2016 Centro Day of the Dead 5K

img_20161029_101012-collage

img_20161029_100854-collage

While the 6th Annual Day of the Dead 5K has passed, Oakwood is once again excited to have been a part of a long going collaboration! This year, runners and walkers geared up and headed through a course with the cemetery being a large part. Many painted their faces in decorative sugar skulls and still others opted for more contemporary styles. The event allows many families to dress up and run, but it also raises money for the Brentwood Boys & Girls Club so that children can have access to school supplies and activities to enhance learning and creativity. Some of the children from this club even came out to run in the race and contributed to the sugar skull posters used to help runners and a few lost “souls” reaching the finish line.

img_20161027_134922-collage

Local downtown restaurant, Centro, also set up an even more elaborate table of remembrance compared to last year’s. The table, known as ofrenda honors those who have passed on such as ancestors and friends.

img_20161029_113008-collage

Keep an eye for 2017 Centro Day of the Dead 5K! And remember, we are always looking for amazing volunteers who help make these events so successful!

5th Annual Wreaths Across America 2016

new-wreath-pic-nov

This year Historic Oakwood Cemetery is proud to sponsor our 5th Wreaths Across America. The purpose of this event is to remember and honor fallen U.S. veterans and those who serve. As Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America said, “We are not here to ‘decorate graves.’ We’re here to remember not their deaths, but their lives.’ These wreaths mean more than an act of kindness and signify the remembrance and gratefulness of citizens across the nation.

Oakwood’s goal this year is to have 1,000 wreaths in the Field of Honor. Volunteers will lay the wreaths out on the graves in a ceremony on December 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm. Wreaths only cost $15. More information can be found through the link below.

https://wreaths.fastport.com/donateLocation.html?page=16689

Please consider making a donation by buying a wreath and volunteering at Historic Oakwood Cemetery for the ceremony!

Love’s Lost Labour: The Story of Ouida Estelle Emery Hood 

wp-1467137031465.jpeg

Upon first glance of this monument, one would surmise that a husband and wife found each other in the arms of death. Closer inspection details the grave bearing only one body and an empty side with a deeply mysterious story. Here lies Ouida Estelle Emery Hood, who some have unknowingly addressed as Ouida Prikryl Hood. Or were they right in revealing perhaps in serendipity or zemblanity of two star-crossed lovers carrying on an illicit romance?

The Hood Prikryl Monument in Historic Oakwood Cemetery

Ouida. Her name is a variation of “famous warrior” and what a fitting name. Though rife with challenges most women never imagined at the time, Ouida was pitted against fate from the time she was born on September 19, 1883. A shadow looming overhead became an ever present indentation in life. Those who remember her describe a sensational beauty who was marred by heritage, an element uncontrollable used to marginalize her. At the urgency of conforming, Ouida became a baptismal Christian in her community, with sponsorship from prominent figures such as Frank Haywood and Margarent Busby Shipp at the Christ Church.


wp-1468346053630.jpg

She never found her footing in Raleigh, living as a boarder here and there. Realizing that if she wanted to emerge from the shadows, a new city must be her home. Leaving for Richmond, Virginia, she later relocated to Norfolk. Perhaps she missed home because Ouida came back and married a local gentleman by the name of Wallace C. Hood. 


Wallace C. Hood, salesmanager, King Motor Car Company

During World War I, an army training camp localized near Raleigh. Here, Wallace met Franklin Prikryl, a real estate operator from Detroit. A fast friendship grew between these two. Franklin offered Wallace a job if the Hoods moved to Michigan when war ended. 

The couple settled not far from Detroit and in a nearby farming community known as Frenchtown. Ouida found her dream country house while Wallace found success in the automobile industry through a partnership with Franklin. This new and benevolent friend moved in shortly after with the duo. Luck favored Franklin more out of the two men as he continued with other ventures while Hood found difficulties. The latter stayed in the industry and steadied himself through long time experience.


Even through their plight, the “family” displayed true generosity and community spirit amongst the town. Neighbors spoke of Ouida as a woman who always cared for others without complaint. Her dedication resulted in the building of a hall for the Frenchtown Grange organization and detailing the landscape with personal touches. She organized the Juvenile Grange and endorsed 4-H clubs for farmers’ children.

