.”

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

The image that “Teddy” brought to mind was that of a child, perhaps even a baby, who tragically passed away early in life (as was too often the case for the children of Auburn’s Japanese families).

A few steps away from Teddy Goro’s grave was another Sato marker. From this gravestone Yoshiko was able to read “Junko” as the given name and October 9, 1931 as the date of death. Were Junko Sato and Teddy Goro Sato related? On that sunny afternoon when Yoshiko visited the cemetery, there was no way to know.

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

Subsequent research eventually answered our questions about the Sato Family. We discovered that Komakichi Sato arrived in the United States in about 1907. He first settled in Tacoma and established himself there as a businessman—he operated a laundry in the city’s downtown district. His early days were otherwise shrouded in mystery.

There is some indication that he may have had a family when he lived in Japan, and that some of his relatives may have come with him to the United States. He was perhaps even widowed by the time he came to Tacoma. Nevertheless, we do know that he married Sayo Naikaido sometime around 1921. Their first child together was a son named Buell Kazuro Sato. Just over a year after Buell’s birth, Sayo gave birth to a second son, Crayton Akira Sato.

Sometime after Crayton’s birth, Komakichi turned the laundry business over to a young relative, Tatsuo Sato. Komakichi and Sayo then moved on, eventually landing in Auburn, Washington, where the family made their living by farming. They can be found there in the 1930 Federal Census with their older boys and two younger children, daughter Lena and son Yoshi. Sayo must have been pregnant at the time the census-taker visited the family. She gave birth to a daughter, Junko, on June 4, 1930.

As we learned at the cemetery, Junko passed away on October 9, 1931. She would have been a 16-month-old toddler. She was probably walking by that age and learning to talk too. She was certainly developing her own personality and learning, as toddlers do, to charm both beloved adults and total strangers. Her loss at such a young, enchanting age must have been a tragic blow to the family. Unfortunately, losing children early in life wasn’t unusual in those years, and, no matter what, life went on for the surviving family.

Two years later Sayo gave birth to another son, James. Daughters Reiko and Mitsuko followed in 1935 and 1936 respectively. Finally, on March 20, 1938 Sayo gave birth to her last child: a little boy named Teddy Goro. This little brother was, tragically, almost exactly the same magic age as Junko had been when he too died of unknown causes and was buried in the Auburn Cemetery.

Like all of Auburn’s Japanese, the surviving Sato Family was sent to internment camps in 1942 after the outbreak of World War II just a few months earlier. The Satos were sent first to California’s Pinedale Assembly Center before being sent on to Tule Lake.

After the war, the family did not return to Washington; perhaps they didn’t have the means to re-establish themselves there. Instead they put down roots in Hayward, California. They were there in the 1950’s when, after more than 40 years in their adopted country, Komakichi and Sayo Sato were finally able to petition for U.S. citizenship.

Komakichi, regrettably, lived only a few years after this momentous event. He died in California in 1958; Sayo passed away there in 1974. Both are buried in Mt. Eden Cemetery in Hayward, California.

Although Junko and Teddy Goro’s family longer live in Washington State, it’s comforting to know that their family, including some of their siblings and many nieces and nephews, continues to live and thrive even today. I’m sure both Junko and Teddy hold special places in their memories.

———-

A sincere thank you to Kristy and Yoshiko for their work in discovering this story behind one of earliest Japanese families in Auburn. For a more general overview, please see a previous Beyond The Ghost article, Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: a tiny cemetery with many stories.

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Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: A tiny cemetery with many stories

Auburn Pioneer entry way

“One of these days, I’m going to check that place out.”

Everyone has an Auburn Pioneer Cemetery in their life. It’s that one place we see every day that piques our interest as we drive to and from work. Sometimes the traffic or red light gives us a chance to look more closely as we pass by. We take a moment to admire the archway’s elegant carving and idly survey the rows of moss-covered stones. Then we wonder how a cemetery ever got sandwiched between a boat seller and a major thoroughfare.

The boat seller’s shop

But then traffic speeds up or the light turns green and suddenly, the day’s demands crowd everything else out. Work, grocery runs, children, or upcoming project presentations block out everything but the daily necessities. The idea of visiting a non-descript cemetery disappears until the next time we’re held up and need to kill two minutes worth of time before moving on.

And once again, the intriguing entry way beckons.

The demarcation line

For those who do manage to finally get to Auburn Pioneer, a number of intriguing perspectives compete for the visitor’s attention almost immediately upon entering the site. On the side closest to the boat seller’s shop are rows of seemingly identical, almost-homemade, Japanese markers…

Cement markers from the 1920s

…while located on the side closest to the highway, are the more haphazardly situated, pioneer headstones. It almost seems as if there’s a deliberate separation between the early Japanese and pioneering settlers. Further research in the White River Museum archives shows this to be the case.

While the actual cemetery was originally the burial plot for a local family (Rachel Ann and John Faucett) who established their homestead in 1864, the Japanese community was not granted the right to inter family remains here until 1917, when they were finally permitted a 25-foot strip of land. Following that, burial eligibility depended on whether one had an ancestor already buried in the cemetery.

The Faucett family markers

Local cemetery researcher and writer, Kristy Lommen, reminds us that, “Early Japanese burials were often marked with wooden stakes but in the fall of 1928, the Rev. Giryo Takemura of the Buddhist Church, with the assistance of his father-in-law Chiyokichi Natsuhara, created concrete markers to replace the early, perishable wooden markers. Most of these concrete markers—many in a deteriorated state—are still in place as the sole markers of their respective graves.”

Kanji-style writing closeup

A closer examination of the cement markers reveals the 1920’s kanji-styled calligraphy is still visible on many stones while others are quickly succumbing to the Pacific Northwest weather.

Pacific NW weathering effects

A boulder runs through it

Another peculiar sight is a massive rock situated almost smack in the middle of the cemetery itself.

A dedicated pioneer memorial

Carrying a plaque dedicated to the earliest pioneering families, the stone isn’t just one of those typically generic memorials. No, this boulder was a deliberate, in-your-face response to an argument between the City of Auburn and the descendants of those buried at the site.

According to records from the 1950s, the city proposed straightening out the main highway running past the site (Auburn Way North). This idea meant slicing off a large portion of the western side of Auburn Pioneer Cemetery and ultimately, exhuming a large number of burial plots. For a while, it looked as though the city would get its desired right-of-way until a re-discovery of additional pioneer burials came to light. As a means of putting a stop to the swarming tar trucks and construction equipment, the local pioneering heritage group decided to take matters into their own hands. “We put a big rock right in the middle of where they wanted to go.”

However, it wasn’t until 1965 when the commemorative plaque was formally affixed and dedicated during a special ceremony.

The case of mistaken identity

Angeline Seattle – courtesy White River Museum

One of the more surprising headstones in this cemetery is the one for Angeline Seattle, who died in 1907. Often confused with the famous Princess Angeline, daughter of Chief Seattle, Auburn Pioneer’s Angeline was Angeline Tumas. She and her husband were farmers and members of the local Muckleshoot Indian tribe. The more well-known Princess Angeline is buried in Lot 111 of Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetery and unlike the Auburn Angeline’s elaborate marker, Princess Angeline’s grave is marked by a rough cut stone and plaque.

A lingering sadness

The Kato family murder/suicide

Probably the most well-known story from Auburn Pioneer Cemetery involves the Kato family tragedy.

The 1930s were difficult times for most Americans but for the Kato family, financial difficulties and apparent ill-health eventually became insurmountable. By 1937, suicide seemed the only way out. On Valentine’s Day, the wife and four children ingested sleeping pills and after falling into a deep sleep, were killed by the husband, Enichi.

