Tag Archives: Epitaphs

This Tombstone Stopped Me In My Tracks

The Heroic Edwin Gaddis Of New York

Edwin J Gaddis Greenwood CemeteryWhen wandering through historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn it’s easy to be distracted by the grand mausoleums and elaborate memorials and pass by the more common looking tombstones.

I was struck by this simple memorial to Edwin John Gaddis who died July 23, 1883. His grave marker in section 91 of the cemetery reads as follows:

Edwin J. Gaddis,
Born October 23, 1861
Died July 23, 1883.
Drowned in Peconic Bay
Jamesport L. I.
While trying to save life
Greater love hath no man than this
That he lay down his life for his friends. John XV.13

Edwin Gaddis top tombstone Greenwood Cemetery 150811On the top of the tombstone the following words are inscribed:

Your honor, your name,
And your praises shall ever remain.
Your fame shall be eternized.

Eternized, a word not used much today means, to make eternal; immortalize.

Who was Edwin Gaddis? What was his life like? What would make someone risk (and lose) their life?  Who exactly were the people he tried to save and were they actually saved?

Besides what is etched on Gaddis’ tombstone, there is virtually no information online about his life. There were however three news items online about his death. This most complete story that answers many of the questions I asked was reported by the New York Tribune on Wednesday, July 25, 1883: Continue reading

Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery Epitaphs

To Be Remembered – Some Thoughts About Inscriptions On Tombstones

Green wood Henry Croatman epitaph 1120840
 
Henry Croatman                                                  Eddie Brewster Croatman 
Born January 17 1845                                                Died Dec. 2, 1878
Died June 4, 1876                                                        Aged 19 Mo’s 26 Days
 
Come view the grave and drop a tear                           Budded on earth
O’er your kind brother once so dear                              To bloom in heaven
Who once delighted in your charms
But now he’s bound in deaths cold arms
 

When wandering around Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn I especially take note of  monuments with epitaphs. Rather than gravitate towards the costly and grand monuments that abound in great numbers, I am drawn to those anonymous graves with no known fame attached to them. It is interesting to see how these people, buried long ago, are eulogized in stone.

Green wood John F Abbott epitaph 1100936John F. Abbott
Died Sept. 23rd, 1857
Aged 23 Years and 10 Months
A Good Life Hath But Few Days
But A Good Name Endureth Forever

 

Many of these monuments mark the last resting spots of common people with unextraordinary lives. But we all have a story to tell. Tombstones try to do that. How can you sum up a person’s life with a few sentences?

Green wood Ann Lee epitaph 1160006A Tribute of Love to
My Dear Wife
ANN LEE
Died Feb. 25, 1887
Aged 58 Years
A fond and faithful wife,
A dear devoted mother,  And a kind friend to all

Without their simple marker and words engraved upon them, these people’s lives would go completely unrecognized. Today, it is hard to fathom that thought, considering all the information that is now collected and shared about us.

Green wood C Ella Ellison epitaph 1120836C. Ella Ellison
Wife of John T. Ellison
Born March 22, 1846
Died December 20, 1900
 
A Loving Daughter,
A Devoted Mother,
A Faithful Wife

 

Continue reading

Our Gang / Little Rascals Star Norman Chubby Chaney No Longer Has An Unmarked Grave

“Chubsy-Ubsy” Finally Gets A Headstone

Jackie Cooper, June Marlowe, Shirley Jean Rickert, Norman Chubby Chaney, Dorothy DeBorba

Jackie Cooper, June Marlowe, Shirley Jean Rickert, Norman Chubby Chaney, Dorothy DeBorba

Norman “Chubby” Chaney, a star for Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies, (aka the Little Rascals) had been buried in an unmarked grave at Baltimore Cemetery since 1936. He was the first former cast member to pass away.

Chaney appeared in the early Our Gang sound films from 1929 – 1931, winning a lookalike contest to replace Our Gang heavyweight Joe Cobb.

One of the the most beloved short films of the series that Chaney starred in was where he was competing with Jackie Cooper for their teacher, Miss Crabtree’s (June Marlowe), affection and attention. In that film, Love Business (1931), Chubby said the immortal words, “Don’t call me Norman, call me Chubsy-ubsy.”

When Chaney died at the age of 21 in 1936 following an operation to correct a glandular disorder, the family had no money to put up a marker in the cemetery.