While the couple never had children of their own, her love for children proved genuine as she hosted numerous events such as a giant Easter Egg Hunt on a five acre field nearby. She became a voice for women through her organization of women’s clubs. Wherever she went, everyone knew of her reputation as the life of the party. In later years, a neighbor recalled she was “always doing something for somebody.”


Everyone adored the Hoods. Theirs was a seemingly apt marriage until he walked away from her years later. Surely, it was a surpise in the quiet community and a sad event to see the beloved couple bid adieu to one another. Ouida packed Wallace’s belongings one last time and he left Frenchtown. Out of this came a known secret by the town as a conscious uncoupling and one without animosity. Wallace deed the house to Ouida and no official divorce ever came to light. He lived under the radar and not many knew about him, but recent findings show that he remarried and lived the remainder of his life in Michigan. His second bride was a divorcée of Hungarian descent named Kathrine Kish. 


The puzzling thing for folks was always the wonder of why Ouida stayed behind when she could have moved to a metropolitan area what with her charm and sophistication. There was no longer anything to tie her down. Except Ouida loved the community and stayed for the joy the friendships bought her, which was a stark contrast to Raleigh.  


Franklin stayed as a boarder paying for his room and board. Soon, he reached local celebrity himself through involvement in the community. He spent tons of money working on building more to the Grange and the Juvenile Grange. Whatever organizations Ouida held an interest in, it seemed Franklin was never far behind to lend a hand. Once, he chartered a bus and drove a group of farmers into Detroit on a theater party.


For Ouida, she lived out her life peacefully but with declining health after an operation. Before her death, she deeded her house to her friend and confidant. On February 23, 1930, she suffered a sudden nosebleed which recurred on February 27, 1930, resulting in her death. Ouida never forgot where she came from as her last wish was to be buried there. Franklin took her body to the “City of Oaks” and also bought quite an amount of Michigan earth from her garden to bury with her. This small act was his gift to her and a reminder that she would always rest in the place where she found happiness and escaped the shadow of her childhood.

A grand monument was built and Franklin commissioned a work from the best German stone cutters. Made of granite and bronze, the fixture stands today with three angels and Ouida’s likeness in the middle. Her long ago Frenchtown neighbors contributed $500 while he paid for the rest.


When the memorial was completed, poor Franklin fell bankrupt. Luck turned as several business deals went awry such a stock failing at a Detroit bank. He sold the Frenchtown house and rented a one room farmhouse across the way. Much time was spent on remedying and investing in other business ventures.


After Ouida’s passing, Franklin planted ivy and cared for a grave for a time before asking families of the neighboring graves to care for it. One day without warning, he exited the city without a word just as Wallace did. All he left were gracious words about her in life on the stone. Perhaps, it was a way to remind people that she truly was a good soul who was misunderstood by her hometown. 


wp-1468346053637.jpg

wp-1468346055786.jpg
Franklin Stanley Prikryl first choice of interment at Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina

Today, Ouida remains alone under the grand monument without Franklin who is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California on July 17, 1962. Only the year of his birth and name indicates that he should have been in Raleigh. Many years ago, Oakwood spoke with his sister to find out why he never returned to Raleigh, only to discover that he never wanted to speak of the matter again.


Franklin Stanley Prikryl’s grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.                        Courtesy Bruce Miller

What went wrong in the marriage between Ouida and Wallace? Was the outward cordiality between Franklin and Ouida more than words expressed on her stone? The odd story of the trio will remain a mystery for now. Some believed Ouida and Franklin carried on a relationship with more meaning than the outward cordiality. The two never clarified the status in life or death, so there is another part of an untold story. 


Ouida in the last years of her life

Upon first glance of this monument, one would surmise that a husband and wife found each other in the arms of death. Closer inspection details the grave bearing only one body and an empty side with a deeply mysterious story. Here lies Ouida Estelle Emery Hood, who some have unknowingly addressed as Ouida Prikryl Hood. Or were they right in revealing perhaps in serendipity or zemblanity of two star-crossed lovers carrying on an illicit romance?

