Monday, March 13, 2017

History on the High Seas

The RMS Titanic

Finding out Hugh Walter McElroy, chief purser on the RMS Titanic, was a great great cousin of my family was as much of a surprise to me as it was my grandparents. Since finding out about "cousin Hugh" (as my grandmother now calls him) was a surprise, I had to rely on information from the internet. Luckily because Hugh held such a high profile position aboard the Titanic it was easy to find out what he was like. I used websites such as, Find A Grave, Encyclopedia Titanica, and Irish Central.

Born on October 28 1874, 37 year old Hugh McElroy originally hailed from County Wexford Ireland. His family consisted of his parents, two sisters, and one brother. The extremely religious Roman Catholic family moved to Liverpool when Hugh was 7.  

On July 9th 1910, Hugh McElroy married Barbara Ennis, his childhood love. They were married at 3 o'clock on a Saturday at St. Peters Church in Ballymitty, County Wexford, Ireland. They had no children at the time of Hugh's death.
Hugh Walter McElroy pictured with wife Barbara Mary Ennis,
and John Patrick Ennis, nephew of Barbara.
Before McElroy got the Chief Purser position on the RMS Titanic he had worked for the White Star Line for 13 years. McElroy served on ships such as the "Majestic", the "Adriatic", and the "Olympic". It was during his time on the Majestic and the Adriatic that McElroy met captain Edward John Smith, the infamous captain of the Titanic. The two became friends and are photographed together just before the Titanic left on its maiden voyage.

Chief Purser McElroy and E. J. Smith aboard the RMS Titanic.

 Known for his charm and his good sense of humor aboard the Titanic, McElroy was a liked by all. It was said that his popularity amongst the passengers even rivaled the captains. This was due to his charismatic nature and tendency to personally invite guests to dine with him. McElroy was also said to be a very superstitious man, and had reported having nightmares about the fate of the Titanic.

As Chief Purser, McElroy handled the affairs and storage of the customers belongings aboard the ship. McElroy also was charged with the monetary aspects on the ship as well as record keeping. McElroy even oversaw safe passage for an important clients pet canary who survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Captain and crew of the RMS Titanic. Chief Purser McElroy
is pictured on the right end.  

On the morning of April 15th 1912, McElroy was seen multiple times by eyewitnesses helping passengers into lifeboats. It was even reported that he fired a gun into the air twice to scare away two male passengers who had sneaked onto a lifeboat. He was seen about the ship many times over the course of the night, always on the move, lending a hand where he could, and saying goodbye to his fellow colleagues. McElroy was last seen on this fateful night standing next to the ships mail clerk on the boat's deck near the gymnasium entrance.

Hugh McElroy's body was found a week later by the ships crew of the "Mackay-Bennett". His name was misidentified as "Herbert" W. McElroy and he was presumed to be 32. He had the ships keys, 10 pence, 50 cents, and a beloved fountain pen on his person when he died. McElroy was one of the ships most senior officers recovered from the wreckage.

Due to lack of embalming supplies McElroy's body was not returned to shore, and instead was buried at sea. There is a McElroy family grave site at Anfield Cemetery and Crematorium. Hugh is remembered there by the epitaph "Hugh McElroy, son of Richard McElroy, who was lost with his ship RMS Titanic on the 15th of April 1912, aged 37 years, R.I.P."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Magnolia Cemetery At Last!

On Saturday I finally went on the highly anticipated trip to Magnolia Cemetery! Right away I could tell that this cemetery was unlike any other cemetery I had visited before. Its massive size and numerous ponds made the cemetery feel like a stroll in a beautifully manicured park.
A class photo taken on the steps of the Smith Pyramid.

The cemetery can easily be navigated through the use of a winding path that leads you through the graves. There are even walking bridges that are used to cross the ponds! While exploring I noticed the diverse flora and fauna found throughout this cemetery. From alligators to large magnolia trees, this cemetery was ironically teeming with life in the presence of death.  

My first favorite monument was the grave of Ana Josephine Baynard. She was the only child of H. H. and R.W. Baynard. Ana Josephine died in March of 1877 when she was only 5 years old. I chose her grave because the little girl on top of her grave really captures the sadness of the death of a young child.

Grave of Ana Josephine Baynard.

