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UPCOMING CEMETERY TOUR

I’ve been getting quite a few requests  to do more cemetery history tours in Galveston in the past couple of months. So…..

I’ve scheduled a tour through Eventbrite to make it easier for individuals to sign up!

This is the cemetery tour that has been featured on “Texas Country Reporter,” “Texas Chronicles,” the local news, magazines and newspapers. I’m ready to show you that the true stories from the past really can be stranger than fiction!

We’ll meet in the Historic Broadway Cemetery District, where I’ll introduce you to some of Galveston’s past citizens, from heroes to villains, notorious to noteworthy. We’ll focus on Trinity Cemetery, where’s something here for everyone: stunning artwork, hidden symbolism, Civil War history, surprising trivia and even one resident ghost.

Follow this link to purchase your tickets, or to find out more details about the tour:

https://bit.ly/2uFLmDg

See you at the cemetery!

 

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Tiny Home, Large Family!

I almost passed this adorable home by since I was on my way to an appointment earlier this week, but had to turn around to take its photo to share with you!

John Jacob and Wilhelmina “Mina” (Miller)  Theobald built this Galveston cottage at 1605 Winnie in 1892, after they had been married 14 years. It’s a bit mind-boggling that something that seems so small and quaint in comparis

on to surrounding homes actually survived the 1900 Storm.

It must have been a lively household, with four bedrooms and eight children!

Daughter Mary Elizabeth married Otto F. Lossow in the home in Oct. 1910.

Daughter Susie married Oscar Milton Scales there in 1913. For the next few years, she ran her cut flower business out of her parents home (probably because they had the luxury of a home phone). She took orders for a wide variety of cuttings for the grand homes and special occasions of her customers, including Easter lilies, hydrangeas, callas, geraniums, larkspur. coleus, roses and more.

Her two other sisters Julie and Alice never seemed to have married, but Julia became one of the first female attorneys employed by Galveston County. There were four sons as well: George, Louis, August and Charles (who was also an attorney for the county).

John owned a large carriage and blacksmith shop on Mechanic, and built many types of specialty conveyances for locals and customers in other cities. He also had a staff of ferries (trained in the horseshoeing trade) and blacksmiths. 

Mina hosted meetings of Galveston’s Young Women’s Embroidery Club at her home.

It sounds like their home was filled with beauty and joy. What a wonderful legacy.

Would you attempt to raise such a large family in this relatively small home?

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Wounded at San Jacinto – Died at Galveston

I wanted to write a post for Memorial Day that tells the story of someone with Galveston ties who gave their life in battle. The challenge was that there are so very many stories to tell. In the Broadway Cemetery complex alone there are veterans from every war from 1812 forward. Of course, not all of them lost their life in the service, and many of those who did have stories that are well-known.

So I decided to go with a little more obscure story with Galveston ties that many locals may not have heard.

When people visit the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, they usually visit the impressive star-topped monument and possibly the USS Battleship Texas. But are you aware there are actually TWO cemeteries on the grounds?

The most visible of the two is close to the battleship, and known as San Jacinto Battlefield Cemetery. It is where the handful of Texans killed in the battle were buried near the Texan Army camp. Buried there are Dr. William Junius Motley, Sgt. Thomas Patton Fowle, Lt. George A. Lamb, Lt. John C. Hale and privates Lemuel Stockton Blakey, Mathias Cooper, Ashley R. Stevens, Benjamin Rice Brigham and Olwyn Trask.

A monument called the Brigham Monument was erected at the gravesite in 1881.

Taking the time to read the lengthy inscriptions, the word “Galveston” (of course) caught my eye.

“Olwyn J. Trask…died on Galveston Island… of wounds …received at the San Jacinto Battlefield…”

This is how it begins, folks. I see something like this and I’m off, down the rabbit hole of research. Olwyn’s story took me on a complicated journey that involved his family, his unlikely demise, and even the beginnings of Baylor University. But here, I’ll just concentrate on his story.

Olwyn Trask’s sister Frances was a brilliant educator in Texas. By some accounts Olwyn, a recent college graduate, was sent to Texas during the Revolution by their family in Massachusetts to bring her home. Because he arrived in the Spring of 1835, however, it is more likely that he came to join her and their cousins (the Dix family) to seek out business prospects.

Soon after spirited 21-year-old reached Galveston though, he impulsively joined the Texas Army to fight for independence from Mexico.

