Friday, July 31, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 5 - Norman Chapel

Today was such a dreary, humid, rain-laden day. How fitting for a cemetery and visiting its chapel, Norman Chapel! The first part of the class, we took the time to share our experiences with other cemeteries throughout the tri-state area. Through my observations, it appears that (1) a lot of people died from the late-1700’s through to the mid- to late-1800’s, and (2) we are moving away from small, sometimes secluded, personable burial grounds to large, manicured, professional (although sometimes impersonal) cemeteries. Perhaps one can conclude that space is becoming more of a premium, therefore it is prudent to condense our dead into a preplanned area. However, one must question if the “personal touch” associated with spending eternity at a small, simplistic plot/cemetery versus a sprawling, multi-acre affair is of such heightened value. After reviewing these smaller cemeteries with my classmates, it is clear that the larger, better managed cemetery (like Spring Grove or Arlington Memorial Gardens) is the logical choice. Visually understanding how quickly these smaller venues fell out of repair is sound reasoning to such a choice. Although these larger cemeteries will fill-up eventually, it should be well after our children’s, children’s death before they fall to waste side like the ones we witnessed, if at all.

On a brighter note, Norman Chapel is quite the retreat. The building itself presents a permanence that should be standing long after the “filled up” occurs. The stained glass wall at the rear of the altar-area is breathtaking. Who knew that colored glass and lead could be fashioned so beautifully? The hand-carved stone accents throughout the structure are truly a work of art. I just kept thinking to myself how dusty it must have been while the chapel was being constructed. I am sure that many a stone artisan (of the few who still actually pursue the profession) can use Norman Chapel as an example of stone masonry at its finest. The massive bronze doors that separate the waiting room and the bathroom area are additional masterpieces within Norman Chapel. Their depictions of religious figures accent the massive mural of glass pleasingly. With all of this beauty it is hard for one to imagine that the need for a jail cell word arise, but I suppose that not everyone can behave in and appreciate such a place as Norman Chapel and Spring Grove.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Colerain Historic Cemetery

  • Located on the North side of Springdale Road, just east of Pippin Road
  • Formally known as “Colerain Township Historical Cemetery West Branch Millcreek”
  • Possibly owned/operated by Christ Lutheran Church, a member of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, at 3301 Compton Road near Colerain Avenue
  • Most of the periods on the stones give the date of death as anywhere from the early 1800’s up through the very early 1900’s
    o This could suggest that the cemetery is no longer in use
  • The site is very expansive despite only roughly a third of its total area utilized for gravesites
    o The remainder is mowed grasses
    o The South side of the sight faces against Springdale Road
    o The North side borders a subdivision
    o The East and West boundaries are neighboring homes
    o Aside from the South face, the other three margins are heavily wooded
    o Rough measurements: 200 feet by 750 feet
    o Terrain is sloping steadily downward from Northwest to Southeast
  • Common theme on the headstones is to list years/months/days aged versus strictly D.O.D.
  • Some last names are familiar areas/streets in or around Colerain Township
    o Phebe Miles--Daughter of John and Margarett Miles--as in Miles Road off of Adams Road and Hamilton Avenue (appears whole family is buried here)
    o Elizabeth Hughes--Wife of Harbour Hughes--as in Hughes Road off of Struble Road and Bank Road
    o William Compton--Son of John and Hannah Compton--as in Compton Road stretching from Colerain Avenue to Winton Road
    o Harriet C. Stout--Wife of Andrew Stout--as in Stout Road off of Pippin Road and Pottinger Road (North boundary of Northwest High School)
    o The consort of Joseph Struble (Ann Elizabeth) is buried here--Struble as in Struble Road panning from Colerain Avenue to Burlington Road
  • Gravestones overall are in bad shape
    o Quite a few have fallen over
    o Some are completely unreadable
    o A dozen or so stones have broken in half
    o This, too, could suggest the cemetery is no longer in use
  • General facing direction of the headstones is West
    o This east/west orientation is the most common orientation in other parts of the country and world as well. The earliest settlers had their feet pointing toward the east and the head of the coffin toward the west, ready to rise up and face the "new day" (the sun) when "the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised" or when Christ would appear and they would be reborn. If the body was positioned between the headstone and the footstone, with the inscriptions facing outward, the footstone might actually be facing east and the decorated face of the headstone facing west. If the headstone inscription faces east, the body would most commonly be buried to the east of it
  • An interesting fact: The north side of the cemetery was considered less desirable and is often the last part of the burying ground to be used, or one may find the north side set aside for slaves, servants, suicides, "unknowns," etcetera

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 4 - The Tram

I enjoy tram rides as much as the next person, but the one we took this week was rather formidable. It was nice to see the extreme ends of the cemetery; however I felt as though it was a bit rushed and bumpy. I understand time is of the essence, but I would liked to have walked a bit more at the various stops we made throughout the ride. Nonetheless, complaining aside, I did find the overall experience quite rewarding. I was already familiar with the rearmost developed grounds as I have family buried there, but I was missing a great deal of the middle area. It was haunting to see the woodland area during the time of day and weather conditions we experienced. I felt as though I was in some type of horror movie or maybe a documentary about ghosts and the supernatural.

