Standing Tall: The Life of Harvey Henry Tisinger

Many years ago, a song called “Short People” came out. A lot of people thought it was hilarious.

I wasn’t a fan.

I get asked how tall I am a lot. Barely five feet tall. When I was younger, I got a lot of “Wow, you’re really short!”. Wow, thanks for letting me know! I had no idea.

While being short can be a pain for a woman, it’s much harder for a guy. My father was probably no taller than five feet five, if that. I know when he was growing up, he hated it. But when he joined the Air Force, he gained confidence and didn’t let his height bother him. If he came up to you to shake your hand, you forgot he was a short man.

If I’d been able to meet Harvey Henry Tisinger, I know I would have thought the same thing.

I “found” Harvey this week at East View Cemetery in Atlanta. It’s one of my favorite places to visit because the cemetery is well maintained by a group of volunteers. The place is quite peaceful despite the fact it’s located in East Atlanta. Someone raises chickens nearby because nearly every time I visit, I hear one making a fuss.

East View Cemetery is one of my favorite haunts, including the sounds of the chickens.

East View Cemetery is one of my favorite haunts, including the sounds of the chickens.

I snapped a photo of Harvey’s grave as an afterthought before I left. His marker lists a Lucy Tisinger as well but there’s no death date for her. So as is my habit, I started digging. Oddly enough, there was nothing on Lucy on Ancestry.com. Nothing. But Harvey? Well, that was a different story.

Harvey Henry Tisinger was born in Carroll County, Ga. in the Bowdon area in 1898. He was the son of George Washington Tisinger and Ida Bibb McDaniel Tisinger. George operated Victory Farm in Bowdon, growing and selling cotton. Harvey was one of nine children. But from the start, Harvey was different.

Built in 1913, the Tisinger House is now a venue for weddings.

Built in 1913, the Tisinger House is now a venue for weddings.

Due to an unknown illness in infancy, Harvey only grew to be four feet three inches tall.

Even as a child, Harvey did not let his lack of height get in his way. At 12, he sawed the handle off a hoe so he could chop cotton. At 14, some said he could pick 200 pounds of cotton a day.

Harvey went to the University of Georgia to get a degree in commerce, hoping to help out in managing the family farm. He did not sit idle. He was inducted into the Honorary Business Fraternity (later called Gamma Sigma), and was elected president of the Economic Society, secretary/treasurer of the Student Council, and secretary of the Athletic Association. He performed in the Glee and Mandolin Club, was a football and basketball cheerleader, and participated in other campus organizations.

But after graduating, Harvey had to face some harsh realities. Nobody wanted to hire a short man. He tried to find work in Atlanta but failed. He borrowed money from his siblings and went to New York City, where he met similar disappointing results.

In a profile in the Atlanta Journal, Harvey said, “Everywhere I went, the executives and personnel managers turned me down flat, without even giving me a mental examination. That was the first and last time I ever found my size as a real handicap in the business world, but I refused to let that get me down, although I was feeling pretty low when I came dragging home.”

I walked past this building of the law school at UGA almost every day when I was a student. I like knowing I shared the same pathway as Harvey, someone I would have liked to have called a friend. Photo courtesy of Tisinger Vance, C.P.

I walked past this building of the law school at UGA almost every day when I was a student. I like knowing I shared the same sidewalks as Harvey, someone I would have liked to have called a friend. Photo courtesy of Tisinger Vance, C.P.

But Harvey didn’t give up. Having been encouraged by a West Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical School professor who saw him win a debate contest, he decided to get his law degree at UGA. In law school, Harvey continued participating in many of the same organizations he was involved in while an undergraduate. The leadership qualities he developed matured and he was selected as a “Counselor,” vice president of the Demosthenian Society, vice president of the senior class, and president of the Athletic Association.

Harvey was ready to go back to Carrollton and get to work. “A lawyer isn’t hired by a personnel manager, and the people around Carrollton where I intended to practice knew the stuff I was made of and what I could do.”

This small photo from 1926 shows Harvey in his law office in Carrollton.

This small photo from 1926 shows Harvey in his law office in Carrollton.

Harvey practiced law in Carrollton from 1922 to 1934. He undertook the general practice of law as a sole practitioner but also served in federal bankruptcy court as a “referee in bankruptcy.” After his brother Bob joined the firm, Harvey left Carrollton for Atlanta. He assumed the position of an assistant U. S. district attorney, serving in that position from 1934 to 1958.

After he retired, it was reported that Harvey served six attorneys general, four district attorneys, and represented six federal wardens at the U. S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. During his tenure, he convicted approximately 2,500 defendants and handled almost 1,800 habeas corpus proceedings. After his retirement from the U. S. District Attorney’s office, Harvey continued to practice law in Atlanta until his death in 1959.

Bob continued at the Carrollton law firm Harvey founded until 1963. It exists today as Tisinger Vance P.C., with 13 attorneys. Three of them are Tisingers and all three attended the University of Georgia Law School. Most of the information about Harvey I got to write this blog post came from the Tisinger Vance web site.

I never found anything on Lucy, she doesn’t appear in any records on Ancestry.com so her fate remains a mystery to me.

But Harvey’s story stays with me. He made his own way in a world where short men can still be quietly discriminated against, even today. He did not let it hold him back.

His quote in the Pandora, UGA’s yearbook, says it all: “If you’ve managed to keep your own respect, you needn’t worry about that of others; you’ll have it.”

You were right, Harvey.

HarveyTisinger

The Elephant In the Room (or Under the University)

My father was a huge believer in higher education. That’s because he never had the opportunity to go to college himself, although being in the U.S. Air Force definitely taught him a lot. When exactly he fell in love with the University of Georgia, I don’t now. But I think a very talented athlete named Herschel Walker had something to do with it.

Because of that, Dad made it clear his daughters were going to go to college. At UGA. And get master’s degrees.

Dad and his idol, Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

Dad and his idol, Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

My sister only attended UGA for one quarter before transferring to Georgia State, where her boyfriend (who is now her husband) was going to college. So it fell to me to undertake the mantle of DWGUGA (Daughter Who Graduated from UGA). I received my bachelor’s in journalism in 1988 and went on to get a master’s in English literature in 1990. My niece, Katie, will graduate from UGA in May. I know Dad will be smiling down on his granddaughter when she gets her diploma.

While Dad clearly loved the state’s flagship university, he had a keen appreciation for other institutions of higher learning. Oglethorpe University was one of them. Whenever we were in the Lenox Mall area and had an opportunity to drive by, we did so. He always referred to it (many people do) as “The Castle” because its stadium wall looks like one, with its turrets and flags. I like to think if it hadn’t been UGA, he would have encouraged me to try Oglethorpe (if I could get a scholarship).

Although Harry Hermance had great plans for Oglethorpe's stadium, only part of it came to fruition.

Although Harry Hermance had great plans for Oglethorpe’s stadium, only part of it came to fruition.

Hermance Stadium was part of a grand scheme by F.H. Woolworth executive Harry Hermance. He pledged $50,000 to build it and in October 1929, the first section was dedicated during a football game against the University of Dayton. Since that’s the town of my birth (and Dad’s), the irony is not lost on me. Unfortunately, the Crash of 1929 and ensuing Great Depression abruptly curtailed Hermance’s fortunes and the stadium was never completed.

