Visiting Thomaston, Maine: The Cole Family and Message in a Bottle, Part II

Last week’s post was devoted to America’s first Secretary of War, Henry Knox. He’s buried in Thomaston, Maine, the town where he and his wife moved to after he retired from his service in President George Washington’s cabinet.

When you visit Knox’ grave, it’s hard to tell which cemetery he’s buried in because Elm Grove is situated next to Thomaston Village Cemetery. Find a Grave has him listed at Elm Grove but when I looked at a map provided by the Thomaston city government’s web page, he’s actually in the Thomaston Village Cemetery.

This was further confirmed to me by an 1871 postcard I found of the Thomaston Village Cemetery that stated the land was donated to the town by Henry and Lucy Knox in 1802.

An 1871 postcard shows how Thomaston Village Cemetery looked at the time. (Photo Source: Maine Memory Network web site)

I was excited to see this postcard because among my photos I had this to compare it to now.

This is what Thomaston Village Cemetery looks like today.

From what I can tell, Elm Grove came later in 1836. By 1857, the 39 lots on the northern side had been sold. In 1858, a group of 22 residents agreed to pay $200 for the unoccupied land in the cemetery with a strip extending across Dwight Street, belonging to the Sullivan Dwight Estate. Each of the proprietors was assessed $10 to pay expenses. The by-laws were drawn up and signed by Hezekiah Prince.

According to the agreement, there were 58 lots costing $25 each. You can tell that Elm Grove is the final resting place of the more well heeled Thomastonians by the large size of some of the monuments and the elaborateness of the design.

One of the plots in the Thomaston Village Cemetery that is impossible to miss is for the Cole family. When you see one large marker fronted by 14 individual small ones, you stop to take a look.

William and Mary Cole had several children, but only a few lived long lives.

Born in 1791 in Virginia, William Cole came to Thomaston from Nashville, Tenn. to do business on the Mill River. His brother, John P. Cole, also left Nashville for Maine. Both married and started families there. William married Mary G. Dodge, daughter of Dr. Ezekiel and Susannah Winslow Dodge, in 1825. Mary was 24 at the time. William would eventually move his business to Rockland, Maine, where he died in April 1849 at the age of 59.

Mary Dodge Cole outlived her husband by several decades.

According to the books I found, William and Mary had 12 children but there are 13 names on the monument. Seven of them died in infancy/childhood. Three daughters died in early adulthood and the remaining three children married and lived long lives.

One puzzle amid the children is Willis, whose name appears on one of the small stones and on the family monument. Yet he appears in no genealogical records or in the actual cemetery records as having been buried there.

William built what would become known as the Cole House. It is now the administrative center of the Knox Museum/Montpelier. I didn’t know that when we visited but I saw it on the edge of the property.

Cole House during the Victorian era. (Photo source: Knox Museum web site.)

Susan Winslow Cole, born in September 1831 (although the monument says 1832), married Capt. Artemus Watts, becoming his second wife. According to the 1880 Census, Artemus was a retired shipmaster by that time. Susan’s mother, Mary, was living with them. Susan died in 1915 and is actually buried in another part of the cemetery with her husband.

Sarah Francis Cole and Susan Winslow Cole Watts’ markers are two of 14 lined up in a row.

Brother William J. Cole spent the first years of his life in Thomaston but would eventually move to California where he worked as a commission merchant. He died of tuberculosis in Phoenix, Ariz. in 1904. His death records indicate his body was sent to Philadelphia, Pa. so it’s possible his inscription on the monument is a cenotaph.

While William J. Cole’s name is on the Cole monument, records indicate his body was sent to Philadelphia for burial after his death in Arizona.

Eveline Cole was born in 1837 and married George White in Santa Cruz, Calif. in 1865. She died in California in 1922 and is likely buried there since she doesn’t appear as actually having been buried at Thomaston in the cemetery’s burial records. So hers may be a cenotaph as well.

Five of the Cole children who died in infancy are listed on this side of the monument, along with Eveline Cole White who died in California in 1922. Of all the Cole children, Eveline lived the longest.

As you can see on this side of the monument, Winslow, Rebecca, Garnet, Henrietta and Willis are all listed as having died in infancy.

Sisters Mary Elizabeth, Sarah Francis and Caroline, who all died in young adulthood, share one side of the monument.

It wouldn’t be a Maine cemetery without a sailor lost at sea. That brings me to the story of Captain George Jordan. Thanks to Pat Higgins’ site, the Maine Story, I got the scoop on what happened to him on “the unfortunate Pacific” mentioned on his marker.

Born in 1813, Captain Jordan was married to Betsy Masters and had two children, Octavia and Newell (the first, George, died in infancy). In late 1855, he sailed to Coxhaven, England where he sold his ship. He then booked passage home to Maine on the steamship Pacific and it proved a fateful decision.

Capt. George Jordan’s voyage home was on the “unfortunate Pacific.”

The Pacific was one of four wooden steam-powered ships built with government subsidies by the Collins Company of New York to compete with the British Cunard Line for transatlantic trade. Launched in 1849, it was driven by two paddle wheels on opposite sides of the ship and powered by side lever engines. It carried about 300 people in luxurious accommodations.

Pacific’s final voyage took place on January 23, 1856 in Liverpool, setting sail with 45 passengers (including George Jordan) and 141 crew members. Commanding the ship was Captain Asa Eldridge, a skillful mariner. The Pacific was never seen again.

The Pacific’s crew outnumbered the passengers three to one when it went down. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.)

The fate of the Pacific remained unknown until a message in a bottle was found about five years later on the coast of the Hebrides. It read:

On board the Pacific from Liverpool to N.Y. – Ship going down. Confusion on board – icebergs around us on every side. I know I cannot escape. I write the cause of our loss that friends may not live in suspense. The finder will please get it published. W.M. GRAHAM

One can’t help but think of a similar record-breaking ship that would encounter icebergs in 1912. It, too, would meet a disastrous fate.

I didn’t notice until later that Capt. Jordan is buried next to another marker for the Watts family. You’ll recall that Susan Cole married a Watts. Capt. Jordan’s name and “Infant George Jordan” are on the side.

Capt. Jordan and his infant son’s names are inscribed on the side of the Watts monument.

But on the front are the names Betsy B. Watts and Captain James Watts. Widowed Besty Masters Jordan married Capt. Watts in November 1856 after Capt. Jordan was lost at sea. Capt. Watts already had two daughters of his own, Delia and Mary. Together, they had a son named James in 1862.

Capt. Watts died in 1878. Newell Jordan was living in San Francisco, Calif. at the time of Betsy’s death in 1906 while James Watts was in Portland, Ore., according to Betsy’s will. Octavia Jordan married Clarence Leighton and would stay in the Maine area for her entire life.

The Watts monument is buried quite close to the Cole family plot.

Next week, we’ll spend some time next door at Elm Grove Cemetery.

Visiting Thomaston, Maine: America’s First Secretary of War Henry Knox, Part I

After leaving Colonial Pemaquid, we spent the night at the Spruce Point Inn near Boothbay Harbor. It reminded me very much of the old school resorts from the 1950s that I’d read about but never visited. A lovely place but we didn’t have time to linger.

My husband and son enjoyed the view of Boothbay Harbor at the Spruce Point Inn.

The next day we left early to go on a puffin cruise leaving out of Port Clyde. I wish I could say I took some awesome photos but all I had was my trusty iPhone. The photos I am posting here were generously shared by a fellow passenger.

Puffins are plentiful in certain parts of Maine in the spring and summer.

We saw even more seals than puffins.

On the way to Port Clyde, we drove through the village of Thomaston. In doing my pre-trip research, I learned that Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox and his family retired to the area in 1796.

Henry Knox was the the first Secretary of War of the United States. This is the man for whom Knoxville, Tenn. was named, my husband’s hometown. There are actually two Fort Knox-es named for him, the more famous one in Kentucky that houses the U.S. Bullion Depository and another in Maine that we stopped to visit.

After our puffin cruise, we stopped at the Knox estate, Montpelier. Unfortunately, it was closed that day but we were able to ramble around outside before heading back into Thomaston to find the cemetery where the Knox family is buried.

