Tribute to a Pilgrim


Here ended the Pilgrimage of


Who died February 23, 1672/3

aged above 80 years

He married Elizabeth daughter of


Who came with him in the

Mayflower December 1620

From them are descended a

Numerous posterity.

“Hee was a godly man and an ancient professor in the ways of Christ. He was one of the first comers into this land and was the last man that was left of those that came over in a Shipp called the Mayflower that lived in Plymouth.”        Plymouth Records

It is fitting to remember a Pilgrim on this, our Thanksgiving. The gravestone of John Howland is a replacement stone and it is presumed that he is buried in the Burying Ground at Plymouth as the first grave markers were made of wood and did not survive.


John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England, in or around 1592. He was the son of Yeoman Henry Howland and Margaret Howland. John Howland came over on the Mayflower as an indentured servant of Mr. John Carver, who later became the first Governor of Plymouth. Howland’s trip across the Atlantic was a harrowing experience. During a harsh storm, while standing on a deck, a huge wave crashed over the ship and washed Howland into the icy cold waters of the sea. He was able to catch hold of a topsail halyard and hung on until his shipmates fished him back onto the deck to safety.

The Mayflower II, in Plymouth Harbor

The Mayflower II, in Plymouth Harbor

John Carver died and John Howland is thought to have won his freedom upon Caver’s death. John married his fellow passenger, Elizabeth Tilley on New Year’s Day (March 25, 1623—Old Style).

Pilgrim woman statue in Plymouth

Pilgrim woman statue in Plymouth

Elizabeth came over with her parents John Tilley and Joan Hurst Tilley. Her parents died during that first winter in the New World and she became the ward of the Carver’s who died the year after. John and Elizabeth had 10 children—Desire, John, Jabez, Hope, Lydia, Ruth, Hannah, Joseph, Isaac, and Elizabeth.

The only house still standing in Plymouth, in which a Pilgrim lived, is the Jabez Howland House. After, John Howland died, his wife, Elizabeth went to live the rest of her life as a resident in her son’s home.

Jabez Howland House, Plymouth

Jabez Howland House, Plymouth

I have recounted the story of John Howland’s crossing and rescue every Thanksgiving for my children. If Howland had not been pulled up on deck and saved, I wouldn’t be here because I can be counted among his “Numerous posterity” now numbering in 12 and 13 generations.


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The Safety Razor Inventors—and its not who you think!

Two of the inventors of the safety razor are buried in a whimsical mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York—and neither is King Gillette.  While King Gillette gained fame for his razor and is often mistakenly given credit for his razor being the first, he was not the first to patent a safety razor or get one to market. Though they did not garner the lasting name-recognition of Gillette, on June 15,1880, Frederick, Richard, and Otto Kampfe, three immigrant brothers from Saxony, Germany, filed an application for a patent for the first safety razor to be manufactured in the United States.  Their invention put the straight razor on a path to become a thing of the past. 

The safety razor was a huge success and made the family wealthy.  Two of the Kampfe brothers, Frederick and Otto, used some of that wealth to build a mausoleum in the Green-Wood Cemetery.  Their names are stamped in bronze and emblazoned on either side of the entrance.  The Kampfe family name is carved into a light gray lentil resting on two columns flanking the doorway. The heavy granite mausoleum itself looks a little like a container that could have been found in your grandma’s canister set with its round shape topped with a polished ball.  The patinaed bronze door of the tomb features a classically-dressed mourning figure carrying an oil lamp—literally standing at death’s door. A flickering flame can be seen coming from the lamp, providing light.  In funerary symbolism the light emanating from the lamp represents the pathway to Truth and to Knowledge.  The Bible verse, II Samuel: Chapter 22, verse 29, says, “For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness.”

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Any Help? – Mystery Solved

One of this blogpost’s readers, Phyllis, solved the mystery. The metal marker connected to this grave represents the Switchmen’s Union of North America which was a labor union founded in 1894 and included members in the United States and Canada. Thank you, Phyllis, for doing some digging into the buried man’s history and solving the mystery!

