Wish You Were Here’s 4th anniversary

In March 1999, I met Thomas Roche, who was editing nonfiction for Gothic.Net. I pitched him a column about visiting cemeteries: on vacation, with friends, with my parents, with tour guides. My initial list of proposed columns had 42 cemeteries from San Francisco’s historical columbarium to the artists’ graveyard Vysehrad in Prague.

I’d never written a column before. I had published a handful travel essays in Trips magazine and the Traveler’s Tales books. I’d edited the book Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries and three issues of Morbid Curiosity magazine. Tom had no indication that I could actually do what I was proposing. He gave me a chance anyway.

My first column appeared in April 1999. It was adapted from my introduction to Death’s Garden, which had gone out of print. It was part survey of cemeteries I’d visited, part manifesto about why it was important to visit graveyards and what they had to teach us.

For the next couple of years, I wrote each month about a cemetery I’d visited, roaming from Gettysburg to Hiroshima, from Northern Michigan’s Mackinaw Island to the Roman catacombs. Gothic.Net never put any limitations on what I wrote about — and the editorial staff were hugely encouraging. Often I’d get nice emails from them even before the essay had gone up online.

After I’d written the first dozen columns, I started to think about putting together a book. I began to travel to historically significant cemeteries just so I could write about them. My husband Mason and I arranged a tour of East Coast cemeteries, starting in Boston and driving to Providence, then on to Sleepy Hollow, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and back to Brooklyn to see Green-Wood Cemetery. In all, we visited 14 cemeteries in 11 days. It was wonderful.

Then my younger brother died suddenly and I got pregnant at 39. Complications ensued.

It took a while for me to complete the book. I joined the Red Room Writers Society in October 2004, which gave me a place to escape to (the Archbishop’s Mansion) where I could write shoulder to shoulder with other writers. I finished a bunch of new essays, filled out the book, and named it Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.

WishYouWereHere-cover-FINAL-600x900It took a while to find a home for it, but John Palisano published it in May 2013 through his Western Legends Press. Working with John was a dream: he let me choose the essays, arrange them how I liked. He made me a book trailer that I love.

When Black Dog & Leventhal approached me to write 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, I asked John if I could have the rights to Wish You Were Here back. There were some errors I wanted to correct and I wanted to include an index. The updated version was published on July 21, 2017.

I have felt so lucky and supported as I created this book. It contains 35 of my graveyard travel essays and visits more than 50 cemeteries, churchyards, and gravesites across the globe. It explores the pioneer cemetery in Yosemite, the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Arlington, Pere Lachaise, Vysehrad, the Protestant Cemetery of Rome and the Catacomb of Saint Sebastian, and so much more.

It starts with me discovering my love for cemeteries when I visited Highgate for the first time in January 1991 and ends just before my daughter’s birth in 2003. There’s so much more I want to say about cemeteries–and so many more essays I’ve written. I’ve started to assemble a book that I’m calling Still Wish You Were Here: More Adventures in Cemetery Travel. I think it might be out early in 2023.

In the meantime, you can see where this all began in Wish You Were Here:  

Get the book:

On Amazon: https://amzn.to/3BsAlH9

On Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wish-you-were-here-loren-rhoads/1126830675

On Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/a/18236/9780963679468

Or direct from me, if you’d like it autographed: https://lorenrhoads.com/product/wish-you-were-here-adventures-in-cemetery-travel-autographed/

Price Drop on the Cemetery Travels Notebook

I’ve dropped the price on the Cemetery Travels Notebook, so it’s more affordable. Check it out!

cemetery-travels-notebook-cover-1

The Cemetery Travels Notebook is a place to keep the field notes from your own cemetery adventures. It features 80 lined pages, interspersed with 20 lush full-page color photographs of cemeteries from Paris to Tokyo, with stops at Sleepy Hollow, San Francisco, and all points between, to inspire your wanderlust.

Photographer Loren Rhoads, author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, blogs about graveyards as travel destinations at CemeteryTravel.com. She’s a long-time member of the Association for Gravestone Studies.

