Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Things Left Behind by Judy Truesdell

In Cemetery Plots, Uncategorized on May 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

 

The following beautiful account includes Judy Truesdell’s thoughts and impressions of Oakland Rural Cemetery in Porter Center (Niagara County.)  You can find more information about “the residents” of Oakland Rural Cemetery at:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2284335&CScn=oakland&CScntry=4&CSst=36&CScnty=2009&

I’ve always been fascinated by the things people place on the graves of loved ones. I’m curious about who the people in the graves are.  Why the items mean something to those left behind and why they might mean something to the deceased?  Walking in a cemetery I’ve seen all kinds of things.  Teddy bears, race cars, toy dogs, horses, balloons, Christmas trees, bird houses, any number of things which are a clue to the people buried there.

I was noticing these things as I took my dog for a walk yesterday in the cemetery a few miles from my house.  It’s an old cemetery somewhat hidden between two parkway entrances and across from a large golf course.  Usually, I take my dog to the park just down the road in the other direction from my house, but it was cold close to the lake and the cemetery is farther off the lake shore and warmer.

 I walked slowly up and down the rows of head stones toward the little wooded area toward the back. My dog pulled excitedly at the end of his leash, poking his head in every single nook and lifting his leg at every bush and tree. 
 I knew some of the people buried there.  Some of them I just know by the familiar names of villages and roads on the stones.
 Several of the stones had mementos placed on them.  One had a lovely sculpture of a wolf.  Another older one had a rhinestone covered horseshoe necklace left carefully at the base. The owner had passed away years ago. I was wondering at it when I saw a headstone with a large Christmas wreath set against it.  I walked over to investigate.  This wreath was at least four ft. across and sat against the  base of a stone of a boy who died at the age of 5. The grave wasn’t as old as some of the others. Maybe 10 years now that I think of it.  The wreath was fantastic and beautiful.  it was covered in tiny boxes tied up like presents with shiny paper and bows.  A garland of colored lights was wrapped around it and on a big bow at the bottom was a stuffed Grover from Sesame Street.  The thing that astonished me though, was the Christopher Radko blown glass ornaments tied around the wreath.  They were large colorful thin glass painted brightly with not an imperfection on them.  There was a snowman, gingerbread house and Christmas tree all glittering and perfect despite the winter winds and many fallen trees and broken branches laying around the site.  I looked at the grave for a few minutes wondering about the amount of overwhelming grief the decorators must have felt or joy at the giving of the decorations, I wasn’t sure which. 

I moved on, with the urging of my dog, into the wooded area to allow him to explore the many stumps and holes.  While he dug and nosed his way through the leaves I called my sister to catch up on family news, mentioning to her some of the things I had found.  She loves the historical significance of cemeteries.  I told her we should get together here for a walk. 

 All-in-all, I would say I was there for a few hours, enjoying the quiet time with my little beagle playing hunter of imaginary prey.  Finally, I decided I should make my way back to the front of the cemetery to the strip where cars are parked in a line along the road.  I decided to stop once again at the wreath and squatted down to touch and admire each of the beautiful glass pieces.  I stood up and backed away to turn around and was startled to find a couple standing a few feet behind me.  “oh, excuse me, hi” I said and started to gather the dogs leash in my hand and turned, embarrassed, to the front of the cemetery.  I was kind of ashamed to be touching something that didn’t belong to me and I was afraid they thought I was going to harm the wreath, even though I don’t know why they would think I might. 
 I walked the dog over to the edge of the head-stone line and headed towards my car.  I turned once and looked quickly at the couple.  I noticed the woman was dressed in a long gray coat and gray hat, She was kind of mousy, maybe in her 60’s, with brown boots and a scarf tied around her neck.  She wasn’t facing me.  She and her husband? walked away from me towards the back of the cemetery.  She mumbled something quietly but he didn’t say anything.  Actually, I barely noticed him at all except that he seemed a little stooped and seemed the blue-collar type of working man. His coat was more like a woolen hunting jacket but brown and faded in color.  He wore a hat as well.  They were a few feet apart and walked slowly but sort of purposely to the back.
 I headed toward the parking lot at the front.  I remember I clicked the door lock, looked up and almost dropped my keys when I saw there wasn’t another car on the strip of gravel that is the parking lot.  I looked at the road. It’s too far for someone to take a stroll from the nearest house.  Where did this couple come from?  What were they doing going to the back of the cemetery where there was a small woods leading to a parkway and then nothing for quite a ways.  I started to put my dog in the back of my car, and then stopped and took him out and walked along the front of the cemetery to the eastern edge.  No car was parked on the road down that way.
 The cemetery has a driveway to the back with a little turn-around.  That’s where the newer graves are although there aren’t many of those. That section faces the parkway and while I was there only one car drove up that way. The radio was loud and the car was filled with a bunch of kids.  They saw me walking and made one turn around and left.  No car was up that road now.  I stood at the corner of the cemetery looking across the slope that leads up to the wooded area.  I didn’t see anyone at all.  Purposely, I took the leash and headed back toward where i had just come from.  When I got about halfway I realized they were no longer there.  Where did they go?  I should have been able to see them up on the slope.  My dog and I were alone. 

