Monday, March 12, 2018

Stones & Bones 6 - Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

Prague is considered a mystical city. The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is just as its name indicates, quite ancient. The earliest headstones date back to 1439 and people were buried here for hundreds of years. The cemetery avoided demolition by the Germans during World War II because Hitler took a liking to it and figured it would make a great setting for a museum he would build dedicated to his victory and the annihilation of the Jews. Thankfully, Hitler did not get that chance, but the cemetery does serve as a museum of sorts, to the history of the Jews in Prague. Join us as we wander among the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery!

The first Jewish cemetery in Prague was the Jewish Garden. That graveyard was closed in 1478 by order of King Vladislaus II. The citizens of the area had complained about it and that was enough to shut it down. What was left of it eventually disappeared beneath the streets of New Town of Prague. We're not entirely sure what the complaints were about, but they could not have been related to the fact that it was Jewish as the Old Jewish Cemetery had been established some time in the early 1400s. The oldest headstone that can still be read, belongs to a rabbi and poet named Avigdor Kara who died in 1439. Because of its age, one would think that many of the headstones would be broken or falling apart, but it is actually in fairly good condition. One thing that a visitor will notice right away though, is that there are many people buried here and the headstones are practically right up against each other.

There was a real problem at the Old Jewish Cemetery when it came to space. There was not much room and it is forbidden in Jewish customs to disinter a body or move the burial. Many times, the Jewish elders would approach the city seeking to buy more land and most of the time they were denied, so they needed to come up with other ideas. One idea is similar to what we found in many of the old burying grounds in Boston and that is this practice of burying bodies on top of each other in the same space. A new layer of soil was heaped up on an older burial and there are actually some locations in the cemetery with as many as twelve layers. The older gravestone would be pulled up to the uppermost layer and the new gravestone for the new burial would be placed right next to it. This is why the cemetery appears to be a dense collection of gravestones. This also has resulted in the surface of the cemetery being raised several meters higher than the streets that surround the graveyard. Burials continued here until 1787. Emperor Josef II had banned burials inside the city walls of Prague because they were worried about disease, particularly the Plague. Prague Jews then had to use a cemetery in Žižkov.

Strolling amongst the tombstones of the Old Jewish Cemetery is both a history tour and education. There are two kinds of matzevots, which means burial monuments in Hebrew. The first is a rectangular shaped headstone made from either wood or stone. The second is a Tumba. These look like little houses or tents. Every stone is marked is marked with Hebrew lettering indicating name and dates. The earliest headstones here are very simple, but the 16th century seems to have inspired creativity and the symbolism starts to appear on the markers. This was also when brief eulogies of the individual were added. Various ornamentations were added in the 17th century like false portals, volutes, which are scroll spirals, and pilasters.

Here are some of the symbols found on the tombstones. There is, of course, the hexagram. A carved crown indicates the person had a good reputation. Wine grapes symbolize a good and prosperous life. There are also those that are specific to family names like Cohen. This family line was decended from temple priests and their symbol is a pair of praying hands. Those that are Levites have a jug and a bowl on their stone. While we believe every life is significant as it touched someone else's life, there are those that history gives special note of and we have a few here. The graves of Mordecai Katz ben Gershom and his son Betzalel are here and they were well known Prague printers. Their work, "Prague Hagadah" was published in 1526. The Prague Haggadah was the first Passover Haggadah book to be printed in Central Europe after the Jews were expelled from Spain, which happened in 1492. The Haggadah was the story of the Passover and is read at the Seder table. The Prague Haggadah is the first illustrated Haggadah to be preserved in its entirety. It really is a beautiful edition and was the first to use a new technique that printed woodcuts. The lettering is fine with a flair on the initials and the general layout is aesthetic pleasing. The craftsman who created the woodcuts is believed to be a man named Hayyim Shachor or Schwartz. He may not have made all of them as his initials are not carved on all the woodcuts.

David Gans was born in 1541 and was buried here in 1613. His gravestone is small and features a triangular ending and engraved symbols of Magen David and a goose, "gans" means "goose" in German. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer and historian, whose chronicle "Cemah David" includes also  a lot of Czech history. A tumba with a hexagram on the top of the front wall, belongs to Rabbi David Oppenheim who died in 1736. His book collection constitutes an important part of the Hebrew section of Bodleian Library in Oxford. Aharon Meshulam Horowitz died in 1545 and at that time he was the richest Jew and built the Pinkas Synagogue. A synogogue in the Jewish Quarter is named for businessman Mordecai Maisel who was buried here in 1601. His tumba is the oldest in the cemetery. Another tumba here belongs to Joseph Solomon Delmedigo. He was a physician and scholar born in Crete, who worked in many scientific fields. The Nephele Hill is the baby nursery here. The nephele means miscarriage in Hebrew. There are also remains that needed to be re interred buried in this area. A tumba belonging to Hendl Bassevi, who died in 1628, is decorated with lions seated on the gables of the tumba. They carry the coat of arms of Hendl's husband Jacob Bassevi. He was the first Jew in Habsburg Empire to receive a title of nobility.

Rabbi Judah Löw ben Betzalel and his wife rest under another tumba, decorated with symbols of a lion and wine grapes. Scholars know Rabbi Judah as The Maharal. He wrote numerous religious and philosophical treatises and he is the subject of a 19th-century legend that he created the Golem of Prague. The Golem was an animate mythological being fashioned from clay. There are several versions of the Golem of Prague, but the basic premise is that Maharal formed the Golem from the clay of the banks of the Vltava River and this was a creature meant to protect the Jewish community from being expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. The Golem was brought to life through rituals and the creature could summon spirits of the dead and make itself invisible. The Rabbi would put it to sleep on the Sabbath to protect the Sabbath, but one day he forgot and the Golem fell in love with a woman.When she rejected him, he flew into a rage and went on a murderous rampage, which is where it gets its bad reputation from. The legend further claims that the Rabbi immobilized the Golem and it fell into pieces. Those pieces were stored in the attic of the Old New Synagogue, and it is said that it is still there just waiting to be reactivated when needed. A renovation of the attic in 1883 found no Golem.

The oldest burial that can be read dates back to 1439 and is the final resting place of Rabbi Avigdor Kara who was also a poet. He wrote an elegy that describes a great pogrom of the Prague Ghetto in 1389 and this is still recited on Yom Kippur in the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Europe. The former Jewish Ghetto in Prague, now known as Josefoy, has a long history, going back to the 12th century. It was not a ghetto when it first was established., but was known as the Jewish Quarter and it was enclosed by a wall with six gates. That wall was built to protect the Jews from attack. Most of them were fairly safe in Prague because they paid taxes, but anti-semitic views and violence were rising throughout Europe. The biggest Catholic council of the Middle Ages known as the Fourth Council of the Lateran had issued edicts against the Jews.

