Today being All Souls' Day, I can't help but think about the "departed," whether faithful or not, which led me to consider burials, graveyards, and such (perhaps as a macabre bit of lingering Hallowe'en celebration as well).
It seems that many people have a fascination with cemeteries. Mine began indirectly, through a high school English teacher. Our mutual dislike of Dickens ("One damned thing after another" was her critique) encouraged her to suggest alternate reading material; she thought I might enjoy Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One. At the time, going off the curriculum was practically transgressive; the old dear merely wanted to foster my love of reading. One can only imagine what she would make of today's shenanigans between teachers and students, but I digress.... She was right about Waugh (thanks, Mrs. Pyle!), and he has since become one of my favorite authors. I thought The Loved One was wonderful (the movie version far less so, a twenty-five year old Paul Williams appearing as a child rocket scientist--literally--being but one example), and I was even more delighted when I discovered the novel was based on a real place, Forest Lawn, located not far from where I lived at the time. A pilgrimage ensued, of course, but not before I picked up a 1931 edition of ART GUIDE and Forest Lawn Interpretations, with introduction by Bruce Barton, A Guide Book and Encyclopedia, illustrated. Bruce Fairchild Barton (August 5, 1886 – July 5, 1967), coincidentally, is a distant cousin of mine through the Davenport line; he is probably best remembered today as the author of The Man Nobody Knows (1925), which, according to Wikipedia, "depicted Jesus Christ as a successful salesman, publicist and role model for the modern businessman," a sort of Saint Babbitt, apparently. Anyway.
|From one of my photo albums (remember those?). I am perusing the ART GUIDE (etc...),|
no doubt reading about the beautiful statuary or memorial architecture.
Another favorite author of mine, as followers of this blog will know, is Gertrude Stein. On vacation in Paris, visiting her haunts was an unquestionable part of the itinerary, including a stop at Père Lachaise Cemetery. It was extraordinary, and one of the highlights of the trip. Despite spending several hours there, I never did locate Gertrude's monument, nor that of Oscar Wilde, hélas.
|From left: A beautiful day to go graving; a blondined me exploring; M. Barye reminded me of Disney's Haunted Mansion.|
In marked contrast to the excesses of the French, many of my family, in recent generations, have been cremated, their ashes scattered at sea. They do not even have a marker or cenotaph, although my paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents do.
|Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington.|
|Chapel of the Chimes, Hayward, California.|
Of course, fashions in burial change like everything else, although certainly not as quickly. Going further back by a generation or two, I start to see tasteful, "generic" headstones, often with plaques inset nearby. Here are examples from my paternal 2x great-grandfather:
|Hewitt Cemetery, Hewitt, Minnesota.|
|Summit Cemetery, Foxboro, Wisconsin.|
The 1800s seems to be the era of obelisks and similar monuments. Here are examples from third and fourth great-grandfathers (respectively) Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) and John Wallace Cherry (27 May 1788 - 10 Feb 1857).
|Greenwood Union Cemetery, Le Center, Minnesota.|
|Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware, Ohio.|
Reaching further back yet, we start getting the really fun ones. Although not on the baroque (a word I settled on after considering both "gaudy" and "camp") scale of Père Lachaise, they have a lovely and sometimes sinister (all those skulls!) New England charm. Here's a random sampling, not duplicating those I've posted elsewhere.
|Ann ? (abt 1760 - 29 May 1826), first wife of Nathaniel Eaton (22 Jan 1722 - 22 Sep 1860); 5x gg.|
Eaton Family Cemetery, Summerhill, New York.
|Isaac Cornwell (30 Jun 1747 - 11 Sep 1812), 6x gg.|
Old Westfield Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut.
|Capt Simon Davis (19 Jan 1683 - 10 Apr 1755); 8xgg.|
Ancient Cemetery, Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.
|Joseph Hamlin (20 Nov 1680 - 27 Aug 1766), 8x gg.|
West Barnstable Cemetery, West Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Of course, this post is meant to be neither an authoritative nor general history of funerary practice (nor even an Art Guide...), but it did give me a chance to reminisce and look back at a few--if not All--of the Souls in my family tree.
|Rebecca Robinson (8 May 1748 - 8 Oct 1807), 6x gg, and others.|
Westlawn Cemetery, Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Many thanks to the contributors at Find-A-Grave, who provided many of these pictures!