Monday, April 30, 2012

A grandmother’s gravestone

Wife of, daughter of, son of. Not only do the familiar gravestone phrases forever link those who died to their families, but the words also can offer useful hints to later generations of family historians.

Such a hint is carved on the gravestone for Rosann Ullmer (d. 1851).

Grandmother of
Jan. 28, 1851.
78 Ys. 8 Mo. 5 Ds.

Ullmer Cemetery, Marion County, Ohio

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Margaret’s occupation

The gravestone for Margaret Arnett (d. 1874) is fallen over. On the day I visited the cemetery, its face showed unmistakable mower tracks.

wife of
Dec. 16, 1874
84 Y., 3 M., 27 [D.]

William Arnett is buried nearby. His gravestone, which still stands upright, gives his year of death as 1859.

Finding Margaret in the 1870 Federal Census confirmed a familiar story: The 80-year-old widow lived with her daughter’s family late in her life.

What is this, you say? There is no relationship column on the 1870 census form?

Yes, but check out Margaret’s “occupation”:

Foster Chapel Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Friday, April 27, 2012

Live blogging 1940 occupations

Have you volunteered to help index the 1940 U.S. Federal Census?

I just downloaded a new batch, read the enumerator’s note that “there are no farms” in the enumeration district, and decided to slow down take a look at the occupations.

Farmer, farmer, farmer might not have been too exciting; tinker, tailor, soldier might be fun.

Thinking that it might be fun to record the occupations that I find, I decided to write this post as I index one census batch for a group of families living on Western Avenue in Toledo, Ohio.

Locomotive Engineer
Meter Reader
Sausage Maker
Grocery Clerk
Music Teacher
House Maid
Gas Station Attendant
Building Construction
Yard Conductor
Die Maker
Sewer Digger
Locomotive Engineer
Truck Driver

Glad no one is timing me. This was a slow batch—all the occupation reading and such. Next batch: Complete concentration!

Sunny Elizabeth

Foster Chapel Cemetery is a small, tree-filled cemetery on a busy county road in Madison County, Ohio. The trees are beautiful, but their shade makes it tough to get good, legible photographs of many of the stones.

But the marker at the grave of Elizabeth Hunter (d. 1870) was standing in the sun on the day I visited.

(Think the sun doesn’t make much of a difference in gravestone photography? Check out an un-sunny version of this stone on

wife of
Nov. 22, 1870:
In her 53d Y’r.

The gravestone, which has a rather unusual shape, features the carving of an open book. Often, gravestone books are carved with Bible verses. The pages of Elizabeth’s book read “Our Mother.”

Foster Chapel Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Glad tidings

This classic willow-and-urn gravestone has seen better days. A chunk has broken off the top. It tilts to the right. It is weathered.

But don’t pass it by. Look at the date of death. Then look at the epitaph.

Was the epitaph on the gravestone for Anna Foster (d. 1842) chosen because she died so soon after Christmas Day?

Anna Foster
Wife of Richard L.
Foster died dec. 28,
1842. Aged 21 years
And the angel said unto them
fear not for behold I bring you
glad tidings of great Joy which
   shl be to all people.
Foster Chapel Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday’s child: Helen Darlene Starkey

Normally I photograph older gravestones—the older, the better. But there is one stone I always stop for, whether it is old or new: the “baby shoe” gravestone.

“our darling”
FEB 9 1931
MAR 9 1931
child of grace

Think you know the meaning of “child of grace” on Helen’s gravestone? It may not be what you think.

In fact, it is quite literal. Helen was the daughter of Everett and Grace Starkey of London, Ohio.

Death certificate via
Deer Creek Cemetery (aka Lafayette), Madison County, Ohio

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Second wife?

A handsomely draped monument stands at the grave of Eliza Matthews Landacre (d. 1882). Look at the sides of this gravestone: Flowers!


wife of
NOV. 7, 1882,


Eliza Matthews and Joseph P. Landacre were married in 1873 in nearby Franklin County. Seven years later, they are listed in the 1880 Federal Census (again, Franklin County) with two young sons. Do the math: The boys were born before the marriage. Hmm.

One possibility, which also fits Eliza’s age when she was married (43 or 44), is that Eliza was Joseph’s second wife and the sons were born to his first.

Deer Creek Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two husbands, two roses

It is not so common to find marital history on a gravestone, but here we have it on the marker at the grave of Catharine Wright (d. 1879).

wife of
and former wife of
Aug. 23, 1879
In the 85 Year
of her age.

The carved bouquet on Catharine’s marker features two large garden roses. Tempting to see a connection between the two roses and the two husbands, isn’t it?

Deer Creek Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Obelisk confession

This will not surprise anyone who has taken time to browse through the posts here on Gravestoned: I am just not that interested in obelisks.

Too tall. Too skinny. Too pointy.

The marble obelisk that marks the grave of Joseph Harbage (b. 1809, d. 1893) is an exception. Standing in the sunlight, it is quite attractive with its book-holding hand carving. Even better, the inscription includes bonus data: Place and date of birth.

That, and it is not too tall.

