A Different Way To Spend The Day In New York, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery
When I’m asked by people visiting New York what are some of the things they should do while they are here, my answer usually results in incredulous looks. “Go see Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx or Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.”
Most people will never visit a cemetery unless their relatives are located there. Even then, most people dread going to a cemetery. This is a mistake from a cultural standpoint. Cemeteries, especially historic ones like Green-Wood, possess landscape and architectural treasures that you cannot see in any museum. They also contain a history told in granite, marble, bronze, slate and limestone through an array of monuments, mausoleums, crypts, sarcophagi and tombstones of the permanent residents of Brooklyn. As Green-Wood describes itself on its web site:
Green-Wood is 478 spectacular acres of hills, valleys, glacial ponds and paths, throughout which exists one of the largest outdoor collections of 19th- and 20th-century statuary and mausoleums. Four seasons of beauty from century-and-a-half-old trees offer a peaceful oasis to visitors, as well as its 560,000 permanent residents.
The rural cemetery movement began in 1831 with the opening of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts, and forever changed the way people looked at how cemeteries interacted with the living. Green-Wood was one of the earliest United States cemeteries founded to embrace this movement of open space and beauty in a necropolis.
According to the Green-Wood promotional literature in 1850:
The advantages of large plots compared with vaults on single lots, are now generally appreciated. Many of the beautiful hills and knolls, which are found in the Cemetery, may be sepa- rately inclosed without incurring much more expense than will be necessary to inclose a single lot. More space is thus obtain- ed for interments, as well as for the adornment of the grounds with shrubbery and flowers. It prevents also that excessive and unsightly crowding together of monuments which prevails where single lots only are laid out, and greatly aids in preserving the rural character of the Cemetery.
Up until the 1830’s there were few parks and open spaces that were landscaped, and the rural cemetery provided a respite from city life. People could spend a day in a necropolis contemplating life and nature.
Green-Wood Cemetery was chartered in 1838 and quickly became the place to spend eternity in. During the early years of the cemetery it was a major tourist attraction with up to half a million people visiting it each year.
Green-Wood has a wide selection of the famous and infamous. Some people are there in fabulous mausoleums, some under simple tombstones, others in unmarked graves.
I find Green-Wood to be a beautiful place. Deep thoughts and meditation come easily here while contemplating life and death. There are monuments and tombs that probably have not had a visitor come to pay their respects in over a hundred years. And then there are others that receive visitors year round such as Leonard Bernstein or Jean-Michel Basquiat. The cemetery also has incredible views of New York City and overlooks New York Bay. People come to relax on the spacious grounds and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the fastest city on earth.
On the day I went, I just wandered around and took some photographs of what I thought were some interesting spots. I did not necessarily photograph the notable architecture, but was drawn to epitaphs, unusual monuments or names that I recognized.
Maybe it’s the realization that many of us live our lives in anonymity and death should not treat us the same way. Who were these people? What did they do? What were their lives like? Later, I researched and for some I was able to find out bits and pieces of their lives. For other people, finding out anything about them was difficult. Time may not have erased their names, but their life stories in print were nowhere to be found.
John Edward Stow Sutton“Gone Home” John Edward Stow Sutton Beloved Son of Belle Stow Sutton 1869-1909 A Sincere Christian And A Devoted Friend Belle Stow Sutton 1846 – 1913
Its been said that there are few things sadder than a child predeceasing their parents. John Edward Stow Sutton who died at the age of 40 of Bright’s Disease on November 3, 1909 at his home 134 Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn, left behind a bereaved mother Belle. Sutton was in the mining business, but later dedicated his life to managing his mother’s estate and his own real estate holdings in Westchester and New Hampshire. His likeness is cut into the stone.
On the tombstone of Francis Richardson and his wife Mary Wright Richardson, the way they note each of their children is interesting. Elizabeth Richardson 1821 -1908 is listed as “only daughter” born in England died in New York. Whereas John Henry Richardson 1823 – 1834 is noted as “only son” born and died in New York. As it was common for children to succumb to all sorts of maladies in the 19th century, the Richardson’s notation that each of these children as being the “only” children, conjures up an immense feeling of sadness that they did not have more children, and lost one in childhood.
John CameronJohn Cameron Died Nov 27, 1876 Aged 71 Years 19 Days An Earnest Christian A Good Citizen A Loving Husband And Father. Patient in Suffering Triumphant in Death Peace Sarah H. Wife of John Cameron Sept. 5, 1805 Jan. 8, 1890 Rest
There is nothing I could find out about John Cameron, but that epitaph of “Patient in Suffering – Triumphant in Death” leaves one to wonder about his travails in life.
John and Elizabeth BarterJohn Barter Died April 2nd 1865 Aged 62 Years Asleep To Jesus Elizabeth Wife Of John Barter Died March 2, 1879 Aged 82 Years 1 Mo And 19 Days. The Poor Have Lost A Friend
John Barter dabbled in real estate and was a director at The Mechanics’ Fire Insurance Company of Long Island. He died just one week before the surrender of General Lee, ending the Civil War. Elizabeth Barter was 84, not 82 according to her obituary in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Their monument which is quickly becoming eroded and illegible states “The Poor Have Lost A Friend.” Who that friend was, John or Elizabeth Barter and what they did to help the poor, is lost to history.
Reverend Miller was a Brooklyn fixture and a popular long-time Methodist pastor. His last affiliation was with the De Kalb Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church. At his funeral dozens of clergymen from around Brooklyn and Manhattan came to pay their respects and there was much lamenting at his untimely passing. He left behind a wife and six children. The back of his monument has a large bronze relief showing what Reverend Miller looked like, muttonchops and all.
Robert Cochran was a very well known lawyer and during his legal career in Westchester County filled the positions of County Judge, District Attorney and Supervisor. He died at his home in Brooklyn 343 Wyckoff Street. That address does not exist anymore. Wyckoff Street stops at number 299 and across Third Avenue, the street becomes St. Marks Place.
Margaret Jane Cochran & Catherine Eliza Cochran
Next to Robert Cochran are I believe, his sisters, Margaret Jane Cochran and Catherine Eliza Cochran. Their marker says:Margaret Jane Daughter Of Robert & Ann Cochran Born Aug. 20, 1817 Died Feb. 10, 1895 He Giveth His Beloved Sleep Catherine Eliza Daughter Of Robert & Ann Cochran Born Aug. 14, 1819 Died March 24, 1900 “In Their Lives They Were Lovely And In Death They Were Not Divided”
This tombstone has been rendered completely illegible. No name, date of birth, date of death – nothing is visible.
Except at the very bottom is inscribed this tender message: “None Knew Her But To Love Her.”
Maybe it is.
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