Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cemetery of the Week #126: Hollywood Cemetery

Vintage postcard of the monument to Jefferson Davis

Vintage postcard of the monument to Jefferson Davis

Hollywood Cemetery
412 South Cherry Street
Richmond, Virginia 23330
Telephone: 804-648-8501
Email: info@hollywoodcemetery.org
Founded: 1847
Size: 130 acres
Number of interments: approximately 80,000
Open: Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On the bluffs above the James River stands Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery. It was named for the holly trees that grew on the property, which belonged to Colonel Harvie, whose family plot lies under a stand of trees on the property.

Hollywood has the distinction of being one of only three graveyards where two presidents are buried. The others are Arlington National Cemetery and Quincy, Massachusetts, where the Adamses lie at rest.

Pres Monroe001When he died in 1831, America’s fifth president, James Monroe, was originally buried in New York. In the 1850s, a movement arose to bring all the Virginian presidents home. In 1858, Monroe was exhumed and accompanied home by an honor guard. The ship bearing his body ran aground in the James River and a grandson of Alexander Hamilton was drowned. The Monroe memorial was designed by Albert Lybrock. Through the mullions, you can see the marble sarcophagus covering his remains.  James E. DuPriest Jr.’s Hollywood Cemetery: a Tour said that Monroe’s ornate tomb attracts thousands of visitors to the cemetery each year.

Also buried in the President’s Circle is John Tyler, the 10th president, who took office after William Henry Harrison died from the pneumonia he caught at his own inauguration. During his presidency, Tyler opposed secession, but after the Civil War broke out, he served in the Confederate Congress. He died in Richmond in January 1862 and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery. No exhumations for him. It took until October 1915 for the United States government to forgive him enough to erect the tall square pillar, crowned with a shrouded urn, that marks his grave now. This was the first monument paid for by the US government erected to anyone who had joined the Confederacy.

Jeff Davis horiz001Elsewhere in the graveyard is buried Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederacy.  He was originally buried in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans, but Virginia petitioned to bring his body home.  He was reburied here on Memorial Day 1893.  He is buried near his children. Daughter Winnie, known as the Angel of the Confederacy, died of grief after her father forbade her to marry the grandson of a Northern abolitionist. Davis’s son Joseph died after falling 15 feet from the porch of the Confederate Capitol.  The boy’s grave is marked by a broken column.

Confederate graves

Confederate graves

Also in the graveyard stands a granite pyramid that marks the graves of 12,000 Confederate soldiers.  Many of them were moved from the battlefield at Gettysburg, where their bodies had been left where they’d fallen, even after all the Union bodies were gathered together and reburied in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

At first, the Confederate graves were laid out side by side, marked with wooden boards.  These were the days before dog tags, so many of the bodies could not be identified.  In 1869, the women of Richmond raised $26,000 to build a rough 90-foot-tall pyramid of undressed James River granite.  In 1910, the pyramid was covered with English ivy and Virginia creeper. Now the rock is bare and is dedicated to the 18,000 Confederate soldiers buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

Vintage postcard of the Confederate monument, postmarked 1910

Vintage postcard of the Confederate monument, postmarked 1910

Also buried in the cemetery are six Virginia governors, many of the founding fathers of Richmond, and 25 Confederate generals, more than any other cemetery in America.  Among those are J.E.B. Stuart, who died in a battle called Yellow Tavern, and George Pickett, who ordered the suicidal charge on Cemetery Hill at the battle of Gettysburg.

Finally, William Burke, who taught Edgar Allan Poe, is also buried here.

The cemetery office is open 8:30 to 4:30 during the week to sell books and maps.  They also sell the books and walking tour guides on their website.  The cemetery offers daily walking tours from April to October at 10 a.m. from Monday through Saturday.

Useful links:

Hollywood Cemetery’s homepage, which has a great slideshow

A history of Hollywood Cemetery from the National Park Service

Visitor info for Hollywood Cemetery & other Richmond attractions

A numbered map of the cemetery

Some photos of the graveyard & a list of famous burials

Wikipedia recommends two histories of the cemetery: John O. Peters’ Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery (2010) and Mary H. Mitchell’s Hollywood Cemetery (1999).  I haven’t read either, so I can’t provide any pointers. Let me know if you develop a preference.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Where is this lovely churchyard? All the epitaphs I can make out are in English.

