Tuesday, June 30, 2009

101 Ways, Part 94: Unhappily Parish'd in the Flames

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.
On the 12th Day of May
1768, the House of Mr.
William Arms was Con-
sumed by Fire And his
Wife Mrs. Rebecca Arms
unhappily parish'd in the
Flames in the 70th Year
of her Age.
She was one who Feared God
& Lov'd the Redeemer, was a sin-
gular Example of Piety, who by
a devout walk was a Bright Or-
nament to the Christian Religion,
And her Death Great Gain.
Rebecca Arms, 1768
Old Deerfield Cemetery
Deerfield, MA

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mary Harvey and Her Child

In Memory of
Mary, the Wife of
Simeon Harvey
Who Departed this
Decemb,r 10th
1785 in 39th year of
Her age. on her left
Arm Lieth the Infant
Wich was still
Mary Harvey was already the mother of nine children in 1785. She died in childbirth with her tenth.

Her gravestone was carved by Solomon Ashley.
Mary Harvey
Deerfield, MA

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Name o' the Day

From Old Deerfield Cemetery in Deerfield, MA:

Fanny Forward.

That would be a great name for a gregarious, flirtatious (and doomed) young lady in a 19th-century cautionary tale.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Died in the Army of ye United States"

I spend a substantial amount of time reading about the American Revolution, but until I visited the Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton, I had never heard of Major Brigadier General Seth Pomeroy. The more I learn about him, the more surprised I am that he is not one of those remembered among the second tier of founding fathers.

Pomeroy's story has all the makings of a good folk hero tale — he was a frontier gunsmith who took part in the Louisbourg expedition, fought at Lake George during the Seven Years' War, and, at age 69, rode 100 miles in a night to help defend Bunker Hill. He kept journals — there's even a poem about him. Seth Pomeroy would be a good character for historical fiction — he was everywhere and he seems to have been a bit eccentric.

The sources indicate that Pomeroy is not actually buried in Northampton. He fell ill and died in Peekskill and was buried in an unmarked grave. I haven't been able to find any mention of his body being relocated, so I suppose the monument in Northampton is a cenotaph.
The stone, carved by Nathaniel Phelps, would be interesting even if the deceased were unknown. What caught my eye was the use of the term "united States." I wonder when the stone was actually carved — if it was erected before 1780 or so, it may be one of the first times those words were carved on a public monument.

The imagery is interesting, too. The "CSP" stands for "Colonel Seth Pomeroy," but I have no idea what the "BG" on the little flags might mean. Guesses?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Something to Brag About?

I happened across this fine monument while looking for the old cemetery in Hadley, MA. It stands in the front yard of a cute little house on a lovely little street.
I suppose if someone famous had been born in my house, I wouldn't mind a sign commemorating the event. But a 2-ton quartz boulder for Joseph Hooker? I didn't think anyone liked him that much.

Someone spent good money on this.

Hadley, MA
near corner of West St. and Cemetery Rd.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

101 Ways, Part 93: "Cut Down in the Bloom of Life"

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

I apologize for these photos — I took a trip out to western Massachusetts and visited Holyoke, Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield, and Deerfield and Northampton was the only cemetery where I missed the light. The Farber Collection has a better photo.
Here lies the Body of
MISS Electa Hunt Dautr of
Her amiable acomplishments
e(n)deared her to all her acquaintance
After a short illness she was
cut down in the bloom of life
Janry 24th, 1776
Electa Hunt, Northampton, MA, 1776
Bridge Street Cemetery
near the Bates mausoleum

Note: I'm trying to do a better job of recording the location of gravestones — cemetery and approximate location rather than just town and state.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

101 Ways, Part 92: "Was Casually Shot"

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

I know that I already used "shot" as a verb back in part 54, but the circumstances described in that epitaph are so different from those described here that I feel justified in including both.
In Memory of
AEt. 19, who on
21st, March 1794.
being out a hunt-
ing and conceal'd 
in a ditch was
casually shot by

It seems a bit cruel to name the neighbor who accidentally shot Nathaniel Parks — it's not as if Frink murdered Parks in cold blood. Murder victims' gravestones often name the murderer as a public memorial/shaming, but I'm willing to bet that Frink felt bad enough without the constant, public reminder of his mistake.

Frink lived another 50 years and is buried in the same graveyard as Parks.

Nathaniel Parks, Holyoke, MA, 1794
Elmwood Cemetery, Rte. 5
(next to Springfield Calvary Cemetery)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

101 Ways, Part 91: "Quitted the Stage"

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

This is a fairly famous stone — that is, it appears in more than one book on New England history/literature, where people of extreme nerdliness may have come across it. It is a replica of the original stone dedicated to Caesar, a slave belonging to the Maxcey family of North Attleboro, MA. I don't know whether it stands in exactly the same place as the original — if it does, it is somewhat unusual in that it is not relegated to a far corner of the graveyard.
In memory of
Here lies the best of slaves
Now turning into dust;
Caesar the Ehiopian craves
A place among the just.
His faithful soul has fled
To realms of heavenly light,
And by the blood that Jesus shed
Is changed from Black to White
Jany. 15 he quitted the stage
in the 77th year of his age.

