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Vandals, History, and Old Newspapers Death and Poetry


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.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1884-07-25/ed-1/seq-2/

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.

»

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Vandals, History, and Old Newspapers Death and Poetry

Than you Rolf for following up this story, and presenting it here on ibrattleboro - taking the time to put it into an attractive, readable format.

It is great to know about Chronicle America. That sounds like a valuable tool, which before reading your story I did not know about.

Every so often I hear someone say that there is nothing worthwhile on ibrattlebore, and proudly proclaim that they don't bother visiting this site. A couple of days ago, I spoke with one of our newly-elected selectboard members, whom I called to discuss something about him which had recently been posted here.

To my surprise, he told me that he had not seen the item, and explained that he only rarely looks at ibrattleboro. I felt a bit dismayed that a selectboard member would close himself off from any one source of information about what people are thinking and feeling about local issues.

When I read Rolf's story about how he was prompted by the toppled grave market to research the history of this very personal and sad story, I felt that this ibrattleboro post fully answers anyone who does not understand just how valuable ibrattleboro is. Problem is, those with heads in the sand (or other obscure places) will never know because they will will will not see it.

 
 #

Vandals, History

There was a lightning strike which took down a big tree in Prospect Hill Cemetery in the 50s. This took down quite a few grave stones. But, there was vandalism done much later. Depening where this stone was located, it could have been either. The stump of the tree is still there-just at the top of the hill and south of the first entrance.

 
 #

Location of this stone

This stone is near the sidewalk, almost right up against the sidewalk. I hadn't noticed that is was toppled before, during my prior walks.

But that of course does not prove it was vandals.

 
 #

Life and art

I really enjoyed this story too, especially the history behind the stone and the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I thought you did a great job layering art and life. It was also nice to read Hopkins again. I read his poetry in college and really liked it, but haven't gone back to it in years. Now I think I'd like to if I could just remember what box he's in.

 
 #

Glad you liked the story

Glad you liked the story Lise. I think there are many more stories about our town that can now be told due to access to the Phoenix and the Reformer, and the Vermont Watchman and other papers of old.

Hopkins has become my latest poetic obsession, both for his sound, and language and also his meaning.

I don;t believe in ghosts exactly, but felt somewhat the presence of the group gathered at that exact spot on earth, with their flowers, all standing there, in 1884. Or at least, I benefitted somehow from knowing that they had been there, right where I was standing, separated from me only in time.

 
 #

Restoring beauty is so easy that I want to

The year that these boys drowned in Brattleboro, many friends and family gathered, sang songs, and lay flowers on the one grave that both boys share.

On July 18th of this year, I am planning on laying flowers on this grave. The grave is right next to the sidewalk of South Main Street.

It seems simple and appropriate to do this in 2013, the same year that the stone toppled over. If others would like to join me in doing so, I would enjoy your company.

Maybe we could even arrange to have the stone re-set atop its pedestal. If not, we can still lay flowers.

I will post a reminder when it is closer to the time, in case anyone is interested in joining me in this simple act of restoring beauty and acknowledging the past.

Rolf

 
 #

Planting flowers for their grave

Gladiolus

That is the name of flower that I will be planting at home. If they are ready by July 18, I will cut them and bring them to the grave at that time.

 
 #

This is so beautiful thank

This is so beautiful thank you.

 
 #

The Flowers are coming along nicely

The Glads are coming along nicely, and should be ready for cutting by that date, July 18.

I have been too busy to inquire what is needed in order to remount the stone on its base, but will do so.

Rolf

 
 #

Gladiolus Set out a couple days early

The 129th anniversary of their deaths will be this Thursday.

I am leaving for Maine today, but will set out the gladiolus on the grave of the Steers boys before we leave. If anyone else feels like setting out flowers on their grave, you can easily find it by going to the Prospect Hill Cemetery on South Main Street. The stone is still knocked over, and is right next to the sidewalk that passes next to the cemetery.
The portion of the cemetery that it is located in is near the intersection with Washington Street.

 
 #

We did indeed get the flowers on the grave

We did indeed get the flowers on the grave. Only the red ones were in bloom, so that is what we set out.

 

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