Another good history blog

maidens and garlands

Here’s another nifty blog for amateur historians, particularly those interested in the Victorian way of death.  It belongs to the Friends of Oak Grove Cemetery, a curated historical site in Fall River, Massachusetts.  I found my way to it accidentally, having read the touching story this week of a woman’s rescue of a three-year-old’s coffin which had lain beneath her house since 1871.  The Daily Mail reports that one Ericka Karner, of San Francisco, was told of the coffin’s existence by workmen, who reckoned it was a leftover from a big cemetery clearance that once made way for new housing.  The city wouldn’t claim the little body, so she did, with the help of the Garden of Innocence foundation in Fresno, who bury unidentified children.  They name them, they have the Boy Scouts build lace-lined caskets for them, and they lay them to rest with blankets and soft toys; their funerals are well attended, by policemen, by military personnel, by parents who have lost children of their own.  It is clear, said the Garden’s founder, Elissa Davey, that the child in this very beautiful coffin was loved, and she says, ‘We will love her too.’  Mrs. Karner’s daughters have named her Miranda, and she is to be reburied very shortly.  One of the reasons I love the Victorians is that they loved children.  Miranda’s was an elegant, curvy little casket, with two panes of glass (which I’d never heard of ) that displayed the child in a long, white dress, with lavender in her still-blonde hair, holding a rose.  The men who found her were quite moved.  So was I, by her apparent back-story and by the care our own generation has been showing for her.  I went looking for more on the intersection between us and the Victorians on the sad matter of children’s deaths, and found this beautiful Oak Grove blog.  Its touch is very gentle, and it’s got everything the new historian could want, without heaviness or morbidity.  There are pages about burial customs, mourning fashions, poetry, and superstitions.  I’d not known about maiden garlands — see the picture above: did little Miranda’s sisters bear these before her cortege?  I hope so.  There are posts about curiosities like the municipal ‘holding tomb,’ and for heaven’s sake transcripts of the Lizzie Borden murder victims’ autopsies, which I gather happened here.  There is a great blogroll of other sites — there’s apparently a National Museum of Funeral History and an Association for Gravestone Studies.  It’s all good reading, and it’s a wonderful, warm-hearted place to go if you like to be around Victorians.


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