Cemetery Season

Some call it the end of winter; some call it spring. Increasingly, Texans call it wildflower season, but I’ve come to think of it as cemetery season: that time of year when human preferences for tidiness and uniformity are challenged by nature’s urge toward abundant, irrepressible growth. In at least some of our cemeteries, nature wins, and a visit to one is sheer pleasure.

In Galveston, it’s the six-block area known collectively as the Broadway Cemeteries that crowns the season. Comprised of seven burial grounds plotted between 1839 and 1939, it includes three associated with faith communities (Hebrew, Catholic, and Episcopal) and four which are non-sectarian. Some allow wildflowers to flourish while others don’t; in spring, the difference in appearance between the mowed and the unmowed is remarkable.

The cemeteries themselves have interesting histories. Today’s Oleander Cemetery, previously Potters’ Field, provided a resting place for the indigent. The New City Cemetery, originally known as the Yellow Fever Yard, was established around 1867 in response to a particularly virulent yellow fever outbreak that ravaged a city already familiar with the disease. From 1839 to 1867, at least nine yellow fever epidemics swept through Galveston; in 1853, sixty percent of the city’s approximately 45,000 residents contracted the disease, and 523 died.

Evergreen and Old City Cemeteries are filled with victims of a different sort: many who lie there perished in the Great Storm of 1900. Of course, apart from the twin insults of disease and natural disaster, each cemetery also provided final resting places for some of the earliest immigrants to Texas; soldiers from both sides of the Civil War; businessmen; legislators; and entirely ordinary families.

 In spring, the twin pillars of history and remembrance are joined by a third: the simple beauty of the flowers.

Some spread across the ground, spilling out through fences into the surrounding neighborhood. Some travel upward, accepting the crevices and cracks of aging crypts as an acceptable home.

Even the simplest stones are enhanced by the flowers surrounding them. James Grice, known as ‘Shorty’ by the fishermen he served, established a waterfront bait and tackle shop after arriving from Liverpool, England. He slept in the back of his shop, and willingly served even those customers who felt the urge to fish at midnight.

Jennie Rust’s stone has its own simple dignity, though it raises a question or two. During the Great Storm of 1900, a father named Charles Rust was knocked from a wagon while attempting to carry his family to safety; he perished with three of his children. Jennie died in 1880 at the age of eighteen, so she clearly wasn’t the wife of that Charles Rust, but I suspect the desperate father and Jennie’s Charles were somehow connected.

Not all graves are so simple, of course. The Broadway Cemeteries contain a remarkable collection of Classical Revival vaults, Gothic Revival mausoleums, and towering obelisks. 

Here, lush blooms surround one of two Willis family mausoleums. Peter James Willis, one of several family members interred in the impressive edifice, arrived in Texas from Maryland in January 1836, shortly before the fall of the Alamo. He returned to his home state in June of that year, but came back to Texas in October, bringing two younger brothers — William and Richard — with him.

The trio went to work on Buffalo Bayou, supplying wood to steamboats. They intended to use their profits to open a store in Washington on the Brazos, but fending off Brazos river bottom mosquitoes wasn’t easy, and William died of malaria. After that, the two remaining brothers moved to Montgomery, Texas, and opened their store.

In 1845, Peter  married Caroline Womack, the daughter of a prosperous planter. One of their six children, a daughter named Magnolia, married wealthy businessman George Sealy in 1875. George and his brother John were involved in cotton, banking, and railroads; John’s son, owner of the Magnolia Petroleum Company, is said to have named it for his aunt Magnolia.

My favorite Willis family story involves Magnolia. According to family legend, the construction of the landmark Sealy mansion was instigated by a statement made by Magnolia after the birth of the couple’s fifth child in 1885: “Sir, I’ll give you a second son, if you’ll build me the finest home in Galveston.”

Whatever the actual circumstances, the Neo-Renaissance mansion was completed in 1889. An elaborate carriage house designed by Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton was finished in 1891: the very year the couple’s second son was born.

The less elaborate but still appealing crypt of the Haden family can be found near the edge of the Episcopal Cemetery. Dr. J.M. Haden, born in Lowndes county, Mississippi in 1825, contributed significantly to the health and well-being of Galveston residents.

A graduate of Jackson college in Columbia, Tennessee and La Grange college in Alabama,  Dr. Haden received his M.D. in 1847 from the University of New Orleans. After serving the United States military and then that of the Confederacy,  he returned to Galveston at the end of the Civil War to begin the practice of medicine. Elected president of the Galveston County Medical Society as well as the board of directors of the Galveston Medical college, he went on to head Galveston’s Board of Health. During his tenure, it became recognized that yellow fever had been brought to Texas from outside the state, and his obituary, published inThe Galveston Daily News  on October 31, 1892, noted his role in containing the disease:

It is probably due to Dr Hayden’s measures adopted in the [yellow fever] epidemic of 1878 that such a strict state quarantine has been established, and the testimony of leading citizens is preserved which credits his vigilance with the preservation of this city from horrors of the epidemic which swept over some of our neighboring communities during his administration of our health affairs.
An unusual example of murderer and victims buried together

Occasionally, gravestones hint at nearly unimaginable horrors. After emigrating from Germany to Galveston with his family, Louis Alberti eventually married Galveston native Elize Roemer and established a successful butcher shop with his brother-in-law.

After Louis and Elize’s first-born child, Louis, Jr., died of tetanus at the age of seven, friends and family noticed changes in his mother’s behavior. Ten years later, after the births of several other children, daughter Caroline was born in 1894, then died in April of that year, before reaching her first birthday.

By May, Elize began exhibiting aberrant and violent behavior, and was sent to live with her parents in a different part of Galveston. After a few weeks she returned home, despite showing continued signs of disturbance. On the evening of December 4, 1894, Elize called her children into the dining room and offered them a few sips of wine: a customary practice in Victorian times.

Not long after, Louis began hearing screams from his children, and rushed home from his shop next door to find them in agony. Under questioning, Elize admitted she had put morphine into the wine, intending to kill both the children and herself; only Louis’s return to the house had kept her from suicide.

Despite attempts by physicians, four of the children died: Willie first, then
Dora, Ella, and Lizzie. Emma, 16, recovered enough to be sent to the hospital for a day, and she survived. Fourteen-year-old Wilhelmina escaped, since she was studying in a different room when her mother called.