The protection the Jews of Prague had been under, lifted in 1389. A violent uprising against them began on Easter of that year. It is thought that it started with a Jew throwing a rock at a Catholic priest who was walking down the street with the Communion cup. This was declared a desecration of the Host and the rock throwers were arrested. The area was becoming inflamed as residents grew tired of the King protecting his Jewish financiers. An attack on the Jews would then also be an attack on the King. One priest had preached in an earlier message, "One key sign [of his advent] is the prosperity of the Jews, who are multiplying and gathering everywhere, favored with such great immunity that we must greatly fear the wrath of the Lord, lest he permit the Antichrist to come. For you see well that the clergy and the Christian faithful are daily supplanted and subordinated in their rights and liberties and endure many injuries. The synagogue profits more than the church of Christ, and among princes, a single Jew can accomplish more than a nobleman or a prelate. Indeed, princes and magnates are impoverished by unheard-of interest rates as if [the Jews] could enrich and assist their lord Antichrist with those treasures." The pogrom that followed would be the biggest anti-Jewish pogrom in the middle ages. Around 3000 citizens of the Jewish Quarter were killed and their homes were plundered and burned. The walls of the Old – New Synagogue went dark with blood.

The Old Jewish Cemetery celebrates the lives of so many of the former Jewish residents of Prague. It also bears witness to a past that is troubling and hopefully reminds us to never repeat these same things again. And that is just a little bit about the stone and bones found here!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stones and Bones 5 - Necropolis de Cristobal Colon

The Necropolis de Cristobal Colon is located in Havana, Cuba and is one of the oldest cemeteries in the country. The graveyard is known more commonly as Colon Cemetery. There are so many burials here, around 800,000, it literally appears to be a sea of monuments. Some beautiful and some in disrepair. There are many historical figures honored in the memorials, but there are also legendary characters, one of which is a well known figure in Santeria.

The Colon Cemetery was named for Christopher Columbus and was established in 1876. Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso, a Spanish architect who attended Madrid’s Royal Academy of Arts of San Fernando, designed and built the cemetery. The front entrance is framed by a Byzatine-Romanesque gateway, which is known as the Puerta de la Paz. The 1868 cholera outbreak in Cuba drove the need to build a newer and larger Graveyard. The design reflects inspiration from city design with rectangular streets featuring distinct sections for different social statuses reflecting the poor, the wealthy, victims of epidemics, military members, politicians, organizations, religious groups and orders. There are 500 major mausoleums, countless marble statues and lots of religious iconography. And although there are 800,000 graves, there have been 1 million burials here. This means that some remains were boxed up and taken elsewhere to make room for new burials.

The various memorials are literally a history of Cuba. Some look abandoned and are in poor condition because family members escaped during Spanish domination or during Communist dictatorship of the island. This is a record of who was here and how things have changed. Other burials belong to famous and important people to the story of Cuba. After entering through the Puerta de la Paz, visitors will see a circular medallion with a bronze face. This marks the final resting place of General Maximo Gomez. He was a Major General in Cuba's Ten Years' War, which was fought from 1868 to 1878 against Spain. He was also Cuba's military commander during the War of Independence from 1895 to 1898. He gave the Cuban Mambises their most feared tactic: The "Machete Charge." He was offered the presidency eventually and would have won unchallenged, but he hated politics and was Dominican so he felt as though it would not be proper. He died in 1905. His image appears on the Cuban 10 peso bill.

Ironically, the architect who designed this final resting place, Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso, actually ended up dying before the graveyard was completed and became Colón’s first occupant.
Colon Cemetery also has a 75-foot high monument to the firefighters who lost their lives in the great fire of May 17, 1890. It wasn't the actual fire that ended up killing 27 firemen, but rather an explosion caused by gunpowder. Baseball is a popular sport in Cuba, so the cemetery has two monuments to baseball players from the Cuban League. The first was erected in 1942 and the second in 1951 for members of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame. At one time, the bodies of sailors who died on the United States Navy battleship Maine in 1898, were interred in the Colon Cemetery. In December 1899, the bodies were disinterred and brought back to the United States for burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The entrance to the underground ossuary has the mausoleum of the Anglo-American Welfare Association snd three British Commonwealth servicemen qre buried here: a Canadian Army officer of World War I, and a Royal Engineers officer and Royal Canadian Navy seaman of World War II.

Candelaria Figueredo was born in 1852 in Bayamo, Cuba. She was the daughter of Pedro Figueredo y Cisneros, who was a Cuban nationalist revolutionary, and she learned to become a Cuban patriot and revolutionist from him. She would join the struggle in October of 1868 when she was only 16 years old. She carried the independent Cuban flag into the Battle of Bayamo, her home town. The flag was a new design and she climbed atop a white horse. She made the ride safely, but eventually Bayamo was recaptured by the Spanish. She and her family went on the run and lived as fugitives. The Spanish finally caught up to Candelaria and two of her siblings and imprisoned them in the Fortress of Zaragoza in Manzanillo. The Spanish offered them two choices: leave Cuba or face being sent to the island of Bioko off of Africa. They decided to sail to New York and even though a hurricane was bearing down on them, Candelaria begged the captain to power through the storm because "I prefer a thousand times to be food for the sharks than that of the Spaniards." She ended up in Key West and was reunited with her mother and other siblings. She asked where her beloved father was and she was told that the Spaniards killed him. Candelaria fell into a depression and became quite ill. She recovered and married a fellow Cuban exile in 1877. In 1901, they moved back to Cuba and they both watched with pride, the raising of the Cuban flag over the Castillo del Morro. When she died in 1914, she was buried with full military honors at Colon Cemetery. Her coffin was draped by the flag that she had carried into Bayamo was she was sixteen.

Scientist Carlos Finlay was born in 1833. His main area of expertise was in epidemiology. This led him to becoming a pioneer in the research of yellow fever, determining that it was transmitted through mosquitoes. This theory of mosquito as vector was presented at the 1881 International Sanitary Conference. As people began to embrace this theory, the recommendation to control the mosquito population began to spread. The Walter Reed Commission confirmed this theory in 1900 and although Dr. Reed received much of the credit in history books for "beating" yellow fever, he made it a point to credit Dr. Finlay with the discovery of the yellow fever vector. Dr. Finlay died in 1915 from a stroke. He was honored with a Google Doodle in 2013 to commemorate his 180th birthday. Alejo Carpentier was a novelist born in 1904 in Lausanne, Switzerland. His family moved to Havana and he grew up there, which led him to strongly identify as Cuban throughout his life. He greatly influenced Latin American literature during its famous "boom" period. Some of this was Surrealist theory with which he was quite taken. Although he died in Paris in 1980, he was buried in Colon Cemetery.

Alberto Yarini y Ponce de León was born in 1882 into an elite family of Matanzas sugar plantation owners. He was sent to America to be educated and became bilingual. Rather than using his education to do well in Cuba when he returned, he became a racketeer and a pimp. This was during the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He imported prostitutes from France and worked out of San Isidro, a barrio and red light district in Old Havana. Alberto was killed on November 21, 1910, when a rival pimp named Louis Lotot and his gang opened fire on him. Some consider him the Prince of Old Havana. William Alexander Morgan was an American citizen who fought in the Cuban Revolution, leading a band of rebels against the Cuban army. This helped create a way for Fidel Castro's forces to secure victory. When Morgan was asked why he was helping Castro to throw out the dictator Fulgencio Batiste, he said, "I am here because I believe that the most important thing for free men to do is to protect the freedom of others. I am here so that my son, when he is grown, will not have to fight or die in a land not his own, because one man or group of men try to take his liberty from him. I am here because I believe that free men should take up arms and stand together and fight and destroy the groups and forces that want to take the rights of people away." Obviously, as we all know now and as Morgan eventually learned, Castro was not anti-communist and was planning on setting up his own dictatorship. Morgan later gave up on the revolution and began counterrevolutionary activities. He was arrested for this on October 16, 1960. He was tried and on March 11, 1961, Morgan was executed by firing squad with Fidel and Raul Castro in attendance.

