Actual shell fragments left on gravestones in pioneer cemeteries represent the journey through death and rebirth. Shells that are not part of the gravestone were left there to signify that the deceased had not been forgotten.
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In localities near the sea, entire graves were covered with shells because this product was cheap and readily available.
Although not a common symbol the shell most often used is a scallop shell which represents the baptism of Christ. Many baptismal fonts are often built in the form of a scallop shell.
It is also a traditional symbol of the Crusades.
This large scallop shell was designed by the deceased, Ransom Cook, some years before his death.
The art form of a child cradled in a scallop shell was popular in North America during the 19th century. Sears, Roebuck and Company had a contract with a Vermont marble producer to sell the shell headstone by mail order.
The conch shell was revered by many cultures as a symbol of reincarnation and wisdom. In Buddhism, the shell’s call can awaken one from ignorance, in Chinese Buddhism it signifies a prosperous journey; and in Islam the shell represents hearing the divine word. People in the Bakongo area of Africa believe that the shell encloses the soul (Pagans also held this same belief regarding the shell as a source of life.)
This unusual grave marker in the form of a rock symbolizes Christ (“He is my rock…” Psalm 92:15).
The two symbols carved into the rock signify that the deceased was a member of two fraternities.
The Masonic compass and set square are a symbol used to represent the Order of Freemasons who view God as the architect and builder of the universe hence the use of these tools.
The three linked rings which signify the chains that bind the Fraternity are synonymous with the International Order of Oddfellows Fraternity (IOOF).
The rock rests upon a stone base. A slate marker is engraved with two lines which share the same sentiments related in a poem by Robert Richardson.
Sleep Light Dear Heart Sleep Light Good Night Good Night
The poem entitled Annette was published in 1893. The last lines of the poem by Robert Richardson reads
Warm summer sun, shine friendly here Warm western wind, blow kindly here; Green sod above, rest light, rest light, Good-night, Annette! Sweetheart, good-night!
Mark Twain also echoed these sentiments when he paraphrased the poem on the grave of his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens. Warm summer sun, shine kindly here; Warm southern wind, blow softly here; Green sod above, lie light, lie light – Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.
The David Mills Carillon Tower is located within the gates of the Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Queenston Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. It was created by architect Thomas W. Wiley and erected in 1949 in memory of David Bloss Mills and his wife Ella C. Mills.
The 30 foot tall ashlar stone tower contains a set of 86 electronic bells activated by hammers which are controlled by a keyboard. Narrow stained glass windows resembling vertical slits light the internal stairway.
Known as the Davella Mills Carillon it was recorded on the Register of Canada’s Historic Places in 2009.
Mills was a native of St. Catharines who immigrated to the United States and invented the spark plug used by Buick. After his wife died he donated most of his immense wealth to needy organizations in North America and around the world.
I have been unable to discover how often the carillon plays. However, I believe it may be hourly on the hour as the bells played at 11a.m. while I was there and did not play again (I left at 11:50a.m.)
In the centre of this picturesque and popular tourist town in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada, is St. Mark Anglican church founded in 1792. During The War of 1812, the church was used as a hospital by the British and as a barracks by the Americans. The Americans occupied the town in 1813, destroying Fort George and digging rifle pits in the cemetery surrounding St. Mark’s. The rifle pits can still be seen today.
The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard containing some very old stones. Not much character to the cemetery itself but many stones of interest.
This grave never to be disturbed
The blessed communion fellowship divine We feebly struggle They in glory shine Yet all are in thee For all are thine Alleluia. 1866
In the silent tomb we leave them Till the resurrection morn When our Saviour will receive them And restore their lovely form Requiescant in Pace. 1855
Friends nor physicians could not save This mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave confine him here And Christ shall bid them to appear. 1865
A stranger to hypocrisy And ready to reveal his mind A warmer heart, more open hand Or noble spirit, few will find.
The pains of death are passed Labour and sorrow cease And life’s long warfare closed at last His soul is found in peace. 1885
The representation of Jesus, acknowledged by Christians as the Son of God, is commonly seen within cemeteries in the form of free standing statues or symbols on gravestones. The symbol of a crucified Jesus brings focus to our sins and his desire to save us; whereas the images of a resurrected Jesus with outstretched arms beckons and welcomes us to share in eternal life.
The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from sin.
Safe in the arms of Jesus.
An heir of God through Christ.
With Christ which is far better.
Christ our life.
Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring him.
Sweet bitter sleep our Father takes Till in Christ Jesus he awakes Then will his happy soul rejoice To hear his blessed Saviour’s voice. 1882
Friends and physicians could not save My mortal body from the grave Nor can the grave retain it here When Christ my saviour shall appear.
Jesus the very thought of thee.
My hope is in Christ.
Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep From which none ever wake to weep.
Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh. 1888
Following the two World Wars, discussion and agreement by Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (member countries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the burial of the dead created a standardized format encompassing burial sites, layout and size of the gravestones, and the legend on headstones.
Commonwealth countries built burial sites close to combat zones to preserve the link with the battlefield, whereas the United States and France created huge regional cemeteries intended to make a significant impression on people’s minds.
The graves were arranged in straight rows and designed to be perpetual and permanent. The material used in the headstones varied due to the requirement of a weather resistant substance or occurrence of earthquakes.
The standard used ensured that every grave was marked with a headstone, originally 76 centimetres (30”) tall, 38 cm (15”) wide, and 7.6cm (3.0”) thick, with upper case lettering designed by MacDonald Gill.
Each stone contained the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty. In the case of burials of Victoria Cross or George Cross recipients, the regimental badge was supplemented by the Victoria Cross or George Cross emblem.
An appropriate religious symbol was included; most often a cross denoting Christianity, and sometimes a personal dedication chosen by relatives.
Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. J. F. Kennedy
Far away in a distant land, Suddenly struck by death’s strong hand A loving son, strong and brave, Lies buried in a soldier’s grave.
No one knows the silent heartache, Only those can tell Who have lost their loved ones Without saying one farewell. We pictured him safely returning, We longed to clasp his hand, But God has postponed the meeting, Till we meet in a better land.
No one knows the silent heartache,
only those that have lost can tell
Of the grief that’s borne in silence
For the one we loved so well.
And when he gets to Heaven, To Saint Peter he will tell: ‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir. I’ve served my time in Hell.’ Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
Do not ask us if we miss him, There is such a vacant place; Can we e’er forget that footstep, And that dear familiar face.
No loved one stood beside him to bid a last farewell, No word of comfort could he leave to those he loved so well. We little thought his time so short in this world to remain, Nor that from when his home he went he would never return again.
He marched away so bravely, His young head proudly held; His footsteps never faltered, His courage never failed, There on the field of battle, He calmly took his place, He fought for King and Country, And the honour of his race.
…And decades later, the men and women who served are still remembered and accorded the same burial.