The original plan had Enichi following his loved ones into death but curiously, this never happened. Worrying that there would be no funeral markers for his family, he buried the bodies in the back yard and left for California. Presumably, he sought to earn enough to pay for individual headstones before taking his own life.

Law enforcement officials eventually caught up with Enichi and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The original stones – courtesy White River Museum

In time, local community collection efforts pooled enough money to pay for a family marker with four jizo statues signifying the children’s tragic death. Unfortunately, the statues’ mysterious smiles proved too irresistible and three jizos were stolen from the cemetery.

What now remains…

Eventually, one statue was returned after it was discovered masquerading as a local garden gnome. Visitors peeking around the northwestern foliage can still see the two remaining statues keeping their poignant guard over the Kato family plot.

Note: A special thanks to the White River Museum journal archives and to researcher/writer Kristy Lommen, Auburn Pioneer Cemetery webmaster. For those readers interested in learning more about the 1920s kanji stones, Ms. Lommen’s previous article posting can be found here.

 

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The ghost town of Bodie, California

If you ever find yourself wandering the Eastern Sierras, this is one of the most spectacular places you can visit (besides Mono Lake where Clint Eastwood filmed Pale Rider). I love this area so much, I couldn’t resist re-posting this article.

The lonely road back to civilization

Hundreds of miles from civilization.

Gold is a funny thing.

It will drive a human being to live far out on a desolate, arid plateau baked by summer heat, frozen by zero degree winter temperatures and blown apart from vicious blizzards and 100+ mph winds. Keeping warm means lighting a fire with expensive, imported lumber and, due to the gold’s remote location, probably everything (food, liquor, clothing, wood) has to be brought in over a long, dusty trail, making the camp one of the most expensive and dreariest places to live.

All this for an opportunity to strike, gamble, or steal it rich.

Bodie, California started out pretty much like most mining towns. In 1859, a prospecting group that included former New York State resident, W.S. Bodey, found gold in the desolate California wastelands east of Tioga Pass.

By 1876, 30 miners were living in the Bodie mining camp. Four years later, there were 10,000.

Unfortunately, W.S. Bodey never realized the potential of his little mining site as in 1860, he was caught in a blizzard while getting supplies from Mono City, 26 miles away. However, from 1877 to the late 1880s, the town boomed and predictions of it being the next Comstock Lode ran rampant. Yet where Comstock produced almost $400 million in gold and silver ore, Bodie was only able to produce approximately 8% of that payload, or $34 million. Nonetheless, the town did its best to keep up other appearances where rowdy mining life was concerned.

The red light district, complete with brothels, opium and gambling dens, was found at the north end of town and at one time there were approximately 65 saloons to choose from. With nowhere else to go after a hard day’s work but the saloons and brothels, it’s little wonder at least one killing per day was estimated. As a result, the cemetery quickly became filled up with markers commemorating fatal gun, knife or fistfights.

Unfortunately, few of these wooden markers have survived over the decades and those that remain, are mostly stone memorials. Interestingly enough, while Bodie had its own Chinatown, few Chinese, were buried here. Instead, their remains were shipped back to China as soon as possible to be joined with family ancestors on native soil.

One marker seen near the cemetery is dedicated to Rosa May. Rosa May was a prostitute who allegedly helped nurse the sick miners during an epidemic but her line of work did not allow for a burial inside the cemetery gates.

Rosa May - nurse during an epidemic

Rosa May – nurse during an epidemic

Another sad story concerns Lottie and Eli Johl.

Lottie worked at one of the Bodie brothels and Eli was the town butcher. They fell in love and eventually married, much to proper society’s dismay. As a result, Lottie was never accepted into ‘normal’ social circles and the two lived a comfortable but lonely life without friends on the edge of town. After her death, she was allowed a burial just inside the cemetery gates and Eli built her a magnificent memorial which he decorated in her honor each Memorial Day.

Eventually, as the town slipped further into decline, Eli made the hard decision to move away, leaving his Lottie behind. By 1921, there were 31 people living in Bodie.

By 1940, only 20 remained.

In 1961, the town was designated a National Landmark and in 1962, it became Bodie Historic State Park. During the summer, thousands will make the difficult drive in to visit, making it one of the most well-known ghost towns in the country.

Below is a YouTube video clearly showing Bodie’s desolate environment.

Below is a YouTube video giving an overview of Bodie’s place in history.

 

Other resources:

• Find A Grave: Bodie Cemetery listings

The Bodie Photo Gallery

• Google Books: Bodie’s Gold: Tall Tales and True History from a California Mining Town

• Google Books: Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra, Lottie & Eli Johl

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It’s a long road to Cooperstown

Ok, I admit it. The hot oven-baking weather is really getting to me.

Maria Frances Cooper: b. 1819 – d. 1898 (daughter of James Fenimore Cooper)

 

Every summer, a small village in upstate New York swells to several times its size as thousands of visitors descend upon it, eager to pay respects to their baseball heroes. Located approximately an hour half from the state capitol in Albany or five + driving hours from New York City, most agree that for baseball players and visitors alike, it’s a long road to Cooperstown.

It’s an even longer road in winter but the payoff comes in having the town practically to one’s self. The Hall of Fame, shops, and readily available parking are all there for the leisurely traveler willing to put up with the occasional icy sidewalks and snow drifts.

For the more scholarly-inclined, winter is a great time to visit the Cooper family plot at Christ Church where literary genius and Victorian churchyard cemetery gazing can be had with few interruptions.

Cooper family plot – southern side

 

At this time of year, the Christ Church grounds are well insulated with snow, except for the path from the old-fashioned vicarage through the Cooper family plot and to the church itself.

Footpath to the vicarage

 

Founded by William Cooper in 1786, a mere 10 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Cooperstown was initially only a raw outpost on the colonial western frontier. Dense forests, pioneer struggles and the very real threat of politically aligned Tory/Indian massacres, belie the pleasant village setting seen today. According to church historical records:

William Cooper: died 1809

 

“In 1806, Judge Cooper set aside a tract of land..and construction of the Episcopalian church began in 1807. It was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Benjamin Moore, Bishop of New York on July 8, 1810. On January 1, 1811, the Parish of Christ Church Cooperstown was legally organized, and the Rev. Daniel Nash was installed as its first rector.”

The Cooper plot, northern side

 

However, the village cemetery existed before the actual church.

The first known grave was for 4 year-old Sam Griffin who died in 1792. The cemetery also became a place for those people who couldn’t get into the other sites, namely, the African-American servants. These gravesites are mostly found along the River Street side of Christ Church.

However, the Cooper plot is not part of the regular cemetery even though the church maintains it. The family plot is privately owned and in fact, is still in use today.

18th century death’s head

 

But don’t let this one famous family distract from the other treasures here. Take some time to find the 18th century death heads, double weeping willows or a few of those old-styled carvings using the letter ‘f’ instead of ‘s’, scattered throughout the compact site.

