I decided to go on a little adventure today, so I took a trip out to see the Our Most Holy Trinity Cemetery here in Brooklyn. It is way to hell out on the outskirts of Bushwick, located on the end of a desolate street. I’ve included a map of where it’s located, in case anyone is interested in seeing this strange little cemetery. It’s worth the trip–and if you are in Manhattan, you can take the L train directly there. (Or you can drive like I did, and end up getting hopelessly lost on your way home.)
While this little Roman Catholic cemetery is not nearly as huge or beautiful or just plain nuts as Green-Wood, it has one unique characteristic: almost all of the monuments are made out of metal.
According to the Our Most Holy Trinity Cemetery web site “…from the earliest days, stone monuments were not allowed because no distinctions were permitted to be made between the rich and the poor.”
I found this cemetery wonderfully strange and serene. There were no other people there besides me and a very bored looking security guard. I asked him if a lot of people visited, and he answered, “over 100 years old”. Then I asked him why there were so many Virgin Marys sunk in the ground and he replied, “people buried underground.” So needless to say, I quit trying to ask the security guard questions.
This was the headstone that gave me the idea to start writing this blog in the first place. I took this picture in February of 2013, when I first started exploring Green-Wood. As usual, I was wandering around aimlessly, and didn’t bother to keep track of where I had been. As a result, I have not been able to find this headstone again (of course). I’ll find you again one of these days, Edgar C. Dean!
Edgar C. Dean, 26 years old, sailed on the Steamship Pacific on January 23, 1856 from Liverpool. That much we can gather from the stone. I did some digging, but there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot I could find out about young Edgar or his family.
An 1855 census lists him as living with his father, two sisters and an Irish servant in downtown Manhattan. His occupation is listed as “seaman”.
His father, William E. Dean, was a printer. His business was located at 72 Frankfort Street, just down the block from Tammany Hall. As far as I can tell, the Dean family home was nearby on Church Street.
The ship that Edgar was lost on–the Steamship Pacific–was built in 1849. This ship was large, luxurious, and fast: in 1850 she broke the record for fastest transatlantic crossing.
She spanned 281 feet and was powered by two precision side-lever engines, each with a 95 inch cylinder traversing a massive 9 foot stroke. At full bore, she delivered 13 knots with all four boilers in service and consumed up to 85 tons of coal a day. The passenger compartments were just as impressive. They were spacious, finely trimmed and furnished with steam heat, an innovation of the day. The ship had many amenities to suit the passenger’s needs including bathrooms, smoking rooms, a barber shop and even a french chef in the kitchen. The reason for the elaborate extras was to compete with Britain’s Cunard line. The SS Pacific and her three sister ships, Atlantic, Arctic and Baltic, were financed by the US government and specifically built to win back America dominance in transatlantic traffic. Together they made up the new Collins Line – a small group of larger, faster, and more comfortable passenger vessels.
Here’s where it gets interesting: On January 23, 1856 the SS Pacific and all 189 people on board vanished without a trace. Most assumed that she had hit icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland due to the fact that it had been a particularly cold and iceberg-filled winter. However, five years later, a beachcomber walking on the shore of Hebrides Island in Ulst (Scotland) found a message in a bottle from a British sea captain who was a passenger on the ship.
The note inside read:
On board the Pacific, from L’pool to N. York. Ship going down. (Great) confusion on board. Icebergs around us on every side. I know I cannot escape. I write the cause of our loss, that friends may not live in suspense. The finder of this will please get it published,
A message in a bottle. Six years later. Well how do you like that.
Visitors to Green-Wood will often walk through the gates and up the hill on Battle Avenue to see the Civil War Memorial and the statue of Minerva–and of course the amazing view from the top of Battle Hill. At the top of the hill is a placard explaining that Battle Hill is the highest natural point in Brooklyn, and that Washington’s troops watched the harbor from up there for the British to arrive prior to the Battle of Brooklyn. And there’s this picture:
This charming engraving is by James Smillie (1807-1885). James Smillie was from a whole family of artists and engravers–so many that I had a hard time telling them apart (it doesn’t help that they all have maddeningly similar names).
Here is the Smillie family plot, which I found–as usual–by wandering around and taking photos of anything that looked mildly interesting.
James Smillie, a native of Scotland, ended up in New York City in 1829, at the age of 22. His father was a jeweler in Quebec, and he sent young James to London and Edinburgh to learn silver engraving so that he could work in the family business. James’ talents were clearly more along the lines of drawing and etching, so he left Quebec after only a few years and struck out on his own in New York City. Within three years of his arrival, he was an admitted into the prestigious National Academy of Design.
