Sunday, January 29, 2006

Folk Art Graves

Imagine the virgin lands of the colonial United States. Imagine the vast
forests of Pennsylvania. Untamed.

When I close my eyes, I can see the settlers digging away the rocks. I can feel the bark tear their skin as they pull down trees. Heaps of branches burn to clear the soil.

Ann Emrich died here, but the old world still infused her bones. Her husband walked out and found her stone in the same field she worked. He brushed away the dirt and sat with his chisel. He scratched the lines to guide him. Simple decorations: lines, wheat, a heart for his love. His fingers dipped into the carvings and tested their depth.

Ann Emrich, laid to rest, in the year 1769.

(St. Peter's United Church of Christ, West Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania)


Bernita said...

Rare that these pioneer stones survive - unless a community grew to provide a hallowed place.
The private graves, the family grave yard sometimes went back to the soil when the farms were remote and abandoned and the seedlings grew tall in the empty fields.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Wonderful, Jason. Thanks for sharing this, I've never seen stones like this before. =D

Mindy Tarquini said...

I LOVE this one.

Kara Alison said...

I think this is my favorite of your gravestone entries. This is really beautiful.

Mary Louisa said...

That is so amazing.

Jeff said...

This one is very interesting. What is the oldest marker you've come across, jason?

Sandra Ruttan said...

That's so cool - so interesting.

You make me want to go walking in graveyards.

Melissa Amateis said...

What a wonderful piece of history. There are a thousand untold stories in a I'm wondering what this woman was like. What was her life story? What were her dreams, her hopes? Infinite possibilities.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, yes, so many family plots have been lost. This location is odd. It's a cemetery between two old churches (one of which was my wife's childhood church). I have to wonder if these folk stones predate the layout of the cemetery and churches today. Perhaps an older structure once sat nearer to where these oldest stones now rest.

Kelly, to me they are very haunting because they were hand made by the family.

M.G., thanks. :)

Kara, thank you for the sentiment. :)

Mary Louisa, I will post some others soon.

Jeff, so far, this one is the oldest still readable. I would imagine stones last much longer in a more stable climate, but here, the years are hard on them.

Sandra, I encourage it!

Melissa, this particular trip was hard. So many expressive stones are in this cemetery. So many powerful inscriptions. I think we'll get an even stronger sense of these souls with upcoming posts.

WannabeMe said...

NIce sentiment. You could make up so many short stories just base on the stones itself.

forgottenmachine said...

I'd have to agree with a few others, this is my favourite of your gravestone entries. You've managed to capture the complexity in something so simple quite beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Dana, sometimes I feel the press of stories in a cemetery, so many voices wanting to speak.

Forgottenmachine, yes, there is an amazing amount poured into such a small thing.

Unknown said...

I really love this one! :)

Linda said...

I have never seen one like this one. Thanks for sharing it Jason. It is so beautiful and I feel the love he poured into the carvings for his wife.

Erik Ivan James said...

Very interesting Jason. I once worked with a woman that used her vacation travels to tour old cemetaries. There, and upon her return, she researched as much as was availble about the individual(s) named on stones that were of particular interest to her. When possible, she would then have correspondence with living interested persons. She could tell some wonderful stories as a result.

Do you do anything similar?

WannabeMe said...

"sometimes I feel the press of stories in a cemetery, so many voices wanting to speak."

Okay, now that's just freaky. But it can become a good novel.

Shesawriter said...

Simply beautiful. That's a rare find indeed.


Anonymous said...

Robin, thanks. =)

BeadinggalinMS, there's so much more emotion there than simple words.

Erik, I have a lot of respect for that. I know how difficult it is to research your own ancestors, much less a random person. Sadly, I barely have the time to do as much as I do. But the concept is fascinating!

Dana, LOL! Don't get too freaked out! I just mean that when I take the time to really focus on the messages and glimpses of lives in the stones, it takes an emotional toll on me.

Tanya, thanks for sharing it with me. :)