One of the most well known graves belongs to La Milagrosa, which translates to "the miraculous one." Señora Amelia Goyri was laid to rest at Colon Cemetery in 1901. She died in childbirth and even more tragic was the fact that her baby had passed away as well. It was decided to bury them together. Stories vary as to whether the baby was placed at Amelia's side or at her feet in the coffin, but the prevailing legend claims that the grave was exhumed several years later and not only was Amelia barely decayed, her baby was wrapped in her arms. She became a saint like figure in Cuba and thousands of people visit her grave - that is marked with a marble memorial featuring a woman with a large cross and a baby in her arms - every year. They follow a tradition started by her husband. He would visit the grave several times a day and bring her flowers. He would knock with one of four iron rings on the vault door when he was ready to leave and then walk backwards away from her grave, so he could see her for as long as possible. Now visitors do the same and her vault is covered in flowers. These people believe that by doing this, La Milagrosa will solve their problems or fulfill their dreams.

Another well known female figure buried here is Leocadia Pérez Herrero. She was a black Havana medium known for her great acts of charity among the poor in the early 20th century. Her grave is marked with a representation of a mythical Santería priest called Hermano José. She claimed that he guided her in her spirituality and her good deeds. She always kept a painting of Hermano José in her house, so when she died, it seemed only fitting to have the painting buried with her. Practitioners of Santeria venerate Hermano José and when they visit Leocadia's grave to ask for favors, they leave behind offerings that include flowers, glasses of rum, half-smoked cigars or sacrificed chickens.This causes us to wonder, what exactly is Santeria?

Santeria is Spanish for “The Way of the Saints.” and is also known as La Regla de Ocha or “The Order of the Orishas.” The religion was brought to Cuba by the people of the Yoruban nations in West Africa. It would later spread throughout Latin America and the United States. It is similar to Voodoo in that it meshes the beliefs of the tribal groups in Africa with Roman Catholicism. For Santeria, it is blending the deities of the Yoruba people with Catholicism. These deities are referred to as orishas. Practitioners describe themselves as Catholic and attend Catholic masses, but they also continue to practice their African-based religion. They set up a Lucumí temple-house in which to practice, either in their own homes or in the home of a religious elder. They have no problem keeping a statue of a Catholic saint like the Virgin of Charity on a Lucumí altar. Two of the most popular Orishas in Cuba are Changó or Oshún. Chango is usually connected with Saint Barbara or Saint Jerome and is considered one of the most powerful rulers in Yoruba Land. He is considered an angry saint and manifests in the persona of various other Orisha. He is represented by thunder, lightning, virility and dance. He is the most feared. Oshun is the favorite wife of Chango and seems to be his opposite as she is very beautiful and represents sweetness and love. But don't be fooled. She uses her womanly ways to conquer her enemies. She's syncretized with the Virgin of Caridad de Cobre, who is the patroness of Cuba. Caution should be used as she can be vindictive when crossed.

Practitioners of Santería work on the development of personal relationships through divination, sacrifice, initiation, and mediumship and are rewarded by the orisha deities with protection, wisdom, and success. Access to the orishas can be achieved through various types of divination. One such way is for a babalawo, who is known as a “father of the mystery,” to interpret the fall of consecrated palm nuts as a response to a seeker’s question. Some kind of sacrifice, usually animal, is usually recommended to please the orishas and these offerings range from simple presentations before home altars to elaborate feasts in the orishas’ honour. When a priest or oracle determines that one particular orisha has claimed a devotee as its follower, preparations are made for an irrevocable initiation of the devotee into that orisha’s mysteries. In the crowning ceremony, the symbols of the patron orisha are placed on the head of the devotee, and he or she may enter a ceremonial trance and become a medium for that orisha. Drum dances, called bembés, are then organized and it is during these that an initiated devotee may lose consciousness and manifest that of their orisha patron. The orishas interact with their followers through the bodies of mediums.

There is a dark side to Santeria that is known as Palo Mayombe. People who practice this are called Palero. The differences between Palo Mayombe and Santeria is the religion of Santeria uses the forces of light while Paleros use forces of darkness. This black magic is thought to be very strong. Palo Mayombe has its own priesthood and set of rules and regulations and practitioners of Santeria avoid it. Paleros do not advertise their powers and will only perform spiritual work for an individual by referral and this power is so strong that they claim they can make a man of little means become a powerful world figure in a relatively short period of time. It is also believed that a Palero can bring death to an individual within 24 hours.  Palero can make and break you by saying just a few incantations and by performing a few minor rituals. So messing with them is not a good idea.

The main chapel is found in the center of Colon Cemetery and is beautiful being loosely modeled after the Florence Cathedral, "Il Duomo." The architecture and history represented here are remarkable. Colon Cemetery easily can be considered a world-class cemetery. And this was just a bit about the stones and bones found here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stones and Bones 4 - Zoshigaya Reien Cemetery

The idea of having public burial grounds was very foreign to the country of Japan. It wasn't until the Meiji Era that the concept traveled over from the West. The city of Tokyo established Zoshigaya Reien Cemetery in 1874. The cemetery was needed desperately as a ban on cremation, which was the normal burial practice of Japan, had been enacted in 1873. Zoshigaya is located in Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo and covers 25 acres with over 9,000 burials. Today, it is maintained by the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association. As we look at the history of this beautiful and unique cemetery, we will also discuss the burial practices and customs of this area.

Before the cemetery was here, the land was an estate owned by the Shogun. The Shogun was the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese armies and so basically the de facto ruler of the country. During the Edo Period, which was from 1603 to 1868, the estate was used as a training ground for the Shogun's hunting falcons. One of the falconry mews, which is basically a giant birdhouse, is still located within the graveyard. When Tokyo claimed the grounds, the government named the graveyard Zoshigaya-Asahidecho Bochi after the name of the city in which it was located at that time. Bochi is the traditional Japanese word for graveyard. The name was changed to Zoshigaya Reien in 1935 as the word Reien more accurately described the cemetery. Bochi is more associated with temples or shrines, while Reien means a spiritual park.

Most gravesites in Zoshigaya are traditionally shaped meaning they contain a couple of low stone steps topped by an upright stone and this upright stone is where the family name is carved. This stone in Japanese is known as a boseki. Some bosekis have a round family crest known as a kamon. These crests feature birds, leaves or geometric symbols. Other gravesites have pagodas, small stone lanterns and bonsai trees. Wooden grave tablets that bear the dead person's afterlife name are common as well and known as sotoba. Private gardens are found within most gravesites and family members bring offerings of beer, sake, incense, flowers and business cards are dropped into slots of mailboxes by visitors.

