At the end of my Monday post – “Ghosts Part I” – I still hadn’t seen Cornelia’s headstone. I had found the two generations that preceded her on Whirlwind Hill. Under a long line of stones lay Asahel and Sarah Hall, their son Aaron (whose stone is missing) and his three wives Elizabeth, Sarah, and Annis, and Aaron and Elizabeth’s daughter Mary Hall. On the left is a small stone that I was unable to read. The only clue to its owner is that he or she died in 1798.
My brother and I went back to the cemetery the day before I was to leave Connecticut, and almost immediately we found Cornelia. She’s buried next to her husband, my great-great grandfather Salmon Hall. Next to them are their three children who died young – Henry Griswold at two, Emily at seven, and Edgar at eighteen. The impact of seeing these names and dates “written in stone” is so much greater than just reading them as part of a family tree or genealogy. Even the placement and order of the stones tells stories about those buried beneath.
And yet, Cornelia remains a mystery to me. How did a young girl from Sheffield, Massachusetts meet and marry my Connecticut great-great grandfather? How did she adjust to life so far away from her family? Why did she make so many visits back to Sheffield. How long did that journey take in the mid-nineteenth century? And how, I wonder, did she cope with losing three of her seven children? Maybe the ritual of visiting the cemetery helped. I hope that for her the putting of an offering on a grave and the standing in silence in the presence of her ghosts, eased what must have been great loss.
On Friday: Ghosts – Part III – Halloween