Dwelling in a lighthouse soothed daily by the ocean’s roar in peaceful solitude sounds like a dream come true for many but as I learned through combing historic newspapers, the isolation faced by lighthouse keepers and their families can lead to violent ends.
One of the more compelling accounts was that of the Smith family, whose patriarch, Ellsworth Smith, was employed as the lighthouse keeper at Conimicut Point Lighthouse in Warwick, Rhode Island. Accounts vary as to how long Ellsworth, his wife Nellie (29), and sons Russell (either 6 months or 2) and Robert (5) lived at Conimicut Point. Some sources report they were there for two to three months while others suggest they’d been in the lighthouse for a year when death came calling.
A few years ago I discovered the name of a 19th century Danville brothel, Blonde Hall. Fascinated by the grittier and often-hidden tales of yore I poured through all the records at my disposal in search of a location. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to pin down where the building stood but it appears that it was across the Pelham border on or near Main Street. The bordello was operated by Lelia Lester, who inspired its name with her fair hair.
On the second and final overcast morning of my Wilmington trip I returned to Oakdale Cemetery armed with a map in hopes of locating Capt. William Ellerbrock’s grave. (His surname is sometimes spelled Ellerbrook but his marker and cemetery records list the former.)
What makes this grave particularly of interest to me is the tragic story of how Ellerbrock and his dog Boss were buried together, making them as inseparable in death as they had been in life.
I knew about Nancy Adams Martin’s unusual burial in Oakdale Cemetery months before my arrival. From a cursory glance her marker doesn’t really stand out from the taller surrounding monuments in the plot. As you can see below the granite is carved to resemble a rustic wooden cross. A photo taken nearly a decade ago from Find a Grave shows a less-weathered version where the name “Nance” and the cut branches are more visible.
What we can’t see from the surface is that deep below the ground Nancy’s body has been seated in a chair entombed in a cask of alcohol since her death on May 25, 1857.