The Hood Prikryl Monument in Historic Oakwood Cemetery

Ouida. Her name is a variation of “famous warrior” and what a fitting name. Though rife with challenges most women never imagined at the time, Ouida was pitted against fate from the time she was born on September 19, 1883. A shadow looming overhead became an ever present indentation in life. Those who remember her describe a sensational beauty who was marred by heritage, an element uncontrollable used to marginalize her. At the urgency of conforming, Ouida became a baptismal Christian in her community, with sponsorship from prominent figures such as Frank Haywood and Margarent Busby Shipp at the Christ Church.


She never found her footing in Raleigh, living as a boarder here and there. Realizing that if she wanted to emerge from the shadows, a new city must be her home. Leaving for Richmond, Virginia, she later relocated to Norfolk. Perhaps she missed home because Ouida came back and married a local gentleman by the name of Wallace C. Hood. 


Wallace C. Hood, salesmanager, King Motor Car Company

During World War I, an army training camp localized near Raleigh. Here, Wallace met Franklin Prikryl, a real estate operator from Detroit. A fast friendship grew between these two. Franklin offered Wallace a job if the Hoods moved to Michigan when war ended. The couple settled not far from Detroit and in a nearby farming community known as Frenchtown. Ouida found her dream country house while Wallace found success in the automobile industry through a partnership with Franklin. This new and benevolent friend moved in shortly after with the duo. Luck favored Franklin more out of the two men as he went on to other ventures while Hood found difficulties. The latter stayed in the industry and steadied himself through long time experience.

Even through their plight, the “family” displayed true generosity and community spirit amongst the town. Neighbors spoke of Ouida as a woman who always cared for others without complaint. Her dedication is seen through the building of a hall for the Frenchtown Grange organization and detailing the landscape with personal touches. She organized the Juvenile Grange and endorsed 4-H clubs for farmers’ children. While the couple never had children of their own, her love for children proved genuine as she hosted numerous events such as a giant Easter Egg Hunt on a five acre field nearby. She became a voice for women through her organization of women’s clubs. Wherever she went, everyone knew of her reputation as the life of the party. In later years, a neighbor recalled she was “always doing something for somebody.”


Everyone adored the Hoods. Theirs was a seemingly apt marriage until he walked away from her years later. Surely, it was a surpise in the quiet community and a sad event to see the beloved couple bid adieu to one another. Ouida packed Wallace’s belongings one last time and he left Frenchtown. Out of this came a known secret by the town as a conscious uncoupling and one without animosity. Wallace deed the house to Ouida and no official divorce ever came to light. He lived under the radar and not many knew about him, but recent findings show that he remarried and lived the remainder of his life in Michigan. His second bride was a divorcée of Hungarian descent named Kathrine Kish. 


The puzzling thing for folks was always the wonder of why Ouida stayed behind when she could have moved to a metropolitan area what with her charm and sophistication. There was no longer anything to tie her down. Except Ouida loved the community and stayed for the joy the friendships bought her, which was a stark contrast to Raleigh.  


Franklin stayed as a boarder paying for his room and board. Soon, he reached local celebrity himself through involvement in the community. He spent tons of money working on building more to the Grange and the Juvenile Grange. Whatever organizations Ouida held an interest in, it seemed Franklin was never far behind to lend a hand. Once, he chartered a bus and drove a group of farmers into Detroit on a theater party.


For Ouida, she lived out her life peacefully but with declining health after an operation. Before her death, she deeded her house to her friend and confidant. On February 23, 1930, she suffered a sudden nosebleed which recurred on February 27, 1930, resulting in her death. Ouida never forgot where she came from as her last wish was to be buried there. Franklin took her body to the “City of Oaks” and also bought quite an amount of Michigan earth from her garden to bury with her. This small act was his gift to her and a reminder that she would always rest in the place where she found happiness and escaped the shadow of her childhood. A grand monument was built and Franklin commissioned a work from the best German stone cutters. Made of granite and bronze, the fixture stands today with three angels and Ouida’s likeness in the middle. Her long ago Frenchtown neighbors contributed $500 while he paid for the rest.


When the memorial was completed, poor Franklin was bankrupt. Luck turned as several business deals went awry such a stock failing at a Detroit bank. He sold the Frenchtown house and rented a one room farmhouse across the way. Much time was spent on remedying and investing in other business ventures.