For an excellent discussion of imagery of racial transformation through salvation in 18th/19th-c. New England epitaphs, see John Wood Sweet's Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830.

If you wish to visit Caesar's grave, it is in a little graveyard on Rte. 1 in North Attleboro, MA, just a few miles north of the junction with 295.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Victory for the Small Carnivore

If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that my cat is mostly useless. She's surly, doesn't like to be touched, and makes more work for me by barfing regularly (though, admittedly, usually on tile or hardwood, rarely on carpet). She contributes nothing, unless you count offering us many opportunities to mock her.

That is, until today. For the past two nights, there has been a mouse in our house, keeping us awake at night with its panicked squeaking. Yesterday, we discussed our various options: humane traps, snap traps, glue traps, poison, etc. But when we woke up this morning, we found that our small carnivore had finally done something useful:
Bonus: no blood, no mess, I don't have to buy any traps, cleanup is trivial.

Thank you, little friend. Perhaps you're not useless after all.

Throat Distemper @ Cambridge, 1740

In June of 1740, a deadly epidemic of "throat distemper" gripped the town of Cambridge, MA. A few adults and many young children succumbed to the disease, most between June 22 and June 25.

On June 23, Harvard dismissed its students early, sending them home in hopes that they would not fall ill. This precaution seemed prudent, especially since President Holyoke's and Steward Bordman's families were among those hardest hit.

Many of the victims of this epidemic are buried in the Harvard Square burying ground.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Samuel Allen, Father


On August 25, 1746, Samuel Allen took his children, Samuel (8), Caleb (9), and Eunice (13) into a field to help with the haying. They were accompanied by Oliver (18) and Simeon Amsden (9), Eleazer Hawks (29, Samuel Allen's brother-in-law) and two soldiers named Adonijah Gillett and John Saddler.

Most haying parties in Massachusetts did not need armed guards, but this group knew that they lived a precarious existence. Deerfield, at the far reaches of English settlement, had been attacked by Native Americans and the French many times over the past five decades. With the advent of King George's War in 1744, the colonists in Deerfield went on heightened alert. Though their presence in Deerfield was an aggressive act of encroachment on Indian land, the colonists there considered their military efforts defensive.

As the Allen family and their companions approached the hay field, they were unaware that they were observed. Five days earlier, an allied army of French and Indians had overwhelmed the tiny garrison at Fort Massachusetts, 30 miles from Deerfield. News of the attack had not reached Deerfield, but a group of about 60 Native Americans had. A 19th-century history of Deerfield speculates that this group wanted more captives than they had taken at Fort Massachusetts. Noticing that the hay was ripe, the detachment deployed in the woods around the hayfield and waited for the inevitable haying party.

When the Allen family reached the hayfield, Samuel and his children began cutting hay while Eleazer Hawkes went in search of partridge. Accounts differ slightly as to what happened next — Hawkes either stumbled upon a sentry or fired at a bird. Either way, he became separated from the group. Within minutes, the raiding party opened fire, killing Hawkes.

Startled by the gunfire, Allen, Gillett, and Saddler seized their weapons and urged the children to flee. They had little hope of turning back the raiders, but hoped to stall them long enough to allow the children to reach shelter.

They were not successful. The Indians easily overpowered Allen and Gillett, killing them both within minutes. Saddler turned and ran, plunging into the river. He survived.

Meanwhile, the raiding party split into small groups in order to pursue the children. If their primary objective was the taking of captives, they went about it in a strange way. Perhaps it might have made sense to kill Oliver Amsden, who, at 18, may have resisted. But why kill 9-year-old Simeon? Wouldn't he have made an ideal captive? Why attempt to kill 13-year-old Eunice with a hatchet blow to the head? Of the four children present, the raiders captured only 8-year-old Samuel.

I remain unconvinced that taking captives was priority #1.

Caleb Allen, age 8, hid in a cornfield and escaped without injury. Eunice recovered from her grievous wound and lived to be 80 years old.

In later years, this raid became known as the Bars Fight. Deerfield residents remember it as the last major incursion by Indian forces. I don't know how Native Americans remember it. The rest of us know it as the subject of the oldest surviving literary work by an African-American author.