Oxfordshire Eng.
OCT. 11, 1809,
MAR. 10, 1893,
83 Y. 4 M. 29 D.

Foster Chapel Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday’s child: Philomelia Simpson

Long after my visit to Deer Creek Township Cemetery this spring, I realized that Philomelia Simpson (d. 1839) not only has her own tablet gravestone, but also is named on a larger, more modern monument that she shares with her parents.

A larger, more modern memorial that I did not photograph.


memory of
Philomelia Simpson
daughter of Abraham
& Elizabeth Simpson
died Oct 7th 1839
aged 9 years 2 mo
& 26 days

Even though I did not photograph the other monument that bears Philomelia’s name, you can see it on

By the way, Deer Creek Township Cemetery has a couple of aliases, including Upper Gwynne Farm Cemetery and Lafayette Cemetery.

Deer Creek Township Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Monday, April 16, 2012

Someone is wrong

The small sandstone grave marker for Andrew Kepner (d. 1844) in Salyer Cemetery is easy to read, especially with the early afternoon sunlight throwing shadows just right in the carved letters of the inscription.

The date of death on the gravestone clearly is August 4, 1844.

On the other hand, nearly every public online “source” that I found listed young Kepner’s year of death as 1834.

Makes you wonder where the error is. Is the gravestone wrong? Maybe. Or did one small online error—maybe a FindAGrave typo—spread to scores of online family trees?

son of
Jacob & Catharine
Kepner, died Aug;
4, 1844. aged 11
years 1 mo; &.
18 ds.

Salyer Cemetery, Marion County, Ohio

Samuel Blocksom

There is a large, handsomely carved willow on the tablet marker at the grave of Samuel Blocksom (d. 1857).

The bold inscription is still easy to read, but the finely carved epitaph is weathered and, in this light at least, no longer legible.

July 12, 1857:
Aged 44 Yrs.

Samuel Blocksom (Bloxom) married Catharine Felter in 1847. The 1850 Federal Census shows two-year-old Sarah Ann, presumably their daughter, living with Samuel and Catharine.

The 1870 Federal Census, which lists Catharine as head of household, would suggest that Samuel and Catharine had several more children before his death in 1857.

1870 Federal Census image from

On January 4, 1907—nearly 50 years after the death of Samuel Blocksom—the Marion Daily Mirror printed an obituary for Catherine:

While sitting in her arm chair Thursday afternoon at four o'clock, Mrs. Catharine Blocksom, widow of Samuel Blocksom and one of the oldest residents of Richland township, died suddenly, death being caused by the infirmities of old age. She died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. David Retterer, five miles south of the city, in Pleasant township, where she had been visiting for a few days.
     The deceased had been feeling very well for several days and until about thirty minutes before her death had not complained of feeling ill. While the members of the family were gathered about her, conversing on ordinary subjects, Mrs. Blocksom passed quietly to the great beyond before those about her realized that she was ill.
     Mrs. Blocksom was born in Germany and came to America when a child. Her parents name was Felton and were among the first settlers of the county. After her marriage to Samuel Brocksom, she lived for 60 years on a farm in Richland township. She was 88 years of age.
     The deceased was one of the best known women of the southwestern part of the county. She was converted to the Christian faith in Zion church and had been a member of the church since. Until the past few years, she had been very active in church work, notwithstanding her advanced age. Three daughters, Mrs. Jacob Wolfinger, Mrs. David Retterer and Mrs. Samuel Retterer and two sons, Samuel and Jeremiah survive.
     The funeral will be held in the Taylor cemetery, located on the farm where Mrs. Blocksom spent the greater part of her life.

Taylor Cemetery is on my list for a visit someday soon.

Salyer Cemetery, Marion County, Ohio

Saturday, April 14, 2012


The marker at the grave of Lydia Alma Edwards (d. 1863) must have fallen over years ago. It is broken and grass and wildflowers are edging in, but we can still make out most of the inscription.

And the carved bouquet of roses.

And the living bouquet of dandelions.

May 21, 1863

A grass-free photograph of this stone taken in 2010 clearly shows Lydia’s age at death: 18 years, 3 months, 29 days.

Guy Cemetery, Madison County, Ohio

Friday, April 13, 2012

Final exit

The gravestone of Dr. Wm. F. King (d. 1844) is decorated with a carving of swagged drapery. In the past I have suggested that “swagged drapes can been seen as creating the opening through which the soul passes in making the transition to the next life.”

My glass is run my grave you see
In time prepare to follow me.
Go home dear friends dry up your tears,
I must lie here till Christ appears.
And when he comes I hope to rise:
Unto a life that never dies.
Standing in the cemetery, looking upon Dr. King’s gravestone, I see something more than drapery. Because the opening framed by the drapery is empty (often you would see an urn or flowers), I see an empty stage.

Wouldn’t that be an apt, even if unintentional, metaphor for death? Exit Stage Left.

Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dappled shade

Here is another beautiful marble gravestone in Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve. It marks the west-facing grave of Lewis Fairbank (d. 1870), dappled with shade in the late afternoon.

