Monday, June 15, 2009

Flag Day in Cranbury and The Dearly Departed

This post has absolutely nothing to do with food, but I thought it merited mentioning after taking a drive yesterday to the quaint town of Cranbury, New Jersey. Flags and bunting were everywhere and it suddenly dawned on us that it was Flag Day, something we had forgotten until then.

Cranbury certainly didn’t forget though, and many of its beautiful homes were decorated with the red, white and blue of the American Flag. Take a look:

Walking through town, we arrived at the town cemetery, a place some people might try to avoid.  I find old cemeteries fascinating. We’ve also got an interesting cemetery here in Princeton where I live, with lots of historic people buried there. They even give tours on Memorial Day.

But Cranbury’s claims centuries of history too and merits a visit as well. With gravestones dating back to Revolutionary times, I found some of the inscriptions mesmerizing. Unfortunately many of them, made of sandstone and limestone, were long faded away by elements of nature.

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The graves of veterans were marked with flags, and it was obvious that many fought in the Revolutionary War. Some of the people buried there lived to be quite old, while others were taken heartbreakingly early in life. It was a intriguing walk through history.

Here is a sampling:

This fellow, Jeremiah Brown, died in 1816 at 83 years, 11 months of age. He’s got a flag on his grave, so if he was born in 1733, then it’s a good bet he was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  Did he ever meet General George Washington, who came through Cranbury with his troops in 1788?

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This woman, Elizabeth Wyckoff, lived until 1895 to a ripe old age of 95 years, 9 months and 12 days. Interesting when you think there were no vaccinations, or antibiotics, or anesthesia for surgery. I wonder what she ate, or why she lived such a long life.

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Then there were others, like little Sarah Dye, who left this earth at 3 years of age in 1782. Don’t you wonder what she died of, and if it would have happened today?

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These were particularly tragic, since they were both children in the same family. Richard Handley died at 1 year and 8 months, while William Handley, his brother, lived only 7 days. Imagine the grief those parents felt.

This plaque on the grave of Dr. Hezekiah Stites (don’t you love that old-fashioned name?) speaks for itself. Note how the town of Cranbury was once called Cranberrytown.

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These gravestones show that Captain James Patton, died in 1798, while his wife Ann, died in 1762. Do you think Captain James got remarried, or did he live as a widower for 36 years after Ann died?

There were hundreds of other such examples, and I could have spent much more time there. If you live anywhere near a cemetery with old gravestones, go take a look and maybe you’ll be fascinated too by the designs, the lettering, and most important the lives and stories that we can only guess about today.


  1. Linda,
    I have always loved old cemeteries too!
    They are so peaceful, and most of the names on the headstones are the founding fathers of the towns where they are buried.

  2. Linda, next time you go to Cranbury, be sure to give the Blue Rooster Bakery & Cafe a try for breakfast or brunch/lunch. (And pick up a baguette on the way out.)

  3. We used to visit old cemeteries looking for relatives who were United Empire Loyalists. It is a fascinating peak into history.

  4. So much history in a cemetery. Out here, many of the older stones have pictures on them and it's so interesting to see their photo's. Many famous mobsters are buried out here so it's fun to check out their elaborate private mausoleum's.

  5. A very interesting post, Linda. So much history in old cemeteries. And its fun to imagine the stories that must lie buried there.

  6. Oh what a fantastic day! I would have loved to traipse around there and read all the headstones!

  7. Thanks for the reminder about Flag Day. I kept thinking yesterday that there was some kind of holiday or birthday on this day . . . . The pictures of the houses and their flags are lovely and quaint.
    I love old cemeteries -- I like to observe how the iconography changed from the rather morbid skulls and wings of the colonial era to the more angelic faces of later centuries.

  8. How interesting it would be to look over all the headstones. I love all of your gorgeous photos and the history involved. It really gets your imagination wandering.

  9. It's coo to go to old cemeteries, I haver feel spooked, it is a place of history that tells many stories!

  10. Neat post!
    I sometimes visit the pet cemetery near here and read what owners have said of their pets. Never leave without a tear.

    Your commentary is very interesting, love your questions.

    Oh, those homes, that bunting, love it. I always hang a flag, but I need to get bunting. You see that more on the east coast than on the west coast. Since my home is cape cod style, I think I'll go for that east coast look next opportunity.

  11. I'm fascinated by old cemeteries as well... and we have plenty of them here in New England. I usually do the same as you.. read the names, dates and wonder what happened. Loved the post Linda.

  12. Lovely photos - looks just like the typical picture-postcard small American town that we all know from the movies.

  13. I really enjoyed this post Linda. Gravestones are fascinating to me as well. They tell much, and yet not nearly enough.

    Cranbury looks like quintessential Americana.