Recently I was walking down the sidewalk along South Main Street, and as I passed the cemetery, I noticed that a gravestone had toppled over. I presume that it did not topple on its own, but rather was toppled by vandals. Somethow this made me want to read the stone.
It recorded the death of of two boys, both wth the last name of Steers. They both died on July 18, 1884, and the stone said they shared one common grave.
The Library of Congress has unveiled the Chronichling America project. Their goal is to digitize every newspaper in America, from the earliest newspaper up through 1922. Using this resource it is now possible to do local research on past events, or, follow an ancestor through time, using old newpapers to help you locate there movements across the country. I personally have been using this resource to track the movements of T. P. James across the country. More on that another time perhaps.
I used the Chronichling America website to retrieve the following information about the Steers boys.
The funeral of the Steers boys who were drowned while bathing in Whetstone Brook last Friday noon, as reported in our local edition of the same day, was held on Sunday at 4 p,m., from the resldence of Mr. Steers on Forest Square, who was father ot the elder boy and a halt-brother of the younger not uncle as previously reported. The boys were members ot tbe Episcopal Sunday school and aIter. Mr. Collins administered the burial service, the choir assisting. Pupils from the Grammar and Intermediate schools, with which the deceased were connected, acted as bearers, and to the number of CO followed the remains to the cemetery in procession and cast floral offerings upon the common grave. The extraordinarily large attendance upon the exercises bespoke the general and deep feeling of sympathy awakened In the community.
If the stone was knocked over by vandals, somehow, I don't feel angry. Just sad. While it is wrong to knock over stones of rememberance that don't belong to you, it seems as hopeless to communicate that with whoever the vandals are as it is to communicate with the now long dead father and brother of those two drowned boys. Also sad for the long dead Steers boys, Fred and John.
It also makes me think of that Gerard Manley Hopkins poem:
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-11889)
Spring and Fall:
to a Young Child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.