Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kristen: Plymouth Cemetery Walk

My fingers were numb, my toes in a block of ice. It was dark, creepy, and I swear I continuously saw ghosts lurking about. IT WAS AWESOME!

The Plymouth Historical Society asks volunteers to "pretend" to be an actual person laid to rest as visitors tour their graves. I had an amazing time, and learned quite a bit about Ellen Shattuck!

Here's a bit of my script...

Who disturbs my mourning? Oh, visitors! You must all take care here, for there are some who would like you to stay.

Let me introduce myself. I was born Ellen Edgerton Hinsdale on August 19th, 1832 in Vermont. My parents, Hiram and Roxalany, were kind and loving. I lived a quiet, happy life, until I met Mr. Franklin Shattuck, my beloved husband.

On January 1st of 1859 we married and moved to Plymouth. My dearest Franklin! He was so handsome and strong! Now he is a meal for the worms!

My dear Franklin’s family was so affectionate towards me, but their misfortunes were many. My mother-in-law Sarah lost her little daughter Caroline as a baby, and she was buried in a stranger’s cemetery. That strong proud woman gave birth to 12 children, all subjected to the agony of which I will soon describe.

In 1832 Alfred and Sarah started their settlement here in Plymouth on the banks of the Rouge River. He purchased 300 acres, where he bred fine horses and established a stage coach service that ran between Detroit and the new capital, Lansing. They were known to be the fastest of all the stagecoaches, my husband especially!

Tragedy was never far behind the family I married into. I never did meet Alfred-in 1847, a colt he was training kicked him, and a few days and broken ribs later, he died from pneumonia. He left behind such a large, sad family; I wish I could have known that great man.

I don’t know how things could have gotten worse, but they did. In the early 1860’s that horrific war started, one that they now teach as the American Civil War. Death darkened nearly every doorstep, and the Shattuck family was no exception.

Dear Lute, the youngest of the family, such a handsome and clever boy could not exist! He even studied at the University in Ann Arbor! He was so popular. He enlisted with the 24th Michigan infantry. How sad we were to see him go! Lute wrote often, but then the letters stopped. 

In 1863 he had been promoted to lieutenant. We were so proud! He marched into battle at Gettysburg, was wounded in the arm. When Lute was told to have his wounds dressed, he refused, and cried “I enlisted to fight, and I will remain with my comrades!” By the end of the day his wounds were mortal. I can still hear poor Sarah’s screams when she read his name in the paper. She never stops screaming, never!

Franklin and I eventually took over the west section of the farm. The Shattuck family then spread to all corners of the earth, from Washington DC to the Dakotas! I even here something about a place called hay-why-ee, but I’m not sure where that is.

Franklin and I went on to have 3 children, and my little daughter Kitty, born in October of 1857, died in May of 1864. At 7 years old I delivered her to the soft earth from which we all rise. I am glad to know that she is at peace now, but I mourned so deeply as long as I lived.

My other sons Franklin and Henry died in the 1930’s and 40’s. Both of their spouses died in my lifetime. Perhaps the most grief I felt was at the death of my husband, on October 2, 1889. I myself died in 1917, in the midst of another great and terrible war.

It seems that great tragedy has followed my family throughout these years. It is with great pleasure that I lie here with my family, and as I spent most of my life mourning death, I now spend my death mourning life. 

Would you believe that I wrote that script? I received so many compliments! If there were little girls in the tour group, I reached out my hands to ask if they wanted to stay with my daughter Kitty. One actually said yes! I did my routine 14 times for over 200 people, from 3:30-9:00. The other volunteers had excellent presentations as well.

We couldn't help but snap a few pics before we left. The cemetery is incredibly creepy at night! And of course my widow's outfit added to the ambiance. I looked like I belonged there!

By the end of the night I was chilled to the bone; even with many layers of wool, I eventually went numb. The best part? I would do it again in a heartbeat!

~Kristen

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