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Bounty of Souls

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During the Thanksgivi4fd3151700e18d3acab293cb952eedccng holidays, we are surrounded by symbols of harvest and bounty. One of the most popular symbols of the season’s bounty is a sheaf of wheat, which is why it is often incorporated into decorations.

lincoln-wheat-pennyThe image is so connected with bounty and prosperity that it was at one time used on United States currency.

Religiously, the image of wheat has a deeper meaning. Wheat is baked into the 67bd297f31d93d7f8069455b09a58857Eucharist, a motif of everlasting life through belief in Jesus. Therefore when wheat is used on gravestones or memento mori, it represents a divine harvest – being cut to resurrect the “harvest” into everlasting life or immortality.

Wheat has also been symbolic of love and charity in the bible, and was a popular emblem used by Masons.

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20151120_110201_DSC_5871The wheat sheaf can also signify a long and fruitful life, often more than 70 years.

So the net time you see an image of wheat on a grave, check the lifespan of the person who the stone memorializes.

 

 

 

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Survived the War – But Not the Storm

Today is the 115th Anniversary of the tragic 1900 hurricane in Galveston, that took thousands of lives. I thought it was only proper for today’s post to pay tribute to a veteran who lost his life in that storm.


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Johann “John” Karl “Charles” Seidenstricker was an immigrant who proved his allegiance and dedication to his new country soon after his arrival.

Born on September 7, 1842 in Bad Duerkeim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany, Johann immigrated to America by himself when he was only 18 years old. He arrived in New Orleans aboard the ship Kate Dyer on February 4, 1861, just two months before the Civil War began.

He served as a private in Company F of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry, while they were stationed in Donaldsonville, Louisiana south of Baton Rouge. In December, joined by companies from nearby Fort Pike, the unit was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton.

0314-redRiverCampaignFrom there, Johann took part in the Red River campaign and was engaged with loss at Sabine Cross Road on April 4, 1864. He re-enlisted during the winter and left on July 21 for furlough in Massachusetts, returning to Donaldsonville in November.

The regiment took part in the operations against Mobile, Alabama and occupied the city after the surrender. Johann remained on duty there until he mustered out on July 31, 1865.

Johann was naturalized in New Orleans on April 30, 1866, no doubt largely in thanks to his service to the country during the war.

Seidenst_edited-1While in New Orleans he met NOLA native Married Elenora Johanna Phillippi (1842-1906). They married on September 10, 1866 at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church in Carrollton, Louisiana.

Johann, now known by his Anglicized name John,  and his wife moved to Galveston, and raised a large family, which included Charles Louis “Carl Ludwig” (1868-1925), Elenora Johanna (1869-1962), Emma (1872-1958), Anna Elizabeth (1874-1945), Bertha (1876-1946), Frederick Godfred (1878-1946), Henry William (1881-1952), and Maude Louise (1883-1953).

He became an active member of the community, and was eventually elected a trustee of Knights of Honor’s Goethe Lodge No. 2976, one of two lodges of this fraternal beneficiary society in the city.

From 1888-1891, Johnphoto-5 worked as a porter for Rosenfield and Co.

The building where he worked is now part of the historic Strand shopping district, on the second floor above Head to Footsies, The Admiralty and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

In 1900, the couple and four of their children (Bertha, Frederick, Henry and Maude) lived together at 1209 Avenue N, very close to what is now Stewart’s Beach.

ruinsOn September 8, 1900 a hurricane which is still the nation’s worst natural disaster struck the city, smashing buildings and killing thousands of people. John was one of those lost in the tragedy. It was the day after his birthday.

Because of the debris, bodies were found for months, and even years, after the storm. With John missing, I can only imagine his family checking the listings of identified bodies found each day in the local newspaper…praying for an answer.

John’s body was eventually discovered and identified by his son Charles. He was buried on Oct. 20, 1900 in Galveston’s Lakeview Cemetery.

Johanna died November 10, 1906 at her home at 1202 Church Street at the age of 54. She is buried at Lakeview as well.

 

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Happy San Jacinto Day!

20150104_125252_DSC_6258Oscar Farish was born on December 18, 1812, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and emigrated to Texas in October, 1835 to pursue his profession of land surveyor. He joined Captain McIntyre’s Company of Col. Sidney Sherman’s Regiment, and participated in the Battle San Jacinto. He was one of the last surviving veterans.Texas-arial-monumentleftside

In 1837 he was elected engrossing clerk of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. Mr. Farish was elected to be the first Clerk of Galveston County in 1856 and was holding that office when he died May 25, 1884.

Farish and his wife rest in Galveston’s Old City Cemetery, one of
locations included in “Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries,” releasing in July from Arcadia Publishing, and available for pre-orders on Amazon.

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Coffin or Casket: What’s the Difference?

While I was at a museum the other day, one of the archivists asked me a question that I hear often:   “What is the difference between a coffin and a casket…or is there one?”

Victorian-Coffin-PlaqueI was glad I had the answer to share with her. Yes, there is a difference although we tend to use the two terms interchangeably.

COFFIN

3-PineWooden coffins, which came into use around the early part of the 16th century in the western world, typically have six sides, and the lid lifts off completely. Once the deceased was placed inside, the lid was nailed shut. Think about the classic Halloween decoration or old black-and-white vampire movies, and you have the idea.

The silhouette is wider at the shoulders and narrows toward the feet. The only handles, if any at all, would have been functional loops of rope to carry it to the graveyard.

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You may be surprised that this was a term originally used for jewelry boxes. When the Victorian sensibilities of proper mourning and tribute came into fashion, the word “casket” began being used for the burial receptacles as well. It makes sense I suppose, since it would hold something precious and certainly sound kinder to the ears of those left behind.

The casket is different in shape as well, being elongated and four-sided.

Some caskets feature a split lid to allow for easier viewing of the deceased. This would have been impractical with wooden coffins. The lid of a casket is also hinged, so it is hover entirely detached from the lower portion.

Lined with metal on the interior, unlike coffins, caskets also usually feature six metal handles for pallbearers.

Bits of Related Trivia:

bask1001bThe Greek word “kophinos,” meaning basket, refers to the fact that wicker baskets were used in days gone by. There is a new interest in utilizing them for “green burials.”

Ancient Greeks often buried their dead in a sitting position in clay pottery.

7afdbc54dc8e55dab501e2277596efed “Fittings” or “coffin furniture” were/are external details such as crucifixes, handles and name plates. The local mortician would often offer “rental” of such adornments which would then be removed immediately before burial.

“Trim” was a term used to refer to fabric used to line the interior of coffins.

When a coffin is newPall2-1used to transport a deceased person it is called a “pall,” hence the term “pallbearer” for those that carry it. The word can also refer to a cloth used to drape over the coffin.

I hope that you found this posting interesting…and not too morbid.

What bit of trivia do you have to share about the subject?

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