New Jersey was discovered by Henry Hudson around 1609 and Dutch settlers came soon afterward. Most families buried their dead on the farm or perhaps in a small church cemetery. Markers were often crudely carved stones or wooden crosses. As NJ has become more and more developed, the family cemetery became outdated. People now bury their dead either in church cemeteries or large private cemeteries. Some cemeteries can contain as many as 100,000 dead.
Cemeteries are essentially history. Besides functioning as a place for the families to come and be with their loved ones, you can see patterns amongst the stones. Perhaps it’s the same name over and over and over, or a large number of markers in the same season representing a bitter hard winter. Sometimes cemeteries will have a Jewish section, or a German section, reflecting waves of new immigrants. Sometimes you’ll even find a slave section as well, reflective of that ugly period of American history where such things were legal. Other times you’ll find a mass grave of some disaster or accident. History in the making.
The large cemeteries of today can also provide quite a bit of eye candy. There are beautiful headstones with pictures of the deceased, images of serenity, or pictures of something the deceased enjoyed doing, such as sailing. Then you have large mausoleums where the deceased are interred above ground, avoiding the normal process of decay that consumes from below ground. Then there are the incredibly beautiful (and sometimes very large) images of Jesus, angels, weeping wives & mothers, children, cherubs, crosses, and more. The money spent on monuments like this is unimaginable. I also like when you find a headstone from the 1700’s and it looks smooth and perfect as if it was put there last week. Makes me wonder why other headstones become so decrepit and decayed so quickly….Speaking of decay, it doesn’t matter if a person is rich or poor, young or old, all share the same final destination. As a character on “Six Feet Under” said: “The whole world is a graveyard”.
I enjoy wandering thru cemeteries, appreciating all of these things, and I hope that you the viewer understand why I do this. Just because I enjoy wandering thru cemeteries doesn’t make me morbid, nor am I a goth fan. I don’t dress in black and listen to punk rock, nor do I conduct ceremonies at midnight. I’m just an average guy. I hope you’ll appreciate this section and look on it with respect. Nothing here is meant to make fun of or denigrate any one here. One person I know said,”About a hundred years ago, families would go to cemeteries together with a picnic lunch, the adults would take care of the graves while the kids would wander around. Cemeteries were a place to be respectful, but they weren’t seen as macabre or spooky the way they seem to be by some people today.”. Well stated.
I especially love old cemeteries. The markers are different from the ones they make now. I also enjoy speculating about the people who were buried there. I sometimes find nameless markers and feel sorry for the deceased because they have no family, or sometimes find incredible monuments and think “Damn. This was Somebody.” On the other hand, a large expensive ornate headstone or mausoleum doesn’t mean they were somebody, though often this is the case…
Five children born. Five children died before they were a year old.
Commonplace for the time period, a reminder of how fragile life was 100 years ago…