Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday’s child: Oscar Ray Titus

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Oscar Ray Titus (d. 1896).

The simple marble marker at Oscar’s grave is topped with empty shoes, which present a strong image: A child is gone.

NOV. 8, 1896
NOV. 29, 1896

Walnut Grove Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Epitaph: Her happy release

On the afternoon that I visited West Rushville Cemetery to photograph the gravestone of Jesse Rowles (aka the stone with the carver’s advertisement), I also photographed the nearby gravestone of Sarah Louisa Rowles (d. 1842).

Sarah is the right age to be a daughter or niece of Jesse, though I have no evidence that reveals their relationship. It is interesting to note that her gravestone includes neither “wife of” nor “daughter of.”

The Sarah Rowles stone is not signed, but it is consistent in style and material with other stones by local stone cutter John Strickler.

In memory
depart this life
November 9, 1842:
aged 33 years, 6
months, & 2

The epitaph is taken from the hymn “Death of a Sister,” which can be found in an 1806 collection of hymns assembled by Englishman John Dobell (b. 1757, d. 1840). That collection attributes the hymn to “Anon,” and I have found no other source that names the author.

Compare the epitaph on the stone to this version from the Dobell collection:

’Tis finish’d! the conflict is past,
The heaven-born spirit is fled;
Her wish is accomplish’d at last,
And now she’s entomb’d with the dead.

The months of affliction are o’er,
The days and the nights of distress;
We see her in anguish no more—
She’s gain’d her happy release.

No sickness, or sorrow, or pain,
Shall ever disquiet her now;
For death to her spirit was gain,
Since Christ was her life when below.

Her soul has now taken its flight
To mansions of glory above,
To mingle with angels of light.
And dwell in the kingdom of love.

The victory now is obtain’d;
She’s gone her dear Saviour to see;
Her wishes she fully has gain’d—
She’s now where she longed to be.

The coffin, the shroud, and the grave,
To her were no objects of dread;
On him who is mighty to save,
Her soul was with confidence stay’d.

Then let us forbear to complain,
That she is now gone from our sight;
We soon shall behold her again,
With new and redoubled delight.

West Rushville Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Monday, November 28, 2011

The graveyard by the schoolhouse

Only two stones, one headstone and one footstone, stand on their own in Hamilton Cemetery.

This tiny, inactive graveyard in rural Union County, Ohio is easy to miss—unless you are aware that it is next door to an old, brick one-room schoolhouse: Lenox School.

The single standing headstone marks the grave of Livonia Shaw (d. 1843). Her gravestone is mostly unadorned. In fact, except for a small pinwheel design, there is a large blank area where one would expect a willow or other such decorative art.

In memory of
LIVONIA wife of
who died Aug 9,
1843. Aged 3[0?]
years, & 3 mo.

Hamilton Cemetery (aka Lenox School Cemetery), Union County, Ohio

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

I see thee still

There can be no doubt that the open book carved on the gravestone for Marilla G. Jameson (d. 1851) is a Bible. On it is carved a version of Revelation 14:13.

Blessed are the dead
which die in the Lord from
henceforth: Yea, saith the
Spirit, that they may rest
from their labours and thei
r works do follow them.

Subtly dimensioned sunbursts frame the stone’s primary inscription. Visually the oval provides a nice contrast to the straight lines of the rectangular stone, the rectangular Bible.

of R. R. Jameson;
Died March 20’
1851; Aged 27
y’s, 3 mo. &
8 ds.

The epitaph is small, tucked away at the bottom, easy to overlook. But be sure to stop and read this one. It is taken from the moving poem “I See Thee Still” by American poet Charles Sprague (b. 1791, d. 1875).

I see thee still;
Remembrance, faithful to her trust,
Calls thee in beauty from the dust;
Thou comest in the morning light;
Thou’rt with me through the gloomy night;
In dreams I meet thee as of old;
Then thy soft arms my neck enfold,
And thy sweet voice is in my ear; —
In every scene to memory dear
I see thee still.

I see thee still
In every hallowed token round;
This little ring thy finger bound,
This lock of hair thy forehead shaded,
This silken chain by thee was braided;
These flowers, all withered now, like thee,
Sweet sister, thou didst cull for me;
This book was thine; here thou didst read;
This picture, ah! yes, here, indeed,
I see thee still.

