Friday, February 27, 2015

London, England

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground: Here lies 'the father of English hymnody': Isaac Watts D.D.  You know him best for the lyrics to a hymn we have made a Christmas carol: "Joy to the World." In all though, he wrote over 750 hymns, including "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," which Charles Wesley admired above all others. Right across City Road, many of Watts's hymns are sung every Sunday and Wednesday at Wesley's Chapel. [2015]

Thursday, February 26, 2015

London England

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground: This is what everyone knows about Susanna Wesley (much of which is commemorated on her headstone below): (1) She is called the mother of Methodism because of her two sons, John and Charles. (2) She was the 25th of 25 children of Rev. Samuel Annesley and his wife Mary. (3) With her husband, Rev. Samuel Wesley, she had 19 children of her own, the 15th of whom was John Wesley, Methodist patriarch. Nonconformist, evangelical Christianity ran in the family. Her father, husband, and two sons were all prominent preachers who operated on the periphery of Anglican Christianity. Right across the street from Bunhill Fields is Wesley's Chapel, and she has a monument there, too. When she was buried in Bunhill Fields, however, the chapel did not exist. Otherwise, she would probably have been buried in the churchyard. [2015]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

London, England

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground:  His cap betrays his employer: the City of London. He is one of the groundskeepers at Bunhill Fields, but he also doubles as 'attendant with key.' Want to see the grave of the father of Bayesian statistics or the mother of John Wesley? He will unlock the gate and take you there. In other words: Conform to the rules! Non-conformists not welcome. Or it might just be a conservation measure. On the map below, all graves along the winding white paths are closed to the public unless you find an attendant. [2015]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

London, England

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground:   The Pilgrim's Progress was first published in 1678 and has never been out of print. Its celebrated author was John Bunyan, who died ten years later. What you see below is neither his original burial plot nor his original tomb. In the 1860s, however, his celebrity status had generated such a pilgrimage trail that a new vault, based on the original but without the effigy or bas reliefs, was commissioned by one of the well-known sculptors of the day. As he lies looking upward at the heavens (the ultimate goal of pilgrims' progress), an incumbent reincarnated Bunyan serves as the centerpiece of London's famous mortuary garden. [2015]

Monday, February 23, 2015

London, England

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground:  Because of its antiquity and the many famous people buried here, Bunhill Fields may be London's most well known cemetery. The last known burial took place in 1860: seems like over 200 years of entombment had filled the place up! Those interred here had one thing in common: They were non-conformists like Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists. Perhaps that tendency to think outside the box is the reason we can find here at least three foundation stones of British literature: Bunyan, De-Foe, and Blake. [2015]

Friday, February 20, 2015

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

One of Many ~ The Boulet Clan:  A name with obvious French origins should map onto the Francophone settlement pattern of the United States, and it does. On a choropleth map generated from the 1920 Census, Boulet families are most numerous in Louisiana and on the border with Canada. Sources are unclear about the meaning of Boulet, but someone who speaks French thinks immediately of a ball. Portrayed on the headstone is not the shore of Normandy (likely the origin of the first Boulets to North America), but the shore of the Narragansett Bay. Quidnessett Cemetery. [2009]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ellsworth, Wisconsin

One of Many ~ The Janisch Clan:  Janisch is a rare surname in the United States; it originates with the Christian name Jan or Johannes. From the map, you can see that Janisch families were concentrated in the Upper Midwest in 1920. Still, the number of families was few. To the prairies of the United States they came from central Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, part of an immigrant wave from the Slavic frontier of the German realm. Maple Grove Cemetery. [2012]

Monday, February 16, 2015

St. Petersburg, Florida

One of Many ~ The Smith Clan: Smith is the most common family name in the United States. It's ubiquitous on cemetery landscapes. Historically, the Smiths were metal workers, a skill you would need in every village and city. From the epitaph, "The Love of My Life," he was obviously smitten with his wife. Smitten from smit, which mean strike: same Germanic root as Smith.  But, just as it has a history, the Smith name also has a geography. Examine the map of Smith families as recorded in the 1920 Census. Because the name is so common, the pattern mirrors the pattern of population distribution. Memorial Park Cemetery. [2014]

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Landscapes of Love:  Valentine's Day (tomorrow!) is for mothers, too. It's still not too late to send some roses. "When you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know." That's from For One More Day by Mitch Albom. Mechanicsburg Cemetery. [2014]

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Franklin, Virginia

Landscapes of Love:  St. Valentine's Day is coming up. Saints are usually commemorated on the day they die, not the day they are born. In fact, about most ancient saints we rarely know even their year of birth. St. Valentine lost his life on February 14 sometime in the third century, and here's a celebration of his life in a simple Virginia churchyard. Poplar Springs Cemetery. [2013]

Monday, February 9, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia

Landscapes of Love:  On the cemetery landscape, every day is Valentine's Day. In life, we have one day set aside to celebrate love. In death, we make love the one emotion we want to last forever.  With a name like theirs, this couple (apparently still with us) must make an uber-holiday of February 14. Westview Cemetery. [2014]

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Maximalist Memorials:  When you think you have stood out in life, you also want to stand out in death. Perhaps the most traditional way of maximizing your impact on a cemetery landscape is to defy death with an obelisk. What is so death defying about an obelisk? It is as you used to be: vertical. North Cemetery. [2013]

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rifle, Colorado

Maximalist Memorials:  It doesn't take a mausoleum to achieve maximum impact. It takes love from those left behind, love expressed in words, photographs, icons, and mementoes. Here's the inscription: "He is who you want to be, everybody does.  He’s 5'11" and has dark brown hair with vibrant hazel eyes that warm you when you look into them. Courage is built like an athlete that comes from years of baseball and football. But courage has more than looks, much more. Courage was born a leader, when he speaks you can’t keep from listening, but the path he walks is the one you want to follow. He cares so much. Sometimes a little to much. Courage just wants love. He doesn’t see that I love him, more than anything in the world. If only he had closed his eyes one last time to see how much he means to me. He takes charge, on the court, the field, at home, class, and everywhere else. He was the athlete with the biggest heart and the natural talent, you didn’t find that in anyone. People envy him so much, but that’s a good thing. To envy him means that you will push yourself to become someone to be proud of. He pushed himself for nobody but him, he loved the feeling of knowing how well he did in something. He didn’t do it for everyone else, he did it for him. You may call him perfect, or flawless but is there really anyone like that?  He’s the oldest of 5 children, he took his siblings under his wing, he promised to himself that he would protect them from everything he could. Courage may seem unhuman to you, and now he is, but when he was just like you and I he hurt just the same. Open your eyes sleeping angel, just one last time. Courage you were strong, you fought till the end. All I want to say now “Take my hand courage and never let go. I promise you won’t have to walk alone.” But I lost him, he’s wandered too far from his path. Now he’ll never be able to hold my hand again. Courage was only a boy but he fought like a man. He is gone now but his legacy will carry on." Rose Hill Cemetery. [2013]

Monday, February 2, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia

Maximalist Memorials: Entombed here is "a noble Atlantan who built an empire with his own hands." He was in the right place at the right time, Atlanta after the Civil War, to profit from the rebuilding boom that saw a new Atlanta rise from the ashes of Sherman's March. Now, atop his own mausoleum he sits, keeping track of those who come to honor him and his wealth. When he died, he was reputed to be the richest man in the city. Oakland Cemetery. [2014]