That Corset is to Die For


I saw an ad for some kind of waist trainer recently. I’m not so sure that practice is such a good idea, for several reasons.

Originally posted on Misc. Tidings of Yore:

Ad, New York Tribune, 11 May 1902

For women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tightly lacing a corset to achieve an hourglass figure was still very much popular despite a movement to end such an unhealthy and uncomfortable trend. Here are a few news accounts of women who actually died (or were said to have died) due to the wearing of this fashionable undergarment.

The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY, 9 Feb. 1895

The victim was a poor servant girl who died after a fright, and her death was attributed by the medical witnesses to the fact that she was too tightly belted to enable her to stand the wear and tear of any sudden emotion.

The Highland Weekly News, Hillsoboro, OH, 20 Feb, 1868

She had carried on the practice until finally her ribs were so pressed in on the lungs…

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“Tavern Row Is Fatal To Local Sailor”

“Some day we will understand.”

This inscription on Benjamin Dyer’s tombstone in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery has always intrigued me. While the presence of a phrase or quote is not unusual on grave markers this one (combined with the fact that the decedent was only 35) suggested there was an unexpected tragedy associated with Benjamin’s death, something that his loved ones struggled to comprehend.

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Sarah J. Palmer – "Giving Birth to her First Born Babe"

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

The lovely and much loved wife of 
a youthful but sincere Christian
MARCH A.D. 1855:
giving birth to her first born babe.

Sarah Palmer’s marble headstone (set in a granite ledger)  rests on the grounds of Raleigh’s City Cemetery, split through the area which lists the day of her death, making it impossible to read with accuracy. The damage could have been due to weathering through age or the tornadoes that hit the cemetery in 2011. The headstone is flanked by volutes (the scrolls) and features two doves and an urn.

I was unable to find specific information on Sarah or her husband Charles Palmer except for one source that suggests her maiden name was Williams and…

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Janie Sutherlin Smith Barrett (1872-1904)

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

 Janie Sutherlin Smith Barrett’s monument is located in the Sutherlin family square in Green Hill, a towering, bright contrast to the sea of mostly gray tombstones surrounding it. The green appearance of the angel is due to patina on the bronze, which makes the marker even more beautiful (in my opinion).

side view showing the curved wings

The Smithsonian American Art Museum‘s database describes the piece as: “A grave marker for Janie Sutherlin Barrett, 1872-1904, with a robed female angel standing on an ice-covered step with rocks jutting upward behind her. A section of either a rising or setting sun with radiant rays is placed behind and above her between the rocks. The angel holds a staff in her proper left hand. The sculpture is inscribed on the front and is mounted on top of a short, square base with a bordered grave plot before it.”


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Puerperal Pelvic Cellulitis


For Mother’s Day, I’m reblogging a few entries about women who died during or from complications after childbirth.
Thank goodness we now live in more modern medical times.

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

Kate Ormond Schoolfield Tillett‘s obelisk monument in Green Hill towers above the flat grass markers nearby. The draped urn has fallen from the top, but the rest of the white marble has held up reasonably well, considering Kate died over a century ago. Details, such as the flowers carved above her epitaph and the stone drape design at the very top, are still in good condition. Kate is one of many Schoolfields buried in various plots throughout the grounds of Green Hill.

Kate was the daughter of John H. and Susan France Schoolfield, born on August 16, 1866 in Henry County, Virginia. John had already made a name for himself in Horsepasture as a tobacconist and merchant by the time he moved to Danville in the early 1880s. He, two of his brothers, and several other men would soon form Riverside Cotton Mills which later became Dan River, Incorporated…

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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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