I headed back to my car and got in. I texted my sister, “hey, I’m still at the cemetery looking at that wreath I told you about and I just saw a couple walk toward the back and disappear.  There isn’t any car here but mine!”

I think she thought I was kidding.

“lol” she typed back.

I wasn’t.  This is a true story. 

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24 Hours in Pictures; Lewiston Village Cemetery

In Cemetery Plots, Uncategorized on May 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNLgZObVjiE

An Inspiration: The Story of Emily Lodge

In Cemetery Plots on May 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

The beautiful old-fashioned woman whose image graces our blog is Emily Helena Crummer Lodge and she is one of the reasons I believe that it is possible to find anyone’s story.  I found her by accident–in the form of a poem published anonymously in an old Niagara Falls Gazette.  Some romantic soul happened to pass by her lonesome grave many years after her death and wrote a poem about it.  About 120 years later, I found the poem, and sought to find the story behind the words.  And did I ever find a story!

 

Mrs. Lodge (1828-1864) was born in Corfu, off the coast of Greece. Her  father was Major James Crummer, a British officer of the Napoleonic Wars and the  Police Magistrate of Newcastle, Maitland and Port Macquarie, New South Wales,  Australia. Her mother was Aikaterini Plessos, the first Greek woman immigrant to  Australia. Emily was married to Captain Francis W. Lodge, a well known sea  captain. She caught bilious fever and died in her husband’s arms while lodging  at the Cataract House in Niagara Falls, New York, on October 10, 1864. Her nephew, Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge,  famous British physicist and past president of the Society for Psychical  Research (SPR), believed in the survival of man after death and often  successfully contacted his dead relatives in séances…perhaps, even Emily,  herself.

My colleague, the intrepid Pete Ames, genealogist and trustee at Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls (Emily’s final resting place), and I, searched high and low for anything we could find to tell her tale.  We became obsessed.  We found relatives the world over and incredibly one woman in Australia had a daguerreotype of our Emily.  She sent a photograph of the image to my home address by air mail and I had my husband whisk it out to the library as soon as it passed into our mailbox–for my impatience with these sorts of things is legendary.  While a storm raged outside, I opened the package and there she was!  There is a sort of magic that happens when a devoted researcher can finally look into the eyes of that sought after person.  That first “hello” is indeed a personal and special moment in time.  As if we can really go back in time…

The biggest problem we had, though, concerning our Emily, was still driving us crazy.  Where the heck was she buried in Oakwood?  The records are sketchy for the 1860’s but the poem gave something away in its lines:  Strangers’ Rest.  We knew where Strangers’ Rest was but we also knew there was  no stone that belonged to Mrs. Lodge in Strangers’ Rest.  And lucky for us we do believe in magic for one Sunday before the anniversary of her death Pete had a surprise for me.  He had found her.  It was all quite by accident–as he had been looking for the grave of another poor soul who had actually taken his life by a gunshot in the cemetery.  He looked around the general area of the incident and there she was!  Half of her stone was gone but he could see all he needed to see:  Emily Helena.  It was a beautiful bright day autumn day in Niagara Falls and the encounter was electrifying.  Although she was not in the area we call Strangers’ Rest, today, she was not too far from it.  When he looked up the records among the 20,000 others he found that a Mr. Lodge owned the lot.  It was definitely her.

In the end, Emily Helena Crummer Lodge is the first spark on a search through Oakwood’s past.  Pete and I have been uncovering many stories over the years but she will always be incredibly special.  We were able to stumble upon records the world over that helped to put her story back together.  In a way, she is finally reunited with her family–as they had been wondering what had happened to her.  She died in Niagara Falls and for reasons unknown her husband had to keep her body here for eternity.  She is a stranger and a traveler, but aren’t we all?