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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mothers, Boys, Doctors and Ministers: Death Remembers Them All

Hazleton Cemetery, Hazleton, PA

The following symbols show up mostly not on the tombstones themselves, but on the metal plaques anchored in the ground next to them.  And they are from the early 20th century, as opposed to the 19th century, but the stories behind them are interesting to me nonetheless.  (Once we get past 1930, I pretty much zone out---too recent---but anything before that will hold my interest.)

A Mother’s Love

The Gold Star Mothers is an organization founded by Grace Darling Seibold in Washington, D.C. after WWI.  Her son George Seibold volunteered in 1917 after the United States entered the war, and he served with the British Royal Flying Corps (the United States did not have an air force at the time).  His mother Grace corresponded regularly with him and served her country by visiting wounded serviceman who had been returned home to local hospitals.  Then George left for combat duty in France; the correspondence stopped.   

There was no word from George until October 1918, when George’s wife received a box with her husband’s effects in it.  He had been cited for bravery in France, and lost his life in August in an air fight.  His mother Grace worked through her sorrow by continuing her visits to wounded soldiers and also by organizing a group of mothers who also had lost sons in the war.  In 1928, the group officially organized as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., so named because of the custom of families of servicemen hanging banners in their windows with blue stars for living servicemen and gold stars honoring those who had lost their lives.  The organization still operates today.

American War Mothers is another organization started in 1917 for mothers who have children who have served or who are serving in the armed forces during conflicts.  They received their Congressional charter in 1925, three years before Congress granted a charter to Gold Star Mothers.  They were also organized in Maryland, and the original charter was only for mothers who had children who had served in WWI.  Congress changed their charter after WWII saw new mothers sending children off to war.

Lake Winola Cemetery, Lake Winola, PA

Dalton Jewish Cemetery, Dalton, PA

I didn't find anything specific on this symbol, but I would guess it was similar?? Freeland Cemetery, Freeland, PA

Belfast Union Cemetery, Belfast, PA

Instilling Values in Boys

The Boy Scouts turned 100 in 2010, and in those 100 years, more than 110 million American males have been members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).  William D. Boyce, a publisher from Chicago, brought the idea of a youth scouting organization back with him from London after he had been lost on a foggy street and had been led to his destination by a Boy Scout who refused a tip, stating he was doing his good turn for the day.  Boyce incorporated BSA when he returned in 1910, and then partnered with several other heads of youth movements to combine their efforts.  The organization’s management was turned over to the YMCA originally, but then the BSA took back the reins and began spreading on its own throughout the United States.  The 1910 motto was to “teach patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values.”   

Carversville Cemetery, Carversville, PA

Carversville Cemetery, Carversville, PA

Greenwood Cemetery, Nazareth, PA

Mount Zion Cemetery, Pottsgrove, PA

A very interesting memorial to a local Boy Scout troop leader, St. Peter's Episcopal Cemetery, Perth Amboy, NJ

St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, North Wales, PA

Sunnyside Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Medical Malpractice
The caduceus is recognizable to many as a symbol of the medical profession.  And yet, (I just learned this!), it’s incorrect, and the fault may lie with the U.S. Military.  The caduceus, a winged staff with two serpents entwined around it, was a Greek symbol of Hermes, the god of commerce, eloquence, negotiation, and trickery.  The Greek god of medicine and healing was Asclepius, and his symbol was similar to that of Hermes, but consisted of a simple rod, sans wings, and a single snake entwined around it.  Scholars think the early linking of the caduceus with medicine, as opposed to the rod of Asclepius, may stem from the association of Hermes with early chemistry and alchemy. 


Rod of Asclepius
 Another theory stems from Hermes usually being associated with merchants and messengers (who needed eloquence and negotiation---think of the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger!”).  Merchant ships in the 16th and 17th centuries flew flags with a caduceus on it to demonstrate their neutrality during naval wars, so they could pass unmolested past war ships.  Though it was used as early as 1871 by the U.S. Surgeon General, in 1902, the caduceus was formally adopted by the U.S. Army Medical Department.  The department claimed that was because of the caduceus' association with those neutral merchants, as wartime medical personnel are considered noncombatants.  The Army also pointed out that the majority of the Medical Department personnel are not physicians (think of M*A*S*H).    

The American Medical Association even used the caduceus as its symbol for a time, but in 1912, adopted instead the rod of Asclepius.  And because of much debate (enough eloquence and negotiation to make Hermes proud), the medical branches of the U.S. Military have recently redesigned logos that feature Asclepius’ rod and not that of Hermes.  

Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Doylestown Cemetery, Doylestown, PA
Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA
Fairview Cemetery, Middletown, NJ

Indian Orchard Cemetery, Indian Orchard, PA
Rosedale Cemetery, Montclair, NJ
St. Luke's UCC Cemetery, Dublin, PA

Reaching to Preach

The United Methodist Church traces its origins back to John Wesley and a small group of Oxford students within the Church of England, who met to focus on a methodical study of the Bible.  Wesley and his “Methodist” friends journeyed to colonies, specifically Georgia, to teach the gospel to the Indians, but later returned to England.  The “Methodist Way” stayed, however, and Wesley sent Thomas Coke to Baltimore to organize the American Methodists in 1784.  Wesley wanted them to stay within the Church of England, but the American Revolution severed that link.  It didn’t stop the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, however, and as the church grew, it employed circuit riders, some who were laymen, to travel by horseback and preach the gospel to rural America and establish churches.  By 1844, 4,000 circuit riders had helped Methodism become the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.  In the next one hundred years, circuit riders hung up their saddles and settled down in Methodist churches across the country.  

Stroudsburg Cemetery, Stroudsburg, PA

Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

The markers above Oscar Severson's grave (last photo), Dunmore Cemetery, Dunmore, PA

Darling Cemetery, Honesdale, PA

Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA
Canandensis United Methodist Cemetery, Canandensis, PA


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