There are several religions represented in Zoshigaya. Christian crosses are seen, particularly in an enclosure for deceased members of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. Buddhists burials make use of the sotoba. During the Buddhist funeral, the dead person is given their afterlife name, a kaimyo. Shintoism was a religion that was connected to the imperial government and was the state religion until 1945. During the Meiji Era, the government saw cremation as a Buddhist practice and that is why it was banned for two years leading to the need for Zoshigaya. The Torii Gate is a symbol of Shinto that you may see on some graves.

There are many government officials and well-known people buried here. One of the government officials is Hideki Tojo who was the Prime Minister of Japan during World War II. He is credited with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. General Douglas MacArthur ordered the arrest of war criminals after Japan's unconditional surrender in 1945 and Tojo was one of them. Tojo tried to commit suicide before his arrest by shooting himself in the chest. He missed his heart and recovered. He was tried for war crimes and took full responsibility and said at his trial, "It is natural that I should bear entire responsibility for the war in general, and, needless to say, I am prepared to do so. Consequently, now that the war has been lost, it is presumably necessary that I be judged so that the circumstances of the time can be clarified and the future peace of the world be assured. Therefore, with respect to my trial, it is my intention to speak frankly, according to my recollection, even though when the vanquished stands before the victor, who has over him the power of life and death, he may be apt to toady and flatter. I mean to pay considerable attention to this in my actions, and say to the end that what is true is true and what is false is false. To shade one's words in flattery to the point of untruthfulness would falsify the trial and do incalculable harm to the nation, and great care must be taken to avoid this."

The poet Hachiro Sato is buried here. One of his more famous works is writing the lyrics to composer Yoshinao Nakada’s haunting song “Chiisai Aki Mitsuketa” (“A Bit of Autumn Found”). He also wrote the songs "I Found a Tiny Fall" and "Mother," which have been sung at some point by every Japanese child. The Hachiro Sato Memorial Museum has his used guitar and a replica of the space where he created his works. He also collected beer jugs and the museum acquired that as well. He died in 1974. An inscription on his grave reads, “Futari de miro to subete no mono wa utsukushiku miru” (“When seen by two, everything is beautiful”).

Natsume Soseki was one of Japan's best-loved novelists. He wrote the book, "I Am a Cat." He also wrote haiku and fairy tales. Soseki is considered one of the greatest writers in modern Japanese history and he was so popular that from 1984 until 2004, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note. He was born in 1867 in Tokyo. He was born late in life to his parents who were in their 40s and 50s and they already had five children, so they did not want him. He was adopted by a childless couple when he was almost one, but when they divorced when he was nine years of age, he was returned to his birth family. His mother welcomed him at that time and she died when he was fourteen. His father pushed him into architectural studies at college, but he loved literature and wanted to write. A friend encouraged him and taught him how to write haiku and he was off and running. His works centered on themes that spoke out against the Westernizing and industrialization of Japan, the conflict between duty and desire, fighting against economic hardship and group think versus individuality. He died from a stomach ulcer in 1916.

Kyoka Izumi was a novelist and playwright. He is most known for his Kabuki plays. You've probably heard the term Kabuki Theater at some point. Kabuki plays are classical Japanese dance-dramas that are known for the stylized drama and elaborate make-up worn by the actors. The word Kabuki is interpreted at avant-garde or bizarre. Izumi was born in 1873 and his mother enjoyed sharing with him picture books at a young age, which influenced his later work. He lost his mother when he was only nine and it devastated him. She shows up as characters in many of his works. His first story was published as a serial in a newspaper in 1893. It took time for his writing to become popular as it was very different and is described as surrealist critiques on society. He died of lung cancer in 1939.

Yumeji Takehisa was a poet and painter. He was born in 1884 and his childhood home has been preserved as a museum. His first love was poetry, but he knew there was no money in it, so he took up drawing and painting and was entirely self-taught. His work was very popular among the regular people, but the elite were very critical, particularly because he was very boisterous about how pretentious artists were. He died young at the age of 49 in 1934. His grave is marked with an obsidian asymmetrical stone covered in a graceful calligraphy.

Koizumi Yakumo was an author born in 1850 as Patrick Lafcadio Hearn on the Greek Ionian island of Lefkada, for which he was named. He was Irish by his father and Greek by his mother. He adopted Japan as his home in 1890. Yakumo wrote Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, which was a collection of Japanese ghost stories. People compare his work to that of the Brothers Grimm. The Kwaidan book became the basis of an Academy Award-nominated film of the same name in the category Best Foreign Language Film. For ten years, he lived in New Orleans and he began working as a news editor for the Daily City Item there in 1878. As editor, Hearn created and published nearly two hundred woodcuts of daily life and people in New Orleans. These were thought of as cartoons and it immediately increased the circulation of the paper. This made the Daily City Item the first Southern newspaper to introduce cartoons. He died in 1904 from heart failure when he was just 54.

Ogino Ginko was the first woman physician to practice Western medicine in Japan. Ogino was born in the Musashi province in 1851. She married young, at the age of 16, to the son of a wealthy banker. Soon after, something that at first glance would appear to be a bad thing, led to her changing the course of her life to the benefit of the women of Japan. Her husband gave her gonorrhea and she was incredibly embarrassed by her visits to male doctors. Because of that, she decided to become a doctor to spare other women the embarrassment. She graduated from a private medical academy that was all male, pushing back against a ton of prejudice and mistreatment. She had to petition for three years after she graduated to be allowed to sit for the medical practitioner's examination, which she did in 1885. She became the first registered female doctor in Japan and opened the Ogino Hospital in Yushima, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. She married in 1890 and moved with him to Hokkaidō in 1894, where she ran a medical practice. She returned to Tokyo in 1908 when he died and ran a hospital. Ogino died of atherosclerosis in Tokyo in 1913.

Nakahama John Manjiro was the first Japanese man to visit the United States. He visited America quite by accident, literally. He was fourteen and out fishing when he was shipwrecked in 1841. He was rescued by an American ship that took him to Hawaii. He then ended up in Boston. He learned English, which made him able to work as a translator. He traveled back to Japan and served as translator when Commodore Perry's Black Ships sailed into Yokohama Bay in 1853. Perry was coming to get Japan to open itself to the world. Manjiro told the Shogunate, "America greatly hopes to enjoy a deep and abiding friendship with Japan. America does not come with suspicious designs but with a full and open heart." The Shogunate was convinced and discarded the laws of over 200 years' standing and took the first step toward opening the country. Manjiro was able to convince Japan to accept the Japan-United States Friendship Treaty. President Coolidge said of Manjiro, "When John Manjiro returned to Japan, it was as if America had sent its first ambassador. Our envoy Perry could enjoy so cordial a reception because John Manjiro had made Japan's central authorities understand the true face of America." Manjiro then became a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. He died quietly on November 12, 1898, at the age of 71.

