I rose yesterday morning at around 6:30 and left my wife and daughter sleeping to go out and photograph the streets of Willimantic, CT again, but found nothing that really grabbed my eye on this day after Christmas. So I turned back toward Manchester and drove out through the countryside while I listened to NPR. I ended up finally stopping on this frosty morning, shortly after sunrise, at the Mansfield Center Cemetery. A beautifully preserved ancient burial ground with amazing stones.
I used to do a lot of rubbings from old tombstones when I lived in Massachusetts. I admire the style and whimsical nature of the early carvers who crafted wonderful angels, death heads, birds and willow trees, and other symbolic pictorial representations on the old markers. And the cemetery at Mansfield holds some fine examples. These appear to be mostly from sandstone, which erodes over time, as opposed to slate, which tends to withstand the weathering better and was more prevalent in the areas around Boston. But the Mansfield stones have been well cared for and survive in extremely good condition.
I strolled about the grounds admiring the craftsmanship, but also feeling the history. I love old cemeteries and can’t help but wonder about the lives of these old and young departed souls, their parts in building the communities, the children they raised and lost, the widows, the young soldiers, and the old farmers. The town’s leaders and professionals, and the unmarked graves of servants and paupers. Some were simply portrayed as “wife of”, “widow of”, “beloved son” or simply “father”. Others were more eloquently eulogized. The names so poetic that speak of history. Emily and Delia Salter; Rebecka Alpenwall, wife of Peter; Elithea Trumball, widow of William; Captain Samuel Storrs; and Zedekia Smith who died at 18 years old on May 21st, 1776. Probably a young soldier of the revolution.
Dr. David Adams, who died on March 26th in 1790 at the age of 59 was “Endowed by Nature with strong mental powers, which he greatly improved by reading and reflection. Distinguished for good sense, phylanthropy (sic), and patriotism. He was eminent as a physician. And died in hope of a happy memorial.”
I strolled among these angels and felt their presence. I wondered and imagined and then I wished them well and left them peaceful under the frosty sunrise in the Connecticut countryside. I’m sure to return there, having met them now and feeling as though they have shared something with me. And for this I am thankful.
All images are Copyright © George Cannon, All Rights Reserved.