The next day, Mrs. Alberti was arrested and charged with insanity. Asked if she knew what she had done, she replied that she did, and regretted only that she had not been able to take her own life. “I have been ill for the last eight months,” she said, “and know that I could not fill my obligations to my babies. They are better off.”

After the murders, Alberti spent time in the San Antonio Asylum. After her release, she returned to Galveston, and — free to achieve her goal at last — committed suicide.

Despite the reminders of human frailty and foibles hidden among the stones, every cemetery provides an amusement or two. Here, an angel seems to be pouting, and with good reason. The drape of Mardi Gras beads on the cross in front of her hasn’t changed in a year; she probably would enjoy more beads, in different colors.

I hope she can’t see this stone, visible in the photo of Dr. Haden’s crypt. It’s not only decorated with three times the number of beads that decorated it last year, it has snails ready to join the party.

In spring and summer, grackles qualify as Broadway’s most enthusiastic party animals. They feed among the flowers and nest in palm trees, while the boys show off for the girls from atop the gravestones.

More than birds and flowers flourish above the crypts. Trees and shrubbery seem willing to set up shop wherever conditions are right; someday, enterprising birds may nest in one of these oddly-rooted trees.

Many palms scattered throughout the cemeteries weren’t available for nesting this year, having lost their fronds to our February freeze. Still, grackles were flying into and out of this trio of palms next to an obelisk marking the grave of Abraham Parker Lufkin (1816-1887), a cotton merchant and Galveston City Council  member for whom town of Lufkin is named.

Hints of green suggest this palm, too, will survive and continue to provide a pretty backdrop for the memorial to paint store owner Joseph Rice; his wife Mary; and several of their children. Changing technology brought grief to this family when daughter Louisa, quite deaf, was killed when she walked in front of a street car whose motor she couldn’t hear.

Despite the intriguing histories contained within the Broadway cemeteries, and despite the beauty of the flowers decorating them, the greatest delight on my day of exploration was a gravestone I’d never before seen. The identity of the child is unknown, as is the hand of the sculptor. Even the inscription was invisible until the stone was raised some years ago, but its tenderness, and the love of those who chose its words, is unmistakable.

Who plucked this flower the angry gardner cried
The Master hath his mate replied
Thereat the gardner paused and held his peace


Comments always are welcome.

152 thoughts on “Cemetery Season

  1. A very interesting post and the subject, cemeteries (and wildflowers), fascinating memories of times past.
    Lovely series of images too.

    1. This was hard to write simply because there were ‘rabbit holes’ everywhere. Beyond that, the names in these cemeteries are part of everyday life for so many of us. I bank at Moody Bank. I have a friend who worked at Sealy Hospital. I’ve stopped for gas in both Willis and Sealy, and have a couple of readers who live in Montgomery County. The history of any place often is hidden away in its names, and using them as a starting point for exploration can be fascinating.

    1. Doesn’t it, though? That cemetery has been raised at least three times, so there are layers of graves below ground, and some mausoleums and crypts are only half visible; they were too heavy to entirely raise. The sleeping child had sunk so far into the ground that only the child and the top of the pillow were visible. Once they got the stone raised, it was possible to read the inscription. I really can’t believe I’d never seen her before.

    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth! The air of peacefulness that surrounds a sleeping child seemed to touch the memorial, too. I hope you’re recovering well from your second vaccine, and are sleeping peacefully, too.

    1. It was, and continued to be so even after the storm of 1900 — at least until rail and water transport gave Houston primacy. What’s ironic is that, in the beginning, Indianola was developing as Texas’s primary port, and the entryway for immigration. Then, two hurricanes in a short span of time (1875 and 1886) wiped Indianola off the map, and people decided to move on up the coast to Galveston. That worked out pretty well — until 1900.

        1. Thanks! There are a lot of stories down here, that’s for sure — and a lot of people not so different from those I mentioned here. I know a lot of fishermen who’d be more than willing to hang out at Shorty’s bait stand.

  2. Snails and beads together on a tombstone: who’d have imagined that combination?

    According to the website at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5510516/charles-e-rust, the Charles E. Rust mentioned as the husband of Jennie Rust on her tombstone was born in Galveston in 1857 and died in Washington state in 1905, so you’re right that he’s not the man who died in the hurricane of 1900. I’m confused about Jennie, though. You say she died in 1880 at the age of 18, which implies that she was born in 1861 or 1862, yet the birth year on her tombstone looks like 1892 or 1882—a flower head makes it hard to read the year.

    1. It is hard to read from the photo, but 1862 it is. This time, I was smart enough to write down some names and dates in case I couldn’t remember, or there were online discrepancies. She’s on a couple of Old City Cemetery burial lists, like this one. I hadn’t noticed until now that there’s an infant Rust listed there, too, but with no dates. That certainly doesn’t mean Jennie Rust died in childbirth, but it does raise the question.

      For two years, those snails have clustered on stones in the southeast corner; these are the first I’ve seen in that particular section. They do go nicely with the beads.

    1. That’s really interesting. My sense is that the Highgate inscription is more modern than the one in Galveston, partly because of spelling and partly because of the use of archaic ‘thereat’ on the Galveston stone. I’ve never thought of using language to date gravestones before, but it seems a plausible way to go for graves that have inscriptions but no dates.

      Surely I’ve told you what I’ve thought would do nicely on my stone, should I have one: “She Varnished From Our Sight.”

      1. Your proposed inscription is funny. It’d be the unvarnished truth.

        As for dating undated gravestones, I seem to recall coming across a website years ago that showed various gravestone elements, for example a pair of clasped hands, and told the period when each symbol was popular.

            1. I used the link you provided and it worked as html. I think WordPress was responsible somehow, as when they sometimes turn your links into large blocks of text.

    1. Your comment brought to mind what may be the smallest cemetery I’ve found. It’s in Goliad County, at the intersection of two county roads. There’s no fence, no sign: only a handful of stones in a little patch of ground, some of which are ‘homemade’ and of ordinary concrete, with the names and dates hand-drawn. When I looked at my photos and followed the names and dates, I discovered it’s the Killebrew family cemetery. By sheer luck I managed to get photos of the husband and wife who were the first buried there. More exploration is required!

  3. It was fascinating to read all the backstories to these gravestones, and of course, I loved seeing the carpets of wildflowers adding beautiful colour to the cemetery.

