On a trip last week to Montreal, Canada I had the opportunity to view the partially excavated cemetery of Ville-Marie which lies beneath the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, the city’s museum of archaeology. What makes this cemetery special is that it is, according to a museum guide, the oldest Catholic cemetery in Canada. The cemetery dates from its first burial in 1643, one year after the settlement’s founding by a French missionary society. There are no extant grave markers; however, the burial register survived listing thirty-eight individuals including Europeans, Natives, as well as those born in the colony.
While visiting the St. Louis area this past spring, my mother and I paid a visit to The Historic Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center in the beautiful rolling hills near the Missouri River Valley. Daniel Boone, you may recall, was a Virginia statesman, Revolutionary War soldier, frontiersman and folk hero. He is most famous for forging the Wilderness Road, a route used by pioneers from the East to reach Kentucky.
The Boone home near Defiance, Missouri actually belonged to Daniel’s son Nathan. Daniel lived his final years here and died in the home on 26 September 1820. The interior of the home can only be seen by guided tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable on Boone’s history and that of the house. Surrounding the home is a small village of historic buildings also available to tour. More information is available on The Historic Daniel Boone Home & Heritage Center website.
Hint: it has to do with family history.
Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum in Cincinnati, Ohio is the nation’s second largest cemetery as well as being designated a National Historic Landmark. It received its Landmark status for the origination of the cemetery “landscape-lawn” design. Spring Grove was founded in 1845. It is the resting place of many notable Cincinnatians, Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers, and over forty Civil War generals.
Incidentally, I learned about Spring Grove on the Trip Advisor website. It is Cincinnati’s highest rated attraction based on user reviews. Emphasis is definitely placed on the “Arboretum” in its title. Spring Grove is more than a burying ground; it is very much a park for the living. On my recent visit which included my five year-old niece, we observed scores of individuals and families walking, jogging, biking, taking photographs, and checking out the grounds. Nobody seemed to mind my niece and other young children climbing on the bases of large monuments. My niece declared that she had fun. How’s that for a cemetery?
If you happen to visit, be sure to stop in the office near the main entrance. I stopped in to ask for a map, and the staff could not have been nicer. They gave me both a visitors map and self-guided walking tour brochure. They had numerous brochures on topics ranging from the history of Spring Grove, locations of famous burials, and a fall leaf-collecting tour within in the cemetery. Even more, the cemetery hosts numerous free tours, concerts, and other events throughout the year.
Following is a selection of some of the interesting monuments we stumbled across.
This granite Parthenon-inspired temple was built by the Fleishmann family of margarine fame.
A large eagle-bedecked column marks the burial site of Civil War Brigadier General William Haines Lytle. He died at the battle of Chickamauga, September 20, 1863. He was thirty-six years old.
Jesse Root and Hannah (Simpson) Grant, the parents of President Ulysses S. Grant, are among the notable burials at Spring Grove.
The oldest burial at Spring Grove is that of Martha Louisa Ernst. She passed away in April 1845.
This past weekend the West Michigan Genealogical Society, of which I am a member, celebrated its 60th anniversary with a tour of one of Grand Rapids’ oldest and most historic cemeteries. Oakhill Cemetery came into existence in 1859. It was designed as a park cemetery and is filled with fascinating monuments and history. The tour was led by local historian Thomas R. Dilley. His new book, The Art of Memory: Historic Cemeteries of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is due to be released in a few weeks by Painted Turtle press. Following is a photographic selection of some of the monuments found in the cemetery. Dating from about 1870 the Melville mausoleum is the oldest mausoleum in Grand Rapids. In crumbling condition, cable wires are used to help prevent the structure from further deterioration.
The Brown mausoleum designed to resembled an Egyptian pyramid was built around 1895. It is one of only a few such structures in the country. It cost about $45,000 to build; Dilley estimates the cost to build it today would be about forty times that amount.
The headstone for “Brave” Claire Hall remembers her heroic death. She died while saving a drowning friend. She was seventeen years old.
Carved from a limestone boulder, the tombstone for David Wolcott Kendall and his first wife Delle Colby Kendall is among the most unusual. A genealogist’s dream, the monument is covered with symbols and even some early family genealogy.
Lastly, sometimes the smallest stones tell the biggest stories.
While recently vacationing on Prince Edward Island, Canada, I waded in Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is named for the same saint as St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth. Interestingly, I’ve observed that Frankenmuth locals tend pronounce the name of the church in the English fashion, while visitors use the German pronunciation.
St. Lawrence of Rome was a third century Christian martyr. When asked to turn over the treasures of the church to the government, he brought forward the poor, crippled, and widowed as the church’s treasures. More can be read about the life St. Lawrence at AmericanCatholic.org and Wikipedia.
Unlike its counterparts of more recent American wars, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution does not lie at Arlington Cemetery. Instead, it can be found in the tiny church yard burial ground of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s not grandiose in scale; in fact, it’s easy to miss. Hidden inside a walled court-yard, the inscribed table tomb lies behind an iron fence, quietly reminding passers-by of the heroism of our lesser known, and unknown, American fore-fathers.
This quiet resting placing should not be confused with the larger monument, The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Enjoy your Independence Day celebrations!