Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Death Most Cruel

Maple Grove Cemetery, Pleasant Mount, PA


In the 19th century, husbands and wives purposely produced numerous children in their families, with the understanding that there was a very good chance that several of them---and possibly most of them---would not survive to see adulthood.  In Fatal Years by Preston and Haines, the authors claim that nearly one out of every five children died before the age of five in the early to mid-1800’s.  

Nutrition and accidents, of course, played a role in early childhood deaths, but the most common reason for these deaths was disease---diseases that we today rarely fear or even encounter.  Whooping cough, diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, polio, “consumption” or tuberculosis, and smallpox wreaked havoc in the American population in the 1800’s, and took the lives of many children and young people.

As scientific thought and experimentation progressed through the 19th century, breakthroughs in disease prevention produced vaccines and improved medical sanitation.  By the turn of the 20th century, infant and child mortality rates began to decline, and the average family size followed suit, from an average of eight children to four.

But until the 20th century brought relief from the constant threat of the too-soon death of children, the 19th century suffered and mourned the loss of its young.  The ultimate symbol of death for those of the Victorian age was a sleeping child, most likely because it was so common a sight.  Today’s world might see a 19th-century sepia-colored photograph of a dead child and think it gruesome.  But for a 19th century mother, that picture of her deceased child might have been the only picture she had of him, and would be treasured by her and her husband.  The 19th century bereaved parents would also find comfort in erecting a marble monument to the memory of their child.  In some cases, that gravestone might join its brothers and sisters in a family plot, full of small stones that all too clearly illustrated the prevalence of a death most cruel---the death of a child.

I have shown symbols of a child's death in some previous blogs, such as lily of the valley and broken buds and blooms.  Below, I will share some others:  a sleeping child (symbolizing not death, but the kinder "eternal sleep"), empty baby shoes (these appear in the late 19th century and early 20th century), sayings that refer specifically to children, cherubs (chubby little children-like angels), angels carrying children heavenward, and children as angels themselves.  The most common child symbol, the lamb, will be featured next week as March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  Until then...

Bethel Methodist Cemetery, Bedford Valley, PA

Bethel Methodist Cemetery, Bedford Valley, PA

Bristol Cemetery, Bristol, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Hollisterville Cemetery, Hollisterville, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montgomery Baptist Cemetery, Montgomeryville, PA

Mt. Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA

Mid-20th Century Sentiment, Riverside Cemetery, Norristown, PA

St. Luke's UCC Cemetery, Dublin, PA

St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. John's Lutheran Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. Mary's Cemetery, Doylestown, PA

St. Michael's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

St. Thomas Whitemarsh Cemetery, Fort Washington, PA

Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Maple Grove Cemetery, Pleasant Mount, PA
Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA


Chase Cemetery, Fleetville, PA

Delaware Water Gap Cemetery, Delaware Water Gap, PA

Greenwood Cemetery, Falls, PA

Nicholson Cemetery, Nicholson, PA
Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA

Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA

Prompton Cemetery, Prompton, PA
"Too Pure For Earth," New Britain Baptist Cemetery, New Britain, PA

Boehm's UCC Cemetery, Blue Bell, PA

Bristol Cemetery, Bristol, PA

"Gone So Soon," Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Lewes, DE

Late 20th Century--Sleeping Child in Seashell, Canadensis United Methodist Church, Canadensis, PA

Bethel Methodist Cemetery, Bedford Valley, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

The next few from Gettysburg are life-size and poignant, Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Newton Cemetery, Newton Ransom, PA


Overfield Cemetery, Meshoppen, PA

Pleasantville UCC Cemetery, Pleasantville, PA

Prompton Cemetery, Prompton, PA

Close-up, Richboro Union Cemetery, Richboro, PA

Richboro Union Cemetery, Richboro, PA

West Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA
This is modern, very modern, and yet completely moved me. Deep Run Mennonite East, Bedminster, PA

Modern Stone, Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Modern Stone, Odd Fellows Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

I found this tribute moving, Quakertown Union Cemetery, Quakertown, PA

A Family Plot, Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

A Family Plot, Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA


Children's Graves in front of Parents, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

A Sadly Familiar Sight from the 19th Century, Pleasantville UCC Cemetery, Pleasantville, PA


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sad. A very somber reminder of the fragility of life. May we all find peace in the arms of Hashem.