After Ouida’s passing, Franklin planted ivy and cared for a grave for a time before asking families of the neighboring graves to care  for it. One day without warning, he exited the city without a word just as Wallace did. All he left were gracious words about her in life on the stone. Perhaps, it was a way to remind people that she truly was a good soul who was misunderstood by her hometown. 




Today, Ouida remains alone under the grand monument without Franklin who is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California on July 17, 1962. Only the year of his birth and name indicates that he should have been in Raleigh. Many years ago, Oakwood spoke with his sister to find out why he never returned to Raleigh, only to discover that he never wanted to speak of the matter again.


Franklin Stanley Prikryl’s grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. Courtesy Bruce Miller

What went wrong in the marriage between Ouida and Wallace? Was the outward cordiality between Franklin and Ouida more than words expressed on her stone? The odd story of the trio will remain a mystery for now.


Their relationship was mystifying as some people believed it meant more than the outward cordiality. The two never clarified the status in life or in death, so there is another untold story.


Ouida in the last years of her life

Mordecai’s Meadow, Bee Friendly Planting & Picnic Day and Urn Art & Garden Faire: Celebrating Earth Day at Oakwood

20160423_101233.jpg

In April 2016, Historic Oakwood Cemetery introduced Mordecai’s Meadow commenced at the 147 year old cemetery located in Raleigh, North Carolina to celebrate Earth Day. Oakwood started out with green burials in the past and has now decided to provide the same option for anyone interested in simply going back to nature. Bodies reunite with the earth through the usage of biodegradable caskets and other materials. Decedents chose to forego the embalming fluids and concrete or metal vaults for the nature friendly choice. The cycle of nature becomes complete with the ever old “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” saying.

While Raleigh is an urban environment with much history surrounding the city, Oakwood has bid adieu to many an old friend through green burials, which was a common occurrence back in the 1860s for most before the advent of embalming. Mordecai’s Meadow has a namesake inspired by the original burials, but also by the previous landowners of the grounds, the Mordecai family who graciously gave land to create what the cemetery is now. Executive Director Robin Simonton says the idea of a Green Burial has been in the making for years.

image
Made by Julie Moore

Several cemetery friends came out to talk about green burials such as Pine Forest Memorial Gardens in Wake Forest, Renaissance Funeral Home in Raleigh, Piedmont Pines Coffin in Bear Creek and more at our mini fair.

Earth friendly coffin made by Julie Moore who also specializes in making urns.

image
Executive Director Robin Simonton and Superintendent Sam Smith at Mordecai’s Meadow Opening Ceremony

image

image

With the addition of Mordecai’s Meadow came another earth friendly event hosted for the first time at Oakwood. Our volunteer, Charlene Vlaskamp Stell, was inspired to create the Bee Friendly Planting & Picnic Day after coming across neat ideas on Facebook. Needless to say, the event was a success with children and adults coming out to learn about bees and enjoying a picnic under the sun. Folks also had a chance to create their own bee art to take home and feel a honeycomb.

image

image

image
Oakwood’s Beehives

image

image
More plants the bees will appreciate from folks who came by with Salvia, Butterfly Bushes, Hyssops, Lavender, etc…

image

image

The Urn Art & Garden Faire was once again held here. Many talented artists submitted unique and mesmerizing works to be judged. This particular event allowed visitors to also judge with ones they felt was worthy of a prize.

Life at Last Sight: A Window into Death

glass again

In the 21st century, it’s not unusual to find people living in glass houses. Literally in every sense of the word. Stranger still is the notion of glass coffins. Actually, it isn’t all that strange with the Victorians during the 19th century. Death naturally occurred so often among these people that mourning became a rite. With mourning came worries about preservation of the dead. The rise of post-mortem photography and memento mori jewelry proved successful as people found parting with loved ones too painful. The prevalence of theft didn’t disappear out of the respect for the dead.

One man by the name of Almond Dunbar Fisk decided to patent an iron air-tight coffin to combat unlawful resurrection. At the top, a glass window displayed the dead while the form fitting sarcophagus inspired lower half conformed to the shape of the human body. Grave robbers would be deterred from pulling the body out through such a small opening at the top. Among the wealthy this option became quite popular as many were buried in finery.