Many cemeteries around the world have sections dedicated to Asian burials that give us an idea of what cemeteries in Asia look like, but nothing compares to actually walking down the pathways, beneath the twisted and old trees and surveying the stone slabs that mark the final resting places in Zoshigaya. There are few symbols, unlike American cemeteries, but the ones that are here are very Japanese in theming and meant to respect the deceased. No matter the country, all cultures wish to honor their dead and that is something we all share in common. And that was just a little about the stones and bones found here.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Stones and Bones 3 - Brompton Cemetery

This cemetery was suggested by: Bob Sherfield

For a taphophile, London is one of the prime locations to visit to see some of the world's most magnificent graveyards. And magnificent is the key word, because this city is home to the Magnificent Seven Garden Cemeteries.  These graveyards were built over a ten year period in the mid-19th century to change the way burials were being done before that time. Burial in a small churchyard was the standard, but as the population of London grew, it became impossible to continue this practice. Decomp fluids were seeping into water systems and epidemics were the result. So the British Parliament passed a bill in 1832 to establish private cemeteries outside of London. The Magnificent Seven Cemeteries used Père Lachaise cemetery as a model and are known for their grandiose memorials and statuary, lush garden-like landscaping and sweeping pathways. One of these seven cemeteries is Brompton Cemetery.

Brompton Cemetery was officially opened in 1840 as the West of London and Westminster Cemetery and consecrated by the Bishop of London. Architect Stephen Geary, who had designed Highgate Cemetery, was a part of the cemetery company formed to implement the building of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries and he initially designed the buildings for Brompton. An open competition was held and judged by a ‘Committee of Taste’ led by the distinguished architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville. He chose the designs of architect Benjamin Baud who was one of his assistants. Since Stephen Geary’s own proposals were rejected, he resigned from the board of directors. The original plot for Brompton was purchased from Lord Kensington in 1838 and stretched over 39 acres. It was located along a railway and between Old Brompton and Fulham Roads.

Baud's design was to give the cemetery an open air cathedral feel. Brompton is rectangular in shape with the Brompton Cemetery Chapel and colonnades in the center. The chapel was modeled off of the Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome. Catacombs were built beneath the colonnades and thousands of burials were meant to be sold in them. Only 500 were ever sold. Many mausoleums were designed by famous artists and all of the funerary art covers two centuries of styles featuring decorative ironwork and lettering. There are 35,000 monuments and around 205,000 burials. The landscaping features great examples of Victorian country flora with over 60 species of trees, including lime trees. Flowers include bluebells, wild lupin and snow-drops. Ivy and evergreens grow among the burials and provide cover for a wide variety of birds and fauna like squirrels, foxes, rabbits and bats.

From 1854 to 1939, Brompton Cemetery became the London District's Military Cemetery. There is a memorial entitled the Brigade of the Guards and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the graves of 289 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I and 79 of World War II. There are burials of other military members that were not British throughout the cemetery. The Garden of Remembrance is for cremated remains.

Brompton was closed to burials between 1952 and 1966, but has been open up until the present for burials. The cemetery is open starting at 7am and during the summer months, closes at 8pm. Tours are offered on Sundays. Obviously, there are many notable burials here. John Keats is one of the most beloved English poets and he famously had a muse that inspired his later writings before his death. Her name was Fanny Brawne and the couple were betrothed to each other for four years. Keats never married her because he felt unworthy with his station in life. Fanny survived Keats by 40 years and eventually married another man. She is buried at Brompton under her married name Fanny Lindon.

John Snow was an English physician who is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology. He was a leader in the use of anesthesia and medical hygiene as well. He is best known for his work in regards to cholera. He traced an outbreak in 1854 to contamination between waste water and drinking water and this caused improvements in water sanitation. He suffered a stroke at the age of 45 and died six days later. He has a beautiful monument here featuring a partially draped urn atop an obelisk.

Henry James Byron was a prolific English novelist, journalist, editor and dramatist. He got his start as a playwright in burlesques. He moved onto editing humorous magazines and then co-managing Prince of Wales' Theater. His name probably makes you think of Lord Byron and the two were actually second cousins. Henry's most famous work was Our Boys, which was at one time the world's longest running play. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 49 and he was buried at Brompton. Another writer buried here is George Borrow. He wrote novels and travel books and it was during his travels that he developed many relationships with the Romani people, more commonly known as Gypsies. His experiences with these people are reflected in many of his works.

William Ayrton was a scientist and electrical engineer who helped develop electrical measuring instruments that included the spiral-spring ammenter, the wattmeter, the dynometer and electric searchlight. He was born in London and eventually studied under the noted physicist, Lord Kelvin in Glasgow. He introduced the electric arc to Japan in 1878 while teaching physics and electrical engineering in Tokyo. He published many books on physics and was awarded a medal by the Royal Society in 1909. This honor came after his death in 1908.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show came to Britain several times in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Unfortunately, on a couple of these trips performers passed away and it was not possible to send them back to America, so they were buried at Brompton. Oglala Sioux warrior Surrounded By the Enemy caught a lung infection in 1887 and died while traveling with the tour. Paul Eagle Star was a Brulé Sioux tribesman who died after breaking his ankle when he fell off a horse while performing. The child of Little Chief and Good Robe named Red Penny died while traveling with the group. And Sioux Chief Long Wolf died of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 59. As we all know, it is very important for native people to buried in their home land and efforts have been made to get these individuals home. The burials of little Red Penny and Surrounded By The Enemy were lost to time. Paul Eagle Star was exhumed in the spring of 1999 by his grandchildren and he was taken to Rosebud's Lakota Cemetery. In 1991, a British woman named Elizabeth Knight discovered Chief Long Wolf's grave when reading an old book describing the chief's burial. She traced his family and campaigned with them to get his remains returned to South Dakota. His great grandson Black Feather said, "Our medicine men and holy men tell us that since he's buried in a foreign country and (there are) no relatives, it would be better if he was brought to his homeland for his final resting place. They figure that his spirit will never rest until he's brought home." Finally in 1997, the chief was finally moved to a new plot in the Wolf Creek Cemetery, which is the ancestral burial ground of the Oglala Sioux tribe at Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

*Fun fact: Beatrix Potter is the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She lived on Old Brompton Road and took some of the names of her characters from the tombstones in Brompton Cemetery. These include Mr. Nutkins, Mr. McGregor, Mr. Brock, Mr. Tod, Jeremiah Fisher and there was also a Peter Rabbett.*

Brompton Cemetery is Grade I listed on Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. It is unique in that it is the only cemetery in the country owned by the Crown and managed by The Royal Parks on behalf of the nation. The cemetery is listed as a Site of Nature Conservation. And that, was just a little about the Stones and Bones found there!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Stones and Bones 2 - Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City

(Suggested by: Angie Reynoso Akbarzad)

Holy Cross Cemetery is a Catholic burial ground and thus it is considered consecrated ground. The cemetery is located in Culver City, California just outside of Los Angeles. The front gate is made from beautifully designed wrought-iron and the top of the gate features a large cross. The grounds are immaculate with weeping willows and pines trees bursting forth from the ground. Much of the statuary is Roman Catholic in design. Many celebrities have been buried here in an area of the graveyard known as "The Grotto." One of these celebrities is Sharon Tate who was laid to rest in a family plot that also contains her and Roman Polanski's unborn baby. Another that is dear to Diane's heart is Bela Lugosi. Join us as we share the history and burials of Holy Cross Cemetery.

