Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cemetery Field Trip

Charlene Barker, Jo Merrill, Denise Kotva, Robert Stroupe and Linda Mecchi
(Denise Doyon behind the camera)

Sometimes its a good idea to get out from behind your computer, put down your research files, leave the library and go out and get some fresh air with your fellow diggers. After weeks of very wet weather and flooded roads, we were blessed with an absolutely perfect day to wander around some of Charleston's cemeteries. Along the way we encountered one groundskeeper with interesting stories to tell, the gravestones of numerous Charleston personalities, politicians, soldiers and statesmen, and more than a few ghost stories. Unfortunately, we did not encounter a single ghost.  

We toured the St. John's Lutheran and Unitarian Church graveyards before lunch. These two cemeteries are separated by a gate and could not be more different. The St. John's cemetery is neatly mowed - all the bushes pruned and well kept. The Unitarian cemetery, on the other hand, appears to be running wild, except for the meticulously maintained pathways. A chat with the grounds keeper revealed that many years ago, after touring the neighboring Lutheran cemetery, a member of the Unitarian Church thought that their neighbors graveyard made her feel sad - all those tomb stones neatly arranged and appropriately maintained. And so the Unitarian churchyard is allowed to grow somewhat wild, with plants and vines creeping along the ground and winding their way around the gravestones. The Unitarians have adopted the more natural, back-to-nature approach to groundskeeping.

We then continued on the Gateway Walk to Meeting Street where we stopped at Eli's Table where we were joined by Jeannine McGrane, and chatted about genealogy, cemeteries and a bit of Seabrook gossip over a lovely lunch. After we were well fed and rested, we continued on to tour the cemeteries of the Circular Church and St. Philips. 

We encountered gravestones that gave an almost complete biography of the deceased - still legible after hundreds of years!  Most frustrating were the large number of stones that were completey illegible. Made one want to get out there and start scrubbing away at the dirt, grime and lichen in an effort to learn about the person buried beneath. We found that a great many tombstone inscriptions begin with the phrase "Sacred To The Memory Of", many widows were noted as "relicts", and more than few wives were referred to as "consorts".

Many thanks to St. John's for accommodating us with two, free parking spaces for the day and to everyone who joined us and contributed to a very interesting day downtown!

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