It wasn’t until I met my husband, Chris, a 2001 Oglethorpe graduate, that I began to learn much more about its rich history. He is fiercely loyal to his alma mater and has served on a number of OU boards and committees over the years.

OUScapeImage

Established in 1835, Oglethorpe University was named after James Oglethorpe, who was a British general, Member of Parliament, philanthropist, and founder of the colony of Georgia.

But as a cemetery hopper, there’s one story about Oglethorpe that really got my attention when I first heard it.

There’s an elephant buried somewhere on campus.

In 1941, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus pulled into downtown Atlanta. Nothing unusual there. Not until 11 of its elephants died from arsenic poisoning. Some of the old hands who worked for the circus claimed it may have happened when the circus stopped in Charlotte, N.C. near a chemical plant. Nobody knows for sure.

During that time, Oglethorpe had a fledgling medical school (it no longer exists). When faculty member Dr. John Bernard found out about the elephants’ tragic deaths, he seized on the opportunity in order for his comparative anatomy students to benefit.

The front of Lowry Hall today. In 1941, it was not part of the Philip Weltner Library.

The front of Lowry Hall today, now part of the Philip Weltner Library. The Oglethrope University Museum, one of my favorites, is on the top floor.

According to Oglethorpe alumnus (and adjunct lecturer) Dr. Paul Hudson, Dr. Barnard asked some of his medical students to fetch one of the elephant carcases on a flatbed truck and drive it back to the campus. Lab assistant Johnny Kelly and the students unloaded it near Lowry Hall, which was later expanded into the current Philip Weltner Library.

I can imagine the conversation that took place among those students when their professor proposed his plan.

Student 1: Hey, Dr. Barnard wants us to go pick up a dead elephant downtown.

Student 2: No way!

Student 1: Way! Wanna come with?

Student 2: Will we get extra credit?

Well, maybe not exactly like that. But close.

Over the next week, in the cool November weather, the medical students dissected the elephant. When they were done, they dug a large hole and buried the ill-fated pachyderm’s remains behind Lowry Hall. Nobody knows exactly where since no sign was ever placed there to note the occasion. It’s thought to be under where the Weltner Library now stands.

Targa the elephany emerges from the Ringling Brothers circus train in the Bronx, N.Y. This is not the elephant that was dissected at Oglethorpe.

Targa the elephany emerges from the Ringling Brothers circus train in the Bronx, N.Y. This is not the elephant dissected at Oglethorpe.

I asked Chris why no memorial plaque was ever put up to honor the elephant for its sacrifice and he doesn’t know. Maybe when I next see Dr. Larry Schall, OU’s current president (and a very cool guy that I enjoy talking to), I’ll ask him.

Because while it’s never easy to talk about the Elephant in the Room, sometimes you have to.

Especially when it’s under your University.

Coincidentally, Walt Disney's Dumbo was released in 1941.

Coincidentally, Walt Disney’s Dumbo was released in 1941.

Up in Smoke: The Changing View of Cremation in America

Last year, my church sent out a survey to find out what the membership thought about building a columbarium (a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns) on the church grounds. While I was intrigued, I was also quite surprised. It’s a Southern Baptist church, although we rarely talk about our…Baptist-ness.

Cremation is something Southern Baptists would have not even considered 50 years ago. It wasn’t even talked about when I was younger.

The Church’s changing attitude and the fact that cremation is becoming a more popular option got me thinking. What is the history of cremation and why was it considered taboo for so long in the U.S.?

The Morrocoan-style columbarium at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, Calif. is a unique place. They even have a Summer Solstice jazz concert there every year.

The Morrocoan-style columbarium at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, Calif. is a unique place. They even have a Summer Solstice jazz concert there every year.

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History points back to the last Stone Age around 3,000 B.C. as when primitive forms of cremation began. It was quite popular with the upper classes in Ancient Rome and Greece. For the wealthy, remains were often kept in a larnax, a small coffin or ash-chest, usually made of decorated terracotta. Occasionally, these vessels were made of precious metals, as with the fourth-century B.C. gold larnax found at Vergina, in Northern Greece. It was in a tomb believed to be that of King Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.

The golden larnax (or ash-chest) believed to be that of King Philip of Macedon. Photo courtesy of the Vergina Museum, Greece.

The golden larnax (or ash-chest) believed to be that of King Philip of Macedon. Photo courtesy of the Vergina Museum, Greece.

Cremation via the use of a crematorium became an option in Western Europe during the 19th century. In 1874, Sir Henry Thompson, surgeon to Queen Victoria, visited Italy and saw a demonstration of equipment used for carrying out cremations. Impressed by the demonstration, he invited some like-minded friends to form the Cremation Society of England in order to promote the use of cremation as an alternative to burial.

The Society bought some land next to a cemetery in Woking with the intention of building a crematorium on the site but local opposition meant they had to halt work. However, an event in 1884 changed the situation. Dr. William Price, a very eccentric doctor who claimed to be the Arch druid of a lost Celtic tribe, cremated his son, who had died at the age of only five months, on the local hillside. Price was prosecuted but found not guilty. This ruling effectively made cremation legal and led to the Cremation Act of 1902.

After Price died in 1891, his family sold tickets to his cremation, and it is estimated that a crowd of 20,000 witnessed the ritual. Because Price was such a controversial, eccentric personality, when the fire was exhausted, attendees picked through the ashes for souvenirs.

After Price died in 1891, his family sold tickets to his cremation, and it is estimated that a crowd of 20,000 witnessed the ritual. Because Price was such a controversial personality, when the fire was exhausted, attendees picked through the ashes for souvenirs.

As time passed, cremation became more acceptable and popular in England. Because land for burial had become scarce over the centuries, it made sense to many people. In 2008, statistics show that about 72 percent of people in the U.K. chose cremation.

Here in the U.S., attitudes about cremation are different. Christianity, by and large, has been the major religion. Opposition to cremation centered on the Christian belief that it was a pagan practice. A major argument against cremation by Christians has been anticipation of a bodily resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, for example, talks about a “resurrection body” in 1 Corinthians 15. As a result, many Christians choose to stick with burial so the body is kept intact.

The Catholic Church forbade members to cremate for many years. However, in 1963, the Vatican lifted the ban on cremation. But the cremated remains or “cremains” could not be present at the funeral mass. Burial was (and still is) the preferred method for Catholics. In 1997, the Vatican approved new liturgical norms allowing for the cremated remains to be present at a funeral mass and the remains are to be treated with the same reverence as a whole body in a casket. However, the spreading of cremated ashes (or keeping them in an urn in a home) is still technically forbidden by the Catholic Church.

According to the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society, more than 42 percent of Catholics are cremated after death. Because the Church forbids scattering ashes or keeping ashes in homes, families making this choice have had few options. Because of that cemeteries like St. Joseph Cemetery in Cincinnati are expanding their columbarium options.

According to the Cincinnati Catholic Cemetery Society, more than 42 percent of Catholics are cremated after death. Because the Church forbids scattering ashes or keeping ashes in homes, families making this choice have had few options. Because of that cemeteries like St. Joseph Cemetery in Cincinnati are expanding their columbarium options. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Cemetery.