Harry Culver was a real estate developer who had fought in the Spanish-American War and spent time in the Philippines working in the mercantile business. He eventually settled in southern California and in 1913, he announced plans to develop a new city that would be annexed from Los Angeles. That city was incorporated in 1917 and named for him, Culver City. He promoted the city with advertisements that read, "All Roads Lead to Culver City." The city eventually became home to three major movie studios and Sony Picture Studios, which was originally MGM Studios, is still there. Movies created here were "The Wizard of Oz," the original "King Kong" and "Gone With the Wind." During Prohibition, Culver City became infamous for its speakeasies and nightclubs like The Cotton Club. Howard Hughes' Hughes Aircraft built a plant in Culver City in 1941 and this is where the Spruce Goose was made.

Holy Cross Cemetery was opened in 1939 at 5835 West Slauson Avenue. Originally, the grounds were part of the Rancho La Bollona claim that dates back to the early 1800s. That land grant was a Mexican land grant and incorporated nearly 14,000 acres that was given to Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes for the grazing of their cattle. The cemetery's grounds spread over 200 acres. "The Grotto" that we mentioned earlier is in the southwest part of the cemetery that one can find by turning to the left after entering the cemetery and following the leftmost road up the hill. One thing that taphophiles will immediately notice is that this cemetery has no tombstones. It has a strict "No Tombstones" rule. The main mausoleum is also fairly unique in that an effort has been made to give it an atmosphere of warmth and comfort, rather than just sterile and hollow death. A mural depicts the resurrection of Jesus in warm, bright colors and there are many stained-glass windows that do the same with bursts of color as they filter the sun's rays.

Many famous people are buried here. One of the more surprising burials at Holy Cross is that of Nazli Fouad. Her stone is quite simple, but what it states at the top makes this burial quite remarkable: "Queen Mother of Egypt." Nazli Abdelrehim Sabry was born in 1894 in Alexandria. She married Egypt's King Fouad in 1919 and was the mother of King Farouk. When he became king, he bestowed upon her the title of  'Queen Mother' on January 20, 1938. The title was withdrawn in August of 1950 for several reasons. One was because she supported the marriage of her youngest daughter to a Coptic commoner whom the Egyptian monarch considered to be an opportunist and a sleaze. This would prove to be true when Nazli's daughter would be murdered by this man.The other reason is what has allowed her to be buried at Holy Cross, she converted from Sunni Muslim to Roman Catholic. Being Queen was tough for Nazli. She was an educated woman and very independent, but after her marriage to the King, she was confined to the palace and not allowed to leave very often. The couple would fight often and he would hit her. She attempted suicide once by overdosing on aspirin. After his death she would travel more and visited America many times, particularly to come to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of a kidney ailment. She eventually moved to Beverly Hills where she lived in exile for 30 years and that is where she died on June 29, 1978 at the age of 83.

Ray Bolger was an actor and dancer. He is known famously as the Scarecrow from "The Wizard of Oz" movie. His first cinema contract was with MGM and was signed in 1936. Aside from the Wizard of Oz, he also appeared in MGM's first film done in Technicolor, "Sweethearts." Originally, Bolger was cast as the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and he was not happy about that. He wanted to be the Scarecrow, but Buddy Ebsen had already been given the part. The two switched parts, but Ebsen soon had to give up the Tin Man part when the powdered aluminum make-up coated his lungs, leaving him near death. Bolger did not escape make-up woes either. His face was permanently lined by the Scarecrow's make-up. He died of bladder cancer in 1987. He's buried in the Mausoleum, Crypt F2, Block 35.

Jackie Coogan was one of the first child actors in the history of movie making. He made his acting debut with Charlie Chaplin in the movie "The Kid." Our favorite part that he played later in life was Uncle Fester on the TV show "The Addams Family." The Coogan Act became law to protect child actors when Coogan sued his parents for squandering his earnings. There were some interesting events in Coogan's life. One happened when he was eighteen years-old. His best friend was kidnapped by two men who demanded a $40,000 ransom for his return. There was actually no intention of returning the friend. The men had killed him shortly after kidnapping him. The police eventually arrested them and put them in a jail in downtown San Jose. A mob broke into the jail and hanged the killers in a nearby park. Coogan was reported to be present and to have held the lynching rope. The second event was a fatal car crash that only he survived. His father was driving when the car was forced off the road by another car. Killed were his father; his friend, 19-year-old actor Junior Durkin; their ranch foreman Charles Jones, and actor and writer Robert J. Horner. Coogan died in 1984 at the age of 69 from a heart attack.

Jimmy Durante was born in 1893 in New York City to Italian immigrants. He wasn't much for school and left it at a young age. He started doing comedy in a vaudeville act and by the 1920s,he had opened his own club. Fame would come for him on Broadway and then he started work in radio and television. Soon there were movies too. He had a very distinctive voice and a gruff singing voice. His rendition of "Frosty the Snowman" is much loved. Durante died on January 29, 1980 from pneumonia.

Fred MacMurray was a comedic actor most known for playing the part of the father in the 1960s show "My Three Sons." He got his start in vaudeville in the late 1920s and then moved on to Broadway. He got his big break in 1935 with the movie "The Gilded Lady." He later starred in some beloved family films like "The Shaggy Dog" and "The Absent-Minded Professor." He died from complications from pneumonia in 1991. His burial is located in the Mausoleum.

John Candy was born in Canada in 1950 and rose to fame as a comedian starring in dozens of movies and TV programs. My favorite movies of his are Spaceballs and Splash. In 1994, Candy died of what was assumed to be a heart attack while filming the movie "Wagons East!" in Mexico. He was only 43 years-old. There were three now-shelved projects that Candy was connected to that are considered cursed projects. These were a film adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, a film adaptation of Mordecai Richler's The Incomparable Atuk and a biopic about silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. The reason these projects are considered cursed is because Candy, John Belushi, Sam Kinison and Chris Farley were all attached to these projects and the same roles in these projects, at one time. They all went on to die before making any of the films. Candy is located in the Mausoleum right under Fred MacMurray.

Lawrence Welk was a musician and bandleader who hosted "The Lawrence Welk Show" for 31 years. That show was one of the most successful music variety shows in American history. The music he shared came to be known as "Champagne Music" and I remember watching it with my folks throughout my childhood. He died at the age of 89 in 1992 from pneumonia. His grave marker has an image of him holding a director baton with a band of musical notes behind him. The epithet reads, "Keep a song in your heart."

Rita Hayworth was a beautiful dancer and actress. The press called her the "love goddess" and she was one of the most glamorous movie stars of the 1940s. She made 61 films over 37 years and the American Film Institute has her in the top twenty-five on their list of greatest stars of all time. Fred Astaire claimed that she was his favorite dance partner. During World War II, she and Betty Grable were the top two pin-up girls. Because of that fact, some may find it hard to believe that Hayworth never did any nude photos or scenes in a movie. Hayworth was born in 1918 and her birth name was Margarita Cansino. She went by Rita Cansino in her early acting career, but it was decided her name sounded too exotic and limited the parts offered to her and so her last name was changed to Hayworth, which was her mother's maiden name. She became a real life princess for four years while she was married to Prince Aly Khan of the Persian Qajar dynasty. Tragically, she was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease when she was only 61 and it eventually killed her at the age of 68.