He became a member of Captain William H. Smith’s Cavalry Company, after General Sam Houston himself witnessed his horsemanship skills in lassoing a young mustang.

On April 20, 1836, the day preceding the famous Battle of San Jacinto, he was one of 80 men under Colonel Sherman who skirmished against the Mexican Army. Only two men in the Texan ranks were wounded, but Olwyn’s were mortal.

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Nicholas Descomps Labadie was an assistant surgeon in the Second Regiment Volunteers under Anson Jones, and treated Trask when he arrived back at camp. The conditions were primitive, and resources limited.

Olwyn was transported to Galveston on a boat with Texan President Burnet and others, where he was to receive further treatment.

The following extract of a letter from New Orleans furnishes details of Olwyn’s fate:

“I called on General Houston yesterday, to ascertain particulars relative to Olwyn J. Trask; he says that he lies dangerously wounded at the Fort at Galveston Island. His thigh was broken in a charge made by 80 of our calvary on about 250 Mexicans, on the 20thof April, in which he behaved most gallantly. He fell from his horse when the ball struck him, but was almost instantly seen again supporting himself on one leg by his horse and had the satisfaction to kill the man who shot him. This was confirmed by one of the aids of General Houston, then present, who remarked that he was in a position to see the whole of it. He said that after Olwyn had laid the man dead at his feet, he sprang on his horse again, in the midst of the enemy’s cavalry, his own corps having retired and immediately urging him to his utmost speed, cutting his way through the ranks, and brandishing his sword at everything that opposed him, when, as the Aid remarked, they seemed to open for him to pass, and he entered the camp with his leg swinging like the pendulum of a clock.”

Olwyn’s thigh bone had been shattered. It was generally believed among those present that if he had received expert medical attention from the start he might have lived. The makeshift facilities are blamed for his demise about three weeks after the battle.

Upon his death he was buried with his comrades “with all the honors that could have been paid to the Commander in Chief; all the troops were under arms, and the officers of the Navy joined in the procession and minute guns were fired during its progress to the place of burial.”

Olwyn J. Trask’s name and gallantry were so revered in his home state of Massachusetts that young men went so far as to legally change their name to his.

In the years that followed, a community cemetery grew around these graves, but now part of the 10-acre site is partially covered by a parking lot for the battleship.

Brigham Monument at San Jacinto

The deed records of Harris County shows that on November 2, 1837, Frances J. S. Trask, Olwyn’s sister, was living at Independence, Washington County, Texas and was on that day appointed representative of Israel Trask of Massachusetts, who was heir to the property of his deceased son. She was awarded the 640 acres of land due Trask’s services at San Jacinto, and used some of it to build a school. This school was the root of what would eventually grow into Baylor University.

Memorial Day seems an appropriate time to remember this young man,

and so many others, who have given their lives fighting for their beliefs and country.

 

 

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The “Great Snow” of 1895

Today’s icy weather is definitely not the norm for this part of Texas. Our streets, tires and infrastructure is designed to handle heavy rains and heat, but not snow.

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Sealy “Open Gates” Mansion blanketed in snow

But because it’s such a rare occurrence, photos of snowfalls from the past seem especially enchanting. On Valentine’s Day in 1895 Galveston was blanketed with over a foot of snow, bringing street car traffic to a halt, and closing the doors of banks and wholesale businesses.

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Snow-covered Strand

The snow began to fall about one o’clock in the afternoon, and continued to fall for the rest of the day.

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Carriage driving through snow at 17th and Postoffice

Shoes stores sold out of “gum boots” (rubber boots) and overshoes, as even the most sedate citizens took part in citywide snowball fights. Merchants, policemen, bankers carriage drivers, doctors an other adults took the opportunity to launch snowballs at each other, to the delight of onlookers.

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Rear of the Kopperl Residence

Those trapped at the train station waiting for trains that had no way of reaching them were less amused.  The bright spot at the station occurred when Officer Perrett saved a yellow dog he found half-frozen in a snow drift, and warmed it by the waiting room stove.

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Shoveling snow outside the Kopperl residence

A few ingenious locals attached temporary runners on their carriages and used them as makeshift sleighs. Others were the victims of icy falls and other mishaps.

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Ball High School surrounded by snow

As evening fell Dr. Isaac Cline, the now famous Galveston meteorologist was busily answering telephone inquiries about the prospect of more snow, but were met with the news that the “worst” was over. Our generation isn’t the first to be excited over the prospect of snow or worry about it’s implications…and it certainly won’t be the last.

