Category Archives: Words/Verses

Not What It Seems

The Last Curtain Call For
G H Elliott
The Chocolate Coloured Coon
Who Passed Peacefully Away
19 November 1962
Dearly Loved
R.I.P

The description of G. H. Elliott seems offensive and racist. In fact, Elliott was not a man of colour. He was a British music hall singer and dancer in the early 20th century who came on stage with a painted black face but dressed entirely in white. He had a white top hat, a white tail-coat which came down well below the knees, white gloves, white tie or cravat, white trousers, white shoes and a white cane.

Blackface theatrical make-up was used by non-black performers to represent a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes until the decline in the popularity of music hall entertainment and changing attitudes regarding racism.

G. H. Elliott (November 1882 – 19 November 1962) is buried in St. Margaret’s Churchyard, Rottingdean, England. His gravestone depicts a stage with curtains drawn back.

wikipedia

Advertisements

Asylum Interments

There was a time in the latter part of the last century when facilities for those suffering from mental health issues were known as Hospitals for the Insane, State Colonies for the Feeble-Minded, Lunatic Asylums or Mental Institutions, and the regard for the patients was equally insensitive even in death. Many family members did not claim the bodies of their deceased relatives and they were buried in unmarked graves or graves identified with only a number.

Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum opened in 1842. Over population and a decrease in staff sadly led to mistreatment of patients. People died at an alarming rate and it is believed that 25,000 people are buried in the hospital grounds possibly in a mass grave. The Central State Hospital in Milledgeville as it became known closed in 2010. Cedar Lane Cemetery contains numbered iron markers of patients who died at the hospital. The historic marker at the cemetery states the following: In 1997 a cemetery restoration began here triggered a movement to memorialize patients buried at state psychiatric hospitals nationwide. After discovering nearby neglected cemeteries interred some 25,000 people, members of the Georgia Consumer Council pledged to restore the burial grounds and build a memorial. A grassroots campaign raised funds to erect the adjacent gate and display 2000. numbered iron markers displaced from graves over the years. A life-size bronze angel was placed 175 yards south of here to serve as a perpetual guardian.

Letchworth Village in Rockland County, Rockland County New York, opened in 1911 as a residential facility for the mentally and/or physically disabled. It closed in 1996 after years of reported abuse and a lack of funding. Graves are marked with rusting metal T-shapes embossed with a number.

letchworth
Image source: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/numbers-instead-of-names-on-the-forgotten-graves-of-asylum-patients

The Somerset and Bath Lunatic Asylum Cemetery in Wells, Somerset opened in 1874 and closed in 1991. The cemetery contains 2900 anonymous graves identified by numbered iron discs. A wooden sculpture by artist Peter Bolton lies on the ground beside the markers representing the anguish of mental health.

As recent as 2011, there was no road, no sign and no headstones for the 5776 patients buried at the Willard Asylum for the Insane. New York State operated 26 of these facilities.

Vermont Asylum for the Insane was founded  in Brattleboro in 1834 to care for the mentally ill. Initially deceased patients were buried in the Village Burying Ground (to later become Prospect Hill Cemetery), then the Asylum Burying Ground and finally in the Brattleboro Retreat Cemetery known as Fairview. None of the graves have identification.

“The eye of him that hath seen me shall
come no more. Why hast thou set in
me a mark against thee so that I am a
burden to myself? and why dost thee not
pardon my transgression and take away
mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the
dust and thou shalt seek me in the
morning, but I shall not be.” Sarah Culy

vermont

Between 1871 and 1953, there were 3200 patients buried at the Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Oregon. They were represented by numbered stones which sank beneath the surface of the ground.  A granite stone has been erected over a mass grave to mark their lives and deaths.

 

Lakewood
Image source: http://www.mentalhealthportland.org/clear-pixel-once-anonymous-graves-of-mentally-ill-at-wash-mental-institution-get-named-markers/

The Longview Asylum opened in 1860 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The hospital cemetery contains the bodies of patients who were unclaimed or died indigent. Grave markers consist of small square cement blocks bearing a number.

longview
Image source: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2350754

Spencer State Asylum Roane County, West Virginia, opened in 1893 closing almost 100 years later in 1989. Approximately 850 patients are buried on the hospital grounds.

spencer
Image source: http://www.hurherald.com/cgi-bin/db_scripts/articles?Action=user_view&db=hurheral_articles&id=45196

The Mississippi Lunatic Asylum was established in Jackson in 1848 and asylum patients were buried on the grounds. The cemetery which has been consecrated also contains the ashes of many anatomical donors and is the repository for the ashes of infants who died at UMC and whose families wished them to be buried there. A Ceremony of Remembrance honors them in a fall service.

“By their extraordinary gifts these dead have taught the living how to touch, through them, we touch the body of the world”. John Stone M.D.

This monument was dedicated on april 16, 1996 as a memorial to all those who have donated their bodies to the University of Mississippi Medical Center since 1955 for professional education and research.

jackson
Image source: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2161647

Public attitude has since changed 180 degrees with regards to mental health. Markers and/or memorial walls have been erected to recognize those who died and were buried with no ceremony. A new national memorial dedicated to the unnamed graves of the mentally ill broke ground at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 2009.

Cramped Quarters

There are many cemeteries in which limited space has been well appropriated.