The original Montpelier was razed in 1871.

Knox’s wife, Lucy, had inherited the Thomaston property and the couple built Montpelier after Henry resigned from being Secretary of War in 1795. The original mansion (which had fallen into much disrepair) was torn down in 1871 and replaced by the Knox and Lincoln railway. A replica of the home was built in 1929 and today serves as a museum to Knox’ life and contains some of the original furniture from the first home.

Henry Knox was a trusted friend of George Washington and the first Secretary of War for the United States. Photo source: Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1806. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Henry and Lucy were originally buried on the grounds of Montpelier but their graves were moved to nearby Elm Grove Cemetery, which is located right beside the Thomaston Village Cemetery. There’s really nothing to indicate where one ends and the other began. So  I can’t honestly tell you which graves belong to which. Find a Grave claims that Thomaston Village Cemetery has about 6,000 burials while Elm Grove has around 400.

Thomaston Village Cemetery and Elm Grove Cemetery are right next to each other.

A native of Boston, Henry Knox’s father was a shipbuilder who died when he was 12. As the eldest son still living at home at the time, Henry went to work in a book shop. The owner was a father figure to him and allowed Henry to read as many books as he liked as time allowed. Later, Henry would open his own shop in Boston called the London Book Shop.

Interested in all things military in an era of growing unrest, Henry co-founded the Boston Grenadier Corps in 1772 and served as its second in command. He also supported the Sons of Liberty.

Against her parents, he married Lucy Flucker, daughter of well-to-do British Loyalists in June 1774. After Henry and Lucy fled Boston in 1775, Lucy remained essentially homeless until the British evacuated the city in March 1776.

Henry’s military career is too long to adequately share here. But he’s probably best known for coming up with the idea that cannons recently captured at the fall of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upstate New York could be moved to help the colonists’ cause. With George Washington’s blessing, he began what was known as the “noble train of artillery” by hauling 60 tons of cannon and other armaments across an estimated 300 miles of ice-covered rivers and snow-topped Berkshire Mountains to the Boston siege camp.

Sketch of Knox’s effort to use oxen-drawn sled to bring cannons and armaments to Boston.

Historian Victor Brooks called it “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics” of the entire war. Henry’s effort is commemorated by a series of plaques marking the Henry Knox Trail in New York and Massachusetts.

After the war, Congress appointed Knox the nation’s second Secretary at War in March 1785. The army was by then a fraction of its former size, and the new nation’s westward expansion was exacerbating frontier conflicts with Indian tribes. The War Department Knox took charge of had two civilian employees and a single small regiment. That same year, Congress authorized the establishment of a 700-man army.

Over the next 10 years, Henry would deal with a full plate of issues involving the new nation, from negotiating treaties to frontier friction. Eventually, he resigned his post in 1795 so he and Lucy could head for Thomaston to enjoy their later years.

Hardly “retired” in the traditional sense, Knox participated in many of the emerging businesses in the area. He shipped timber, quarried lime, made bricks, built a lock and canal system on the Georges River, helped establish a local church, and experimented with agriculture, shipbuilding, and land speculation.

I wish more cemeteries had big, helpful signs pointing the way.

Henry and Lucy had 13 children in the course of their marriage, but 10 of them passed away before the couple did. Their only son to live to adulthood, Henry Jackson Knox, is reported to have lived a life of much excess, from drinking heavily to squandering money. Just before he died in 1832, Henry Jackson requested that his remains not be interred with his family but placed in a common burial ground “with no stone to tell where.”

The Henry Knox plot at Elm Hill Cemetery.

Henry Knox’s monument has his name on the front, while Lucy and some of their children’s names are inscribed on the sides. His son-in-law and granddaughter, Ebenezer Thatcher and Mary Thatcher Hyde, are to his left. Grandson James Swan Thatcher has a cenotaph to his right. James was the son of Ebenezer Thatcher and Henry’s oldest daughter, Lucy Knox Thatcher.

Henry Knox was 56 when he died.

Unfortunately, while the front of the Knox monument is easy to read, the sides are not nearly as clear. I could make out Lucy’s name on one side but the rest is nearly impossible to read. It is my guess that Lucy Knox Thatcher is among the names listed.

The story of Henry’s death is an unfortunate one. While dining at the home of a close friend, Knox swallowed a chicken bone, which lodged in his throat and became infected. He died at home three days later on October 25, 1806. He was buried on the grounds of Montpelier with full military honors.

You can barely make out Lucy’s name on the side.

Lucy stayed on at Montpelier for 20 more years, gradually selling off parts of the estate to keep herself afloat. Youngest daughter Caroline took over the house after her mother died in 1826 since Henry Jackson Knox was too irresponsible to do so. Caroline managed to keep things going until her death in 1851, having survived two husbands. Oldest daughter Lucy Knox Thatcher took over until her death in 1854.

Oldest Knox daughter Lucy Flucker Knox Thatcher was the last of the family to live at Montpelier. Portrait painted by Albert Gallatin Hoit.(Photo source: Knox Museum.

Husband of Lucy Flucker Knox, Ebenezer Thatcher was a local judge.

James Swan Thatcher’s death is similar to many young men buried in Maine seaside cemeteries. Born in 1815, James was the son of Lucy Knox Thacther and Ebenezer Thatcher. He joined the Navy and eventually sailed on the USS Grampus. She was the first U.S. Navy ship to be named for the sea animal Grampus griseus, also known as Risso’s Dolphin.

The USS Grampus had a role in the historic Amistad trials. (Photo source: U.S. Government

Grampus played had a small role in the Amistad trials. In late 1839, the U.S. government had Grampus standing by in New Haven Harbor so that in case the court ruled in favor of the slaves’ Spanish “owners,” they could deport the Africans to Cuba before they could appeal.

Because the district judge ruled that the Africans were illegally enslaved and must be returned to their home country, it was the government’s task to appeal on behalf of the slaveholders, and Grampus was not needed. The schooler continued her duties in the protection of shipping in the Caribbean Sea and in the South Atlantic Ocean.

James Swan Thatcher was only 28 when he was lost at sea. This is a cenotaph and not an actual grave marker.

Grampus was last heard of off St. Augustine, Fla. on March 15, 1843. She is presumed to have foundered in a gale off Charleston, S.C. with all hands aboard lost at sea.

Next week, I’ll be back at these two cemeteries to share some more stories from Thomaston, Maine.

Mainely Cemetery Hopping: Visiting Colonial Pemaquid’s Old Burying Ground, Part II

Happy New Year! I took a little break during the holidays but I’m back with more from Maine. When I last wrote, I shared my visit to Colonial Pemaquid’s Old Burying Ground near Bristol.

I don’t often come in contact with the living while I’m meandering through a cemetery but I did here. A gentleman walking his dog came over and asked if I was hunting for family. I told him about my hobby and he confided that he liked visiting cemeteries as well!

Family obelisks can present some invaluable information for genealogists. Sometimes you can find the history of an entire generation on one big marker. Unfortunately, the dates and names may be all you find.

A good example of this is the obelisk for the Geyer family, with information for seven family members on it. The main couple were Captain Thomas Geyer (born around 1814 in Friendship, Maine) and his wife, Nancy (born around 1818, also in the Friendship area). They married around 1835 and settled in Bristol where they had several children.

The Geyer obelisk holds almost all of the information I could find on the family.

The 1850 Census lists Thomas as a sailor living with Nancy and five children. Beyond that, I could find little about him. His marker shares that he died at the age of 39 on March 26, 1855 in “Aux Cayes”, which is now known as Les Cayes, a port city in Haiti. Whether he was lost at sea or died of illness is unknown. The Masonic symbol above his name indicates he was involved in that civic organization.

Capt. Thomas Geyer died at the age of 39 in Haiti. Whether it was at sea or from illness is unknown. Nancy did not remarry and stayed in Bristol.

Nancy stayed on in Bristol with two of her younger children, Arthur and Edward. She died in 1878 at the age of 60. Arthur and Edward both lived long lives.