Lucy Terry Prince, a slave living in Deerfield, wrote "The Bars Fight" soon after the event. The poem circulated in manuscript form and oral culture until it was published in 1855:

August, 'twas the twenty-fifth,
Seventeen houndred forty-six,
The Indians did in ambush lay,
Some very valiant men to slay.
'Twas nigh unto Sam Dickinson's mill,
The Indians there five men did kill.
The names of whom I'll not leave out,
Samuel Allen like a hero foute,
And though he was so brave and bold,
His face no more shall we behold.
Eleazer Hawks was killed outright,
Before he had time to fight,
Before he did the Indians see,
Was shot and killed immediately.
Oliver Amsden he was slain,
Which caused his friends much grief pain.
Simeon Amsden they found dead
Not many rods from Oliver's head.
Adonijah Gillett, we do hear,
Did lose his life which was so dear,
John Sadler fled across the water,
And thus escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing
And hoped to save herself by running;
And had not her petticoats stopt her,
The awful creatures had not cotched her,
Nor tommyhawked her on the head,
And left her on the ground for dead.
Young Samuel Allen, Oh! lack-a-day!
Was taken and carried to Canada. 

Samuel Allen is buried in Old Deerfield Cemetery under a headstone carved by John Locke. His epitaph reads,
In Memory of
Mr. Samuel Allen who
Fell by the Indian Savages
August ye 25th 1746
Valliantly Defending his
Own Life & Childrens in
ye 45th Year of his Age.
Listen to me ye Mortal men Beware,
That you engage no more in direfull
War By means of War my Soul from
Earth is fled. My Body Logd in 
Mansions of the Dead.

Samuel Allen was a brave man and I admire the sacrifice he made for his children. At the same time, I can't help but think that he was not a blameless victim. Haying a field might seem like a blameless act — most accounts of the Bars Fight certainly play up the pastoral aspects of the scene — but the larger context is murkier. I've been reading Patricia Limerick's The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West, and her chapter on settlers' disingenuous claims of victimhood has stayed with me. They moved to a desert and complained that there was no water. They planted non-native wheat on the plains and complained about the locusts. They seized land that was already in use and complained when the inhabitants defended their own claims. At all times, the Anglo-American colonists considered themselves blameless victims.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Name That Bird

Ok, gravestone fans. Is anyone good with birds?

I saw this one on June 17 (around 3p.m.) in Hatfield, MA. It was a fat bird, bigger than a dove, smaller than a duck, with long toes, a red triangle on the back of its head, and a mottled brown/buff back. As it flew away from me, I noticed that its underside was fat, round, and pure white. It wasn't a great flyer — it bumbled off this gravestone and onto the ground, then took off again, barely clearing a 5-foot hedge. When it took off, its wings made an audible thwap-thwap sound, like a goose or a pheasant.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture of it. You can't see the beak in this photo, which makes it tough to identify. I'm kicking myself because I startled it.

I've looked at 12 websites and 3 books on birds of New England, but I've had no luck.


101 Ways, Part 90: "Rested from His Labors"

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

There have been a few other entries that start with "rested" — "rested from ye pains and sorrows of this life" (#48) and "rested from the hurry of life" (#74) — but this one is different enough to count. It's worth noting that the Park workshop carver used the Americanized spelling of "labors." Photo via the Farber Collection. Color photo available at A Very Grave Matter.
Nathan Holt, Peabody, MA, 1792
In memory of the
pastor of the 2d. church in
Danvers, who rested from his
labors Augt. 2d. 1792
in the 68th year of his age &
34th of his ministry.
Piety, benevolence, integrity, & pru-
dence were prominent features in
his character as a man, & a minister.
He lived beloved, & died lamented.
Mark the perfect man and behold the
upright for the end of that man is peace.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The kindred spirits on the Cornwall County Council have compiled a list of wonderful names from the county records (16th-21st centuries). These are truly amazing.

Some favorites:
  • Philadelphia Bunnyface (will 1722)
  • Fanny Cobbledick (baptized 1832)
  • Admonition Danger (married 1/5/1732)
  • Mahershalalhashbaz Richards (married 10/20/1799)
  • Clobery Silly Woolcock (married 12/12/1848)
  • Shadrach Meshach Abednego Clark (married 11/17/1836)

Thanks to A Consuming Experience for pointing me toward this treasure.

101 Ways, Part 89: "Laid His Hoary Head to Rest Beneath This Mournful Turf"

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

I've been to Newburyport many times, but I have never seen this stone. The folks over at A Very Grave Matter don't have a picture of it either, which leads me to believe that it may no longer exist. If that's true, it's too bad — it looks like a beauty.

This picture is from the Farber Collection. Its low quality suggests that the photgraph was not taken specifically for the Farber Collection — it may be an older picture that was included because the stone was damaged or destroyed.
There are actually several ways to say "died" in this lengthy epitaph — take your pick.