Where is this lovely churchyard? All the epitaphs I can make out are in English. Photo by Blair Apperson.

Twenty years ago this week, my friend Blair got word that the liver surgery he’d undergone wasn’t successful and he had six months to live.  I can remember that, because he and his husband watched the Oscars after they got the news.

Blair went through a potlatch phase, where he gave his things away.  He gave me a box of cemetery photos that he had taken on his travels.  Nothing was labeled.  It felt weird to sit down with him, knowing that he was dying, and ask him to tell me about the graveyards he’d visited.  He told me some good stories, but he couldn’t remember where everything had been taken — and he’d made no notes.

All the same, I used a bunch of his photos in Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries, the first book I edited all by myself.  Blair didn’t live to see the book finished.  After it was done, after he was gone, I put his photos into sleeves and filed them away in a binder. I couldn’t look at them without thinking of him.

Kids playing football in the graveyard.

Kids playing football in the graveyard. Photo by Blair Apperson.

This month, I wanted to write about Black History for the Cemetery of the Week — and I remembered Blair’s photos.  I pulled them out again, but they remain just as mysterious to me as they did then.

If you can help me identify any of these graveyards, I would sure appreciate it.  I think they were taken in the Bahamas, maybe at Saba, but I don’t really know.  I know it’s a long shot, but I’m really hoping someone will recognize some of these images and be able to identify them for me at last.

Family plot in the backyard.

Family plot in the backyard. Photo by Blair Apperson.

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Cemetery of the Week #125: John Brown’s Grave

Vintage postcard of John Brown's grave

Vintage postcard of John Brown’s grave

John Brown Farm State Historic Site
115 John Brown Road
Lake Placid, New York 12946
Telephone: (518) 523-3900
Size: small
Number of interments: 15?
Open: The grounds are open year round, but the cottage and other buildings are only open May 1 through October 31 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Admission: Adults $2, Seniors/Students/ Groups $1. Children 12 and under are free.

To protest New York’s law that black men must own $250 worth of property in order to vote, abolitionist Gerrit Smith announced in 1846 that he would grant 40 acres of land to any black man who wanted to farm it. In 1849, fellow abolitionist John Brown bought an additional parcel of land for $1 an acre with the promise that he would move to the area and teach farming to the grantees. Many of them had worked previously as coachmen, cooks, and barbers and had no idea how to farm.

The land in New York’s Adirondack Mountains was rocky and difficult to work. Most of the black families gave up quickly. Brown himself stayed on his farm only briefly before heading off to oppose slavery in a more personal fashion. Some of his sons were homesteading in Kansas, which was vacillating between entering the Union as a slave or free state, so Brown joined them in 1855. He served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, guiding runaway slaves to freedom in the North.

Vintage postcard of john Browns's gravesite

Vintage postcard of john Browns’s gravesite

Even that wasn’t bringing change quickly enough. On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown led 19 men in an assault on the US Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (now in West Virginia). His plan had been to use the weapons to liberate slaves in the South.

He was captured two days later, imprisoned at Charlestown, Virginia, convicted of treason, and hanged on December 2, 1859.

Brown’s second wife, Mary, escorted his body back home from Virginia. On the journey home, his body lay in state, under guard, at the Elizabethtown Court House. On December 8, 1859, he was buried in front of his home near a boulder where he’d carved his initials in case he did not return home from the raid.

Captain john Brown's Revolutionary-era gravestone

Captain john Brown’s Revolutionary-era gravestone

At some point later, the gravestone of his grandfather Captain John Brown, who fought and died in the American Revolution, was moved to the farm from Connecticut. Brown’s name and Oliver’s — his son who’d died in the Harper’s Ferry raid — were added at the bottom.

In 1870, Kate Field discovered that the property was about to be sold by the Brown family. She collected donations and purchased the farm and graveyard as an historic site. The farmstead was acquired by the State of New York in 1895. The house and barn have been restored to circa 1859. Some original furnishings remain.