On another side are listed three of their children: Arthur, Hannah, and Sullivan. Arthur, born in 1850, died in 1927 at the age of 77. But Hannah and Sullivan both died in childhood. Hannah was nine at the time of her death while Sullivan was 10. Edward is buried in a different cemetery in Maine.

Of these three Geyer siblings, only Arthur lived into adulthood.

On the other side are two cenotaphs (meaning the person is not buried in the cemetery) for two of Thomas and Nancy’s daughters. Eliza Geyer Perkins died at sea at the age of 19 in 1856, the wife of J.W. Perkins. He is listed in the 1850 Census as a sailor and she was likely with him when she died.

Eliza Geyer Perkins died at sea while her sister, Frances, died in Chicago. Neither are buried at this cemetery.

Frances Geyer Fitch died in Chicago at the age of 29 in 1877. Her husband, Captain J.B. Fitch, served during the Civil War in Companies D and E, 20th Maine Infantry. He died in 1893 in Chicago and is buried in Graceland Cemetery. I’m guessing Frances is possibly buried there as well. They had three children. Son Joseph was a superior court judge in Chicago.

Capt. James B. Fitch married Frances Ellen Geyer in Bristol, Maine but they spent her last years in Chicago, Ill.

The Partridge monument only lists five names. But the family was a key one in the Bristol/Pemaquid area. Born around 1806, James W. Partridge farmed a few hundred acres. He married Sarah Erskine, daughter of sailor Ebenezer and Jane Saunders Erskine. It looks like they had eight children, seven of which lived to adulthood. James died in 1888 at the age of 72 while Sarah died at the age of 78 from “dibeatus” in 1900.

James and Sarah Partridge raised their large family in Bristol, Maine near Pemaquid.

Henry, whose name appears by itself on one side of the monument, probably never married. Born in 1859, he is listed as single on the 1900 Census and is living with older brother James E. Partridge and his family. When he died at the age of 58 in 1919, the cause of death was listed as “cerebritis” with “melancholia” as a contributing factor. He may have suffered from lupus. In his father’s papers, in which James made certain his wife and children were all remembered, Henry is listed as the executor of his will.

Henry Clarke Partridge may have suffered from lupus.

Two names are listed on another side of the monument. Eben Howard Partridge, who may have been James and Sarah’s first child, was born in January 1844 and died in October 1846. Listed at the bottom is their second child, Jennie Partridge Lewis. Born just a few days before her brother Eben died in October 1846, Jennie was possibly Bristol’s postmistress at one time.

Jennie married Nathan Lewis in 1868 but it doesn’t appear they had any children. She died in 1895 of typhoid fever at the age of 48. Nathan, who is buried elsewhere, died in 1911 of a cerebral thrombosis.

Jane “Jennie” Elizabeth Partridge Lewis died on typhoid fever in 1895.

There was one more surprise left at the Old Burying Ground. Many weeks after I had visited, I discovered there was someone famous buried there. It wasn’t until I pulled up Find a Grave that I found out. And somewhere amid all my photos, I had managed to get a picture of his marker (albeit off to the side).

Actor Paul Reed is buried with his wife, Judy.

Born in June 1909 as Sidney Kahn in Highland Falls, N.Y., Paul Reed was one of seven children born to Russian-Jewish immigrants. As a teenager who lost his father early in life, Paul had to work hard. While selling gum in vaudeville shows, he settled on an acting career and worked first as a radio singer. He took his first Broadway bow at age 31 in a 1940 revival of the musical operetta “The Gondoliers.” Paul had parts in the operettas “Trial by Jury” (1940) and “La Vie, Parisienne” (1942), as well as “Up in Central Park” (1945) and “Carnival in Flanders” (1953).

It was his participation in four Broadway musicals, “Guys and Dolls” (1950), “The Music Man” (1957), “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1961) and “Promises, Promises” (1968), that got him attention.

However, Paul is best known for his role as Police Captain Paul Brock in the hit TV show “Car 54, Where Are You?” during the 1950s and early 1960s. He was praised for his trademark “slow burn” in which he gradually went from slightly irritated to exploding with anger.

That’s Al Lewis on the left (later known as Grandpa on “The Munsters”) with Paul Reed, who starred as Captain Paul Brock on TV’s “Car 54, Where Are you?”.

Although Reed retired from acting in the 1970s, he could still be seen in commercials well into the 1990s. He died in 2007 at the age of 97 in Greenwich, Conn. His wife, dancer June Reed, died seven weeks later and is buried beside him. They had one son, Paul Jr., a professional jazz and rock drummer who’s also written music for Broadway shows.

Next time, I’ll be further up the coast with more cemeteries from Maine. I hope you’ll come back to join me.

Mainely Cemetery Hopping: Visiting Colonial Pemaquid’s Old Burying Ground, Part I

Last week, I finished up my series on Portland, Maine’s Eastern Cemetery. That one was hard to say goodbye to!

The next day we traveled up to Bath to visit the Maine Maritime Museum, then moved on to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. I love lighthouses of all shapes and sizes, and this one is top notch because you can actually go up into it. Not all of them are in such good shape or have full public access. My husband, son and I also spent a good bit of time climbing all over the rocks above the crashing waves.

The original lighthouse was commissioned in 1827 by President John Quincy Adams and built that year. Due to poor construction, it was rebuilt in 1835. The keeper’s house was added later.

However, I knew I had a good chance of stopping by another cemetery on our way back up the Pemaquid peninsula. I persuaded my husband to drive over to Colonial Pemaquid so  I could get a good look at the Old Burying Ground (that’s what they call it). We were hopeful we could find a place to grab dinner afterward.

Located in New Harbor near Bristol, the Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site includes the reconstructed Fort William Henry, along with archaeological remains of 17th- and 18th-century village buildings and fortifications. Pemaquid was a colonial settlement dating to the early decades of the 17th century, with a succession of conflicts leading the site to be attacked on several occasions and entirely abandoned twice. The area was used by English and French traders and fishermen on a seasonal basis for some time, and the first documented permanent residence was established in 1628.

Colonial Pemaquid has a museum with artifacts found on the site including musket balls, coins, and pottery. But it was closed by the time we got there. My husband and son were eager to explore Pemaquid Beach next door and we spotted a seafood restaurant where we could dine later. I headed over to the Old Burying Ground.

The tide was going out when we got to Pemaquid Beach.

With a view of Pemaquid Beach, the Old Burying Ground is a lovely place to explore. At the time we were there, the grass had been cut in some areas but not in others so getting great pictures of some of the markers wasn’t easy. But it was still amazing. As it often does, being in such an old cemetery makes me feel like I’m going back to another time and place.

A very helpful sign explained that while the oldest dated cemetery marker comes from 1734, stones from as far back as 1652 have been found in earlier times. Unmarked field stones are plentiful. There’s also a mention of Indian attacks in the village during the 1600s that required mass burials. Currently, there are 200 names recorded of people buried at the Old Burial Ground but there are many, many more that remain anonymous.

The Old Burying Ground has a variety of marker styles represented, from skulls to willow-shaded urns to modern recent ones. The familiar flying skull is on the slate marker of Ann Rodgers, who died at the age of 41. She even has her name on the back, too.

The familiar winged skull adorns Ann Rodgers’ marker.

I’m not sure why Ann’s name is on the back of her marker.

By looking on Ann’s Find a Grave memorial, I found the full inscription:

Here lies buried ye body of
Mrs Ann Rodgers
the wife of Lieut
Patrick Rodgers
Died July 1st 1958
in the 41st year
of her age

There was also a winged face marker (called a “soul effigy”) represented by the stone of Margaret Fletcher, who was married to a sea captain.

Margaret Fletcher was married to a sea captain.

Here lies buried
the body of Mrs
Margaret Fletcher
wife to Capt
Thomas Fletcher
died May 15 1767
Aged 43 years

The sign also noted that like Eastern Cemetery, the Old Burying Ground includes stones from a reputable stonecutter. His name was Joseph Sikes, and he came from a family of stone cutters. Because his work is so similar to that of his son Elijah’s, it is often hard to tell who did what stone. Sometimes Elijah marked his stones with an “E.S.” at the bottom.