As the demand for Fisk’s one-of-a-kind coffin grew other inventors came up with equally astounding coffins. To represent the fashion of Victorian mourning, the coffins ranged in decor such as angels, roses, berries and leaves. Upon closer look, a coffin often bore the shape of a shroud with elegant draping to boot. However, purchasing one was quite pricey and the most elaborate was a low number in the hundred dollar category. While bodies residing in this metal housing found rest, research suffers from the inability to ascertain the time of death due to its air-tight factor. The decomposition of the body is hindered. Many times bodies have been found still on the verge of decaying. 

coffin glass
Fisk Airtight Coffin of Cast or Raised Metal
glassy
Victorian Glass Coffins

Early August last year, the Historic Oakwood Cemetery had the pleasure of re-interring 12 unmarked graves that came from the entrance of North Carolina State University’s Carter-Finley Stadium. The graves were found buried on an unremote hill along Gate 6 in an area referred to as Cemetery 2. The graveyard was a mere ¼ acre according to a property map in 1938. Among Southerners, the folk cemetery portrays characteristics of the hilltop interment with rudimentary material for grave markers. Several of the graves held remnants of broken glass suggesting the origin came from around the early to mid 1800s. Along with the graves came the dirt from the area which saw a significant amount of discoloration. Unfortunately, not much extensive research has been done due to limited records. The North Carolina State University has two other cemetery sites known as the Lincolnville AME Church Cemetery and Cemetery 1.

DSC_1098
Remnants of the Glass Front Coffins

DSC_1125

DSC_1168

The reinterment of these graves is mutually beneficial for North Carolina State University as well as the Historic Oakwood Cemetery. As a public university, the area is always expanding and removal of these relics ensures no disturbance and damage would succumb. The final resting place of these graves is at the latter and it is with every intention that they remain undisturbed for a very long time.

DSC_0983

DSC_1082
Hair Comb Found in Remains From Cemetery 2

Love in the Time of Error: The Sad Tale of Adolphus and Rachel Bauer

“In thy dark eyes splendor
Where the warm light loves to dwell
Weary looks get tender
Speak their last farewell.”

Such words immortalized the love of Adolphus Gustavus Bauer for his young wife, Rachel “Unaka” Blythe Bauer. Her sudden end resonated with him so deeply that in his heartbroken state, he felt the need to join her in death.

Blythe came from a family of Cherokee descent of Swain County. Among their tribe, her family held prestige as leaders. After attending Baptist Female University (current day Meredith College) for stenography, Blythe found work at the Post Office in Raleigh as a stamp clerk. She met Adolphus Gustavus Bauer, an architect whose reputation preceded him in works such as the Raleigh Executive Mansion, the Pullen Building, the Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill and the Western North Carolina Hospital for the Insane in Morganton.

image

Husband and wife met as boarders in a house and married in 1894, but kept it a secret from the Raleigh folks, as she was in the family way. Also, the marriage was not kindly looked upon much to the chagrin of the public. A marriage such as theirs went against the legality of marrying within one’s race. In June 1895, the couple journeyed to Washington, D.C. for a second wedding after seeking legal advice guaranteeing the out of state deal would be valid. Upon their return to Raleigh, the matter became a great debate as many deemed it illegal. Later that year, their first born daughter, Owenah was born. The Bauers remained in North Carolina and Adolphus’ career grew.

Unfortunately, tragedy never took a final bow. On May 2, 1896, while travelling with a business associate in Durham, a train struck their carriage. His fame dwindled as he found his new ailment set a true handicap on him. A brain injury would become the root of physical and mental distress in forms of dizziness, delusions and melancholia.

Shortly after the birth of their son, Fred, the lovely Rachel fell ill and died a few days later. Overcome by grief over his wife’s death, Adolphus sent his children to stay with relatives. It is said that even though his illness had taken over, he was still able to function, but becoming no stranger to death resulted in his mind never settling in the right direction again.