In 1899, the bodies of 12 of Brown’s followers, who fought and died at Harper’s Ferry, were reinterred in this small graveyard. A picket fence was added, to be replaced later by an ornate iron fence. The Revolutionary War gravestone was protected by a wooden frame. Around 1900, a bronze plaque was added to the boulder, to mark Brown’s actual gravesite.

The farm remains a popular tourist destination near Lake Placid. Outdoor displays provide photos of Brown’s men and explain their fates. In May, Civil War re-enactors camp out, paying homage to a man who had hoped that a small insurrection might stave off all-out civil war.

Useful links:

NY State Parks listing on the John Brown Farm

African American history in the Adirondacks

New York History Net entry on Gerrit Smith

Photos of the site: http://www.lakeplacid.com/do/activities/john-browns-farm-state-historic-site

Trail map of the John Brown property.  The cemetery is marked on the map by a cross.

Pete Seeger singing John Brown’s Body/The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Cemetery of the Week #124: the Cemetery of Marigot on Saint Martin

Palm trees and sailboat masks from the cemetery. Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

Palm trees and sailboat masks from the cemetery. Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

The Cemetery of Marigot on Saint Martin
aka Cimetiere de Marigot-Saint Martin
Boulevard de France
Saint Martin Island
GPS coordinates: 18°3’54″N 63°5’18″W

Marigot, capital of the island of Saint Martin, has been called “the most French in spirit of all the cities of the Caribbean.” A steady influx of cruise ships supports everything from cafes to luxury boutiques, including Chanel and Lacoste.

The first people came to Saint Martin around 1800 BCE, when they arrived from South America. They left behind stone tools. Another wave of immigration happened after 500 BCE when more people arrived in 60-person canoes. Their presence was marked by polished stone tools, worked shells, painted pottery, and tombs. A replica of one stands in the city’s museum.

Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

Life on the island remained pretty sedate until the French arrived in the 1760s. They built plantations and imported African slaves to grow sugar cane, which they exported back to Europe and the Americas. They also fermented the cane juice into rum.

Chevalier Jean de Durat, governor of the island and Saint Barths, oversaw the construction of Fort Louis (or Fort St. Louis, sources disagree) above Marigot Bay in 1767. The plans for the fort had been sent from the court of Louis XVI at Versailles. The fort was meant to defend the island’s warehouses full of salt, coffee, sugar cane, and run.

In 1772, de Durat married the heiress to the plantation of Saint Jean. Although he died in 1814, his children and grandchildren continued to run the plantation until slavery was abolished in 1848. Even after that, sugar production continued on the land until 1860, when the plantation was abandoned. The ruins still stand along the main road from Marigot toward Philipsburg.

Photo of grave decorations by Kathleen Rhoads.

Photo of grave decorations by Kathleen Rhoads.

The Dutch occupied Fort Louis temporarily after the slave revolts on Guadeloupe in 1789. After the French regained the fort, the English attacked from their base on Antigua to loot the warehouses on a regular basis throughout the 19th century.

Martinique-born Francois-August Perrinon is Marigot’s most famous resident. As a shareholder in a company that produced salt from Saint Martin’s swamps, he experimented with paying slaves. He discovered, unsurprisingly, that slaves who were free — and paid — worked harder than those who were mistreated. He joined Victor Schoelcher’s Commission in Paris that lobbied to abolish slavery. Schoelcher announced the abolition of slavery throughout the French Colonies on April 27, 1848.

Afterward, Perrinon retired to Saint Martin to resume his salt harvesting. He died in 1861. His tomb still stands in the Marigot Cemetery.

These days, the cemetery stands between the bay and the marina. Grave plots are often surrounded by a poured concrete curb. Some are completely covered with slabs of imported granite or with ceramic tile. Epitaphs tend to be in French. Decorations range from ceramic or silk flowers to conch shells to hearts outlined with small stones.

Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

Photo by Kathleen Rhoads.