    1. Taken together, these cemeteries can be approached in several ways, all fascinating. One day, I focused only on the places from which the people had come: the place is filled with stones marking the resting places of people who came from England, Scotland, Denmark, Germany, and other places in the 1700s and 1800s. Then, there are the ‘internal migrants’ who came from Kentucky, Maine, New York, Georgia during the mid-1800s. And of course there are the graves of military people, including many who fought in the War of 1812. There are layers of history to be uncovered, just as there are layers of graves in the ground.

  4. These are beautiful cemetery scenes! I recently visited four cemeteries in our area in one day, and though some of them have wildflowers, they are scraggly and far between. Only the “unendowed” cemeteries have wildflowers, but they have no summer water and only occasionally do human volunteers clean up the dry grasses and weeds. The endowed look pretty and green — and boring. They have irrigated and mowed lawns, and usually no interesting headstones.

    I still love to browse around, and read the stories that can be extrapolated from the dates. The next time I visit a place that gets year-round water, I want to make a point of looking up the dead residents, and their natural decorations.

    1. Of course, this profusion of flowers is a seasonal thing. By mid-summer, after the flowers have seeded, it will have been mowed, and nothing but grass will cover the ground: green or brown, depending on the rainfall. I’ve never heard of an irrigated cemetery; that seems like a waste of good water, but I suppose it satisfies the need for ‘prettiness.’ I smiled at your mention of boring. I occasionally pass by the so-called memorial gardens that are around, with their identical markers and “NO Planting Without Permission” signs (if planting is allowed at all), and ‘boring’ is the perfect word to describe them.

  5. Such sad stories of those early settlers and all that they endured. The last tombstone is looks so worn and sad along with the story. The wildflowers are simply gorgeous.

    1. It’s interesting; I thought the sleeping child was the most attractive of the stones, and not at all sad. As for other stories, they don’t belong only in the past. Reading about Elize Alberti, I couldn’t help thinking about Andrea Yates, the Houston-area woman who drowned her five children in the bathtub in 2001. We certainly have an easier life in some ways, but human problems — and unfortunate solutions — remain remarkably consistent over time.

  6. Yes, cemeteries are fascinating places. They are often places that don’t seem to attract visitors like museums and art galleries. Yet, as you point out, they can be full of beauty and interesting history. I have seen some of the best. Buenos Aires in Argentina and outside St Petersburg in Russia. In some countries families gather in memory of the dearly departed and hold picnics, spread out the blankets and out of the cane basket comes all the tasteful morsels of fine foods.

    Of course, burial places are now selling at premiums and hard to secure. One of the largest cemeteries here in Australia is named Rookwood. In the old days it was connected by train from Sydney and there still is a saying after someone passed away; “he (or she) is on the train to Rookwood! Another one is “feeling as crook as Rookwood”. Meaning feeling a bit off colour.

    The wildflowers really make this place alive and so beautiful. I would be so lucky to end amongst the growing flowers in a spot like that. This is a great post and very inspiring.
    Thank you, Linda.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Gerard. Every time I write a post like this, I realize why some books are written: someone gets started, and there’s nowhere to stop. John McPhee’s first book about oranges was like that. He intended to write an article about the fruit, but he got interested, and the article kept expanding.

      It’s interesting that you have a cemetery named Rookwood. When I read that, my first association was with Rookwood Pottery here. It’s probably cheaper to be buried in your Rookwood than to purchase a piece of Rookwood pottery from the Art Deco era. One of my mother’s great regrets was that she sold a piece of Rookwood in a garage sale before she knew what she had.

      I love that expression: “On the train to Rookwood.” It evokes everything from the Orient Express to Travels with My Aunt.

  7. Old, unkempt cemeteries are fertile grounds for a naturalist. The more managed ones are also productive, since they generally have tall trees, but the manicured grounds support little but human vanity. The segregation of humans in life is perpetuated in death, and poor folks have small markers if at all, and different races are separated. Thank goodness Miriam and I have already bought our plot in the green section of our local cemetery where we will be buried in a totally natural fashion, with wildflowers growing above us. No funeral, no ceremony, no markers. And I am happy to know that the Turkey Vultures will be circling overhead, as they do now, as they detect the odour of the rotting bodies.

    1. You’re certainly right about the pleasures of cemeteries for naturalists — especially birders. I’ve been intrigued by the number of unexpected species that show up in our cemeteries, especially during migration and fallout. Since they’re rarely on the lists of birding ‘hot spots,’ they can be less crowded than other locations: an advantage, for sure.

      The separation of races and ethnicities even in death has been an unfortunate part of our past, but it seems to be changing around here. Over Easter weekend, I stopped by the cemetery in Palacios to see what might be blooming, and enjoyed seeing Vietnamese, Hispanic, Whites, and Blacks visiting the graves. The markers of the Vietnamese were especially interesting, and tell of a more recent history. Many buried there were born in Vietnam, and came here as immigrants. They weren’t always well-received, for a variety of reasons, but past conflicts have receded, and now they’re welcomed, in life and in death.

      1. Given the alarming increase in attacks on Asians, I doubt that they are welcome in life, and in death it doesn’t matter does it?

        1. Our world views and beliefs are quite different. I’ll only say that it certainly does matter, both in life and in death, and in the communities I encounter, mutual respect prevails.

    1. What’s notable about the saddest story, that of Elize Alberti and her children, is that we had an almost identical story here in 2001, when a woman in a nearby town drowned her five children in a bathtub. Clearly, being human is fraught with difficulties, no matter the century in which we live.

      1. Have you read “Fresh Water for Flowers” by Valérie Perrin? It’s fiction about a French female cemetery caretaker. The dead have interesting afterlives. Those who mourn them are just as interesting. But I still do not understand why people spend thousands on caskets, tombstones, crypts, flowers (think DiMaggio and Marilyn) and the lot when the money would be better spent on the living. I guess they never heard of ossuaries. More people are opting for cremation now, so that’s something. Imagine not being able to visit your loved one because there’s no grave. It’ll certainly change cemetery audits for genealogists.

        1. I haven’t read the novel, but the premise reminded me of my suggestion to an acquaintance that starting a grave-tending business might suit her. In our mobile society, traditions involving grave cleaning and flower replacement are hard to keep, but the impulse still is there, and having someone to provide those services might be a solution.

          There are places here where ossuaries can be found. New Orleans comes to mind, but there surely are others. Some are historic. And you’re exactly right about the complications of cremation for genealogists. Beyond that, there is something comforting about having a specific place to visit. On All Saints/All Souls Day (the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos) it’s common for families to gather at graves for work, socializing, and celebration. The first time I encountered a family spreading their picnic at a gravesite I was startled, but I’ve come to enjoy it.