A double weeping willow

 

As Ralph Birdsall tantalizingly explains in his book, Fenimore Cooper’s Grave and Christ Churchyard, there’s even something for the intrepid mystery hunter:

 “On the extreme southern border of the church-yard, about fifty feet from the street, there is a tombstone that seems to shudder away from human sight, shrinking behind the shelter of a tree, and clinging to the ragged skirts of the hedge. Whoever searches out this tomb cannot fail to be obsessed with the feeling that it is connected with some mystery, to which the inscription darkly alludes:

…In memory o’ Abraham Spafard who died at 8 o’clock P.M., 3d. Sep’ 1827 in the 49th year of his age. The trump shall sound and the dead shall be raised…

Why eight o’clock? What is the significance of this concern to perpetuate the memory of the exact hour of death? The truth is that at just eight o’clock in the evening of September the 3rd , in the year of Our Lord 1827, Abraham Spafard was brutally murdered. He was killed by Levi Kelly, a farmer of the town of Otsego, a man noted for his violent temper, from the effects of which Spafard was attempting to shield a boy when Kelly shot him dead. Kelly was executed at a public hanging on a lot not far from the site of the present High School, December 28, 1827.”

Note: We were not aware of this story before our visit, otherwise we would have planned to include a photo of this headstone in the article. Unfortunately, Google and Find-A-Grave searches came up empty. If readers have any other suggestions on how to find a photo of this particular headstone, would you please share them?

Other Resources:

Ralph Birdsall. Fenimore Cooper’s Grave and Christ Churchyard. New York © 1911

New York Times: Echoes of an Earlier Time on a Glimmering Lake

James Fenimore Cooper Society Website: Fenimore Cooper in Cooperstown and The Cooper Genealogy

Haunted History of Cooperstown, NY (includes a section on the Christ Church graveyard)

Alan Taylor’s William Cooper’s Town

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Crown Hill Cemetery, Part II

Disease, fire, and unsolved mysteries… 

 (this is a continuation from Crown Hill Cemetery Part I)

The infant & children’s section

 

Crown Hill denotes more than a risky sawmill legacy.

The community’s early years were also difficult times for infants and children. The cemetery has at least two sections filled with closely placed rows of markers that poignantly testify to childhood disease and infections during those pre-vaccination times. Typhoid, cholera, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and even the 1918 influenza epidemic. All of these left their mark.

Another view of the children’s section

 

Fire also left its mark.

In 1919, a fire broke out in the cemetery office that destroyed just about all of the records. Luckily, copies were at an offsite location, although many were incomplete. This necessitated a re-walk of the grounds in order to confirm the simple plat record information. Today, a library search is recommended for those searching out in-depth family information requests but for those genealogists armed with names and looking for a stone, the caretaker can help with dates and marker locations.

Today

Japanese jizo marker

 

As with most local neighborhood cemeteries, time and real estate transfers make their marks. Walk westward away from the older Scandinavian section and other ethnicities begin to appear. Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and even a few quirky stones catch the eye.   Even the mysterious Mary Anderson, also known as The Cipher in Room 214, has become part of today’s Crown Hill Cemetery community.

And then there’s Lilly’s unsolved murder.

Lounging Lilly

 

Lilly was a 5-year old tabby cat that wandered into the cemetery offices in 1998.  Like most cats, she imperiously  decided this would be her new home and from that day on, all humans either working in, around, or even visiting a family memorial would bow down before her.

And so they did.

Lilly became known for her quiet devotion to the office staff, a friendly approach toward visitors, and her love of picnic table sun-bathing. Tragedy struck after a failed burglary attempt in which she was brutally stabbed to death. Attempts to find the responsible person came to nothing and today, she’s buried with her catnip and her favorite toy not too far from where she used to sun herself.

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Crown Hill Cemetery: Part I

A sawmill heritage 

Crown Hill Cemetery, Seattle WA

 

It takes a little bit of effort to find Crown Hill Cemetery near Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Surrounded by hedgerows and with a sign half-swallowed by rhododendrons, the low profile is so effective, some local residents don’t even realize it’s there. And that’s how the old Scandinavians probably would have liked it.

Acknowledged heritage

 

Ballard was a mill town in Seattle. It was made up of sawmills and ship chandleries and machine shops and fishing docks and dry docks. It was a place of working men, hardworking people, union men with big calloused hands, some of whom died young because they worked too hard. Ballard was not pretty…just a district of honest immigrant Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who sought to make their lives better, who sought dignity and decency without flair or fanfare.” *

Overview

 

Pine, cedar, and fir trees are scattered throughout the site, offering both shade and a reminder of the area’s logging roots. Another surprising aspect is the amount of seemingly open, park-like space in the oldest sections. The unexpected, in-ground headstones can claim this credit. Discreetly receding into the lined distance, the markers are simply inscribed with such old-fashioned names like Hedwig, Torbjorg, Inga, and Lars.

Hedwig Wicks: 1872-1943

 

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Soapy Smith: Con Artist Extraordinaire

For anyone heading out to Vegas…

Soapy Smith

Photo courtesy of Sabine Ludwig

Soapy Smith is one of the most well-known and amoral criminal masterminds of 19th century America. An accomplished con artist from the age of 19, he eventually rose to command a gang network of criminal activity through a combination of wit, charm, and weapons.

Jefferson Randall Smith II was born November 2, 1860 into a wealthy, educated Southern family. His grandfather was a plantation owner and his father was a lawyer. However, the after-effects of the Civil War broke the family financially, causing them to move to Texas for a fresh start.

At the age of 19, Smith got his own fresh start in Forth Worth when he began his career as a con man known for his soap shell game and the 3-card monte (which is simply another version of the shell game).

Shell games can be traced back to the Middle Ages where it was often played with thimbles. In the 19th century, it was a popular county fair distraction played with either peas and three shells or balls and cups. The object of the game was to bet where the pea had been hidden. If the guess was correct, the person would win double the money initially put down.

However, due to the expert sleight of hand ability of most shell game players, the bet placer would never win.

Note: Keep in mind that sleight of hand ability shouldn’t always be considered bad. In 2006, David Copperfield confused a would-be thief by claiming he had no wallet on him at the time he was being mugged. Sleight of hand allowed Copperfield to hide his wallet elsewhere.

The same scenario plays out with 3-card monte.

Three cards are placed face-down and the person placing the bet is asked to find the winning card after they’ve been shuffled. In the rare event that a bet placer actually chooses correctly, quick sleight of hand allows the dealer to slide another, losing card under the winner by using a “throw” technique or a Mexican turnover trick.

Smith took the shell game a few steps further by wrapping $1 to $100 bills around several bars of soap and placing them alongside of regular soap bars. The customer put down $1 for a chance to guess where the currency- wrapped soap was located. However, Smith kept track of which bars were wrapped and ensured his accompanying gang members always “won” these, thus encouraging more people to play.

Hence the nickname, Soapy Smith.

But while con games kept food on the table, Soapy was always attuned to new opportunities that might make him some quick money. The instability found throughout many 19th century frontier towns certainly assisted him in this goal.

In Denver, Colorado one business venture included a ‘discount’ train ticket sales office. The money would be taken but strangely enough, the ticketmaster was never around to dispense the purchased tickets. Another scam included his acting as sheriff to help ‘close down’ local gambling joints and brothels. Patrons who had lost large sums of money in his businesses were ‘arrested’ and then released if they went quietly home without attempting to reclaim their losses. Unfortunately, this easy way of money didn’t last too long after it was discovered Smith was rigging elections. He was asked to leave town sooner rather than later.

Smith’s final hurrah was in Skagway, Alaska from 1897-1898 .

At this time, the Klondike Gold Rush was in full swing and seeing boundless opportunities for easy money in another frontier town, Smith moved north and began relieving miners of their heavy gold-carrying burdens.

A telegraph office (with wires extending only to the wall) was built. Miners stood in line waiting their turn to send a message home about their earnings while members of Smith’s gang worked their shell games and 3-card monte cons.

When one vigilante crew was finally established with the goal of cleaning up crime (and ideally, getting rid of Soapy), Smith simply formed his own gang to go after the vigilante crew.