Lately, dengue fever and chikungunya fever have grown to epidemics on Saint Martin. Wear long sleeves and pants or use DEET-based bug repellent when exploring the cemetery, where water might be standing in vases, giving a home to the mosquitoes who carry the disease.

Useful links:

Some history of the town of Marigot

Information on amenities in Marigot

A map to the cemetery

Center for Infectious Disease Research story on dengue fever and chikungunya

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Cemetery of the Week #123: Stoke Poges Churchyard

Vintage postcard of Stoke Poges Churchyard, pre-1924

Vintage postcard of Stoke Poges Churchyard, pre-1924, when the spire was removed.

St. Giles Church
Church Lanes
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, SL2 4NZ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 1753 642331
Founded: circa 1086
Size: 3 acres
Number of interments: unknown
Open: St. Giles’ Church is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Legend says that Thomas Gray was inspired to write the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” while visiting this small churchyard in the heart of England. Famous and Curious Cemeteries claims the poem is “the greatest tribute to any burial ground.” It may be one of the goth-est poems every written, with verses such as this:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Yew tree, porch, and wooden grave boards, about 1790

Yew tree, porch, and wooden grave boards, about 1790

The church served the manor, which stands 200 yards away, and never had a village nearby. The manor itself was probably a Saxon thane’s home until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Normans didn’t waste any time before settling in; by the 1080s, they were already building the first church. The Chancel (the part near the altar) walls and pillars in the Nave (the main body of the church) remain of that Norman church.

The church is first mentioned in 1107, when it was “made over” with money tithed to the Priory of St. Mary Overie in Southwark. It was remodeled every hundred years or so, enlarged and improved. In 1702, the spire was erected – Gray admires it in his poem as the “ivy-mantled tower” – but the ivy damaged the spire and it was removed in 1924, when it was in danger of collapse.

The word Stoke meant a stockaded place. It was large and important enough in 1086 that the lord of the manor became known as William of Stoke. In the 13th century, Amicia of Stoke, heiress of the manor, married Robert Pogeys, and their land became known as Stoke Poges.

Inside the chancel, on the left, stands the tomb of Sir John de Molyns, Marshal of the King’s Falcons and Supervisor of the King’s Castles. He served both Edward II and Edward III, but was a robber baron who is believed to have murdered his wife’s uncle and cousin in order to inherit their land. He died in March 1360.

Souvenir booklet published in 1948: "copyright reserved by the Vicar." The aerial view of the church shows the manor up toward the right corner.

Souvenir booklet published in 1948: “copyright reserved by the Vicar.” The aerial view of the church shows the manor up toward the right corner.

Around 1558, Lord Hastings of Loughborough built a chapel for the “inmates of an almshouse” that stood nearby. The chapel was also intended to serve as a burial place for the Hastings family. On the chapel’s south wall is a mural with cherubs’ heads and skulls, which is believed to be a memorial, although it doesn’t have any names on it. Sir Thomas and Sir Walter Clarges were buried somewhere nearby with their families from 1677 to 1728, but the graves have been lost.

The “most ancient monument” found in the churchyard was a flat tombstone dug out of the churchyard. It was moved into the Hastings chapel and placed near the door. Around its edge, it says in Norman French, “All those who pass by here, Pray for the soul of this one. William of Wytermerse he had for a name. God to him grant true pardon.”

Thomas Gray's tomb

Thomas Gray’s tomb

Thomas Gray (1716-71) himself lies in a brick tomb next to his mother and her unmarried sister under the east window of the Hastings Chapel, just outside the east end of St. Giles’ Church. His name doesn’t appear on the tomb, but a tablet in the wall records his burial “in the same tomb upon which he has so unfeeling inscribed his grief at the loss of a beloved parent.”

Immediately opposite the southwest door of St. Giles’ Church stands the yew tree under which Gray composed his poem.

The churchyard was enlarged twice since Gray’s burial, but is now closed. A new cemetery opened in 1911, immediately adjacent.

Useful links:
History of Stoke Poges Church at the church’s website

Photos of the church and churchyard

A snarky British visit to the churchyard

Debate about which yew was really Gray’s inspiration

The text of Elegy written in a Country Churchyard