While not born in Maine, Joseph probably moved from Massachusetts to the coast of Maine. His work spanned the 1770s to about 1800. It can be found in cemeteries in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.

The Sikes style is almost folk art-esque, giving it a primitive charm. They favored oval-shaped heads, semi-circle eyes, flowers, grapes, vines, moons, hearts, and the words “momento mori” (Latin for “remember death”).

The marker for Morgan McCaffrey is not in good condition due to the poor quality of the stone. The elements have also taken their toll. Fortunately, I was able to find out a little about him.

The marker for Morgan McCaffrey is in poor condition due to the elements, but its folk art motifs are still charming.

According to his Find a Grave memorial, Morgan was married to Anna Little, the daughter of James Little. Her father was killed by Indians at Fort Frederick on Sept. 2, 1747, according to the Massachusetts Archives.

James Little was granted land in 1736 from Great Britain under the Waldo Patent. This was a document granting title to 36 square miles of land in Maine. It’s named after businessman Samuel Waldo, who eventually gained control of the patent. It was previously known as the Muscongus Patent because one of the boundaries was a river by that name.

After James’ death, Anna and her sister Sarah (along with their husbands) inherited and sold this land. Morgan died in 1768 at the age of 35. His daughter, Jennie, is said to have written his epitaph. Jennie had also been recently devastated by the loss of a brother, who drowned in a well near their home.

Behold my dad is gone,
And leaves me here to mourn;
But hope in Christ I have,
That he and I will save.

Thomas and Esther Holden share a marker done by Joseph or Elijah, the long oval faces at the top being a trademark. Had it not been for Find a Grave and a book, I wouldn’t have known their names because the stone is in very poor condition and spotted with lichen.

Thomas and Esther Holden died within a year of each other and share the same marker.

Fortunately, you can still see the faces and the words “momento mori” at the top. It looks like Thomas’ face may feature a mustache. You can also faintly see what looks like two hearts merged into one below the faces.

“Momento Mori” (translated to mean “Remember Death”) was frequently carved on markers from the 18th century.

Their inscription reads:

Behold we are confined to dust,
And here we must remain,
Till Jesus who redeemed us
Bids us rise again.

Thomas died at the age of 75 on May 19, 1784 while Elizabeth died at the age of 64 on Feb. 6, 1785.

It’s believed that Joseph Sikes died sometime around 1801. While he spent his life in the Maine/Massachusetts area, Elijah moved to Vermont then went west. He’s buried with his wife, Lucretia, in Brookfield, Ohio. His own marker is quite plain compared to those he carved.

I’ll be back soon with more stories from the Old Burying Ground at Pemaquid. In the meantime, with Christmas only a few days away, I hope you have a happy holiday season!

The Maine Thing: Discovering Portland’s Eastern Cemetery, Part III

Having spent the last two weeks focusing mostly on stone cutter Bartlett Adams, I’ll wrap up my series on Eastern Cemetery by looking at some of the other markers and their different styles.

Mary Green’s head and foot stone mark the oldest known burial at Eastern Cemetery of May 23, 1717. The inscription says, “Daughter of Cap Nathaniel and Mrs. Mary Green of Boston Aged 54 years.” Records indicate she was born on May 3, 1663 and never married.

Mary Green’s early 18th-century slate marker features the winged skull, a popular theme at the time.

I’ve featured pictures of winged skull markers that I’ve taken in Charleston, but it’s worth revisiting the subject since this was the style those stone cutters were trying to emulate. Why such a gruesome symbol? It all has to do with the time period in which they were made. Most were made in the 17th century and into the 18th at the behest of the Puritans that lived in New England.

The Puritans did not like putting religious symbols on grave markers, such as crosses, angels or Christ figures. You never saw them in their meetinghouses either. They were very  much against attributing human form to spiritual beings. So why the winged skull?

Considering the average lifespan at this time could be quite brief, being conscious of life’s fragile nature was paramount. The Puritans thought you needed to make the most of your time on earth to ensure where you wound up after you died. This carried over into reminding the loved ones that you left behind when they came to visit your grave. That winged skull would remind them that living a good life would result in ending up in Heaven after they died or in agony in hell if they didn’t.

Sarah Brown Milk and Anne Dunn Deering Milk’s markers are another example of the winged skull motif. They were both the wife of James Milk.

James Milk was husband to first Sarah Brown Milk and later Anne Dunn Deering Milk.

Anne (then Dunn) first married John Deering, a ship master. Like his father, Deering commanded the vessels of his cousin, Sir William Pepperell. Deering died at sea in 1758. They had two sons who lived to adulthood.

A native of Boston, James Milk is called “Deacon James Milk” on his marker. He married Sarah Brown before 1738. She died in 1761 after they had at least three children. He then married the widow Anne Deering, who died in 1769. James died a few years later in 1772.

Sometimes just a skull and bones (sans wings) were enough. When I posted the picture of gravemarkers of two children on the blog’s Facebook page, I got some shocked reactions. It’s even more dramatic in person.

Jonathan Dow died at the age of 11.

Why put a skull and crossbones (more associated with pirates) on a child’s grave? I can only surmise that this was a favorite motif of the stone cutter doing the markers in Portland at this time. Bartlett Adams didn’t arrive until 1800 and he didn’t usually do carvings like this.

I’ve read that Spanish cemeteries once had the skull and crossbones at the entrance to indicate it was a place of death. Others have mentioned the Knights Templar but that doesn’t fit in this case, in my opinion. Perhaps it’s reflective of the illness that visited the Dow family since the two children died so close together.

In the case of Jonathan Dow, the motif is a skull with teeth biting into crossed bones. He died at the age of 11 on Christmas eve of 1773, the youngest son of Jabez and Dorothy Woods Dow.

It’s probable that the same illness that killed Mercy also took the life of her brother Jonathan a month later.

Sadly, Jonathan’s younger sister, Mercy, died about a month earlier at the age of two. Her marker also featured the skull and bones. She is listed as the youngest daughter of Jabez and Dorothy.

The winged skull eventually gave way to the winged cherub or “soul effigy”, which sometimes involved the face of the deceased with wings on either side. This indicates the movement toward more acceptance of using a human likeness on a gravestone, although the winged skull remained popular. Bartlett Adams was fond of carving these winged cherubs.

Two very good examples of these are the markers of Stephen and Tabitha Bragdon Longfellow. That last name might ring a bell. They were the great-great-grandparents of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote such poems as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “Evangeline.”

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s great-great-grandparents are buried at Eastern Cemetery. (Photo source: Julia Margaret Cameron, Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen and Tabitha are thought to have lived their entire lives in Gorham, Maine, about 15 miles west of Portland. Stephen was quite active in local government as town clerk, clerk of the Proprietors of Common Lands, clerk of the Judicial Court, and Register of Probate for Cumberland County.

Stephen Longfellow (on the right) died 13 years after his wife, Tabitha.

Their grandson, Stephen, was elected to represent Maine as At-Large in the U.S. State House of Representatives from 1823 to 1825. He also served as a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1814, and a member of the Maine State House of Representatives in 1826. Stephen’s second son was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born in Portland in 1807.

Sometimes there was no decoration at all on markers. This stone for three sons (William, Daniel and Smith) of Daniel and Nabby tells a story that needed no further illustration. They died between 1805 and 1815, five years apart. All of them were in their early 20s and appeared to have died at sea.

Three of the Cobb sons perished at sea, five years apart.

Far from their native land,
They perished in the drowning deep
Without a friend to stretch the hand
And none their early fate to weep.

I could find out nothing about the circumstances surrounding their deaths, but it’s likely that only William’s body is buried at Eastern Cemetery. If Daniel died “at St. Bartholomew’s” and Smith was “lost at sea”, their bodies were probably never recovered. Such events were quite common in seaside towns like Portland.

I cannot end my visit to Eastern Cemetery without mentioning a brand new marker that sits near the back wall. It belongs to William “Billy” Brown, whose story is quite different than most of the people buried there.

A small portion of Eastern Cemetery was used for slave burials, and most are unmarked. Only in February 2017 was the stone for Billy Brown created and installed, and it took much effort to make that happen. In 2013, local historians Larry Glatz and Herb Adams found out about Billy and worked to make things right. The full story can be found in this Bangor Daily News article.