During the Spanish-American war, Smith organized his own Skagway Military Company as potential fighters, even obtaining President McKinley’s recognition of his organizational efforts. Never one to leave a potential income stone unturned. Smith turned this presidential recognition to his advantage by using it to shore up his political control over Skagway.

But all good things must come to an end.

On July 8, 1898, the day after Soapy’s crew swindled $2,700 from a Klondike Miner, vigilantes met with him to discuss repayment terms. An argument broke out and led to a gunfight and Smith was shot and killed.

His grave remains a highlight for Skagway tourists

Other Resources:

• YouTube Video: How to perform a Mexican Turnover

• YouTube Video: How to perform a card throw

• HistoryNet.com: Soapy Smith, Con Man’s Empire

• Legends of America: Soapy Smith, Bunko Man of America

Google Timeline of Soapy Smith’s life

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Tales From The Crypts

appian-way3

Resharing this post from March, 2009. If you ever get a chance to visit Rome, do be sure to check out the catacombs a few miles outside the city.

Spanning over 350 miles in length and still possessing original sections of bone-rattling cobbles, the Appian Way was once famous for displaying the crucified remains of Spartacus’ army. While still popular, visitors instead choose to see another type of remains called the catacombs.

catacomb-of-vigna-cassia

Catacomb of Vigna Cassia, courtesy of PCAS

Under Roman rule, it was illegal to bury the dead inside city walls. But while the Romans cremated their dead, early Christians did not have this option and faced the problem of finding land for burials. This problem was solved by digging deep within the soft tufa rock prevalent around Rome, allowing tunneled layers of rectangular niches to be easily carved out. Experts have estimated that at one time, there were approximately thirty-six active catacomb sites up to 90 miles in length and holding between 500,000 and 750,000 remains.(1)

After Christianity became the official state religion in 394 A.D., the need for catacomb burials  slowly declined (2) and site locations were forgotten until rediscovery in the 16th century. Today, there is a continual swarm of tourists visiting any one of the three major catacombs on Via Appia: St. Callixtus, San Sebastiano and Santa Domatilla. Continue reading

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Barcelona’s Roman past

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire ringed the Mediterranean, influencing any number of conquered peoples with its judicial, political and artistic achievements. Remnants of these influences, such as aqueducts, mosaics or protective walls, can still be seen throughout Europe and the U.K.

While the Romans may not have considered Barcelona, Spain, as important a site as say, Tarragon (a well-preserved portside city to the southeast), visitors can still see the interesting bits and pieces the empire left behind.

More specifically, are the tombs located in the city’s Barri Gotic section. Romans typically buried their dead in mausoleums or in a necropolis outside city walls, but as modern-day Barcelona expanded beyond its ancient boundaries, these relics of a distant past unexpectedly became an integral part of a contemporary neighborhood.

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A little mid-winter creepiness

Lebanon Circle_Highgate

Visitors to West Cemetery portion of Highgate Cemetery will recognize these photos showing view from the top and the bottom of the stairs into the Circle of Lebanon mausoleum. For more photos that really give a more full overview of what the Circle looks like, check out this Google photo collection.

Circle of Lebanon_HG

 

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Sharing Saturday: Ancestors at Rest

Mithian_Cornwall

Cornwall is another one of those places on my To Visit list, but up until now, I was just interested in going there to see the ocean views and maybe tramp around on a couple of walking trails. Ancestors at Rest is a blog set in Cornwall, and features some terrific photos/exploration notes.

It appears to be a static blog (similar to what BTG was at one time), but maybe if enough people check out this By Day, We All Miss Thee post, maybe the owner will be persuaded to begin posting again.

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Sharing Saturday: Home Among the Headstones

The East Coast has any number of wonderfully carved headstones as this post from blogger, Home Among the Headstones proves.  Check it out.

The Old Center Cemetery in Suffield, CT.

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Stories in Stone – New York

Doug Keister’s one of the best cemetery reference writers/photographers I’ve ever come across. Check out this fun video of interesting carvings and symbols from some of the famous cemeteries in New York; Greenwood, Woodlawn, Kensico, Sleepy Hollow, and Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

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Sharing Saturday: A tour of Brompton Cemetery, London

It’s stormy weather times 2 over in my neck of the woods, so when I stumbled across these posts from Esteban Coll, I knew I had to share them with you.

Brompton Cemetery is one of the Magnificent Seven Victorian cemeteries in London, and is definitely one of the places to go to see interesting carvings, headstones, and remembrances. Esteban’s done a great job in photographing some of the more unique aspects of this location. Enjoy!

Here’s the link to Taphophile Tours. Brompton Cemetery – Part 1

Here’s the link to Taphophile Tours. Brompton Cemetery – Part 2

 

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Video tour of Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Here’s a little something fun to watch.

 

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Denys Finch-Hatton: Last of the Edwardians

Obelisk

(For those of you who are big into the Edwardian drama, Downton Abbey, here’s one of BTG’s most popular posts I think you’ll really like. P.S., January 4th is when the next season begins).

Aviation pioneer and big game safari leader, Denys Finch Hatton was the quintessential Edwardian gentleman living in the romanticized era of large hats, garden parties and African safaris that occurred between Queen Victoria’s death and World War I.

Finch-Hatton is best remembered by his portrayal in Isak Dinesen’s book, Out of Africa, and by his connection with Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic Ocean. An aristocrat (his father was the 13th earl of Winchilsea) and educated at all the right schools (Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford) Finch-Hatton moved to British East Africa at the age of 24 and began indulging his love of big game hunting.

Later on, he would parley this experience into acting as a professional guide for wealthy big game hunters.

Yet safaris weren’t the only notable adventures to be had. Aviation was finally starting to come into its own after WWI and by 1929, it was estimated that out of every 100 airplanes owned in Great Britain, the majority of them were DeHavilland Gypsy Moths.

Finch-Hatton’s Gypsy Moth came in handy not only for scouting out potential trips for his clients but for also seeing the African landscape in a completely new way.

And then tragedy struck.

On May 14, 1931, Finch Hatton took off from Voi airport (outside of Nairobi) but never made it to his destination. The plane unexpectedly stalled, plunged to the ground and burst into flames. His body was later recovered for burial in his beloved Ngong Hills at a site marked with an obelisk and a simple brass plaque marker.

In April, 2009, Sabine Ludwig journeyed to visit both his grave and Karen Blixen’s house in Nairobi, Kenya

After traveling fourteen hours on the night train from Mombasa, we arrived in Nairobi the next morning at a beautiful train station that seemed as though it had been frozen in time since the early 1900s.

Nairobi is supposed to be the most dangerous city in Africa since the fighting  started in January, and houses are now equipped with at least two dogs, a security service and high electrical fences. However, Nairobi city center was a pleasant place to visit and the local people all very helpful. Of course we visited the house where Karen Blixen lived from 1914 to 1931. It’s a beautiful museum located in the Nairobi suburbs.

Blixen house 2

During our visit, we decided to take a taxi up into the Ngong Hills to look for the grave of Denys George Finch-Hatton. Unfortunately, the Ngong Hills become dangerous after night fall and we left the Karen Blixen museum later than planned.

The poor taxi driver.

Six miles of badly rutted dirt roads and one sunset later, we arrived at the obelisk where we managed to shoot a few photos before turning around for our long bone-rattling drive back to our guesthouse home, content with having seen this special part of Kenyan history.”