Bing Crosby was born in 1903 and eventually became the best selling recording artist of the 20th century. He was not only a singer, but also an actor, which made him one of the first multi-media stars in the 1930s. As proof of this, he has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An American poll declared him the most admired man alive in 1948 and he was attributed with keeping up the morale of soldiers during World War II. He became an inspiration to countless singers and many mimicked his style. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin are just a couple of those people. His most beloved song was a rendition of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and it became his biggest hit. One of my favorite things he did was the narration for Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." A fun fact: his daughter Mary played Kristin Shepard on Dallas and she is the one who shot JR. Two of his sons committed suicide by shooting themselves. Crosby died at a golf course, where he had just finished playing, from a massive heart attack on October 14, 1977. His grave marker has the wrong birth year and declares him "Beloved by All."

Bela Lugosi is, of course, best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 movie "Dracula." He loved to act and literally would take any part offered him no matter what the pay, except for the part of the monster in the movie "Frankenstein." He led a very hard life and spent the latter part of it addicted to morphine and methadone. The podcast "You Must Remember This" just wrapped a series featuring Lugosi and Boris Karloff that was excellent and we highly recommend that for a thorough look at his life. He was born in Hungary in 1882 and did not learn English readily. He first played Count Dracula in the theater on Broadway. He memorized his lines phonetically. He then went on to play the part in the Universal movie, which launched him into acting in other horror films. He starred several times with Karloff in movies and the two were rivals of a sort. Lugosi ended his career taking parts in Ed Wood's low budget movies, the final one being Plan 9 from Outer Space. He died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956. His wife at the time and his son, decided to have him buried in his Dracula cape. His grave marker just simply reads, "Beloved Father."

Sharon Tate was an actress who is most known for the horrific way in which she died as one of the victims of the murder spree by the Manson Family. We covered that murder in our Haunted True Crime episode about the Manson Murders. She was born in 1943 and her beauty led her to entering pageants. Her acting career started in Italy, where her father was stationed in the Army, as a movie extra. Her family eventually moved back to the US and she moved to Los Angeles and signed a contract with Martin Ransohoff. She started acting in small parts for television shows and finally had her first major role in the movie "Eye of the Devil." She eventually was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the "Valley of the Dolls." Tate was killed in the home that she shared with her husband Roman Polanski. He was away at the time and she was entertaining several friends. She was also eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time. A rope was wrapped around her neck and thrown over the rafters. She was stabbed 16 times and an X was carved into her belly. She was buried with her unborn son, whom was named Paul posthumously, in her arms.

Holy Cross Cemetery is beautiful with its iconic Grotto and beautiful grounds. The list of famous people buried here goes on and on. And there are many other luminaries here as well. But even more importantly are the fathers and mothers and grandparents and siblings that have been laid to rest here. They may not be known to the world, but they were special to someone. Holy Cross should be on any taphophiles' visit list and that, was just a little about the Stones and Bones found there!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stone and Bones 1 - Oak Grove Cemetery

Suggested by listener Melisa Nelson

Oak Grove Cemetery is located at the intersection of N. Lanana St. and Hospital St. just north of the Nacogdoches Town Square in Nacogdoches, Texas. Hospital St. ends at the cemetery gate.

Oak Grove Cemetery was originally called "American Cemetery." The land upon which it was founded was part of the 1825 land grant of Empresario Haden Edwards, who was the leader of the 1826 Fredonian Rebellion. The Fredonian Rebellion was led by Haden and his brother Benjamin against the Mexican government. To explain this a little better, an empresarial grant was given to certain men as a form of permission to settle an area with multiple families. Haden planned to settle the future Nacogdoches with 800 families. He posted notices on street corners that the area would be settled by new families if the prior settlers could not provide proof that they had a claim to their land. This obviously pissed off the original settlers. Elections were set up and controversy ensued with the government overturning things that favored the Edwards brothers. They were enraged as were the settlers they brought. Several of these men, along with the brothers declared themselves independent of Mexico and named their republic Fredonia. When the Mexican militia arrived, most of the revolutionists fled and Haden was killed by some Native Americans who were angry that he had involved them in the rebellion. He is buried at Oak Grove. His wife Susan preceded him in death by a few months and she is buried here as well.

There was an earlier Spanish cemetery in Nacogdoches and many of the graves from there were relocated to this site to make room for the county courthouse in 1912. One of those graves that was moved belongs to Father Mendoza. He died in 1719. Many of the burials here are for historical figures important both to Nacogdoches County and the State of Texas. Thomas Jefferson Rusk was a judge and also Sam Houston's secretary of war. He was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence as were fellow cemetery occupants, Charles Stanfield Taylor, John S. Roberts and William Clark, Jr. Veterans of the Battle of San Jacinto buried here are Captain Haden Arnold and Elias E. Hamilton. Other prominent people are Jacob Lewis; Helen Vinson, a movie actress during the 30s and 40s; General Kelsey H. Douglass; George F. Ingraham; Nicholas Adolphus Sterne; Captain Frederick Voigt; Dr. Robert A. Irion, who also was Sam Houston's personal physician; Deidrich Anton Wilhelm Rulfs, who was Nacogdoches' master architect and designed Zion Hill Baptist Church on the north side of the cemetery; Richard William Haltom, who founded and edited Nacogdoches' "The Daily Sentinel;" poet Karle Wilson Baker; former slaves Mitchell Thorn, Lawrence Sleet and Eliza Walker and there are six soldiers here who were all killed in action in 1918: Charlie Bell, J.B. Crow, Felix H. Briley, B.C. Duncan, Marion E.Houston and Robert Lewis.

The oldest marked grave in the cemetery belongs to Pamela Starr, according to the cemetery records I found online, and there must be an interesting and sad story here. She was married to Franklin Jefferson Starr. He died at the age of 37 in 1837. The couple had a son who was born the year before in 1836, but he only lived three years, dying in 1839. There are no dates listed for Pamela's grave, but the claim on the graveyard records is that her grave marking is the oldest. So did she die before her husband? Perhaps in child birth? And if this is the case, their little family was gone in that three year period. But as you all know, I had to find out more.

Franklin Jefferson Starr was born in New Hartford, Connecticut in 1805. His family moved to Ohio in 1814 and in April 1829 Franklin became adjutant of the Second Regiment of the Second Brigade, Seventh Division, Ohio state troops. He later became principal at an academy in Columbus, Ohio. He took the bar exam and was admitted in 1833, but by the following year he had relocated to Georgia and took the bar there, gaining admittance in 1834. Some Georgia investors asked him and another man to travel to Mexican Texas and seek out opportunities to establish a settlement there. The report they brought back was mixed because the Mexican administration was unsavory. Franklin married Pamela upon his return in 1835 and even though his report had not been entirely favorable, he and Pamela migrated to Texas and he took his Mexican citizenship oath at San Felipe de Austin on December 24, 1835.

It was here in San Felipe where Franklin would join forces with William B. Travis to open a law office. This was short lived as Travis took over command of a Texas regiment that would eventually see him in command of the Texian forces at the Alamo in San Antonio. He would gain fame as the ill-fated commander of the Alamo. Franklin joined a volunteer company under Moseley Baker and marched to Gonzales. He asked for a furlough during the Runaway Scrape to get his family to a safer location. The Runaway Scrape was a term used by Texans to describe their flight from their homes when Antonio López de Santa Anna began his attempted conquest of Texas in February 1836. Sam Houston arrived in Gonzales on March 11 and was informed of the fall of the Alamo. He ordered all the inhabitants in the area to join him as he retreated to the Colorado River. People all over Texas left everything and ran to safety. The safer location that Franklin took his family to was Nacogdoches. *Fun Fact: William B. Travis gave his diary to Franklin and it would be the Starr family that would preserve it.