Ordering information:

The Cemetery Travel Notebook is available for $19.59 (softcover) or $23.39 (hardbound) from Blurb.com. See a preview at Blurb.

Autographed and inscribed copies can be ordered directly from Loren via the Cemetery Travel bookstore in the tab above. For details or to request inscriptions, leave a message through the Contact Me form.

Praise for the Cemetery Travels Notebook:

“The Cemetery Travels Notebook is the perfect notebook for a taphophile. It’s a lined notebook for all your note-taking needs. It’s also filled with beautiful full-color photos of monuments from the US and beyond.”—Minda Powers-Douglas, The Cemetery Club

Cemetery Travels Notebook is a great book for recording notes and thoughts while you explore cemeteries. It is also a unique gift idea for your taphophile friends.”—Andrea Carlin, Association for Gravestone Studies Quarterly

“The Cemetery Travels Notebook is great! I love the photos and the amount of space for keeping notes and thoughts.”—Joy Neighbors, author of A Grave Interest

“The Cemetery Travels Notebook is really beautiful. It will be very useful.”—Jeane Trend-Hill, author of the Silent Cities series

“The photos in the Cemetery Travels Notebook are inspirational. I love the fact that there’s a lot of writing space for my thoughts.”—Leni Panopio, Cypress Lawn Memorial Park

“I love my Cemetery Travels Notebook. It has beautiful pictures and fits into a purse perfectly. What more could you want from a notebook?”—Martha Allard, author of Dust and Other Stories

My Cemetery Videos on Youtube

Many years ago, I started a channel on Youtube. It was intended to showcase videos I recorded, but over the years, I’ve appeared on a number of other people’s podcasts and blogs, talking about cemeteries.

Last week, I finally spent some time organizing my youtube channel into a functional series of playlists. If you’ve got some time, you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvTI4Zh74nsCLGmOBqulRRQ

The Cemetery Travel playlist collects interviews I’ve done with Joanna Penn of Books & Travel, Goth podcast Cemetery Confessions, genealogy podcast Extreme Genes, cryptozoology podcast Strange Familiars, and most recently with Tui Snider’s Tombstone Tuesday podcast. There are also some video clips from the interview I did with Bridget Marquardt for Ghost Magnet.

If you click past the channel’s home page to my collection of playlists, there’s one of my favorite cemetery videos on youtube. These include videos other cemetery bloggers have made of their graveyard explorations, lectures I’ve attended online, and much more. Here’s the direct link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXorvWMCgb5B1bXgYOemh-I8Xt3FdjbBx

That playlist is a work in progress, so if you have a favorite video I haven’t included — or you’ve made one of your own that you would like me to check out, please send me the link.

I hope you’ll check out my channel. I’m working on another video that I hope to have finished in May. Let me know if there’s is anything related to cemeteries that you’re particularly curious about and I’ll try to assemble a video exploration on the subject.

Thanks!

Cemetery of the Week #174: Union Cemetery

Cemetery of the Week #174: Union Cemetery
Address: 227 East 28th Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri 64108
Phone: (816) 472-4990
Founded: 1857
Size: 27 acres
Number interred: 55,000
Open: 7 am to 5 pm daily.

Atop a hill overlooking the city lie the founders of Kansas City, Missouri. Union Cemetery is Kansas city’s oldest public cemetery, the final resting place of politicians, artists, war heroes, business leaders, and everyday people. Today it is advertised as Kansas City’s “most serene and historic public park.”

John Calvin McCoy came to this area as a surveyor working for the US government in 1830. In February 1835, he filed the plat for the town of Kansas. He owned a store which outfitted settlers moving west on the Santa Fe Trail.

The cholera epidemic of 1849 filled the existing family plots and the first city cemetery in Kansas City. City leaders spent years searching for a suitable replacement until James W. Hunter  deeded 49 acres of his hilltop farmland to the Union Cemetery Association. The land lay halfway between the town of Kansas on the Missouri River and the town of Westport, which was a supply stop for wagon trains as they moved west. The cemetery, which opened in 1857, was envisioned as a “union” between the two towns.

