Death’s Garden: Tombstone Tales

Mackinac001

Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery

by Loren Rhoads

Just north of Michigan’s lower peninsula lies Mackinac Island, the #1 tourist destination in the state. When I was a kid, my folks took me and my brother up several times to explore the old fort—complete with costumed soldiers doing marching drills and cannons fired out over the water—and a museum dedicated to a doctor who had studied digestion through another man’s abdominal war wound. We loved it.

In 1898, the island banned motorized traffic, so the chief modes of transportation remain bicycles and horses. Horse-drawn taxis deliver tourists from the ferry docks to their hotels. Horse-drawn tour buses circle the island, lecturing about the island’s native history, the time it served as a hub in the fur trade, and the two battles fought on its soil during the War of 1812. Since those exciting days, Mackinac Island has become a quiet, relaxing retreat, where life moves at a slower pace.

I hadn’t been up to the island in twenty years when my mom suggested a trip. My parents and I reached the Mackinac (pronounced mack-in-naw) Island Visitors Center ten minutes before it closed for the afternoon. Mom asked if they offered the night tour of the village, led by a schoolteacher, which she’d taken on a previous visit. The answer was no. Not missing a beat, Mom asked, “Is there a tour of the graveyard?”

I couldn’t have been prouder of her for thinking to ask. Lucky me: there was a one-time cemetery tour. Tickets were ten dollars. I would have happily paid for Mom and Dad to join me, but they didn’t seem inclined. It was hard to decide to go alone, since the tour didn’t start until dusk and I wasn’t all that familiar with the island, but I really wanted to take a night tour—my first—of a cemetery. I bought an advance ticket, so that the tour wouldn’t be called off for lack of interest.

As the afternoon wore on, I grew progressively more anxious. I don’t like to explore unfamiliar places alone. Fifteen years earlier, I was attacked by a man my university had on suicide watch. He grabbed me in a busy hallway in my dorm as I walked with a girlfriend. Since then, my sense of safety requires the presence of other people. I have no illusion that just being with them would stop an attack—but maybe, like the last time, they could chase down my assailant. Still, my parents had no desire to climb to the top of the island to reach the cemeteries. If I went, I would have to go alone.

After dinner, I walked my parents back to the hotel to get Mom’s umbrella. They planned to stroll through the village and watch the sunset, but rain clouds threatened from the north. We said our goodbyes and I marched off like I wasn’t a coward.

My heart thudded in my chest as I climbed steep Bogan Lane. The street dead-ended at a wooden staircase that led upward for more stories than I could count. I wouldn’t have chosen such an isolated path, but I didn’t have time to find another way up the bluff to the cemetery. I paused at the foot of the stairway, trying to calm down. I would be safe, of course. This was an island. No one would dare molest me because they’d have no way to escape. The ferries stopped running at sunset.

Unless they owned a boat, I thought, realizing that it would look suspicious to sail away after dark.

It crossed my mind that I could just eat the ticket price, go into “town,” and have a drink somewhere until I could slink back to the hotel. Mom and Dad need never know that I was afraid to wander the island alone. All the same, I really, really wanted to attend the graveyard tour.

I would be safe, I promised myself, then started upward. Trees shadowing the stairs made them feel enclosed. Even though I didn’t pass a soul as I climbed, I couldn’t allow myself to pause and rest. When I reached the top of the staircase, my knees quivered.

A handful of mansions lined a paved street that stretched off to my right. I’d expected to find a bench at the summit, where I might catch my breath and load film into my camera. There wasn’t anywhere to sit. I guess the locals didn’t want tourists loitering in front of their houses. An old-fashioned street lamp stood there, so I knew I’d have at least one light on the walk back. I checked my backpack to be sure I’d brought my mini flashlight.

The path turned left, into the forest. I felt like I should leave a trail of breadcrumbs, so I could find my way back after dark. The lonely road dwindled to what seemed like a bike path between the trees. My nerves twanged again. I wished my sixty-year-old parents had come along, although my dad could never have made the climb.