Cremation’s become more popular in the U.S. for many reasons. Our multi-cultural society includes a much broader range of religious affiliations and for some, the absence of any belief system at all. We’re are also a much more mobile society. Many people move from the state of their birth to another state then to another and another. This negates the existence of a “family cemetery” in which to bury family members. There’s also a growing interest in environmentally-friendly means of disposing of the human body. Burying a body full of toxic chemicals that will eventually leak into the groundwater supply is not appealing to a lot of people.

However, the biggest motivator in the last several years is the hit the American economy took in 2008. According to The National Funeral Directors Association, the national median cost of a funeral (including the service, casket, fees, etc.) for calendar year 2012 was $7,045. If a vault is included, something that is usually required by a cemetery, the median cost is $8,343. I think the NFDA low-balled that figure considerably. Cremation, with or without a memorial service and entombment in a columbarium, is much less expensive.

The Neptune Society now owns the Oddfellows Columbarium, built in 1897.  They restored it and have added on to it. The photo above is a niche from the old section and one below is from the new "Hall of Olympians" section. Photos courtesy of Patty Sokolecki-Smoot & Frederick Smoot.

The Neptune Society now owns the Oddfellows Columbarium in San Francisco, built in 1897. They restored it and have added on to it. The photo above is a niche from the old section and one below is from the new “Hall of Olympians” section. Photos courtesy of Patty Sokolecki-Smoot & Frederick Smoot.

OddFellows

According to the Cremation Association of North America, in 2011, an average of 40 percent of Americans chose cremation. Considering that cremation, on a national average, stood at 33 percent in 2006 shows that the trend shows no sign of slowing down. Some states are more accepting of it than others. For Georgia, about 31 percent chose cremation while almost 56 percent did in California (in 2010).

Still, the Jewish community does not usually cremate. There are some of Reform congregations who have embraced it but it is not common. In Jewish law, the human body belongs to its Creator. It is “on loan” to the person, who is the guardian of the body, but he or she has no right to deface it in any way. So, the body must be “returned” in its entirety, just as it was given.

And let’s be honest. Despite the fears of funeral directors across the country, traditional ground burial is not going to stop anytime soon. Especially here in the Southeast. The attitude of “my great-grandpa did it, my grandpa did it so I am doing it, too” still persists. While I’ve become much more open to the option of cremation, I’m still pretty set on traditional burial when my time approaches.

My church did choose to go forward with building a columbarium and it’s just about finished. It’s not very big but is a quiet little area on the property, complete with a tree and a few benches. I’m glad it’s there for those who want it.

But I can’t see myself, even if I chose cremation, having my remains put in an urn to go into a niche. I’d rather they be buried in a cemetery with a unique stone marker, maybe. Something with a swan on it, because they are my favorite bird in the world.

As a cemetery hopper, that seems like the right thing to do.

 

I have always loved swans. They're such graceful, majestic creatures.

I have always loved swans. They’re such graceful, majestic creatures.

Nineteen Years is Not Enough: The Short Life of Joshua Stulick

Last year, I wrote about Adeline Bagley Buice, a brave woman who was sent north by the Confederate Army during the Civil War (along with many other Roswell woolen mill workers) and spent five years walking home. She’s buried in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Forsyth County, Ga.

At some point during the two occasions I visited that cemetery last spring, I took a lot of random photos. I looked to see if any were already posted on Find a Grave. For those without a memorial, I created one and posted the photo.

Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery is in Forsyth County, Ga. I didn't know I would end up solving a minor mystery when I photographed graves there.

Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery is in Forsyth County, Ga. I didn’t know I would end up solving a minor mystery when I photographed graves there last spring.

Most of the time after I do this, nothing happens. Once in a blue moon, I get an e-mail from someone thanking me for helping them locate a family member they’d been looking for. The amazing story of Carrie Turner is one of those occasions.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a woman named Jenn. She wanted to thank me for photographing a grave and creating a memorial for a young man named Joshua Stulick.

The name was not familiar to me so I looked him up. He had died in 1992 at the age of 19 for reasons I didn’t know at the time. I do remember his tender age had stood out to me.

Jenn wrote:

Thank you so very much for your post of a grave for Joshua Stulick. I have looked for so very long to find him. At last I have it because of you. There was no goodbye when he was tragically killed. Now at least I can visit. Thank you! It means a lot.

Whoa.

I took a moment to Google Joshua’s name to find out what happened. Tragically, he was murdered late at night in a park in Staten Island, N.Y. in April 1992. His murder remained unsolved for many years.

According to an article in The Staten Island Advance, Joshua went to a friend’s house for drinks after finishing his shift in the hospital cafeteria where he worked. From there, he and some other people went to Ingram Woods (a nearby park) to continue drinking.

Joshua Stulick worked in the cafeteria at Staten Island University Hospital.

Joshua Stulick worked in the cafeteria at Staten Island University Hospital.

On April 28, 1992, Joshua’s body was found by a man walking his dog. It was covered in the park’s underbrush. He had a fatal stab wound to the throat and was wrapped in the interior lining of a car trunk.

Suspicion quickly fell on James Russell, a co-worker Joshua knew from the hospital. Russell was on probation for a felony assault conviction when Joshua was killed. In that case, Russell had plead guilty to a 1989 attack.

The trunk lining Joshua was found wrapped in was thought to have belonged to Russell’s 1986 Pontiac Grand Am, which was impounded. But no other evidence was found. Russell claimed he knew nothing about what had happened, was released and the case froze up. Russell went on to become an oncology radiologist at the hospital and he got married.

James Russell worked with Joshua Stulick at Staten Island University Hospital in 1992. Photo courtesy of The Staten Island Advance.

James Russell worked with Joshua Stulick at Staten Island University Hospital in 1992. Photo courtesy of The Staten Island Advance.

In 2005, after 13 years, an anonymous female witness came forward. Based on what she said, Russell was arrested and later charged with second degree murder. He initially plead not guilty.

In December 2007, after spending several months in jail, Russell changed his story. He claimed that he and Stulick were drinking and doing drugs that April day before they took their party to Ingram Park. There, he said, the two of them started to “fool around with knives that we each had, playing karate moves and lunging and sparring with each other.”

“Joshua lunged at me as I was swinging my arm with the knife, and I cut him,” Russell admitted. “To my horror, the knife cut into Joshua Stulick’s throat.”

He said he covered the body in Ingram Woods and left after realizing that “everyone would blame me no matter what I said.”

Justice Stephen J. Rooney sent Russell to prison for a minimum of three and a half years up to a maximum seven years under an agreement by which Russell pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. Had he been found guilty of second-degree murder, he might have faced a lifetime jail sentence. As part of the deal, he was not allowed to appeal his sentence.

Joshua’s mother, Kathleen Melchers, was justifiably outraged and said so at James Russell’s sentencing:

Your actions of cold violence not only took my son’s life, but to drag his body onto a car trunk liner and lay him on the ground behind a rock for two days until being found by someone walking a dog, is an act of sensitivity coming from a wicked heart and extreme lack of respect for the human body and soul.

As a mother of a son myself, I felt disbelief and anger when I read about James Russell’s plea deal. Yes, he was finally brought to justice but it is bittersweet. His sentencing took place in 2007 so he’s probably out walking the streets again as I write this.

There are few articles about Joshua online. I think Kathleen lives in North Georgia, which explains why he’s buried in Forsyth County. I emailed Jenn back to ask her if she would like to share some of her memories of Joshua. She said she might be able to do so at a later time. The memories are still very painful.

