Sunday, August 24, 2008

101 Ways, Part 7: Killed by the Fall of a Tree

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here

Captain Thomas Stetson of Harvard, MA was "killed by the fall of a tree" in 1820. His epitaph comments on the irony of a seaman dying in a farming accident:
Erected
In Memory of
CAPT. THOMAS STETSON
who was killed by the fall
of a tree Nov. 28, 1820, AEt. 68.
Nearly 30 years he was master
of a vessel and left that
employment at the age
of 48 for the less hazardous
one of cultivating his farm.
Reader, remember that man is never
secure from the arrest of Death.
"Watch ye therefore for the
son of man cometh in an
hour when ye look not
for him."
I'm not sure that this is an appropriate use of Luke 12:40 — Luke is saying that you have to be prepared to serve Christ at all times and the epitaph seems to be saying that Death can sneak up on you when you think you are safe. I suppose both scenarios have to do with preparation, but they seem slightly, but crucially, different.

4 comments:

RJO said...

I've seen this verse on a number of stones (including one in Fitchburg for which I have a good photograph), and a scan I made of a few published transcriptions turned up eight examples. The ones I have seen are usually in the wording of Matthew 24.44: "Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."

I've been curious to know whether there are historical trends in the verses used on New England stones. I'm sure there are, but no one has ever tried to aggregate the data for analysis.

Josh Broyles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Broyles said...

More ironic than Capt. Thomas Stetson, a seaman, being killed by the fall of a tree in a farming accident, is my own ancestor Capt. Solomon WOODS killed in the same way, many years earlier. http://rjohara.net/gen/cards/ps01/ps01_065.htm When did MA irony researchers get so lazy? Nonetheless, good selection of headstones. I seem to be related to most of these people, which is statistically inevitable in any case. I don't know why they never used "Assumed Ambient Temperature".

Josh Broyles said...

More ironic than Capt. Thomas Stetson, a seaman, being killed by the fall of a tree in a farming accident, is my own ancestor Capt. Solomon WOODS killed in the same way, many years earlier. When did MA irony researchers get so lazy? http://rjohara.net/gen/cards/ps01/ps01_065.htm Nonetheless, good selection of headstones. I seem to be related to most of these people, which is statistically inevitable in any case. I don't know why they never used "Assumed Ambient Temperature".