Wednesday, July 31, 2013

29882. John Leavitt

 

The Western Association of Leavitt Families has left us quite a memorial for John Leavitt and family, four plaques, one on each side of a spire, telling the story of his arrival and listing the many children he sired with each of his wives, Mary and Sarah.

There's nothing spectacular about his tale. He arrived at 19 years old, moved to Hingham from Dorchester in 1636 and stayed for the rest of his life. He was a civic leader for sure - a deacon, a magistrate, a representative, a selectman - and helped get the Old Ship Church constructed. So were the legacies of many early settlers, the people who built our little corner of the New World. We - if we love Hingham - certainly owe him a debt of graititude.

What caught me on the marker, though, was the description of his property: "His homestead ran along Leavitt Street, the land grant extending from the Weir River to Turkey Hill." We can't think in those terms today. We can locate each of these places on a map, but to take it from ground level, we think in terms of modern landmarks. Ok, so I'm on Leavitt Street. If I turn right at the library I can follow it to Turkey Hill Lane and climb the hill, but where the heck is the river from here? We've gridded out so much of our land, it's difficult to see historical geography.

Oddly, I lived on Turkey Hill Lane as a kid, meaning I am part of the Leavitt land legacy. But I'll bet you his experiences on the land were much different than mine.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

29860 and 29861. Joan Gallop and Thomas Joy


Joan and Thomas' stones got late placement, perhaps replacement, in the twentieth century, which allowed us to learn more of their stories, thanks to a descendant willing to spend the time (and cash) to share them.

Joan, though, like many women from the 17th century, gets the short end of the stick. Her claim to fame, aside from marrying Thomas, is that she is the "Daughter of Captain John Gallop of Boston." Even on the second go, the most important fact about her life were the accomplishments of somebody else, "a coastal trader whose sea fight with Indians off Block Island opened the Pequot War 1636-7." Mind you, that's pretty impressive, personally starting a war. But how about Joan herself? In 1633, she joined her mother and brothers on her transatlantic journey, departing England on the Griffin for the strange new world of New England, leaving all of her friends behind, to start a new life where her father had set up shop just three years in the past. Sixteen days after she landed she turned 15 years old. Boston was the new home, but John Gallop had set up a farm as well, on the Boston Harbor island that still bears his surname today.


She married Thomas Joy, Jr., quite a rabble rouser. He left England as a 25 years old in October 1635 on the Constance and moved into Boston. Talented with a hammer, he built several important structures in the early city, including the "first state house" according to his stone, though there would be no actual states for another century and a half. In the meantime, he got involved politically, to the consternation of Governor John Winthrop. Described in the Hingham history as "too ardent a lover of liberty," he, according to his stone, was "kept in irons four or five days by Governor Winthrop for getting hands to Dr. Child's memorial, 1646," the same year he moved to Hingham and started building mills. His sin in the eyes of Winthrop was supporting Dr. Robert Child's attempt to spread voting enfranchisement, actively petitioning for increased suffrage. But in the end - after he married Joan, acquired large tracts of land, spread it amongst their kids - he was exonerated. He was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and even named a freeman.

So, perhaps Joans's new life in America wasn't so bad after all. It certainly had its share of excitement.

Monday, July 29, 2013

29853. Thomas Hersey


Whenever my friend Don and I set out to write a new pictorial history (we're up to ten published, I believe), we go through the same routine. Hey, it works, why change it? We split up the workload and go for it. After a week, he calls me and says that every picture he's charged with interpreting has become a "research project unto itself."

And so it goes with these big 'ol stones I'm checking out. While it may be hard, practically impossible to believe, I do not know everything. I do spend time looking stuff up, to use the scientific term. Sometimes these stones just throw me curveballs. Graveyard baseball.

Take Tom Hersey, for instance: Soldier in the French and Indian War (got it), Survivor of the Massacre at Fort William Henry (don't got it), Captain in the Revolution (ok, got that one).

Well, that middle story was so tragic - and one can debate the veracity of the use of the word "massacre," based on the number of people really killed or wounded compared to the inflated estimates that have wafted down through time - that James Fenimore Cooper used it as the basis for his novel The Last of the Mohicans. Having lost a patch of northern New York ground to the French, British troops (which at that time included Colonials), prepared an orderly, nearly gentlemanly withdrawal from their fort. The French agreed to the terms, but their Native American allies either did not understand or did not care, and harrassed and killed a number of men, women, children and servants (who, yes, were also men and women) as the British marched out of the fort.