          1. I took an aptitude test once. My scores suggested working with the dead was one road up my alley. While I agreed, I also disagreed because I believe people throw money in the ground on lavish burials and coffins. Seems to me the living would be better off cremating the remains and keeping what’s left. A cemetery overseer might be better. I’m not sure I gave Fresh Water for Flowers a fair chance simply because I didn’t like any of the characters.

      2. Yes you are right even I have heard such stories before when mum or dad have tried the same due to unbearable situations in their respective lives. In most of the cases they tried to protect their own children by taking their lives.

    1. The separation of humans from the natural world has consequences. Some are serious, such as the inability to recognize that actions have consequences. Carpenters, farmers, and gardeners experience that daily; people who spend time in rooms staring at screens sometimes have trouble recognizing its truth. And of course in death nature reclaims her own. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ is a stern but salutary reminder that no mausoleum, however ornate, can stand against the natural order of things.

    1. They certainly do provide a certain sense of liveliness, as well as beauty. What’s especially interesting is the way these cemeteries compare during the spring season. A couple of them seem to have gone to great lengths to keep things neat. No flowers bloom in the midst of their pretty green grass, except for the few that sneak over the boundaries: seeming to dare the groundskeepers to keep them out.

    1. After the storm of 1900 and the subsequent construction of the seawall, Galvestonians began the process of grade-raising on the island. Cemeteries as well as structures were elevated — three times between 1918 and 1925 — but only the markers were raised, and not the graves. Consequently, the Broadway cemeteries are three layers deep. Although there are an estimated 12,000 grave markers, there are three times that amount of bodies buried below. It helps to explain why some markers seem to be unattached to actual plots.

    1. And she provides everywhere, not just in Texas. When I was traveling in Kansas, I met a couple who offered a bit of fascinating information. They said that I should look for ‘anomalous’ small humps in the prairie that had the same grasses as surrounding areas, but seemed out of place. It seems that as the wagon trains and others were crossing the land on their way west, people who died were simply buried where they fell. Nature took care of the rest.

  8. Wandering old cemeteries can be both fascinating and peaceful. I’ve often wondered about the modern trend that makes cemeteries so depersonalized. It seems that if there’s one place a life should be memorialized, complete with all the eccentricities, it’s a cemetery. I’m certain that the permanent residents aren’t admiring the perfectly cut grass and uniform markers.

    1. That’s one reason I so enjoy country cemeteries, especially the Hispanic ones. Right on the edge of the Fannin monument grounds there’s an Hispanic cemetery that’s filled with mementos: everything from the ubiquitous teddy bear to tiny plastic piñatas. On the other hand, the Camp Verde cemetery holds a couple of miniature windmills, a pair of sculptured boots, and a grave marker for a Texas Ranger. The richess and diversity of human culture is on full display in those spots.

    1. I did. Once I realized the flowers were less numerous this year, and less varied, I decided to spend a little time just looking at the stones, and I was glad I did. I found the Ball family, for whom Ball high school is named; the founder of the Galveston Daily News, and a father and son who fought on separate sides of the Civil War but were reunited at the son’s death. Every grave’s a story.

  9. You’ve brought back memories of seeing the wildflowers here. I did not know any of the stories so this made for interesting, at some times chastening and sorry reading, but I dare say that comes with the nature of the place. I loved the picture with the black bird – it’s very atmospheric.

    1. I remembered your posts about Galveston, and thought about you while I was wandering around. I’m glad you enjoyed the stories, and the bird. He wasn’t eager to settle, but I very much liked his ‘over the shoulder’ pose. A little more iridescence would have been nice, but at least there was a touch.

  10. I learn more about Texas from your posts than I recall having learned in school. I know the town of Lufkin but never wondered about its history or the founder’s. I do wonder why he lived in Galveston but not the town of Lufkin. The Sealy name is well known because of John Sealy Hospital. My older sister was born in great and glorious Galveston while I was born in lowly Jasper–the worst place ever, compared to my siblings’ birthplaces. LOL. We have a family cemetery that’s been strained at the seams with deaths from COVID. The city buried strangers where relatives should be buried.

    Cemeteries tell interesting stories. People/historians like you bring the dead to life. You do it rather well. Thank you.

    1. I smiled at your reference to ‘lowly Jasper.’ That’s one of the places I’ve wanted to visit for a year or more because of its central location for east Texas flower hunting. Boykin Springs and Martin Dies State Park are on my ‘must visit’ list, so some time in the future, you may see some of your old haunts in my blogs. And here’s a coincidence; the town of Jasper’s the county seat of Jasper County, Texas; I was born in Jasper County, Iowa.

      A.P. Lufkin never lived in Lufkin because the town wasn’t there until very near his death. The town was established in 1882, and Lufkin himself lived from 1816-1887. The moving force behind the town’s establishment, and its naming, was Paul Bremond, a close friend of Lufkin and president of the Houston, East and West Texas Railway. When Bremond’s rail line got into the area, and a town began to form, he named it after his friend. Bremond was in Galveston when he died in 1885, and he was buried in Houston.

    1. Thank you, John. You can imagine how much editing went on to get it down to a manageable size. I’m completely fascinated by the story of the raising of Galveston after the storm of 1900, for example; I’ve written about raising the town itself, but never had considered what was necessary to raise the cemeteries. What’s on the surface is one thing; what’s below — three more layers of graves — is quite another. It’s no wonder there are strange tales about restless, disinterred souls wandering around from time to time.

  11. I love this post. Visiting old cemeteries has been a long time hobby of mine. We have one in town that is filled with Classical Revival and even has an Egyptian Pyramid tomb that is quite good size. I’ve been on several guided tours in that cemetery where the docent told the best stories

    1. Guided tours are especially good in large cemeteries where especially interesting plots can be hard to stumble over on your own. Something else they do here (or did, before the recent unpleasantness) was hold work days, allowing people to help with repair and restoration of stones, archaeological digs, and so on. Especially down here, where so much sinks into the ground, there’s a lot of work to be done to reclaim what can be reclaimed before even the mausoleums and crypts disappear.

  12. Fascinating subject and thoroughly engaging writing style. I ran out of coffee and didn’t want to get more until I finished reading. (I reckon that’s today’s technological version of “couldn’t put the book down”, it was that good.

    Each year during the Audubon Christmas bird count, cemeteries are high on the list of places to visit to spot birds. Most are, as you describe, great natural oases.