Many graves are not only marked by a tombstone but also accompanied by a metal marker.  These metal markers usually are a display of the deceased’s membership in a fraternal organization such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks or the Loyal Order of the Moose.  Sometimes they mark military service and indicate a branch of service such as the Army or Navy, or often the war in which the deceased served, such as the Revolutionary war or the Civil War, or a more recent war—Korea, Vietnam, or the Gulf War.  But this marker found in the Woodland Cemetery in Jackson, Michigan, has me stumped.  Any ideas?

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The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers

The last five posts have been about accidents that occurred on trains.  The posts, in a way, also highlighted that trains in the 19th century and early 20th Century were not only an important mode of transportation, but carried cargo—human and freight, and communication in the form of mail.  The trains knitted the United States together—coast to coast.  It shortened the time it took to get from New York to San Francisco and destinations in between.  Tens of thousands of workers built and maintained the tracks to keep the trains running and tens of thousands more worked on the trains as engineers, porters, and conductors.  Trains were vital to the economy and could mean the economic death of a town if the train tracks didn’t go through it.  In the History and Description of Harrison County, Given in Townships, published in 1868 in Magnolia, Iowa, the author, G. F. Waterman, wrote, [the railroad was] “the destroying angel for small towns” if they passed by, leaving “the town in the most extreme throes of misfortune.” (page 25) The train could be the life blood for a community bringing goods, services, people, and business.  The two fledgling towns Waterman wrote of, Jeddo and Buena Vista, ceased to exist when the train track did not cut through them.

As one would imagine, workers knew of the importance of what they did and took pride in the jobs they had.  Workers joined organizations such as, Benefit Association of Railway Employees (BARE), Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers BLE), Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF), Brotherhood of Rail Road Track Men (BRRTM),  Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC),  Brotherhood of Railroad Clerks (BRC), Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen (BRB), and Brotherhood of Railroad Telegraphers (BRT).  They proudly joined the organizations in life and proudly displayed them in death, such as this metal marker from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers (BLF & E).

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Train Wreck, 5

Greenlawn Cemetery, Vincennes, Indiana

Greenlawn Cemetery, Vincennes, Indiana





AUG. 22, 1866.


ON ST. L. A. & T. Ry.

MAY 12, 1893.

DIV. NO. 442



Tree-stump gravestones dot cemeteries all across the Midwest and especially Indiana where the tradition of stone carving was fine art in a state where limestone is plentiful and rich and the stone carvers were and are expert and talented. In funerary art, tombstones took on the look of tree stumps during the rustic movement. These type of gravestones were most popular for a twenty-year period from 1885 to 1905. Thousands of tree-stump tombstones exist in nearly as many designs. The creativity of the carvers was boundless. The gravestones were purposefully designed to look like trees that had been cut and left in the cemetery to mark a grave.


Many symbols, like the hanging and broken bud, the broken column, and the broken wheel represent the end of life’s journey.  In this case, even the gravestone itself, the tree-stump, symbolizes a life cut short.


The marker for Charles F. King is no exception, he was but a mere 26 years old—a life cut short. But what is astonishing, is that King’s cause of death, a train wreck, is carved into the front of his gravestone. He was killed in 1893 at Jonesboro, Arkansas, in a train wreck on the St. Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway. But a question remains—why carve his cause of death into the gravestone? Would we carve an exploding heart for all those who die from a heart attack? Would we carve a ’48 Studebaker for someone killed in a car accident?


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Train Wreck, 4 The Caboose and the Loose Wheel

Union Cemetery, Uhrichsville, Ohio

Union Cemetery, Uhrichsville, Ohio

Charles E. Witting

Died May 4, 1900

Aged 27 YR 6 MO 4 DA

This intricately carved gray marble caboose, track, and wheel displaying the letters: B of RRT can be found in the Union Cemetery at Uhrichsville, Ohio.  The tale told by the cemetery maintenance crew about the marker is that the man buried under the railroad car was killed by a wheel that came off the train, which is displayed in front of the car.

