Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vacationing With The Dead

While driving around in Vermilion last month we regularly passed by an old cemetery.

On the last day of our visit we decided to stop and explore it.

It turned out to be Cuddeback Cemetery.

At first we thought it was Cuddleback Cemetery, which seemed like just about the oddest name that I'd ever heard of for such a place. If I ever start a cemetery, maybe I'll call it that.

There was an Ohio historical marker near the front corner of the corner lot that the cemetery occupied. Would we have stopped had there not been a marker? Maybe. But curiosity about what historical event might possibly have occurred there no doubt greatly increased the odds.

I'm not sure what we expected to find but I know it wasn't this:

Were there other surprises lurking in the shadows? We decided to look around and see....

The place was an odd combination of decay and immaculate upkeep. Maybe it had been neglected for many years before someone finally decided to mow the grass and repair the broken markers.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to photograph each of the markers individually before the passage of time consumed them entirely.

Many had already been mostly consumed.

Here's a typical example:

There ended up being about 70 markers in all - more than I would have guessed after a quick scan from the car but far less than the lot could have held.

Given the vast empty spaces in the heart of the cemetery, I now suspect that many markers have simply disappeared over the decades....

The most recent burial seems to have occurred in 1890.

Somewhat amazingly, Mr. Johnson seems to have passed away just a few months shy of his 100th birthday.

I wonder if he insisted on being buried in the old cemetery while all his younger relatives rolled their eyes and recommitted themselves to being buried in the hot new cemetery on the other side of town....

This particular cemetery may not have held the mortal remains of THE Pelton but it did contain the remains of several others.

Here's the 159-year-old marker for one of them:

(Or is that some unrelated person named Pelten?)

It was surprisingly satisfying to discover at least one person named Cuddeback buried there in Cuddeback Cemetery:

Looking at that marker from a few steps back, however, proved to be more than a little disturbing:

I think I remember seeing this tight little family group in every monster movie Universal made in the 1930s and 1940s:

That group stood in stark contrast to this marker that was off by itself in the far corner:

Somewhat ironically, that apparent exile had resulted in greater protection from the elements and thus longer longevity for the inscription.

How much longer can *this* inscription last?

How much longer can this one?

I think it would be pretty difficult to dig a grave so close to a tree. Guess they didn't know any better back then....

This one seems set to endure even as the rest of the world goes slip sliding away....

And I don't think I'd bet against this one despite its slight tilt:

I have more photos but I think what I've posted here already is more than enough to convey the flavor of the place.

As if anyone besides me is interested in the flavor of a cemetery.

As if the flavor of one cemetery is much different than the flavor of all the others....

I guess after looking at the constantly churning waters of Lake Erie for a week, I was ready to spend a few minutes looking at granite and marble markers that have more or less been in the same place for over 100 years.

Of course now that I'm home, the magic of photography allows me to look at a single unchanging moment of those churning waters for as long as I like. Woo-hoo!

Now if only I had access to a 200-year-long film of these markers, I could play it very, very fast and see even granite and marble churning and changing over time....


  1. I'm reading Tesla's autobiography, so it's interesting to me to read about a third father of hydro-electricity. Especially interesting that this one came first.
    Do you think Lucia Wilson Died was a witch and that's why she was isolated? I don't see anything remotely christian about the marker.
    Is that a cat sitting on top of the branch that branches right?
    Captcha is gimpt.

  2. I've spent many a summer hour in cemeteries like that one. My mom is into genealogy so apparently I was too, by default.

  3. I must confess - I've come to this entry several times, and meant to leave a note, but for some inexplicable but extremely tiresome reason, this peculiar urge to go find my OWN graveyard photos overcomes this here fool, and I wander off, meaning only to be gone a minute or two... see, I've taken loads of pics of at least three cemetaries, all very different from each other... one fairly small one on a high hill that I pass by frequently, on my way to the wetlands. It's got VERY elaborate tombs.... it's Catholic. Lotsa Oyrish names. Another is a vast rolling field full of flat markers, many military-related. And the last, an ancient cemetery in San Francisco, next to a Catholic Church, with very unusual markers, and many trees. There was even a sort of teepee...

    Well, I've so far managed to avoid that picture distraction pitfall, tonight, and although I find these askew and akimbo gravestones fascinating, like centuries-old teeth ready to topple out of a long dry jawbone, I must move on... (before it's time I need my OWN gravestone!!)

    OH, and ps - when I first saw the name of the cemetery, I read it as Cuddleback, too! VERY weird concept for a cemetery, evincing spectres rising out of their tombs to cuddle the mourners! 8-O