Thanks again to everyone who attended my presentation at Oakdale's Victorian Day yesterday #omgvictorianday2013. Thank you especially to Patty and Roger who came all the way from Rockford. It was great to see you again after meeting you in Fulton a while back! I enjoyed speaking at the Windmill Center (real name of it?); it’s a really nice place. It was also great to hear about your involvement with historical groups. Keep up the great work!
It was also great to meet Taylor and her mom. I took a peek at your profile, Taylor, and the photos of you in the cemetery are awesome! What cemetery were you in? Thanks for buying an “I
And thank you all for understanding when I totally switched gears.
When you realize in the middle of things that you're just going in the wrong (boring) direction, you have to just stop, quickly take stock in the situation, and make it right. I had reviewed my presentation on Oakdale and the Civil War from last year and made some tweaks. It had made sense at the time because all the information was correct. But here's the deal. It was boring. Very boring. I don't recall it being boring last year, and I honestly don't know why. If you've heard me speak before, boring facts and figures are not my MO. My thing is to show people my passion for cemeteries and why they are so cool. And, boy, did I start flopping.
So instead of continuing down that path, I decided not to torture the nice people in attendance (and they were really great). I took a whole new route and showed them photos from my Bonaventure Cemetery visit (in Savannah, Ga.) and talked to them about the wonders of that park. I think I redeemed myself--I hope I redeemed myself. :) At least they got to see some wonderful sculptures, especially those by artist John Walz.
After a marathon of old Cartoon Network shows thanks to Netflix, I've been watching "Death and the Civil War," the PBS documentary I've been wanting to see since it was first broadcast in September 2012 (you can find it on Netflix now). Fascinating and very sad. They read from lots of letters sent by dying soldiers and those about to go to battle who believed they would not be coming back. While a number of images and B-role cover shots are repeated (and lingered upon a little long), it's a powerful piece that is definitely worth watching. It was directed by Ric Burns, so you pretty much know what to expect from his style.
So many documentaries and books on the Civil War focus on the battles and strategies or the politics and political figures of the time. This film highlights the effects of the war regarding the dead, and it is eye-opening as well as very interesting. I've done a lot of reading on the Civil War and Lincoln and, of course, cemeteries, but I learned quite a few things from this documentary. I think we've all seen the photos of dead soldiers on the fields, which are heart-breaking. But I don't recall seeing the images of skeletons and skulls on the battle fields. Those solders were left on the fields, unburied, so long that all that was left were bones and the tatters of their uniforms. That was shocking, though it is understandable. When there was no plan for caring for the dead--and thousands of soldiers died during any given battle--what would you do? You couldn't put the war on hold to properly care for the dead. How deeply and horribly sad.
I think the reason so many of us are compelled to keep reading and researching the Civil War is because there are so many human layers to it. The reasons the war was fought ... the fact that we fought against ourselves ... that brothers fought brothers ... that women assumed the identities of men in order to fight ... that black men weren't allowed to fight for the longest time in a war that was truly about them and the rights they should have had all along ... the extreme losses this country and our people suffered ... the most brilliant president our country has known ... how women, who would have even fewer rights that free black men, stepped up during the war and after it ... how the war changed views on death ... how it changed views on life.
As a review, I give "Death and the Civil War" 4 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend it.
It's my kind of anniversary. I've officially been a taphophile for 10 years.
Back when I started my website (in 2004), it was to have an online home base. I wanted a place where I could post my thoughts and have people connect with me. And it worked. I was in the middle of writing my book "Cemetery Walk," and it wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't been connected to the online taphophile community. It was much smaller then. People were still giving us super strange looks when we told people we loved going to cemeteries. A lot has changed.
I give a lot of credit to the genealogists. They helped take the creepy out of cemeteries. To an extent, the ghost hunting community has also made cemetery "haunting" cool by actually putting the creepy back in to the cemeteries.
Those who have followed me through the years know that I love cemeteries and sharing that love with others. This past February marked my fourth year of teaching a CommUniversity class on cemetery art and history. I've been speaking at or about cemeteries since 2005. I've traveled around the Midwest and even as far as the state of Georgia to share my passion about out finest outdoor museums. It's been a great journey, and I hope I'm still just at the beginning.
It's been 10 years since I started on this path. Ten years since I decided, "I want to write a book, and I want to write it about cemeteries." I wanted people to see cemeteries as important places filled with history and art rather than sadness or morbidness. I still do.
Within the past 10 years, I've written and published (self and otherwise) a number of books, become a speaker and workshop leader, and founded and edited a website that has grown through the years. My Facebook group keeps building and building. And while people don't necessarily know it's my group on FB, I'm still proud of how it keeps growing because that means more and more people are stepping into our cemeteries, cameras in hand. They are appreciating the beauty of the monuments and the fascinating history they offer us.
So thank you to all my taphophile friends. It has been a great pleasure getting to know so many awesome people from all over the world. Keep taking pictures and posting them. You're helping make the world a smaller place and letting us all take a peek into parts of the world we may never have seen otherwise.
The Zotz mausoleum, dated 1893.
(6/6/13 - I had some technical difficulties with this post, but now the rest of it is loaded as well as the gallery.)