No matter the numbers lost, the event itself was heart-rending for those folks close to it, like the family of Thomas Hersey. Who knew that a Hingham guy was there. Small world. Especially back then.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

29695. Benjamin Lincoln

 

And then there was the big man himself. Benjamin Lincoln was a Major General in the Army of the Revolution, and an important one at that. He had his less than stellar moments - like, oh, taking a ball in the ankle while retreating in the face of British troops about to take over his headquarters, or losing the entire southern half of the colonies to the enemy after the siege of Charleston - but he also had his glories. And he did anything that Hingham, Boston and his country needed when called upon. He stood in for George Washington at Yorktown to accept the sword of surrender from Lord Cornwallis, ending the war.

He was fat. You can't tell that from his tomb, of course, but it was a fact. He often fell asleep in the middle of sentences. He had trouble breathing. And after his escape from the raid on his headquarters, he limped. But let's face it, he was an American hero in his day. And we should all always put ourselves in his place before we judge - how would we have done when the bullets started flying? Would today's leaders have stood up to the tyranny of absentee rulers? Would you?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

29634. Madam Sarah Derby

 

There are, though, those people who do stand out over time. Nobody will remember Madam Sarah Derby 2 million years from now, when Earth is overtaken by Plutonians (banished from Earth and punished with export from an overcrowded planet, a race of pickpockets and safecrackers living on the former ninth planet stage a coup and take over Earth using nothing more than a wet dry vac and 500,000 pounds of gummy bears - but that's a story for another day). But we, in our little window of time in our fledgling little town of Hingham in our fledgling little country remember her very well.

She's the Derby in Derby Academy, the matriarch of the oldest coeducational school in the United States, founded in 1784. The boys and girls studied separate subjects in her days, but within the same walls, which for its time was a novelty, perhaps anathema to some. Not only do we remember her through the school, but the Hingham Harbor Islands, Ragged, Sarah and Langlee; she started life as Sarah Langlee.

She left us no words of wisdom on her stone, but she did leave us with a reminder to practice open-mindedness, dashes of which do need to be spread around, from time to time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

29531. The Whitons

 
The Whitons, and the rest of their clan through time, as well, found an interesting way to memorialize the family history, by marking the family tomb with a bronze plaque bearing the names of all family members interred within born from 1826 onward, a total of 15 people. I, of course, have no way of knowing whether or not they're actually in there, but in the end that doesn't matter.

To show the fleeting futility of human life on Earth, the family chose the work of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, and a line from one of his most famous works, "Tam O'Shanter": Like A Snowflake On The River, We Are Here A Moment, Then Gone Forever.

At times, when I step back and look at life with the widest possible scope, I laugh at how ridiculous most of our squabbles are. We fight tooth and nail over the choice of bottled water vs. tap, never considering that the water we drink today, no matter where it came from in the past few days, is the same water the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago. We are insignificant in time. Be we paupers or kings, we vanish into the continuum, fade into nothingness. Live and let live, people!

Robbie Burns got it. The Whitons got it. You got it? Good.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

29505. William Hersey

 

We certainly learn a lot about William Hersey from his memorial stone: "Born in Reading, England, 1596. Inspired by the Love of Liberty this Puritan Pioneer sailed for America & settled in Hingham 1635 he served as a Selectman 1642 47 50. Died March 22, 1658." What days those must have been! Forging a life in the New World, seeking out new lives and new civilizations, bolding going where no white European had gone before.

And the selectman part should not be overlooked. Who do you look to for leadership, surrounded by the unknown on three sides, possibly four (who knew what could come sailing into Hingham Harbor without a moment's notice? Hey, I like that phrase...) You went to not just any men, but a few select men for guidance, strength and support.

So what kind of women stood with these selectmen? We can't tell from William's stone. "Elizabeth, his wife, died October 8, 1671." That's all we get. It must have sucked to be a woman in seventeenth century America. There are a few stories of strong-willed and accomplished women of the days, but it was for the most part a secondary life, no voice in politics (at least not directly; there had to be conversations behind closed doors) and little prospect of doing more than overseeing the home. And Elizabeth didn't even get a birth date. Sigh...their day would come.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

29457. John Lewis Hobart


Well, the Hobart family went out with panache. Or at least this little branch of it did. The Hobarts were one of Hingham's first and most prominent families.