    An aspiring novelist could glean tons of ideas from exploring such a spot!

    Thank you for sharing the essay, the photographs and the history.

    1. Keeping a man from his coffee pot may be the ultimate compliment! I wonder if your son was in the area when Andrea Yates killed her five children. It was an almost eerie parallel to the Elize Alberti saga. There’s an excellent article from The Lancet that explores some of the medical and legal issues, but these introductory paragraphs sum up the Yates case well enough:

      “The facts about what took place on the morning of June 20, 2001, in the suburban home of Russell (Rusty) and Andrea Yates, in Houston, TX, were never in dispute. At around 0900 the children had finished their breakfast, and their father had left for work at the Johnson Space Center, where he was a NASA engineer.

      Soon after, Andrea Yates filled a bath with water and methodically drowned, one by one, her five children… Andrea then phoned the emergency services and asked the police to come to the house. She also called Rusty at work and told him he needed to come home. When a police officer arrived and asked her what was wrong, she immediately told him: “I killed my kids.”

      It would be interesting to compare accounts of the Alberti tragedy and that of the Yates family. I suspect there would be both similarities and differences in the public’s reaction.

      In any event, all is peaceful now — except for the grafitti artists and vandals who show up from time to time to deface and destroy the stones. I think we should deputize the birds and let them take care of the miscreants! I suspect both the grackles and the gulls would be more than happy to do some official harassing.

      1. I hurt for Andrea Yates and her children. Five children at her age! Hormones affect the female brain in amazing ways. I suffered from postpartum depression too, and was convinced that my daughter deserved a better mother than I imagined I could ever be. The only solution was suicide. Poor Andrea believed she was saving her children lifetimes of misery because she was their mother. If men suffered from postpartum depression, no one would be locked in a psychiatric facility the way this poor woman is. Her husband was in such a hurry to divorce her and marry again we couldn’t see him for the dust. #Free Andrea!

        1. If there had not been a retrial, Andrea Yates wouldn’t have had the opportunity to live out her life in a low-security facility in Kerrville. Orginally convicted of murder, she was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but on retrial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. After treatment at the high security North Texas State Hospital, she was transferred to Kerrville. I know people who worked there, and it’s far from the prototypical ‘insane asylum.’

          As for Rusty Yates, I have as much sympathy for him as for anyone in the terrible saga. I don’t begrudge him the choice to move on at all. Sometimes, it’s the only thing to do; his children were dead and his wife dead to him, there was no reason for him to kill any chance he had for a new life by remaining tied to the past.

          1. I feel better knowing Andrea lives in a decent environment but the very idea of not having free agency makes my heart clinch. I agree that Rusty has a right to move on but from the outside looking in and having experienced post partum depression . . . I cannot let go of how important my husband’s support was for my own healing. He could not understand how I felt and know what I needed but he was there. I thanked him for remembering our vow to love and be there through sickness and health.

      2. I remember the Yates story and it is truly horrible. Our son was in Houston at the time working with a start-up software company specializing in oil and gas exploration.

        As you say, comparing that to the Alberti incident would be interesting.

        Cemeteries – gold mines for authors.
        (Not a bad spot for a photographer, either!)

    1. It did take time, but I enjoyed the process, and I’m glad you enjoyed the result. As Bob Seger put it in “Against the Wind,” the trick is knowing what to put in and what to leave out.

  13. Lots of great stories, Linda, a way of honoring those who have died. I, for one, would much prefer my grave to be covered with wildflowers to carefully mowed and tended lawns. Couldn’t help but note Dr. Haden and his relevance today, given how he saved lives through quarantines.–Curt

    1. I don’t know if you noticed the link to the yellow fever article, Curt, but it’s a good summation of how the disease began to be understood. I’m sure you must have been immunized against yellow fever when you went to Liberia. I pulled out my old international vaccinations booklet and found yellow fever on the list, along with smallpox (revaccination), cholera, typhoid, polio, and DPT. Just for good measure, they threw in some gamma globulin, too. I can’t remember what we took for malaria. I think it was chloroquine, but I’m not sure. If all else failed, there always was gin and tonic.

      Can’t you image Dr. Haden’s reaction to today’s medical marvels? I’m sure he’d be pleased with the advancements, and perplexed by the anti-vaxxers.

      1. Perplexed may be an understatement.
        I carried my card for a while. I suspect it is stuck away somewhere. It was scary if you thought about it much. We used chloroquine, once a week if I recall correctly. It was something you swallowed quickly!

  14. Golly, what a sad story about the Alberti family. People who long for the “good ole days” often don’t realize just how bad those days were. That poor woman needed help and didn’t get it. Meanwhile, it says something about the daughter who was studying and didn’t get poisoned, right?!!

    1. Not every human problem can be cured by technological or scientific advancements. There was a woman here in the Houston area — Andrea Yates — who drowned five of her children in the bathtub in 2001. Her husband was a NASA engineer, and she was well educated, but in the end, the parallels between her story and that of Elize Alberti are remarkable. At first, Andrea Yates was convicted of murder, but on retrial was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Today, she’s still institutionalized here in Texas — as sad a tale as that of Mrs. Alberti.

      I don’t mean to be flippant, but your comment about the daughter who was studying brought to mind the old saying: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. On the other hand, can you imagine that girl living with what happened? I just realized that her name isn’t on the marker. The “Dorothea Roemer” was Elize’s sister. Perhaps the surviving daughter is buried nearby.

  15. Fascinating bit of Texas history, Linda. I really like the graves and tombstones juxtaposed with the wildflowers: life and death, with mementos and memories for good measure.

    1. Places like New Orleans have a reputation for interesting cemeteries, but there are bits of quirkiness and fabulous history to be found in every Texas cemetery I’ve visited — not to mention those glorious wildflowers. One of my all time favorite memorials is a statue of Jesus in the Paris, Texas cemetery; he’s wearing cowboy boots!

    1. I’ve certainly found that to be true on both counts. Sometimes I go for the wildflowers, but even on a gloomy, cold winter day, there are tokens of the past to be admired and explored. While I understand the reasons for increasing acceptance of cremation, we lose a good bit when there aren’t any physical reminders of those who’ve gone before — just as we lose something when church buildings are reduced to utilitarian structures that can’t be distinguised from an office building.

  16. So interesting and lovely, Linda! In my home town, the last time I went to the cemetery closest to my childhood home, I was lucky enough to catch the sight and scents for lily-of-the-valley covering an entire hill and spreading down to the river. I’ll never forget it and was also fortunate to be there with a friend I had known since 5th grade!