As a token of his love, a Grecian temple in the form of a tribute to Diana at Ephesus was erected. A photograph of Rachel in wedding attire set against the portico. Perhaps, Adolphus wanted to commend his wife’s virtues and attributes when he chose the Greek goddess. Underneath the dates is a play on the North Carolina motto, Esse Quam Videri which translates from Latin as “To be rather than to seem.” Instead, the words, “True worth is being, not seeming.” Adolphus gives a not so gentle reminder of the mistreatment of Rachel by the people of North Carolina. Though he had a hand in a number of important landmarks, this remains his great opus.

image

image
The back of Rachel Blythe Bauer’s grave

image

image

image

image
One of the sides of the grave

Sequestering himself from the world, Adolphus spent his last days in a room reading Shakespeare and writing. On May 11, 1898, he died from a fatal wound to the head. In his right hand rested a revolver and his left lingered on a photograph of Rachel. As a last testament, his suicide note denoted: “If I, by violence to myself should die, I wish to be buried by the side of my wife, in Raleigh, N.C., where I have so long sojourned and along the Southern people I have liked so well.” Even in his death, the honest architect maintained the satisfaction of having the last word laced with perhaps sarcasm in the mix. Adolphus resided next to Rachel in an unmarked grave until a stone was dedicated to him by the Triangle Native Society, who chose to omit the first part of the speech indicating that death came by his hand.

image

image
Headstone of Adolphus Gustavus

image
The back of A.G. Bauer’s headstone

Although these parents never lived long enough to see their young children grow into adults, Owenah and Fred led long, full lives and became pathfinders in their own right. Fred went on to live with his maternal uncle James and his wife Josephine Blythe. During World War I, Fred joined the American Air Corps and returned to teach at multiple institutions for Native Americans around the country. His work also included advocating for the rights of Native Americans and he is remembered as a tribal councilman among the Cherokee people. Owenah attended Ohio State University and was a part of the Philomathean Literary Society as President. Like her mother, she worked hard and found pleasure in education, which the society endorsed as well as reading. She was quite active at her institution and spoke on occasions about the goodness there.

The union of Adolphus and Rachel lasted a short while in life. Rachel’s weak disposition may have led to her eventual death and Adolphus’ own end may have stemmed from his inability to strive in the world as he was wrought with bereavement, but the emanating source derived from misunderstanding and culture at the time. But in their affinity and death rose a legacy of enduring love in a time of error.

Scarifying Terms: What Graveyard Shift, Dead Ringer and Wake Means

The 1800’s were surely a macabre time to live in. The notion of death held an ominous cloud over the heads of the upright and dour Victorian citizens. Because medicine was still in its infancy, folks naturally knew next to nothing about the human body. In fact, the discovery of the human body and a slew of creative, albeit radical methods of treatments such as lobotomies and herbal tonics highlighted the times. In those days, when loved ones died, there was a nagging thought that those once lively bodies harboured terrible diseases. Leaving unburied bodies surely meant whatever illnesses could freely inhabit a living person. Also, the colors of death began to change a the physical appearances both outwardly and internally thanks to the minimal use of embalming until later in the century. To ensure the safety of the town, bodies were quickly buried without so much as a blink of an eye.

image
Courtesy of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Antoine Wiertz: “The Premature Burial” in 1854

No sooner did the good people rid themselves with possible illness then another problem arose. Old stories mention the unearthing of bodies in cemeteries for new graves when space ran out. But an unthinkable horror worse than disease surfaced. A handful of coffins bore scratch marks from the inside as if the dead somehow came back to life and wanted to rejoin the world above. Realistically, medicine and wrongful burials stayed in the premature category, so this happened more than often. Unfortunately, these poor souls suffocated in tight, dark spaces and some were never rescued.

image
Courtesy of GloCoNJ.com
A boy was found buried alive in the early 1900’s

image

Courtesy of Lauren Ayn Lusk
An illustration of the decease’s hands attached to the life saving contraption

Such is the case of Samuel Jocelyn, a privileged man from Wilmington, North Carolina who found himself entombed in frosty waters after making his way in the dark. Who says love doesn’t kill? It definitely was an end for Jocelyn after a heated fight with his darling new wife. Hastily buried, Jocelyn found himself a victim of a burial gone wrong after his friends dug him up only to find their fun loving pal in life a picture of writhing agony and a body in the most horrible contortion. When the searchers found Jocelyn’s body, it was assumed that he was dead on arrival. But the icy swamp only slowed his heart down enough so that the faint murmurs came close to inaudibility. Alas, the warmth of his new earthly home interrupted his slumber and his last breath drew in the underground abode.