The front of the family stone reads "The sweet remembrance of the just shall flourish when they sleep in dust," which comes from a 1696 reinterpretation of the Psalms of David. The strange thing is that it's a reinterpretation of the reinterpretation; the first reinterpretation (YES! I just used the word "reinterpretation" four times in seven words, a new world record) is singular, "when he sleeps in dust." The Hobarts pluralized it.

On the verso side, several family members are listed, the family of Shubael and Prudence. One, John Lewis, "Died at Bombay India" as a young man of 23 or 24. During the Age of Sail, Hinghamites roamed the world, so it's not completely unexpected that a young man of those days from this town would be there. But the quote under his name I didn't see coming, which was apparently the way the Hobarts felt about John's death. "Some day without a moments warning," they wrote, in quotes, and without the appropriate apostrophe for "moment's." The quote first appears in print in 1850 in The Family Circle and Parlor Annual, and then again in a Freemason's magazine a few years later, but doesn't really come into vogue until the 1890s. Even at that, it does not appear in print intact; the "someday" portion seems to float. So, where they were quoting it from is unclear. But the notion behind it - someday, when least expected, a loved one is taken - is certainly understandable, something most of us go through in our lifetimes.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

29125. Wee Will

 

Out to the Maplewood Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts, I went, making a quick stop for work in the area. It was a carpooling situation, at least on the way back. On the way there, I was alone, and had time to kill...actually, that's probably not what I want to say about walking in a cemetery.

But it was only because of this set of circumstances that I met "Wee Will, Infant Son of Jas. & Jessie Thompson." I wonder if he knew Little Henry Bouve of Hingham? Alas, I can almost assuredly say no.

Monday, July 22, 2013

28132. Rocco and Carmella Bravo


This is my connection to the nineteenth century. Think about that! I'm 42 years old, it's 2013, and I can say I kissed the cheek of someone born 118 years ago. Of course, if you're forty years older than me, you can say you met people from the 1850s, but you get my drift. Even when I was younger - my great-grandmother, Carmella Bravo, died when I was 16 - I knew it was an amazing thing. It becomes more incredile to me every day.

I didn't get to learn much from her, but that was only because I was a typical 16-year-old dufus (much different than the 42-year-old dufus I am now). I didn't know enough to ask the questions that are pummeling the inside of my skull now. What was it like in World War I? Did she have relatives still living in Italy that were affected by the war? How was the Depression? What was it like to sit in a car for the first time? What did Teddy Roosevelt sound like? Who taught her how to cook? Who do I look like from our family tree? What could she tell me about that person?

Nope, I whiffed on this one. All I remember about my great-grandmother is the pleasant little house she lived in in Hingham on the Weir River, visiting her with my mom, having my aunt pinch my cheeks the second I walked in the door, and wondering how it was that no matter what visit it was, somehow my great-grandmother's magical TV played one of three shows at all times: "The Price is Right," "Name That Tune," or "The Lawrence Welk Show."

And I remember the funeral, for it was my first time dealing with a family death.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

27895. Michael and Natalie LaRocco

 

Ha! I love it. One word: "Smile."

Yes, we're gone, the LaRoccos say, and you've come to visit. Yes, it's sad, we wish we were together, but nothing can be changed. It is what it is. Always look on the bright side of life. Remember me as you pass by. Nothing is forever and this too shall pass. Don't fret.

Just smile.

Ha!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

27891. W. Carter and Catherine Hill

 

Well, I guess I asked for it. I've been saying all along that I want to know more about people, and now I know that the Hills "Loved opera, musicals and theater." Not only that, they have a G clef and a full note on their stone. I guess they were serious.

And who of us doesn't like music? We all have that soundtrack going all the time, whether actually emanating from our Dr. Dre's or encapsulated deep inside our own heads. I'm sure there's something prehistoric about the way we respond to music, but opera is hardly what I would call cavemanish. It's more like the ultimate refinement of music, the art taken to its highest form.

