Graveyard Field Trips on Wattpad

WYWHere - CoverWhen I put together my first book of cemetery essays, I had so many essays written that I had to leave some of them out. I tried to be conscious of how many California cemeteries I included, how many times I rambled around graveyards with my mom, how many times I raved about how beautiful any particular burial ground was.  I wanted to include as many historically significant sites as possible, which meant leaving out some of my more personal stories. I wanted Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel to be complete, but not an omnibus.

In 2014,  the year that the Red Room site went down — taking my blog with it, I switched over to Wattpad. It wasn’t a blogging platform in the same sense, but it allowed writers to publish books in a serial format.  The Wattpad team encouraged me to put together some nonfiction. They even helped by creating a cover for me.

All You Need is Morbid Watty AwardThat first book was All You Need is Morbid. It’s a collection of essays about traveling with my husband. Of course, it includes some cemetery essays, including a trip high into the mountains of the California Gold Country to find the tiny village graveyard of Iowa Hill, visiting the Bone Chapel of Kutna Hora on my birthday, searching out the Capuchin Catacombs on our first day in Rome, and stumbling across casts of people buried in the ruins of Pompeii.

All You Need is Morbid made the Featured Nonfiction list on Wattpad shortly after it was published. Then it won one of the first ever HQ Love Watty Awards.

Wattpad has included the book in a number of promotions since then.  Because they’ve been so generous, it’s been my intention to put together another essay collection for a while. This summer, I finally assembled a new book called Graveyard Field Trips.

Graveyard Field TripsThis time I concentrated on stories about sharing my love of cemeteries with other people:

  • I poked around a tiny farming graveyard in Michigan with my brother, looking for a monument to circus roustabouts killed in a train wreck.
  • I visited artist M. Parfitt at the height of summer so we could explore the cemetery where she eventually became a tour guide.
  • My old friend Brian Thomas took me on a night tour of Westwood Memorial Park, to visit Marilyn Monroe’s grave.
  • My friend Ann Marie and I went on a doomed quest for the burial ground of the Tule Lake Concentration Camp.
  • Forestter Cobalt led me on a ghost hunt in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.
  • I stood beside my great aunt as her own gravesite.
  • Mason and I explored the glories of ancient Rome.
  • My daughter and her friend met a scorpion in a graveyard in Singapore.
  • My family escorted me to see the Kiss of Death in Barcelona.
  • And more, of course!

The whole book is completed now and can be read for free on Wattpad.  It’s spooky, sentimental, star-struck, and deeply curious about life, death, and all the messy, beautiful things that make us human.  Please check it out at https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/151274118-graveyard-field-trips-a-memoir.

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2018 Bay Area Cemetery Tours

IMG_1788Sunday, September 23 at 1-3 pm
Spirits of St. Helena Cemetery Walk
St. Helena Public Cemetery
2461 Spring St, St Helena, CA 94574
This is the St. Helena Historical Society’s 16th Annual Cemetery Tour, featuring stories of German decedents, including Charles Krug and Jacob Schram. St. Helena High School drama students, under the direction of Patti Coyle, will be acting out scenarios from the lives of the deceased and their families. 1 to 3 pm at the St. Helena Cemetery. 967-5502 or shstory.org.

Saturday, September 29 from 9-1 pm
San Lorenzo Cemetery Clean Up and Open Day
Usher Street and College Street, San Lorenzo, CA 94580
Drop by to help preserve our local historic cemetery! Bring gloves, rakes, and water. The cemetery will also be open during this time for the public to visit the grounds and ask questions.
http://www.haywardareahistory.org/calendar/2018/9/29/san-lorenzo-cemetery-clean-up-and-open-day

Saturday, October 6 from 8:30-10 am
Yountville Veterans Home & Cemetery Photo Walk
100 California Drive, Yountville, CA 94599
Imagine you and your camera being guided on a historical photowalk tour in the heart of Napa Valley by our nation’s veterans. They will be your “imagery guide” to the oldest and largest of eight California homes. The home was established in 1884 by veterans of the Civil and Mexican American Wars. The walking tour will include: The 1918 Armistice Chapel that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, The home’s cemetery where nearly 6ooo men and women have been laid to rest, including four Medal of Honors, and the Arboretum that includes trees from all over the world. After your tour, you will have the opportunity to re-group in the Tug McGraw Foundation’s Brain Food Garden, enjoy delights provided by the foundation and chat about your images! Bring comfortable shoes and water. The entire campus is wheelchair accessible.
https://worldwidephotowalk.com/walk/the-historical-yountville-veterans-home/