image
Courtesy of http://www.geocaching.com
St. James Episcopal Church’s Cemetery

Perhaps the grim author, Edgar Allan Poe, sums up this pandemonium the best in his stories of violent deaths such as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Premature Burial”. His tales captivated the audience of that time but also instilled a fear and truth about early death and the limited knowledge on the topic.

image

An illustrated scene of “The Cask of Amontillado”

image

Edgar Allan Poe

It’s right to say that while the Victorians stared death on a regular basis due to illnesses and lack of medicine, their fear spurred ways to combat the issue. When it was discovered that the possibility of being buried alive was very real, a system of bells and strings were became the craze. Unlike today’s six feet under and steel vaults, the dead laid in shallow graves a few inches below with loose soil on top. Some historians say families resorted to leaving the bodies’ hands sticking out of the graves with a string attached to the finger or wrist, while others say the dead laid in dormancy underground. If the bell rang, then a night watchman or “dead ringer” came to the rescue with shovel in tow.

image
Courtesy of Monovisions Black and White Photograpy Magazine
Daguerreotypes of Victorian Widows in Mourning

The invention of the “safety coffin” also led to the relief of folks in the latter part of the 19th century. The most known device comes from a man by the name of Count Michel de Karnice Karnicki which he aptly termed “Le Karnice”. Here, the body laid in a rectangular box above ground with a bell and a ball on the outside. If the person was still alive, then their movement and change in breath triggered the bell and ball to sound and move, respectively.
image
Courtesy of the New York Academy of Medicine Center for History

On another note, most people regard Henry Ford as the first person to create shift work, but it’s rather a misconception. The third shift came to fruition as night watchmen meandered the premises of the graveyard in hopes of finding the living. The shift lasted from somewhere around late evening to midnight until the early morning. Thankfully, many were found. Some people dispute this tale because another origin of this term comes from sailors working in the dead of night. The eerie calm of night coupled with the imagination’s ability to run wild led to more than a few men quaking till the morning. The shift was a dangerous time because being on a boat in the middle of the night meant that a man could easily fall overboard due to the inability to see clearly at night as he continued his watch or being groggy from no sleep. Nowadays, plenty of people find the “graveyard shift” one of the most challenging things about work.

Another strange tradition stemming from fear of interment has to do with a certain drink. The English took to their ale quite heartily and that mixture coupled with leaden cups would make modern hangovers wilt in shame. The part about the lead is up in the air to historians and science as the maker of drunk men may not be in this element. Only prolonged exposure seems plausible. As the drunkards traverse the dimly lit roads, good samaritans would find them faced down on the ground. These civilians and family members dutifully collected the sloven forms and laid them out on the tables at home in funerary finery awaiting a proper burial. The family would gather round to eat and drink and of course be merry while watching the stranger in curiousity. More than likely, plenty a English man woke up from his stupor and did a little walk of shame home. Dispelling this tale, one can take in another. The roots of a Christian wake goes back to the influences of the Celtic people who would place the dead under a table while the watchers sipped their giddy beverages on the table or elsewhere. Either way, the term “wake” has its roots tied to alcohol.

image
Courtesy of http://www.missmementomori.wordpress.com

Nowadays, wakes consist of families and friends gathering in a church or another space of significance where eulogies are given in memory of the deceased and prayers are said. A modern form of a wake resembling the one in the old days can be seen in a romantic tragedy about unattainable love and heartbreak where a certain person believes his love is lost forever. No, it’s not Romeo and Juliet! Here’s a hint: it’s supernatural with vampires and werewolves at odds and in love. The Twilight Saga:Breaking Dawn — Part 1 depicts a scene where Bella Cullen’s family and friends wait for her to wake up from her morphine and venom induced siesta in the middle of the house. Families in the 1800’s and even later without parlors made do by using a bedroom. Bodies laid on beds or in coffins on top of the bed and people came for the viewing.

image

Season’s Giving: On the Past and Present of Wreaths

As the first day of winter approaches, a familiar feeling cannot escape us: Christmas is coming. Amidst the festive decor and popular images of a certain old man in red and white, greenery of multiple shades of candy canes and treats grace the holiday season. The most familiar is the Christmas tree with cheery presence and shiny and glittery baubles hanging from fresh, sweet and citrusy smelling boughs. Then, there are the wreaths that carolers find on the doors of those lucky to hear the melodic sounds of traditional yore.

