Monday, December 29, 2008

Postcard Collection...Report No. One

Harpswell, ME. The Old Meeting House and Burying Grounds

The meeting house shown on this postcard was started in 1757 and completed 1759. The burying grounds are immediately behind the meeting house. Until 1900 it was still used for burial; however they had to stop because old graves were being uncovered when a new grave was dug. Due to the age of the cemetery many stones are buried, missing, broken, or vandalized. Many loose stones are simply placed behind the meeting house. It was transcribed sometime in the 1970’s then again more recently.
The Harpswell Garden Club has had a big hand in restoring the stones and grounds. Today it is a well kept historical site. It is a National Historical Landmark (68000014).
The citizens of the burying grounds include many early settlers of Harpswell, including the builder and minister of the Meeting House, Elisha Eaton.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Ramblings

It is early on Christmas morning, the dog is snoring at my feet, the family is still sleeping, and it is pouring down rain outside. I can hear the rain splashing on my front patio. Under the Christmas tree Santa left many gifts, in a few hours the house will be a clutter of gift wrap, and smelling like Christmas dinner. And I am thinking about graveyards.
Back east the cemeteries are covered with snow; wouldn’t it make a terrific picture? Here the ground is wet and the gophers are having a gay time.
Our historic treasures mostly stay the same winter after winter, summer after summer. Season after season. As I drive by MY cemetery (Sunnyslope) I see the seasons change. Yesterday there were bright red poinsettias spotted throughout the cemetery. A couple months ago there were American flags places around every section by the American Legion. When I drive by I always think of someone who is buried there, for I know many of them. If I didn’t know them in life I learned a little about them to have a nodding acquaintance.
A long time ago most cemeteries were put in a location way out of town. In time the town grew up to surround it. That is true here in Corona. Now it is on a main road that I past several times a week. I have dear friends that live a short walking distance away. I have spoken to people that have passed the cemetery hundreds of times and until I mention it they didn’t even realize that they were passing one by, it became so familiar to them. Everyone is on their way, busy, busy and in the cemetery are hundreds of people that made the town what it is. Some people made their mark on other towns, then came to Corona and made their mark here too.
While researching in the web I found a small cemetery that has really touched me. There is a listing of graves, just a few, but the wonderful family that put it together, posted pictures of markers that aren’t even there anymore. Closser & Horn Family Cemetery, Amwell Township, Washington County, PennsylvaniaThe stones have disappeared but they had old pictures of the stones in their scrapbooks. The stones pictured here were not found in 2002. This gave me a lot of new thought. How many stones have disappeared to time, and someone, somewhere, has the pictures?
The family is getting up, time to celebrate the meaning of Christmas. Tomorrow I will be thinking of cemeteries again.
Happy Everything to Everybody!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Acid Rain and Cemeteries

Acid rain has become personal! Living in Southern California we never see the effects of acid rain, probably because it doesn’t rain much. On a trip to New York last year I went to visit the graves of my great grandparents at the Franch/German portion of Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. Many of the stones were so pocked that they were difficult to read. I asked a caretaker why some were so unreadable and others right nearby were fine. I expected her to tell me it was the materials of the marker, but she simple said two words: “acid rain.”

Preservation of cemeteries is most important because something our ancestors thought of as a forever memorial is actually going away. Acid rain, along with general weathering, vandalism, and development is causing the disappearance of valuable history. Each year letters and numbers fade away. Unless we photograph and transcribe existing tombstones there will be a day that we won’t be able to.

There are three major types of stones used to make markers. Slate was used from about 1650 to 1900. In the early days of America, around Boston, there was a supply of very high quality of slate. They are mostly unaffected by acid rain. Proof of that is in the oldest cemeteries most stones are made of slate and are still readable. Sandstone was used from 1650 to 1890. It was quarried in Connecticut and was transported by rail to many cities in the US. It deteriorates quickly, cracks and returns to sand. Another stone is Marble or Limestone, used from 1780-1930. It was desired because of its white pure color. They are made from calcium carbonate and weather badly. The surface becomes pitted and stained. This is what my great grandparents stone (pictured) is made from. It is adversely affected by acid rain. Finally: Granite. Granite has been used since 1860 until today. It is the most durable, often called the “Rock of Ages.” Many cemeteries will only allow granite to be used.

To my knowledge there are no other pictures of the Kerkers stones. Of course there may be some pictures (that I would love to have!) hidden in some ones closet or attic or basement, but not a one on line or in any library. By the time I get back to New York, the writing on the stones may be invisible. I guess my work of “publishing” my own collection of family gravestones is waiting for me. Does this work never end?! I hope not.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mourning Fans

In spite of my plans to downsize and stop collecting, mourning fans have caught my attention. They don't take up much room, really.

Men and ladies of any time before air conditioning had a fan handy. Ladies made them a fashion accessory. The fan could be very fancy or very simple. I imagine that my ancestors, the Rockefellers, would have had a very beautiful fan, perhaps made with feathers or lighted gilded with a decoration, while other ancestors such as the Carrolls would have had a simple fan. I am sure they would have just one simple fan that would be used for many different funerals.

When the time period for mourning was a year and a day you just had to have a fan that was black to match your daily attire. If you could afford a lovely fan you would purchase one. If you couldn't you might paint one that you already had. Long mourning periods were for women while men wore a black armband and went about their daily routine. Men usually wore dark clothing so their regular fan would be proper. Simplicity and solemnity was necessary to mourning so a mourning fan would be plain black, but some would have a ever so slight decoration.

In the 1908 Sears catalogue you could purchase a lovely black silk fan for 25 cents. The simple mourning fan I bought cost $9.00, the one I really wanted was $35.00. As I checked on line to find more mourning fans many are being sold for hundreds of dollars.

No laundry or dinner today, Dear. I am off to the antique stores!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Evergreen Memorial Park, Riverside, CA

The oldest cemetery in Riverside, CA is Evergreen Memorial Park. The largest and oldest section was not endowed and the cemetery became know as EverBrown by local folks. In recent years it has received a lot of attention and is again called Evergreen.
In this cemetery are many early pioneers of Riverside. There are so many stories to share about this cemetery but today I choose to share the story of a “Real Daughter.” She has a lovely monument. On the side is a plaque placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The Aurantia Chapter of DAR marked the grave of Phoebe Jane Lemon Hungate on May 1, 1927. Phoebe didn’t live in Riverside for very long. She was a member of the John Wallace Chapter of Bedford, Indiana. After coming to Riverside she searched out the local DAR, which was very dear to her. She was a “Real Daughter.” Her father Matthias Lemon, enlisted in June 1778 at Sunsbury, PA, he was a mounted ranger along the Susquehanna River protecting the settlers from the Indians. He enlisted again in 1779 as a substitute for his brother James. Later he served as a Lt. Col in the New York Militia in the Indian Wars. I tried to find her father’s grave on Find a Grave in Greene County, Indiana where he was buried but so far there is not a picture.
On October 11, 1911 Phoebe visited the Aurantia Chapter and told of her father’s service during the Revolution and was made an honorary chapter member that day.
The rest of us DAR ladies are grand daughters and great grand daughters , and great, great granddaughters of a Patriot that served in some way during the American Revolution. Phoebe was a Real Daughter, they are in limited supply.
Phoebe died on August 3, 1912. She is buried with her husband and two sons.

A Member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits