Monday, May 1, 2017

Farewell Beyond the Grave!

The late night class graveyard adventures have sadly come to the end! This is my final video project for the class. Enjoy! (Its not as fancy as I wanted it to be but making this video was a lot more difficult than I expected)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Charleston's "Hidden" Treasure (Extra Credit)

The winding path leading to the graveyard at the Unitarian Church
from King Street
Throughout my first year here at the College of Charleston one of my favorite things to do has been exploring. I never get tired of wandering around the city, just taking in the sights. It seems that every time I venture out I see something new that makes me love this city even more. Some of my favorite places I discovered the city were the first ones I ever visited.
A worn brick path within the graveyard
Perhaps my best-loved spot in downtown Charleston is the graveyard located at the Unitarian Church on Archdale Street. It was my first up close experience with a historic graveyard, as well as the first place I visited in Charleston all together. I happened upon this charmingly overgrown graveyard on my way to my first campus tour at the College of Charleston. I was enchanted with the  abundant foliage and history this graveyard contained. Its winding paths and weathered stones held so much character I immediately knew that it was a special place.
A close up of creeping ivy that is a common
sight on headstones here
A close up of one of the many flowering
plants that can be found here 
Since then I have returned to this sacred place many times, sometimes just to sit and write, and sometimes to showcase this hidden gem to curious family members. I have found that when I'm at the Unitarian Church's graveyard I feel a sense of peace. I don't know whether its the refreshing drop in temperature I feel upon entering, or whether its just the unexpected amount of life in the presence of so much death.
One of the tallest monuments in the
graveyard, sadly without a name
Small white flowers in bloom, featuring an
ornate cross memorial in the background

Experiencing this graveyard initiated my further explorations and interest in other local graveyards and cemeteries. Inevitably it is what prompted me to take this FYE course. I am grateful that I discovered this little oasis within the busy city, and I will continue to visit for many years to come.
Another heavily vegetated path with the
church in the background

A Tour "Unfit for Humans"

The intricate exterior of the
Old Charleston Jail
Imagine the life of a gerbil, trapped within a cage. Now imagine the life of a prisoner in the Old Charleston City Jail. A prisoner in the jail lived the life of a human gerbil, trapped in a dark cage with thirty or so other inmates for average sentence of two weeks.

I learned all this and much more when I toured the Old Charleston City Jail, otherwise known as the Charleston District Jail, on Monday night with my Beyond the Grave class! Guided by the theatric Sean Pike of Bulldog Tours, the class was led into the depths of this historic prison. Described as the "most haunted spot in South Carolina, and arguably the United States", I knew I was in for a wild ride.
One of the ominous towers of the jail.
I had first seen the jail back in September when I was wandering around the city, but that was in broad daylight. This time we arrived at dusk, just in time to see numerous bats diving in the sky. The jails castle like exterior was only intensified by its menacing barred windows. I couldn't help but appreciate the twisted beauty of the jail, even after learning about the horrors that took place within.
Another view of the tower featuring
the front gate
Sean started our tour in the back parking lot of the jail, conveniently where many of the prisoners were executed on the gallows pole that had once stood there. He colorfully described many events that took place in the jail yard, and even went as far to say that back then the jail was "unfit for humans". There was once a prisoner of war camp set up in the jail yard during the Civil War! And even before there was a jail built on that land it was a "Potter's field", a mass grave for unknown, or poor people who couldn't afford a proper burial.
An image of the jail as seen from the back lot
As the class ventured inside Sean made sure to tell us that "crazy stuff happens here, day or night." While inside Sean demonstrated some of the torture techniques used on the inmates of the prison, including "the triangle" and "the cat o' nine tails". One might think that with all these methods of torture and execution that the main cause of death at the prison was at the hands of the guards, but the opposite is true. Sean shared with the class that it was actually the rapid spread of diseases and infections that had the biggest death toll due to severe overcrowding. Sean claimed that "approximately 14,000 inmates died from disease over the 137 years the prison was open".
"The Triangle" used to torture inmates
Sean demonstrates the "cat o' nine tails"
Sean was very eager to tell the class about the many infamous ghosts the jail is home to. Many of the true details behind these ghosts have been exaggerated, but Sean seemed to have a healthy respect for them all the same. His favorite seemed to be that of Lavinia Fisher, the alleged highway robber and first female serial killer, who was grievously mistreated during her time at the prison. It is said that she can still be seen in a second story window today. Sean even claims to have seen her, and encountered her spirit many times.
The window that Lavinia Fisher is frequently
seen standing in
Although I didn't encounter any vengeful spirits during my time at the Charleston City Jail, I learned a lot! I'm thankful that I got the chance to explore the inside of this legendary Charleston landmark.
A set of rusted skeleton keys
Sean leads the group through the haunted jail