Besides being a cruel joke to show the weapon of one’s demise at one’s graveside, the story is only partially true. The wheel depicted in front of the caboose commemorates Witting’s membership in the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.  BUT, it was the caboose that actually killed Witting NOT the wheel.

In an ironic twist, the very thing that killed Charles E. Witting became the image for his gravestone.  The caboose sculpture marking his grave also represented the job he loved and held for 8 years–again, the thing he loved, killed him.

According to the Ohio Democrat and Times, Thursday, May 10, 1900, Witting was crushed by a caboose, “One of the saddest accidents of its kind was that which occurred just west of Coshocton on Friday evening last, in which one of the best men in the employ of the Pan Handle railway company suddenly met death. Charles E. Witting of Columbus, acting as a flagman until his promised promotion to conductor, was crushed to death by an overturned caboose. The breaking of the axle on the front truck of the car next to the caboose caused part of the train to be derailed while going at the regular rate of speed. Witting and two others, one of whom was the conductor were in the overturned portion of the train. Witting jumped from the platform of the swaying car. The others who were in the caboose went over with it and received only bruises while Wittings lifeless body was extricated with difficulty from under the overturned car. He leaves his wife and infant son, a twin brother, William E. Witting, an aged father and mother who live in Frazeysburg and other relatives. Charles was only 27 years of age and had been in the employ of the Pan Handle railway company continuously for more than eight years. The funeral was held Monday at 2 p.m. from the home of his father-in-law Frank Davis in Uhrichsville and Charles Witting is now quietly sleeping away the years of his promising manhood in the beautiful Union Cemetery at that place.”

Charles Witting, at only 27, died leaving a pregnant widow, Margaret (Davis) Witting, with a small son, Charles E. Witting, named for his father.  Just 5 months after the tragic accident, Margaret gave birth to a second son, William, named for Charles’ twin brother.

According to an article printed by the Modern Mechanix, March, 1937, it was reported that Witting’s tombstone was, “designed after the old-fashioned type of freight caboose, the headstone is mute evidence of the work Witting so much loved.  Members of the Uhrichsville chapter of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, of which Witting was a member, helped to erect the marker.”

Note: I first saw the gravestone above on the Website:  Beth Santore, the Webmaster, has photographed hundreds of cemeteries in Ohio, as well as, making photo forays into neighboring states.  I highly recommend her Website, especially for those tramping around Ohio graveyards!

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Train Wreck, 3–His Last Trip


Killed at New Albany

North Y. while on duty for the

Monon R. W. Co.


SON OF J. N. & E. A.



SEP. 15. 1880


DEC. 20. 1902


C. R. Salyards of Orleans, Indiana, carved the train on top of the gravestone for Emory Titzel in the Mount Carmel Cemetery at Stinesville, Bean Blossom Township, Monroe County, Indiana.


Emory Titzel was a brakeman on the Monon Rail Way Company when he was killed in a accident.

In addition to the intricate carving of the train engine, there is a glassed compartment in the center of the gravestone that housed the flowers from the funerals. The flowers have long since decomposed.


Even though the train marked the untimely death of Emory Titzel and his “last trip” on the Monon, other children of Joseph Newcomer and Edwina Ann (Williams) Titzel are memorialized on the stone:













DAU OFN. & E. A.



FEB. 1. 1875.


SEP. 5. 1875


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Train Wreck, 2


The Bohemian National Cemetery at Chicago, Illinois, practically has a small forest of tree-stump tombstones. They come in different styles and shapes, and some even in different materials and dot the old part of the cemetery. But, the one that is a surprise and unlike just about any of the others is the tree-stump tombstone of 40-year old Matej Sidlo.






