On June 12, the Rochester Historical Society led a tour of the Rochester Cemetery, which I previously mentioned is a private not a municipal burying ground. We realized as we prepared for the tour that we would only be able to cover a portion of the cemetery. While we may well do another tour at a later date, I wanted to mention some of the gravestones that piqued my curiosity.
One of the first things I noticed as I walked the cemetery was the fragility of some of the oldest stones. Because the early markers were often made of stone that was easy to carve (without today’s tools), the stones were easily worn away by time and weather. Gravity and lichens have also affected stones making it hard to identify who is buried there.
Walking and reading various monuments, I’m always stopped by the ones that tell a story. There are many captains and for some it is a military rank while for others, it signals a life on ships, like Capt. Samuel Lombard, who died at sea in 1795 in his 40th year. Their tombstones tell of lives lost by drowning or far from home. John G. Mendell drowned in Manilla in 1871. Samuel Tripp Braley died in 1870 and is buried in Mahe, Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. Charles A. Mendell, a member of the same family died in California in 1855. Another Mendell, William H. who was born in Rochester in 1832, died in London in 1895.
As I make my way through the rows of stones, I am painfully aware of how many wars our country has fought and the high price that so many families have paid. There is Barnabas Clark whose inscription reads simply,” soldier of the Revolution”. Some of these soldiers came home, often with the physical or mental scars of war, while others weren’t so fortunate. Ebenezer Hathaway died in a hospital in Annapolis in 1865.
Many of the messages carved into these old stones make me want to know more of the person’s story. What took Capt. W. Claghorn to North Carolina where he died in Cape Fear in 1798 or Elisha Sherman who died at Washington. North Carolina in 1806. Then there are the ones that are a bit of a puzzle as the family tombstone that begins with Thomas Smith interred in Oak Grove Cemetery in New Bedford.
All these memorials have one thing in common: the wish to keep the memory of a loved one alive, no matter where they died or are buried. That’s true whether it’s an obelisk that lists father, mother and several offspring of a family or a solitary grave such as that of Thomas Arthur Clarke, which reads,” In memory of Thomas Arthur Clarke of Manchester, England 1860-1933.
By Connie Eshbach