I’d left the island map with Dad, but remembered that I wanted Garrison Road. When I reached the path that ran behind the fort, I found a sign pointing to the cemeteries half a mile away. Cemeteries, plural, I noted with excitement. I picked up my pace. I didn’t have any sense how long I take to walk half a mile. Usually distances aren’t so carefully measured for me. I hustled, since the ticket said the tour started at 7:30, instead of the 8 p.m. printed on the flyer I’d cajoled out of the clerk at the Visitors Center.

Rhoads_StAnn_horsesI reached Sainte Anne’s Cemetery first. Its stone gates opened on the left side of Garrison Road, where a sign forbade riding horses in the graveyard. It struck me as sad that tourists needed to be asked to behave.

I stopped in the shadows at the side of the road to load my Pentax K-1000. My watch said 7:15. I felt sticky in the August humidity, even in a T-shirt. My hands shook as I tried to thread the film. The light was fading, but I thought if I hurried, I might be able to take some pictures with the aperture dialed all the way open. Hopefully I could hold steady enough, once I calmed down.

Mosquitoes whined around my ears. I needed to get some bug lotion on fast. While I slicked myself up, a couple of costumed players wandered by, discussing whether they would have sex. The woman asked cheerily if I could share some “bug juice.”

After I gave her a handful of lotion, I ducked into the Catholic cemetery. Sainte Anne’s sprawled across an irregularly shaped piece of land, bounded by the curves of Garrison Road on the north. The oldest graves seemed to lie on the Garrison side. I didn’t see any angels, but lots of stones dated from the last half of the 19th century. I knew they must have been ordered and shipped from the “mainland,” so finding them was a nice surprise.

As the afternoon light failed, the colors looked very strange. Everything took on a yellowy pallor as the setting sun tinged the overcast. I attached my huge flash and tested it a couple of times, but it took forever to recharge. I hoped my battery would last. If only I’d come prepared for this, instead of rushing around. I wondered if I could settle down enough, once the tour began, to enjoy myself.

I watched people come into the Catholic Cemetery, then climb over its low fieldstone wall to get out, rather than backtrack to a gate. Probably these were same people who needed to be told not to ride their horses through the graveyard.

About 7:30 I crossed Garrison Road to the Post Cemetery. The burial ground lay in a slight depression, surrounded by a white picket fence. Even though summer hadn’t ended yet, a tree inside the graveyard blazed orange. Regulation military headstones stood at attention in straight lines, joined by a variety of other sorts of tombstones. I liked seeing a military cemetery with personality.

My camera crapped out. It was too dark to figure out if the battery had died or if I’d screwed up loading the film. One more reason to switch to a digital, I thought. Scowling, I put the heavy Pentax into my backpack. I’d have to come back in the daylight, if I wanted photographs.

I needn’t have worried about the tour being cancelled. People kept arriving on foot and by horse-drawn taxi until eventually sixty people clustered around. The organizers split us up. My group of fifteen went off with a good-looking college boy named Brian.

Rather than touring just the Post Cemetery, we saw all three graveyards. My group started in the Protestant Cemetery, the farthest one west and the most recently opened. Oaks, pines, and beeches separated the Protestants from the military graveyard. A low wall of openwork stone, pierced like lace, surrounded their graves.

Fragrant with cedar and pine, the Protestant Cemetery was one of the best smelling graveyards I’ve visited. I had to watch my step as acorns rolled under my feet.

The first grave we visited belonged to the man who’d made Mackinac Island a nationally recognized resort. An actor with a silver mustache and a long black coat played Eugene Sullivan, social director for the Grand Hotel, who reminisced about his boss, Jimmy “the Comet” Hayes. James R. Hayes had managed the Grand Hotel during the Victorian era. He decided that Michigan alone couldn’t support the hotel, so he courted the wealthy of Chicago. When he heard Theodore Roosevelt planned to tour the country, Hayes invited the President to be a guest of the hotel. Before Roosevelt could decline, Hayes wrote all the major Midwestern newspapers to announce the President’s visit. Roosevelt never came, but the press attention cemented the hotel’s reputation.

I knew from the flyer that there would be costumed characters on the tour, but I liked that they didn’t play the dead people at our feet. Instead, actors played friends and family reminiscing about the dead.