More Resources:

New York Times: In Search of Karen Blixen’s Kenya

New York Times Book Review: Too Close to the Sun: The Life of Denys Finch Hatton

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Countering those funny looks

Use this the next time you run into someone who gives you a funny look when you mention you like cemeteries.

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Snapshots: The Golden Dragon Mausoleum, Malaysia

Dragon2

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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Places to see: The Ghajn Lukin plague cemetery, Malta

XaghraCemetery

The mere thought of Malta, a Mediterranean country comprised of three populated and several unpopulated islands, and located south of Sicily, usually conjures visions of blue lagoons, Roman ruins, ancient knights, prehistoric temples, and even an underground grotto or two. And these are definitely there in spades, along with some fantastic food.

There’s also a plague cemetery for those intrepid travelers willing to make the trek out from the main island of Malta to Xaghra, on the island of Gozo.

200 years ago, an outbreak of bubonic plague ravaged the Xaghra community, claiming over 100 lives, and causing the country to impose a strict quarantine on the village for 40 days. Victims were buried in the Ghajn Lukin cemetery and eventually, forgotten. This summer, volunteers finally began clearing out the weeds and bushes that had taken over the old cemetery, and when they were done, the Victory Philharmonic Society held a commemoration of the quarantine lifting.

Xaghra

While this locale definitely ranks up there as one of the more, off-the-beaten-track places to get to, keep in mind that Xaghra is also home to another interesting burial site, the Xaghra Stone Circle, which dates back to 3000 – 2400 BC, the Giant’s Tower (Ggantija), a Neolithic temple complex allegedly home to a fertility cult, and some various underground grottos.

And of course, the beaches and lagoons aren’t too shabby, either.

Blue lagoon

 

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Places to see: Exploring the WWI cemeteries

WWI cemetery

Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, France

One hundred years ago  this past August, the royal families of Europe got into an argument–an argument so destructive, it ended up causing the deaths of millions and resulted in hundreds of cemeteries, both ornate and simple, across the Western Front.

Here is a fascinating video on how these cemeteries and memorial cenotaphs came about:

 

One British writer decided to visit a few of these places and detailed her findings in this terrific article.

“…Our group of 21, mainly middle-aged plus, included a father and his quiet, observant 14-year-old son who had a knack of finding fragments of weapons and ammunition. We visited battlefields, cemeteries, field stations, memorial parks, a magnificent museum and a clutch of quirky cafes, once houses close to the front line, now with an assortment of war memorabilia, often including trenches in the back garden. Our trip was moving, heart-rending, often shocking, sometimes light-hearted – but never depressing.”

The battlefields of the Western Front encompass a very large area, so if you’re planning a trip, make sure you figure out just where you want to go before making any reservations.

WWI Western Front

If you want to go, here are some possible tours to consider:

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The madams and prostitutes of Lynchburg, VA

the procuress

Now this is why cemeteries are so interesting!

Nancy Jamerson Weiland was doing some research on 19th and 20th century Lynchburg, VA sex workers for a novel when she realized there was a whole presentation in the making. Especially when it appeared that two of the ladies she discovered, may have been distant relatives.

So without further ado, on September 21, she drew a crowd of almost 100 people to hear her speak about the madams and prostitutes buried at the Old City Cemetery.

“Some of Lynchburg’s sex workers were entombed beneath monuments. Others were buried in potter’s fields, in unmarked graves. Weiland visited [various] graves and told of other families, and of the houses and “red light” districts that were part of the Lynchburg landscape. Many of the women were widows or single mothers, she said. Some took up prostitution after having a pre-marital sexual experience that led their families to throw them out of their houses.”

Isn’t it funny where a little research can lead?

Read the full article (with lots more anecdotes) here.

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So many cemeteries, so little time

Living History performance at Saar Pioneer Cemetery

Living History performance at Saar Pioneer Cemetery

It’s that time of year again.

A number of historical societies are taking advantage of their history to whip up public enthusiasm for local pioneer cemeteries through any number of talks, living history exhibitions, and tours.

Last weekend, the Friends of the Cemetery held an Evening of Mourning at the Center Cemetery in East Hartford, CT. Their talk focused on something dear to my heart, and something I’ve written on before; funny bones, er, epitaphs.

Funny epitaphs, sad epitaphs, and matter of fact epitaphs. What makes these so great is that Center Cemetery is tightly connected to colonial and Puritan history (founded in 1709) so you know you’ll hear some side-splitters. Read some more about it here.

On September 26 and September 27, the Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Indiana, is holding its 4th annual Stories Behind the Stones. This year, the focus is on living history as actors dress up in period costumes to act out segments of the lives of some of the more interesting folks buried there. This place seems particularly fascinating as it covers more than 65 acres and has over 30,000 plots.

If you miss this year’s talk, don’t worry. The next few years promise to be even more fascinating.

“Plans for the next few years are already in the works, with each having a theme. Next year will focus on “Disease, Disasters and the Downtrodden,”  while 2016 celebrates the state’s bicentennial with “New Albany’s Influence On the State of Indiana”, and 2017 looks at influential women with “Ladies Night in the Cemetery.” Read the whole article here.

On September 28, the 6th annual, Stepping Among the Stones will be held at the St. Augustine Cemetery in Minster OH. This year, the tour will focus on the stories from the old family plots section of the cemetery. Want more information? Check out the Minster Historical Society page.

On October 4, the 18th annual Candlelight Cemetery Tour in Gallatin Cemetery, Gallatin TN will take place. There are 9 stops planned for each 20-person tour at various headstones where Actors in period costumes will re-enact the lives of that particular historical Gallatin figures buried in the cemetery. There is a fee. Read more here.

On October 9, there will be a moonlight tour of the Lone Oak Cemetery in Leesburg, VA.  Highlights will include stories about the original settlers in addition to a most unlikely connection; Annie Oakley. Yes, that Annie Oakley. Want to go? Lone Oak Cemetery is located at 306 Thomas Ave. in Leesburg, VA. Admission to the tour is free – donations will be accepted. Proceeds of the moonlight tour benefit the Lone Oak Cemetery. For more information, call 352-326-9085.

Gosh, after reading these announcements, it looks like I’m missing out on quite a lot of neat stories. I wonder if any of these groups would be willing to share their talks with the BTG… readers?

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Places to see: Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery, VA

Freedmans cemetery

The next time you’re in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, think about swinging by the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery on 1001 S. Washington Street that was once paved over by a gas station. The east coast is (in)famous for having any number of forgotten cemeteries scattered throughout the region. This is one of them.

“The dedication of the cemetery happened almost by accident. Alexandria was a gathering place for escaped slaves during the Civil War. But after the war, with no headstones on the graves, the city found a way to forget. In the 1950s, a gas station was allowed to pave it over. But eventually the cemetery was rediscovered, and the city tore the gas station down, and archaeologists found more than 600 graves.”

Read the entire story and see the video here.  Plan your trip here.

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10 most scenic cemeteries

Prague Cemetery

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a link to a CNN article about 10 of the most scenic cemeteries in the world. Enjoy!

10 most scenic cemeteries…

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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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Lakeview Cemetery Part II: Elegant memorials to an eccentric past

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Part II: The travels of Nora Johns Hill

        

In The Pioneers of Lakeview, Robert Ferguson details one such cemetery relocation story, proving that just because you’re dead and buried, doesn’t mean you won’t be moving.           

A Tree of Life carving

 

 Nora Johns Hill may have been the first recorded death of a white American in Seattle, but her real notoriety began only after she passed away. For 31 years after her death, her body meandered from one cemetery site to another, until finally finding peace in Lakeview Cemetery.            

