Last week, I shared some of the complicated history of Charleston’s Bethel United Methodist Church and its burial ground. The markers I highlighted in that post were either lying on the ground or leaning against the church. There’s another one I want to start with today that’s in that category because I think it’s really lovely to look at. It also has a pretty cool epitaph at the bottom.
I couldn’t find much about Mary Syfan. She was born on Dec. 30, 1775 and married John Syfan. She died on July 6, 1825 at the age of 47. But her marker also includes information about the deaths of four children with the last name of Gladden: John, Ann, James, and Susannah.
The marker does tell us that these were all children of George and Susannah Gladden. The children died between 1815 and 1823. Susannah was a Syfan before she married George Gladden so my guess is that she was the sister of John Syfan, thus a sister-in-law to Mary Syfan. I did find a notice in a Charleston newspaper posted by John Syfan in April 1833 concerning the debts of George Gladden after his death. I could not find John Syfan on Find a Grave but another newspaper notice indicated that he died in 1841.
At the top of Mary’s marker is a familiar motif. It’s a woman garbed in mourning clothes next to a funeral urn beneath what appears to be a weeping willow tree. Again, this was a popular motif for this era although you see it more often later in the 1800s than in the 1820s.
“Spend a Tear”
Because this marker is not in the best condition, I was happy to learn that someone had transcribed the inscription in 1938. The epitaph at the very bottom is worth reading because it harkens back to those older markers with hourglasses on them. I did an Internet search and actually found a few grave markers in British 17th-century churchyards with inscriptions similar to this one.
Stay reader stand and spend a tear
And think of me who now lies here
And while you read the state of who
Think on the glass that runs for thee.
One of my favorite markers from Bethel UMC is the for Rebecca Jane Bateman, daughter of Irish immigrants Charles D. Bateman and Rebecca Jane Tuig Bateman (yes, she and her daughter shared the same name). She is buried between her parents.
The difficulty with the Bateman plot (at least the day we were there) is that a large bush was planted directly in front of it. My husband tried to hold back the branches so I could photograph the markers. I believe all three were likely done by one or more of the Walker family of carvers.
Charles and Rebecca Jane left Cork, Ireland in 1852 for Charleston. Rebecca Jane, their first daughter, was born in 1856. She was followed by another daughter, Ella, in 1858. Charles worked as a bookkeeper for a time before attaining a post as agent for the South Carolina Railroad.
Rebecca Jane was only 19 when she died on Nov. 21, 1875 of consumption, better known today as tuberculosis.
You can only see the first sentence of her inscription in my photo, but it is worth reading the entire thing. It comes from a popular hymn from the 1800s called “A Voice From Heaven”, whose author is unknown.
I have learned the song they sing
whom Jesus hath set free
and the Jasper walls of Heaven ring
with my new born melody.
I am especially moved by the angel on the top.
In Oct. 24, 1882, Rebecca Jane (her mother) also died of consumption at the age of 54. Her marker is to the right of her daughter’s grave. I apologize for the obstruction of the inscription.
Rebecca’s marker features a profusion of calla lilies, which usually symbolize marriage. Her inscription (which says “fell asleep” instead of “died”) reads:
A tender mother, a devoted wife,
a true friend,
triumphant in death
and now resigning in the light
of an endless life.
Soon after her mother’s death, Ella married James Robb. They had at least four children together.
Charles Bateman died on Sept. 22, 1889 from complications due to hepatitis. He is buried to the left of his daughter, Rebecca Jane. Daughter Ella died in 1934 at the age of 74 and is buried at Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Columbia, S.C.
Adjacent to the Bateman plot is a detailed marker purchased for one of the pastors of Bethel UMC, the Rev. William Honor Fleming.
“Our Beloved Pastor”
Born in 1821, William is thought to be a native of Charleston. He received his doctorate of divinity (D.D.) degree from Trinity College (which later became Duke University) in Durham, N.C.
I’m not exactly sure when the Rev. Fleming became pastor at Bethel UMC, but I believe most of his career was spent there. He was also an active member of the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist church for 36 years, according to his obituary and monument. At one time he was Presiding Elder.
The Rev. Fleming was married twice, first to Agnes Magill (whose birth/death dates I cannot find) and they had at least one daughter, Mary, in 1848. After Agnes died, Rev. Fleming married Rosa Caroline Austin and they had at least one son. The Rev. Fleming died on April 6, 1877 of “gangrene of the lungs”.
William’s marker is indeed a work of art. It features two lovely carved wreaths and also includes a tasseled drape over a pulpit with an open book, most likely meant to represent the Bible. I suspect this monument was also done by one of the Walkers.
Killed in an Explosion
This final slate marker is older than any I’ve featured at Bethel UMC so far and features a young man cut down in the prime of his life.
Born in July 1773, George Stattler left little information behind about himself. We know from an advertisement he placed in the Dec. 4, 1797 Charleston City Gazette that he had spent time in England learning his trade, and had a business making looking glasses and frames. We also know that he was married.
George’s grave marker, which features a soul effigy, explains how he died. He was killed on Feb. 4, 1799 in a cannon explosion at Fort Mechanic in Charleston.
So where was Fort Mechanic? It was built in Charleston in 1794 at a point where high ground extended nearly to the edge of the Cooper River. This site was fortified in the 1750s, and again during the Revolutionary War, before international hostilities in the 1790s forced a new round of defensive construction in Charleston.
Construction of the waterfront battery went beyond the Congressional funds set aside for it because much of the work was done for free by the carpenters of the city. In November 1794, master carpenter Anthony Toomer, the president of the Mechanics Society, presented the fort to Governor William Moultrie. The governor named the work Fort Mechanic to honor its builders.
The wooden Fort Mechanic was replaced in 1809 by a fort of masonry. It was garrisoned by American forces until after the War of 1812 and was razed about 1818. The Edmonston-Alston House (which still stands) was built over a large portion of its land.
“Torn from the Fond Companions of Life”
How George Stattler ended up at Fort Mechanic is not known since he was fully employed at his own business. He may have been a member of a local militia called up for duty. His epitaph reads:
The youth obedient to his Country’s calls
A faithful victim to his duty falls
Torn from the fond companions of his life
His Mother, Brother, Sister and his Wife.
Next time, we’ll be heading to St. Philip’s Church in Charleston, which not only has its own churchyard but a cemetery across the street.