For whatever reason, I often find myself wandering around old cemeteries. Part of this is surely the natural beauty abounding in older cemeteries—parklike, with an abundance of trees and often plantings left alone by decades of caretakers, there’s something soothing about them. Of course, they’re graveyards of any sort are a reminder that death is never far from any of us, though having narrowly escaped it four times already, I’m very much aware of the fact that mine could end without warning. It certainly keeps one humble, but also considerate of each day’s fleeting value. Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!
That aside, of course, again: Older cemeteries are lovely places, and the age of the graves—the distance separating we the living from the dead whose graves we see—gives rise to a real sense of wonderment about the lives represented by each headstone, about the history seen by these people. Not only are they great places to think, they encourage thinking by their very nature—history, death, life, beauty, calm. Modern-day cemeteries tend to be sterile places without even a place to rest—a vast, sterile expanse of markers and death with no beauty or natural shelter to remind us of life, deliciously bittersweet life enjoyed by the dead as well as ourselves—but the older sort have much to recommend themselves.
Today I’m sharing with you photos from such a cemetery—Binkley-Ridge Cemetery, or just Ridge Cemetery (I’m not quite certain, two names continue popping up). It and its inhabitants rest on a hillock in Perry County here in Central Ohio, surrounded mostly by woods with a scattering of small homes. Of course I take photos in the cemeteries; they’re beautiful, yes, but as anyone who frequents them knows, time is wiping away the information about those inside. These are fellow-travellers, though we’ve never met them; it seems important to me to preserve this information, especially as one never knows who will be thrilled to find information about an ancestor online!
Though no one has been buried here in some decades, it is still well-maintained—and there’s even a mystery monument I hope someone can help me understand.
Seen above and in the next few photos is the grave of Frederick Bashore. Born in Pennsylvania January 20, 1764, Mr. Bashore joined Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Militia, serving as a private during the Revolutionary War. He married his wife, Mary Elizabeth, in Lancaster in 1782—perhaps his service in the militia was up, he’d been wounded, or he simply wished to wed (the war, of course, ended in 1783).
The couple welcomed a baby girl, Margaret, nicknamed “Peggy” into the world in 1794, in Germany, of all places—oh, how I’d love to know the story of that journey! The family moved back to Ohio at some point, becoming the first settlers of Perry County; Peggy eventually married the local reverend’s son, Christian. Thus, Frederick was able to enjoy a few years with his granddaughter, Mary, before passing on and being interred here.
There are two headstones bearing the lovely design above in Ridge Cemetery.
The craftsmanship that went into these memorials never fails to astound me, particularly considering their age. As you can see, most of the information has been wiped from the stones by time.
And now for our mystery stone:
I’ve seen quite a few odd stones and memorials in my day, but this is one I’ve not yet been able to decipher. As you can (just) see, the top is in the form of an open book—my being rather petite means I couldn’t get up high enough to capture it, but as it is, the name and any information about the deceased has long, long since been worn away.
Upon first glimpse, I thought it was a Woodsmen of the World marker, but it clearly is not. The blocks resembled books at first, but obviously, they are not, even though an enormous stone book rests atop them. As you can see, there is a sort of wooden peg represented on one corner, and along this edge, and rope, too. Was this person a preacher, scholar, judge, architect?
Ivy has been sculpted to appear as if it is growing up the mysterious blocks…
And there is this curious little thing reminiscent of a whiffle ball, though I sincerely doubt that’s what it represents.
All in all, it is quite the unusual marker, and I really do wish we knew who was buried here! Even FindAGrave.com was of no help. Looking at this, I’m not only curious about the one whose life it represents, I can’t help but consider the hours of skilled work that went into making it (and, let’s face it, moving it to this hilltop cemetery).
How I wish I knew what the blocks represented, why there appears to be a broken-off wooden mooring with a rope tied ’round it, why there’s a scroll or runner running off the side from beneath the big stone book. Do you have any thoughts or ideas? Perhaps it is not a memorial to any one person, even, but a representation of the Book of Life—those admitted to eternity with God—something a fellow photographer suggested.
There are many war veterans buried here, men who served in the wars of the Revolution, 1812, the War Between The States. There are possibly some from World War I, though I do not specifically recall seeing any.
I will say that visiting in spring or fall always seems best—the colour is riotous in either season, be it the fresh vibrancy of spring or the last hurrah before winter. I suppose that is, really, quite fitting—new life in spring and (temporary) death in autumn.
Thus ends our brief visit to Ridge Cemetery, one I hope you’ve enjoyed.