Follow along with my husband & I as we go traipsing through cemeteries photographing grave markers and transcribing tombstones. Hopefully, we'll learn a little about burial customs and the study of cemeteries along the way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Motivation Monday: It Was Here a Minute Ago

While wandering the cemeteries I’ve started to notice a few things. Time may heal all wounds, but it doesn’t do much for graves or grave stones. While tiptoeing through the tombstones, I found ample evidence of how those tombstones disappear over the years. Here are some examples:

1. Time: As time passes, grass continues to grow and all too soon the grass can reclaim a tombstone.

2. Gophers, ground squirrels and rabbits: Graveyards are known for their beauty and park like appearance. With the natural setting come the creatures that live in it, including those critters that like to dig and make holes. This can lead to two different problems. One, all that dug up earth can bury a gravestone. Two, tunnels under the tombstones can cause them to tilt, topple, or sink.

3. Vandalism: There are many reasons for vandalism. For some it’s to prove how “brave” they are against the dead. For others it’s because there’s “nothing better to do,” or just for pure wonton destruction. In ancient times this was done deliberately to “erase” the person from existence and for some it hasn’t changed. Once the stone is gone, so is the history that stone told. Sure, we keep records of who’s buried where, and we all know records never get lost or destroyed, right?
4. Modern Lawn care: You would think that along with maintaining the appearance of the graveyard that the primary concern would be to protect the gravestones from damage. But with the advent of modern lawn care equipment, we’ve seen more and more scenes like these. If you drive heavy equipment over something that was not designed for that kind of treatment you’re going to get:
5. Neglect: There are many graveyards that have seen better days and some are so overgrown and neglected that you need a GPS tracking system to find it. Some cemeteries have truly returned to their roots.
These are just a few of the problems facing we Graveyard Rabbits in our search of tombstones. We need to get motivated to prevent it! Do you donate to non-profit cemeteries? Are you a member of a cemetery preservation group? When you visit a cemetery, do you pick up the trash? Or brush off the tombstones? Pick a few weeds? If you said no to any of these, my question is simple ~ why not?
Tombstone Jack & Stachia

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day: Guard of Abraham Lincoln

I spotted this stone at Mt View Cemetery the other day. It didn't have much on it but I thought it would be fun to see who William H. Billings "Guard of Abraham Lincoln" might be. When I checked all I got was:

Birth: unknown
Ohio, USA
Death: unknown
San Bernardino County, California, USA
His birth date and death date are unknown, but his marker,
indicating he was a guard of President Lincoln, makes him very
well known in Mountain View Cemetery. Unable to verify any of
the info on the marker.
Posted in 2005

That sounded like a challenge so I did a little (pardon the pun) digging and came up with the following:

William H. Billings was born in 1836 and at the age of 26 enlisted in Company C of the 73rd Ohio Infantry Regiment on Aug 14, 1862. Joining his unit after the Second Battle of Bull Run, William saw duty in the Defense of Washington, D.C., until December. When his unit went on Reconnaissance to Bristoe Station and Warrenton Junction. They then marched to Fredericksburg, Va. on what became known as the "Mud March", January 20-24, 1863. In April of 1863 his unit fought in the Chancellorsville Campaign and at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Next they were called to Gettysburg Pa. and July 1-3 fought with distinction at the Battle of Gettysburg and pursued Lee and the Confedrate forces to Manassas Gap, Va. His unit was then moved to Bridgeport, Ala. Duty at Bridgeport and Stevenson, Ala. assisted in the reopening of the Tennessee River when on October 28-29 the unit fought in the Battle of Wauhatchie, Tenn. Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign in November was next along with Orchard Knob, Tunnel Hill and Mission Ridge. The 73rd was then sent to march to relief of Knoxville, Tenn. The Regiment reenlisted January 1, 1864 and William was transferred into the 18 Regiment, H Company U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps on Jan 3, 1864.

I had never heard of the Veteran Reserve Corps so upon looking them up I found that this was originally called the Invalid Corps but the name was changed it 1864 to the Veteran Reserve. These corps consisted of individuals that had due to either wounds too severe or illness were unable to continue with their combat units. Depending of disability, these men were assigned to hospitals, provost and garrision duty. Many of these men volunteered to continue and it was felt that these men had distinguished themselves enough in battle that they could still contribute to the war effort. They were thus given jobs to free other able bodied soldier to fight. for the more able bodied, these duties consisted of guard, patrol and provost duty throughout the states and in Washington DC, even manning the defenses of the city during Jubal Early’s raid in July, 1864.

So after his transfer, William was stationed in Washington DC and among many of his duties was the guarding of the President of the Republic and his family. He was mustered out of the 18th VRC in Washington, D.C. on July 31, 1865.

I couldn't find much after his discharge. Only that he applied for his pension in 1871 and again in 1907 and that William H. Billings died on April 3, 1929 in El Centro, CA and is buried in Mt View Cemetery, San Bernardino, CA.

Just another example of a Vet that heard the call and I found all this out because of a tombstone that said:

“Guard of Abraham Lincoln”

Isn't it fun digging up history?

(“)_(“) Tombstone Jack, Vet

Source Citation:
Ohio. The General Assembly; The Roster Commission. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio. 11 vols. Cincinnati: Wilstach, Baldwin, 1886.
Journal-History of the Seventy-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry~ By Samuel H. Hurst
Civil War pension index card(