Sacred to the Memory
a worthy ruling Elder of the
presbyterian Church, in this Town:
who finished a well tried Life,
of godliness and honesty,
sweetly took
his flight to his Redeemer's arms
gently laid his hoary Head to rest
beneath this mournful Turf
on the 27th of April in the Year
of our Lord 1785 AEtat .77.
this monumental Stone
was erected
by his weeping Widow and Children
[partially legible verse]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

 Oh, wait. It's not.

101 Ways, Part 88: Left Her Weeping Friends

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.
In Memory of
who was possessed of many
amiable qualities, the joy of
her parents, the delight of
her connexions and
beloved of all : if youth,
if virtue deserve a Tear,
reader, drop it here
when the engraving of this Stone
inform you when she left
her weeping friends in the
23d year of her age June 22d 1785.
Ruthe Lyman, York, ME, 1785

The Farber Collection has a slightly better picture.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Upon ye Death of Thomas Kendel

Here's a strange one. Once in a while, I'll come across a gravestone with an unconventional epitaph. This 17th-century stone in Wakefield bears no specific date and is arranged in the style of an elegy rather than an epitaph.




I have no clue what "layd on of ye 7 of this church foundation" might mean, but that's what the lettering looks like to me. Any guesses?

I can't date this stone precisely, but it has a lot in common with the Richard Kettel stone, which is dated 1680.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Granary Burying Ground Tour

Thanks to Boston 1775 for pointing me toward this tour of the Granary Burying Ground on Thursday, 6/18. Perhaps I'll blow off my research project and go if the weather isn't too bad.

More Room At the Top, Please

This seems to be more than a run-of-the-mill spacing issue. Why on earth did the carver leave all that unused marble above the inscription? Did an embellishment erode? The tops are even — why aren't the names? I'm perplexed.
Charles Field and Elizabeth Ann Hayward
Plymouth, MA
mid-19th c.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strange Monuments of New England

As I approach the home stretch in my 101 Ways to Say Died project, I'm on the lookout for another long-term blog series.

As I've traveled around, I've come across some fairly strange monuments that aren't gravestones, and have found them intriguing. Therefore, I am considering a new project on Strange Monuments of New England. I can't promise 101 parts, but we'll see how it goes.

I don't want to turn this into a Weird New England knockoff — I'm not looking for vampires, ghosts, and other forced zaniness. Rather, I'm interested in monuments and historical markers that tell me something about how New Englanders have constructed a New England identity through memorialization of historical events. I guess I'm not really looking for "strange" so much as "head-scratcher."

First up: Pilgrim Monument
Location: Provincetown, MA
Erected: 1907
Strangeness: When I think of Pilgrims, I definitely think of gargoyles.
According to the Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum website, the tower is modeled after the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy. Whoever wrote the website seems to think that this requires no further comment, but I think it's bizarre. English separatists were not great lovers of anything Italian. The selection committee may have had a soft spot for Victorian Gothic Revival, but it has nothing to do with the Pilgrims. This is an excellent example of thoughtless architecture.

While I contemplated this strange monument, Pete managed to catch a great photo of my "skeptical face."

Sunday, June 14, 2009

101 Ways, Part 87: Was Released

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.
No, this gravestone is not riddled with bullet holes. It is merely a survivor of the well-intentioned efforts of a preservationist who never heard of the principle of reversibility. It's in rough shape, but I'm grateful to whoever preserved it long enough for me to add the epitaph to my list.

Sacred to the memory of
Mrs. Mary Jackson,
Relict of the late
Hall Jackson Esqr. M.D.
who with a comfortable hope of
entering into rest was released
from a long series of uncommon pain
and infirmity, which she bore with
singular patience and fortitude,
March 30thm 1805.
AEtat 62.
Mary Jackson, Portsmouth, NH, 1805

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wheeler!

My youngest brother is 17 today! I have no memory of Ben's birth and only the vaguest recollections of Graham's, but I was 8 when Wheeler was born and remember it well. Wheeler is the only one of us who was born in the spring or summer — we were all in the pool at our cousins' house when our oldest cousin, Seth, bounded out onto the porch, shouting, "It's a boy!" When we heard that our parents were naming the baby "Wheeler," we wrinkled our noses at each other. I don't remember being disappointed at having another brother, just confused by the name. Our uncle helped us frost a birthday cake for the baby, which we creatively decorated with a giant, spoked wheel made of chocolate chips.

Wheeler has always been the free spirit of the family, embracing a sartorial aesthetic that few others could pull off.

He is also a food pioneer, embracing culinary innovations such as Cheese Soda and Toe Jam on Wheat Thins.

He also takes it upon himself to enliven our family photos with his expressiveness:

So, happy birthday, Wheeler. Keep on being interesting.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Name o' the Day

Samuel Royal Pain.
Bwah hah hah.

Olive Pain, Bristol, RI, 1786
photo from the Farber Collection