The Williams Cemetery in the corner of Route 184 (Gold Star Highway) and Lantern Hill Road is a good example of what can happen to small family cemeteries which have no regular maintenance. Frost heave has taken a terrible toll on fragile stone markers, and many fractured tablets are laying flat to the ground. Lichens and mosses have also rendered most of the stones illegible. Sandstone markers have eroded to the point where epitaphs are now illegible. Many of the area’s founding families are represented in this small cemetery: Miners, Shaws, Averys, Williams, Hudsons, and one stone remains to the memory of a Mystic sea captain. This cemetery is only a few miles from the Mystic River and Old Mystic.
Westerly, Rhode Island boasted a sterling reputation for granite, particularly blue granite, in the nineteenth and early 20th century. A booming Italian population also supplied a good number of artisan stone carvers whose work still survives at area cemeteries and is worthy of the great cathedrals of Europe. These craftsmen excelled in carving a human form out of a massive hunk of granite so life-like that the long tresses of hair seem to undulate in the breeze, flower petals so delicate that one half expects to smell a fragrance, and features so detailed that the nails on fingers and toes must be touched to be believed. River Bend is full of the great granite monuments; imposing, massive, heroic works in stone which must have taken teams of oxen to drag up the gently rolling hills. There are some marble, a few sandstone and slate, and several zinc monuments on the grounds, but primarily granite rules supreme. A slide presentation of River Bend will be completed this week and will feature the amazing figural statues and symbols to be found there. River Bend is on Beach St. and overlooks the Pawcatuck river. Thanks to the brisk breezes and widely-spaced plantings, moss and lichen are not a problem for this cemetery. It is open every day until twilight to the public and is well worth the trip.
This week’s photos include a particularly beautiful seated figure surrounded by the hydrangeas so commonly seen by the seaside and the lady is holding the universal symbol of Time passing, the hour glass. The cherub is one of two identical cherubs, one on the ground, one on a pedestal which may be found in River Bend. This little angel is facing out to the river.
This stone is alongside the east wall of Stonington Cemetery on Rt. 1 in CT and says
Here lie the ashes of the heart of
Anthony Havelock – Allan
Close by the place where lie with those
Of her forbears the mortal remains
of his most dear love for 24 years
At the bottom of the stone
She was like a field of flowers in sunlight
A touching tribute to a beloved wife. Hopefully this Romeo has found his Juliet again in the hereafter.
Anthony Havelock-Allen was the English producer of famous films. Among them: “Brief Encounter” (1946), “Great Expectations” (1946), “Oliver Twist” (1948), “Romeo and Juliet” (1968), and “Ryan’s Daughter” (1970)
The seaside town of Stonington Borough, just a little north of Mystic, CT. is a little town lost in time. At the corner of routes 1 and 1A there is perhaps one of the most glorious Victorian cemeteries in the state of Connecticut. Featuring stones of marble and the famous nearby Westerly blue granite, you will find more examples of monument types and high Victorian carvings than almost anywhere else in the state. This is not a large cemetery but it is packed with amazing examples of the heyday of Victorian monument carving, the best examples from 1860s-1890s. The photographs in the slide presentation below are some of the figural statues of merit. For more views of this spectacular memorial garden cemetery, please visit the Stonington Cemetery page at the right side of the screen.
In the sleepy rural town of Exeter, R.I., behind a small white country Baptist church lies the body of a nineteen year old girl whose tomb is one of the most-visited in the state. She is Mercy Brown, accused of vampirism in the nineteenth century. In actuality Mercy wasted away with consumption, died and was buried in the old Chestnut Hill graveyard in 1892. But the old country folklore was fierce in this area, and when family members sickened and faded before the horrified eyes of the parents, something had to be done. Was the undead spirit of the poor girl coming back to drain the life force from the Living?
The body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt. The heart was removed, burnt on a nearby rock and made into a tonic of heart’s ash and other medicinals. Still, brother Edwin soon expired and others continued to succumb. This Exeter tale of poor little Mercy fascinated the likes of Bram Stoker when he read about it during a tour of America with his actor employer, Sir Henry Irving. When back in England, Stoker recalled the story and based the character of Lucy Westerna in his immortal novel Dracula on the sad saga of Mercy Brown.
Her stone has been purloined at least once, then returned. Today it is firmly reset and banded with an iron clamp to a concrete pillar. Rarely is the grave bare. Flowers, notes and votives are left by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Her story is known far and wide.
Chestnut Hill Baptist Church and graveyard may be found on Route 102 in Exeter. The photographs below are of the Brown plot, and other stones of interest within the graveyard.
The music is by Libera, Voca me (Call Me) Click on the little “x” to reduce the music caption box on your screen for better viewing of photographs.