So that was the Hills. I wonder, with all of the audiences in which I've sat, through all the shows, if we ever shared an evening of music or theater together. A longshot, I guess, but possible. And what a concept to consider.

Friday, July 19, 2013

27885. John B. and Hilda Cullen

 

If you've ever watched college football on television, you know the tune. You probably just don't know the words. Hilda and John Cullen did, as they took a lyric from the Notre Dame fight song, "Victory March" - "Shake Down the Thunder" - and marched onward to the big victory in the sky with them on the back of their stone, right under the school logo.

Want them in context? Here they are:

"Rally sons of Notre Dame:
Sing her glory and sound her fame,
Raise her Gold and Blue
And cheer with voices true:
Rah, rah, for Notre Dame
We will fight in ev-ry game,
Strong of heart and true to her name
We will ne'er forget her
And will cheer her ever
Loyal to Notre Dame
"Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory."

Doesn't it make you just want to win one for the Gipper?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

27838. Harry and Alice Newson

 

If I remember correctly, the greatest man who ever lived was William Murphy of Duxbury. Apparently, Harry and Alice Newson were "The World's Best Parents."

I'm finding documentation to be elusive. As a matter of fact, I can't even figure out who held the competition, what state it was in and against whom the Newsons competed. And what would have been the competitive challenges? As father of a five-year-old, my guess is they had something to do with getting children to eat, gettng children to go to bed, getting children to wake up for school, getting a child into the tub, you know, all the crap I struggle with on a daily basis. How many points do you get for not collapsing on the couch, throwing your arms in the air and screaming, "I give up! Raise yourself!"

Well, congratulations to the Newsons, for I'm sure they deserved it, for somebody thought it to be true enough to let them walk through eternity with the words on their gravestone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

27789. Richard Corcoran

 

I don't know the first thing about Richard Corcoran save for what's on his government-issued gravemarker: "Brig Gen US Army, World War II, Purple Heart."

My guess is that he wasn't a brigadier general in World War II. Its' a rare few 19-year-olds who get that far that fast, even if brigadier general is the first step on tha path to five-star generalship. But with the 28,000 or so graves I've visited so far, I've probably come across a half dozen generals. And that's saying something, being in New England, with nearly 400 years of settled history and military officers from the 1600s forward.

Sadly, the accomplishment is not what it once was. The services are now top brass top heavy, meaning there are generals galore. One report I've read says that there is a real danger of soon having more admirals than ships in the Navy.

But that takes nothing away from Richard Corcoran. A general is a general, worthy of respect, and that's even before the mention of the Purple Heart. I'm sure he had a long, storied career.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

27721. Salvatore and Santina Galluzzo

 

Serioiusly? Are you freakin' kidding me? I have found more Galluzzos buried in this one cemetery that are not related to me than I have found Galluzzos that are related to me.

Let me put this in perspective. In the United States in the year 2000 there were 963 people with the surname Galluzzo (neither one of which was Salvatore or Santina; well, at least not this Sal or Tina). That means that in a population of 350 million people, 0.001% of the public responded to, "Hey, Galluzzo! Get your ass over here!" That puts us as the 27,676th most common name in the United States. (Weirdly, more Galluzzos live in Massachusetts than any other state, but more die in New York than anywhere else; I'll have to keep that in mind the next time someone invites me to a Yankees game).

So there are not that many of us, relatively, and you'd think that as a 22-year-old living in the next town over from these two, I might have been alerted to the fact that somebody that physically close to me had the same surname.

Nope.

Monday, July 15, 2013

27716. David J. McNeice, Jr.

 

Victory is mine! This whole journey is already a success just based on the discovery of this one marker.

David J. McNeice, Jr. died at just 22 years old, but went out with the first Monty Python reference I've ever seen in a graveyard, the title of a song from the movie Life of Brian: "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

I'm sure by now some of you are humming or whistling along. For some, Monty Python strikes no chord but for those of us that fell for their zaniness, like me and my new best friend David, here, there could be nothing but zealous worship of the most successful comedy team of all time.

And so it goes that I can see them all up on their crosses at the end of the movie, singing along:

"For life is quite absurd, and death's the final word,
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show, keep on laughing as you go,
Just remember that the last laugh is on you, and
Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath..."