James Smillie created the illustrations for the first written history of Green-Wood, Green-Wood Illustrated, which was published in 1846. According to historian Jeff Richman’s blog on the Green-Wood web site, he may have used the money from these illustrations to buy this large family plot.
Later in his life, James Smillie devoted himself to designing and engraving bank notes. In fact, from what I’ve read, almost every male member of the Smillie family worked as a bank note engraver at one time or another.
Check it out, I found one of his bank notes online at a stamp auction. $18,000!
James and Catherine Smillie had four children. Two of their sons, George Henry (1840-1921) and James David (1833-1909) were also well-known artists/engravers.
James David Smillie was trained by his father in the art of engraving starting at around age 4. They worked together on many projects, and he spent much of his professional life working as a bank-note engraver. His true passion, though, seemed to be drawing and painting landscapes.
His work is beautiful and meticulous:
He liked painting landscapes and traveled a lot in California and Colorado, painting mountain scenes.
James D. Smillie was also one of the founding members of the American Watercolor Society, and served as one of its first presidents. He taught for over 30 years at the National Academy of Design. His work is in the collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He married in 1881 in his late 40s, and had 2 sons. Here’s a picture of him:
James’ brother George Henry Smillie was an equally successful artist. He studied with famed Hudson River School artist James McDougal Hart, who is also buried in Green-Wood. (OK, now I have to find him as well). Unlike his brother, George stuck mostly to the East Coast, painting quiet country landscapes and coastal scenes.
Here’s a picture of George working in his studio. This photo is hilarious–after all, who doesn’t like to paint while wearing a 3-piece suit?
George’s wife Helen “Nellie” Sheldon Jacobs (1854-1926) was also a painter–they shared a studio on East 36th Street in Manhattan. He met her when she was one of his brother James’ private pupils. Here’s a picture of her from 1887:
James Bogardus’ grave caught my eye because of this small plaque at the base of it:
James Bogardus (1800-1874) is considered the “Father of Cast-Iron Architecture”. His invention of cast-iron building facades had a profound impact on contemporary architecture. For one thing, they were fire-proof, which was quite a plus during the days of gas lighting. Also, they were prefabricated; they could be built at his factory here in New York City, and then shipped to construction sites anywhere in the world. Used mostly in commercial and industrial buildings, these facades were more than just ornamental–their design was revolutionary. From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
This method of supporting the weight of construction by columns, rather than the walls, was a significant step toward later development of skeleton framing and skyscrapers. Bogardus’ first use of these methods (1848) was in his own five-story factory in New York City.
Five of the buildings he designed/built are still standing. Four of them are in downtown Manhattan, and one is in Cooperstown, NY. Here are the four that are in NYC:
260 Canal Street
85 Leonard Street
75 Murray Street
63 Nassau Street
Bogardus was also a prolific inventor. In the 1830s he invented an engraving machine, and was subsequently hired by the U.S. Mint to engrave dies in bank notes. Other inventions include a machine for cutting watch dials, a gas meter, a cotton-spinning machine, and the “eccentric mill”, which is a machine used to grind and finish metal. It is still used today for lens grinding and for applying a smooth finish to the surface of ball bearings.
Despite his genius, Bogardus struggled financially for a number of years, and had to rely on income from his wife to get by. Which brings us to… Margaret Bogardus.
Margaret Bogardus (1803-1878) is just as intriguing as her husband. Margaret and James were married in a double wedding (with Margaret’s teenage sister) in her family’s home in 1831. Her father, the Reverend Archibald Maclay performed the ceremony (more on him to come). For many years the couple lived with Margaret’s family in their modest brick row house on East Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
Margaret was a renowned miniature portrait artist, and the living she made from selling her paintings was crucial to their financial stability. From Cast-iron Architecture in America: The Significance of James Bogardus, by Margot and Carol Gayle:
Painted portraits were much in demand until it became possible to product likenesses by photographic means. Those who could afford them commissioned pictures of family members or loved ones as tokens of affections, sometimes to mark such special occasions as weddings. …a miniature was a small portable personal memento that was more affordable (with standard prices ranging from $25 to $50 in the 1830s and 1840s).
Here are a few examples of her work:
These paintings are now in the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian.
