A Tragic Ending To Bessie Hillyer’s Love Story (1888)

Bone Orchards:

A socialite suicides by rat poison.

Originally posted on Misc. Tidings of Yore:

Some time ago I introduced you to the story of an alleged haunted house in Washington, D.C., a dwelling that currently stands as the Cosmos Club. Mary Townsend, a wealthy and superstitious woman, moved to D.C. with her husband Richard. They planned to build a grand mansion on property once owned by Judge Curtis J. Hillyer but construction was halted after Mary remembered a witch’s prophecy from her childhood.

The main idea of the warning was that if Mary ever lived under a new roof, she would meet her death within a year. Richard suggested that the incorporation of the Hillyer roof and the framework of the existing building into their new mansion, a compromise enough to satisfy his bride.

Their dream home was completed by 1901, but Richard would only enjoy it for a short period of time. In 1902 he fell from a horse and fractured his…

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The Mysterious Private Life of a Public Man: Richmond’s Lewis Ginter

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

It’s almost impossible to miss Lewis Ginter’s magnificent mausoleum in that particular area of Hollywood Cemetery, as it juts upward into the Richmond sky towering over the sparsely populated plot. It wasn’t until I peeked through the barred windows that I realized there was only one tomb inside of a building that could have easily accommodated the remains of several others. Between the opulence of the mausoleum and the fact that he was buried alone in the late 1890s, when family members were usually interred in close proximity to one another, I had a hunch that there was something here worth digging into.

The Times, 3 Oct. 1897

My initial search began as it usually does: combing through the old newspapers for obituaries. As expected, prominent businessman Lewis Ginter’s name appeared numerous times in the archives. He was well-known for being a man who gave generously to charitable organizations…

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“Men Blown To Pieces” During Target Practice

Alexander N. Dossett was a 26-year-old seaman in the United States Navy when he sustained fatal burns from a powder explosion during target practice aboard the U.S.S. Massachusetts. He was buried in Durham, North Carolina’s Old Maplewood Cemetery.

Below the photos is a newspaper article from 1903 describing the accident and listing  other casualties. The explosion occurred on January 16 and Alexander died January 22, so when the article was published he was still alive.

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The Pinnix Murder-Suicide (1911)

Originally posted on The Dead Bell:

Tombstones for Charles and Maggie New

I stumbled upon the tragic story behind the deaths of William and Fannie New Pinnix while researching Fannie’s siblings, who died of various diseases while very young. Looking at the burial ledger for Green Hill Cemetery during the month of December 1911 when William and Fannie died, there are two entries for names that look like “Pinnix” who were buried in the New family square. When I went back to the cemetery though there were no markers in the square for anyone except Charles and Maggie New (the two siblings) and Fannie’s father, William. Unless their bodies were moved and re-interred elsewhere, I believe this to be the area where they lie today in unmarked graves. (Whether the graves ever had markers, I don’t know.) There is plenty of room in the plot for more burials and the depressions in the ground could indicate…

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That Corset is to Die For

Bone Orchards:

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

Bone Orchards:

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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