One of my favorite stories in the Protestant Cemetery regarded William Marshall, Mackinac Island’s longest serving soldier. During the Civil War, Marshall manned the fort alone, guarding three soldiers from Tennessee imprisoned there. When his term of service expired, he reenlisted himself.

mackinacOur tour group returned to the Post Cemetery, where interments may have begun in the mid-1820s. Records show that forty American soldiers died at the fort between 1796 and 1835, but only a dozen graves remained marked in 1835. Those who fell during the War of 1812 probably still lie under the Wawashkamo Golf Course, where the British buried them.

I halted beside by the lamb sleeping atop the monument for William A. and Frank M., sons of William and Matilda Marshall, aged “2 years, 4 months, 9 days” and “2 years, 3 months.” While it’s rare for wives to be allowed burial in military cemeteries, I don’t think I’d ever seen children buried amidst the soldiers. Their presence testified to the isolation of inhabitants of the island. Their epitaph made me sad: “Short pain, short grief, dear babes were they, now joys, eternal and divine.”

The last military funeral on the island celebrated Private Coon Walters in 1891. Four years later, the US Army abandoned Fort Mackinac, leaving behind the military burial ground. The cemetery fell into disrepair until the Mackinac Island State Park Commission began maintenance in 1905.

Rhoads_StAnn_handsThe final graveyard on our tour was Saint Ann’s, where I’d begun the evening. The cemetery had originally been called Bonny Brae, or goodly meadows. It contained older graves moved up from the first Catholic cemetery on Hoban and Market Streets, just north of the Village Inn restaurant, where I’d had dinner with my folks. That earlier cemetery, created in 1779, had filled to capacity before being disassembled.

Another ghost evoked by the tour was Matthew Geary, an Irish immigrant who became a government fish inspector and made his fortune. He was remembered by Jim Union, a cooper, who had a “wooden marker because he couldn’t afford a stone like Mr. Geary.” Coopers made barrels to crate up whitefish to ship to Chicago. Their necessary labor didn’t pay as well as the bribery fishing captains could offer the inspectors. Union’s grave, now unmarked, had been the first in Sainte Anne’s Cemetery in 1852.

When the graveyard tour ended, people drifted uncertainly off into the twilight. I’d hoped to meet some nice women with whom I could walk back to town, but the tour had been such a whirlwind that there hadn’t been time to speak to anyone else. The group simply hustled from actor to actor, heard the stories of the people whose graves we clustered around, and rushed on.

I still didn’t have a map of the island. I suspected that I could walk down past the fort and into the village below by following someone, but I wondered if I’d remember which street my hotel was on if I came at it from that direction. Better to go back the way I’d come.

I trailed a French Canadian couple down the road that wound past the back of Fort Mackinac. The fortifications glowed ghostly bluish white in the half-light. Oak branches strained toward the path, trying to close out the darkening sky.

When we reached the row of mansions at the crest of the hill, the French Canadians turned left, leaving me to face the staircase alone. Down is always preferable to up, but I stood at the landing, looking out over the village below. Old-fashioned streetlights twinkled in the darkness. The breeze carried me a breath of laughter. Somewhere, a dog barked. Other than that, the lack of automobiles on the island made for a kind of quiet that I’d forgotten existed.

I felt more peaceful now. I didn’t mind being completely alone in this strange place—and I felt entirely alone in the quiet darkness. I’d been calmed by exploring the graveyards. Nothing bad had ever happened to me in a cemetery, I realized. I’d always felt safe there.

A guttural engine revved up as the last ferry chugged out of the harbor. Once the boat left, we were trapped on the island for the night.

The wind blew colder, raising goosebumps over my humid skin.

Time to climb down.

This essay is excerpted from Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, now back in print in paperback — with the ebook soon to come!

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mercy-street (1)Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery TravelShe was the editor of the original anthology called Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries.

