Block Island’s Markers

September 16th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

This week, we biked and walked around Block Island for three days. As a iconography fan and cemetery tourist, I went to the Island Cemetery and the Indian Cemetery there. They could hardly be more different.

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License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

The Narragansett lived on the island from maybe 1300 BC. The smallish Indian Cemetery in the middle of the bottom of BI is only vaguely like our European ideas. While there are a few labeled tombstones, most of those with any stone are very close together (upright, non-casket burials), raw native rock, and no markings. The humor at the moment is that more and more white folk are asking for green burials that just return the bodies to the earth. BIindian1
BIdodgewinged The main cemetery started in the mid-17th century, but had few classic N.E. iconography examples, and no visible, sturdy slate. Here’s one of the winged transitional imagery.
There was iconography artistry though. With different carvers than those in Northern N.E., much style went into such standard images as the willow, indicating life. BIwillow
BImottwillow Several used the 3D version of the willow.
Small details, such as the background placement of the urn indicating the body, show the artist’s interpretation and skill. BIwillow1
BIheavenclose Among similarities with N.E. stones, the heavenward index finger appeared on many stones.
Likewise, the hand clasp of farewell with an implicit promise of greeting later was on numerous stones. BImitchellclose
BInicholasballpen Only a few showed lots of ego. When the King of Block Island, Nicholas Ball (might be a relative) died in 1896, he set himself up with a royal marker. The top had a pen and journal because he wrote self-aggrandizing travel memoirs, an anchor and rope because he was a sea captain, and construction tools because he designed and had built BI’s huge hotel.
As proof of colonial and young nation’s high infant mortality, there are many 17th through 19th century markers. Some were for yet-to-be-named children. BIbabe4
Bibabe1 Many were elaborate, even more so than the parents’ stones. Of these, the marker was often for an only child.
One child’s stone stand up and out for its candor. Here the only offspring, Lora Rose of Ambrose and Laura, died at just under two and one-half. The scold to the Almighty reads simply, “God takes the good” — nuff said. BIbabe2


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