A Woodworker's memorial

 

Nora was first laid to rest in 1855 on the east side of Maynard’s Point next to a tidal lagoon and now, present-day Occidental Avenue, South. Then a real estate boom happened and Nora’s grave was removed to The White Church on the corner of Second Ave and Columbia.           

Up until that time, Nora had managed 10 years worth of peace and quiet.           

Woodmen of the World

 

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Lakeview Cemetery Part I: Elegant memorials to an eccentric past

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The treats     

The Denny family plot

 

Scattered throughout the immaculate grounds of Lakeview Cemetery, classic Victorian sculptures pay homage to Seattle’s pioneer fortitude and frontier savvy. Most of Seattle’s founding families (Denny, Renton, Mercer, Boren, Yesler, and others) are buried in the western hill section, offering a ‘one-stop shopping’ approach for local history buffs.          

Capt. William Renton

 

The stylish memorials act as a seemingly prim contradiction to neighboring Capitol Hill’s stated irreverence.          

Austin Bell's mausoleum

 

The tricks     

However, the founding families’ elegance smoothly glosses over the scruffy reality of a frontier town’s robust approach to living. With few niceties available to soften the harsher edges, unconventional allowances were sometimes made in Seattle that might not have been tolerated in other, more established cities.         Continue reading

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April 15: The Titanic’s night to remember

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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.    

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Woodinville Mead: A ‘proper’ cemetery with a touch of mystery

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Entrance to Woodinville Memorial Mead

 

“First used for burials in the late 1870s, it was officially deeded to the citizens of Woodinville on April 4, 1898 by Ira and Susan Woodin.” 

While some historical cemeteries might have a tumultuous history, many are still fortunate to play a quiet, yet well-loved part in their local communities. Woodinville Mead is one such place (or so it might seem). Loggers were the first to call this spot home but it was the farmers who helped turn a meandering bog into today’s award-winning wineries and microbreweries

At one time, this area of King County (approximately 20 miles northeast of Seattle) 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. * 

However, loggers had little use for the cleared land and as they moved deeper into the vast forests, farmers discovered the rich soil, spreading the news to family and friends seeking a respite from the urban rush of late 19th century Seattle. Soon, farmers quickly outstripped the number of remaining loggers. 

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Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery, Part II

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Part II: Stories, Stones, and Symbols
 
Note: This article is the second half of Newcastle Coal Miner’s Cemetery.

William T. Scott, coal miner

 

Newcastle Cemetery headstones bluntly attest to the difficult mining life and temporary respite offered by various brotherhood communities. Thanks to the ring of trees protecting the site, most of the carvings have escaped the inevitable Pacific Northwest erosion. 

William T. Scott’s stone is one such survivor. 

“Death to me short warning give, Therefore, be carefull how you live. Prepare in time and do not delay, For I was quickly called away…” 

Scott’s membership in both the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) and the Knights of Pythias, is also clearly marked. The Odd Fellows are denoted by the three chain links signifying friendship, love, and truth… 

I.O.O.F. chainlink emblem

 

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Newcastle Coal Miners’ Cemetery

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Part I: The Hidden History

Photo courtesy Bob Cerelli

The next time you fly into Seattle at night, look east beyond the twinkling street lamps and Interstate 405’s golden traffic ribbon. Smack in the middle of evening suburbia is a vast, ragged expanse of pitch black.

There are no lights here and if local legislators keep getting their way, there will never be lights.

This emptiness is a silent reminder that for 100 years – from 1863 to 1963 – over 11 million tons of coal were excavated from these hills, earning Newcastle, Washington the nickname, “The Pennsylvania of the Pacific Coast.”

It’s a practical matter, really.

A mere twenty years ago, “The Office of Surface Mining was still sealing off dangerous openings – a total of 166 mine subsidences. One opening  required fifty yards of concrete to create a plug over the top. Some sink holes were as large as 100 feet in diameter. At the other extreme, many holes were so obscured, an inclined tree might be the only clue to the hidden danger. Due to all these underground cavities, the county does not issue new building permits in the vicinity of the mines.*

Old coal tunnels, odorless swamp gas, and the occasional cave-in simply make it too dangerous, although up until the 2008 market crash, some real estate developers thought otherwise.

Today, the area is thickly crisscrossed with trees, vines, birdsong, and hiking trails wandering past the now, very securely sealed mine entrances…

Sealed mine entrance

…and the occasional swamp gas vent.

Swamp gas vent

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Decoding the kanji stones

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Japanese kanji-style stones

Japanese kanji inscriptions

 

In the September 24th posting on Weathering, vandalism & maintenance, I wrote about some cleaning options that could be useful for most cemeteries, with the exception of Auburn Pioneer. In this particular site, the lichen and moss add a unique Buddhist zen aesthetic to the delicate cement markers. Rather than destroy both the marker and the writings, the caretakers would prefer finding someone to copy the old kanji inscriptions for translation before it disappears forever. 

Kristy Lommen, one of the webmasters for the Auburn Pioneer cemetery website, is working with a Japanese translator on doing just that. She discusses the challenges and progress further in her guest post below. Continue reading

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The stones share a few secrets – Part III

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A visitor pays respects

A visitor pays respects

Cemeteries attract all sorts of visitors, although some are more surprising than others. The same can be said about old tombstones. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new comes along.  In King County, it’s common to see a nod to both the rustic pioneer and classic Victorian. (See The Secret Garden  for a traditional English Victorian  cemetery).

One of the more striking sights are the tree stump monuments, courtesy of the fraternal organization called Woodmen of the World. Joseph Cullen Root started the group in 1890 after he was inspired by the idea of woodsmen clearing the forest for their families.

Comet Lodge Cemetery

Comet Lodge Cemetery

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Six cemeteries in the spotlight – Part II

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Any cemetery enthusiast will readily agree that highlighting just a few cemeteries out of so many can be an almost impossible task. And while only six King County cemeteries could be chosen for the indepth Stones & Bones articles, several other fascinating places will be highlighted when symbols, inscriptions and unique stones are discussed.
 

#1: Woodinville Mead Memorial Cemetery

Annie's Rose

Annie's Rose

At one time, this area of King County was so heavily forested that tree stumps could be used as shelters or temporary housing. When logging was in full swing, the summer skies were overcast with a pall of smoke from the many forest fires and land clearings.(1) However, as the land was gradually cleared, news of the rich soil spread and farmers began moving into the area, soon outnumbering the original loggers.

In 1871, Ira Woodin and his wife Susan, settled down in this northern part of King County to pursue their logging and farming interests. In 1878 and in 1910, the Woodins deeded land from their homestead to the Woodinville Cemetery Association. Today, the cemetery quietly stands next to a busy road leading out to State Route 522, lovingly overseen by devoted volunteers.

#2: Lakeview Cemetery

Denny family grandeur

Denny family grandeur

Home to almost virtually all the original Seattle pioneers, Lakeview Cemetery exudes a Victorian aura few would expect from a Pacific Northwest cemetery. Continue reading

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Discovering secrets in King County’s old cemeteries

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Newcastle Coal Miners' Cemetery

Newcastle Coal Miners'

Cemetery issues shot to the forefront of American consciousness when headlines broke the Burr Oaks scandal this past summer. Body dumping and plot re-sales for extra cash shocked locals and veteran police officials alike who were at a loss to fathom how all this could have happened without anyone noticing.

More shocking was the glaring realization that the vital links to a community’s past had disappeared into a back lot pile of broken stones and bones.