As we rode, I thought about the transition of time as we bounded our way toward the back of the cemetery. Monuments and gravestones went from very aged and unreadable to legible, but weathered, and lastly to highly polished, laser-etched works of modern art. It still boggles the mind to think about the vast sums of money that people must have spent to remember their dead. But maybe this is why they do. Generally when we remember people, especially loved ones, we tend to gravitate toward the good times, the good memories. What better way to physically remember the good in a person than by carving it from stone with floral accents and quirky quotes. Personally, I want a massive complex dedicated to the memory of my family. I imagine something along the appearance of the Burnett, flowing lines in light-colored granite, but with the scale and convolution of the Drexel—a multi-leveled affair situated on an expansive, rolling, picturesque piece of real-estate flanked by a lake or waterfall. I had better start saving now…

Debriefing a Monument - The Becker's

First Image (General Description) - AMELIA BECKER (Daughter) – Born October 20, 1858; died on September 21, 1863 (almost 5), from scarlet fever; interment on September 24, 1863; moved to current lot on September 19, 1879, and to current location on same lot November 16, 1895.

AUGST BECKER (Father/Husband/Owner) – Born ~February 2, 1834; died September 5, 1890 (56), from diabetis and complication; interment on September 7, 1890, @ 3:30PM.

EMMA BECKER (Daughter) – Born ~July 19, 1867; died November 19, 1890 (23), from inflammation of bowels; interment on November 22, 1890, @ 12PM.

MADELINE BECKER (Wife) – Born ~January 29, 1834; died February 18, 1891 (57), from paralysis; interment February 21, 1891, @ 11:30AM.

HARRY W BECKER (Son) – Born January 19, 1850; died January 30, 1897, from Erysipelas (acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the dermis); interment February 1, 1897, @ 3:30PM.
The monument itself is carved into stone resembling stone, or rock, as its foundation. Rock can symbolize steadfastness of Christ; stability.

2 – The cherub can signify divine wisdom or justice. In addition, the recognition of a young child or an angelic characteristic of the deceased, too defines the small winged person.

3 – Victory in death, indestructible crown worn by triumphant Christian; eternity.

4 – Lilies are generally the first flows to bloom in the spring, thus symbolizing renewal and resurrection.

5 – The anchor is a symbol of hope. This idea comes from the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews 6. Statues of the Virtue of Hope have her leaning on an anchor.

6 – Ivy is associated with immortality and fidelity. The clinging to the cross makes it a symbol of attachment, friendship, and undying affection. Its three-pointed leaves make it a symbol of the Trinity.

7 – The cross is the supreme symbol of Christianity.

8 – In the sense of a scroll, this signifies the law or scriptures. As a banner, it is another indication of victory and/or triumph.

9 – I took this image to be of an under ripe piece of corn still in its husk. Corn symbolizes fertility and rebirth.

10 – The Madonna lily, or Easter lily, symbolizes chastity, innocence and purity; a favored funeral flower of the Victorians. Joseph is often depicted holding a lily branch to indicate that his wife Mary was a virgin. In tradition, the first lily sprang forth from the repentant tears of Eve as she went forth from Paradise. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 3 - Iconography & Symbolism

Today was an interesting class. I know; such an overused, broad reaching but shallow word. Okay. What about spellbinding? Yeah, that’ll work. I use this word because some of the hieroglyphic items we came across this week looked as if thought they came from a sinister spell or an enchanting, whimsical storybook. The theme associated with gravestone iconography is rather similar and unique at the same time. By that I mean the symbols have very similar meanings, however when several are pieced together on one particular gravestone or monument, they suddenly tell the story of that individual or family. Quite easily one is able to determine what that person(s) beliefs and ideals were or, rather, what they simply wished to be remembered for. What is curious about such symbolism is, at least at Spring Grove, the iconography stems from a definitive religion: Christianity. Perhaps it is the nature of the cemetery here, but is this basis just for other cemeteries in the region, state, country, etcetera?