James Hunter’s monument, like many in the cemetery, is marked with a post corresponding to the walking tour map.

A fire in August 1889 damaged the sexton’s cottage and destroyed the burial records. The loss was total, as many of the graves had only been marked by wooden or limestone markers, which have eroded over time. The cottage was burned again in 1985, but by then, the cemetery records were kept off-site. The Women in Construction in Kansas City rebult the cottage for the third time. It was rededicated in October 1990. Now it serves as a visitor center and gift shop. It’s only open Thursday and Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Missouri’s most famous 19th century artist, George Caleb Bingham, was a landscape painter concerned with the effects of light. His best-remembered work was the 1845 “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri,” now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Bingham chose to be buried facing south in the cemetery, although the tradition was to bury everyone facing east, toward Jerusalem and the resurrection. Bingham apparently claimed that the Lord would find him, no matter which way he faced.

A bronze medallion adorns Majors’s grave.

Alexander Majors was a partner in a freighting firm that led settlers across the prairie. His company founded the Pony Express during the Civil War. Although it only lasted 18 months, it cost Majors his fortune. He died penniless in 1900.

A small monument in the Kearney family plot remembers Hattie Drisdom Kearney. On Christmas Day 1855, she was sold as a slave. She was 11 years old. She begged a “kindly looking” man to buy her. After Charles Esmonde Kearney placed the winning bid, he freed her. When she told him she had nowhere to go, he hired her as a housekeeper and nurse. She worked for the Kearney family for 80 years, raising several generations. Now she lies amongst them.

By 1910, the cemetery was sadly deteriorated. The Cemetery Association sold 18 acres to fund upkeep. In 1937, the remaining 27 acres were deeded to Kansas City. The Native Sons of Greater Kansas City began a major restoration as its first community service project. The present gated entry was funded by the Native Sons in the 1950s. The iron fence enclosing the cemetery was added by the city in the 1990s.

The Union Cemetery is now maintained by the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation. It’s a beautiful place, full of history and beautiful monuments, well worth a visit.

Useful links:
The Union Cemetery Historical Society: https://www.uchskc.org/

Walking tour map: https://kcparks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Walking-Tour-Map-of-Union-Cemetery.pdf

African American Heritage Trail of Kansas City: https://aahtkc.org/union-cemetery

Findagrave listing: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/32037/union-cemetery

Welcome to CemeteryTravel.com

Six or seven years ago, I had a brainstorm to create a video that would introduce CemeteryTravel readers to the cemetery where I grew up, the one that taught me to love graveyards. I quickly realized that I couldn’t film it by myself. Unfortunately, my kid wasn’t interested in serving as my camera person.

Another brainstorm later, I decided to ask my friend, collaborator, and former director Brian Thomas if he would shoot the video for me. When we were in college, I had the honor of appearing in some of Brian’s student films and I knew he has a gift with a camera. I asked him to shoot me gardening in front of my grandparents’ headstone and touching the Youell tree stump. He came up with all the other moving shots in this video.

We shot the footage in 2014 and there the project languished. Every so often I would open iMovie and take a stab at assembling the bits, but my lack of editing skill made the work highly frustrating and very depressing. The gulf between what I wanted and what I could manage was crushing.

It took another brainstorm to finally get the job done. Earlier this year, I approached my friend John Palisano, who had published the first edition of Wish You Were Here and created an amazing book trailer for me. I asked John if he would edit the raw footage together for me.

After John said yes, his son Leo got interested in the project and put together this lovely video. Leo edited the footage together, added some of my photos where pieces were missing — and then animated them, and put up with my niggling comments of shortening this piece or that. He chose the stone-grain typeface for the title cards. He added the blue jays from Brian’s original videos as intro and outro sound. He made the the video of my dreams at last.

I was literally incapable of making this video without their help. Thank you so much, Brian, John, and Leo!