Monday, October 7, 2013

Angels and a Menage å Trois in the Cemetery

As predicted in my previous post, I spent  Friday photographing in Rural Cemetery, Worcester (MA) as a participant in the Worcester Art Museum's class "Exploring Photography at Rural Cemetery",  taught by my friend Mari Seder.


It was really fun, despite the rain which followed us all day, alternating between a mist and a downpour. Then we went back to the Museum where Mari reviewed and critiqued our photos.  Even though we were all photographing in the same place, each of us focussed on different aspects of the cemetery.  One woman, who is a civil engineer, found wonderful geometric compositions in small architectural details and shadows and corners of stones.  Another concentrated on the beautiful trees and foliage, leaves and flowers.  And I discovered  that my obsession with the human form showed up in nearly all my photos--either with inclusion of my fellow photographers or the angels and cherubs that I found in the cemetery.  (If you come to my house you'll discover I've been collecting angels for ages.)

I thought this looked like the witch's house in Hansel and Gretel but when I got up close I learned it was the mausoleum of Inventor George Crompton.
 And it has quite a few cherubs, each with a different face and attitude.

This one was my favorite (below.)

We all circled this lovely (if battle-scarred) angel erected by the Gorham family.

I photographed her from all angles.

This one (below) I called a guardian angel. He is directing this departed soul toward Heaven.

But our attention turned from angels to scandal when we took shelter from the rain in the door of the Greek-temple-like mausoleum below.

The name over the door was "Kennedy" and here's the story, as reported in Rural Cemetery's "Guide and Walking Map" brochure-- a tale told with delightfully antiquated euphemisms:

"Ellen 'Nellie' F. Rogers and Walter G. S. Kennedy were married at ages 67 and 63 respectively. They then adopted Mr. Kennedy's 'chum' Charles A. Williams, a former piano salesman who was age 45 at the time, as their 'son'.  It was the stir of Worcester society to have such an event! We have one of the richest women in Worcester marrying a music teacher and adopting the comrade of Mr. Kennedy's...Nellie Rogers, the daughter of an old and wealthy Worcester family, lost her father at a young age and was left in a peculiar situation as a result.  She and her mother could enjoy the interest only of Mr. Roger's vast estate and only upon the death of one of them could the other inherit the fortune of the estate.

"Nellie and Walter traveled  the same social circles for nearly a quarter of a century before their friendship ripened into greater intimacy until one day she packed her trunks, 'took the family silver' and moved to Sicily with Walter and Charles in tow.  There she purchased a villa on the Sorrento Bay and she and Walter married in France.  On the day old Mrs. Rogers got word of the events, she passed away and left Nellie, Walter and Charles to inherit the fortune!  Rural Cemetery has benefitted from this fortune with the erection of the Ellen Rogers Kennedy Memorial Chapel in 1930."

After reading this, we peered with renewed interest into the holes in the locked metal doors of the Kennedy Mausoleum.

Peering even closer, we could make out the stained glass window and the sentiments carved  into the wall.  On one side:

"Death is not departure but arrival
Not falling asleep but waking."

And on the other:  

"It is life which is the night
And death is daybreak."

And by poking a camera through a hole to photograph the interior, we discovered a tantalizing mystery: There were only two crypts inside the mausoleum, leaving us wondering which of the scandalous threesome sleep inside, and in what order?

This is just one of the many mysteries that lie beneath the marble and slate stones of Rural Cemetery in Worcester.


Joan Ellen Gage Admin said...

Fascinating! Did you find any Gages, as my Dad is a geneology fiend? We do have relatives in New England, especially.

by Joan Gage said...

Hi Joan Ellen! There were some Gages--I know a Dr. Gage was an important person about a century ago in Shrewsbury MA, near where we live, but since "Gage" is not really my husband's name (the real name is Greek and as a reporter he had to shorten it to get a by-line that fit in one column) and because it was raining pretty hard while I was in Rural Cemetery, I did not do a very good job of tracking down Gage tombstones.


civil war researcher said...

I loved the pics from Rural--the Crompton Mausoleum is very beautiful. A friend of mine was a family member and is buried outside of it on the grounds. When a family member dies and is buried there they open the mausoleum so you can pay respects to those buried inside and it interesting to see the interior.

In My Prime Time said...

How wonderful to find another blogger 60+ !! I am following - your pictures are lovely - my family has been here since 1776 & this is such an interesting topic. Thank you for sharing.
All the best, Mimi

by Joan Gage said...

Thank you to both Civil War researcher and Mimi, who's over 60 and fabulous! It's fun to meet friends who are as fascinated by cemeteries as I am.


Marie Sultana Robinson said...

My maiden name is Crompton. This is my family crypt. The faces of the angels are the women of my family. Yes, we used to open the crypt when we had funerals. Nearby are the Smiths which were part of the family as well. To most it's beautiful to me, it's a step into the past and family. Beautifully done pictures.

Marie Sultana Robinson said...

If you are researching the Civil War. George Crompton retooled the looms so they could manufacture the bolts of cloth to make uniforms. He was used as a model for the soldier in the Civil War monument downtown.

Unknown said...

Hello MSR, My husband has been in the Army for 27 yrs and we rarely have time to get away for a few days alone. Traveling from CT to NH to enjoy the leaves, we threw on the brakes and spent 2 hrs in Rural Cemetery. The Compton history was yearning to be told, so I went to the internet. We are so thrilled to have had the gift of your voice thru this post and want to thank you for sharing such precious details.

by Joan Gage said...

Thank you so much for those kind words! I'm so glad you and your husband spent a few days enjoying the foliage around here and the beauties of Rural Cemetery as well and am glad that you happened upon my post. I know there are a lot more great stories buried in Rural Cemetery--and also in Worcester's Hope Cemetery where I've researched some of the very interesting dead inter
red there, including my husband's mother, Eleni Gatzoyiannis, who was executed during the Greek Civil War for getting her children out to freedom. Her story became a book and a movie, both called "Eleni."

Marie Sultana Robinson said...

I love the boook Eleni. What a defiant strong woman! -- If you want to know more about my great grandfather George Crompton, wiki does a rather nice job.

Marie Sultana Robinson said...

Of note when you read the George Crompton bio in the Worcester book, the following entry is of Timothy Keyes Earle who owned a Carding company. George Crompton's grandson, my grandfather, George Crompton Jr. married my grandmother Nancy Earle Smith. Her grandfather was Timothy Keyes Earle. Her mother being Nancy Earle. You can find the Smith and Earle relatives near by on the same "island" in the Rural Cemetary.