By reading the comments following an article about the trial, I learned that Joshua was in a band called Section 8. One of his friends left this comment:

I can’t stop thinking of his father waiting for Josh to come home from work and not knowing his son was dead. How could James Russell just leave his FRIEND there? If he was afraid, how about an anonymous call to the police and save Josh’s family and friends 15 years of wondering why?

Nothing will ever bring Josh back, will never pay for the life that was taken-so much potential wasted-what he could have become, and he would have grown up to be. I hope his family finds peace and takes some comfort that some justice was finally served.

There’s a lot about Joshua Stulick I will never know. I do know that he deserved more time on this earth than he got.

Nineteen years is not enough.

Joshua Stulick's grave is in Sharon Baptist Church Cemetery in Cumming, Ga.

Rest in peace, Joshua. You are greatly missed.

Shalom, Y’all!: Jewish Cemeteries in Savannah

I am blessed with friends. Even more so because one of them lives in Savannah, which is a cemetery hopper’s paradise.

Frank and I have been friends since junior high. We were in church youth group together (along with our pal Steve Reagin) and our fathers were both deacons. He was in his senior year and editor of the school newspaper when I came on board as a staff writer. Thanks to Facebook, we got caught up last year and met for lunch at the Colonnade (one of the best places in Atlanta for fried chicken!).

I've known Frank since junior high. A lot of time has gone by but we still get along like two peas in a pod.

A lot of time has gone by but we still get along like two peas in a pod.

I found out about Savannah’s Jewish roots when I visited with my husband some years back. We toured the Temple Mikve Israel, the only Gothic Revival-style synagogue (consecrated in 1878) in the country. Our tour guide, a Holocaust survivor, filled us in on Savannah’s history of having an active Jewish community.

The current building of the Congregation Mikve Israel was built in 1878. Photo courtesy of Congregation Mikve Israel.

The current building of the Congregation Mikve Israel was built in 1878. It’s the only Gothic Revival-style synagogue in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Congregation Mikve Israel.

On July 11, 1733, 43 Jewish immigrants from Europe arrived in Savannah on the ship the William and Sarah. Their trip was paid for by members of a London synagogue. Of the 43, 34 were Sephardic Jews, of Spanish and Portuguese heritage. The rest were of Ashkenazic (German) German descent. Europe was a difficult place for Jews to practice their faith, so while setting sail for an untamed land was a bit scarey, it had to be better than their current situation.

This is a replica of the ship the William and Sarah, which brought 42 Jews to Savannah from London. Photo courtesy of Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News.

This is a replica of the ship the William and Sarah, which brought 43 Jews to Savannah from London. Photo courtesy of Hunter McRae/Savannah Morning News.

Only five months before this, on orders from England’s King George II, James Oglethorpe founded Savannah as a garrison and military buffer between the English settlements farther north and Spanish Florida. Although some protested their arrival, the Jewish immigrants’ timing proved to be perfect.

One of the group was a Portuguese doctor named Samuel Nunez (I’ve also seen it spelled Nunes). The colony’s only doctor had died recently and a yellow fever epidemic was taking its toll on the city. Oglethorpe allowed Dr. Nunez to begin caring for patients and when the number of deaths dropped dramatically soon after, local protests against the Jews staying in Savannah subsided.

When my niece and I went to visit Frank recently, he told me that his friend, Alice, who is a cemetery enthusiast like me, knew of two very old Jewish cemeteries on the outskirts of town. The only problem was that Alice couldn’t remember exactly where they were. Trailing her in Frank’s car, we took a circuitous route through some rough parts of town and pulled several illegal traffic maneuvers in the process. It was one wild ride.

You have to be a little eccentric to like cemeteries. I think Alice and I fit the bill.

You have to be a little eccentric to like cemeteries. I think Alice and I fit the bill.

Situated beside a school and the remains of a decrepit railroad building are the Levi Sheftall Family Cemetery and the Mordecai Sheftall Cemetery (Jewish Burial Grounds). Both are enclosed by high walls and locked so you can’t go inside.

Levi Sheftall was the eldest son of Benjamin Sheftall, one of the original group that came to Savannah from London in 1733. A merchant, Levi became an influential leader in the congregation like his father.

Levi Sheftall was the eldest son of Benjamin Sheftall, one of the original group that came to Savannah from London in 1733. A merchant, Levi became an influential leader in the congregation like his father.

Cared for by the Congregation Temple Mikve, the cemetery is locked up. I do NOT go to illegal lengths to get inside a cemetery. But we did get a little creative.

Cared for by the Congregation Temple Mikve, the cemetery is locked up. I do NOT go to illegal lengths to get inside a cemetery. But we did get a little creative.

Established in 1773. the Levi Sheftall Family Cemetery was used for about 80 years. There aren’t many graves inside but there are several square stone-bordered graves and a few gravestones still standing. The walls are made out of rough stone bricks and because a few on the top have come loose over the years, Frank and I temporarily removed a few from the top and he took a few pictures for me.

A closeup of the few upright gravestones still visible in the cemetery.

A closeup of the few upright gravestones still visible in the cemetery. You can see an interstate overpass in the background.

I took this picture through the bars of the iron door.

I took this picture through the bars of the iron door.

Across the way is the Old Jewish Burial Ground established in 1773 by Levi’s brother, Mordecai Sheftall. This cemetery contains many more graves because it was a community cemetery and not a family one. The land parcel was granted to Mordecai by King George III in 1762. Its walls are thicker because the cemetery was involved in battle during an ill-fated French attempt to take control of Savannah from the British in 1779.

According

According to Captain Antoine-Francoise Terance O’Conner, a military engineer serving with the French forces, on October 9, 1779, “The Reserve Corps, commanded by M. le Vicomte de Noailles, advanced as far as an old Jewish cemetery, and we placed on its right and a little to the rear the four 4-pounders.”

The Old Jewish Burial Grounds are impossible to see from outside. So again, we had to get creative.

The Old Jewish Burial Grounds are impossible to see from outside. So again, we had to get creative.

Unfortunately, seeing inside the cemetery was impossible. I don’t hop fences or trespass to get pictures. But when Alice suggested standing on top of her car to see over into the cemetery, I was only momentarily deterred. With Frank’s help, after Alice pulled her car up beside a wall, I climbed up and took some pictures.

What I won't do to see a cemetery! Thanks, Alice.

What I won’t do to see a cemetery. Thanks, Alice!

Most of the graves are of the above the ground brick box-style variety. There’s one large monument surrounded by a fence. An estimated 80 or so people are buried here, but many graves are unmarked. Several metal plaques list names from the various families with members probably buried there.

One of those names is Andre Daniel Nunez, son of Dr. Samuel Nunez (whose burial site is unknown). I found this out thanks to a Savannah Find a Grave volunteer who got to go inside the cemetery when Congregation Temple Mikve led a tour there.

It's not possible to know exactly who is buried here but as it was the only consecrated ground Jews could be buried in at the time, it is the most likely place.

It’s not possible to know exactly who is buried here but as it was the only consecrated ground Jews could be buried in at the time, it is the most likely place.

If  you look at the back wall and to the right, you can see one of the memorial plaques listing the names of those thought to be buried there.

