Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maritime History in the Cemetery

It’s October, the time of year for pumpkins, falling leaves, and cemetery tours. For the past few years, the Kenosha History Center has sponsored historic tours of Green Ridge Cemetery. The walk this year, which was yesterday afternoon, emphasized Kenosha’s Maritime history. The walk highlighted four historical figures with ties to ships and the shipping industry as well as the gravesites of six Lighthouse Keepers of the Kenosha Lighthouse, dating between 1836 and 1871.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t take the tour this year for reasons I won’t go into, but I did pick up a copy of the guide booklet. This afternoon, a cool, partly cloudy, but still pleasant afternoon, I walked over to the cemetery, which is about a fifteen-minute walk from my house. Using the map provided in the booklet, I tried to find the gravesites of these significant figures from yesterday’s walk. I was able to find only a few of the gravesites, but I did find one that I had been especially interested in seeing.

Stephen A. Jackson was born in England and came to America in 1839. He began his career as a steamer captain in Buffalo N.Y. before coming to Kenosha in 1867. Now you see why I was particularly interested in this man. If you have been a reader, or know me, you know that I too began in Buffalo, N.Y. and then came to Kenosha.

The marker to his grave is one of the more interesting ones in the cemetery – it’s the one up at the top. Jackson was one of the figures with a reenactor and again I was sorry not to see my neighbor, alderman, and knitting friend’s spouse, Don Moldenhauer, portray Captain Jackson. This morning’s Kenosha News had a nice picture of Don as Jackson.

Charles O’Neill, lighthouse keeper in the mid 1800’s, has a large marker. That’s probably because O’Neill was politically connected and did not spend most of his career as a lighthouse keeper. He was a farmer – and probably a pretty prosperous one at that. George Kimball, whose worn marker is shown above at the right, is credited with building the first beacon to light the port in 1836. One of the markers I couldn’t find was that of Lorinda Merrill, who was the first female keeper, when she took over the position after her husband died in 1871. She kept the light for just one year, but the walk’s brochure poses the question of what it was like to walk up and down the narrow spiral staircase, which is about the height of a five-story building, several times a day in the long bulky skirt Mrs. Merrill must have worn in the mid 1800’s.

Two evenings this week, the history center will host a Cemetery Lantern Tour. It will not emphasize maritime figures as did the walk yesterday but my husband and I may go one evening. After all, even though the center says this is not a haunted tour, being in a cemetery on a chilly October evening after dark is spooky and this is October, isn’t it?

On my walk back home, I shot this picture of people enjoying the nice afternoon on their bikes. Not everyone wants to stroll in the cemetery in October. Can you see the four bikes in the background?

No comments: