The Matthews Monument at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Book of Life, Closed By Death

A very common symbol I've seen on 19th and early 20th century tombstones is a book, sometimes open, sometimes closed.  A book carved on a tombstone can symbolize a couple of things:  first, of course, it can be the Bible, demonstrating the faith of the deceased.  But an open book can represent the heart of the one who has passed on, being open to the world and open to receiving the bounty of the afterlife.  Many times, an open book is inscribed with the name and dates of existence of the deceased, or it may contain the biblical passage or psalm that was recited at their funeral service.  I also think there is a similarity between writing the name of the deceased's birth and death in a "book" on their tombstone and the 19th-century custom of writing the names and dates of existence of family members inside the cover of the family Bible.

A closed book, on the other hand, illustrates the last chapter or the final page, or quite frankly, The End.  Although, as Douglas Keister in Stories in Stone mentions, 19th century society viewed death only as the end in this realm and the beginning of the next chapter in Heaven.  Keister also states that a closed book can symbolize virginity, secrecy or mystery.  Hmm…I wonder if there are any mysteries in the past lives of the deceased showcased below….sigh….so many research projects, so little time!

Pile of Books Covered with Cloth, Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA     This is the monument for Andrew H. Reeder and his wife Amalia.  Reeder was an Easton attorney who was appointed by Pres. Franklin Pierce to serve as the governor of the new territory of Kansas in 1854, the year the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed into law.  The act nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and allowed for popular sovereignty for each new state to decide whether to allow slavery to be legal or not.  Reeder was originally selected because he was pro-South (his wife had family in VA) but after he witnessed the violence and bloodshed taking place in Missouri and Kansas, he changed his mind.  He was in danger of losing his appointment from Pierce (Pierce's Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis) and Reeder was also in danger of losing his life several times as mobs of pro-slavery factions tried to arrest and hang him.  Reeder returned to Easton and resumed his law practice, but in 1860 was the third most popular choice for Abraham Lincoln's vice presidential running mate.  (He took his name out of the running)  When war broke out, Lincoln appointed him a brigadier general, but Reeder declined, feeling he was too old to "learn a new profession."  He was in great demand in the Union as an anti-slavery speaker.  He died in Easton in 1864.  The closed books shown here could represent his law books and the profession he practiced ably.  They could also stand for the different aspects of his life, each chapter completed successfully.

Abington Presbyterian Church, Abington, PA

Aldenville Baptist Cemetery, Aldenville, PA

Belfast Union Cemetery, Belfast, PA

Belfast Union Cemetery, Belfast, PA

Beth Israel Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Bethel Methodist Cemetery, Bedford Valley, PA

Harley Cemetery, Harleysville, PA   "Bible"

Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

Bristol Cemetery, Bristol, PA

Centreville Cemetery, Stone Church, PA

.Christ Lutheran Cemetery, Harleysville, PA   Grapes stand for the blood of Christ.

Christ Lutheran Cemetery, Harleysville, PA

Church Hill Cemetery, Martin's Creek, PA  "In my father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you."

Church Hill Cemetery, Martin's Creek, PA   "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me."

Deep Run Mennonite West Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA     Emma's name is on her own Bible 

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA    Dove with Olive Branch as well.

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA   "Text:  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is Cain."

Glen Dyberry Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Kaiserville Cemetery, Kaiserville, PA     Many times, a preacher's gravestone is adorned with a book representing the Bible, and sometimes the whole monument is a Bible on a pulpit.

Kaiserville Cemetery, Kaiserville, PA  (the reverend's wife)

Haupt Cemetery, Ambler, PA

Hellertown Union Cemetery, Hellertown, PA
Immanuel Leidy's Cemetery, Souderton, PA

Indian Orchard Cemetery, Indian Orchard, PA  "Psalm iii: v    :      I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me."

Jerusalem Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Sellersville, PA

Lake Winola Cemetery, Lake Winola, PA

Laurel Cemetery, White Haven, PA     (It looks like a laurel leaf on the left and holly leaves on the right.  Both symbolize immortality.)

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA  (This is the top of a zinc monument of a noted spiritualist/medium in the Philadelphia area, and her husband, who was a prominent Mason.  "New revelations from the spirit world to the children of men through the mediumship of Mr. and Mrs. Levi E. Smith."  That's them)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA    (Reverend Walter Mumford, founder of the Mumford Memorial Baptist Church)

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA 

Lyon Street Cemetery, Tirzah, PA

McComas Chapel Cemetery, Canadensis, PA

Milford Cemetery, Milford, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA

Morrisville Cemetery, Morrisville, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

Mount Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA   (This has a cross and a crown on it, which reminds us of the saying, "No cross (or trials in life), no crown (or reward in Heaven).")

Mount Zion Cemetery, Snydersville, PA

Nockamixon Union Cemetery, Ferndale, PA   (Text:  1st Book of John, 11th Chapter, verse 26:  "And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?")

Northwood Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Plains Mennonite Cemetery, Lansdale, PA

Pleasantville UCC Cemetery, Pleasantville, PA

Ridge Valley Cemetery, Ridge Valley, PA

Riverview Cemetery, Portland, PA

Freeland Cemetery, Freeland, PA

South Montrose Cemetery, South Montrose, PA   (that is some nasty orange lichen or fungus)

St. Luke's UCC Cemetery, Dublin, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

St. Peter's Tohickon UCC Cemetery, Keelersville, PA

St. John's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Ridge Valley, PA
St. John's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Ridge Valley, PA

St. Luke's Evan. Lutheran Church, Ferndale, PA

St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Lewes, DE

St. Peter's Union Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

St. Peter's Union Cemetery, Hilltown, PA

Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA  (another preacher, Rev. Davison Worrell, member of the Wyoming Conference, part of the Methodist Episcopal Church)

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA  (with a garland of oak leaves, symbolizing strength)

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA  (more oak leaves)

Susquehanna Depot Cemetery, Susquehanna Depot, PA

Trinity Lutheran Cemetery, Pen Argyl, PA   (though very worn, this is a large "book" with family names on it)

Tunkhannock Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Trumbauersville UCC Cemetery, Trumbauersville, PA

Trumbauerville UCC Cemetery, Trumbauersville, PA  (This is in German, and refers to the Book of Micah, a minor prophet.  But I can't find Book 5, Chapter 32, verse 7.  I must be translating it incorrectly.)

West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA

West Swamp Mennonite Cemetery, Quakertown, PA

Westminster Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA  Bronze work

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

St. Paul's Lutheran Blue Church Cemetery, Coopersburg, PA

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY

Moscow Cemetery, Moscow, PA  (this was for one of the preachers of the town)

Button Cemetery, Springville, PA

Close-up of Andrew Reeder's books, Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Easton Cemetery, Easton, PA

Woodlands Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA  (Finger pointing to "In Hope")

Hays Cemetery, Easton, PA

Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis, NY (The books here under Amelia Adams' name are actually for her husband, James Allerton.  Allerton was a lawyer (the first book says "Blackstone," a reference to Sir William Blackstone, famous English barrister (lawyer).  The second book says "Hawk's Nest," which referred to Allerton's literary accomplishments..."Hawk's Nest" was one of his books.)

Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

St. John's Evan. Lutheran Cemetery, Ridge Valley, PA

Stark Cemetery, Starkville, PA
                                                           The End.  (hahahaha)

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