Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Walk in the Park... Not Exactly

It's Sunday afternoon, and what is our family doing?

Why, walking the local cemetery, of course!

My husband and I are avid "gravers," meaning people who tromp through cemeteries taking photographs of headstones.

Why do we do this seemingly strange activity? Well, a variety of reasons, I suppose:

  • We enjoy the history. Reading the various headstones really makes one wonder about the lives they represent.

  • As cemetery look-up volunteers for Find A Grave, we frequently dash out to our local cemetery to fulfill photo requests, and try to snap a few extra shots along the way. In doing this, we hope to reunite family members who are unable to travel to California with their long-lost ancestors.

  • We believe in "paying it forward." Actually, this has really paid off for me. Some very kind volunteers have posted photos of my grandfather's headstone in Washington, my great-grandmother's headstone in Iowa, as well as some others I've wanted to see in response to my requests.

  • It's quiet, and a pretty place to walk. I broke my ankle about a year ago, requiring surgery to insert a steel plate and eight screws. Even after four months of physical therapy, I still have pain and difficulty walking sometimes. The uneven terrain is good practice, not only for me, but for my daughter's wobbly toddler legs.
Headstone of the Day:

This one is actually quite famous here locally. The inscription reads:

Mary L. Sargent
21 Y's & 8 D's

Murdered by Indians
Apr. 2, 1881

Says the Lompoc Historical Society:
[Mary] had left on horseback to go to a neighbor for eggs in the Santa Rita District. Her horse returned without her that evening. A search party was formed and her body discovered in a shallow grave. An Indian sheep herder was held as suspect, since the footprints at the scene matched his. His clothes were also bloody, and there was blood on his lariat. He denied doing the deed and blamed it on another man, whom he could not identify. He was found guilty on the spot and hanged. The Chumash, who inhabited this area before European arrival were a peaceful people. The only instance of violence was an Indian revolt at La Purisima Mission. The sheep herder was of Chumash descent and had come from the Santa Cota Reservation in Santa Ynez.
Can you imagine anyone being found "guilty on the spot" today?

More about Mary Sargent's tragic demise here.

Don't sit on the headstones, sweetheart.


Want to "pay it forward" by committing a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness?

Visit AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors for some great suggestions of what you can do.

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Miriam said...

Thanks for getting the word out about doing random acts of kindness, Elizabeth!

Ah, what I wouldn't do to see green grass and be able to be out of doors with just a sweater for warmth!

Apple said...

Good for you! My kids were always mortified when I'd swing into the cemetery just to walk and take pictures. My grandkids love it and I often walk a local cemetery for exercise - in the good months!- rather than the walking track that is in the adjacent park. SKS just posted the information on one of my ancestors in MI so I finally know what cemetery he's in. I hope to pay that forward in the spring.