    1. What a wonderful experience, Becky. We had lily-of-the-valley among the ferns at my childhood home, but I’ve never seen such a sight. For that matter, I’ve never experienced the scent of that flower. Being able to do that, and being able to share it with such a long-time friend, was quite a gift. Those are the memories worth keeping!

  17. I have always found cemeteries fascinating, sometimes sad and sometimes just interesting chronicles of the lives people have lead before us. These stories help remind us that our lives aren’t all the different from the way people have always lived on the most fundamental level: we’re born, we live the best we can, and then we die. There’s a continuity in that that’s sort of comforting…..

    1. I tend to find cemeteries interesting rather than sad, but I will admit the gravestone of the sleeping child touched me more than usual. I’ve never found cemeteries spooky or frightening, and I suspect it might be for the reason you mention; in a cemetery, we’re surrounded by people — both those who have died, and hints of those who still honor them. Even though I much prefer living wildflowers or living plants at graves, even the artificial flowers are reminders that someone cared enough to remember, to come to the grave, and to leave a token of love. We’ve been a little short of those tokens recently; finding them in a cemetery isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  18. The irony that cemeteries, those preserves of the dead, are often havens for birdlife and wild flowers often makes me smile.

    1. That juxtaposition is part of what makes cemeteries so appealing to me. Even when living flowers have stopped blooming, there still are the lilies, acanthus, and snowdrops carved into stone to delight the eye.

  19. My first assignment when I was at University taking an Art History course was for each tutorial group to meet at the gates of the old city cemetery – where we took a kind of guided tour of the gravestones which were divvied up into different people/lives. Then we each found a tombstone of our own and wrote up about it all, using reference books and an online local cemetery website – 250 words.

    I got my first taste of what happens when you use “your own head/mind knowledge” instead of finding a reference for your observation! Somehow, as a mature student of 56yrs I wouldn’t apparently have any garnered knowledge other than maybe how to put my grammar in the right places!

    And we were advised not to drift down into the lower reaches of the cemetery because the grounds were uneven and not smooth pathways – rather a bit like your wild flowers that seem to give me the impression that our forefathers wanted to know they were surrounded by a comfortable flower bed…a bit like a comforter on your bed on a cold winters’ night.

    1. What an interesting project you were given; I would have enjoyed that myself. In a sense, that’s what I did with this post, although I included more than one person, and missed that 250 word limit! One of the things I’ve learned is that gravestones can be read like books, and they have the same ability to raise question after question. The search for answers can be great fun.

      I will say that those ‘lower reaches’ appeal to me as much as the smooth pathways, and sometimes they appeal even more. I’ll go out of my way to take secondary and country roads rather than a freeway or interstate, even at the cost of a little time. As for the flowers, there are places on the west end of the island where they stretch for miles; the trick is allowing them to flourish in the ‘civilized’ places they still want to be.

  20. Those wildflowers surrounding the headstones are beautiful. I often walk through a cemetery en-route to the school where my other half works, and almost always pause to read a few of the stones – wondering who people were, and what their life was like.

    1. What’s especially nice on Galveston Island is the propensity of the flowers to fill up any available space. Coreopsis and firewheel are everywhere, and even in the most densely populated neighborhoods people are willing to let them bloom. I think everyone enjoys their dependability as well as their beauty; people look forward to them, and when they begin to bloom in the cemeteries, even residents who don’t usually visit go for a stroll or two.

  21. The orange flowers are a particularly nice contrast with the old, darkened stone. You have more patience than I in researching the names you find, but I do enjoy a good amble in a cemetery, noting names and dates and (because it’s easier!) allowing my imagination to fill in some life details instead.

    1. There’s not a thing wrong with letting imagination run free in a place like this. Over the years, I’ve come to prefer digging down into the details, primarily because what I find usually is more interesting (or unique, or intriguing) than anything I could come up with. There’s always room for interpreting the facts, of course. Anyone who’s asked relatives about what really happened when Grandma hit Uncle Louis with a turkey leg on ‘that’ Christmas knows how that goes. Six relatives gathered around a table can come up with eight stories, and the picking and choosing leads to historical fiction.

      When you mentioned patience, I grinned as I thought about you and your climbing. Historical research is a bit like that. Sometimes it turns into a slog, but the view from atop a pile of stories can be great.

    1. It’s fun to have such an interesting place plunked down right in the middle of the city. Broadway is the primary route into town and to the beaches, so the cemeteries are easily accessible. Most of the time, they’re not really noticeable, but when the flowers are blooming, there’s no missing them. Artists come and set up their easels, photographers wander through, and its common to find family members at the graves of their loved ones. The juxtaposition of busy city life and repose is enjoyable.

  22. Thank you for this wonderful post. Surely cemeteries are invaluable both for remembrance and conservation. Many of the remaining prairie remnants in Illinois are on the grounds of cemeteries.

  23. There are many dimensions to your post: the exuberant flowers in contrast with the square stonework, the names and inscriptions, and beyond those sights, captured in your images, the stories of the people. Thanks for posting!

    1. You’re welcome! It was quite a pleasure for me, from the visits to the cemeteries to the research. It was great fun to find some new Texas heroes in the crowd, not to mention a few other intriguing (but not at all sad) family stories. Even on a rainy day, there are delights galore in a cemetery.

  24. I was so intrigued by the Lufkin obelisk! How interesting… My daily jog route includes a stretch through a local cemetery. It moves from a cluster of German, to Slovak, to Polish names, along with some Anglo-Saxon names. One corner hosts German graves connected to the two world wars. There are many stories in that cemetery. Alas, I cannot tell them but I feel them, in a way, while running in the midst of this host. Thanks for the stories from some graveyards in your locale,

    1. One of the little details about that obelisk that I found even more interesting is that the simplicity obtains in all the details. There aren’t any dates, or any other decoration: only the name ‘Lufkin’ at the base. I need to go back and see if some of the surrounding stones are for other family members, with their names and dates — or even Lukin himself.

      One of my favorite cemeteries is in Palacios, where quite different markers — often with inscriptions in Vietnamese — mark the resting places of that community. They’re not isolated in a separate section, either, but mixed with Hispanic family names, and those of early settlers. It never fails to bring a smile.