A “powder boy” injured in the line of duty, Billy Brown didn’t receive his much-deserved pension until after he died.

Thought to have been born in Baltimore in 1786, Billy joined the Navy in childhood. Such a thing was not unusual at the time. Billy may have started life as a slave, but that’s not certain. He held the job of “powder boy” on the U.S.S. Constellation during the little-known “Quasi War” with France from 1798-1800. Powder boys hefted buckets of gunpowder from the magazine to the cannons, deadly work for a child.

Billy was injured when a musket ball hit his left foot near the ankle joint, which never healed properly. Billy served for about another 15 months and survived at least one other battle with the French in February 1800 when more than a dozen of his shipmates died.

Billy married Matilda C. March in Portland on May 31, 1829. They lived near the Abyssinian Meetinghouse, considered the center of African-American life in Portland. Billy worked for some years as a sea cook and when ashore, he drove cargo around town in a wagon. But his old injury made it hard to work and he sometimes had to ask for help from friends to get by.

William “Billy” Brown served on the U.S.S. Constellation. (Photo source: National Archives)

Between 1844 and 1854, Brown petitioned the government five times for a pension. He enlisted the help of pension agent Freeman Bradford. In those days, no federal Department of Veterans Affairs existed so each veteran’s pension was handed out by separate acts of Congress.

Finally, on Aug. 1, 1854, Congress passed An Act for the Relief of William Brown. The act gave Billy $96 a year, retroactive to when he’d first applied a decade earlier. Sadly, he had died in May of that year and was buried in a pauper’s grave in Eastern Cemetery. But his wife and their family were able to benefit from his pension.

A printed copy of the act giving William Brown a pension. (Photo source: National Archives.)

When Glatz and Adams took up the cause to get Billy a proper marker, they faced as many roadblocks as Billy had when he sought his pension. But thanks to their perseverance, Billy’s grave is now properly marked (although the conflict in which he fought was left off by the government engraver) and people can stop to honor him when they visit Eastern Cemetery.

There are many stories still left to share from Eastern but that would take up more space and time than this blog allows. I hated having to say goodbye to head to our hotel before we attended a Portland Seadogs game that evening, but I knew I’d been blessed to even have an hour there to see and learn what I did.


The Maine Thing: Discovering Portland’s Eastern Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to stonemason Bartlett Adams, who operated a shop in Portland, Maine for nearly 30 years. Much of his work can still be seen today at Portland’s Eastern Cemetery.

Among Adams’ signature accents was a simple rosette. You can see an example of this on the top of the marker for Margaret Newman, who died at the age of three in 1801.

The simple rosette at the top of Margaret Newman’s gravestone is a trademark of Bartlett Adams.

As I noted earlier, Adams was also quite partial to urns. The markers for Benjamin and Sarah Larrabee are prime examples. The husband and wife died about 10 years apart but their markers are almost exactly the same, with a sweeping weeping willow frond hanging over an urn.

Born in 1734 in Falmouth, Mass. (which later became Portland, Maine), Benjamin married Sarah Weeks Brackett in 1763. He died in 1809 at the age of 75. Sarah died about 10 years later in 1819 at the age of 85 and is listed as Benjamin’s “relict” (another word for “widow”) on her marker.

Benjamin and Sarah Larrabee had two sons and a daughter. Several Larrabees are buried at Eastern but it’s uncertain if their children are among them.

On other occasions, he carved an urn by itself. Ann Hale’s marker is just one example. Beneath her name and death date are the Latin words “Hine lachrymis!” which means “Hence these tears. ” I didn’t find out until after my visit what exactly the inscription at the bottom said:

From death’s arrest could virtue save,
Or Love obtain a wish’d reprieve,
Thou, Anne, has’t scap’d a youthful grave
Nor had Heaven so soon to grieve.

I first thought that the initials at the top stood for “Ms.” but Ron Romano explained it to me. It stands for “Memoria Sacrum”, which is Latin for “In Sacred Memory”. The initials also appear on other markers Adams made, including the ones for his sons George and Bartlett Jr.

Sometimes Adams combined several elements at the same time. He did this on the marker for Brigadier General Francis Osgood, who served in the Maine Militia during the War of 1812.

The marker for Brigadier General Francis Osgood contains several familiar motifs from the urn to the winged face.

Adams goes to great lengths for this marker, including a portrait of the General supported by angel’s wings as part of an urn. Flowering vines climb up the sides. At the bottom, you can read three lines of the inscription before the rest is swallowed up by the ground.

O, ever honor’d, ever dear Adieu,
How many tender names are lost in you,
Keep safe, O Tomb, thy precious trust.

Adams had an affection for certain images and the rising (or setting sun) was one you can find on two markers at Eastern. The motif can mean both the beginning and end of life, or the journey to Heaven. The marker for Lucy Pierce, wife of Eli Pierce, is probably the best example.

Lucy Pierce was married to Eli Pierce. She died at the age of 30.

If you look closely at the horizon of the sunburst, it almost looks as if the sun is peeking over the edge. At the bottom of the marker is an inscription that was quite popular at the time.

Remember me as you pass by
For as you are so once was I
And as I am so you must be.

Adams married Charlotte Neal in 1803. They had seven children but six of them would predecease their parents. He only lived to see one of his daughters marry and bear him a grandchild. This daughter died shortly after.

Three of Bartlett and Charlotte’s children have markers at Eastern.  The most elaborate is the one he made for his firstborn son who was named after him, Bartlett Adams Jr. He was born in 1806 and lived about five months.

The marker for Bartlett Adams’ firstborn son is one of his most elaborate. Notice that this time “Memoria Sacrum” is spelled out.

From what I’ve read, the image at the top of the marker is meant to reflect Adams’ interpretation of his family crest. It’s quite intricately carved with two spheres separated by a diagonal band with three birds on it. I have to wonder if he was also referring to the idea of little Bartlett’s spirit flying from one world to the next.

At the bottom of the marker is an inscription that seems to echo with the pain of a parent’s anguish.

Betwixt his birth & death, “HOW SHORT THE SPACE?”

Beyond working hard in his shop, Adams (according to Ron Romano) made a monetary pledge for construction of the First Parish Church in 1825. He also invested in the Portland Observatory and had a place on the board of the Charitable Mechanics Association. Clearly, he was involved in his community.

The small stone in the foreground is all that marks the Adams’ family tomb for Bartlett, Charlotte and their daughter Maria Caroline Adams Rogers, who died two weeks after giving birth to her first child. (Photo source: Ron Romano, Find a Grave.)

You might think that a man of Adams’ talents would have a grand monument of his own, but sadly he does not. He died in 1828 when he was 51. He and Charlotte are buried in an underground tomb. I am using Ron’s picture from Find a Grave because mine wasn’t as good. The original ledger stone that marked the top of the tomb is gone. The stone in the foreground marks the tomb’s entrance.

In Romano’s research on Adams, he discovered an estimated 1,800 markers made in the stonecutter’s shop in cemeteries throughout Maine in Gray, Harpswell and Buxton. He even found a number of them in a Nova Scotia cemetery.

In a Bangor Daily News article, Romano said it took two or three days to cut an average stone. Adams had two or three men working for him once he got established, and he was in business in Portland for nearly 30 years. That leaves thousands more stones to discover, Romano thinks.

“I know there’s way more out there that I haven’t seen yet,” he said.

Next week, I’ll finish my series on Eastern Cemetery by examining some other markers that feature the flying skulls and crossbones made popular during the Puritan era.

The Maine Thing: Discovering Portland’s Eastern Cemetery, Part I

Planning our family vacations is a challenge I relish. When we decided on Maine for the summer of 2017, I knew we’d be visiting a cemetery hopper’s paradise.

Maine is not new territory to me. This would be my fifth adventure to the Pine Tree State. But one trip just isn’t sufficient, there’s too much to see and savor. My fellas were eager to see Acadia National Park, a place I’d only spent one day in. Most of my time has been spent on the Southern coast towns of Ogunquit, Kennebunkport, and Old Orchard Beach.

