Friday, January 31, 2014

Taylor Memorial Cemetery In Florida

Located in central Florida is a town with a unique name, Howey-in-the-Hills.  Right off of Highway 19, one can find Taylor Memorial Cemetery.  This cemetery is pretty standard and organized meaning that most headstones are the basic granite with names and dates.  For the diehard taphophile like myself, it seems boring upon first glance, but there are some interesting characteristics within.

The founder of Howey-in-the-Hills set the town up as a corporation named W.J. Howey Company and it was through this entity that the land Taylor Memorial Cemetery sits upon was deeded.  The cemetery was established in 1950 and one of the first people laid to rest there was Dodge Taylor for whom the cemetery is named.  He was a leader in the citrus industry and helped pay off the debts of the city, which was in default during the 30s and 40s due to bad economic times.
A couple of the headstones caught my interest based on the unique images carved on the granite.  In this first one, there is a lighthouse with its light beaming, perhaps to light the path for this loved one to cross over:
This other headstone has a semi truck with the word “Dad” across the bumper leaving me to assume that this man was a trucker of some sort:
I like the inscription “I’ll be seeing you” as well with the sun rising over the hills.  Some other unique images from this cemetery:
I believe this statue is holding a sheaf of wheat, which carries the symbolism of the divine harvest of souls.  The woman is not an angel, which does make me wonder if she is the Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter.  This quite possibly may be the case when one considers that the harvest signifies the cycle of life and death and thus Demeter would have ruled over that cycle.  Fitting for a cemetery.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Colonial Park Cemetery In Savannah

Savannah is one of my favorite historic towns in the south.  The city was established by James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733 after he lead a group of colonists to the high bluff situated strategically on the Savannah River.  Oglethorpe designed the city in a very unique way using a concept of developing blocks around central squares.  Originally, there were twenty-four squares, most of which still exist today.  South of the square and street named for Oglethorpe is the Colonial Park Cemetery.  The cemetery was established in 1750.  As many as 9,000 people are buried here and it was closed to further burials in 1853.
One of the unique aspects of Colonial Park Cemetery are its mausoleums because they seem to be half buried in the ground.  Several of them are nearly buried to their roofs.

Colonial Park is a very old cemetery by American standards and thus many of the tombstones no longer exist.  Another issue arose during the Civil War when the Union occupied Savannah.  The cemetery was used as a place to camp and stable the horses and as happens, vaults were looted and tombstones were desecrated when troops changed dates on them in an attempt at some kind of humor.  For example, the number one might be added to an age to make it appear that someone died at the age of 162.  At most cemeteries, damaged headstones are just lost to history, but Colonial Park has done something unique.  The damaged headstones have been cemented to the back of the cemetery on a wall:
The most famous person buried here is Button Gwinnett who was one of the three Georgian signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Button was a trader whom arrived from England in Georgia in 1765 and was chosen as a representative to the Continental Congress due to his enthusiasm for colonial rights and desire for liberty.  He died from a wound sustained during a duel.
Speaking of duels, Colonial Park Cemetery became a favorite spot for duelists to be laid to rest.
Other notable people buried in the cemetery are James Johnson, Georgia’s first newspaper printer and publisher; Major John Berrien who served at Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War; Archibald Bulloch, first president of Georgia; the patriot Joseph Clay; and four members of the Habersham family.  Here are the burial plots of Joseph Clay and the Habershams respectively:
Samuel Elbert was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and later became Governor of Georgia.  He lies in this smaller above ground vault:
General Lachlan McIntosh was Georgia’s ranking Continental officer during the Revolutionary War.  He is buried in the same plot with several family members.  Unfortunately, his headstone is so weathered, it is nearly unreadable.  McIntosh is the individual who killed Button Gwinnett during a duel.
The Graham Vault is the resting place for two heroes of the Revolutionary War.  Or rather, it used to be the resting place.  One of those men was British, Lt. Colonel John Maitland, and the other American, Major General Nathanael Greene, and they both were later removed from the vault and buried elsewhere.
The following are various images from Colonial Park Cemetery.  I liked the symbolism on this first tombstone.  There is the hourglass symbolizing the passage of time and the scythe marking death and the divine harvest.  A woman is between the two with closed eyes and tilted head as though resigned to death.
These tombstones were damaged and braced with metal to hold them together:
I loved this enclosed plot.  One can also see the damaged tombstones that have been cemented on the back wall:
This appeared to be some sort of water fountain.  I’m open to suggestions in the comments area if anyone knows what this is:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Green Of Astatula Cemetery

One might assume based on the title of this post that I will be speaking of the greenery found at the town of Astatula’s cemetery.  Being that I am in Florida, the green of the grass and trees in a cemetery here is year round and in many cases it is quite beautiful, but today I want to share a story.  To me, cemeteries are not packed full of dead people, but rather, abounding in stories.  Every person that has been laid to rest whether it be in an urn, sprinkled across the ocean, buried in a magnificent coffin, cast out into the sea, buried in a shallow unmarked grave or elsewhere, has a story.  They were loved and now lost.  They lived a life, some shorter than others.