If you look at the back wall and to the right, you can see one of the memorial plaques listing the names of those thought to be buried there.

Life for Jews in Savannah was not smooth sailing. In 1742, the Spanish invaded and many Jews who had hidden under the guise of Catholicism back in Europe feared persecution. Most fled the city but some eventually returned after the Spanish were defeated at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.

Despite many setbacks, the Jewish community in Savannah began to expand and thrive. In 1895, Herman Myers became the city’s first Jewish mayor. Today, there are three Jewish congregations in Savannah, with Congregation Mikve Israel (Reform) being one of them.

Next week, I’ll share stories about the other cemeteries in Savannah I visited, including the one made famous by “The Book” from 1994 that turned the city into a tourist mecca. It’s also known as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Me and my awesome niece, Hannah, who came along to make sure I didn't get into trouble while cemetery hopping.

Me and my awesome niece, Hannah, who came along to make sure I didn’t get into trouble while cemetery hopping.

Guest Post: Unusual Ways to Honor the Deceased

Now that I’ve been blogging for over a year, I’ve begun to hear from some readers overseas. So when I recently received an e-mail from a British copywriter named Dean Ronnie, I was intrigued.

Among other clients, Dean works for a funeral director (Laurel Funerals) in the U.K. He asked if I’d like to share an article he’d written about unique funerals. Because I truly enjoy sharing the writing of others, I gave an almost immediate yes. Here it is.

The times are changing and with changing times come changing traditions. One place this is becoming more and more apparent is in tributes to dead. The past has shown us some very spectacular ways of honoring and remembering the dead.

From China’s Terracotta Army to the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India, people have always found spectacular ways to honor those who have passed on.

Today, this hasn’t changed. Memorials and funeral planning are still about being personal to the deceased. Let’s take a look at some of the more unusual ways that the deceased have been honored.

The Guitar-Shaped Forest

After the love of Pedro Ureta’s life, Graciela, unexpectedly died in 1977 at the age of 25, the Argentine rancher decided to plant trees in her honor. But not just any trees. Ureta decided to create an entire guitar-shaped forest on his farmland.

Made out of Cypress and Eucalyptus trees, the guitar is about two-thirds of a mile long. Photo courtesy of Maria Emilia Perez.

Made out of Cypress and Eucalyptus trees, the guitar is about two-thirds of a mile long. Photo courtesy of Maria Emilia Perez.

Cultivated because of her love for the instrument, Pedro Ureta worked tirelessly to plant the forest, crafting the perfect guitar shape complete with a star-shaped hole in the middle. Using cypress trees to form the outline, Ureta used blue eucalyptus trees to accent the trees and make his dedication to his deceased wife visible to all who fly over it.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, Ureta has never seen the guitar from the sky himself. He’s afraid of flying.

Launching Gene Roddenberry’s Ashes into Outer Space

As the creator of the highly successful and internationally recognized television and film franchise Star Trek, what better way would there be to honor Gene Roddenberry than to send his ashes into outer space? The answer is no other way.

Placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985, Gene Rodenberry's star was the first ever presented to a television writer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985, Gene Rodenberry’s star was the first ever presented to a television writer. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After being sent on a flight on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-52 in 1992 and an unsuccessful previous attempt to have them sent into space permanently in 1997, the ashes of Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel (who died in 2008) are set to be launched into space in 2014. A fitting tribute to an advocate of space exploration.

Jim Henson’s Muppet Memorial Service

Following the death of the Muppet’s creator Jim Henson in 1990, two incredibly distinct memorial services were held. Held in London and New York, both events were open to the public. Both services were held in famous cathedrals, both services were attended by no one wearing black, and both services featured a solo by Sesame Street character, Big Bird.

Jim Henson and producer George Lucas were working on the film Labyrinth in 1986. Film courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jim Henson and producer George Lucas were working on the film Labyrinth in 1986. Film courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following this was a gathered team of Muppets including Elmo, Gonzo, Scooter, Mokey Fraggle, Gobo Fraggle and Oscar the Grouch, who sang a medley of Henson’s favorite songs before ending with “Just One Person”.

Firing Hunter S. Thompson’s Ashes From a Cannon

In 2005, the father of gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson received a memorial that was equally fitting of his lifestyle, a memorial that saw his ashes fired from a cannon into the night’s sky.

Fireworks carrying the ashes of the late Hunter S. Thompson explode over the top of his memorial on the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. Photo courtesy of Ed Andrieski/Associated Press/

Fireworks carrying the ashes of the late Hunter S. Thompson explode over the top of his memorial on the Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. Photo courtesy of Ed Andrieski/Associated Press/

The memorial which took place in Aspen, Colorado, saw Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes fired from a 150-foot tower, which was topped with a red fist with two thumbs — the symbol of Thompson’s first-person style of gonzo journalism. The tower was paid for by Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the film adaptation of his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Following fireworks, friends at the memorial were then encouraged to remember him with the clink of ice in whiskey.

In Your Own Backyard: Hidden Cemeteries of North DeKalb

One of the enticements of cemetery hopping is discovering the ones I’ve never seen before. Especially those off the beaten path.

I recently purchased a copy of Cemetery Records of Tucker, Georgia and Environs by Ted O. Brooke. As I thumbed through it, I found some smaller cemeteries I’d never even heard of before.

My photographer friend, Jennifer (who wrote a guest post a while ago), also loves these hidden gems. We finally found time to venture out together to see some of them. She’d already seen most of them but like me, enjoys revisiting certain cemeteries over and over.

Nesbit Family Cemetery

Nesbit Family Cemetery sits on the edge of the Gwinnett County line near the busy intersection of Lawrenceville Highway and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. I must have passed by it several times (like many people) without even seeing it.

Located in the woods beside a Georgia Power building, Nesbit Cemetery is a collection of almost 20 graves surrounded by a low metal fence. There are a mix of grave styles, from the table variety to the box type. Although many of the tombstones are broken or off of their bases, it looks like someone is looking after the place.

This iron gate is the entrance to Nesbit Family Cemetery. It's worn around the edges but worth seeing.

This iron gate is the entrance to Nesbit Family Cemetery. It’s worn around the edges but worth seeing.

The contrast of this quiet little cemetery with the frenetic energy on the road behind it is remarkable. Few know it's there.

The contrast of this quiet little cemetery with the frenetic energy on the road behind it is remarkable. Few know it’s there.

William Nesbit’s grave is the oldest (1789-1863) and he has quite a history. A native of South Carolina, Nesbit fought in the war of 1812 and was one of the founding settlers of Gwinnett County. He was its first elected sheriff. Nesbit also served Gwinnett County in the Georgia State Senate for two sessions, first in 1829 and later in 1833. His 650-acre plantation was located near the Gwinnett/DeKalb County line. He and his wife, Mary Lawless Nesbit, had 12 children together. Some are buried near him.

Little Nellie Nesbit only lived for two years but her tombstone still speaks today.

Little Nellie Nesbit only lived for two years but her tombstone still speaks today.

Alvin Craig Nesbit's grave is broken but still beautiful with the clasped hands motif. He was one of William Nesbit's 12 children.

Alvin Craig Nesbit’s grave is broken but still beautiful with the clasped hands motif. He was one of William Nesbit’s 12 children.