Saturday, October 6 from 1-3 pm
Redwood Memorial Gardens Pioneer Cemetery Tour
Cemetery Road, Guerneville, California
$10 helps to pay for restoration. Make sure you map the drive. I’m having trouble finding an address.
https://www.russianriverhistory.org/event/redwood-memorial-gardens-pioneer-cemetery-tour

Friday & Saturday, October 19-20, beginning at 7 pm
Lantern Tours of Old City Cemetery
1000 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818
Tickets are $40 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Tour the tombstones in “They Had It Coming,” the theme of the 2018 Lantern Tours. There will be five tours per night, beginning at 7 p.m. and every half hour thereafter. The evening will begin with period music, games of chance, and encounters with some characters out of the city’s past. On the tour, meet other eternal residents who will tell their tales of crimes of passion, rash judgment, and just rewards. The experience ends with a stage show of merry cemetery murderesses dancing, singing and telling their own stories. The price includes all this and refreshments. Proceeds support cemetery preservation.
http://events.sacbee.com/performer.aspx?perf_id=2528342

Friday, October 19 from 7–10:30 pm
Ghosts of Dublin Pioneer Cemetery tour
Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, 6600 Donlon Way, Dublin, CA 94568
Tickets are $14 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Take a flashlight tour through Dublin’s historic Pioneer Cemetery, where Dublin’s buried past comes alive. Hear haunting stories of ghosts thought to be lurking in Dublin, including reports of recent findings by local paranormal researchers. See ghostly images of long dead pioneers in Old St. Raymond Church.
https://patch.com/california/dublin/calendar/event/20181019/394748/ghosts-of-dublin-flashlight-tour-2018-pioneer-cemetery-dublin

Saturday, October 20 from 10:30-noon
Tour of Cypress Hill Cemetery
430 Magnolia Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952
Tickets are $15 + a service fee available online at https://cemeterytour2018.brownpapertickets.com.
We continue our fun and spooky tradition this year with Petalumans of Yesteryear in period attire and personas guiding visitors through the historic Cypress Hill Cemetery.
https://www.petalumamuseum.com/calendar-event/annual-cemetery-tour/

Sunday, October 21 at 1:30 pm
Tour of Mountain View Cemetery
5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland CA 94611
Tickets are $18.
Every visit to Mountain View Cemetery is like a trip back in time. It is like shaking hands with railroad builder Charles Crocker, admiring the brushwork of Yosemite landscape painter Thomas Hill, and hearing architect Julia Morgan rhapsodize about her designs for Hearst Castle.
https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/events/details?event_id=27734

Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30-7:45 pm
Hunters Tour of Alhambra Cemetery
211 Foster St, Martinez, CA 94553
The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1851, has stunning views of the Carquinez Strait and a rich history. A tour guide will introduce you to families with names you know and some you don’t. You’ll learn more about local war heroes, personalities, politicians and a most creative caretaker. Tours are designed to enlighten, not frighten. Wear sturdy comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Sorry, no children please! Bring a flashlight.
https://patch.com/california/martinez/calendar/event/20181024/398582/alhambra-cemetery-halloween-full-moon-tour-martinez

Friday, October 26 from 7–10:30 pm
Ghosts of Dublin Pioneer Cemetery tour
Dublin Heritage Park & Museums, 6600 Donlon Way, Dublin, CA 94568
Tickets are $14 and should be purchased in advance. This will sell out.
Take a flashlight tour through Dublin’s historic Pioneer Cemetery, where Dublin’s buried past comes alive. Hear haunting stories of ghosts thought to be lurking in Dublin, including reports of recent findings by local paranormal researchers. See ghostly images of long dead pioneers in Old St. Raymond Church.
https://patch.com/california/dublin/calendar/event/20181019/394748/ghosts-of-dublin-flashlight-tour-2018-pioneer-cemetery-dublin