View of the Portland’s harbor at Fort Allen Park on a sunny June day.

I wasn’t a taphophile when I last visited Maine in 2002, so I got to work on a list of cemeteries I wanted to see along the way. One that was at the top of the list was Portland’s Eastern Cemetery.

Established in 1668, Eastern Cemetery is the oldest historic landscape in the city and is home to around 4,000 burials. Most cemeteries I visit that people would consider “very old” in the South are from the late 1700s, so I was very excited.

I got in touch with Ron Romano, who helped start the group Spirits Alive in 2006 to better care for and raise awareness of Eastern Cemetery. Since he’d be attending a meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies in Alabama during the time we planned to visit Portland, he put me in the capable hands of Vana Carmona. This was one cemetery I didn’t want to wander alone without some guidance.

Eastern Cemetery is Portland, Maine’s oldest cemetery.

I met up with Vana after we landed in Portland and had grabbed lunch. She’s an incredibly upbeat person who gets just as excited about old cemeteries as I do. That’s always a plus.

It doesn’t take long to notice that the grave markers have much in common with the ones I’ve seen in Boston and Charleston. Winged skulls and angels from the 1700s are frequent motifs along with urns and floral themes into the early 1800s.

Portland’s Eastern Cemetery covers about four acres.

One of the awesome things about Eastern Cemetery is that we know the identity of the stone cutter who carved many of the markers there: Bartlett Adams. You can read about him in Ron’s book, Early Gravestones in Southern Maine: The Genius of Bartlett Adams. If you visit the Spirits Alive website, you can find a spreadsheet Ron created that lists exactly which markers Adams carved (very helpful to me as I wrote this).

Born in 1776 in Massachusetts, Bartlett Adams learned his trade as a teenage apprentice for his brother-in-law. In 1800, at age 24, he came to Portland and advertised his skills in the local newspaper. He mentioned he had a “flock of Italian marble and Quincy slate stone” in his possession.

These are emblematic of Bartlett Adams’ style, which helps identify the stones he carved. (Photo source: Spirits Alive web page.)

Adams owned the only stonecutting shop in the Portland area from 1800 to 1828. His shop also made hearthstones, mantel pieces, and other finished stones. At least eight other stonecutters worked with him, including his brother Richard, two nephews, and others who would eventually enjoy their own success. About 700 of Eastern’s markers, although they are unsigned and unmarked, were carved by Adams or the men who worked in his shop.

Among Adams’ works at Eastview is a double marker for Polly and Eunice Moody, infant daughters of mechanic William and Mary “Molly” Young Moody. You can see the umbrella-like design he carved on top of it, almost sheltering the little girls below. I’ve not seen this motif anywhere else.

Both Polly and Eunice Moody died in infancy. Their brother, Lemuel, lived into his 50s and served in the War of 1812.

Adams also created a single umbrella-style grave marker for William and Molly’s daughter, Harriet. She died in 1799, only nine months old. Harriet is buried beside her mother.

Little Harriet Moody died in infancy like her sisters.

Molly died at the age of 41 in August 1799, a few months before Harriet would pass away. Notice Adams’ intricate carving of the urn above the inscription on her marker and the twining vines. The urn is thought to  testify to the death of the body and the dust into which the dead body will return, while the spirit of the departed eternally rests with God.

Molly Moody died only a few months before her daughter, Harriet.

But Adams would save his most skillful Moody marker carving for father William, who died in 1821 at the age of 65. Records indicate he served in the Revolutionary War. If his marker is to be believed, he died on his birthday.

William Moody died 21 years after his wife, Molly.

There’s quite a few elements on William’s markers to catch the eye. Like Molly’s, his has an urn but Willilam’s sits atop a brick base and beams radiate out from it. Intricate carving edges the sides, with two pillars on either side of the inscription. Adams put quite a bit of work into it.

Next week, I’ll share more of Bartlett Adams’ work and how his markers can be found in other New England cemeteries.

You can see Portland’s harbor from Eastern Cemetery.

Nashville’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery: A Rabbitt in the Rain, Part II

Last week, I visited the grave of country/pop singer Eddie Rabbitt and shared the story of his career. But there’s quite a bit more to Calvary Catholic Cemetery. Because it’s the only Catholic cemetery in the Nashville Diocese, Calvary contains quite a few graves of high-level priests that served there.

The graves of several Catholic monsignors surround Nashville’s sixth, seventh, and eight bishops.

At the center of this circle of monsignors are Nashville’s sixth, seventh, and eight bishops that served the diocese. I am not very familiar with the Catholic Church or its iconography but the beauty of the cross and the figures surrounding it struck me.

The graves of three of Nashville’s bishops rest beneath a tableau featuring the crucifixion of Christ.

I don’t know if the figure kneeling at the foot of the cross is Mary, the mother of Christ, or Mary Magdalene.

In contrast, the story of Sterling Brown (S.B) Spurlock is a not as angelic. His monument is quite large and is a testament to his wealth at the time of his death. But the story behind the life that acquired it is shrouded in mystery and some discord.

Born in 1821 in Woodbury, Tenn. to Joseph and Esther Blair Spurlock, S.B. was the son of a farmer. He found his calling in the wholesale grocery business in Nashville. S.B. was a bachelor most of his life and census records indicate he often boarded in rooming houses instead of a fine home of his own. His health was poor and he was not one to socialize much because of it.

In the 1880s, S.B. met divorcee and Irish immigrant Margaret Mallon. Margaret married young in Ireland but was abandoned by her first husband, who left for America. She followed and worked as a servant until she found him in Nashville. They reconciled but later divorced and she began her own grocery business. In the course of running her business, she met Spurlock.

S.B. Spurlock and Margarget Mallon’s marriage would later result in a Tennessee Supreme Court Case after his death.

Margaret actually appeared to be doing financially better than S.C. when he asked her to marry him in 1883. She brought with her into the marriage about $3,700. S.B. was 65 and Margaret was 40 at the time. Despite his own supposedly shaky financial foundation, Spurlock had a pre-nuptial agreement drawn up promising her a small settlement and a home but no further claims to his estate. Margaret signed it.

According to the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Spurlock vs. Brown, the marriage was described as a happy one and Margaret nursed her husband through his illnesses. At some point, his arm was amputated. A year before he died, he supposedly returned that initial $3,7000 to her.

When S.B. died in 1891, Margaret discovered that his net estate was estimated at over $100,000. Had she not signed the agreement before their marriage, she would have expected to receive at least half of it, if not much more.

The angel as scribe tops the Spurlock monument.

Margaret claimed the document (contrary to what S.B.’s attorneys said) had never been explained to her at the time she signed it and she had been tricked. S.B.’s next of kin countered her claim and legal action resulted. A majority oft the Tennessee Supreme Court sided with Margaret in 1892 with one dissent. I’m not sure if S.B.’s family took it further or how much money Margaret ever received.

In city directories following S.B.’s death, Margaret is listed as working and living at St. Cecilia’s Academy. Established in 1860, the all-girl’s Catholic school is still in existence today. When Margaret died of a pulmonary embolism in 1908, she was living with a nephew, Thomas Slowey. Her profession was listed as housekeeper.

Despite the legal havoc their pre-nuptial agreement brought, S.B. and Margaret were buried side by side at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

By looking at Margaret’s will on Ancestry, I learned that she left her nephew several pieces of property (including at least one with a house), her sisters $500 each, a piece of property and home to a Michael Mallon (perhaps another relative) and $500 each to various Catholic charities.

Margaret rests beside S.B. beneath a very handsome monument with an angel as scribe situated atop of it. I’m sure his family wasn’t pleased at this outcome but my guess is that they could do little to stop it.

Other angels I photographed at Calvary day are familiar in style yet still lovely to look at in any cemetery I visit.

The monument for Irish horse trader Thomas McNally and his wife, Jennie, features an angel holding onto a cross.

An angel drops a single flower from her hand. This motif is quite common but still striking.