Pounds Cemetery

It's hard to believe anyone would know that Pounds Cemetery is located in an industrial park but someone is taking care of it.

It’s hard to believe anyone would know that Pounds Cemetery is located in an industrial park but someone is taking care of it.

Our next stop was a cemetery neither one of us had visited before. Pounds Cemetery is located down a pine-straw covered drive deep inside an industrial park off Mountain Industrial Boulevard. While only about 25 graves are marked, there are many more unmarked simple fieldstones scattered about to indicate others are buried there.

I don’t know anything about this particular cemetery. Members of the Pounds, Lankford, and Thompson families are represented. But the most stunning of the graves are the trio of unmarked cairn-style graves. Two are in rather sad shape but the third is in better condition.

I am guessing because of the proximity of these two cairn graves that it was a married couple. Their names are unknown.

I am guessing because of the proximity of these two graves that it was a married couple. Their names are unknown.

The identity of the person buried in this cairn grave is also unknown.

The identity of the person buried in this cairn grave is also unknown.

The rest of the cemetery is a collection of fieldstones, table-style graves and upright tombstones. You can clearly see warehouses surrounding it. However, it’s not that difficult to picture what it might have been like a hundred years ago before most of the forest around it was cut down.

The fieldstones scattered about the marked graves tells me there are many more people buried here than meets the eye.

The fieldstones scattered about the marked graves tells me there are many more people buried here than meets the eye.

Double Springs Church Cemetery

Remember my writing about risking life and limb when I visited Old Greencastle Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio? When we went to Double Springs Church Cemetery in a Smokerise neighborhood, not far from Stone Mountain, it felt like deja vu.

This small cemetery is located behind two houses. Fortunately, there is a public easement between the two that enables visitors to see it without having to ask permission. I am sure most people haven’t due to the uneven terrain and difficulty in keeping one’s footing.

Driving down the neighborhood street, you'd never know there was a cemetery behind this house.

Driving down the neighborhood street, you’d never know there was a cemetery behind this house.

Atlanta’s foremost cemetery hopper, Franklin Garrett, surveyed this cemetery in 1932. His books are invaluable to researchers. In his survey, he noted that a non-denominational church adjoined the cemetery once, but had been torn down many years before.

Only nine marked graves seem to have survived and they are almost all from the Seay family. A number of unmarked stones are scattered about. Most were hidden under the leaves the day we visited. Jennifer knows more about the Seays than I do so I’ll have to pick her brain for more details.

Samantha Seay almost made it to the ripe age of 70.

Samantha Seay almost made it to the ripe age of 70. The broken flower motif on her tombstone is touching.

This might give you an idea of the condition the cemetery is in and how difficult it was to walk around in.

This might give you an idea of the condition the cemetery is in and how difficult it was to walk around in.

Braden Family Cemetery

Our last stop was just down the road at Braden Family Cemetery. It consists of only four marked graves. However, unlike Double Springs Cemetery, this one is on the edge of a very upscale neighborhood and is well tended.

Three box graves contain a mother and two sons. Robert Mansfield Braden, was the husband and father but his grave has not been found.

Three box graves contain a mother and two sons. Robert Mansfield Braden, was the husband and father but his grave has not been found.

Four members of the Braden family are buried here. Mother Rhoda is buried between her sons, Minor and Rufus. On the far left end is a monument to Minor’s wife, Mary Jane Milligan Braden. The whereabouts of Robert Mansfield Braden’s grave, the husband of Rhoda and father of the Braden sons, is unknown. Rhoda was born a Lankford, many of whom are buried over in Pounds Cemetery.

The monument for Mary Jane Milligan Braden is damaged but has been repaired.

The monument for Mary Jane Milligan Braden is damaged but has been repaired.

By the end of our tour, I’d seen parts of Tucker I’d never seen before. But it made me eager to find more of these hidden gems tucked away in the neighborhoods around me. To glimpse the forgotten history of the place I now call home.

Because you never know what’s waiting in your own backyard.

Photo Finish: Pictures That Stay With Me

This week, I decided to look through my growing collection of photos and choose some that have caught my imagination but that I have not shared with you yet. Some I know about and others remain a total mystery.

Near the entrance of Westview is a large panoramic sculpture of the Last Supper. It’s quite elaborate and detailed. German-born Fritz Paul Zimmer made Atlanta his home. He operated his own art school and was a professor at Oglethorpe University.

This sculpture of the Last Supper by German artist Fritz Paul Zimmer is eye catching.

This sculpture of the Last Supper by German artist Fritz Paul Zimmer is eye catching.

I don’t know anything about Walter Andrews (besides the fact he was a big wig in the Elks Lodge). But I really like the art deco style of his monument, from the font of the words to the clean lines. It’s something I don’t see often.

The art deco style isn't something I often see on a monument but it always makes me stop to look.

The art deco style isn’t something I often see on a monument but it always makes me stop to look.

I don’t remember whose monument this anchor was on. But I was clearly taken with the detail on it. The authentic look of the rope and the iron makes it look almost real.

The detail in the carving of this anchor is amazing.

The detail in the carving of this anchor is amazing.

The day I took this picture the sky was a vivid white. From the angle I took it, the eyes look pensive and full of thought. It really stands out for me.

The sculpture of St. John the Baptist against the plain white sky gives it a stark, bare look.

The sculpture of St. John the Baptist against the plain white sky gives it a stark, bare look.

I could share a hundred photos from Oakland Cemetery, the grand dame of cemeteries in Atlanta, and still not get to them all. There are just too many interesting images to limit to a blog post.

When I took a tour of Oakland last spring, the guide told us that during the awful tornado of 2008, the monument pictured below sustained damage. The tall spire literally crashed to the ground. But with loving care, it was restored. The angel leaning on his trumpet is beautifully detailed.

This monument at Oakland Cemetery was damaged during the a tornado but has been restored.

This monument at Oakland Cemetery was damaged during the a tornado but has been restored.

An angel leans against his trumpet at the base of the monument.

An angel leans against his trumpet at the base of the monument.

Last spring, I spent several days photographing Sugar Hill Baptist Church Cemetery up in northern Gwinnett County. This grave is a modern one and I’ve seen a few other examples of it but it still grabs at my heart when I see it.

SugarHillDomingue

The image of the weeping angel, face hidden in grief, is stunning.

Joseph “Jody” Paul Domingue wasn’t even 20 when he died. He was on a construction site digging a deep trench that wasn’t properly braced. It collapsed on him and he was killed. The angel crying over his grave seems very fitting for this young man’s short life.

Over the summer, I spent a few days photographing Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Tucker (near my home). While nosing around in the wooded edge of the property, I found this little plaque.

Cooter the dog was clearly a well loved pet, although I'm not sure his burial was approved beforehand.

Cooter the dog was clearly a well loved pet, although I’m not sure his burial was approved beforehand.

I don’t find pet graves in human cemeteries very often. There are a few at Oakland. I think Cooter was probably buried in secret without anyone seeking permission. But even if they had, I don’t think anyone would have said no. Having lived a long life, Cooter was clearly loved.

I’ve seen hundreds of monuments for little children who have died far too young. But the one of six-year-old Mary Ruth Britt sticks with me. The downcast face of the angel, her folded hands. It’s one of the most interesting in the cemetery.

The monument for little ? Britt is memorable.