I see thee still;
Here was thy summer noon’s retreat;
Here was thy favorite fireside seat;
This was thy chamber, — here, each day,
I sat and watched thy sad decay;
Here, on this bed, thou last didst lie;
Here, on this pillow, thou didst die.
Dark hour! once more its woes unfold;
As then I saw thee, pale and cold,
I see thee still.

I see thee still;
Thou art not in the grave confined, —
Death cannot chain the immortal mind;
Let earth close o’er its sacred trust,
But goodness dies not in the dust;

There, O my sister, ’tis not thee
Beneath the coffin’s lid I see;
Thou to a fairer land art gone;
There, let me hope, my journey done,
To see thee still.

Africa Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A soldier who died “in Hospital”

When Ohioan James J. Vansant joined the Union Army in 1864, he was eighteen years old. He died “of disease” just months later in Alexandria, Virginia.

This soldier’s gravestone is decorated with an eagle, head bowed, a banner in his beak, perched on a flag-draped shield. Stars encircle the carving.

Son of
John S. & Lucinda
Corporal of Co. G. 180 Reg. O.V.I.
in Hospital at Alexandria, Va.
May 1, 1865
18 Ys. 5 Mo. 3 Ds.


What about the discrepancy between the Ancestry military record date of death and the gravestone date of death? Mar v. May could be transcription error.

Claibourne Cemetery, Union County, Ohio

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A feast of gravestones: Burial Hill, Plymouth

Take a break after the Thanksgiving dinner dishes are done and visit Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts—if only virtually.

Here are two gems in the public domain, available through Google Books:

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow gravestoners!

From Handbook of Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Wednesday’s child: Margaret Smith

The angel in the child-sized carving watches over the grave of Margaret Smith (d. 1847), young daughter of M. and M. Smith. The angel holds a book in one hand, a trumpet in the other.

daughter of
M. & M. Smith
died Feb. 15, 1847
aged [6?] yrs. 6 mo.
& 18 ds.

An online list of burial records maintained by the Delaware County Genealogical Society lists Margaret’s father as Mathias Smith, and her year of birth as 1842. On, Margaret’s parents are identified as Mathias and Mary Smith, and her date of birth is listed as July 18, 1842.

Just for fun, look how the lichen has made a halo on the angel’s head!

Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Monday, November 21, 2011

Epitaph: Why mourn for the dead?

The sandstone marker at the grave of Nathaniel W. Barrows (d. 1844) features a large carving of a willow, but not in the usual spot at the top of the stone. Instead, both the name and the willow are carved under the date of death.

April 13, 1844,


Æt 22 yr’s. 2 mo’s. 5 d’s

Why mourn for the dead, whom the Father has taken,
Serenely they sleep in their turf covered beds,
But ah ! not forsaken for angels shall waken,
And guide them to glory, why mourn for the dead,

Though here was all sorrow anguish and weeping,
Yet rich was the seed that the husbandman shed,
And one who is keeping the field for the reaping,
Shall hallow the harvest; why mourn for the dead.

The epitaph is from the poem “Why mourn for the dead” by John S. Clark. According to Lays of the heart, a collection of Clark’s poems published in London in 1836, Clark wrote the poem “on the decease of a most amiable and deeply lamented relative, Mrs. Charles M. B—.”

Here is the complete poem, as published in 1836:

Why mourn for the dead whom the Father hath taken?
Serenely they sleep in their turf-covered bed;
But oh! not forsaken, for angels shall waken
And guide them to glove;—why mourn for the dead?

Though here all was anguish, and labour, and weeping,
Yet precious the seed that the husbandman spread!
And One who is keeping the field till the reaping
Shall hallow the harvest;—why mourn for the dead?

Oh! theirs is the “raiment of whiteness;” and never
By them shall the tears of affliction be shed;
For blessed for ever, they drink of the “river”
Of life and salvation;—why mourn for the dead?

Why mourn ye for those who are wand’ring together
In realms where the joys of the just cannot fade;
Those mansions of ether where hearts never wither,
And friends never sunder;—why mourn for the dead?

Africa Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Sunday, November 20, 2011

“Gone but not lost”

The hand carving on the gravestone for Mary Ann Ferson (d. 1848) shows an unusually long, slender finger pointing toward Heaven.

The pointing hand, the message above it, and the short epitaph deliver a consistent message: Mary Ann has died, but her soul is not lost.

Daughter of
JOHN & M. B. Ferson
Oct. 3, 1848,
Æ 24 y’rs & 8 mo’s

Earth has her dust,
Her friends have her memory,
And Christ has her spirit.