10 SRPNA 1898





NAR. 1857 – ZEM 1930


Here Rests


Born at the Kloube District

Vodňan Region, city of PISEK


10 AUGUST 1898

At the age of 40 years

Rest in peace

Dear husband and father


BORN 1857 – DIED 1930


Sidlo and his brother, Jacob, both immigrants from Bohemia had found jobs at a local brewing company—R. Stege Brewing—in Chicago. They were to load their wagon with beer barrels and make deliveries for the company the daylong. And, their day was long. Matej and Jacob left home for work at the crack of dawn—4:45 am to get an early start.

According to newspaper accounts from the time, it was reported that the two men had climbed aboard their wagon, being pulled by two draft horses, and were making a crossing over the railroad tracks at 16th and Morgan, not far from where Matej lived on Morgan and 19th, when a train barreled down the tracks. Jacob spotted the train and was able to jump to safety in time, but the train hit the team and wagon tossing Matej to the pavement. His death certificate tells the story, Matej Sidlo “came to his death from shock and injuries caused by being thrown from a beer wagon hauled by two horses and belonging to the E. R. Stege Brewing Company. Said wagon being struck by engine No. 590 belonging to the CB & Q RR Company.” One newspaper account chalked it up to, “carelessness of railway employees” who were “again to blame for the untimely death of a man in the prime of his life.”

Matej was indeed in the prime of his life. According to the 1910 U.S. Census, Matej or Mike Sidlo was married to Josefa (Josephine) Sidlo, who was also an immigrant from Bohemia. They had six children living at the time: Anz/Ann born June 15, 1881; Joseph born August 29, 1882; Michael born May 6, 1887; James born October 1888; George born March 1893; and John born August 23 1895 . Their 7th child, Wenzel/Wenci, died as an infant.

Matej’s tree-stump tombstone, carved from limestone, was a part of the rustic movement of the mid-nineteenth century which was characterized by designs that were made to look like they were from the country. The gravestones were purposefully designed to look like trees that had been cut and left in the cemetery which was part of the movement to build cemeteries to look like parks.  In funerary art, the tree-stump tombstones were varied—the stonecutters displayed a wide variety of carving that often reflected individual tastes and interests of the persons memorialized.


The tree-stump gravestones themselves were imbued with symbolism. The short tree stump usually marks the grave of a person who died young—a life that had been “cut” short.  In this example, Matej is just 40 years old.  Twining up the face of the gravestone is ivy, a symbol associated with immortality and fidelity. Just below the place where the names are carved into the stone is a pair of clasping hands, a symbol of matrimony.

But what is different is the bas-relief on the front that displays the scene of his death. It shows the train engine, billowing smoke from its smokestack, barreling into the wagon with the beer kegs flying into the air.

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Train Wreck



BORN AUG. 2, 1870


APRIL 5, 1897

The small square-top tablet in the Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh displays a bas-relief of a locomotive at the top of the gravestone—not just any engine, but the likeness of the Pittsburgh Fort Wayne & Cleveland Run Woods that killed Charles Haggerty in a trestle span collapse.  The Monday, April 5, 1897 Pittsburg Press printed the following headlines:


Coal Train Wrecked at Ohio River Connecting Bridge.





The following excerpt of the article on the front page of the evening Pittsburgh Press published the dramatic details of the accident:

“The Employees Were Buried Under the Cars and Coal-McClure Avenue Was Completely Obstructed.  The Accident Caused Great Excitement in Lower Allegheny.

“A span of the Ohio Connecting railway bridge, over McClure avenue, Allegheny, gave way about 6:15 this morning, and a mixed freight trin which was crossing together with the engine, were precipitated to the street, fully 40 feet below.  The causalities were:

“CHARLES HAGGERTY, Fireman, killed.

“WILLIAM GRAHAM, engineer, fatally hurt.  Body badly mangled; now at St. John’s hospital.

