Monday, October 17, 2011

Achsah Clapp Dewey

I have read every book I could find on the Clapp and Dewey families during my research into the family of my mother.  They were both huge early New England families so there were many written. Of all the many people written about in these family genealogies, I have only noticed one person with no date of death - my 4th great grandmother, Achsah Clap(p) Dewey.  I always found this so sad, as if she had been forgotten and lost. As if no one cared enough to look. It always bothered me, probably more than it should have. I tried to find something on her death every way I could think of and always came up with nothing. The wills and probates of Lewis County, New York never mentioned her.
What is known about Achsah is she was born on 31 January 1758 to Aaron Clap(p) and his wife Jemima (Bartlett) Clap(p) in Southampton, Massachusetts. Their grave is pictured left - I visited and photographed it 5 months ago. John Dewey was born and raised in Westfield, Massachusetts. He left Westfield to serve in the war of the revolution and his service took him though New York among other places and he kept a diary during his service.  He fought major battles of the revolution which included crossing the Delaware with General Washington's troops to fight in the Battle of Trenton.
On 16 September 1780 Achsah Clapp married John Dewey.  They had 8 children together, all born in Westfield between 1781 and 1798.  In the spring of 1802 John brought 2 of his sons, John and Chester to Lewis County, New York to begin clearing land to build a new home for the family.  They returned for the rest of the family and left Westfield permanently later that year. 
John Dewey died on 31 December 1821. 
Fast forward 190 years to 2009.  While looking for Achsah's date of death I came across a website that listed residents of cemeteries in New York State. It listed my John Dewey's grave in the same cemetery as a few of his children. The cemetery list seemed complete. Achsah's name was not there. This deepened the mystery for me - where was Achsah buried?  Did she remarry? Perhaps she returned to Westfield or Southampton for a visit and died there? Why was she not buried with her husband? What happened to Achsah? I looked for each of her siblings and children to see where they were buried in an attempt to find her final resting  place.  Each time I came up with nothing for her.
During my many visits to Find A Grave about a year later, I found a new entry for the son of John and Achsah Dewey, Chester Dewey who was my 3rd great grandfather.  Also there was his wife Phebe (Wetmore) Dewey.  I contacted the man who created the memorial which included pictures of their headstones and asked him to link Chester to his father.  He had many Dewey graves he wanted to add to Find A Grave so we began corresponding and I helped him identify the parents and children so he could link them correctly. Last week he went to Leyden Hill Cemetery and found and photographed the headstone of John Dewey and his daughter Sally.  I was thrilled.  I explained to him the wife of John was a mystery and no one knew her date of death or burial place. I mentioned I knew his daughter Sally Dewey Lord was buried there with her husband Gurdon. After further correspondance he realized that grave, located next to John, was not Sally, it was Achsah!  The grave was in very poor condition and had fallen down flat. It was covered with moss and aged.  He went back to the cemetery, cleaned up the stone a bit which revealed Achsah's date of death. I am so happy to announce Ashsah Capp Dewey died on July 28, 1833 at the age of 75.  She had outlived her husband by 12 years as well as 2 of her children.  Her grave is located next to her husband (on the ground) in Leyden Hill Cemetery located in Port Leyden, Lewis County, New York. She is no longer lost and forgotten.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Mount Carmel Cemetery

Mount Carmel Cemetery is located in the near west suburbs of Chicago and is probably most famous for being the burial spot of the notorious gangster Al Capone among many other notorious gangsters. To me, it is simply "the family cemetery". As a child my parents brought me to the cemetery frequently to visit my father's parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. My father taught me how to care for the graves and in doing so, those who were no longer physically with us were always with us. As more of the family died and moved out of state this became more important to him and my father told me that one day it would be up to me alone to visit the family and care for their graves. He always told me stories about the family we went to visit. The poor little orphan boy, his father, the story of the 3 sisters (one of which was his grandmother) who came here long before I was born.  As I grew older, I remembered these stories of my little Italian family and their hardships and struggles and their perilous, sad journey to this country. Leaving behind all they loved and treasured for the mysterious unknown. On occasion my father would host a "cemetery party".  He would gather the family together and go grave by grave with all of us - my cousins and aunts and uncles and tell stories about each person.  In doing so, his wish was for their stories and their lives to never be forgotten. He wanted their sacrifices to be understood, acknowledged and appreciated. Most of all he did not want them forgotten. We visited every Sunday after church.
After my trips to New England, I have a new perspective on my family cemetery.  Although many of the graves of New England from the 1600's and 1700's were very impressive and beautiful, they cannot compare to the more modern graves of Mount Carmel Cemetery.  Although quite modern in comparison, they are are ornate and beautiful.  They are also aging now.
Mount Carmel is a predominately Italian cemetery.   The Italians brought their burial customs with them to this country and can be seen here. Photographs on headstones are common here.  Many of the artisans who made the various statues and headstones were of Italian ancestry also. Many of the graves here stand from 5 to 10 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide as well.  One of the graves must be the most unique grave ever produced as I cannot imagine it has been done elsewhere.  The unique grave of the DiSalvo family is an ornately carved image of the family that actually turns 360 degrees from it's base.  Pictured left, this family monument stands about 6 and a half feet tall. The detail in each flower and feature is incredible.  The back of the monument is just as detailed as the front which includes a small round table with a fashionable hat on top.  Under the photographs of the husband and wife, is where the base turns.  You can see the detail pictured above, right.

There are over 400 small family mausoleums here, many of which contain pictures as well as a small alter with stained glass windows behind the small alters.  On the left you will see a typical example of these family mausoleums, which happens to be the resting place of my best friend, Mary Covelli and her father, brother, uncles and grandparents.  The large brass doors lock. Sadly, many of these mausoleums have been boarded up. 
As I visit other cemeteries, I have a new appreciation for my "family cemetery".  Filled with trees and flowers, winding roads, angels and saints it is the most beautiful cemetery I have visited this far in my life.  But then, maybe I am biased.

This headstone is located near my great grandmother. The woman figure is larger than me.  The monument is about 7 1/2 feet tall and wide. 
The grave was probably made for the baby, Dominic Giunta. 
The statue at the right rests on top of a headstone taller than I - probably 6 and a half feet tall and the statue is about 5 feet high. There are also statues on either side of the headstone.