Category Archives: USA

Shells

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.

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.

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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.)

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He Is My Rock

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).

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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.

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Not Little Red Riding Hood

The statue situated at the grave of William Ackerman Black is a replica of a sculpture, entitled Winter, created by Emile Wolff in 1847.

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The statue is a male child with downcast expression draped with a lion skin cloak (the Nemean lion was a vicious monster in Greek mythology that lived at Nemea and was eventually killed by Hercules).

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He is resting on a shepherd’s staff , and in his left hand is a golden apple of the Hesperides which granted immortality when eaten.

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The statue was reportedly a favorite of Black’s which he kept on his fireplace mantle (seems a little large to be placed on a mantle?). He left instructions for it to be placed on his grave after his death.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The term ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was initiated when President Bill Clinton signed a law regarding the service of homosexuals in the military, which directed military personnel to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.’

Leonard P. Matlovich was an Air Force sergeant who served three tours of duty in Vietnam and was gravely wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and two Air Force Commendation medals for gallantry under fire and exemplary service. Yet, despite his service, he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force after confessing his sexuality to his commanding officer. His struggle to receive an honourable discharge, rather than the general discharge advocated by the Air Force, triggered a national movement regarding gay rights especially in the military.

Knowing that he had AIDS at a time when it was a death sentence, he designed his own headstone with the idea that it would stand as a memorial for all gay veterans.

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His design of a black reflective surface replicating the Vietnam War Memorial incorporated two triangles referencing the pink triangle which was a symbol sewn on the clothes of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps. The left triangle pointing downward is a symbol of defeat. It is highlighted with the legend, ‘Never Again.’ The upward pointing triangle on the right is a symbol of victory with the phrase, ‘Never Forget.’ Although the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the headstone, his name (Matlovich) is only inscribed at the foot of the memorial.

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As an activist for Gay Rights, his words are inscribed on his headstone: ‘When I Was In The Military They Gave Me A Medal For Killing Two Men And A Discharge For Loving One.’ Although eligible to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery he chose to be interred in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. “I believe we must be the same activists in our deaths that we were in our lives,” Leonard Matlovich. A gay veteran’s memorial service is held at his grave every Veteran’s Day.

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Members of American Veterans for Equal Rights have purchased adjoining plots with the intention of creating an LGBT veterans memorial.

This marker for Marine Corps veteran and activist Tom Swann is located near Matlovich’s grave. Swann won a lawsuit against the Navy for discrimination against him as a civilian employee after they learned he was gay. He also led the creation of a memorial for LGBT veterans in Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs. Never Give Up Hope Or Give In To Discrimination.

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Michael William Hildebrand’s stone does not state that he is gay. However, the use of the pink triangle and the proximity to Matlovich’s grave suggests such. An inscription reads, “It Was Said Of Him That He Had The Gift To Give Love To Those Who Felt Unloved.”

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Caged Graves

Known as Mortsafes in Britain, already documented in the post Body Snatchers, these parallel iron bars are known as caged graves in the USA. Legends abound for the reasoning behind the ‘cages’ such as wolves digging up the recently buried, or a restraint against the undead and vampires. However, it was most likely a deterrent to body snatchers hired to provide fresh corpses to anatomists in Medical school.

Mt. Zion Graveyard, referred to locally as the Hooded Graves Cemetery, in Franklin Township, Catawissa, Columbia County, PA, contains several caged graves.

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On 18 June 1852, Sarah Ann Boone died at age 22 years. A small marker carved with the initials S.A.B. identifies her grave which is protected by a cast iron cage with ogee roof and two winged eagles on the peaks (eagles symbolize salvation). A headstone reveals several details of the woman known as Sarah.

Sarah Ann
Consort Of
Ransloe Boone
Daughter Of Lloyd Frances Thomas
Entered Into Rest
June 18, 1852
Aged 22 Years 6 Mos 9 Days

Lo! Where This Silent Marble Weeps
A Friend, A Wife, A Mother Sleeps

The image of an open bible represents resurrection through scripture, and the drapery with frills and tassels denotes mourning.

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The Druids

In Forest Park Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois, a monument to the Druids was erected in 1888. The monument stands in the centre of concentric circles created with logs. The circle was the symbol of the Supreme Being.

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Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

Other symbols associated with the order include the all-seeing eye within the triangle (a gateway between this world and the next symbolizing the all-knowing God).

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Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

There is a shrouded figure of a Druid at the top of the monument with long beard and sad face so often associated with Merlin. He carries a sickle with a blade shaped like a crescent moon over his shoulder (a crescent moon is a symbol of immortality). His other hand rests on a harp, which bears the head of a young man.

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Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

The Druids is an ancient fraternal organisation founded in London, England in 1781 that still operates today. The fraternity (AOD Ancient Order of Druids) is not a religious organization. They do not discuss religion or politics in the Groves (equivalent of a Lodge). The mantra is to preserve and practise the principles of justice, benevolence and friendship as in the Seven Precepts of Merlin (the most well-known Druid in history).

  1. Labor diligently to acquire knowledge, for it is power.
  2. When in authority, decide reasonably, for thine authority may cease.
  3. Bear with fortitude the ills of life, remembering that no mortal sorrow is perpetual.
  4. Love virtue-for it bringeth peace.
  5. Abhor vice-for it bringeth evil upon all.
  6. Obey those in authority in all just things, that virtue may be exalted.
  7. Cultivate the social virtues, so shalt thou be beloved by all men.

The Druids revered the oak tree which is the derivation of their name. All their rites and ceremonies were performed only in the presence of an oak tree. Mistletoe, a potent and magical plant which grew on oak trees was believed by the Druids to have been placed there in a lightning strike by the hand of God.

The fraternity spread throughout the world, and the first Grove of Druids was instituted in the City of New York in 1830, and by 1883 Chicago, Illinois, was home to sixteen lodges, called Groves.

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Source: http://foresthomecemeteryoverview.weebly.com/druids.html

Winston Churchill was inducted into the Albion Grove of the Ancient Order in August 1908.

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Source: http://www.redicecreations.com/specialreports/2005/09sep/winstondruid.html

 

Lightning Strike

On 3rd June 1777, several neighbours congregated around a metal fence to see a horse which a preacher in Framingham was interested in purchasing. Peter Parker was riding the horse when a cloud appeared releasing several raindrops. John Cloyes left the metal fence, and as he took the reins a lightning bolt struck the horse and everyone present. John was struck and then crushed when the horse collapsed on top of him.

John Cloyes and Abraham Rice are buried side by side at the Church Hill Cemetery (Old Burying Ground) in Framingham, MA. The gravestone bears the image of a winged skull representing death and mortality. This symbol was popular during the 18th century and reflected the Puritan religious influence.

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In Memory Of Mr.
John Cloyes
Who Being Struck With Lightning
Died June The 3rd Anno Do
1777 In The 43 Year Of
His Age

O may you all both far and near
Who of this dispensation here
Now harken to the call of Heaven
And take the warning God has given
Surprising death to you soon may
Come in some unexpected way
I Pray that all make it their care
For sudden death now to prepare.

 

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In Memory Of Cornt (Cornet is a commissioned officer of the British Calvary)
Abraham Rice
Who Departed This Life
In A Sudden & Awful
Manner & As We Trust Enterd
A Better June The 3rd Anno Do
1777 In The 81st Year Of
His Age

My trembling heart with grief overflows
While I record the death of those
Who died by thunder sent from Heaven
In seventeen hundred and seventy seven
Let’s all prepare for judgments day
As we may be called out of time
And in a sudden and awful way
Whilst in our youth and in our prime