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Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

I am starting up the Death’s Garden project again. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

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Cemetery of the Week #160: St. Ann’s Cemetery

Rhoads_StAnn_gateSaint Ann’s Cemetery
also called Sainte Anne’s Cemetery or the Catholic Cemetery
Garrison Road & Custer Street
Mackinac State Park
Mackinac Island, Michigan 49757
GPS: Lat: 45° 51′ 29″N, Lon: 84° 37′ 16″W
Founded: early 1850s
Size: 2 acres
Number of interments: approximately 1000
Open: Daily from sunrise to sunset
Information: Ste. Anne Catholic Church, PO Box 537, Mackinac Island, MI 49757

North of Michigan’s lower peninsula lies an island 8 miles in diameter. The local native tribes used it as a burial ground. Since it lies at the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the French based fur trading operations there. The British occupied Mackinac Island during the Revolutionary War and built a fort. After the War of 1812, the island came under American control, was minimally staffed during the Civil War, and eventually became a resort for the wealthy of Detroit and Chicago.

Rhoads_StAnn_horsesMotorized vehicles were banned on Mackinac Island in 1898, so to this day the chief modes of transportation are bicycles and horses.  The island, with its restored fort, livery stables, and fudge shops, is the #1 tourist attraction in Michigan.

Originally, Mackinac Island had only a Catholic burial ground, set up by French fur traders in 1779. That graveyard lay down near Sainte Anne’s Church, close to the water. For nearly a century, Mackinac Island simply had no Protestant community. Not until the fishing industry began in earnest toward the end of the 1800s did Calvinist missionaries come to preach to the fishermen and convert the natives.

Eventually that original Catholic cemetery filled to capacity. As early as 1852, islanders buried their dead on military reserve land near the Post Cemetery behind the fort. This was one of the few areas on the rocky island where the topsoil was deep enough to dig graves.

By the 1880s, most bodies from the first Catholic cemetery had been moved to Saint Ann’s. Not all the graves were transferred, however. Several stray headstones have been discovered in the weeds in town over the years. One now resides in the village museum. The site of that original Catholic cemetery, on Hoban and Market Streets, is prime land in the village now.

This newer Saint Ann’s Cemetery sprawls across an irregularly shaped piece of land, bounded by the curves of Garrison Road on the north and Custer Street on the west. The oldest graves lie on the Garrison side. Lots of stones date from the last half of the 19th century. They were ordered and shipped from the “mainland,” as islanders call Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

Rhoads_StAnn_BiddleThe oldest marked grave in Saint Ann’s Cemetery belongs to 8-year-old Mary Biddle, who died after falling through the ice in December 1833. Her parents, Edward and Agatha Biddle, paid for a stone carved by W. E. Peters in Detroit (he signed his work) to mark her grave, which had been moved from the earlier cemetery. Her father Edward, who served as the village president, was buried in the Post Cemetery across the road.

Mary’s epitaph sums up the brevity of many children’s lives at the time:
“As the sweet flower that scents the morn
but withers in the rising day,
Thus lovely was this infant’s dawn,
Thus swiftly fled its life away.”

Rhoads_StAnn_GraveraetAlso buried in the cemetery is Lieutenant G. A. Graveraet, a 22-year-old who oversaw Confederate prisoners of war at Camp Douglas, the notoriously unsanitary camp near Chicago, before leading the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters Company K into battle at Spotsylvania. His tombstone says he died in Washington of wounds received before Petersburg. Sharing his monument is 1st Sgt. Henry G. Graveraet, 57, one of the “boys” in Company K, who died in the battle. Henry was G.A.’s father and died under his command.

In Summer 2011, a place in Saint Ann’s Cemetery was set aside for the burial of bones repatriated to the Sault Sainte Marie Chippewa by the Smithsonian Institution.

Later that year, when the foundation for a new hotel was being excavated at the site of the old cemetery in town, human remains were uncovered.  Although no anthropological analysis seems to have been performed, the bones were considered Native American. Since the Chippewa believe that the body has two souls — one that travels to the land of the dead and one that remains with the body forever, soaking into the soil — they believe the soil surrounding the bones should be preserved with the same respect as a body.

Because of that, a dumptruck was brought to the island.  It was filled with earth and a jumble of bones and unloaded in the Catholic cemetery, where a turtle mound has since been built. Nearby a totem pole was erected, along with a sign reading “Jiibay Gitigaan” in Ojibwa, which translates to “Spirit Garden.”  The turtle mound has 13 sections, for the 13 moons of the year celebrated by the Ojibwa.