Off the top of my head. Swear to god.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

27641. Joseph Campbell

 

First Lieutenant Joseph S. Campbell, US Army, Vietnam veteran has "We love you" on the front of his stone, like so many others. But there's an old sports adage that we're going to use here in reverse.  Athletes will use the very cliche sentence, "It's not about the name on the back of the sweater/jersey/uniform, it's about the name on the front." In this case, it's not the epitaph on the front that brings the smile (well, relatively), but the one on the back.

It's a lifestyle. It's an easygoing, roll with the punches attitude. It's comfort with one's own self, and the ability to understand that it's not always about you, that life is a lot more fun if we make ourselves available to others, to help them out in any way we can if it doesn't seriously inconvenience our own lives. Just two words say it all: "No problem."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

27603. Helen Calorio

 

(Sigh). My family has really been no help at all. Here lies my Auntie Helen (great aunt, for all you armchair genealogists out there. But wait, are there any other kinds of genealogists?). As has been the case with everey deceased member of my family so far, there is no substantive epitaph. She could have at least gone with "Cheek Pincher," but maybe only I would get that one.

Come on gang! The Galluzzos really need to board this train. Perhaps I can encourage the next generation to get with the program. It's probably too ghoulish, but I could come up with a creative list of funny epitaphs for all my uncles and aunts. But I'll bite my tongue - for now.

Friday, July 12, 2013

27598. Brad Kurciviez

 

And then there was my high school baseball coach. He was a Navy man, he was a police officer for the Metropolitan District Commission here in Massachusetts (now part of the Department of Conservaton and Recreation), and he once told me that my mother was a "good woman."

But mostly, I remember the ground balls in the gym. You've never seen a baseball move so fast as when you're a fifteen year old and it's skidding along the gym floor off the bat of a full grown man. It was raining that day, so we did our workout indoors, but all I really remember is wondering if the ball coming at me was going to kill me (I later did get a nasty concussion playing for my high school team on a windy day on a dusty field. I went to block my eyes from a gust-driven dirt cloud as a line drive blasted at my head knocked me flat on my ass. Ah, memories...)

As usual, there was one thing I didn't know about my former acquaintances. Coach served in Korea. I wish I had had the werewithal to ask him about his life story when I had the chance. But my stupid gene hadn't been removed yet.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

27562. Patrick Joyce

 
 
Oh, a wise guy, eh? So Patrick Joyce left us with a parting shot, reminding us that we're all human, after all is said and done: "See you later."
 
So we've seen some of the harsher treatments of this theme, such as "Remember me as you pass by, As you are now so once was I..." So we've been down this road. Very funny, Patrick.
 
But what I don't get is why they left out the "Alligator" part. I'm guessing that if Bill Haley of Bill Haley and the Comets had a normal burial down in Harlingen, Texas, he would have been the one person on the planet who could have gone with "See You Later, Alligator," and made rock 'n' roll pilgrims visiting his grave wipe tears from their eyes at the appropriate sweetness of the epitaph. But where Haley is buried - or if he even is buried - has long been a mystery.
 
See ya, Patrick.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

27531. Donald Gordon



He never stood a chance. And he owes it all to Buck Rogers.

Buck, of course, was a sci fi hero who first appeared in a 1928 edition of Amazing Stories, a classic mag of the genre. Well, when I say "was," I suppose I should correct myself. There are rampant rumors out there right now that there's yet another movie on the way in the next half decade.

But because of Buck, we have Flash. Flash Gordon was a polo player who unwittingly is forced to save the earth from destruction (yes, in the 1980s movie he was changed over to the quarterback of the New York Jets, and the way the Jets are playing these days, he could probably still start for them 30 years later). Flash first hit the funnies on January 7, 1934 as a direct competitor to Buck. At that time, Donald Gordon was a young man of three or four. Can't you hear it now, all these years later? First day of kindergarten: "Wait, your last name is Gordon? Well, I'm gonna call you Flash."

Popular culture can be a cruel thing, even crueler than Ming the Merciless. But if he put it on his tombstone, I guess that says he rolled with it, embraced it, and became Flash Gordon. Good for him.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

27466. C. William and Dorothy M. MacRae

 

Aha, now here's an intriguiing one: "She is the plot of his life story." I just have one question: What if his life story is a murder mystery?

