OLD STONES IN AN OLD CEMETERY – PHOTOS BY GARRY ARMSTRONG

FOTD: Old stones with fall foliage – a Revolutionary War cemetery

The cemetery is in the center of the town, across from the dam and just a hundred or so yards from the river itself. It’s up on a hill, so it never floods, even when the rivers rush over their banks. The people who created that cemetery knew about the rivers. And flooding. They picked a beautiful spot, but dry and safe for the bones and memories.

An old cemetery, dating back to the early 1700s. It contains the generations of those who lived and died in this town, this valley. Folks who lived along the Blackstone and its tributaries, fished in its lakes and streams. They fought in our wars and are buried here. Revolutionary War soldiers of whom there are a surprisingly large number. Civil War veterans and some of those who fought in the many American wars fought in the years since then though I think the most recent graves are from World War II. Some family may have plots they can continue to use, but I’m not sure.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The cemetery is not neglected. Always there are flags waving above it with small flags by in the graves of those who fought in wars back to the Revolutionary War. Schools bring children here so they can remember too and will perhaps continue the traditions. They bring bouquets of wild flowers or flowers from their garden and typically, a small flag. Even if there’s no special holiday, the cemetery always shows signs of caring. Maybe it’s easier to remember in a small town or maybe it’s part of the character of the region.

Remembering seems to be what we do best in the Valley.

The cemetery is one of our favorite places. We’re virtual newcomers having lived here just 22 years. Our ancestors — Garry’s and mine — come from Sligo, Antigua, Minsk, and Bialystok. We came from tiny villages in Ireland and the West Indies and the shtetls of eastern Europe.

Real valley people have been here longer. Many came from French Canada in the late 19th century to work in the mills. Another large group formed the dominant Dutch population. All of them built churches, businesses, factories, dairy and truck farms, shops, horse farms and sawmills. Their names are prominent wherever the river runs.

The valley is the only place I’ve lived where the most families have lived in this town or in nearby villages for three, four or five generations. “We’ve always lived in the Valley,” they say, meaning as long as anyone can remember. They get misty-eyed trying to remember old family stories handed down when they were young. Hard to remember, they tell you. “You know, that was 75 years ago. A long time.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We nod because it was a long time ago. These days, I commiserate. I have trouble remembering details of events of childhood, things I was sure I could never forget. Some things stand out better than others, but many others are vague and pieces are missing. Garry, the old Marine, never forgets.

So another year passes. The flags wave while autumn leaves glow.



Categories: #FallFoliage, #foliage, #GarryArmstrong, #Photography, Anecdote, Autumn, Blackstone Valley, Mumford River, Uxbridge

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22 replies

  1. What an absolutely splendid treasure. I’d love to spend a day doing etchings (I think that’s what they are called) where one takes onion skin paper or some fairly thin paper and a piece of charcoal and goes about making copies of the stones they find most interesting. They also do this in some old churches of the carvings in the floor. Fascinating! Great job with the photography Mr. Garry!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Melanie, thank you. It occurs to me that cemeteries are usually visited only on the anniversaries of loved ones who reside there. So, it’s usually a somber scenario.
      I see the “countless stories of people who lived, loved and died before my time on the planet began.” I find it fascinating and NOT in a dark, gothic way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s very humbling to see such an old graveyard and the many who have passed before. Gives me perspective on my own mortality in a way….I am very small given the sheer numbers of people who have passed this way. Thanks Garry.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful peaceful spot. I can understand why you like to visit, especially when the trees are as glorious as this! And it must be interesting to live somewhere where others have lived for generations. Living in our London suburb as we do that seems a strange concept – it’s a very mobile population. But I know in many parts of the UK it is similar to what you describe – traditionally people see no reason to move away from where their family has always lived. If they do it’s usually through economic necessity. Is your valley relatively fortunate in terms of job opportunities and security for younger generations, so that they will stay too?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We don’t have much work, but people commute — not into Boston but to suburban area that are closer. I don’t know how they are managing now with the price of gasoline up so high. We have schools and a huge hospital, though, and they employ people — and it IS a small population. But my granddaughter left for more interesting work elsewhere — and I think she just wanted to try out another place to live. I did the same thing at just about her age.

      There are also a LOT of small business. Contractors, exterminators, electricians, people who maintain wells, plumbers and they do well.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Marilyn, I enjoyed this post so much. Garry, your pictures are beautiful. I’ve admired cemeteries my entire life. And those that date back as far this one is most intriguing. I’m happy that schools arrange visits~such history and conversation starters. History will always fascinate me. As will cemeteries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These old cemeteries are very popular with both locals AND tourists. The stones are interesting. You can see which families were long-lived and which ones were not. One family was full of folks ranging from 76 to 104 next to a family where hardly anyone made it to age 50. And the cemetery is well-maintained. They have started to repair a lot of broken stones, too because those old stones are very thin by modern standards. Someone asked me when they made the switch from those thin placard stones to the thicker, heavier stones they used later and I really didn’t know. Certainly by the 1930s I believe they had, but when exactly they made the switch, I have no idea.

      These days there are people who specialize in repairing old broken gravestones. Not a field I would have thought could become a profession.

      Liked by 2 people

    • K.L., thank you for the kind words. There are so many stories in that cemetery.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Marilyn, this is a beautiful graveyard. They can actually be peaceful places to visit and remember. I have horribly disappointed when I couldn’t visit my grandmother’s grave in early January because the graveyard was locked for the holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Locked? There isn’t even a fence around this one, so I don’t think they could lock it if they tried. In Boston, though, they are all fenced in and only open a few days a week — but Boston has a lot of tourism and more than enough vandalism to go with it. That’s one of those things I don’t understand. Why would anyone want to desecrate GRAVES?

      Liked by 2 people

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