In May of 1836, Franklin opened a criminal law practice in Nacogdoches. The following May, he became captain of a company of mounted volunteers that had been brought together to pursue hostile Native Americans in Nacogdoches County. It was during this time that the volunteers became sick from the long marches in the summer heat. Franklin himself became sick with fever and died on July 7, 1837. He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery and it is his grave that is said to be the earliest marked grave in the cemetery, not Pamela's. He and Pamela only had the one child. Of interest also is that Franklin's brother was James Harper Starr. He married a woman named Harriet and they eventually moved to Marshall, Texas and purchased 52 acres of land that is today the Starr Family Home State Historic Site. The Starr Mansion here was originally known as Maplecroft. So the Starr family is very prominent in Texas history and I had no idea. The Starr headstones and dates just peaked my interest.

Strolling through this cemetery in fall would be amazing with some of the trees' leaves turning to golden yellow and burnt auburn. There are so many unique memorials here. For example, there is Anna Mary Taylor's gravestone with her last words carved into the granite, "I am one of nature's children, I love to look at the green trees." She died in November of 1889. There is the Steamboat Monument that was erected by Henry and Marcia A. Raguet in memory of their two children, Mary and Condy who lost their lives on the steamboat "America" during a storm on the Ohio River on December 5, 1868.

So down the rabbit hole we go: On that fateful day, two steamships, The America and the United States, collided. They had been traveling in opposite directions on the Ohio River near Warsaw, Kentucky. They were two ships in one of the nation’s largest steamship companies, the U.S. Mail Line, which advertised itself as making “direct connections with all railroad and steamboat lines.” At this time, not all railway lines had been constructed, so mail, cargo, and passengers used a combination of railroad and steamboat lines to complete their journeys. These two ships had the finest interiors and were fairly new and cost $500,000 to build. Steamships used whistles at night to signal where they were on the river,but on this particular night, the signal must have been misinterpreted because they ships steered into each other, rather than away from each other. The United States burst into flames after impact and the fire quickly spread to the America with whisky, cotton and petroleum to fuel it. Forty passengers were killed and many more were wounded.

Oak Grove Cemetery is a beautiful cemetery, full of history, which makes it incredibly fascinating! And that, was just a little about the Stones and Bones found there!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Greyfriar's Kirkyard

East Wall
Edinburgh, Scotland is considered one of the most haunted cities in all of Europe, particularly with Edinburgh Castle sitting above the city as a type of haunted sentinel.  The Castle is said to be the most haunted location in Edinburgh, but Greyfriar's Kirkyard could give the Castle a good fight for that title.  Burials have taken place here since the 16th century and the cemetery sits between an old melancholy hospital and a menacing looking prison.  The tombstones and statuary are ornate and beautiful.  The term "kirk" means "church" and so a kirkyard is a churchyard.  A churchyard is a cemetery that is on church property.

The church that sits here is named for the Franciscan Friary that originally was located here and managed by the Greyfriars, an order of Franciscan monks.  The Franciscan Order originally landed in Canterbury from Italy in the 13th century and spread across what we call the United Kingdom today.  The Order was later split into two different groups known as the Conventuals - friars that were in the cities - and the Observants - who wanted to keep the old more isolated ways.  The Franciscans in Great Britain became known as Greyfriars.

Roman Catholicism was pushed out of Scotland in the 16th century.  A group of people signed covenants in Scotland binding themselves to maintain Presbyterian doctrines and denouncing the Pope and the Catholic Church.  They became known as Covenanters and they proved to be a big issue for King Charles I.  The National Covenant (which can be read here) was signed at Greyfriar's Kirk in 1638 and it was an oath to maintain the reformed religion and reject all superstition of the Catholic Church.  When King Charles tried to push new reforms on the Covenanters, they revolted and defeated the King in the Bishops' War.  Wars continued and the Covenanters became the de facto government of Scotland.  Later, Oliver Cromwell, fighting for the English Parliament, would defeat the Covenanters and by 1652, they were decimated.  In 1679, another rebellion was formed, but it was knocked down once again and 1200 Covenanters were taken prisoner and put into the Covenanters' Prison at Greyfriar's Kirkyard.  Conditions were awful and many were executed.  By the end of their imprisonment, only 400 Covenanters were alive and they were sold into slavery, most of them dying when the ship transporting them wrecked. 

Covenanters' Prison
The Martyr's Monument was erected in the kirkyard for those Covenanters who died there.

Martyr's Monument
Sir George Mackenzie, who was a Scottish lawyer, became the Lord Advocate implementing the reforms of King Charles II in Scotland and he was the one who not only imprisoned the Covenanters, but had most most of them executed earning him the title of "Bloody Mackenzie."  Prior to this, Mackenzie had been involved in witch trials.  Mackenzie died in 1691 and is buried, ironically, in Greyfriar's Kirkyard in a large mausoleum.
Bloody Mackenzie's Mausoleum

Reports of Mackenzie's ghost haunting Greyfriar's Kirkyard began in the 20th century after a homeless man decided to seek shelter in Mackenzie's Mausoleum during a rain storm.  He had noticed that he could get through an opening in the back of the structure.  After he entered, he began to rummage through the coffins like a grave robber and he fell through the flooring that had rotted away, into a pit full of bones.  This pit was where plague victims were buried.  As is the case in so many cities in earlier centuries, it was impossible to do individual burials during times of plague and so mass burials were conducted.  The homeless man ran screaming from the building and now the poltergeist of Mackenzie has been taking out his rage about this desecration on visitors.  The ghost injures people to the point of cuts, bruises and even broken bones.  Most of these attacks happen in the Covenanter's Prison area, so apparently Bloody Mackenzie has returned to his roots.  There is a mausoleum inside the prison called the Black Mausoleum and this is where much of the activity occurs.  And if the hundreds of personal reports do not convince people the place is haunted, perhaps the true story of how the Exorcist Colin Grant died shortly after trying to cleanse the entire kirkyard, and particularly the Black Mausoleum, might convince them.

Greyfriar's Bobby is another famous resident at the kirkyard.  The story is told of a night watchman named John Gray who took on a Skye Terrier as his partner and named him Bobby.  Gray eventually contracted Tuberculosis and succumbed to the disease in 1858.  He was buried at Greyfriar's Kirkyard and Bobby took up vigil at his master's grave.  He refused to leave, even in bad weather and so the townspeople took care of the dog, bringing him food and water and Bobby would sometimes leave to have a meal at a nearby shop.  Bobby kept vigil for fourteen years and then he was buried in the kirkyard and a monument was erected in his honor.  The accuracy of this story has been questioned for years and some have surmised that Bobby was just a stray dog that had taken up residence in the graveyard.  At the time, many strays would live in graveyards.  Whatever is the case, a beautiful monument was built or the dog.

Here is the tomb of John Bayne of Pitcairlie:

Tomb of George Foulis of Ravilstoun:

There are so many interesting and wonderful monuments at this cemetery that I cannot wait to visit it in person one day!