Here’s a self-portrait she painted in 1842, when she was admitted to the National Academy of Design:
This was a pretty big deal at the time–there were very few women allowed in the National Academy of Design. She also showed her work in London at the Royal Academy. Way to go, Mags!
Margaret’s father was the Reverend Archibald Maclay (1776-1860), a prominent Baptist minister. A native of rural Scotland, he spent thirty years as the pastor at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Second Avenue in Manhattan. According to The life of Rev. Archibald Maclay, D.D., 1776-1860, by Isaac Walker Maclay (his grandson), he was greatly beloved by his congregation, and was affectionately nicknamed “Father Maclay”.
Here’s a painting of him by Margaret:
Father Maclay is not buried near his daughter and James, but he is buried in Green-Wood. He’s in a different lot some distance away. Just for fun, I tracked down his grave today, which took me FOREVER to find because it’s so worn-down:
Located in section 57, near the intersection of Vista and Forest
Harvey Burdell’s monument is hard to miss; it’s oddly modern-looking and standing by itself at the corner of Lanscape and Oak, just down the street from Horace Greeley. Turns out, this headstone was actually placed there in 2007 thanks to the efforts of writer Benjamin Feldman, who felt as though this was a story worth preserving. And it is–it’s nuts.
Harvey Burdell (1811-1857) was a dentist who moved to New York to start a practice with his brother in 1834. Their offices were located on Bond Street, which at the time was a kind of seedy part of town with a lot of brothels. According to Murder by Gaslight‘s excellent account:
“While successful and highly regarded uptown, Burdell was also well known in the Bowery where he often went to gamble and visit brothels. He was also known to service the dental needs of prostitutes working in his Bond Street neighborhood and to take his fee in trade.”
In 1854, Burdell met Emma Cunningham, a recent widow with 5 children. Emma and Harvey were an instant item, and vacationed together in Saratoga Springs that summer. In the fall, she found out that she was pregnant. Burdell forced her to get an abortion, and according to pretty much every source I’ve read, “may have” performed it himself.
Eventually, he leased Emma the building his offices were located in, at 31 Bond. She and her five children lived on the first floor, and she ran a boardinghouse in the building. Harvey maintained his apartment and dental offices on the second floor. Things seemed idyllic for a while, but then their relationship started to fall apart after Burdell started a fling with his cousin Dimis. He also had sex with a lot of his patients (including prostitutes) in his office upstairs, which upset Emma. They fought a lot, and he started avoiding her and discretely started to make plans to replace her as the landlady of the boardinghouse.
On the morning of January 31, 1857, Burdell’s dramatically disfigured body was found in his blood-drenched office. He had been strangled and stabbed fifteen times with a dagger.
Everyone in the household was questioned. Emma Cunningham produced a marriage certificate and claimed that she and Harvey had been secretly married. This, it turned out, was an elaborate scam: Emma had been married, but to another man who told the priest his name was Harvey Burdell (didn’t they check his I.D.?).
The police determined that the killer was left-handed. Emma was left-handed. She was arrested and charged with murder.
The trial began in May of the next year, and lasted only three days. It was a HUGE event at the time, pretty much the 1850s equivalent of the O.J. Simpson trial. Every square inch of the courtroom was packed with onlookers, and the newspapers carried every sordid detail they could find.
Emma Cunningham was found not guilty, unbelievably enough. And now the story gets super weird. While in prison, she claimed she was not only married to Burdell, but pregnant with his child. This was not true, but she wanted to lay claim to his substantial estate, so she came up with a plan that is right out of The Young and the Restless: Emma attempted to convince a doctor to supply her with a stolen baby from Bellevue Hospital, and then she’d pretend to give birth to it. This doctor–Dr. Uhl–was no dummy. He went straight to the district attorney’s office and told them what was going on.
When the time came to “give birth”, Emma dressed up like a nun and smuggled the baby in a basket from Dr. Uhl’s office. She then returned home and had Dr. Uhl fake-deliver her baby as she cried and moaned behind a closed door like someone in labor. As soon as she was finished and Dr. Uhl came out the door to present the baby, federal agents charged in and arrested her for fraud.
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Crazy!
Emma Cunningham moved to California, where she eventually married again. (WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD MARRY THIS WOMAN?) She died in poverty in New York City in 1887.