Okay, okay. I know I posted on my website 3 DAYS AGO that you could see more photos from Springdale when you click on my blog link. And, yet, when you clicked on it, you got nada. Usually I don't say this (because it's just goofy), but, my bad. Ack. I can't believe I just typed that.
But, as promised, there are photos. And I'm going to share them with you!
Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois, was founded in 1855. The grounds consist of 225 acres and more than six miles of roadways "winding through its hills and valleys." Nearly 70,000 people are interred there, "with room for many more." But "hills and valleys" doesn't really cut it when describing this cemetery. Driving through the grounds, you suddenly feel like you've driven right into a forest or a state park. There is a stream that runs through part of the grounds (it starts small and get quite wide). There are two bridges over the stream that are more functional than ornamental but still have some ornamentation on them. There is a fantastic soldiers lot.
Contemporary monuments blend well with traditional and unique older stones. I had a fantastic time wandering the grounds, enjoying the natural beauty as well as the gravestones. I wasn't the only one. There were plenty of people walking and jogging along the pathways.
There are 15 mausolea at Springdale. The one shown above is the Zotz mausoleum, dated 1893. It was built into one of the hillsides and features carvings of oak leaves and wreaths.
I have included some of the highlights of Springdale Cemetery in the slideshow below. Enjoy!
Jeane Trend-Hill in City of London Cemetery, London, England. "This is one of my favourite monuments, Gladys Spencer reclining on her piano. Gladys was a teacher and something of a music hall star."
Meet Jeane Trend-Hill, Headstone Hunter, Essex, England
How long have you been interested in cemeteries and why? My love of cemeteries began as a young child when I visited family member’s graves with my parents. Whilst the adults chatted and arranged flowers, I would wander off and look at all the angels, doves and crosses. I was struck by their beauty and as I got older I began photographing them purely for my own enjoyment. I have since gone on to set up the Silent Cities Project - I’ve produced a series of cemetery photography books, studied grave symbolism and Mortuary Science and I am also involved with monument restoration and preservation to help future generations enjoy an important part of our history and heritage.
What are your favorite cemeteries? (we all have more than one!) In no particular order - San Michelle in Venice, it’s an entire cemetery island. Pouble Nou in Barcelona Spain for the amazing ‘Kiss of death’ monument, which is a winged skeleton figure lifting a man for the final kiss goodbye. Highgate Cemetery London, beautifully gothic and romantic, Kensal Green Cemetery London for its array of different memorials, and I have just returned from Central Cemetery Zentralfriedhof Vienna Austria where all the composers like Mozart and Strauss are buried.
What are your favorite monuments? The Kiss of death as I mentioned, along with Mary the sleeping angel on a bed of clouds in Highgate and the resting place of an architect Arthur Beresford Pite in West Norwood Cemetery London, whose building I worked in for many years and I am currently involved in his grave restoration. I like all different sorts of things though, from a simple wooden cross that may have been hand carved with love, to something very elaborate and over the top. I prefer the older monuments (pre 1940), some of the more modern ones seem to be lacking in imagination. Stonemasonry is a lost art, hand carving from a single block of marble or granite and of course few people could afford anything like that now anyway. I also love Victorian catacombs and have been lucky enough to see a few not generally open to the public.
Where is the farthest you've traveled to visit a cemetery? I did a day trip to Barcelona once just to photograph a certain monument, but the furthest ... I have been to Australia twice in 1995 and 1996, but lost my cemetery photos from there due to a computer crash.
What has been the most surprising thing you've seen in a cemetery? The sad state of neglect in some of them, but more usually the things people leave behind. I’ve handed in cameras and phones, watched tiny fox cubs playing, seen rare birds (although I have had to have those pointed out to me), clothing (lets not go there!) and bones of course, although that’s not really surprising.
What do you tell people if they think your cemetery infatuation is weird? I try to show them the beautiful side of cemeteries through my photographs. They are havens for wildlife, flowers and plants and of course the amazing architecture. There is so much history to be found too. I think people are coming round to it more nowadays, but of course there will always be the odd one who thinks I’m weird – that’s fine, there are a lot of us about!!
What cemeteries are on your bucket list? I’d like to get back to the USA one day and also see some of the cemeteries in Berlin and I haven’t finished with Italy yet. I keep on adding to the list!
Visit Jeane's website and Facebook Page.
Now that I've switched to Weebly as my website host, I'm going to give the blogging thing a "go" again. My time is mainly taken up with the website, but Weebly makes my online world easy to manage. So let's see how this goes.
The latest news regarding my speaking engagements is that I will be one of the speakers during Sept. 8 meeting of the Illinois chapter of the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS). It will take place in Springfield, Ill. I'll also be speaking a couple times during Oakdale Memorial Gardens' Forget-Me-Not: Victorian Day on Sept. 22.
I've also got a lot of ideas mulling around in my brain, so it's hard to say what I will come up with next. Send me your feedback and let me know what you think of the new site and if you have any ideas for articles, links, etc. I always enjoy hearing from fellow taphophiles!
I'm the founder and editor of TheCemeteryClub.com and Epitaphs Magazine. I love cemeteries and sharing the art and history of them with anyone who will listen!