Africa Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Not all graveyard willows are stone

Oller Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Epitaph: Beyond this veil of tears

After visiting so many cemeteries and photographing so many gravestones, my inclination is to pass over the “ordinary” stones.

A sandstone tablet marker with a rather ordinary draped urn motif? I have seen it hundreds of times, if not more.

Still, something made me stop and snap a few photos of the marker at the grave of Abel Tinkham (d. 1828). It does show surprisingly little weather damage for an 1820s stone, but it is the poetic epitaph that stands out.

Abel Tinkham,
die. Nov. 7, 1828;
aged 69 years.
Beyond this veil of tears
I live, a life above;
Unmeasured by the flight of years,
Where all that life is love.

The epitaph is adapted from “The Issues of Life and Death,” a hymn written by James Montgomery (b. 1771, d. 1854).

O where shall rest be found,
Rest for the weary soul?
’T were vain the ocean-depths to sound,
Or pierce to either pole;
The world can never give
The bliss for which we sigh;
’T is not the whole of life to live;
Nor all of death to die.

Beyond this vale of tears,
There is a life above,
Unmeasured by the flight of years;
And all that life is love;

There is a death, whose pang
Outlasts the fleeting breath;
O what eternal horrors hang
Around “the second death!”

Lord God of truth and grave,
Teach us that death to shun,
Lest we be banished from they face,
And evermore undone:
Here would we end our quest;
Alone are found in thee,
The life of perfect love,—the rest
Of immortality.

Africa Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nancy Gray, young wife

John Gray (Grey) and Nancy Stith were married on November 5, 1840 in Fairfield County, Ohio. Before their first anniversary, 17-year-old Nancy Stith Gray died.

Nancy Gray is buried in Baptist Corners Cemetery beneath a simple tablet stone that features side-by-side sunbursts.

In memory of
wife of
John Gray,
died October 2,
1841, aged 17 years,
10 months, & 12 days.

Marriage record from

The gravestone is signed by Ezra Shane, who is listed in the 1850 Federal Census as “Laborer.”

Baptist Corners Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mr. Francis Christopher Huber

The gravestone for Francis Christopher Huber (b. 1777, d. 1831) shows some serious delamination, but much of the stone is still legible—including the respectful “Mr.”

APRIL 18, A.D.
1777, AND DIED
MAY 2, A.D. 18
31 A[GED 5]7 Y,
& [1 M.?]

The badly damaged central carving was once a willow. The secondary decorations, interesting in their own right, are still in great shape.

Old Saint Peters Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wednesday’s child: Infant Nisely

No name, no gender. Just “an infant” born (and died) to Jacob and Hannah Nisley in 1833.

of jacob & hannah nisley
was born february 24,
1833; & departed this life
november 20, 1833: aged
8 months & 20 days.

Am I the only one who is surprised that an 8-month-old infant was buried without a first name?

Baptist Corners Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Monday, November 14, 2011

Face of an angel

From a distance, I decided that this gravestone was for a child because the angel’s face looks young, cherub-like.

Instead, it stands at the grave of a young, adult woman, Charlotte Danforth (d. 1858).

AUG 11 1858
33 Y

Honestly, I am not sure how to classify the carving on this gravestone. Is it an angel? Is it a winged face (soul effigy)?

The wings are not attached to the face, and I am going to take that literally and suggest that this is not a winged face. It is not a typical one, at any rate. Nor is the age of the gravestone typical for winged faces. Awfully “new.”

In fact, the wings are not attached to anything.

No matter how we classify or interpret this face, one thing is certain: It is a lovely face.

West Rushville Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marguerite Williams

The metal marker (not zinc, real bronze) at the grave of Marguerite Williams (b. 1841, d. 1873), its attractive verdigris a testament to its age, declares her family position: Mother.

DEC. 25 1841
APRIL 26 1873


Radnor Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On the way to Old Saint Peters Cemetery

Fairfield County, Ohio

Twin urns and a broken column

The gravestone for Emily McCandlish (d. 1853), once no doubt a lovely white, has a compartmented panel across the top with three carvings: a broken column and two matched urns.

Neither symbol is unusual, but they are not so often found together. The urns are a common symbol for mourning. The column is broken to represent a life cut short.

Dau of R & M
Sept. 21, 1853,
Ag’d 18 Yrs.
9 m. 12 ds.

At first glance, the gravestone appears to be in great shape. But a closer look at the carvings shows an unfortunate loss of detail due to weathering.

