52 Ancestors – Week 12: George Stange

I’m continuing this week with individuals buried in the Shaffer cemetery.
George Stange
So here is a burial that intrigued me for several reasons. First, he only lived a day: 7 Jun 1861-8 Jun 1861. Secondly, he was absolutely not any relation to anyone else in this cemetery, nor was he related to my family. What the heck is he doing in this place? Well, it’s not uncommon for these family burial plots to include neighbors. And because I know there was a church here in 1855, perhaps they were members of the church. The Findagrave.com information states that the family¬† had lived in Clark County, OH since 1855, but had moved to Illinois by 1870. Perhaps they just needed a plot to bury little George before they moved on. It’s sad that he is there all alone without any family nearby. A similar thing happened in my¬† immediate family: little Herbert Shaffer was born while my grandparents lived in Troy, and he only lived 7 Jun-16 Jun 1934. Aww, I just realized he and George shared the same birthday! Anyway, my grandparents were too poor to afford a grave marker so he is buried between two other people in an unmarked grave in Troy Riverside cemetery. The rest of the family is buried in Piqua, where they later moved and stayed.

It’s interesting to see the number of child burials between the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries and think about what this meant for families in the early 1800s. Consider that there are 57 total burials between the two (as per Findagrave for right now, I am still working on getting definitive information for these cemeteries this summer) and 24 of them are children under the age of 10. All of them have their own headstones. Clearly, the children were important enough to memorialize and be given a place to be remembered. Compared then with my uncle Herbert, who has no headstone, can we say that things were different in the 1930s with regards to the way people viewed death and memory? Maybe but there’s not enough information to say that definitively. And I also know that economics played a factor. Most of the families represented in the Shaffer and Zerkle cemeteries were not poor in the 1800s, at least by standards of the time. They all owned land. My grandparents, however, lived during the Great Depression and at the time they lived in Troy did not own their own property. In fact, I don’t think they ever owned their own property, at least not during census years.

I was thinking about the cultural statements that these family cemeteries can make today as I was reading Death, Memory, and Material Culture (Hallam and Hockey 2001) where they briefly touch upon the practice of burying and memorializing stillborn babies. “Prior to the 1970s, foetal (sic) remains were disposed of with no religious or institutional attempt to provide them with a social body and therefore a memorable identity.” (p.4) I am not sure whether this is entirely true, in some religious cultures all stillborn babies have an identity and I don’t believe that is a new thing. I would love commentary.



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