A Walk among the Headstones

When I was growing up, my best friend and I used to walk to a cemetery down the street from where we lived in Connecticut and search for gravestones that had “lockets” on them. “Locket” was our name for a photo of the deceased, set into a headstone and protected with glass and a brass cover you would lift up. The ones I remember were oval, the clothing and hairstyles Victorian looking, and the expressions serious.

I still like walking through cemeteries with old headstones. Some of the carvings are lovely, as are the inscriptions. It makes me wonder who the people were, what they were like, what kind of family they had, what kind of life they led.

These photos are from a cemetery in Easton, Connecticut. The graves there are very old and the headstones are beautiful. Some of the people buried there lived three hundred years ago. Many are buried next to their spouse or with several other family members. The gravestone on the right, for Gershom Bradley, tells us he died on January 15, 1795 at the age of 83. His age is remarkable, considering how difficult life was back then, how rampant illnesses were, and how primitive the field of medicine was.

Medical schools were few and far between at that time, so a physician typically learned the necessary skills by apprenticing to another doctor for several years. Doctors stocked their own pharmaceutical and medical supplies and set their own fees, which were sometimes paid in goods, rather than money. Ebenezer Roy, who practiced west of Boston in the mid-1700s, accepted “salt pork, rye, and labor” in exchange for medical care.

Gershom Bradley must have been healthy or lucky (or both) to live to 83 in the year 1795. Rest in peace, Mr. Bradley.