In addition, I am still awestruck by the scenery here. That is, the rolling hills and beautiful backdrop reminiscent of an English countryside. However, I do find it to be too green. Where are the wildflowers and thousands of shades of color? For a nationally recognized arboretum, I am a bit disappointed. Most of what color there is seems confined to the front-most part of the cemetery. Maybe I should bring some wildflower seeds with me next week and drive around dispensing them from my car…

Posting PowerPoint to via

Hello! I put together this little how-to MS Word doc to provide some direction for posting stuff to the Blogger website. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Exploration of Spring Grove Cemetery

Here is the presentation Christina and I put together from the walkabout during the first class:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some Questions...

25 Questions for the Colloquium

1. Why are some of the graves covered in ivy?
2. Why does Alfred K. Nippert’s headstone read “Eminent Supreme Archon?”
3. Why is Casper H. Rowe’s headstone set back in the brush?
4. What material is the aforementioned headstone made out of?
5. Why is the water so dark and unnaturally green? Is it colored?
6. Why were/are obelisk’s so popular?
7. Some of the headstone’s look like above ground crypts. Are the bodies in there?
8. Some very old headstone’s are simple, small, roundish pieces of stone. Why?
9. There is some type of urn or something on C. Haffner’s monument. What is it?
10. What was the inspiration for the original design of Spring Grove?
11. There is a very crowded section of graves where the headstones all face east. Why?
12. What is the cost of grounds maintenance each year?
13. What does it cost to be buried in the ground? In a wall? In a mausoleum?
14. Where did the name “Spring Grove” come from?
15. How is the cemetery governed? Public/private?
16. Have there been any proved supernatural events? Ghosts?
17. What is the “life-expectancy” of Spring Grove?
18. Does Spring Grove receive any funding (aside from donors and income from burials)?
19. Can we witness an embalming?
20. Some of the headstones have two or more (last) names on them. Why?
21. How popular is cremation? What is its cost?
22. Some of the grasses at the base of some trees are strange (coarse/dark green). Why?
23. Some of the dates on the headstones are ended with periods (like a sentence) and some are not. Why? What dictates the format of headstones?
24. What species of plant are the most unique to Spring Grove?
25. Are there any murderers or anyone of that nature buried at Spring Grove?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Cemetery – Feelings, Ideas and Experiences

I have never thought too critically about cemeteries. However, I do have some rational feelings about them. Despite their beautiful surface, what lies beneath is where the darkness shrouds my curiosity. It just feels disquieting thinking of the bodies that exist lifeless beneath the earth and, in some cases, filed neatly above it. Because of this idea of death, I have come to “look” at cemeteries as discomfortingly quiet and eerie places. Perhaps this is due to my personal lack of clarity and knowledge concerning death and the dead, but I cannot bring myself to feel anymore different about them than I do now. I am hoping that our summer colloquium will alter my outlook.

Keeping with this optimistic view, I have some general ideas and theories about cemeteries. Well, rather questions. My biggest question is how/where did cemeteries originate? That is, why do we feel the need to honor our dead with a permanent piece of the ground? Yes, we all can agree that a massive stack of lifeless corpses piled in a corner somewhere rotting away is not the best idea, but who came up with the idea to use land explicitly for burials? In addition, all, rather most, cemeteries seem to follow a general set of guidelines, edict. Who has established these principles and why? Lastly, to narrow the flowing bellow of ideas, obviously Spring Grove Cemetery was not always surrounded by roads and abandoned industry as it is today, so what was it like? Why was this area chosen? Maybe it was far enough away from the city at the time that land was plentiful and cheap, so they just claimed it as a “good spot”.

Speaking of “good spots”, I have some, but limited, experience with cemeteries. I only tend to think about them when I receive the news that someone has died. Of course when I am actually in one, the last thing I ponder is the rolling landscape of manicured lawns and planting beds, and the sounds of nature. Instead, my emotion is tied up in the sorrow and raw, vulnerable state that death suggests. On the other hand, I did visit Spring Grove Cemetery for the simple reason of exploration in the early fall of 2008. For our Orientation to Honors course, we wondered through the grounds speculating about different burial sites and taking in the beauty (although a cloudy day) of the memorial park. This was the very first time I ever thought about just looking at the final resting place as a whole rather than the single site where a loved one will remain for an eternity. It was an intriguing experience and that is why I chose to take this colloquium. There is more to these places than I would have ever thought and Spring Grove is up on the list of national iconic cemeteries. Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to spend my summer in nature expanding and nurturing an otherwise avoided and mysterious personal topic.