Photographs courtesy of the Rosenberg Library Archives.

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Icy harbor

 

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New Year’s Eve 1895

     On New Year’s Eve 1895, the Misses Caroline, Fannie and Josephine Kenison gave a cotillion for their young friends in this beautiful home at 1120 Tremont in Galveston. It was the home of their parents Alphonse and Ellen, originally from Louisiana.

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     The lower floor of the residence was prepared for the occasion by stretching canvas over the spacious double parlor floors, and then taking up the carpet in the library and waxing the floors to create a dance floor.

     One can only imagine the other preparations that took place!

     At exactly 11:59 the young celebrants gathered underneath the chandelier and gave six cheers for the parting year. When the minute had passed, six cheers welcomed the new year.

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     The house was filled even on non-social days, with a large family. Alphonse, the father; Ellen, the mother; daughterscreen-shot-2016-12-30-at-11-04-11-pms Josephine, Frances, Caroline and Lucie; son Alphonse Jr.; Lucy Sydnor, a boarder; Josephine Settle, Mrs. Kenison’s mother; and servant Belle Washington and her young daughter Hazel.

Alphonse was one of the first general insurance agents int he state of Texas. He and his wife lost two sons, Maximiliem and Wartelle, in infancy, but the rest of their children thrived.

     Josephine “Josie” (1878-1957) eventually became Mrs. Clinton G. Wells, and remained 127524196_1396805025on the island for the rest of her life, passing away in 1957. She had one son, named Clinton III, born in 1906. She is buried in Trinity Episcopal Cemetery. One wonders if she regaled her son with stories about the homes in her home when she was a young girl.

     From the 1910 census on, Josephine and her son lived with her parents. Her status on the records is listed as being a widow, her husband having passed away in 1908.

     Francis (1879-1968), known as “Fanny” to her family, married William Penn White, moving first to New York and then to New Jersey. They had three daughters.

     Caroline, called “Caro” by her family was born in 1879. She can be found listed in the society pages through the 1910s attending parties and volunteering in the community.

     Alphonse Jr. (1881-1934) married multiple times, and had two children.

     Lucie (1886-1973) married Herman Bornefeld in 1914, with whom she had a son and daughter.

     Graves of members of the family can be found in Old City, Old Catholic and Trinity Episcopal Cemeteries in Galveston.

 

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New Year’s Eve Box Parties 1912

The Grand Opera House in Galveston was the site of festive “box parties” on Dec. 31, 1912.

A box party occurred when a host or hostess purchased tickets to an entire box at a theatre, and then invited their guests for a special afternoon or evening of entertainment.

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Miss Mary Moody was presented with a box to the matinee performance of the play “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” by Miss Charlotte Walker, a famous Galvestonian who was appearing in the production.

The play had opened the previous January in New York at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway. Walker also appeared in the silent film version in 1916.

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Charlotte Walker

Mary’s guests were the Misses Allen, Phyllis Walthew, Anna Mosle, Libbie Moody and Ethel Sykes.

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At the evening performance of the play, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Archer Robertson hosted their own box party with Miss Margaret Robertson, Miss Eileen Allen, Miss Jane Alvey, Miss Winifred Allen, Mr. Fred Austin of Houston, Mr. Charles E. Witherspoon, Mr. Gus I. Arnold, and Mr. Earnest G. Diehl of Cincinnati, Ohio.

This group was especially fortunate, proceeding from the play to the “watch party” (to await the New Year) at the fabulous Hotel Galvez.

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Wishing you all every happiness in the New Year!

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Mosaic Templars of America Grave Marker

I was thrilled this weekend to find a grave marker for a member of the Mosaic Templars of America, in Marshall, Texas.

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The Mosaic Templars of America was an African American fraternal organization founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1882 and incorporated in 1883 by two former slaves, John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts.mosaic-templars-john-bush-chester-keatts

The organization was established to provide important services such as burial insurance and life insurance to the African American community. Like many fraternal organizations, the Mosaic Templars’ burial insurance policies covered funeral expenses for members, both men and women, who maintained monthly dues.

By 1913, the burial insurance policy also included a Vermont marble marker. These markers are still found in cemeteries across Arkansas and other states. As membership grew, the Mosaic Templars expanded its operations to inclumt_img_endowmentdeptde a newspaper, hospital, and building and loan association. The organization attracted thousands of members and built a complex of three buildings at the corner of West Ninth Street and Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas. The National Grand Temple, the Annex, and the State Temple were completed in 1913, 1918 and 1921, respectively.