By the way, this column-plus-urns motif was popular in this cemetery, especially in the McCandlish family. Look to the left of the Emily gravestone and you can see another, standing in the shade. That is the gravestone for Elizabeth McCandlish Emrich (d. 1851), sister of Emily.

West Rushville Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jacob Spitler, Revolutionary War veteran

The siltstone marker at the grave of Jacob Spitler (b. 1749, d. 1829) stands in the front row of stones, a few steps off the road that borders rural Baptist Corners Cemetery.

A bronze DAR plaque marks this grave as that of a Revolutionary War veteran.

Though I would prefer that the DAR chapter had not mounted the plaque directly on the gravestone, we can make a good assumption about the carved words that the plaque hides.

who was born
September 29,th
1749; Died april
16,1829; aged 79
years, 6 month, 17

Weep not my dearest friends;
Nor shed your tears in vain,
My face youl see no more;
Till call’d to rise again.

The plaque reads


1775        1783

Baptist Corners Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three willows

In 19th-century cemeteries, weeping willow trees are a popular gravestone symbol for mourning.

The gravestone for Joseph Freich (d. 1842) has not one willow, but three. They overlap neatly forming a small, symmetric willow grove.

In memory of
who departed this
life February 15th,
1842; aged 53 Y;
1 month, & 26 days.

The epitaph is taken from a rather to-the-point old hymn. The lyric writer is not known.

See how the wicked kingdom
Is falling every day,
And still our blessed Jesus
Is winning souls away;
But O how I am tempted,
No mortal tongue can tell,
So often I’m surrounded
With enemies from hell.

With weeping and with praying,
My Jesus I have found,
To crucify old nature,
And make his grace abound.
Dear children, don’t be weary,
But march on in the way;
For Jesus will stand by you,
And be your guard and stay.

If sinners will serve Satan,
And join with one accord,
Dear brethren, as for my part,
I’m bound to serve the Lord;
And if you will go with me,
Pray give to me your hand,
And we’ll march on together,
Unto the promised land.

Through troubles and distresses,
We’ll make our way to God;
Though earth and hell oppose us,
We’ll keep the heavenly road.
Our Jesus went before us,
And many sorrows bore,
And we who follow after,
Can never meet with more.

Thou dear to me, my brethren,
Each one of you I find.
My duty now compels me
To leave you all behind;
But while the parting grieves us,
I humbly ask your prayers,
To bear me up in trouble,
And conquer all my fears.

And now, my loving brothers,
I bid you all farewell!
With you my loving sisters,
I can no longer dwell.
Farewell to every mourner!
I hope the Lord you’ll find,
To ease you of your burden,
And give you peace of mind.

Farewell, poor careless sinners!
I love you dearly well;
I’ve labored much to bring you
With Jesus Christ to dwell,
I now am bound to leave you—
O tell me, will you go?
But if you won’t decide it,
I’ll bid you all adieu!

We’ll bid farewell to sorrow,
To sickness, care, and pain,
And mount aloft with Jesus
For evermore to reign;
We’ll join to sing his praises
Above the ethereal blue,
And then, poor careless sinners
What will become of you?

Old Saint Peters Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday’s child: Drucilla A. Plunket

dau. of
R. & A. V.
Apr. 2, 1868

The size of this small stone for Drucilla A. Plunket (d. 1868) is the first hint that this is a child’s gravestone. She is identified as a “daughter of,” but not “wife of.” Another hint.

But her age at death can no longer be read, so I took a few minutes to see whether I could find her date of birth.

1. Delaware County Historical Society burials—strike one
2.—strike two
3.—strike three
4.—strike, uh, four

Strike out.

Let me take that back. I did find, via, a marriage record for Richard Plunket and Ann Virginia Gates dated August 13, 1865. A wisp of a hint that Drucilla may have been less than three years old at her death.

The dove holds what is probably meant to be a sprig of olive as it ascends, representing hope or promise.

Oller Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pedestaled obelisk

The pedestaled obelisk at the grave of George Black (d. 1842) is quite a handsome monument. Its tulip-shaped top is unusual—and look at the nice repeating patterns of the carvings.

AD. 1842. AG. 32
YRS. 5MO. & 5.

The stonecutter mark at the base may be George Fetters, although there is no “rs” (the corner is damaged), and what I interpret as an abbreviation for “George” is unusual.

Census records for the area show Fetters families nearby, including a George who is recorded as a farmer. Maybe also a part-time stone carver?

Arnold-Bethel Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio
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