Useful links:

The Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery on Cemetery Travel

More information on rhe oldest grave in St. Ann’s

Sainte Anne’s continues to be an active church on Mackinac Island

Remains discovered in 2012 were buried in the Catholic cemetery

More information on the turtle mound memorial

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Death’s Garden: I Found Love on Find-a-Grave

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All photos of Sacramento’s East Lawn Cemetery provided by the author.

by J’aime Rubio

Okay, so that title probably caught your eye, right? Well, it’s true. I literally found the man of my dreams via Find-a-grave, but the story didn’t start there. In fact, both my story and his were literally running parallel to one another for many years; we just hadn’t crossed paths yet. You see, I have been wandering cemeteries for years, researching and writing about the stories of the forgotten ones who have already passed on. He also was wandering cemeteries for many years, photographing and researching the vital records of the buried dead to contribute on Find-a-Grave, a website database for burial memorials worldwide.

At that point in time, I had been researching the life of Dorothy Millette Bern, once common-law wife of MGM producer Paul Bern. For far too long, Dorothy’s earlier life had been shrouded in mystery, but her reputation and character became overtly slandered after the unexplainable death of Paul, which has always been the cause of controversy. Was he murdered? Was it suicide? Several authors and journalists have tried to blame Dorothy for the death of Paul Bern, regardless of the fact there is little evidence to prove such a theory. It didn’t help matters that Dorothy herself was nowhere to be found when Paul’s body was discovered. To add to the mystery, weeks later Dorothy’s lifeless body was pulled from the Delta waters in the Georgiana Slough. She had been reported missing from her cabin on the Delta King steamboat, on its way to Sacramento from San Francisco. To put a long story short, I was determined to solve the mystery behind her strange demise and clear her name of the defamation. I spent a lot of time visiting her grave at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento, California. In fact, this cemetery became a sort of get-away for me to escape the everyday stress of life among the solace of the dead.

eastlawn1The cemetery itself is tucked away within a quiet neighborhood in East Sacramento. It was established in 1904, but the grand mausoleum that holds the main offices and funeral halls was constructed in the mid-1920s. I had been coming to East Lawn for quite some time, after I began researching the story of Anna Corbin, victim of a horrendous murder that took place in 1950, at the Preston School of Industry in Ione, California. The young man accused of murdering Anna was tried three times, since the first two trials ended in hung juries. The third time, with the trial moved to Sacramento, the defense was able to convince a jury of his alleged innocence and Eugene Monroe walked. Little did they know that he had been the prime suspect in another woman’s murder in Los Angeles in 1947, with the same exact MO. After being released from custody and moving to Oklahoma to live with relatives, Monroe committed another murder. This time, the victim was an expectant mother in Tulsa. He eventually confessed and was sentenced to life in prison, although he only spent 29 years in jail.

Both Anna and Dorothy’s stories became so near and dear to me that I would visit them at least once a week. During my time wandering the grounds of East Lawn, I discovered so many more stories of those interred there. From the older and lesser known brother of famous law man Wyatt Earp to the wife of mobster Walter “Big Bill” Pechart, the cemetery is full of some pretty amazing stories. Famed Big Band leader Dick Jurgens is interred in a small ground niche with a music note to mark his spot. Even one of the first doctors to help start Sutter Hospital, Dr. Aden C. Hart, is buried there in a very humble grave. Little did I know that a new chapter of my own story would soon start here, as well.

dorothygrave1While researching Dorothy Millette Bern’s case, I noticed the photograph of her on Find-a-Grave. I messaged the contributor, asking if he was a relative. Mind you, just the day before I had sat at her grave, pondering life and death, literally in tears because I had come to the realization I was alone and so very different from everyone else I knew. I had faced a failed marriage to an abusive and alcoholic husband for nearly 10 years. It felt like there was no way out of my situation. The only consolation I felt was during time spent at the cemetery, amongst the dead. As I sat there in front of Dorothy’s grave, crying, feeling the breeze of the cool autumn air, watching the winds sway the branches of the trees ever so gently, I said, “If only I could find someone who loves cemeteries as much as I do, who loves to do the same things. If only I wasn’t so alone.” I wiped the tears from my eyes and gave no more thought to the plea I had just thrown out into the universe.