In 19th century London an expansion of the railway system required the exhumation and removal of gravestones in St. Pancras Cemetery. Thomas Hardy was assigned the task of reburying them. Hundreds of gravestones were placed in a circular pattern around an ash tree now known as the Hardy Tree.

hardy tree st pancras london

For 300 years during the 15th and 18th centuries there was only one burial ground in Prague, the Czech Republic, in which the Jewish faithful were permitted to bury their dead. The cemetery was small and vacant plots soon disappeared.

As Jewish law prohibits the destruction of graves or the removal of gravestones, soil was layered over existing plots causing the cemetery to rise above street level.

Jewish-Prague-Czech Republic2

The original gravestone was erected beside the new headstone which explains how and why the gravestones are packed so closely together.

Approximately 12,000 headstones sit atop twelve layers of graves beneath.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

How terrible it is to love something that death can touch.

Farewell Kiss

The last kiss memorialized in statuary.

 A mother kisses her child for the last time as an angel looking toward heaven grasps the child’s feet.

Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, Milan Italy
Cimitero Monumentale di Milano, Milan Italy

A child, raising a blanket to cover his mother, leans toward her with a parting kiss. The monument celebrates Francesca Warzee, wife of a Belgian entrepreneur.

Cimitero di Bonaria, Cagliari, Italy
Cimitero di Bonaria, Cagliari, Italy

A young boy with hat in hand kisses the image of his sister.

La Certosa cemetery Bologna
La Certosa cemetery Bologna

A young woman lovingly kisses her sister.

sibling

Kisses between lovers always seemed to be entitled The Last Goodbye or the Eternal Kiss.

Friedhof Ohlsdorf hamburg
Friedhof Ohlsdorf, Hamburg, Germany

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?”
…The first verse of a poem by Emily Bronte, “Remembrance”

pinterest Oliani

These human remains were unearthed in 1972 at the Teppe Hasanlu archaeological site, located in the Solduz Valley in the West Azerbaijan Province of Iran. The site was burned after a military attack. People from both fighting sides were killed in the fire, which apparently spread quite unexpectedly and quickly through the town. The skeletons were found in a plaster grain bin, probably hiding from soldiers, and they almost certainly asphyxiated quickly. The “head wound” is actually from modern-day excavators.

The 6000 year old kiss found in Hasanlu, Iran

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).

DSCN4163

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.

clemens

 

Death of a Child

The death of a child is always tragic, an unfulfilled life reduced to a name and two dates on a stone. Sadder still, is a headstone with no details of the departed.

babies 1877

baby boy found rockport quarry
Camden Graveyard. Camden, Maine, USA

Sleeping and waiting

baby found in river

Here lyes dust of

baby girl delaware river

In May 1977, a garbage bag containing the decomposed body of an infant girl was found in the Walnut Creek arm of the Delaware River. The baby, only a few weeks old, was never identified and was buried in Oskaloosa’s Pleasant View Cemetery, where it remained mostly forgotten and without a stone marker. The grave marker for the unidentified baby girl was donated by Hutton Monuments of Topeka.

negro boy

He died at the Marion County Poor Farm/Asylum in central Kansas, USA. The asylum offered a home for the indigent, those unable to live independently, and unwed pregnant girls who lived there until they gave birth. The children were then put up for adoption.

Oak Woods Cemetery Chicago Chicago Orphan Asylum

A cholera epidemic in 1847 orphaned many children who were then billeted at the Oak Woods Cemetery Orphan Asylum in Chicago. The relentless epidemic eventually led to their deaths.

Loved and lost awhile

unusual  headstone

On 8 January 1872, the horribly mutilated body of a 16 year old girl named Angeline Moore was found. She was bound to servitude with Mrs. Thompson. Although the cause of death was never determined, Mrs. Thompson and her daughter with charged with murder.

How charming all, how much she was ador’d alive; now dead, how much’s her loss deplor’d       

peter the wild boy 1785

A boy living wild in the woods in northern Germany was discovered by a party of hunters in 1725. He had been living in the forest, eating plant life and walking on all fours. He was brought to Great Britain in 1726 where he was lived until his death. He is buried in the graveyard attached to St Mary’s Church, Northchurch, Hertfordshire

The farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye
You were gone before we knew it
And only God knows why.  1979

unknown dead
Livonia Cemetery, Indiana. Source: http://malformalady.tumblr.com/post/34798191232/tombstone-siting-area-of-the-unkown-dead-resulting

Epidemics of cholera in 1832, 1848, and 1873 were the second leading cause of death in the mid 19th century. Rapid population growth and a lack of sanitary water, caused diarrhea and vomiting that lead to dehydration almost immediately and death in less than a day.

unknown skeleton

Here lies best of men whose life is at an end
The best of husbands & ye truest friend
Who rests, I hope, as I do hope to be
Happy with him to all Eternity

Willoughby cemetery

During the Christmas period of 1933, a stranger appeared in the town of Willoughby, Ohio. On December 24th, she threw herself in front of a train at the Second Street railroad crossing and was killed. With no identification on her person, her identity remained unknown until 1993 when she was discovered to be Josephine “Sophie” Klimczak, a native to Pennsylvania. In 2004, a plinth with her name was donated by Kotecki Monuments of Cleveland. The inscription reads: “In Memory of the Girl in Blue killed by train December 24, 1933. Unknown but not forgotten.

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.

396_Leonard_w_stone_color_copy

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.

DSCN1242

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.

military gay

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.

seann

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.”

hildebrand

macdonald sanders