Saturday, October 27 at 10 am
Tour of Mt. Olivet Cemetery
270 Los Ranchitos Rd, San Rafael, CA 94903
Join us to visit the burial sites of many of the founding pioneer families of Marin County. Some who found their final place here led scandalous lives but now rest peacefully. From James Miller, founding father, to Barbara Graham, criminal, all have a story to tell.
https://marinhistory.org/event-2960661

Saturday, October 27 at 7:30 pm
Nighttime Walking Tour of Cypress Lawn Memorial Park
1363 El Camino Real, Colma, CA 94014
Meet docent Terry Hamburg at the Nobel Chapel for the annual nighttime walking tour.
http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.org/events/walking-tours/

Sunday, October 28 from 10 am–5 pm
Ghost Tour: Shipwrecks of Point Reyes
Starts at the Historic Life-Saving Service Cemetery
18618-19084 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
For youth, ages 12 and up, with adult supervision.
Tickets are $40.
Do the ghosts of doomed sailors haunt Point Reyes’ treacherous shores? We’ll pay our respects at a historic cemetery and travel out to the sites of myriad maritime tragedies, seeking personal connection to long lost ships and those who wait to tell their stories from the bottom of the sea.
http://www.ptreyes.org/camps-classes-programs/field-institute/classes/ghost-tour-shipwrecks-point-reyes-1

Sunday, October 28 from noon-3 pm
Cycles of History: Haunted Colma
$15-50 sliding scale donation (but we are flexible and you can pay less–or more!–as you see fit), benefiting Shaping San Francisco. Please RSVP to shaping@foundsf.org or 415.881.7579.
Meet at the Colma BART Station at 12 noon and then take a spirited tour of several massive cemeteries where famous San Franciscans are buried. Visit Woodlawn, Home of Peace and Hills of Eternity, Cypress Lawn, and Holy Cross. Return to Colma or South SF BART together at the end of the tour. Bring water and a snack.
https://sfbike.org/event/cycles-of-history-haunting-tour-of-colma-cemeteries/

Wednesday, October 31 at 6:30-7:45pm
Halloween Tour of Alhambra Cemetery
211 Foster St, Martinez, CA 94553
The Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, established in 1851, has stunning views of the Carquinez Strait and a rich history. A tour guide will introduce you to families with names you know and some you don’t. You’ll learn more about local war heroes, personalities, politicians and a most creative caretaker. Tours are designed to enlighten, not frighten. Wear sturdy comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Sorry, no children please! Bring a flashlight.
https://patch.com/california/martinez/calendar/event/20181024/398582/alhambra-cemetery-halloween-full-moon-tour-martinez

Saturday, November 3 at 10 am
Tour of Old St. Mary’s Cemetery
Meet at the St. Joseph Family Center, 7950 Church Street, Gilroy, CA 95020
Contact the Gilroy Museum at 408.846.0446 for more details.
https://visitgilroy.com/event/historic-walking-tour-william-weeks-buildings-copy/

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At Cypress Lawn this Weekend

IMG_0551This Sunday, September 16, I will show some of my favorite photographs from 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die at one of my favorite cemeteries in the book, Colma’s Cypress Lawn Memorial Park.

Cypress Lawn was founded in the 1890s as a garden cemetery. To this day, it is full of lovely statuary, an exotic arboretum, carpet flowerbeds, and monuments to the founding fathers of San Francisco. It also has acres of stained glass in its public catacombs. It’s one of the loveliest cemeteries in Northern California.

My talk starts at 2 pm in Cypress Lawn’s Reception Center at 1370 El Camino Real in Colma, California. It’s free and there will be refreshments. You can get more information here: http://www.cypresslawnheritagefoundation.org/events/lectures/ or call 650-550-8812.

I’ll have copies of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemeteries Travel available for sale. You’re also welcome to bring your own copy for a signature.

This is the only 199 Cemeteries event I’ve got scheduled so far this far, so don’t miss it. In fact, come early and have a lovely ramble in Cypress Lawn.

