Epitaphs

By Barbara F. Dyer | Jun 25, 2020

For almost 30 years, I have written about something I felt was important, but I am sure that some of my readers may have thought otherwise. After spending so much time years ago in the cemetery (above ground), researching people who made Camden what it is today, I have a different perspective to offer for this column.

Epitaphs were more popular in the past, when monuments were done by artistic stone cutters — and Camden had a few — and those who were hired signed their work. Some of the following are not in Camden, but they do exist.

In Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass., there was one lady who bought a plot. There are many famous people buried there, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau. This particular lady in her will insisted that her epitaph read, "Who the hell is Sheila Shea?" A local woman noticed the empty lot beside her and wanted to buy it, so the gravestone read, "Damned if I know." Now one has to have the blessing of the Cemetery Committee Association before engraving any epitaph.

As the stone carvers did the soldiers for the Civil War monuments, like the one in our town on Camden Public Library's Harbor Park, the soldier done by a stone carver in Quincy, Mass., was a Confederate Soldier, but shipped to York, Maine, by mistake. How interesting that must have been.

Here are some of my favorites that I discovered and used in my Adult Ed class which I taught for several years in the 1990s.

One epitaph reads:

This spot's the sweetest/ I've seen in my life./ It raises my flowers/ And covers my wife.

How is this one?

To the memory of/ Abraham Beaulieu/ Accidentally shot/ As a mark of affection/ From his brother.

Or:

Here lies Peaco Bill/ He always lies/ And always will/ Once he lied loud/ Now he lies still.

There once was a lawyer named John Strange and he wanted his to read (and it does):

Here lies/ An honest lawyer/ That is Strange.

Some are rather interesting:

Sacred to the memory/ Of Anthony Drake/ Who died for peace/ And dear quietness sake./ His wife was forever/ Scoldin and scoffin/ So he sort repose/ In a $12 coffin.

And:

Jonathan Grober/ Died dead sober./ Lord thy wonders/ Never cease.

Or:

Owen Moore/ Gone away/ Owing more then/ He could pay.

Another:

Here lies my wife/ In earthly mound./ Who when she lived/ Did not but scold./ Good friends go softly/ In your walking/ She should awake/ And rise up talking.

So I shall carry on:

Here lies a father of twenty-nine./ There would have been more,/ But he didn't have time.

She lived with/ Her husband/ Fifty years,/ And died in the/ Confident hope/ Of better life.

He called/ Bill Smith/ A liar.

Open, open wide/ Ye Golden gates that lead/ To the heavenly shore./ Even father suffered/ Passing through/ And mother/ Weighs much more.

He had many faults/ And many merits,/ But died of drinking/ Ardent spirits.

Beneath these stones/ Do lie/ Back to back/ My wife and I./ When the last loud trumpet/ Shall blow/ When she gets up,/ I'll just lie low.

Beneath this stone/ A lump of clay/ Lies Uncle Peter Daniels./ Too early in the/ Month of May/ He took off his/ Winter flannels.

My wife is dead,/ And here she lies./ Nobody laughs/ And nobody cries./ Where she has gone to/ And how she fares/ Nobody knows and/ Nobody cares.

Here lies the body of Mary Jane/ Her hell holds no terrors./ Born a Virgin, and died the same/ No hits, no runs, no errors.

Tears cannot restore her,/ Therefore I weep.

Sacred to the memory/ Of Jared Bates./ His widow age 24/ Lives at 7 Elm Street./ Has every qualification/ For a good wife,/ And yearns/ To be comforted.

I told you that I was sick.

These came from a book through inter-library loan called "Quaint Epitaphs." It came from the Smithsonian and was printed in 1898. It had to be read in the Camden Public Library, and had to be insured when returned to the Smithsonian. I bet you thought that I made them up.

Now you can think about what you would like on your stone.

 

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Robin Gabe | Jun 25, 2020 12:07

Thank you for bringing a smile to my day, Barbara.



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