The monument for little Mary Ruth Britt is memorable.

The symbol of the dove is quite common in grave symbolism. But I still find the differing styles very interesting. This one is at Phillips Cemetery in rural Fayette County.

This broken monument features a dove motif, a symbol of peace. It was carved for a child.

This broken monument features a dove motif, a symbol of peace.

Lucy Pharr is buried at Decatur Cemetery. Her grave has no dates on it. But the carving of a delicate dove clutching an olive branch in its beak speaks volumes.

Lucy Pharr's grave has no dates on it.

Lucy Pharr’s grave has no dates on it.

imageMilitary-themed monuments can be many styles. But this one from World War I is unlike any I have seen before or since.

I found this one at Fayetteville City Cemetery. It says "America Over the Top."

I found this one at Fayetteville City Cemetery. It says “Liberty: America Over the Top.”

I see monuments with the image of clasped hands on them a lot. But this one from a church cemetery in North Georgia is especially well done. The detail on the lady’s dress cuff and the gentleman’s sleeve is unique.

I'm not sure why, but of all the "clasped hamds" carving I have seen, this is my favorite.

I’m not sure why, but of all the “clasped hands” carvings I have seen, this is my favorite.

I love visiting cemeteries in other states because I get to observe monument styles and cultural differences that I don’t find in Georgia. This was evident at St. Mary’s Mount Cemetery in Kansas City, Mo. A Catholic cemetery dominated by Italian and Irish families, there’s a lot to look at.

I'd never seen a grave like this with a sort of window box on it before.

I’d never seen a grave like this with a sort of shadow box on it before.

There were a few examples of this temple-shadow box type of headstone at St. Mary’s. I don’t know what the cultural significance of it is. I don’t know if it’s Italian or of Hispanic origin. But it got my attention.

St. Mary’s also has many Italian graves that feature portraits of the deceased. Some of the faces are dour and serious. Others are more lighthearted. But it’s a wonderful way to get a better sense of who the person was. Here are two of an Italian couple.

The woman's expression is rather enigmatic. Regal, perhaps?

The woman’s expression is rather enigmatic. Regal, perhaps?

Her husband looks much happier than she does.

Her husband looks happier than she does.

Charleston, frankly, blew me away. There’s enough for a cemetery hopper like me to absorb to last for years. I could visit often and never see it all. Still, there are some other images I want to share. Magnolia Cemetery is especially interesting.

The decaying iron fencing around this family plot is common around Magnolia Cemetery.

The decaying iron fencing around this family plot is common around Magnolia Cemetery.

As you can see, the intricate wrought iron fencing around this plot is falling to pieces. The elements and lack of care are part of it. Magnolia is a large, old cemetery with not many people to care for it. Or money to restore parts of it.

This rusted gate stands sentry over loved ones from the past.

This rusted gate stands sentry over loved ones from the past.

The detail that was put into this mental work was astounding. It’s sad to know that it’s slowly falling into disrepair, never to be restored.

At Decatur Cemetery here in Atlanta, they did something about a much loved grave whose surrounding iron fence was falling apart. With support from the Friends of Decatur Cemetery, a local blacksmith restored the beautiful iron work.

What could have been lost forever has been restored at Decatur Cemetery.

What could have been lost forever has been restored at Decatur Cemetery. This is the grave of Emily Pittman, who died in 1853 at the age of 21.

I could keep on sharing photos for hours but I’ll end here. I hope you’ve enjoyed this pictorial journey of different monuments, unique styles.

I’ll do it again (with new photos) another time.

The Minister’s Wives: When a Widower Marries His Sister(s)-in-Law

A few weeks ago, I visited Decatur City Cemetery for the first time. It is probably the oldest cemetery of its size in Atlanta, even older than Oakland Cemetery.

Decatur Cemetery's Old Section is well worth a visit on a sunny day.

Decatur Cemetery’s Old Section is well worth a visit on a sunny day.

I stopped by the office to find the location of a few graves and met Wilbur, who was more than happy to help me. He and his co-worker, Demetrius, were a welcome surprise to a hopper like me. The reception I get at cemetery offices is not always friendly. When the computer database didn’t yield what I was looking for, Wilbur went through the old paper card files. Still no luck.

That’s when he got out the old cemetery books from the 1800s. I carefully handled the worn pages, scanning the faded handwritten names and dates from another age. Together, we found the information. After thanking them both, I was on my way. If you are ever looking for a grave, visit Wilbur and Demetrius. They are top notch fellows who will go the extra mile to help you.

The grave of Anne Reynolds, who died in 1827, is one of the oldest at Decatur Cemetery.

The grave of Anne Reynolds, who died in 1827, is one of the oldest at Decatur Cemetery.

It didn’t take long to find the graves. While meandering through what is referred to as the Old Section, I came upon the monument for the family of the Rev. William Henry Clarke. His name was on one side of the base, his wife, Alice, on another, and their teenage son was on another. Rev. Clarke was born in 1804 and died in 1872. I didn’t think much of it until I got home and started digging into his past.

Alice was the second of the three wives of Rev. Clarke. What was especially unusual about Rev. Clarke’s wives is that they were all sisters. He married the oldest sister, Melinda Kirby, in 1828. Their son, the Rev. Elijah Henry Clark, served with distinction in the Confederate Army in the Civil War, and was a representative for DeKalb County in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Tintype of the Rev. Elijah Henry Clarke in his Confederate uniform. He was the firstborn son of Rev. William Henry Clarke and his first wife, Melinda.

Tintype of the Rev. Elijah Henry Clarke in his Confederate uniform. He is buried in Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery.

After Melinda died in February 1837, Rev. Clarke married the next oldest Kirby sister, Alice, a mere two months later in April. Alice died in August 1863. Rev. Clarke waited a little longer to marry younger sister, Julia Anne Kirby, in March 1865. He died seven years later, but Julia Anne is recorded to have died in 1905.

One of my friends commented that Rev. Clarke must have had a good relationship with his in-laws.

A widower marrying not just one but two of his first wife’s sisters is rare. But one sister-in-law? Not so much. In an era when healthcare was just emerging from the Dark Ages, women died much earlier than they do now, often in childbirth. As a result, a man might be left with several young children and no one to help him care for them.

Lack of sanitary conditions and other factors made childbirth a risky proposition in earlier centuries.

Lack of sanitary conditions and other factors made childbirth a risky proposition for women in earlier centuries.

The 1850 U.S. Census lists Alice and Rev. Clarke as having four children ranging in age from an infant to 14-year-old Elijah. Julia Ann was living with them at the time. Unmarried, she probably helped Alice care for the children and was well acquainted with her brother-in-law.

This is the Clarke family's monument. The son of the Rev. Clark and his wife, Alice, died a few years after his mother.

This is the Clarke family’s monument. Robert, the son of Rev. Clark and Alice, died a few years after his mother.

Today, one might look at such marriages with a raised eyebrow, thinking perhaps some adulterous affair was brewing before the death of the wife. But most of the time, it was a matter of practicality, not romance. While Rev. Clarke made a decent living as a Methodist minister, he probably had little time to look after his children or the money to pay a nanny. When Alice died, there were still three children under the age of 16 in the house. It was only natural that Rev. Clarke might turn to Julia Anne to take their mother’s place.