Monday, April 17, 2017

Expedition Epitaph

In this weeks blog post I finally was able to use many of the pictures I have gathered from around Charleston! In my free time I have explored some graveyards not visited by our class, and this was my chance to showcase some of my favorites. Some of these graveyards were located at St. Philips Episcopal Church, The Circular Congregational Church, and The Unitarian Church (my favorite). In the following prezi I have included 10 examples of "epic epitaphs" I found.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Ebenezer Thayer: The Black Sheep of His Family

St. Philip's Episcopal Church
It was a normal weekend in Charleston when I decided to explore the graveyards of St. Philip's Episcopal Church on Church Street. The eastern portion across the street from the church contained many impressive monuments, but it was the western section of the graveyard where I found my source of inspiration for this blog post.

Located in the back right corner of this graveyard was the sarcophagus of Mr. Ebenezer Thayer, and family. This beautiful monument, surrounded by blooming azaleas, immediately drew my eye. The intricate carvings and grandeur of this monument seemed almost out of place in the secluded
The right side of Thayer monument
Left side of Thayer monument

After leaving St. Philips Episcopal I immediately got to work. Who was Ebenezer Thayer? Why was his burial site so elaborate? I found out through Find A Grave, and the Charleston Library Society's website, that Ebenezer Thayer was a librarian for Charleston's Apprentice's Library Society. He worked in the society's library located in the Old Market Hall two nights a week. The Library Society soon saved up enough money to build a larger building located on Meeting Street. Thayer also was librarian for this new building. Unfortunately, this particular building burned down in the great fire of 1861.

Ebenezer Thayer was born on July 15, 1767 in Hampton, Rockingham, New Hampshire. Thayer died in Charleston South Carolina on June 24, 1824. His father, Rev. Ebenezer Thayer, and brother Rev. Nathaniel Thayer were both men of the church. This was interesting to me because it seemed that religious professions ran in the Thayer family, but I wondered what pushed Ebenezer Thayer to become a librarian. This gave me the impression that Ebenezer Thayer was somewhat of a black sheep in the Thayer family.
Inscription for Ebenezer Thayer
and Caroline Sinclair
Septima Hall inscription
Buried with Mr. Thayer at St. Phillip's Episcopal is: his wife, Caroline Sinclair Thayer, and his two sons Edward A. Thayer, and William H. Thayer. Also buried with the Thayer's is Septima Hall, possible daughter or granddaughter of Ebenezer Thayer. Her exact relationship to the Thayer's is unclear but she was the wife of Dr. John D. Hall, as stated below her name.
William H. Thayer inscription
Edward A Thayer inscription

Unfortunately, Ebenezer Thayer died before photography was invented so I could not find any images of him. Overall I enjoyed the challenge of researching Mr. Thayer. This assignment has not only opened my eyes to the background of Ebenezer Thayer, but also to the many possible backgrounds of memorials I have visited.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Who Ya Gonna Call? A Death, Dying, and Bereavement Professor!

Dr. George Dickinson poses with Professor
Harwood after receiving sweets!
The year is 1976, and someone you know is dying. "Who will you call?" Dr. George Dickinson, sociology professor at the College of Charleston, asks. One's first instinct might be a doctor, but according to Dr. Dickinson they might not be qualified to help! "Back then only five schools in the United States offered courses on death and dying for soon to be doctors" Dickinson says.  This lack of knowledge in the medical field is what first inspired Dickinson to conduct research in the death, dying, and bereavement field. Today these "End of Life" courses, or "ENL's" are offered, in some way, in 100% of medical schools.

Dickinson hails from Texas ,where he spent much time on his family's farm."You might not realize it, but there's a lot of death on a farm" Dickinson claims. Since then Dr. Dickinson has traveled far from the farm where he used to euthanize cattle, and studied a wide variety of subjects, all tying back into the common theme of death.

Over the years Dr. Dickinson has traveled, and lived overseas, furthering his knowledge on other countries death traditions. "Over in England they think we are crazy for our burial traditions" Dickinson jokes about how different things are in the US compared to England. Americans have a tendency to soften the topic of death. Sleep is often used interchangeably with the word death, the dead are even buried in caskets that closely resemble beds.

Dickinson's interest in death is not just limited to humans, he also has researched animal behavior when it comes to death. His research in England focused on licensed veterinarians who legally euthanize animals. Dickinson was fascinated with the unusual behavior exhibited by animals in the presence of the dead, and dying. Dickinson supposes that these reactions have to do with the heightened senses of animal, and even playfully howls at a phantom fire truck to demonstrate.