Tolt Cemetery

Tolt Cemetery

Families typically assume that a loved one’s interment spot is a given for time eternal – or for at least as long as the endowment funds last. But the reality is that families die out, move on, or simply lose interest in visiting the grave of a relative no one can now remember. Aside from intrepid genealogists or local historical societies, headstones are lost, become overgrown or fade away into the dirt.

Out of sight, out of mind. Continue reading

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Saving Ancient Catacomb Frescoes the Viennese Way

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Recently, The Benefits of Technology discussed how modern innovations help researchers either find lost sites or recover important data that was considered long gone.

This past weekend, the BBC reported another fascinating development and this one hails from the Vienna Academy of Sciences.

Rome has over 40 Jewish and Christian catacombs tunneling more than 100 miles in and around subterranean Rome. However, due to structural concerns, the Vatican only allows public access to approximately 1,600 feet of these treasures. Other catacombs can be accessed only by special permission.

Over the past three years, a team of 10 scientists have been mapping the largest one, Saint Domitilla, via laser scanner. The scanner looks deceptively like something one would find in an astronomy store but has a more complex programming. Continue reading

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Stones & Bones

A community’s roots can be seen in its oldest cemeteries and Seattle, Washington is no exception. Places such as Comet Lodge, Crown Hill, Auburn Pioneer, Saar Pioneer or Newcastle Cemetery, patiently wait to tell stories to those willing to poke through the overgrown, scruffy weeds.

I’m pleased to announce that both the Heritage 4Culture Special Projects and the Allied Arts Foundation have awarded grants to produce Stones & Bones: A Photo-Documentary of King County’s Historic Pioneer Cemeteries. The project will explore ongoing preservation efforts in approximately six pioneer cemeteries. Additionally, I will interweave poignant human interest stories, intriguing carvings, senseless vandalism and if you’re lucky, a ghost story or two.

In the early fall, Beyond The Ghosts… readers will have the opportunity to see the results. Slide shows, in-depth articles on the profiled cemeteries and interview podcasts are just a few of the proposed offerings. I’ll start dropping hints on what to expect in the Upcoming Articles post scheduled for late August.

For local readers, there will be three presentation slide shows planned for local residents. Times, places and dates for these free talks will be announced at the beginning of September.

Some interesting items have been discovered so far and I look forward to sharing them later this year.

 

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The Nation’s Longest Graveyard

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Imagine an deep economic depression. Add in heightened political animosities and incessant war-mongering. Top it off with a spicy dash of blatant religious persecution. Now extend an irresistible offer for free land, 320 acres to be exact, in wide open and fertile spaces. Perhaps there’s even a little gold to be found on that land.

 

A chance for a Do Over in tough times.

 

But like all free offers, there’s a catch.

 

Almost 2,000 miles of heat, dust, cholera microbes, impassable mountains, frostbite, hunger and fast moving rivers lie between you and those 320 acres of Fresh Start. And even before you can take that first step to freedom, everything you own must fit into a box measuring only four feet across and twenty-one feet in length. And that’s without calculating in the necessary food, water and ammunition supplies. And did those real estate agents happen to mention most of your traveling would be via foot?

 

Yet almost 200,000 people did just that.

 

Between 1841 and 1869, the Oregon Trail was traveled by settlers looking to escape the economic downturn, missionaries seeking to proselytize, Mormons escaping persecution, gold-seekers, the Overland Stage line and eventually, the Pony Express.(1) The four to six month journey spanned over half the continent as the wagon trail proceeded west through territories and land later to become six U.S. states: Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Extensions of the Oregon Trail became the main arteries feeding settlers into six more states: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Washington, and Montana.(2) Continue reading

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Dr. Paul Wallace: Archeologist, Intrepid Hiker & Bard of Mummy Tales

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paul-w-wallace1

It’s a faint trail steeped in ancient mystery that winds through almost twenty miles of rugged, Greek mountain terrain. A bone chilling downpour inaugurates the first hour of this fourteen-hour trek and the only equipment carried, is a flashlight and some water. The only guide through the weathered landmarks is a book written in 440 B.C.. The reason for this seemingly mad jaunt? The opportunity to traverse the Anopaia Pass just as it was done at the Battle of Thermopylae, a betrayal famously revisited in the recent movie, “300”.  

 

Thermopylae may have raged over two millennia ago but the romance of outnumbered Spartans desperately battling against a greatly superior Persian force still marks it as a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.* Discovering the 2,500 year-old path and hiking it at night as the Persian army did, was an adventure Dr. Wallace simply could not let slip away and in 1980, he published his findings in The American Journal of Archeology.

 

Dr. Wallace’s specialty is Greek and Latin literature but it wasn’t until he became a Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens that a deep fascination with archeology took hold. Visits to dig sites and mapping expeditions through ancient hills, accompanied by his faithful Herodotus, gave insights on archeology’s continuing importance for the next generation. Back home at Dartmouth (and later at the University at Albany/SUNY) he began offering general archeology courses rich with slide shows, mummy anecdotes and exacting tests. Eventually, word of mouth boosted course popularity to the point where his classes had to be held in some of the largest lecture halls on campus.

 

Later, these same insights illuminated a possible solution to a very old riddle. Continue reading

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Making a (Permanent) Statement

songbird4

Going, but know not wherePhineas G. Wright, Died 1918, aged 89

 A cemetery is where life’s final declarations are made. Whether it’s political, historical, or nose-thumbing, tombstones and their inscriptions can show a range of non-conformity surprising to most visitors.  Some declarations are easily interpreted, such as the bird lover,

lakeview-cemetery-deep-sea-diver4

the deep-sea diver, or even the hour glass of time.

sunnyside-cemetery-hourglass5

Yet, while the implied, “Time Flies, Remember You Must Die,” is a reminder of finite earthly life, hourglasses also have a less obvious implication. They can be inverted, thus symbolizing the cyclic nature of life and death, heaven and earth. Pushed further, an hourglass can even represent reincarnation.

And then there are carvings so old, a reference guide is required to read them.  Two examples from Sunnyside Cemetery, a pioneer cemetery established in 1865 on Whidbey Island, are shown below.

 sunnyside-cemetery-handshake2

The handshake symbol can represent a few meanings. If the hands and sleeves can be differentiated, where one is masculine and the other feminine, this is a symbol of matrimony. If the hands appear gender neutral, the representation can be taken as either an earthly farewell or a heavenly welcome.

 

The second example below, dates back to when flowers and vegetables had a language all their own. Here is a rather motley arrangement that makes sense only when the meanings are revealed. Corn represents fertility and rebirth, the ferns are a symbol of humility, frankness and sincerity while bellflowers show constancy and gratitude. All come together to symbolize the particular character and personality of one now gone.

sunnyside-cemetery-corn_ferns_lily-of-the-valley2

Some of the more poignant memorials in any cemetery are for children. Typically, a lamb, cherubim, or an empty chair holding small shoes can indicate the loss of a child while in the Jewish tradition, those children who do not live to their naming, are marked by simple stones.

lakeview-cemetery-baby-lamb14    baby-young6

Other examples can seem a little too morbid, such as this fallen bird memorial dedicated to 9-year old Edward Ellison Ebey in Sunnyside Cemetery.

  sunnyside-ceemtery-bird5

 

Logging has long been part of Seattle’s past and several Pacific Northwest graveyards reflect this heritage in the tombstones from Woodmen of the World. The organization was founded in 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska, by Joseph Cullen Root after hearing a sermon about “…pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families“. One of the enduring physical legacies of this organization may be the number of distinctive headstones erected in the shape of a tree stump. It was an early benefit of membership and these headstones are found in cemeteries all across the nation and in the older cemeteries here in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, this practice was abandoned in the 1920s for being too expensive.