The image of an angel dropping a single flower is one that’s puzzled me as to what it’s meant to symbolize. One site I consulted said that it’s taken from the legend of Saint Dorothy. On her way to death, she was mocked by Theophilus. He asked for proof of the heavenly garden she was going to. After her death, an angel visited him with a basket containing flowers and fruit in the middle of winter. The angel is supposedly bringing proof that the deceased is in heaven.

I don’t know if that’s true but I’ve seen it often enough to wonder. You can also see this motif in the Sherlock monument but this figure (which has no wings) is also holding a wreath, which often means victory over death.

Unlike the angels, this figure is standing below the cross with her face downcast.

The Sherlock figure holds a single flower in one hand and a wreath in the other.

It was humbling to see some of the small markers featured portrait circles on them. To be able to see a picture of the deceased adds a dimension beyond the name and dates on the stone. Ann Costello McNally is one of them.

Ann Costello McNally was a young wife of 33 when she died of uremia (kidney disease). Her beauty is preserved in this lovely portrait.

The daughter of livestock trader Pat Costello and Mary Riley Costello, Ann was born in Greenwood, Miss. in 1920. She married John Costello and eventually moved to Memphis, Tenn. It was there she died in 1953. The cause of death was uremia caused by kidney disease.

I didn’t realize until later that I had also photographed the marker of Ann’s brother, James, until I was writing this post. In looking her up, I found they had the same parents but James was born in Talladega, Ala. in 1912.

Ann’s brother, James, is buried in the same plot. He served in World War II. He died in Augusta, Ga. in 1969.

Buried beside James is his wife, Ann Gorman Costello. She died in 1980 in North Augusta, S.C., just over the Georgia/South Carolina border.

Annie Costello died 11 years after her husband James.

It’s been fun remembering this 2015 trip to Nashville and paying tribute to singer Eddie Rabbitt. But it also makes me want to return and explore further. To learn more about the people that lived and shaped this vibrant city.

Hopefully, I’ll get that chance soon.

Nashville’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery: A Rabbitt in the Rain, Part I

Well I love a rainy night; I love a rainy night.
I love to hear the thunder;
watch the lightning when I lights up the sky.
You know it makes me feel good.

— “Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt, 1975

This week, I’m visiting Nashville’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery. While I don’t know the exact number of burials there, Find a Grave lists around 17,000 memorials. Only 24 percent of them are photographed.

Front gates of Nashville’s Calvary Cemetery. Photo source:

In 1868, the land for Calvary Cemetery was purchased by Patrick Augustine Feehan, third Catholic Bishop of Tennessee. The opening day is described in the book “The Catholic Church in Tennessee” by Thomas Stritch.

As the third Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville, Patrick Feehan purchased the land for Calvary Catholic Cemetery in 1868.

The dedication on November 29, 1868 was a grand affair. The procession of carriages was preceded by a band and 20 “neatly uniformed policemen,” according the local newspaper account. Then came the bishop’s carriage, with four priests accompanying him.

There followed carriages containing members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Society of St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum, the St. Joseph’s Abstinence Society, school children from the Sisters of Mercy School, and carriages containing residents. The line of carriages was so long that “there was no point along the route from which the entire procession could be viewed at one time.”

Calvary Cemetery is the only Catholic cemetery in the Diocese of Nashville. It offers some lovely views of the city.

The most famous interment at Calvary Cemetery is a singer/songwriter whose music I’ve loved since I was young. Country/pop singer Eddie Rabbitt is buried there and I was determined to find his grave.

Born in 1941 to Irish immigrants Thomas Michael and Mae Joyce Rabbitt in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eddie was raised in East Orange, N.J. While his father was an oil refinery refrigeration worker, Thomas also played the fiddle and accordion in several New York City dance halls. By 12, Eddie was a proficient guitar player.

Eddie’s father, Thomas Michael Rabbitt, was a native of Ireland who inspired a love of music in his son.

After his parents divorced, Eddie dropped out of school at 16 but got his high school diploma after taking night school classes. In 1964, he signed his first record deal with 20th Century Records and released the singles, “Next to the Note” and “Six Nights and Seven Days”.

Four years later, he moved to Nasvhille to start his career as a songwriter for Hill & Range Publishing Company and received $37.50 per week. Eddie hung out with with other aspiring writers at Wally’s Clubhouse, a bar in Nashville, saying he and the other patrons had “no place else to go.”

Eddie Rabbitt wrote the hit song “Kentucky Rain” that went gold for Elvis Presley.

Eddie made a splash in 1969 when Elvis Presley recorded his song “Kentucky Rain”, a fact I didn’t know until doing research for this post. Eddie wanted to record it himself but his publisher played it for Elvis and his version of it went gold.

“Well, he played it and Elvis liked it enough to consider it for his next single,” Eddie said. “I had to decide if I should let Elvis record it, probably have a hit, or keep it for myself and chance that my first record would do nothing and the song would be forgotten. In the end, the decision went to Elvis and he sold over a million copies of it!”

Eddie wrote “Pure Love”, which Ronnie Milsap took to No. 1 in 1974. This led to a contract offer from Elektra Records.

The Rabbitt family cross. Eddie and his son, Timothy, are buried at Calvary Cemetery along with Eddie’s father, Thomas.

In 1976, his critically acclaimed Rocky Mountain Music album was released, which gave Eddie his first No. 1 country hit with the track “Drinkin’ My Baby (Off My Mind)”. In 1977, his third album, Rabbitt was released, which made the top five on the country albums chart. That same year, the Academy of Country Music named him top new male vocalist of the year.

The 1978 movie starred Clint Eastwood in an offbeat comic role as a trucker and brawler roaming the American West with his pet orangutan, Clyde. Photo source:

Eddie released his first compilation album, The Best of Eddie Rabbitt, in 1979. The album produced Eddie’s first crossover single (written by Steve Dorff, Snuff Garrett and Milton Brown), “Every Which Way But Loose”, which topped country charts and reached the top 30 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and adult contemporary. It was featured in a 1978 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name.

I wasn’t aware of Eddie Rabbitt until his album Horizon, which contained the biggest crossover hits of his career including “I Love a Rainy Night” and “Drivin’ My Life Away.” Both tunes are definitely toe tappers and mention rain in the lyrics.

Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle sang the romantic duet “You and I”.

He developed “Rainy Night” from a song fragment that he wrote during a 1960s thunderstorm. “Driving” recalled Rabbitt’s stint as a truck driver, and was inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues“. Eddie was offered his own variety television show, which he declined by stating “It’s not worth the gamble.”

The release of his 1981 Step by Step album continued Eddie’s crossover success. The title track became his third straight single to reach the top 5 on country, adult contemporary, and the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The album went gold, Eddie’s final album to do so. He teamed up with Crystal Gayle, to record “You and I”, included in his 1982 album Radio Romance. It’s always been one of my favorite love songs.

I can’t imagine the pain Eddie and his wife experienced upon the death of little Timmy in 1985.

Eddie married Janine Girardi in 1976 and they had three children, Demelza, Timmy, and Tommy. Born in 1983, Timmy was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition that required a liver transplant. Timmy got the transplant in 1985 but that attempt failed and he died in 1985. Eddie put his career on hiatus during this time.

Eddie Rabbitt was only 46 when he died in 1998.

Eddie’s career never bounced back to its former heights. In 1997, he signed with Intersound Records but was soon after diagnosed with lung cancer. Following a round of chemotherapy, he released the album Beatin’ the Odds.

The next year, he released his final studio album, Songs from Rabbittland. He died on May 7, 1998 at the age of 56. I have no doubt that had he been blessed with a longer life, he would have produced many more hits.

Near the Rabbitt family plot is the monument for the Ray family. I later learned that one of the Rays was an NFL football star.

Buford “Baby” Ray was physically larger than most football players of the era.

Born near Nashville in 1914, Buford “Baby” Ray played for Vanderbilt University from 1935 to 1937 as an offensive and defensive tackle. Standing at 6′ 6″ and weighing over 280 pounds, Ray was much larger than nearly all college football players of the day.

in 1938, Ray signed with Green Bay, playing all of his 11-year NFL career with the Packers. He appeared in the 1940 NFL All-Star Game and was named to the United Press International (UPI) All-Pro team four times. Ray was a member of the Packers’ 1939 and 1944 NFL championship teams.