The stone features the carving of a hand pointing to heaven. Like so many gravestones with this motif, the words “There is rest in Heaven” enrich the symbolism.

May 7, 1870,
Æ. 65 y. 11 m. & 2 d.

The grave of Lovinia Fairbank (d. 1859), “wife of Lewis Fairbank,” is nearby.

Does this look like a weedy, overgrown cemetery to you? Look again. It is a nature preserve!

The cemetery still contains healthy colonies of prairie grasses and beautiful prairie wildflowers which once carpeted the Darby Plains. Some are considered rare, threatened or endangered in Ohio. [1]

I took one of my favorite graveyard photos in this cemetery last August, when the prairie dock was in bloom.

Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve

[1] “Bigelow Cemetery PrairieState Nature Preserve.” Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday’s child: Little Ella May

Before too long, the small marble gravestone for Ella May Bennett (d. 1861) may not be readable, but not because of weathering or neglect or vandalism. Before too long, the inscription may be temporarily obscured by the tall prairie grasses that are encouraged to grow in Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve.

Daugh. of
J.F. & H.
April 16, 1861,
10 M. & 21 D.

Bigelow is a special place that changes with every visit. I stopped by recently to photograph stones that I know will be hidden later this summer.

From the Ohio Department of Natural Resources online:

On September 13, 1978, Bigelow Cemetery was dedicated as an interpretive state nature preserve. A special management program for the preservation of the historic tombstones, perpetuation of the prairie species and elimination of noxious weeds was initiated following dedication by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

Bigelow Cemetery has never been plowed or grazed. It appears to be perched above the surrounding farm fields, a reflection of how much of the original prairie soil from these fields has been lost to wind and water erosion over the decades.

The cemetery still contains healthy colonies of prairie grasses and beautiful prairie wildflowers which once carpeted the Darby Plains. Some are considered rare, threatened or endangered in Ohio. For many years Bigelow Cemetery was the only known location in the state for the royal catchfly, the cemetery’s rarest plant. Other colonies have since been discovered elsewhere within the Darby Plains.

Bigelow Cemetery Prairie State Nature Preserve, Madison County, Ohio

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Isaac Rubart, veteran

Nation Chapel Cemetery is small, surrounded by farmland in rural Clark County, Ohio.

A rusty chain keeps the cemetery gate from swinging free. No lock, but why would there be? The fence is nothing more than a border on one side, the road side, of the cemetery.

The white marble marker at the grave of Isaac Rubart (d. 1841) was once broken in half, but has been repaired, although it exhibits a significant tilt. The decorative carving shows a military theme: shield, flags, cannon, cannonballs.

Nov. 17, 1841:
80 Years &
8 days.

At the base of the monument is a military marker—it is cemented into an old coffee can—that identifies Rubart as a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

The DAR Genealogical Research System confirms that Isaac Rubart was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, but he was not a soldier. Young Isaac Rubart was a fifer.

Nation Chapel Cemetery, Clark County, Ohio

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rachel Davidson

Driving down the country road in Marion County, my sights were set on the next cemetery on my list, when—screeching tires!—there was a sunny, country graveyard on a grassy rise next to the road.

One of the gravestones in Salyer Cemetery stands at the grave of Rachel Davidson (b. 1794, d. 1823). The stone is badly weathered and nearly illegible. It is not difficult to imagine the day, not too far in the future, when this gravestone will no longer be readable at all.

Rachel Davidson,
wife of
Joseph Davidson,
born June 12, 1794,
died [----] 1823.

Look carefully and you can just make out an urn carving, even though large sections of sandstone have flaked off.

And do I see tiny bits of what may have been an epitaph? Unless there is an old reading of this small cemetery, Rachel’s epitaph is gone forever.

Salyer Cemetery, Marion County, Ohio

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Epitaph: The flowing tear, the heaving sigh

The inscription on the large tablet marker at the grave of Nancy Cowles (d. 1829) in Oak Grove Cemetery is surprisingly legible, given its age.

The stone is without decoration, but it is beautifully carved and bears a touching epitaph.

wife of
died August 21, 1829;
aged 31 years.
The God of love will sure indulge
The flowing tear, the heaving sigh,
When righteous persons fall around,
When tender friends and kindred die returns 74 instances of the line “The God of love will sure indulge,” which it attributes to Elizabeth Scott.

Here is an image from one of the instances, a 1789 hymnal, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Publick Worship.

By the way, if you are not familiar with, take a look. A “comprehensive index of hymns and hymnals,” it is handy tool for the epitaph student.

Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio

Friday, April 6, 2012

An obvious photo tip

This tip may be obvious, but I fail to follow it more often than I care to admit: Be aware of what is in the shot.

Violets, yes.
Dandelions, yes.
Shoes, no.

Wife of
OCT. 26, 1848.
Aged 40 Yrs.
My flesh shall slumber in the ground
Till the last joyfull trump shall sound
Then burst the chains with sweet surprise
And in my Saviours image rise.
The epitaph, a relatively popular one, is from an Isaac Watts hymn.

Oak Grove Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio
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