The identity of this group is unknown but they represent the typical family of a Victorian-era minister (or vicar in Britain) and his family. If a wife died young, who would care for her children?

The identity of this group is unknown but they represent the typical family of a Victorian-era minister (or vicar in England) and his family. If a wife died young, who would care for her children?

One example of this situation is the case of British author Jane Austen’s younger brother, Charles. In 1814, his first wife, Fanny, died in childbirth. Being a naval officer, he left his surviving three daughters in the care of his wife’s older sister, Harriet, and returned to sea.

Author Jane Austen's brother, Charles, is pictured with his first wife, Fanny. She died in childbirth.

Author Jane Austen’s brother, Charles, is pictured with his first wife, Fanny. She died in childbirth.

In 1820, Charles and Harriet married and had three sons and a daughter. Charles’ career in the Navy does not appear to have faltered because of his marriage. He became a rear admiral in 1846, and was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the East India and China Station in 1850. The Austens were married for 32 years, until Charles died in 1852. Harriet died in 1869.

However, England’s Anglican Church was against most of these unions, considering it almost akin to incest. Reformer Felicia Skene’s novel, The Inheritance of Evil; Or, the Consequences of Marrying a Deceased Wife’s Sister (1849) addressed this topic in melodramatic fashion.

Author Felicia Skene was a faithful Anglican and strongly opposed the practice of a widower marrying his sister-in-law.

Author Felicia Skene was a faithful Anglican and opposed the practice of a widower marrying his sister-in-law.

The prohibition against a man marrying his brother’s wife does have religious roots. It comes from an Old Testament text: “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an impurity: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.” (Leviticus 20:21.) Genesis 2 states that husband and wife “became one flesh,” therefore a wife’s sister was really the husband’s own sister, so he shouldn’t marry her.

The Marriage Act of 1835 made marriages between widows or widowers and their siblings in-law illegal. Any such couple that wished to marry had to go to a country with more flexible marriage laws, such as Italy or Norway. The Act DID legalize all marriages within the prohibited degrees of affinity (i.e. with deceased wife’s sister) that had taken place before August 31, 1835, such as that of Charles Austen. It’s hinted that he and Harriet may have wed in France, indicating that even before the Act was passed, they feared public opinion might go against them.

As far as I know, such a law was not in place in the U.S., so the practice was much more accepted. In fact, it cropped up in my own husband’s family tree. One of Chris’ great-great-grandfathers, after the death of his first wife, married her younger sister.

Annie Musson Newland was the second wife of Abraham Newland, Jr.  His first wife was Annie's sister, Mary Jane. Photo courtesy of Marcia Farina.

Annie Musson Newland was the second wife of Abraham Newland, Jr. His first wife was Annie’s sister, Mary Jane. Photo courtesy of Marcia Farina.

In 1907, Parliament passed the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act, which repealed the section of the 1835 Marriage Act outlawing these marriages. However, it was still illegal for a man to marry his widowed sister-in-law after the death of his brother. That impediment was removed with passage of the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act of 1921.

Going back to Rev. Clarke, I’ve been unable to find out where the first and third Mrs. Clarkes are buried. I do wonder if the Kirby sisters (as young girls) ever imagined that each one of them would become the wife of a minister one day. Perhaps.

Just not to the same one.

A towering tree provides shade for those resting in peace at Decatur Cemetery.

A towering tree provides shade for those resting in peace at Decatur Cemetery.

Update: Reviving Old Greencastle Cemetery

Back in May 2013, I wrote about my visit to Old Greencastle Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. The title of that post was “When a Cemetery Dies” because when I was there, that’s what it looked like. The place was slowly sliding into ruin with little evidence of anything changing.

This was how Old Greencastle looked in November 2012.

This was how Old Greencastle looked in November 2012.

Old Greencastle has a special place in my heart, as I noted then, because my great-great-grandparents are buried there. They were not wealthy people so it’s possible they never had a marker placed on their graves when they died (in 1912 and 1919).

But in addition to that, Old Greencastle haunted me even after I left it because it made me sad and a little bit angry. From what I could tell, it had suffered many years of neglect with sporadic attempts to fix it. My research indicated that responsibility for the cemetery had become a “not my problem” issue. The City of Dayton wasn’t interested and the landlord for the property seemed overwhelmed by the problem.

During my visit, however, I noticed that the one section of the cemetery that was well cared for was for the Civil War veterans. That section’s grass was neatly cut and flags were placed beside each grave. I even saw some out in the rest of the cemetery. So I knew someone was trying to keep up with maintaining the veterans’ graves. But much of the rest was a disaster.

The section for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War was the only area that looked like it got regular care in 2012.

The section for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War was the only area that looked like it got regular care in 2012.

It didn’t help matters when I read later that there were problems at the New Greencastle Cemetery, just down the road, as well.

Imagine my surprise when the following comment was posted below that blog post last week:

Old Greencastle Cemetery is indeed in need of volunteers to help make it other than “abandoned.” That said, Dayton Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman Camp #93 members have for three years been returning honor to CW vets there by placing veteran markers, donating a U.S. flag and lights for the flagpole, and cutting weeds and grass in the Grand Army of the Republic Post 79 section and elsewhere. They have located and registered the graves of more than 150 CW veterans in the cemetery.They’ve marked many CW vet graves that have no tombstones. They are cleaning existing military grave markers.

The SUVCW is being helped by Montgomery Co. Department of Veterans Services and others working to ensure veterans and other people buried at Old Greencastle are not forgotten. Community volunteers including several grounds maintenance professionals, workers provided by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, and New Greencastle Cemetery staff donated about 400 work hours during 2013 helping restore the grounds. Volunteer clean-up and maintenance efforts will continue in the future. Come for another visit.

Well, I was floored, to put it mildly. So I hit the Internet to see what was happening. As it turns out, quite a bit.

Workers dive into the jungle of weeds and other brush at Old Greenwood Cemetery. Photo courtesy of WHIO

Workers dive into the jungle of weeds and other brush at Old Greenwood Cemetery. Photo courtesy of WHIO

A news article about the cleanup in October 2013 indicated that during the work, they had to call the sheriff. They’d discovered a shallow grave with exposed bones. The medical examiner was called out to investigate. I don’t know if that ever got resolved. It just further emphasized the need for a change.

At the same time, I was thrilled to learn how many people were stepping up to the plate alongside the General William T. Sherman Camp #93 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). Workers from local landscaping company Bladecutters were volunteering their own time to help clean up Old Greencastle. That’s something a lot of people wouldn’t do.

I haven’t been back to Old Greencastle yet, but after hearing this good news, I’m eager to see it. The only evidence I have of these efforts is a picture posted by WDTN, but even that was exciting.

Old Greencastle looks a lot better in this photo than when I saw it last. Photo courtesy of WDTN.

Old Greencastle looks a lot better in this photo than when I saw it last. Photo courtesy of WDTN.

So what finally clicked to enable this group to come together? What set the wheels in motion? Did my blog post have anything to do with it? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter as long as this hard work continues. From the assurances I’ve received from the folks at the SUVCW, the odds are good that Old Greencastle is going to get the continued care and maintenance it needs and deserves. I would hate to see it go back to its old state.

Because when even one cemetery is saved, history is preserved. That may not mean a lot to some but for those seeking the secrets of their past, it means a great deal.

Count me as one of them.

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