Friday, September 27, 2013

Seeking Bart's Headstone, In Which I Return To St. Pat's Cemetery


     Once again St. Patrick's Cemetery has lived up to my expectations, or fears.  I  was searching for the gave of Bartholomew Howe to fulfill a photo request I had volunteered for.  Before I left the house I checked the cemetery inventory at the Gen-web site hoping for a long inscription indicating a huge monument.  No such luck, but at least I knew his headstone was in fact there, or it was eight years ago when the inventory was done.  The cemetery is a short 3 mile drive from my place, so I grabbed a travel mug, my camera, and was off.  I parked near the black, wrought iron gates which look like something you would find in an old Roger Corman film and started up the steps. I heard a rustling off to my right and turning, I saw a wild animal running towards me, causing me to also run--towards my car.  Then I realized it was a woodchuck whose hole was in my general direction, phew.

     This time I made it through the gates and on up the hill, keeping a wary eye on the large rodent in the hole.  After this point there are no more stairs, you cling to the hill and try not to slide back down, it's that steep! Once again I was dismayed by the general decay of the place.  Most cemeteries convey a feeling of peace, at least to me.  St. Patrick's is different, I've never felt peaceful here, the atmosphere is one of melancholy at best and despair at worst.  I'm not sure why that is, it's not like I expect a hand to reach up and grab my ankle, but there is an odd feeling here among these neglected graves that freaks me out a little.  Many of those who rest here were the first generation of their families to arrive in America.  They were forced to leave their homes, endure a long and in many cases hellacious sea voyage, only to find upon arrival, a country less than enthusiastic to greet them.  It seems to me they deserve our gratitude, not crumbling headstones in an overgrown cemetery perched on the side of a hill.

     I began reading the stones, still casting an occasional look towards the lair of the woodchuck, (they have enormous teeth you know).  Before moving to the other end of the cemetery I stopped by to see Uncle John and Aunt Ellen Crotty, my Waterford connection, and yank a month's worth of weeds from their plot; I like to think they'd do the same for me.  Continuing on I found some Howe stones, not Bart's, but I felt like I was getting warm.  Climbing higher I came to the grave of the only priest buried in St. Pat's.  His grave is right on the edge of the thick woods that surround most of the cemetery, and there it was again--that eerie, someone is watching me, feeling.  And I don't mean the possibly rabid woodchuck who at this point was still in his hideout, or so I hoped.  No, this was the creepy feeling that always assaults me when I get into the center of St. P's.  But I had a job to do, so I kept looking.

     Starting back down the hill I glanced to my left and there was a large monument with a cross atop it bearing the surname Howe.  Upon closer inspection the name Bartholomew leaped out.  Eureka!  I had found him.

Looking down from Bart's grave.
     I snapped a few closeups and basically surfed back down the hill, I love a job well done.


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