Photo of the Mosaic Templar’s Endowment Office staff from the History of the Mosaic Templars of America and Its Founders and Officials.
Courtesy Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.
  

A blank Mosaic Templars of America [MTA] Monument Claim Form.  In order for a deceaMTCC2013.01.004-MTAMC.jpgsed MTA member to receive an MTA marker, local chapter officers had to complete and sign the monument claim form to verify that the deceased MTA member had paid all dues and fees, and confirm that the deceased was a member in good standing.  They also had to submit the member’s information that was to be placed on the marker, and had to provide a delivery address for the completed marker.

According to their official 1924 history, the MTA authorized a Monument Department as early as 1911 to provide markers to its deceased members. Operations were managed by the state jurisdictions until 1914, when the MTA created a national Monument Department to centralize operations and cut costs. Members paid an annual tax to finance the department, and were promised a marble marker.

A traditional MTA marker had a rounded and forward-sloping top, with the MTA symbol cut into the top center. The name of the deceased member was carved below the symbol, with dates of birth (if known) and death. The name of the local chapter, the chapter number and the city where the chapter was located could be found on the bottom. MTA markers issued by the Modern Mosaic Templars of America appear exactly as the MTA markers except with the word “Modern” carved just above the MTA logo. The dimensions of the markers generally measured twenty-five to twenty-nine inches in height, fifteen to seventeen inches in width, and three to five inches in depth.

The name of the organization, taken from the Biblical figure Moses who emancipated Hebrew slaves, elected the Templars ideals of love, charity, protection, and brotherhood. The organization was originally called “The Order of Moses,” but the founders revised the name to “Mosaic Templars of America” in 1883 during the incorporation process. Modeled after the United States government, the organization consisted of an executive branch, a legislative branch, and even a judicial branch.

Members of fraternal organizations often wore badges as a proof of membership, and the badges of this organization displayed several symbols of tScreen Shot 2017-11-06 at 9.55.25 AMhe Mosaic Templars. The letters “M,” “T” and “A” denote the Mosaic Templars of America. The two crossed shepherd staffs in the center represent MoseMTCC2004.01.01_MTAbdge.jpgs and Aaron and Exodus story from the Bible. The “3v’s” abbreviates the Latin phrase “Veni Vidi Vici,” meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Finally an ouroboros (snake eating its tail), representing the cyclical nature of life surrounding the symbol.
In July 1930, the Mosaic Templars of America went into receivership.

The organization struggled to regain its status, but by the end oMTCC2004.08.062.af the decade it had ceased operations in Arkansas.

 

But I want to also share a bit about Amy since it is her grave marker, after all.

She was born in Tennessee in 1864, to Abner Dollis and Celia Bloodsworth Dollis.

By the time she was 25, in 1860, she was working as a live-in cook in the home of Sheriff William Poland and his family. 

Just ten years later she had married, and was the widow of, “John” whose last name was not listed in the city directory. She had a two-year -old daughter named Cely, who was obviously named for Amy’s mother.

By 1912 she supported her daughter by working as a “washerwoman,” and lived at 805 Riptoe Street in Marshall, where only a couple of older homes still stand. 

Her death certificate lists her father as Abner Dollis, and her cause of death by apoplexy (the term commonly used for a stroke).

Her daughter Pearl (this was possibly a middle name for Cely), a public school teacher, married Rufus Brown. In 1910, the couple was living with Amy in her home.

Amy died of apoplexy (a term commonly used for stroke), in 1928.

Amy Dollis’ marker, the one I spotted in Marshall, is not in the database being created by the curator of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at this time, so I was thrilled to be able to share the find with them.

MTCC_logo_CMYK-HORIZWhen you’re in Little Rock, visit the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center museum at 501 West Ninth Street downtown.

 

 

 

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Ghostly Appearance at the Pier

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Many people assume that the majority of Galveston hauntings stem from the 1900 Storm. While it’s true that the overwhelming loss of life during that hurricane contributed to the population of restless spirits of the island, entities were experienced long before the waves of 1900 washed across the city.

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Pier 33 in 1910

In January of 1894, Galvestonians were talking about the wraith of a woman seen on the West End. She was said to be the spirit of a woman who had drowned in the neighborhood years before.