“The train pulled out from the panhandle yards on the south bank of the Ohio, bound for the Ft. Wayne road.  It passed over the river in safety, but when about midway of the McClure avenue span the trestle gave way and the engine and 13 cars plunged to the street below.  Engineer Graham and Fireman Haggerty went down with the engine and were buried in the wreck.  The cars and coal were scattered in every direction completely bocking the street.  In addition to the coal cars, two cars containing structural iron were also piled in the wreck.

              The engine, tender and one car passed over McClure avenue in safety.  The third car was of the hopper description and was loaded with coal.  When it was directly above McClure avenue, the street span collapsed, fully 100 feet of the structure giving way.  The heavy weight pulled the engine, the tender and the first car back, and precipitated them into the street below.  Car after car followed, until the street was filled to the level of the trestle above.

              In the fall the engine turned completely over.  Graham and Haggerty were unable to jump and were caught in the falling train.  West-bound passenger train 101 on the Fort Wayne road, and east-bound train #42 on the Cleveland & Pittsburg road were passing when the bridge collapsed.  Both were compelled to stop.  It was by the east-bound train that the news of the disaster was first brought to Allegheny.  The wrecking trains of the Fort Wayne and Cleveland & Pittsburg roads were at once dispatched to the wreck.  Word was also sent to the Allegheny central police station and No. 3 patrol wagon and eight officers were sent to assist the wrecking crews.

              Work was at once commenced upon the lower end of the wreck, in order that the imprisoned engineer and fireman might be rescued.  Superintendent A. B. Starr, and other officials, arrived early at the scene of the accident, and at once assumed the management of the men engaged in the rescue.  The steam dome of the big engine was broken by the fall and the escaping steam permeated every part of the wreck.

              Almost 200 men were put to work with shovels, crowbars and saws, and shortly after 7 o’clock the cab of over-turned engine was reached.  Haggerty was found dead upon the cab floor, an iron bar having fallen upon the prostrate body, and cut it in twain.  The remains were carried out and the search continued for Graham.  The escaping steam and scalding water made it almost impossible to work but the wrecking crew continued bravely and shortly before 7:00 Graham was found crushed beneath the engine tender.  He was still alive, but the flesh was badly burned about the upper part of the body.  Considerable difficulty was experienced in getting the injured man from the wreck.  It was finally accomplished, and he was sent to St. John’s hospital.  The remains of Haggerty were taken to Thomas Payton’s undertaking room on McClure avenue…”

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Frighten the evil spirits

Robert H. Richards

January 18, 1830 – September 16, 1888

Josephine A. Rankin Richards

August 12, 1833 – December 14, 1910

The Robert H. Richards mausoleum, built by H. Q. French and Company of New York, in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, is considered one of the most beautiful in the cemetery—a cemetery not short on beautiful mausoleums. Richards was a London-born businessman who successfully opened Atlanta’s first bookstore but really made “bank” when he co-founded the Atlanta National Bank with Alfred Austell.

The warm-colored stone mausoleum located on a slice-of-pie-shaped lot, is a combination of architectural designs—Gothic revival and Romanesque.  The vertical design, with a quatrefoil window in the tower are common elements in the Gothic style.  The rounded arches above the door and in the tower each with a slight Gothic peak, are much more reminiscent of Romanesque architecture.

The structure’s four gargoyles, also a Gothic feature, on the tower feature bats facing outward—with their wings stretched backward as the entire animal juts forward.  The bat is a rare graveyard symbol. Like many symbols it represents one thing in Eastern cultures and quite another in the West. To the Eastern cultures the bat is seen as a symbol of good fortune.

Not so in the West. Since Medieval times, the bat has symbolized demons and evil spirits. In cemetery symbolism the bat is associated with the underworld. Think how often the bat is used as a Halloween decoration—it is part of all things spooky, creepy, and the macabre.  As if the bats weren’t scary enough, these have lion heads and talons.  According to Images of America: Historic Oakland Cemetery, by Tevi Taliaferro, (pages 42 and 43), they are “intended to frighten away evil spirits” and many a child, I imagine.

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