Today, I decided to stop and wander through a cemetery I pass by in my travels every week.  It is the town of Astatula, Florida’s cemetery.  As I meandered between plots snapping pictures of headstones that caught my eye, I saw a white truck turn in to the cemetery.  It rolled through slowly following a well worn path marked by tire tracks and I half thought for a moment that this was a maintenance truck.  The truck pulled up near me and an older woman asked me if I was taking pictures of the grave.  I wasn’t sure how to respond and I prepared to hear a lecture on trespassing or something.  I told the woman that I was indeed taking pictures of headstones because I was fascinated by them and that I passed by this cemetery many times and finally decided to stop and explore it.  She smiled and then began to share a bit of her story with me.
Lisa Margaret Green was born in 1968 and passed away in January 2008.  She was only forty years old.  I am forty-two, so the age really hit home for me.  As the case generally is with a young death, cancer was the thief that stole the life from Lisa.  Her mother, Viola, explained to me that Lisa had visited the doctor with symptoms that were misdiagnosed as early menopause.  Lisa actually was suffering from cervical cancer.  She succumbed after two painful years.  Her grave is covered with stones, which I found significant because laying a stone upon a headstone is a way to pay one’s respects.
Unfortunately, Viola’s story did not end there.  A magnificent granite headstone featuring mourning angels lies catercorner to Lisa’s grave and bears not only the name of Viola, but that of her husband, the Reverend Leo Green.  He had passed away only two months earlier.  Viola explained that Lisa’s death really took a toll on Leo and that he never was the same again.  She had come to the cemetery this morning to bring him flowers.  There were many plants and flowers at his grave and she explained that he had loved his flowers.  I told her that my late mother-in-law was a beautiful gardener as well and that we had spread her ashes in her garden.  Viola told me that she liked to visit Leo’s grave, so she could talk to him.
I wished her well and left her to her solemn duty grateful for the gift of her story.  So many times I study headstones wondering who is this person and today I was able to hear about two of them.

Astatula Cemetery In Florida

Astatula Cemetery was established on October 11th 1895 and was deeded to the town by T.A. and Mary Hux.  The cemetery sits in what I consider to be the center of the town next to the elementary school near the intersection of Highway 48 and Van Buren Street.  Some of the headstones here are so old that their etchings are completely gone leaving the occupant unidentified.  I found some very interesting headstones I wanted to share.  One that I did not get a picture of, but that had a wonderful dedication was for Sherry Lynn Cassidy.  She was only nineteen when she passed and here is what her family memorialized her with:
SHERRY” S is for being so Special to Us.  H is for the hurt we feel without you.  E is for the Everlasting Memories of you.  R is for Remembering You Always.  R is for Recalling All the Good Times. Y is for You and Everything You Are to Us All!  Put Them All Together and They Spell SHERRY. Someone We All Love Very Much, and She Will Be in Our Hearts Forever!!
The first mayor of Astatula, Shep,  is buried here with a headstone quite different from every other marker because it was formed from black granite:
This next headstone was unique because of the symbol of a hand pointing upward.  I had not seen this symbol before and it was on one of the older graves in the cemetery:
 This woman’s maiden name is Hux, which is the same as those who deeded the land for the cemetery so I assume she was related to the family in some way.  The next headstone has a unique symbolism on it as well seeming to indicate God reaching down from heaven to grab hold of the person who has passed on with the plea, “Precious Lord take my hand.”:
I took years of Spanish in school, but much of it has been lost to the recesses of my mind.  I’m not entirely sure what this marker states, but I do know the top phrase “hijo de mi alma” translates to “my darling boy or child.”
This grave marker features a statue of Jesus and was so worn that I do not know who is buried here.  The amount of wear on a headstone in Florida does not necessarily indicate age because I saw several very worn and tarnished stones dating only back to the 60s.  Florida weather, sun and humidity takes a toll.

I loved this plot because of the life sized dog statue.  The pup was wearing a collar and tag, so I assumed the statue was made from life to represent a lost pet and the owners had their headstone memorialized to indicate that they were going the way of pets, across the Rainbow Bridge:
This headstone has the popular form of displaying a book as a double page spread.  The book could be either the Bible or it could represent the Book of Life:
This memorial is what first caught my eye from the road and I had been curious about it for months.  I was quite disappointed when I arrived at the plot and discovered no further information.  There was actually no headstone, only a mortuary marker that will soon be lost to time.  I imagined that this individual liked elephants and perhaps these two statues were from a private collection.
The graves of children always touch me.  It seems so unfair to lose a life so young.  This little girl was indeed cherished and I loved what her grave marker had to say:
At the foot of this little girl’s grave I found a bench with her name painted on the top.  There appeared to be other writing and symbols painted on the bench, but they are beginning to fade:
I thought this marker was interesting because of the popular symbol of an urn.  The grapes with leaves symbolizes a Christian faith.
This final marker I included because the couple died within days of each other.  They were married to each other for a long time, 58 years.  I’m always touched when spouses die days or weeks apart, like Johnny Cash and his wife June.  I’m not sure about the cow statue, but Astatula is a small town and they could have been farmers.