Appearing at midnight and clad in a calico gown, she clutched a shawl that was drawn around her shoulders and beneath her chin. Moving slowly and deliberately she moved from the east end of Pier 33 to the west end, then going over the edge.

There were different theories at the time as to whether she had fallen or jumped, but no sounds of footsteps or a splash was ever heard. If witnesses rushed to the end of the pier to look, there was no sign of her in the water.

Was she distraught from the loss of a child during a Yellow Fever epidemic, or a husband lost at sea? Was she a victim of the harsh life experienced by many during the rough, early years of the city? It seems her identity and story will remain a mystery.
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In 1894 that area, home of the newly constructed Moody Cotton Compress, was bustling with business and waterfront workers, but as 12 o’clock neared…no one ventured toward Pier 33, at one time called Western Wharf.

The sad spirit became such a regular occurrence, that even those who lived nearby avoided the area around the midnight hour.

Today grand cruise ships past the spot of the ghost’s appearance on their way to dock at the cruise terminal. I wonder if she even notices.

 

GOG-CoverRead more tales of Galveston’s spirited past in ‘Ghosts of Galveston’ from The History Press.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1467119652

 

 

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Elegant Sessums Monument with Galveston Ties

When I found this amazing (and immense) Woodmen of the World grave marker in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, I had no idea that the person who rests here had important ties to Galveston.

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Alexander Sessums (born in 1830 ) came to Texas and married Mary Howell Runnels (born 1835 in Houston) in 1854.

He became an important cotton and wool factor in Galveston, eventually also purchasing the wholesale grocery supply on the Strand from Ware & McKeen. Sessums also ran a mill in Houston.

Sessums’ office was upstairs in the John Berlocher Building (2313 Ships Mechanic Row, across from the Tremont Hotel) which was built in 1858. At the time, the Berlocher was four stories, only three of which remain.

Berlocher Building as it appears today

Alexander died at the young age of 43 in 1873.

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His monument at Glenwood definitely signifies his success in business, towering over surrounding markers. A beautiful example of Wo
odmen of the World gravestones, the marker shared by Sessum and his wife features morning glories (symbolizing resurrection), roses (symbolizing beauty, for Mary) and acorns (symbolizing immortality for Alexander).

“Broken branches” lay at the base, with individual inscriptions for Alexander and Mary.
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It’s well worth the trip to Glenwood to see this stunning sculpture in person.

CLICK HERE for a video showing the entire monument:

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Double-Sided Stone for Two Sweet Little Lambs

Having wandered through countless cemeteries in the past forty years, I can easily recognize most of the common iconography or symbolism used to decorate the markers. That makes it especially exciting to see something new (to me).

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This unusual marker in Galveston’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery features two lambs resting their heads together, marking the grave of two siblings, each of whose inscriptions is featured on opposite sides of a double-sided stone.

Happily the children’s names are on the stone. So many markers of this type only identify small children as “Son of” or “dau. of” and give the parents initials or names. Their parents remain a mystery however, for the same reason.

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Nellie

“Angel”

Born June 29, 1888 and died Sept. 30, 1888.

Dearest loved one, we have laid thee

in the peaceful grave’s embrace,

but thy memory will be cherished

till we see thy heavenly face.

Almost exactly one year after their daughter’s death, a son was born to the couple. But that joy was short-lived as well.

 

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Andrew

“Amen”

Sept. 10, 1889 and died Dec. 26, 1889

‘Tis hard to break the tender cord

When love has bound the heart

‘Tis hard so hard, so speak the words

Must we forever part

 

Losing a child so close to Christmas always seems especially poignant.

There are almost two full pages of Andersons in the local directory during this time period, and unfortunately no further clues as to the identity of the parents at this time. Looking for other Andersons in the same cemetery failed to provide more leads as well due to the number of seemingly unrelated individuals with that surname.

Both of the children were just three months old. I wonder if the couple had any more children who survived, but likely will never know.

Although I occasionally run across a rare exception, lambs on gravestones denote the resting place of children and symbolize purity and innocence. This symbolic use of the lamb pre-dates Christianity, being used first by the Egyptians.

Many lamb figures on grave markers from this time period are missing their heads, or so severely eroded that they appear more like a lump than a small animal. This one is lucky, perhaps because of the strength of their necks resting against each other, to still be intact.

I wonder if there are any family members left on the island to visit this poignant remembrance.