A couple of hours after I sent that message on Find-a-Grave, I received a reply back. No, he wasn’t related to Dorothy, but just someone who had read about her in a book about old Hollywood. It intrigued him to know more about her story. He complimented my profile photo and the fact that it reminded him of an old Hollywood glamour shot. We had an instant connection and certainly a lot of common ground. We started writing each other more. That led to phone calls. It was at East Lawn that we decided to play a little game, I would leave him a present at Dorothy’s grave and he would leave one for me. I left him a stone engraved with “Surround yourself with positive people.” The next day, he left me an antique edition of the complete poetic works of James Whitcomb Riley.

Unfortunately the day he came to drop it off, the ground was wet from rain. He convinced the staff in the main building that he had to leave something for me. Thankfully, the girl at the front desk was enough of a romantic to oblige his request. When I showed up, I didn’t know how to ask the front desk attendant about a mystery gift left for me, but the lady at the counter was very nice. She even told me she was jealous as she handed me the book. “I wish someone would do something romantic like that for me.”

It’s been five years that we have been together now and another fifty cemeteries we have visited together since then. I no longer feel alone in the world. We make a great team in everything we do. I am certain that there was an angel up there who heard my plea that day at Dorothy Millette Bern’s grave and knew that there was someone out there for me. We just hadn’t found each other yet, so we were given that little nudge in the same direction. Yes, I found love on Find-a-Grave. The key to happiness was waiting for me right there at East Lawn Cemetery all along.

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eastlawn2J’aime Rubio, author of Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered and Behind The Walls: A Historical Exposé of the Preston School of Industry, was born and raised in California. Besides being a mother of two, a published poet and author, she is also a journalist who has contributed her historical knowledge and investigative research to various newspapers and magazines in both California and Arizona.

Although she spends most of her free time roaming cemeteries and researching the past, she also maintains www.jaimerubiowriter.com which links to all six of her historical blogs. These blogs focus on people and places in history, with the hope to give a voice to the voiceless so that the forgotten will be forgotten no more.

Follow her on Facebook or Twitter, and purchase her books on Amazon.

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Death's Garden001About the Death’s Garden project:

I am starting up the Death’s Garden project again. If there is a cemetery that has touched your life, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you, particularly if there is one you visited on vacation — or if you got married in one. The submissions guidelines are here.

 

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Cemetery of the Week #159: Trafalgar Cemetery

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Trafalgar Cemetery view and all photos that follow by Deb Dauber.

Trafalgar Cemetery
Gibraltar GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
Consecrated: June 1798
Closed: 1814
Size: small
Number of Interments: 108 or so

Gibraltar lies at the end of the Iberian peninsula at the mouth of the Mediterranean. While it shares its northern border with Spain, Gibraltar was captured by the British in 1704 and remains under British protection.

This pretty little graveyard, originally called the Southport Ditch Cemetery, is mostly filled with people who died in the recurrent yellow fever epidemics of the early 19th century. Consecrated in 1798, it was named for the Southport Ditch, part of the town’s natural defenses, that dates back to Gibraltar’s Spanish era in the 17th century.

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The headstone of Lt. Norman.

Among the approximately 108 people buried here lie two sailors wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. Lieutenant William Forster of the HMS Columbus and Lieutenant Thomas Norman of the HMS Mars succumbed of their injuries after the battle was over. Norman’s headstone records that he “…died in the Naval Hospital of this Place…after having suffered several weeks with incredible Patience & Fortitude under the Effects of a fever & Wound rece’d in the great and memorable Seafight of Trafalgar.”

All the men who died during the course of the battle with Napoleon’s fleet were buried at sea.

Victims of other Napoleonic sea battles are buried here, however. Among them are Thomas Worth and John Buckland of the Royal Marine Artillery. They were killed by the same single shot in the Bay of Cadiz in 1810.