Buford “Baby” Ray is buried with his wife, Jane, in the Ray family plot.

After retiring from the NFL, Ray returned to Vanderbilt as an assistant coach under Bill Edwards and later became the university’s first full-time football recruiter. He rejoined the Packers organization as a scout in 1971.

Ray and his wife, Jane Burns Ray, had three children. He died on January 21, 1986 after a hunting trip at the age of 71. In the words of of retired sports editor Raymond Johnson, Ray was “one of Vanderbilt’s all-time great football players… a man of great integrity and dedication.”

Next time, I’ll share more stories from Calvary Catholic Cemetery.

Visiting Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery: Beauty Among the Ashes, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to Nashville’s Mount Olivet Cemetery. Today we’re going to meet some more people who influenced the Music City’s history.

When someone’s face is emblazoned on their monument, you can bet they were usually someone important. So I knew William Brimage Bate had likely distinguished himself and made a mental note to look him up when I got home.

Governor, senator and war hero are all words that describe General William Brimage Bate.

Lawyer, Confederate general, governor, and U.S. senator are all words that describe General William Brimage Bate. Born at Castalian Springs in Sumner County, Tenn. in 1826, his education was limited to a few years in a log schoolhouse known as the Rural Academy. When the Mexican War began in 1846, Bate volunteered for service in a Louisiana regiment. He re-enlisted and served as lieutenant of Company I, Third Tennessee Infantry.

Lacking much formal education, General Bate distinguished himself as as a military leader in the Mexican War and the Civil War.

After the war, Bate returned to the family farm and established a newspaper, the Gallatin Tenth Legion. In 1849, he was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly. After graduation from the Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tenn. in 1852, Bate opened a law practice in Gallatin, serving a term as district attorney general.

In 1856, Bate married Julia Peete, daughter of Colonel Samuel Peete of Huntsville, Ala. Col. Peete is buried at Mount Olivet near his daughter. Bate declined the Democratic nomination for Congress in 1859.

Julia Peete Bate was the daughter of Col. Samuel Peete of Huntsville, Ala., a distinguished lawyer and War of 1812 veteran.

A strong believer in states’ rights and secession, Bate volunteered as a private in the Second Tennessee Infantry of the Confederacy. Elected colonel, he served with his regiment, first in Virginia and later in campaigns which included Stones River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Franklin, and Nashville. Before the end of the war, he attained the rank of major general.

Bate was wounded on three different occasions, most severely at Shiloh. When a surgeon suggested amputating his leg, Bate refused. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. One report I read said he was shot out from under his horse more than once. While with the army at Wartrace in 1863, he declined the Tennessee gubernatorial nomination.

Wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, Bate refused to have his leg amputated. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life as a result.

After the Civil War, Bate started his law practice in Nashville and continued to be involved in Democratic Party politics. Elected governor in 1882, he was re-elected two years later. In 1886, he was elected to the U.S. Senate to succeed Washington C. Whitthorne, and Bate remained in that office until his death on March 9, 1905.

Jennie, the Bates’ first child, died at the age of 14.

William and Julia had four children during their marriage. Their first two daughters, Mary and Suzanne, lived well into adulthood. But daughters Jennie and Amanda would die before they were 15.

Amanda, the Bates’ third daughter, died at the age of five.

Julia Peete Bate was well educated and musically talented. Because she lost her mother at the age of three, she was used to running her widowed father’s household. It came in handy when her husband climbed the military and political ranks.

Julia Peete Bate met her future husband at Catoosa Springs, Ga., while visiting with a party of young ladies from Huntsville, Ala.

Julia joined her husband in Washington and enjoyed being a member of the Washington Ladies’ Literary Club. She was passionate about supporting causes that supported veterans. She died in 1910 and is buried beside her husband and her two eldest daughters. I especially like the inscription on the back of her marker, taken from Proberbs 31:26.

This inscription comes from Proverbs 31:26: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

The life of Benjamin Joseph McCarthy was not as distinguished as that of General Bate. But his family monument, which is close to that of the Bate family, is one of those you tend to notice.

The names of several family members are inscribed on the McCarthy family monument.

Born in 1842 in Warren County, Ga., McCarthy spent most of his life in Nashville. He married Annie Elizabeth Hood sometime prior to 1871. They had several children. Much of McCarthy’s career was helping run the foundry of Phillips & Buttorff Manufacturing Co., which created many cast iron items from skillets to stoves. The company operated from 1858 to the mid 1900s.

The cube is said to represent the earth and earthly existence. Some monuments have a cube or square inverted to point the corners downward and upward. This is meant to illustrate the directions of earth and heaven.

In the 1960s, Vanderbilt senior Melvyn Koby stole the pocketwatch (as a prank) from the statue of Francis Furman that stands on the landing inside Furman Hall. He returned it in 2010.

One of the largest monuments in Mount Olivet is for the Furman family. A native of Pennsylvania, Francis Furman owned Furman & Co. Wholesale Dry Goods and Notions on Nashville’s public square from 1870 until around 1890. His death certificate lists his occupation as “capitalist.” He died in 1898 at the age of 80.

Furman Hall on the campus of Vanderbilt University is named in his honor as a result of a $100,000 donation by his widow after his death. Furman never attended the university but his funeral was conducted by Vanderbilt co-founder Alexander Little Page Green. Inside the building is a sculpture of Francis Furman by Danish artist Johannes Gelert.

Danish sculptor Johannes Gelert designed the Furman family monument.

Gelert also designed the Furman’s monument at Mount Olivet. I was curious to know how the Furmans were connected to Gelert and learned that won top honors for “Wounded American Soldier” at the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in Nashville.

The roof of the monument is born up by caryatids, female figures in Greek dress like those on the porch of the maidens standing on the Athenian Acropolis.

The last story I’m going to share is about a tomb we caught sight of on our way out of the cemetery. Pyramid tombs are not common in the Southeast so when I see one, I pull over to look! The tomb for “Major” Eugene Castner Lewis is indeed impressive.

The entrance to the walkway is guarded by a pair of Sphinx, symbolic of the Memphis Rite, a Masonic order. Lewis was an active Mason during his lifetime. The two heavy aluminum doors once opened to reveal steps that lead down into the crypt. Because of vandalism, the doors are now welded shut.

Two sphinxes guard the tomb of Major Eugene Castner Lewis.

When I looked into the past of Major Eugene Castner Lewis, I learned why an ancient theme went beyond his Masonic ties. Among his many accomplishments, he was the director of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Lewis was the one who suggested that a reproduction of the Parthenon be built in Nashville to serve as the centerpiece of Tennessee’s Centennial Celebration in 1897. It’s the only building that survived.

“Major” Eugene Lewis played a key role in making the Tennessee Centennial Exposition a financial success.

Born in 1845, Eugene Lewis’ parents were George T. and Margaretta Barnes Lewis. George Lewis was the general manager of the Cumberland Iron Works and knew many of Nashville’s movers and shakers.

During the Civil War, Eugene Lewis attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy. Although he never served in the military, he was referred to as “Major Lewis”. After he graduated in 1865, he served as an assistant engineer with the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad. He would be involved in the railroad industry all of his life.

Although he attended the Pennsylvania Military Academy, “Major” Eugene Lewis never served in the armed forces.

Lewis served as the president of Sycamore Mills (a gunpowder maker) and designed at least two bridges over Sycamore Creek in Nashville. Lewis also joined the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway as an industrial engineer. He was elected to its board of directors in 1896, and he served as its chairman from 1900 to 1917. He and his wife, Pauline, had several children. Pauline died at the age of 40 in 1902.

The Lewis tomb is definitely different than the others at Mount Olivet.

Lewis died in 1917 of stomach cancer.

Had the weather been better that day, I would have spent more time at Mount Olivet but January is not the greatest time for any cemetery visit. Still, I’m glad I got to see what I did and spend some time with a good friend.

Next week, I’ll be stopping by next door at Nashville’s Calvary Cemetery.

John L. Nolen was a former Grand Master of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF). The three chain links stand for “friendship, love and truth”.