Another favorite monument I found at Magnolia Cemetery was the grave of W. A. Gammell. This memorial featured a sarcophagus type tomb, with a statue of a woman sitting on top. Gammell lived from July 1843, to June 1889. This was one of my favorites because of the intricate details carved into the stone, and also because of its shaded location beneath a large magnolia tree.
The grave of W. A. Gammell
My third favorite grave I found at Magnolia Cemetery was the sarcophagus of Alice St. Clair. She was the wife of Francis J. Pelzer Jr. and died in July of 1894. I liked this monument for its intricate feather-like leaves carved into the stone.
The grave of Alice St. Clair.

Overall I think my time at Magnolia Cemetery will not soon be forgotten. Someday I hope I can return to do some further exploring.
Curiosity got the best of me and I ventured into
the Vanderhorst mausoleum.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Die, Base, and Socket, Oh My!

The obelisk monument of
Catherine S.
(last name illegible)
Catherine died in 1872,
at the age of
(Located at St. Luke's)

Headstones of Mr. and Mrs.
Thomas Elle. Mr. Elle was 66
years old when he died.
(Located at St. Luke's)
Recently I went on my first night adventure with my "Beyond the Grave" class!

This was a very educational outing, and I was able to identify many different types of grave markers for a scavenger hunt assignment.

I returned to these sites a few days later to capture better quality images. I enjoyed getting the chance to photograph these graveyards by night, and also by day.

Below I have included the 10 or more types of graves I needed to identify while visiting the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, as well as St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

Grave ledger for Julia Rose
Rutledge. Died 1899.
(Located at St. Luke's)

Another example of a
sarcophagus grave type. This
one includes a cross and
claw feet.
   (Located at St. Luke's)
This grave belongs to George
Washington Egleston, who died
in 1863. Mr. Egelston's grave
is an example of a bevel marker.
(Located at St. Luke's)
An image of a broken, draped,
column grave marker within
a gated family plot.
(Located at St. Luke's)
Grave of Charles W. Parker.
Died in 1876. Mr. Parker's
grave is an example of a
die on socket.
(Located at St. Luke's)


This is an image of a Die on Socket.
 This grave belongs to
Edward Rutledge L, who died
in 1853.
(Located at St. Luke's)
This grave is an example of
die on socket. It is the
grave of James R.
(Located at St. Patrick's)
This is another example of a
sarcophagus in the shape of a
(Located at St. Luke's)

Monday, February 13, 2017

30 Morticians Walk into a Cemetery....

As a teacher, author, historian, tour guide, and speaker; Ruth Miller had lots of knowledge to share with my Monday night graveyard class. Miller started off by telling the story of how she first got into the world of graveyards. 30 morticians walking into a cemetery sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but for Ruth Miller it was the beginning of her journey into the study of cemeteries.

Right away I could tell that Ruth Miller had lots of information to give and stories to share. Miller stated that the city of Charleston has "more 18th century graveyards than any other city in colonial America." Through her extensive knowledge of historic Charleston shared her perspective on the graveyards and cemeteries located in the city.

According to Miller "graveyards tell you who was important and who was not important." Miller claimed that an example of this graveyard hierarchy can be found within the graveyard at Saint Mary's Catholic Church. Miller explained that Saint Mary's graveyard is a good example because  "Saint Mary's is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in the English speaking South."Charleston has some of the most diverse and plentiful cemeteries due to the fact that "South Carolina had the most religious freedom out of all the other colonies."

Later on the class went on a mini field trip with Ruth Miller to see the Elizabeth Jackson memorial headstone, located outside of the Robert Scott Small building. Miller summarized Elizabeth Jackson's life and explained how the head stone ended up on campus. I could see how passionate Ruth Miller was about her work, and I enjoyed listening to what she had to share.

Ruth Miller explains the history behind the
Elizabeth Jackson Memorial Headstone

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The first rat I saw in Charleston
was a dead one
I came to the city of Charleston from the suburbs of Raleigh N.C. As someone who has never lived in the middle of a city before, city life was shocking. So were the ringing of church bells early on Sunday mornings.The urge to explore was overwhelming, and many nights I found myself wandering around the city.

I titled this blog "The Urban Rodent" because during my night-time adventures I discovered that there were many rats living in Charleston. Back home there are no "wild" rats,  but here in Charleston they are a common sight. So naturally instead of finding the rats gross, I thought they were cool. I've seen them run across telephone wires, climb trees, and run through the park in broad daylight.

Up until this point I've never thought much about rats. But I can see now how these creatures have made the city their home, just as much as its human residents.