Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bell Rock Field Trip


Yesterday, I led an excursion to Bell Rock Cemetery in Malden, MA. Several of my friends had expressed interest in visiting a graveyard with me and I figured that Bell Rock, with its high concentration of pre-1750 stones and its accessibility, would be a good choice. Unlike some of the other big 17th-century cemeteries (Granary, Copp's Hill, Phipp's Street), which are very closely groomed and well documented, Bell Rock feels a bit mysterious — a flea market rather than an auction.

I devised a scavenger hunt that would get everyone looking closely at the iconography and epitaphs. They tried to find,

•    a gravestone dated before 1680
•    a gravestone dedicated to three or more people
•    a gravestone with no iconography (letters only)
•    death imps carrying a coffin
•    a Masonic square and compass
•    a carving of a weeping willow bent over an urn
•    a winged hourglass
•    a mustache
•    a pair of breasts
•    a cross*
•    an epitaph entirely in Latin
•    an epitaph that uses the letter v rather than the letter u
•    an epitaph with an Old Style/New Style date (ex: 1691/2 or 1742/3)
•    an epitaph that gives the deceased’s age in years, months, and days
•    an epitaph that refers to a woman as the “relict” of a man
•    an epitaph that identifies the deceased’s profession (other than minister!)
•    the grave of Rev. Eliakim Willis (aka “Fish Lips”)
•    the grave of Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, poet
•    the grave of Lt. Phineas Upham, who died in King Philip’s War


One of the best things about visiting a graveyard with a group of enthusiastic friends is that fresh eyes see new things. More on that later . . .

*We managed to find two crosses (out of about 400 stones), both on 19th-century stones. No cross-shaped stones, though.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Wow, wish I were closer! That sounds like a fun trip!