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Cemetery of the Week #169: Grove Street Cemetery

IMG_0053Grove Street Cemetery
Also known as the New Haven City Burial Ground
227 Grove Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Established: September 1796
Size: 18 acres
Number of interments: 14,000
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm daily

In New Haven, an 18th-century campaign to close the overcrowded churchyards led to a new type of burial place. Thirty-two wealthy men formed a private association to establish a burial ground—and created the first incorporated cemetery in America. Its 1797 charter said, “Any person or body politic, their heirs, successors, or signs, who shall be the proprietor or owner of a lot which now is, or hereafter shall be located or laid out in said burying ground, shall be a legal member of said corporation and entitled to one vote for every lot he or they shall own or possess.” In other words, the lot holders owned the cemetery. That was revolutionary.

The 18-acre cemetery was laid out as a rigid grid, a design considered innovative, just as the cemetery was considered huge. The avenues and paths between the lots were named Spruce, Sycamore, and Laurel, names which have been echoed in cemeteries across the United States.

IMG_0088Also revolutionary: People could be buried with their families, rather than in the order in which they died. In the churchyards which predated Grove Street Cemetery, people were planted in the order in which they fell, filling up any available space. At Grove Street, families invested in large monuments with the family name—often an obelisk or an ornate marble confection—as the centerpiece for their plots: celebrating kinship, rather than individual achievement. Cemetery lots were large enough to bury family members for generations.

The landscape design combined the aesthetic of 18th-century English gardens with the flowering orchards of Connecticut. Tall Lombardy poplars emphasized the geometric design of the grounds and underlined the stability of the institution. Weeping willows, recently accepted as metaphors for grief, added movement and color to the grounds. Dogwoods, redbuds, and other flowering trees were added later.

Rhoads_GroveStgate_0122.jpgA massive brownstone Egyptian Revival Gate, designed by Henry Austin (buried here), greets visitors. The gate was dedicated in 1845, after the popularity of the smaller Egyptian gateway at Mount Auburn. Egyptiana became a worldwide fad after Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt at the turn of the 19th century.

Many distinguished people are buried here: Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; Noah Webster, lexicographer who standardized American spelling with his dictionary; paleontologist Othniel Marsh, who first reconstructed dinosaur skeletons; Charles Goodyear, originator of rubber vulcanization; Theodore Winthrop, a novelist who was one of the first officers killed in the Civil War; Hiram Bingham, pioneer missionary to Hawaii; and Roger Sherman, the only man to sign all four fundamental documents on which the United States government is based: the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.

Rhoads-GroveStMiller_0100A cenotaph stands to the memory of Major Glenn Miller, the swing band leader who went missing in action while stationed in Europe in 1944. Other cenotaphs line the back wall of the cemetery: the gravestones removed from the New Haven Green, where the Colony’s original burial ground lay. As I noted in the entry on the New Haven Crypt, all remaining grave markers were removed from the Green and lined up in Grove Street Cemetery in the early 1800s. Unless specifically transferred by their descendants, all the bodies were left behind, undisturbed, in the Green. At Grove Street, the monuments are aligned in alphabetical order, for ease of locating your ancestor’s name.

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The cemetery also encloses several figures important in African American history. Yehudi Ashman, an agent of the African Colonization Society, promoted the settlement of Blacks in Monrovia, Liberia. Mary Goodman, an African American businesswoman, established the first scholarship for African American students at Yale. She died in 1872.

Rhoads-GroveStRemington_0058The cemetery continues to be in use. Modern graves are marked with geometric spheres of granite, copies of Remington’s western statures, and cryptic epitaphs, including at least one that quotes The Little Prince. Members of Yale’s faculty have come to rest here under some of the most unusual modern stones. The cemetery has been called the Westminster of Yale.

Useful links:

Grove Street Cemetery’s homepage: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/

Grove Street’s history: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/history_of_grove_street_cemetery.htm

Tour schedule for 2018: http://www.grovestreetcemetery.org/tour_schedule.htm

Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1607917/grove-street-cemetery

Friends of Grove Street Cemetery on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/grovestreetcemetery/

 

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Cemetery of the Week #168: the New Haven Crypt

IMG_0181The New Haven Crypt
Center Church on the Green
250 Temple Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Founded: late 1600s
Closed: 1821
Size: small
Number of interments: an estimated 1,000 people are buried here
Tours: can be scheduled at (203) 787-0121.