Wreaths of the holiday can trace its origins as far back as the time of the Etruscan civilization. Varying from gold, metal, ivy, oak, myrtle, vines, olive leaves and other offerings from nature, these wreaths were used more as jewelry. The word wreath itself comes from Old English for writha meaning band. Just as in the past, arrangements of leaves, flowers, twigs, jewels and ribbons can be seen today. The name could not be more appropriate as these circular fixtures never stray from their traditional appearance too often, though there are some wreaths of a new fashion coming in the shapes of crosses for religious ceremonies and more seasonal shapes such as Christmas trees, doves, bells, reindeers, etc…

Across cultures, wreaths play a role in ceremonial events or used purely as decorations. During Christmas time, assortments of meticulously fashioned evergreens can be found nearly everywhere in the city. Known for its piney scent, this foliage is so resilient that some last throughout the most extreme of winters. Latin terminology even remembers it binomially as sempervirens meaning always green.

During the ancient times, the Greco-Roman world was renowned for wreaths worn as crowns that adorned the victors of the Olympic games. Forms of laurel and olive leaves were intricately woven together as they were the most popular. Steeped in Greek myth, the laurel is synonymous with the god Apollo, who rules over life and light.

image
Courtesy of Pinterest.com

Nowadays, the arrival of the wreath visits town as early as Halloween and Thanksgiving. People buy harvest wreaths along with cornucopias and scarecrows as a part of the fall festivities. In celebration of a great harvest, Ancient Greece saw the weaving of rich blonde straw, abundant fruit and nuts woven in red and white wool as an amulet to guard against famine and a prayer for a fulfilling year of surplus in the next. The harvest wreaths then remained on the door for the whole year.

image
Courtesy of Houzz.com

Something less familiar in name but more in sight is the Advent wreath. In Christianity, these wreaths tell of the return of Jesus Christ and its origins stem from 16th century Lutherans in Germany. Made of evergreens, the wreath lays horizontally with four candles on top and a fifth candle at the center. Red ribbons lay on top with pinecones or other arrangements are possible. The four candles are lighted on each Advent Sunday. The greenery represents everlasting life and hope for a new spring while holly can also be a part of the mixture as a sign of the crown of thorns Christ wore due to its prickly shape. The bright red berries of the holly means the blood that Christ shed.

image

In a cemetery setting, wreaths remain the funerary rite that is just as regular as bouquets of flowers and pictures. Here, wreaths represent the passing of a loved one and the hope of life in the next. Earlier this December, Oakwood Cemetery was honored in being a part of Wreaths Across America. This tradition consists of laying the circles of evergreen on the graves of the fallen soldiers in the Field of Honor as well as other parts of the cemetery. These men were remembered for the great service they devoted to their country while family members and fellow soldiers and veterans saluted them.

This year, Oakwood Cemetery placed over 400 wreaths on the graves as family members, fellow soldiers and veterans saluted the men for their great service and devotion to their country. A great thanks goes out to Sue Purkis, the Volunteer Coordinator of the event. The cemetery has been involved in Wreaths Across America for the past four years, with numbers of volunteers and donations growing each year. While this year’s event has passed, the hope for next December is for more wreaths and community involvement. But another hope is also for people to remember the men and women whose bravery is the most wonderful gift to their country and that their spirit lives on.

image

image

image
Funeral of Mattie Hood

It is unbelievable how much symbolism there is in a wreath. But that is what makes it simply wonderful. In another time, displaying a wreath in one’s home meant waiting for spring to arrive and Christ to rise. It also held more meanings such as wishes for a good harvest and a somber message of remembrance for the dead. While the holiday continues its catching glow of joy and thankfulness, one thing cannot be forgotten. A new year is around the bend with surprising changes and wonderment, but it is very much rooted in fond moments from long ago.

image
Oakwood Cemetery’s Wreath