Monday, July 8, 2013

27411. Thurston

 

The Thurston family - and I'm assuming it's a surname, and this is not Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island - went with some Latin for their memorial bench. The line is "Vita Mutatur, Non Tollitur."

Just picking at the roots we can get "life" from "Vita" and at least a negative connotation for "Non." By blatantly cheating and entering the words into an internet search we find that it's actually pretty common: "Life is changed, not taken away."

I'm finding more and more of this sentiment as I wander, that death is just a stop along the way of eternal life. Is this just a western thing? If I was Japanese and walking through Buddhist burial grounds, would I find more of the same? And what is this general insecurity we all have? Can't dead be dead? Ah, well, to each his own.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

27189. Jennie Doucette

 

Remember my grandmother? my Uncle Mike? my Auntie Helen? This is their sister, my Great Aunt Jennie. Sadly, I never met her as far as I know, and therefore don't have anything to say about her. I've seen her in pictures surrounded by her siblings. I'll pick out and name the rest - "That one must be Louie, there's Auntie Nancy" - and then ask, "Who's that?"

I have this odd imbalance to my family tree. My dad was one of seven kids and had a half dozen uncles and aunts. I'm one of about 20 first cousins on his very Italian side. My mother had one half-sister, never knew her father, and has one niece in Louisville, Kentucky. So my family tree looks like it grew too close to the powerlines and had to be unscrupulously slashed into a ridiculous unevenness.

So, when I see Auntie Jennie's stone, I see a missed opportunity, a chance that I will never get to connect with a family member. She fits the Galluzzo mold, though; she didn't put anything extraneous on her stone that would help me with my quest. It's so bizarre that such a garrulous, overly opinionated group such as the Galluzzos would let death silence them.

Not me, man. Not me.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

26907. Charles E. Briggs


And there it is again! The Fighting 54th Regiment. This time our subject is Charles E. Briggs, a surgeon with the 54th, buried in the Briggs Burial Ground in Pembroke. But, egads, what a story we have with him.

Born in Pembroke and buried in Pembroke, Dr. Briggs was involved in one act that could potentially have ruined his military career, but for some reason did not. Briggs was a white man, we know that; officers in the 54th were white, enlisted men, black.

Apparently, according to well documented military records, Briggs was alerted to an alleged case of bestiality on the part of one of the enlisted men with the 54th. He examined both man and beast involved and gave testimony at the court-martial that helped exonerate the young man. There - yes, there - it starts to get weird.

That night, according to an accuser, Briggs arranged for the suspected offender to be brought to his quarters and then circumcised the young men, burning him with a hot iron as extra punishment. But why, if he helped clear him of the charges? And why, then, was he not personally charged with any military crime if we know all these details a century and a half later? Perhaps we all need to have a big community read of Tarnished Scalpels: The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons by Thomas Lowry and Jack Welsh before we start guessing. Or, perhaps, we should go read Briggs' own letters at the Massachusetts Historical Society. They're suddenly very interesting to me.

After the war he married a woman from St. Louis, Rebecca Whittaker, and in 1894 he died of gall bladder cancer in Boston. I don't know about you, but I need a deep breath.

Friday, July 5, 2013

26703. Samuel Hopkins Spalding

 

I've read a lot of newspapers. Sadly, not one of them has been current. It's a weird thing for a journalist to say. I avoid the news at all cost as I see it as a source of undue stress. A child is  kidnapped in Peoria, a woman murdered in Pensacola, a train derails in Perth; what does it all have to do with my life? Sure, it sounds callous, but if we truly invested emotion in every item we read in the paper our stress levels would be off the charts. I fully live by the mantra "No news is good news."

But newspapers have been a never-ending source of great research for me. I've read the Hull Times extensively - in the 1930s and 1940s. Ask me about World War II and how it affected my little hometown. Go ahead.

So, along the way, as I've journeyed through the newsprint of different eras, I've studied the vagaries of American slang. One of the things that still makes me smile ever so slightly is the way we treated our names in the 1940s. First, women had none. They were "Mrs. Robert Fitzpatrick" or "Mrs. Terwilliger McGuillicuddy." It's a wonder their parents ever went through the process of naming them at all. Second, though, this was a phase of American history in which we began accepting even basic nicknames as publicly permissible. Michael could now be called "Mike," but that was how it was portrayed in the "around town" notes columns: "Michael 'Mike' Burns of the Oakland House played whist Friday last with Mrs. Horace Dogface and a party of favorites."