By the way, it took me FOREVER to find Emma Cunningham’s headstone. I mistakenly thought it would be near Harvey Burdell’s grave and spent several hours (several idiotic hours) walking around that area. I could only find a few photos of it online, so I had to use the things I saw in the background as clues to where it was. I finally realized that I had been standing right next to this headstone when I went for a walk a few weeks back and stopped to look at a curious child statue at the rear of the Meyer family plot. Of course, I couldn’t remember where that was, which resulted in a lot more wandering. Now, I don’t mind wandering–after all, that’s what this whole blog is kind of about–but it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t find this headstone.
Well, long story short, I finally found it today:
And once and for all, here are some damned maps:
Oh, and on an entirely unrelated note, here is the curious child statue on the Meyer family plot:
This one took a little digging, but I managed to get quite a bit of information. I’m glad I did.
I’ve been looking at the headstone for Joseph Quadri (1896-1918) ever since I moved to this neighborhood. It is right up the hill from my building. I see it every time I walk out the front door.
It is a profoundly sad monument. A weeping willow tree is draped over the top of the stone, and a mourning female figure is bent over the portrait of a young man in a World War I “Doughboy” uniform.
Joseph Quadri, Brooklyn native and first generation Italian-American, died October 9, 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme. He was 22.
I am no World War I expert, but I have been doing some reading about it lately. The main thing I’ve learned was that World War I was pretty much hell on earth for everyone involved. And The Battle of the Somme was one of the most horrible, never-ending battles of the past several centuries.
By the time Joseph Quadri was sent to Germany to fight in the second Battle of the Somme, French and British troops had managed to halt the aggressive German offensive, pushing them back into German territory. Quadri’s division—the 27th—was absorbed into the 106th Infantry Regiment, which was sent to help reinforce dwindling British troops. Everyone involved in this battle–on both sides– suffered enormous casualties.
Here’s a picture of the 106th Infantry’s Farewell Parade on August 30th, 1917–according to the caption, this is the 27th Division:
At the commencement of active fighting, the 106th had a total effective strength of 3,003 officers and men… During its service in World War I, the 106th sustained 1,955 casualties including 1,496 wounded, 376 killed, and 83 who later died of their wounds.
Joseph was born in 1896 to Victor and Antonia Quadri, both Italian immigrants. Victor was a stonecutter, which may account for why Joseph has such a beautiful memorial. Antonia is listed on census records as doing “housework”. Victor and Antonia had 4 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Andrew, and Victor, Jr., all of whom were just a few years apart in age. The 1915 census lists 18 year-old Joseph’s occupation as “machinist’s apprentice”. They lived here in Brooklyn, at 716 42nd street right by Sunset Park.
Joseph enlisted on April 3rd 1917. He died October 9th, 1918. On October 21st 1918, his entire division was relieved. If only he could have hung in there another couple of weeks.
Here’s his military card that shows his service, and record of death:
And here is the only picture of him that I could find. This is from “A Short History and Illustrated Roster of the 106th Infantry United States”:
I have this dumb rule when I walk around Green-Wood: If you see a hill, walk up it. There is almost always something interesting at the top of a hill. Here’s one result.
“Precious Georgie” and his twin brother Theodore were born in 1863, to renowned Presbyterian minister Theodore Ledyard Cuyler. Georgie died suddenly from scarlet fever when he was five years old. Clearly the family was heartbroken, so much so that his father went on to write a book about the experience, entitled “The Empty Crib, A Memorial of Little Georgie”. It concludes with this passage:
I close this love-tribute to my boy, in the very room whence his spirit took wing for heaven. The pillow in the crib is all smooth and undisturbed to-day. A picture of Jesus blessing little children hangs before me on the wall. Every shelf in yonder closet is filled with his keepsakes; and on the nail hangs his little velvet cap. As I look at all the playthings, and at the precious little slate on which he tried to mark, with feeble hand, on his dying day, I cannot believe that he is dead. He must be somewhere in my dwelling yet.
I actually got sucked in to reading this book online, and practically read the entire thing. It’s genuinely sad and heart-felt, particularly the part about his brother Theo coping with his twin’s death. You really feel for the Cuylers.
The sides of the monument are inscribed with the story of his last exchange with his mother before dying:
He look up at his mother and whispered, “Does Jesus love me? What will He say when he first sees me?” All through that April Sabbath with head on the mother’s breast the sweet child murmured of Jesus ’till the sun was low in the west. Then the door of Heaven opened that had been ajar all day. And our darling alone could answer what will Jesus say.
It is worth noting that this beautiful portrait was created by sculptor Charles Calverley (1833-1914), who is responsible for a number of beautiful monuments throughout Green-Wood. (I’ll have to keep an eye out for more of his work.)
