Tag Archives: Green-Wood Cemetery

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

Where Did New Yorker’s Go For Rest & Relaxation in the 1840s and 50s? To The Cemetery, Of Course.

Before There Was Central Park, There Was Green-Wood Cemetery

Greenwood Cemetery Bayside Ave.Fern Hill Mausoleums print published 1855

Greenwood Cemetery Bayside Ave. Fern Hill Mausoleums – print published 1855

While few New Yorker’s today take Central Park for granted, there was a time in the city’s history that open spaces where nature could be enjoyed unimpeded by noise and pollution were scarce.

Greenwood Cemetery The Angels Await stereoview circa 1870

Greenwood Cemetery The Angels Await stereoview circa 1870

The great public parks which we enjoy today did not come into existence until the late 1850’s with the creation of Central Park followed by Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in 1867. From the 1840s until the 1860s, the rural cemetery was the place to go if a New Yorker or visitor wanted to experience rolling hills, plains, lakes, fabulous artworks and stroll peacefully while contemplating life.

The oldest of these rural cemeteries in New York City is Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery which was founded in 1838.

Green-Wood itself put out its own tour book soon after its creation to give visitors what they called “the tour.”

Green-Wood Cemetery admission ticket 1886

Green-Wood Cemetery admission ticket 1886

What could you expect when you got there besides mausoleums and tombstones?

Nature in abundance.

To give you an idea of how popular it was to visit Green-Wood, this section of Appleton’s New York City and Vicinity Guide by W. Williams, published by D. Appleton and Co. (1849) extols some of Green-wood’s virtues: 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

At Death’s Door: Beautiful Mausoleum Doors & Gates At Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

An Artistic Treasure – Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery Mausoleum Doors And Gates

Frederick Kampfe mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Frederick Kampfe mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defined a mausoleum as “the final and funniest folly of the rich.”

Of course some of the mausoleums at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn are elaborate and cost as much as a nice house back in the day. But regardless of Bierce’s cynicism, many of the wealthy spent large amounts of money hiring top architects to design and build their final resting places in hopes of producing eternal shrines to themselves. While many names emblazoned on the tombs are now forgotten, their inhabitants ended up with some beautiful and memorable architectural work that because of their location, a cemetery, is not seen by many.

Thorne - Smith mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Thorne – Smith mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Here we are focusing on the doors and gates to these mausoleums which were done by artisans of the highest caliber. Some are ornate, some are ostentatious, and some are simple yet elegant.

While some of the decorations on the doors are purely artistic in form, others display symbols which have deeper meanings. Because these mausoleums were commissioned works, the symbolism displayed on the doors was usually well thought out by their owners.

In the 19th and early 20th century many people who visited cemeteries understood the subtle meanings of the icons. It is now mostly a lost art, with crosses, Stars of David, and other common symbols dominating newer funeral markers.

Let us pause and gaze at a few examples of mausoleum portals featuring old school craftsmanship at fabulous Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (click any ph0to to enlarge)

Peter Moller mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Peter Moller mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Valentine Mott mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Valentine Mott mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

The large angel in relief is flanked on top by two smaller angels blowing trumpets representing the Call to the Resurrection.

Acea mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Acea mausoleum door Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

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