Showmen’s Rest: Evelyn Marrion’s Fatal Plunge

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

From the Morning Star, Rockford, Illinois

Daisy “Evelyn” Marrion is buried in “Showmen’s Rest,” an area of Los Angeles’ Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematory, among the graves of over 400 former carnival and circus workers. Until I heard about this plot, I never really thought about where circus performers were buried which is alarming since I’m so fascinated by circus and carnival culture. It makes sense that graveyards around the world have special plots for “carnies;” most people are buried with their families and for this particular nomadic population, their fellow circus folk are family.

I regret not getting a better photo of Evelyn’s marker.

Evelyn, who was 38 when she died, was one of the unfortunate souls who died during a performance with “The Four Sky Devils,” an aerial act. Evelyn had  28 years of experience in the circus business as an aerialist according to the Dixon…

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Death in the Conrad Family

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

My first post on this blog was about the marker of two sisters buried in Green Hill, Louise and Hazel Conrad. Initially I thought the lightly inscribed name on the marker read, “Grace” but on my last trip to the Holland-Conrad family plot I discovered my error. The earliest burial records for Green Hill that I have date to 1883 and as I’ve mentioned before, they’re not complete, so piecing together who is buried in this plot requires a little bit of detective work. Even after more digging there are still details that are murky which means the search continues.

Charles H. Conrad (click on his name for a photo of his grave marker) was born in Orange Co., VA in 1849 to J.M. and Sarah Sneed Conrad. According to Brock (600) Charles was taken as a prisoner  by General Benjamin F. Butler when he was fourteen years old. During…

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Cause of Death: Nervous Prostration from Hysteria

Months ago I matched another grave to one of Green Hill’s Mortuary Mysteries, the final resting place of Mrs. Cornelia Davis, who died on November 18, 1887 of “Nervous Prostration from Hesteria.” (Obviously a misspelling of “hysteria.”) According to the mortuary report she died in Pittsylvania County and Dr. B.B. Temple saw her on the day before her death but beyond that, she took the circumstances surrounding her illness to the grave.

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"Faithful Unto Death"

Man and Dog Perish Fighting Fire; Buried Together (1880)

On the second and final overcast morning of my Wilmington trip I returned to Oakdale Cemetery armed with a map in hopes of locating Capt. William Ellerbrock’s grave. (His surname is sometimes spelled Ellerbrook but his marker and cemetery records list the former.)

What makes this grave particularly of interest to me is the tragic story of how Ellerbrock and his dog Boss were buried together, making them as inseparable in death as they had been in life.

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An Account of the Titanic’s Morgue Ship

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

Normally I reserve transcribing news articles for Misc. Tidings of Yore, but because of the nature of this piece about the “morgue ship” that recovered bodies from the Titanic disaster, I decided to include it here. Reading the words from the newspaper about the bodies just after they were pulled from the sea and embalmed on board (or buried at sea) gave me a different feeling than from reading or watching more modern accounts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or read anything that described the “morgue ship” or the anxious behavior of embalmers waiting on the pier for the ship to dock either, but if you can recommend something feel free to comment.

This feature is from The Washington Times of Washington, D.C. on April 30, 1912.

Says Drowned Victims of Titanic Wreck, Buoyed Up by…

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Buried in a Cask of Alcohol

I knew about Nancy Adams Martin’s unusual burial in Oakdale Cemetery months before my arrival. From a cursory glance her marker doesn’t really stand out from the taller surrounding monuments in the plot. As you can see below the granite is carved to resemble a rustic wooden cross. A photo taken nearly a decade ago from Find a Grave shows a less-weathered version where the name “Nance” and the cut branches are more visible.

What we can’t see from the surface is that deep below the ground Nancy’s body has been seated in a chair entombed in a cask of alcohol since her death on May 25, 1857.

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Spring Break at Oakdale

Oakdale Cemetery has been on my radar for awhile due to several notable or unusual residents, the close proximity of the grounds to the ocean and its roots as part of the Rural Cemetery Movement.

I recently took a whirlwind trip to Wilmington where my dog and I spent several hours exploring only part of the nearly 100 acres by foot and car searching for particular graves, Victorian motifs (my favorite kind of symbolism) and unique inscriptions.

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Father Kills Teenage Daughter, Then Suicides After April Fools’ Day Prank


A cautionary tale, perhaps?

Originally posted on Misc. Tidings of Yore:

This 1908 story of the murder-suicide at an Asheville, NC all-girls’ school was picked up by newspapers nationwide. The following clipping, from The Manning Times in South Carolina on April 22, 1908 was one of the more comprehensive accounts of the aftermath of an April Fool’s Day joke which ended in tragedy. This article states that Nellie Swinney’s father was D.O. Swinney, but he was actually Curtis O. Swinney.

After Shooting His Sixteen Year Old Daughter Twice.
Occured in a Girl’s School at Asheville. The Young Lady had Taken Part in April Fool Joke and her Father visits her at School, Shoots Her, and then Commits Suicide.
     A terrible tragedy was enacted at Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday. Enraged at his 16-year-old daughter Nellie, because of a harmless school girl prank, Dr. D.O. Swinney, who recently went to Asheville, from New York, fired two…

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Death By Easter Egg

Originally posted on Misc. Tidings of Yore:

The Sun [NY] 8 April 1912

No matter how pretty they are, please don’t eat dyed Easter eggs. I hear that Cadbury Creme Eggs are pretty tasty and they probably won’t kill you.

The Hocking Sentinel [OH] 18 April 1901
Semi-Weekly Interior Journal [KY] 23 Apr. 1897
Norfolk Weekly News Journal [Neb.] 12 May 1905
The Democratic Banner [OH] 9 April 1912
The Daily Ardmoreite [OK] 6 April 1902

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Death By Tombstone

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

Green Hill Cemetery, Danville, VA

Anyone who’s ever spent time working with grave markers can tell you that even a small headstone can weigh in excess of 100 pounds, so it makes sense that throughout time at least a few people have been the casualties of gravestone-related accidents. Take into account the popularity of large, ornate monuments and headstones during the Victorian period and the danger of being crushed by a toppling tombstone increases to an almost frightening level.

The National Republican [Wash., DC]  20 Nov. 1879
Burlington Free Press [VT] 21 Nov. 1856
Marion Daily Mirror [OH] 30 Dec. 1909
The Washington Times 27 Sept. 1920

Two-year old John Borovicks visited his father’s grave with his mother and three siblings on a regular basis. While everyone else prayed, John passed the time by climbing on a nearby lamb-shaped tombstone (probably marking the grave of a child). Despite his mother’s…

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