Georgie’s father Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822-1909) was a prominent religious figure in the 1800’s. On top of writing several books, he founded the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church here in Brooklyn, which boasted the largest Presbyterian congregation in the country. He also lead The New York Anti-Suffrage Association (no fun), and was a staunch proponent of the temperance movement (really no fun).
On a side note, there are two other small markers nearby for an infant son born to the Cuylers on December 25th, 1873, who only lived for about 10 days; one of the stones simply reads, “Our Christmas Gift”.
Another random find. And this is why I love Green-Wood.
James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872) is best known for founding The New York Herald in 1835. It wasn’t long before The Herald was the most popular newspaper in the country, and Bennett’s strong editorial opinions were helping shape the political landscape during this tumultuous time in America. The Herald was truly revolutionary; it was the first newspaper to utilize interviews and first-hand observations in its reporting, rather than simply stating dry fact. It was also the first to cover more sensational, gossipy stories.
From “The Penny Press”. A Brief History of Newspapers in America:
“James Gordon Bennett’s 1835 New York Herald added another dimension to penny press newspapers, now common in journalistic practice. Whereas newspapers had generally relied on documents as sources, Bennett introduced the practices of observation and interviewing to provide the stories with more vivid details… Bennett reported mainly local news, and corruption in an accurate style. He realized that, ‘there was more journalistic money to be made in recording gossip that interested bar-rooms, work-shops, race courses, and tenement houses, than in consulting the tastes of drawing rooms and libraries.’ He is also known for writing his ‘money page’ which was included in the Herald and also coverage of women in the news. His innovations made others want to imitate him as he spared nothing to get the news first.”
Bennett’s newspaper first rose to fame in 1836 when it covered the murder of society prostitute Helen Jewett. This was a very dishy story at the time: Jewett had become romantically entangled with 19 year-old Richard Robinson, who was by all accounts a good kid from a good family (except, I guess, for the part where he sleeps with prostitutes). He was accused of hitting her three times in the head with a hatchet and setting her bed on fire. Despite the testimony of several eye-witnesses who placed him at the brothel the night of the murder, he was found not guilty at his trial. This story had everything–sexual deviance, steamy love letters, prostitution, a love affair, a murder. The Herald‘s readership ate it up. Competing newspapers–such as fellow Green-Wood resident Horace Greeley‘s Tribune–had to follow suit with similarly sensational reporting.
Bennett was also a sharp critic of Abraham Lincoln, who was elected President in 1861 at the height of The Herald‘s popularity. Bennett was in and out of favor with the Lincoln Administration throughout the Civil War; at one point he donated a yacht to the administration, in exchange for insider information and favors (such as a cushy position for his son).
The Herald also detailed the comings and goings of Mary Todd Lincoln, who was vacationing one summer in Long Branch, New Jersey. Bennett assigned a charming and socially wily millionaire named Henry Wikoff to ingratiate himself to Mrs. Lincoln and her Society pals. The regular column, “The Comings and Goings of Mrs. Lincoln” was all ridicule of the First Lady at the beginning–but that changed quickly when she started writing letters personally to Bennett in response. They struck up an unlikely friendship, and Bennett realized that he could garner favor and gather inside information by changing the tone of this column to one of flattery (almost to a ridiculous extent). At one point, Wikoff was able to charm his way in to Mrs. Lincoln’s inner circle and steal an advance copy of Lincoln’s Congressional address, which was then published by The Herald.
(On a side note here, Henry “Chavalier” Wikoff sounds absolutely fascinating. He was born into great wealth, and spent his entire life traveling, writing, hob-knobbing with the rich and famous, and of course romancing the ladies. His relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln was the subject of a lot of scandal at the time.)
Bennett was known as a workaholic who spent endless hours obsessing over the news at his desk, which was built out of two barrels and some planks of wood (love that). A native of Scotland, he had a thick Scottish brogue, and his eyes were severely crossed. He married Henrietta Crean in 1840, just five years after founding The Herald.
The monument is lovely, but very sad–it shows a mourning woman kneeling in front, and a seemingly gravity-defying statue of an angel releasing an infant into the heavens. On the front, you can see two young children listed: Cosmo Gordon Bennett, who was five, and three-month-old Clementine Bennett. Sad.
Of course, I couldn’t find anything to explain this one. There’s another stone to the left, but it is so worn out that you can’t really read anything on it except for “L.S. Jackson”. That of course didn’t yield any results, either.