comet-lodge-woodcarver1

The first example is located in one of Seattle’s earliest cemeteries established in the late 1890s, Comet Lodge. It is a realistic memorial cut to stand approximately five feet in height while the three below are more modern examples found in Lakeview Cemetery. They are considerably smaller and typically adorned with an ax, wedge and beetle (a heavy mallet), representing not only the tools of the trade, but also the metaphors for industry, power and progress. 

woodmen-13   lakeview-cemetery-woodsman3    lakeview-woodsmen-35

Comet Lodge Cemetery may demonstrate the physical difficulty of early life in Seattle but Bikur Cholim, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Seattle, offers a few symbolic visions of its own.

pitcher2     rams-head3     tree-of-life4

From left to right, one can see the Levite’s pitcher used to clean the hands of the Temple priest prior to services, to the ram’s head signifying the binding of Isaac (or the shofar, a horn blown to wake those from their complacency) as well as the Tree of Life.  And then the unsuspecting visitor encounters something vaguely familiar in a memorial to a Cohen…

live-long-and-prosper1

Lynn Gottlieb, a gabbai at Congregation Beth Shalom, explains there is a certain point in an Orthodox Jewish service when a Cohen will stand to bless the congregation. The hands are raised to form an opening to direct the radiance of God downward. Most secular visitors are also familiar with this blessing, but in the radically different context known as “Star Trek” where Leonard Nimoy intones his famous line, “Live long and prosper….”

 

Of course, there are stones that need no explanations, especially in any city where prime real estate can be difficult to obtain. However, according to Helen Mathers, not all is lost. Her  memorial overlooks a sweeping panorama in Lakeview Cemetery and simply states: “A view at last.”

 

Want to see how the English make a permanent statement? Check out The Secret Garden.

 

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Why Visit a Cemetery?

HG_Whyvisit

In my time spent researching cemeteries, I’ve noticed that there is an either/or reaction once people realize what I do. Either they find it incredibly fascinating or they look at me as if I’ve suddenly sprouted two heads. Why is it that cemeteries can draw in some people, yet repel others? After mulling this for a bit, I’ve concluded a few possible answers.

Cemeteries used to be an integral part of community life. Now, this is no longer the case as people scatter farther away from their original roots than their parents or grandparents could have ever imagined (Millennials notwithstanding). Carriage ways, or even walking paths and benches at particularly peaceful spots, were part of many cemetery designs. The Tikhvin Cemetery, located in St. Petersburg, Russia, is one such example.

Today, except for places such as Arlington National Cemetery, or Pere Lachaise, cemeteries are the outcasts in a culture obsessed with perpetual youth.

Another deterrent would be Hollywood, where the more gruesome a film, the better – especially if a decent return is to be had at the box office. Horror films successfully tap into our collective subconscious fears of death, what lies beyond (or even beneath, for that matter). Just consider The Omen, Halloween, Bram Stoker’s Dracula or even, The Addams Family. For some, there is too direct a tie between horror films and cemeteries.

Although in all fairness, Hollywood shouldn’t be held completely responsible, considering what a well-written book can do to one’s sleep patterns. I still believe that Stephen King pales in comparison to that battered copy of Sleepy Hollow in the downstairs bookcase. And it’s kind of ironic what a curse vivid imagination can be once the lights are turned out. That scratching at the window? If you’re lucky, it’s just a burglar. If not, it may be something rising from the Blair Witch Project.

Primal fears do have that tendency to emerge where unexplained bumps in the night are concerned.

Sometimes though, not even the warm light of day can chase away uneasy feelings, and I do believe there are cemeteries too eerie to visit at any time. The spookiest I’ve ever visited, was the Cementiri del Sud-Ouest in Barcelona, Spain. A wander in the old section caused me to stop researching cemeteries altogether for several months until I could finally shake off my case of the heebie-jeebies. Vandalism, blazing-eyed feral cats, and gloomy statues all combined into a feeling of sullen unwelcome for anyone disturbing the malignant pall.

Girl_WhyVisit

Yet laying aside the primeval for the pragmatic, lack of visitor interest also occurs because a cemetery is abandoned, even though these can be the most fascinating. Perhaps the caretakers moved away. Perhaps the maintenance funds ceased. Or perhaps the community involved, quite literally, died out. Whatever the reason, abandoned cemeteries do tend to attract their own kind of guests ranging from overgrown weeds to wild animals (both the four- and two-legged kind), naturally leading to personal safety concerns.

One of my earlier blog posts on Highgate Cemetery in London, noted a significant problem with clogged overgrowth and tombstone defacings during the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, the BBC ran a piece about a Romanian Jewish cemetery belonging to a diminishing elderly community. Unfortunately, it too, had been vandalized.

These factors may seem to support not meandering through one’s local graveyard – yet there is a resurging interest in doing just that. Dr. Marilyn Yalom’s, The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds, is a recent publication detailing over four hundred cemeteries, memorial parks and graveyards throughout the U.S. Some readers have even recommended using it as a kind of travel guide into the American past.

For me, an historical cemetery’s appeal is the unique opportunity of seeing a snapshot of time, complete with all the trappings of historical and social customs, before it disappears through neglect or destruction.

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Sabine Ludwig: Global wanderer

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Breakfast time in Cuba

Breakfast time in Cuba

Exploring IndoChina, working in Hong Kong, interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi, a OSCE election observer in Azerbaijan, visiting Madagascar, on assignment in Benin, practicing pidgin Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, researching German emigration to Brazil, meeting with Letitia Baldrige in Washington, D.C., — Sabine Ludwig is one of those people who must be asked where she has not yet been in this world, while where she has been, evokes as much magical possibility as the Trans-Siberian Railroad journey that took her across 15 time zones, from Beijing to Moscow.

Ludwig is a freelance journalist, photographer and professional editor, who fell in love with the idea of exploring new cultures and from an early age, saved and planned to make travel possible. For years, she only shared her travel stories with a small group of friends and family. But over time, she noticed a growing trend of questions from these informal gatherings. Who are those refugee children? What is that Indian farmer doing? What’s the story behind the woman carrying a basket of clothing?

The growing level of interest eventually pushed her to discover whether she could present her stories and photos on a bigger stage. Hours of trip planning, thousands of miles and hundreds of pictures later, she is now the author of three books that chronicle her anecdotes to the general armchair-traveling world. Continue reading

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Cemetery Repairs in New Orleans

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Before Hurricane Katrina happened, travel to New Orleans typically included a visit to one of the famous above-ground cemeteries, so integral to the culture of this low-lying city and nicely framed by this Studio Red Dot podcast.

A BBC slide show shows the damage from Katrina also affecting the above-ground cemeteries while concerns for outlying areas, focused on the below-ground cemeteries.

By 2005, no one really knew the full extent of what happened until Save Our Cemeteries, Inc., posted a webpage listing the destruction being cleared in various cemetery locations.  One in particular, Metairie, appeared to have weathered Katrina well enough with the location itself, rather than the actual tombs, experiencing the most damage.

Three years later, the ruins linger, although the voyeuristic demand for “disaster tours” thankfully seems to be dwindling.  What is not yet fully known, is how much more damage Hurricanes Gustav and Ike may have added – particularly in the cemeteries as these were not necessarily a cleanup priority in Katrina’s aftermath.

As of September, 2008, hurricane season is still going strong and it remains to be seen what will be the final outcome on these historical sites.

 

(c) 2008 by G.E. Anderson

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