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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Haunt 2"

When I was just old enough to start bicycling my way out of my river valley, one of my first accomplishments was visiting the graveyard next to the Grange Hall.  A Grange Hall is a place where farmers get together and talk about stuff, probably price fixing or manure sharing or something.  I’m not really sure what the farmers talked about because even though the Grange is still used and maintained, there aren’t that many farmers around these days. 

It used to be on the other side of the street, but there isn’t an other side of the street any more.  It’s just air next to the giant cliff that shadows my valley.  It’s a spectacular spot which gives a view of trees and river that stretches for miles.  See that blue down there amongst the trees?  That’s where I grew up.  The street was moved over since the cliff kept collapsing, and in the bare beginnings of my memory, the cliff was reinforced with a steel retaining wall.  I don’t know if they had to move the cemetery or not, but it is currently right next to the Grange Hall, almost invisible in a pretty grove of trees.  You can barely see it in the top photo, to the left of the building, just past that big yellow, orange maple tree. 

There aren’t that many headstones, and whoever decided where to put the graves lacked organization, with graves scattered around in various clumps.  The graves are old.  Okay, maybe not European or Egyptian old, but old for Ohio, with dates from the early 1800’s.  The Indians in the area didn’t put up headstones, though a school friend told me they had an old Indian buried on his property.  I always meant to go and visit the Indian, but never did.  It’s too late now since that area is covered with McMansions.  I bet that old Indian isn’t too happy about it.

Ella’s grave was the one that really captured my young attention.  She got one face of a 4-sided obelisk, one of the later graves, and easily the largest hidden in the trees.  She was only 17 when she died, and was married to a very old man.  Or at least that’s the way I’ve always remembered it.  I went to the cemetery last week to take pictures of the fall leaves and pay my respects to Ella, but I couldn’t read her stone any more since the weather has been wearing down her memory over the decades since I first rode my bike to visit her.  I went back today, despite my lingering cold, and despite the overflow of hurricane Sandy impossibly smacking Ohio.  It was cold, wet, and windy, but I did a rubbing of Ella’s grave so she won’t be forgotten yet.

Anybody can do rubbings of headstones.  Just put a thinnish piece of paper over the inscription and rub a crayon, charcoal, or something over the paper.  The inscription appears like magic.  I used one of the oil pastels I got from cleaning Polly’s house last week.  It seemed appropriate to use a recently passed woman’s pastel to remember another woman, or at least that’s the way I was thinking at the time -- counting me, it was a 3-woman job.  I tried doing a rubbing of an older grave, but some stones are too far gone to be recaptured.

When I was young, I was outraged Ella was married off to the old guy and she was listed like his possession.  What good is it to marry an old guy just because he has enough money for a fancy headstone?  What was her maiden name?  Is her family planted around her in the same tiny rock garden?  I felt bad she died so young.  Going back to visit her, I don’t feel so bad or mad about any of it any more.  This is a peaceful grave yard.  R.I.P. Ella.

After a little research...

I thought Elizabeth made an excellent suggestion to do some research on Ella, and I found out that Ella died of "consumption".  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that means "a progressive wasting away of the body especially from pulmonary tuberculosis".  Poor Ella.

On a brighter note, check out Elizabeth's blog here.


  1. So glad you took us back here Linda. It's very appropriate to use Polly's pastel to find the inscription. RIP indeed Ella - what a young age to die. Sending my thoughts to all your fellow Americans on the east coast...the storm looks shocking.Let's hope it has now done it's worse.
    Jane x

  2. I always think about stopping in this cemetery on my way to work. You captured the overlook nicely. Your river home. Good memories there :)
    Ella--It's a good name.

  3. I had to piece together a lot of little pictures together to get that overlook shot, but I think it works. One of the semi-mindless things to do when I wasn't feeling very well this week. Thanks for the comments, and adding my best wishes to Jane's for all the people in the path of the hurricane!

  4. Beautiful countryside you grew up in Linda. The overlook shot works quite well! Cool.

  5. I didn't think you had a panorama camera. Nice job slicing together.

  6. No money, but plenty of scenery Rand!

    ML, I almost called you to go to the cemetery with me, but I somehow thought you weren't as crazy as me to face the weather :)

  7. What a great post, Linda. I'm so glad Ella won't be forgotten. You should see if you can track her down in some old census documents. As for Sandy...I hope she detours you.

  8. Very nice photos, love the Ella connection...I'm sure she is smiling down on you.
    June Maddox

  9. Thanks ladies! I took you up on your suggestion Elizabeth (see above). Thanks for the idea!

  10. LH, you took us through space, through time, through rain and back again. Used to take my kids through old graveyards overlooked in the city, wading through knee high grass over bumpy ground, finding stones shorter than the grass. "why"? the kids asked? "why is this here"? To remember. So we tromped, remembering, noting, reminding ourselves and each other that these lives were important. Piecing together families, fires, community illnesses. Remembering. No crayons, though. Lovely piece.

  11. Thanks for taking us along this memory lane of yours. The story of Ella seems very interesting, even with the few piece of it that is still available. It's quite fascinating to suddenly realize the lives of those who lived before us. How was it? Were they happy or sad? Did they have to struggle or was life easy for them? As for Ella, there is something melancholy or sad about her life as it appears now. I guess the fact that she married young with an old guy and died young, too, suggests that. But who knows any more?

  12. I guess part of the thing that captures my imagination is that we don't know all the facts about Ella, so we're left wondering and putting our own feelings on top of her situation. Interesting that you took your kids to the graveyards Aino. That has to be in their memories they'll keep forever! Thanks for the comments!