Also here lies John Brugier, who served as purser on the HMS San Juan Nepomuceno. That Spanish ship was captured at the Battle of Trafalgar, then towed into the harbor to be used as a supply warehouse.

IMG_1365Many of the graves here remember children of British soldiers stationed here who died of disease. The hand-lettered monument to Amelia Walker mentions her father, a lieutenant, but says nothing of her mother.  Amelia died at two months and nineteen days in March 1812.

After 1814, the little cemetery was considered full. Its final burial took place in the tomb in the northeast corner in 1838.

When nearby St. Jago’s Cemetery closed early in the 20th century, its gravestones were set into the eastern wall in 1932. Other gravestones were moved from the Alameda Gardens.

In 1992, the Royal Navy donated an anchor as a memorial to those buried at sea during the Battle of Trafalgar.

Useful links:

Information on visiting the Gibraltar Cemetery

More information on sightseeing in the Gibraltar Cemetery

The travel snapshots post on Cemetery Travel that inspired this listing.

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Cemetery of the Week #158: Staglieno Cemetery

Staglieno deathbed

This deathbed sculpture and the panorama below are taken from the Souvenir du Cimetiere de Genes, published in 1930.

The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno
Piazzale Resasco, 16100 Genoa, Italy
Opened: January 1, 1851
Size: 250 acres
Number of interments: 117,600 gravesites

Thirty-five years after the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno opened in Genoa, Italy, the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro decreed that Staglieno was the most beautiful cemetery in the world. It is still considered one of the largest open-air museums in Europe, full of one-of-a-kind works of art in marble. It’s made many lists of the world’s most beautiful graveyards.

Staglieno panoramaThe cemetery occupies a space in Genoa’s suburbs.  Originally it was nothing special, but as the local merchants grew wealthy through the maritime trade in the 19th century, Staglieno became “an avatar of posthumous consumerism.” Many of its sculptures were commissioned pre-need, so that the living could enjoy them before being buried beneath them.

James Stevens Curl in his landmark book The Victorian Celebration of Death has this to say about it: “With its classical architecture, dramatic site, and essential urbaneness, [Staglieno] is unquestionably the grandest of all the cemeteries in Europe. Many connoisseurs consider it to be the most splendid cemetery in the world because of the excellence and quality of sculpture in its galleries.”

The cemetery’s central square is paved with marble grave markers, which are surrounded with thousands of sculptures. The Cemetery Book by Tom Weil says Staglieno is Italy’s largest cemetery.

Staglieno Oneto

The Monteverde angel from Staglieno: The Art of the Marble Carver

In Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain describes the cemetery: “On either side, as one walks down the middle of the passage, are monuments, tombs, and sculptural figures that are exquisitely wrought and are full of grace and beauty. They are new and snowy; every outline is perfect, every feature guiltless of mutilation, flaw, or blemish.” While industrial pollution has dimmed the snowy white statuary, it’s still remarkably lovely.

The most famous statue in Staglieno is Giulio Monteverde’s angel standing over the Oneto family tomb. The androgynous angel holds one hand to his bare chest, gazing down with a fierce fixed expression. At his side he holds a long trumpet, indicating that he is the angel of resurrection who will blow the trumpet at the end of the world to call the dead from their graves. Monteverde’s angel has been copied in cemeteries around the world.

Staglieno Beautiful Death

David Robinson’s photo, which served as the cover of his book Saving Graces.

Ken Worpole’s Last Landscapes has this to add: “The cult of representing the agony of death and parting through the languid, eroticized figure of a female nude, or of a naked couple entwined in lovemaking, reached its apotheosis in a number of the sculptures in the Staglieno Cemetery.” Many of these erotic nudes appear in photographer David Robinson’s book Saving Graces.

Walter S. Arnold has examined Staglieno’s monuments from a sculptor’s point of view.  My review of his The Art of the Marble Carver is here.

Useful links:

Staglieno’s homepage

The American Friends of Italian Monumental Sculpture are working to restore the cemetery. Here’s some of the statuary in process of being conserved.

Atlas Obscura‘s listing on Staglieno, with beautiful photographs

Yet more beautiful photos of Staglieno

 

 

Posted in Cemetery of the Week | Tagged , , | 4 Comments