  25. I thought the cemetery in Montmartre might be my all time fave with wonderful sculpture and fascinating people but this may top it! What an intriguing spot — and filled with such history (which you tell so well and I know required a good deal of research!) When I was a kid and we’d go to the cemetery to do flowers for my grandparents, my mom would tell me the history of some of the better known locals. The biggest was R.E. Olds, who invented the automobile and who had a lovely “house” for his bones on a nearby hill in the city’s oldest cemetery. I learned about the founders of our biggest department store, and we’d see the names of people for whom streets were named and she’d tell me why. I think you and Mom would have got on quite well! I’m really impressed with the markers, though I had to say the Mardi Gras beads threw me a bit. But then, when I plant my geraniums this week (as always) I will leave pennies on the men’s graves (except my uncle Martin gets a dime — it’s a joke thing) and if they are still out, lilies of the valley bouquets on the women’s (and if not, some other bloom. I’ve passed on some of mom’s knowledge to Rick who comes with me each year. I have no idea what will happen when we are gone.

    1. I remember your cemetery posts from your travels. One big difference is that many of the people whose resting places you found are world famous, rather than regionally well known, but they’re all just as interesting. I remember your stories about visiting cemeteries with your mother, too; one reason I remember is your mention of R.E. Olds. My mother preferred Oldsmobiles, but I’m not sure she ever knew about R.E. That’s something my dad would have known, and Mom would have ignored.

      Mardi Gras beads on gravestones are fairly common. I remember reading about a poet whose grave always is covered in coins, and when I visited Leadbelly’s grave in Louisiana, several guitar picks had been added. There’s something about offerings like that that just seem right to me — like the roadside markers at accident sites that often have not only a cross or a name plaque, but Teddy bears or flowers.

  26. Such an interesting cemetery adorned with lovely wildflowers. Each story unique as the headstones. One of the most intriguing cemeteries we’ve visited is in Louisville, Kentucky. Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame is buried there as well as some other noteworthy folks with extraordinary monuments.

    1. It was years and years before I realized that Colonel Sanders was a real person. I was glad to find his grave dignified and attractive when I went to look; I almost was afraid there would be something odd, like a big chicken bucket. What intrigued me as much as his grave was the great number of unique memorials in the Cave Hill cemetery. It would be an interesting place to visit, for sure. Looking at the stones, I found this one for a child.. They’re so touching.

  27. I enjoyed this post. I like seeing old tombstones and your ability to find the rest of the story is wonderful. The Willis family mausoleum is beautiful, but I find myself drawn to the “how the herald angels sing” cross with the Mardi Gras beads. Evocative of how quickly life goes by so pay attention.

    1. I like that angel and cross combination, too. One thing I enjoy in crowded cemeteries is the interplay among the stones. At first it seems hard to get a photo, because everything is so close, but sometimes that very closeness really works. Next year, I’m going to take some beads to that cross. It would be a little sad if that person had to go three years without any new beads.

  28. Oh, what a fascinating, heart-breaking post. Cemeteries are such interesting places, an old one near us has a gravestone of a child who was killed by a horse and cart. The flowers and graves are just beautiful, as you say, an utter joy. I would love to visit in person. I did enjoy this.xxx

    1. While I understand the reasons that cremation has gained favor over the years, I do hate the losses that come with that: loss of history, and loss of that sense of connection with the past. It’s important to have a place where we can reconnect with lost family members, but it’s important to have those markers as a kind of memento mori — we’re part of a long, long line of humanity. Besides — it’s just plain enjoyable to visit a place like that!

  29. Mary Beth and I, and our dogs by proxy, will all be cremated. One reason is our desire, and our dogs’ desire by proxy, to not use land for such a purpose. But…these gardens of interment do change that feeling a bit. They are gorgeous providing of course that someday a new administrative body doesn’t decide they could be used for more headstones and fewer flowers. These swaths of beauty are much more pleasing than potted geraniums. Gives a more romantic picture of the term “pushing up daisies”.
    That last sculpture is so poignant.

    1. I had Dixie Rose cremated, but I haven’t been able to scatter her ashes. After all, she never wanted to go outdoors… How’s that for irrationality?

      I don’t think it’s going to be possible for more graves to be added to these historic cemeteries. Not only are the graves snuggled up next to one another on the surface, there are three layers beneath. After the Storm of 1900, all of Galveston was raised — literally — and since not all of the graves could be raised, only the markers were. Some of the mausoleums and crypts were so large and heavy they couldn’t be raised to ground level, so only the top half of some of them are visible — like this one. There are other, newer cemeteries in town that still have a little room, but they’re not so historically interesting. There is a Catholic cemetery that is home to many of the early Italian families; it’s got some beautiful structures, too.

      I agree about that last sculpture. I couldn’t stop looking when I found it.

      1. Maybe Dixie Rose would be happy in one of these. I first heard about this memorial in a story about some locals who were doing it but apparently it has become very popular. Not for us or our pups but I guess some folks like it.

        1. Uh… Probably not. I have a friend who has a necklace like that with one of her relatives ‘infused.’ I can’t remember which relative it was, but it certainly wouldn’t be for me — or for Dixie Rose. To be honest, it seems a bit creepy: a way to ‘pretty up’ death in an unhealthy way.

  30. Wow! Thank you for the lessons here. What really stuck out in my mind is the story of Elize and that the family is buried with their murderer. Now that blew my mind!

    1. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Making the decision to bury them together had to be quite an emotional struggle for the family, but in the end, it seems somehow right. I was glad to see that the father was buried with them. After so much trauma, the family was reunited in the end.

  31. I have never heard of or thought in terms of cemetery season. A cool invention – and quite accurately observed. And of course the rest of the post is a treat to read, as your always so well researched posts are.

    1. You’ve never heard of a ‘cemetery season’ because it’s my own phrase. I’ve never heard anyone else use it, either, and when I went to yon Google to do a search, I ended up thinking the phrase really is original. That was fun! It’s fun living in a place means cemeteries filled with flowers, too. It’s the perfect setting for pondering and photographing, especially since the mosquitoes usually aren’t yet out.

  32. Fascinating post. I’ve never heard of cemetery season. I really like your photos of cemetery’s and the wildflowers and history of those who have passed. In the New England area, cemeteries – old cemeteries – are all around. My guy and i walk one called Sleepy Hollow cemetery, where some famous authors and transcendentalists are buried, as well as soldiers from the Civil War on up to the present, and families from the early 1800s on. The trails around the hilly cemetery are beautiful and a great place for reflection.

