As mentioned in my post last Saturday, the local historical society gave me a group of transcriptions from original letters to organize into an article for their newsletter. The bulk of them were written by Phineas H. Howe to his sons, though later one of the sons continues to write letters to the other son, his brother, after he joins his father out west. To better understand the family, I started researching them as a whole. I’ve learned a lot about the family in general in the last couple days, like who Phineas’ father and grandfather were, where they came from in Maine (mainly Oxford County), and so forth. But I want to understand the three men most central in the letters better, and that’s my next goal. Part of that was finding where they were buried. Imagine my surprise when I checked their burial locations in the cemetery listings at the local library this afternoon and found they all happened to be buried in the cemetery about two blocks from where I live! Of course, what genealogist can resist the temptation to go straight over and take a look? Not this one!
Notes in hand, I walked the cemetery rows and I found my trio of Howes exactly where I expected them. It was surreal – the final resting places of the men I’ve been reading about for days. But it was also illuminating, for the tombstones taught me some new things I had never expected.
The Howe plot – on the far left, the eldest of them, Phineas. On the far right, his son, J. M. Howe. In the middle, Phineas’ grandson and granddaughter-in-law and J.M.’s nephew and niece-in-law, J Harold Howe and Kormah Howe.
Here’s a close-up of Phineas’ tombstone (right picture).
The draping is said to indicate mourning or a reference to the veil between life and death. The book on top is closed, which usually means a life finished. Phineas was also very religious, however, and a school teacher and post master at times, so it could also be a reference to religion or knowledge. I find it a fascinating tombstone. It also gave me his death date, which I was missing.
I got another clue of records to check from the grave of J. Howard (the grandson) – the square and compass with the G within symbolizes he was a Mason. Curiously enough, he isn’t buried in the Mason section of the cemetery, but in the IOOF section. Perhaps he wanted to be next to his family?
The final clue I got that I hadn’t expected was on the back of J.M. Howe’s rather stark tombstone. It can be seen in the foreground of the plot and it bears no dates, no age, nothing. Simply ‘J. M. Howe’. Until one walks around to the back, that is…
I had no idea that J.M. Howe had had children. I know he married a woman named Ellen – they’re in the census together. She, however, is nowhere to be seen in the plot, and there’s no dates for these children, either. Did they die at birth? In infancy? How old were they? What happened to their mother? J.M.’s tombstone raises more questions than it answers, I’m afraid, but I’m not giving up on finding those answers yet.
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