Finally last year through the efforts of Detroit musician Mikal C.G., money was raised through online donations to put up a headstone. The unveiling ceremony on November 10, 2012, was attended by less than a dozen observers. Whether or not Chaney attracts visitors to his grave, his performances preserved on film will be viewed and enjoyed by countless generations to come.

Old, Curious and Unusual Epitaphs

Some Selections From “Here Lies” A Book About Graveyard Epitaphs

This book from 1900 whose full title is: Here Lies: Being a Collection of Ancient & Modern, Humorous and Queer Inscriptions from Tombstones compiled and edited by W.H. Howe, published by The New Amsterdam Book Company contains 197 pages of fascinating epitaphs, mostly from Great Britain. It was originally published in England in 1891 as Everybody’s Book of Epitaphs.

It’s difficult to believe that hundreds of years ago people were this creative about their own demise. Probably in many cases it was the friends and relatives of the deceased who were responsible for these final words etched in stone. Do you know what you would want written as your epitaph?

Here are a few of the better ones from this out of print gem:

Stephen Remnant

Here’s a Remnant of life, and a Remnant of death,
Taken off both at once in a remnant of breath;
To mortality this gives a happy release,
For what was a Remnant proves now the Whole piece.

 

Mr. Edward Pardon (a bookseller)

Here lies poor Ned Pardon, from misery freed,
Who long was a booksellers hack;
He led such a damnable life in this world,
I don’t think he’ll ever come back.

 

Continue reading

A Photographic Trip To Green-Wood Cemetery Part 3

Monuments And Odds & Ends

The focus for the final installment on Green-Wood Cemetery are monuments and some interesting things that I took note of.

Dogs

Dogs are not permitted to be buried in human cemeteries. Somehow though fourteen years after inventor Elias Howe’s death, a dog “Fannie,” was buried at the family plot in 1881. That is the exception.

For many people, their dogs were like members of the family. Continue reading

A Photographic Trip To Green-Wood Cemetery Part 2

Do You Know That Name?

Continuing the journey through historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn the next set of photographs concentrates on some names from history, some remembered today, others forgotten.

DeWitt Clinton

DeWitt Clinton has many things named after him in New York including a town, a high school, and a park. Known as the father of the Erie Canal, Clinton was a ten term mayor of New York City. Under his stewardship in 1811 the grid plan for the streets of New York City were instituted. He was also a United States Senator and Governor of New York State. Clinton lost the Presidential election of 1812 to James Madison by less than 10,000 votes and 29 electoral votes.

Clinton was moved to Green-Wood in 1844, sixteen years after his death. Continue reading

A Photographic Trip To Green-Wood Cemetery Part 1

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, Continue reading

One of the Strangest Deaths in New York’s History

Girls Chase A Boy to Give Him Birthday Kisses… and He Dies

Woodlawn Cemetery Is The Final Resting Place of George Spencer Millet Who Had One Of The Strangest Deaths In New York’s History

Woodlawn cemetery 1909 Gravestone of George Spencer Millet died while evading girls kisses on his birthday at Metropolitan Life Building

There is a book called Woodlawn Remembers: Cemetery of American History by Edward F. Bergman (North County Books, 1988.)  The book is mostly comprised of beautiful full page color and black & white photographs of monuments, tombstones and mausoleums with one page of text describing each person profiled.  The cemetery is located in the northern part of the Bronx and is on my shortlist of unusual places I recommend to visit in New York.

The book is fascinating to be sure. It covers many of the interesting and important historical figures at Woodlawn. But one story not mentioned, is the life and death of George Spencer Millet (misspelled as George Millitt by The New York Times in the story at the end of this article) who is interred at the cemetery.

Millet’s story is briefly recounted in Permanent New Yorkers A Biographical Guide To The Cemeteries of New York by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall (Chelsea Green 1987.) This book contains photographs too, but has more detailed biographies than Woodlawn RemembersPermanent New Yorkers also covers the entire New York area, not just focusing on the two most famous New York City cemeteries, Woodlawn and Greenwood. I highly recommend both of these out-of-print books.

It was February 15, 1909 and Millet must have been a very good looking boy, because when the girls he worked with at The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found out that it was his 15th birthday, they all insisted on giving him a kiss. Continue reading