Originally people in New Haven, Connecticut were buried in the green in the center of town. The space started to be used as a burial ground by settlers of the New Haven Colony in the 1600s. Estimates range from 5-10,000 people were buried there before 1821, when the Grove Street Cemetery opened nearby.  At that point, headstones were moved to the new cemetery, but the bodies were left in place below the sod in the Green.

The original First Church of Christ in New Haven was built on a corner of the Green in 1639.  It was rebuilt twice in the same place, but when the congregation voted to expand their meeting house, there was no open space on the Green.  Instead, they decided to build on pilings above part of the graveyard on the Green. Construction of Center Church began in 1812 and was completed in 1814.

IMG_0137The graves beneath the church were left in their original places and enclosed in what’s called a crypt, even though it stands at ground level.  The surviving stones date from 1687 to 1812 and have been called the “last remaining evidence on the New Haven Green of the first colonists who settled here to establish a new life in America.”

IMG_0132An estimated 1000 people (or perhaps more) are buried beneath the church. Plaques inside the church’s foyer list names and death dates of people known to be buried in the crypt. In those days, it was common for a family to reuse the same name for a child over and over in the same generation until one of them finally survived to adulthood.

The first map of the crypt was made by Henry Trowbridge in 1880. 139 gravestones survive inside the crypt, some of which have been rendered illegible by time. The oldest stone marks the grave of Sarah Rutherford Trowbridge, who died in 1687.

Originally the floor of the crypt was dirt, which was replaced by concrete as a way to control the damp. In 1985, they (who?) realized that the concrete was too successful in trapping moisture beneath it. The gravestones were acting as wicks, pulling the moisture upward, which was leading to degradation of the stone.  In 1990, the concrete was broken up and removed by being passed though the little windows to the Green outside. Walkways of unmortared bricks were laid between the stones, allowing them to breathe.

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The ceiling is low down there. At one point there was talk of lowering the floor so there would be more room, but the bodies are not actually buried very deeply.  In the end, the decision was made to leave the skeletons in place. The crypt is plenty bright enough, but it did make me feel slightly claustrophobic when all our tour group gathered in one area.

Among those buried here include Benedict Arnold’s first wife, Margaret; the family of President Rutherford B. Hayes; Reverend James Pierpont, a founder of Yale College, and many more. One of the stones remembers Sarah Whiting, “the painful mother of eight children, of whom six survive.” When she died in 1726, she was called “fruitful, virtuous, and weary.”

The New Haven Crypt Association preserves the site, trains volunteers as tour guides, and offers public tours most Saturdays from April to October from 11 am to 1 pm.

Outside the church is a cenotaph in honor of Theophilus Eaton, first governor of the New Haven Colony, who served for 19 years. He was also a founder of the First Church of Christ, from which Center Church derived, and is buried beneath the church’s foundation. The large marble plaque was placed on the church by the city when the gravestones were removed from the Green.

IMG_0179In what’s left of the churchyard, there are also plaques for General Edward Whalley and Goffe, two “regicides” who fled to New Haven to escape execution. Whalley and William Goffe signed the death warrant for King Charles I during the English Civil War. A tall monument remembers John Dixwell, one of the Regicide Judges, who settled in New Haven in 1665 under an assumed name.

Useful links:

A history of the Crypt on the Center Church site: http://centerchurchonthegreen.org/history/crypt/

Tales from the Crypt: https://ctcryptkeeper.wordpress.com/

Facebook page of the New Haven Crypt Association: https://www.facebook.com/newhavencrypt/

The Findagrave page: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1069578/center-church-on-the-green-churchyard

I meant to say that I know of at least one other church built above an earlier graveyard in the US. The graveyard where Edgar Allan Poe is buried in Baltimore has a church up on piers above the graves:  https://cemeterytravel.com/2013/10/09/cemetery-of-the-week-110-westminster-hall-burying-ground/

Posted in Cemetery of the Week, Church burial | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments