Sunday, August 11, 2013

Union Bethel Civil War Cemetery in Lower Township, NJ

I was just saying (wasn't I, Fred?) that I would like to find an old cemetery to photograph. I was imagining weather-worn gravestones with delightfully old-fashioned names, and cryptic hints to the stories of the people buried long ago. Then I found this handy-dandy new brochure
which features a large map of all sorts of historic locations in Cape May County including an African American Civil War Cemetery right here in Lower Township. I've lived here off and on for half a century,  and I never knew this cemetery existed. Many of its residents were buried a hundred years before I was a glimmer in my mama's eye. Imagine that.

I quick search on Google yielded this article about efforts to clean up the cemetery by members of the US Coast Guard ("Coasties"!) stationed in Cape May and some local Boy Scouts. I was intrigued about this mysterious place and set off with my camera this morning to check it out.

There were Vances (that's an old Cape May name) and lots of Trustys (I never heard that name around here), ministers from the Union Bethel Church and their wives, young people and old people, broken stones and replacement stones for some of the veterans. I brought little flags to leave by the stones I photographed, but the veterans already had much nicer ones.

Rev. Simon Taylor (1801-1882)

Priscilla was the beloved wife of Rev. Taylor and she died in 1875. Dig that cool font!

Rev. Edward C. Turner (1818-1905)

Here's Keziah Turner, Rev. Turner's wife (1825-1896)
Isaac H. Turner (1833-1932) was probably related to the Reverend above, but how? (Mr. Turner was presented with a modern replacement marker.)

I happened upon some beguiling old-fashioned names:
Araminta Green (1861-1897)
Job Humphries (1882-1955)
All we know about Sina Boze is that she was someone's daughter and she died in 1878. (And the spiders like her stone.)
With colorful names like those, don't you wish you knew the stories of these people? Here's a story I knew nothing about and I wish I knew more than what shows on the monument. The Delaware Bay Beach is my favorite place on earth, you know.

Here's something I haven't seen before. I thought they were baby headstones, but no, they seem to be foot-stones. They were placed about a person's length from the back, or blank side of the bigger headstones, and some had the initials of the deceased. Some were blank.
I'm no expert on cemeteries, but I've never seen foot-stones before.
This is not a big cemetery. I took about an hour to snap photos of just about every grave marker. I picked a muggy and buggy day to visit, and wished I had my bug spray. I did some preparation before visiting, and all the photographic advice I found was focused on what time of day the sunlight would be hitting the engraved sides of the stones. I'm pretty sure these were west-facing stones (correct me if I'm wrong), but this would mean that I should visit in late afternoon. Well, I didn't, and it didn't matter because the sunlight was diffused by trees. When was the last time you saw a cemetery with so many trees?
Wide-angle view.
I saved the best for last: Ms. Rhuma Squirel (one R). Is that the most adorable name ever? The Rhuma part is unique, but Squirel (one R) is the coolest. All we have is her age and death date, no clues to her life at all. There were no other Squirels in the cemetery, at least no markers for any Squirels. What could her story be? I'm intrigued. I might even bring her some flowers next week...
Rhuma Squirel ( 1789-1871)