Dr. Dickinson who claims he's "always good for a free meal", was an inspiring speaker during tonight's class. I enjoyed learning about the in's and out's of death, and the stigmas surrounding it. It was refreshing to meet a person so open about death, unlike most people who utilize the plethora of euphemisms available instead.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Incredible Icons of Bethel United Methodist Church

The original wooden building of Bethel UMC
The relocated building of Bethel UMC
Last Monday my Beyond the Grave class went on yet another exciting field trip! But this time we were on a mission. The class was on the hunt for 10 different symbols or icons found in the graveyard of Bethel United Methodist Church! The church was a beautiful, yet commanding, white building with tall pillars. Bethel UMC is conveniently located on Pitt Street in downtown Charleston. I was even fortunate to see the Old Bethel Methodist Church that had been donated to the African Americans of the church congregation in 1876!

Headstone of Engenia Robia.
 #1) Perhaps my favorite icon found at Bethel UMC was the headstone of Engenia Robia. Sadly this headstone was broken, and no longer upright. Engenia died on June 23, 1859 and was only 3 months old. What drew me to this memorial was the small, yet detailed, relief carving of a little girl sleeping on the top of the headstone. The girl holds a wreath, which symbolizes victory, and memory, passed on to eternal life.

Close up of Eason headstone.

#2) The next symbol I found was located on the headstone of Priscilla Sarah Eason. Eason lived from 1809 to 1885. The crown with the cross in the middle symbolizes victory with Christ over death.

Gravesite of William H. Flemming.
#3) The third grave I chose to include had multiple symbols on its surface. This pulpit marker/ bedstead grave of Pastor William H. Flemming combines the symbols of a book, wreath, and drape in one memorial. Pastor Flemming lived from 1821 to 1877. The book is a common icon for faith, which makes sense since the deceased was a pastor. The elaborate drape with tassels symbolizes the grief and mourning of the family. Finally, the garland wreath symbolizes the distinction of this person, probably due to his status within the church.

Nathaniel Smalls headstone.
Close up of Smalls headstone.

#4) The fourth grave I found was the headstone of Nathaniel Smalls. The headstone did not say the years of Mr. Smalls life, but it did say he was 51 years old when he died. The memorial contains icons of an hourglass, star, and angel wings. A winged hourglass is known to symbolize the swiftness of time, which would make sense since Mr. Smalls died at the young age of 51. The star is a common symbol to find with the hourglass and often represents religion.

Headstone of Elizabeth Moore.
#5) The toppled over headstone of Elizabeth Moore is another example of a memorial with multiple icons. Moore died in 1861, when she was 66 years old. This headstone contains symbols of an angel, a wreath, and an urn. An angel is the guardian of the dead, and symbolizes spirituality. The wreath, as I said before, is the symbol of victory and memory. Finally, the urn symbolizes mourning.

Headstone of Casey Poyas.
Close up of Poyas headstone.

#6) I found this headstone out in the back parking lot of Bethel UMC with many others. This is the headstone of Casey Poyas, who died in 1821. His gravestone features a hand pointing upwards, which often symbolizes heaven or the ascension into heaven. This would make sense because the Latin word "Resurgam", located above the hand, means "I will rise up again". (This comes from the latin verb resurgo, resurgere, resurrexi, resurrectus. Yay Latin!)

Headstone of James F. M. Lord.
#7) The headstone of James F. M. Lord was one of the many memorials in Bethel UMC to feature a willow tree. James died in 1862, and was 37 years old. A weeping willow tree symbolizes mourning, grief, and "natures lament".

Bateman gravesite.
Close up of Mrs. Bateman's

#8) This die on base memorial belongs to Rebecca Jane Bateman, wife of C. D. Bateman. Mrs. Bateman died in 1882. Calla lilies are carved into her grave stone. Calla lilies symbolize marriage. Mrs. Bateman is described as a "Tender mother, devoted wife, and true friend."

Gravesite of Anna Chrietzberg.
#9) This die on base grave stone belongs to Anna Chrietzberg, wife of Reverend A. M. Chrietzberg. Mrs. Chrietzberg lived from 1821 to 1872. Her memorial features a dove, and a garland. A dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, as well as peace. The garland symbolizes victory and memory in death. This grave stone also contains the Latin phrase "Anima blandula ab angelis translata". I attempted to translate this phrase and got "a pleasant soul transferred by angels"

Furchess headstone.
Close up of Furchess headstone.
#10) This headstone of Mrs. Elizabeth Furchess, who lived from 1788 to 1858. She is described as a "kind mother" and "friend to the orphan". Mrs. Furchess' headstone has a weeping willow and a flaming urn. This type of urn symbolizes undying friendship, as well as mourning. The weeping willow is also another symbol for mourning.