Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Stone Statues?

Several days ago I shared a story from a book written in 1895, The 48th in the War, Being a Narrative of the Campaigns of the 48th Regiment, Infantry, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, During the War of the Rebellion.

The author, Oliver Christian Bosbyshell, describes his experiences on Hatteras Island. Below are his observations about burials on the Outer Banks.

"Directly opposite the [Methodist] meeting house is an old graveyard, wherein reposes the dust (if it is dust) of the ancient Hatterasins ; a lonely old place, with some curious inscriptions on its tombstones.

"Here’s one as a sample.

"In memory of Thos. Austin.
Died 1845. Aged 70 years.

"Thos. Austin. Was. His. Name.
Heaven. I. Hope. His. Station.
Hatteras. Was. His. Dwelling. Place.
And. Christ. Was. His. Salvation.
Now. He. Is. Dead. And. Buried.
All. His. Bones. Are. Rotten.
Remember. Him. When. This. You. See.
Least. He. Should. Be. Forgotten.

"The author of that epitaph was not familiar with the peculiar virtues of that old burying ground. Thomas, rest in peace; your bones are not all rotten, old boy—oh, no; listen! Diehl, of Company G, was buried in this graveyard. The authorities refused permission to send his body home.

"It is not the mere burying that makes the soldier’s funeral so inexpressibly solemn, it is the thought that there is no one near to mourn for him; none but the moaning wind and the ever roaring surf. It was a doleful funeral, tramping through the sand, up the island to this old graveyard. Digging the grave was not difficult. It was tedious to make it as deep as it should be. Two feet below the surface developed water, and the balance of the depth attained was through a constantly increasing volume of water. The coffin was lowered into the grave, and by the aid of sticks was pushed down under the water and held there until a sufficient quantity of the wet, sandy soil had been thrown upon it to prevent it from floating.

"Diehl was buried in December. The following May his body was disinterred, placed in a lead coffin, and sent North. But what a metamorphosis had taken place in the short time it had lain in this old graveyard. Through some chemical action the work of petrifaction had begun, the forehead had already turned to stone. A longer stay in the grave would have undoubtedly completed the change. This incident causes doubt as to the 'dust' of the old Hatteras folks reposing in this out-of-the-way graveyard, probably they are all stone statues, as it were. Had it been supposed that this was the case with the bodies silently resting here it would not have been remarkable, judging from the known tendency of some of the sojourners on Hatteras for practical jokes, to have discovered, on most any bright morning, all the old worthies unearthed from their salt, sandy, wet bed, and standing up as guardians over the places so long occupied by them."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the information about Thomas Austin's tombstone. Thomas is my 3 rd great grandfather, the father of all Hatteras Austins. The grave has been lost with time and sea and wind and sand, but Thomas is not forgotten and lives on...on his beloved Hatteras.