Samuel Hopkins Spalding is remembered on his stone with the words "The Beloved Physician," which opens up the heart-warming notion of one person touching dozens, perhaps hundreds of others (in this case literally). But that's followed up with a cute farewell: "Good Bye, Doctor Sam."  I wonder, whatever happened to to Mrs. Samuel Hopkins Spalding?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

26702. Maria Hooper

 

When one stands near Maria Hooper's "Angel of Grief," one believes he or she is witnessing something unique. Sadly, it's a misbelief.

The sculptor, her husband, William Wetmore Story, made the original for their common grave in Italy. The representation in Hingham is one of several copies around the United States. Still, it's striking, first for its size, then for the angel's pose: kneeling, leaning forward, draped over a pedestal, head down, left arm extended, left hand dangling.

If you look closely you can see that the hand has been broken off in the past and repaired. Fingers, too, have suffered trauma. The directors of the cemetery even tell a story - they're not enturely sure that it's true - that states the statue was dropped when it arrived in Boston, crumbling it to pieces that had to be reattached one-by-one.

I think I'm going to slyly begin dissuading my wife from statuary for my marker. I have this odd vision of a marble rendition of my wife going Gangnam Style on my grave. No, we can't have that. Some decorum, please, Michelle.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

26577. Mary Revere Lincoln

 

No matter how hard I prepare myself - yoga, meditation, windsprints, what have you - I cannot make it so that the word "relict" doesn't affect me in a weird way.

It's not so bad standing on its own. It's when it's used in connection with a human being that it makes me all je ne sais quoi. I guess it's because of my naturalist training and sentimentalities. A relict to me, in that world, is the last of its kind, the last specimen of a species that once ruled over a large area. The bison I saw out in Montana a few years ago to me were relicts (or relics, they can be used interchangeably). But in the old days of New England, it was perfectly fine for a woman to be called a relict, and done so in a nonderogatory way.

"Mary," for instance, was a "Relict of Jedediah Lincoln." What's even cooler, though - no disrespect to Jed - is that the Revere in her name is for real. She was the "daughter of Paul Revere, born in Boston, Mar. 19, 1770." What's the timing, you ask? She was born exactly two weeks after the Boston Massacre. That, of course, was well before her days as a relict. Heck, she wasn't even married yet. Or walking. Or feeding herself on her own.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

26551. Edward and Suzanne Farnsworth

 

One of the most intriguing grave markers on all of the South Shore of Boston is that of Edward and Suzanne Farnsworth.

The Farnsworths were flyers, and more than that, they had their own magazine dedicated to their passion, Northeast Weekend Flyers. And they were - gulp - the age I am now. They died, together, in a Cessna 182 near Moosehead Lake in Maine in September 1988. Their marker is a playful seal pup with its tail flipped up, an apparent smile on its face.

None of that story is told on the stone, but instead they are memorialized in a much wider way, leaving interpretation open for the wondering sort. "Beloved Adventurers," the marker states, and we are left to ponder what type of adventures could include a couple of forty-somethings and a seal. Now, more than two decades from the date of their death, their adventures grow ever more tantalizingly large, almost mythical; a century from now, they will have discovered Atlantis.

Monday, July 1, 2013

26472. Little Henry Bouve


Oh, poor Little Henry! I've only guessed at his last name due to his proximity to the other stones, for that is all that his says: "Little Henry."

Infant mortality in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was appalling in comparison to modern standards. For instance, once Johns Hopkins study shows that 248 out of every 1000 babies born in New York City during the middle of the eighteenth century could not be expected to survive their first twelve months. By the early 1900s, that number had sunk to 100 out of 1000. Thank about that! In 1850, 1 in 4 babies died early in the unsanitary conditions of our cities. There were purely medical reasons infants died as well, but the grime and filth into which they were born certainly didn't help.

I have no idea what took Little Henry, or even how old he was. All I know is that it was not uncommon to lose a child in thsoe days, and I would guess that no matter how much more steeled to such a circumstance a person was - if child mortality was, if not expected, at least an accepted fact of life - it still had to hurt a family like hell.