    1. Now I’m grinning. “Cemetery season” is a phrase I came up with after I discovered that cemeteries in Texas are great places to find spring wildflowers. I don’t think there’s anyone else who celebrates it — at least, not by that name. It could make a good title for a mystery book, don’t you think?

      There are some really old graves in these cemeteries, too. Many belong to people who were born in England or Europe and emigrated in the 1700s; others were born in New England states, the Carolinas, or Tennessee and Kentucky, and came here in the 1800s. My favorite experience is finding someone’s name on a stone whom I’ve also read about in other contexts. We may think we get around, but even in the 1800s, people got around. They may have moved more slowly than we do, but they moved.

      1. Quite interesting because, yes, for the most part I think of people “settling” in one spot in those times. So much effort to move! My guy and I walk around these old NE cemeteries to reflect on how short life is, and how each of these people had a life that mattered to them, and that we should appreciate each moment we have. A lot of reflection for Cemetery season, huh? Maybe just enjoy the wildflowers…?

    1. Even in the so-called “memorial gardens,” with their identical stones and vases, everyone laid to rest has a different story. I suppose most are a mixture of sadness and joy, successes and failures. In fact, I’m sure everyone represents that mixture; it’s the human condition.

  33. History in a different form. I wonder if there is a decline in cemetery usage as family members scatter about the country, even world, to remain where they lived? Burials of ashes at sea, scattered about other places for some, no monuments or headstones as has happened with some in my family.

    1. There are interesting issues to be confronted and worked through when it comes to burials and memorials, that’s for sure. There can be amusements, too. A friend who wished to be cremated told her children that under no circumstances were they to scatter her ashes at sea, in the alpine lakes near her Utah home, or even the Great Salt Lake. As she told them, “You know I can’t swim.”

      I’m hearing more often of people choosing cremation and then burial with family members. When my mother was buried after her cremation, I learned that at least two other cremated relatives could be placed in the plot. It’s a way of having a place for family members to visit without taking up additional ground.

  34. The photographs you posted and the stories to go with are fascinating. My youngest sister in Nebraska and her husband often tour the old and often forgotten cemeteries all over Nebraska – it is a fun day adventure for them when they have time. Putting pieces of a puzzle together can give us a better sense of days gone by. What a beautiful reflection of flora and sculpture, that tells of history in a timeless sort of way.

    1. It is like a puzzle, and the pieces are scattered through time and space. I suspect that Nebraska has some of the same sort of graves I was told about in Kansas. As settlers crossed the plains in their wagons and such, inevitably there were deaths. There were no cemeteries, and no time to construct anything permanent; ofen people would simply be buried in the land, and the living went on with their journey. But in time, the land healed over them, and if you look closely in places where the land hasn’t been disturbed for a century or more, you occasionally can see a small, discrete hump: the grave of a lost ancestor, usually unknown. For me, that’s as touching as any formal cemetery.

    1. I visit the Broadway cemeteries every year, and every year I discover something new. The flowers change, of course, but it’s also true that with so many graves so close together, it’s easy to overlook some of the most interesting. Smallpox, civil war, immigration, the building of a new city — all of those historical strands are interwoven, and they’re fascinating.

        1. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. You probably discovered that their YouTube channel contains many more. Our highway department is getting much better about waiting to mow until seed formation and dispersal has taken place, but there are a lot of people who still need a lesson or two!

  35. As your images and words prove, cemeteries are spellbinding places. I often wonder about the biographies of the individuals whose names and dates I read on headstones. Thank you for bringing some of these persons back to life. There is much heartbreak here. The flowers, on the other hand, delight and make one hope that life also held some bright and beautiful moments for those who now rest in peace.

    1. ‘Spellbinding’ is a good word to describe the effect cemeteries often have on me. It’s impossible not to wonder — at least a bit — about those whose names are engraved there. Even the least curious will stop and pause occasionally, caught by an unusual name, or curious dates, or the simple beauty of the stones. I think in these cemeteries, every person lying there has a story with a bit of drama. After all, every one of them arrived as an immigrant, or survived a disaster, or helped build a city out of the swamps and sandbars. The more I read about them, the more I realize what a tough and loving lot they were.

      1. I share your sensations, Linda. Your post inspired me to return to our local cemetery, Evergreen, yesterday, and I read and wondered about many unusual names, dates, or stones on the graves.

        I also enjoyed the greenery and avian activity. I love cemeteries both as a refuge for wildlife and as a repository of human history.

        1. There aren’t as many species of birds in these cemeteries, because they’re so open, and the few trees are palms. Still, there are plenty of grackles and doves, and the occasional seagull stops by just to see what’s going on. Now, snails and lizards? There are plenty of those!

  36. What fantabulous cemeteries! I could spend hours wandering around them.

    I’ve spent quite a few hours wandering around downtown Charleston’s cemeteries, though Hubby has never wanted me to go to Magnolia Cemetery alone. It was in an iffy area out of downtown, proper. That area has changed a lot in the past few years. Lots of brew pubs and whatnot.

    No matter what cemetery I was in, there was always a cat. They especially love the Unitarian churchyard, which is left overgrown.

    The dreaded yellow fever. Back in the day, the rich folks usually decamped from along the coast to inland areas, like Summerville, in an effort to escape the summer fevers.

    1. You would love these cemeteries. An interesting side note is the number of people buried in them who came from North and South Carolina; at least, they were born in those states. Some of the dates are very early, too. There are more birth dates in the late 1700s than I expected.

      I’m trying to remember cemetery cats. I’ve never seen one in Galveston, but I well remember an extraordinarily friendly cat in Louisiana, at the cemetery where Leadbelly is buried. I had as much fun playing with the cat as I did wandering the gravestones. Leadbelly’s grave wasn’t hard to find; it was the one covered in guitar picks as tributes.

      I was vaccinated for yellow fever when I headed for Liberia; I just checked, and it’s still a requirement for several West African countries. The history in this country’s interesting. I found this little note: “At least 25 major outbreaks followed in North America, such as in 1793 in Philadelphia, where several thousand people died, more than nine percent of the total population. The American government, including George Washington, had to flee the city, which was the capital of the United States at the time. In 1878, about 20,000 people died in an epidemic which struck the towns of the Mississippi River Valley and its tributaries. The last major outbreak in the US occurred in 1905 in New Orleans.”

      I couldn’t find a good article about what ended it in 1905, but it looks like controlling it in Cuba was key; it was arriving here from there.

    1. Isn’t it a lovely stone? I’m still a little surprised that I’ve visited the cemeteries so many times and yet didn’t see it until this last visit.

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