"Flung Himself From a Tower" (1894)

On the morning of August 23, 1894 banker Col. James Monroe Winstead sedately climbed the stairs to a balcony tower at Richmond’s City Hall, “threw his cane and shoes down” and then jumped to his death, landing on the iron fence over 90 feet below.

As I dug deeper into the circumstances surrounding this gruesome death, I found two additional pieces of information that in some ways shed more light on what happened that day and other ways only open up more questions.

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Christ Church Burial Ground

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to make it to the fifth Death Salon event at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. While in town I planned to visit Laurel Hill Cemetery but time constraints and exhaustion prevented me from following through. (Excuses, excuses.)

Christ Church Burial Ground was about a half an hour’s walk from the hotel so one afternoon I ventured out in that direction knowing that there was only an hour or so for exploration.

Additionally cutting into time, Google Maps sent me to the church instead of the cemetery so I wandered around aimlessly before someone told me that my destination was three blocks away on 5th and Arch.

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Died at Sea; Buried in a Cask of Alcohol

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.

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Spring Break at Oakdale

Oakdale Cemetery has been on my radar for awhile due to several notable or unusual residents, the close proximity of the grounds to the ocean and its roots as part of the Rural Cemetery Movement.

I recently took a whirlwind trip to Wilmington where my dog and I spent several hours exploring only part of the nearly 100 acres by foot and car searching for particular graves, Victorian motifs (my favorite kind of symbolism) and unique inscriptions.

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Funerals Interrupted by Lightning

There’s also plenty of deathly goodness and weird news over at Misc. Tidings of Yore, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Misc. Tidings of Yore

Crittenden Record-Press [KY] 17 Aug. 1911 (1)
Crittenden Record-Press [KY] 17 Aug. 1911 (2)

The San Francisco Call, 1 Sept. 1895

Evening Star [Washington, DC] 29 July 1906
The Salt Lake Tribune, 5 Sept. 1905

The Evening World [NY] 27 May 1902

Crittendon Record-Press [KY] 28 Aug. 1913
Omaha Daily Bee, 30 Aug. 1911
St. Paul Globe, 11 May 1904
St. Louis Republic, 20 July 1900

The Washington Times, 25 June 1902

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More From Danville National Cemetery

In November 2013 I wrote about Civil War prisoners who died in Danville’s prison camps or military hospitals. While I’m far from being finished with the task of photographing and researching these Union and Confederate soldiers’ backgrounds, here are a few more of their stories. The majority of the men in this post also died in Danville’s military hospitals from diseases caused by or worsened by their deplorable living conditions and medical care.

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February At Oakwood

Recently I took advantage of an unseasonably warm day to return to Raleigh, North Carolina’s Oakwood Cemetery. Because I have so many photos of graves that I haven’t researched or posted yet, I concentrated more on landscape shots with a few exceptions.

This was the first time I had the opportunity of seeing Elizabeth Edwards’ 8 foot tall white marble grave marker, which features a pair of hands underneath 27 flying doves. I wrote about her son Wade’s impressive marker some time ago.

John Dolson was a Minnesota Civil War soldier who died in a federal hospital and mistakenly buried as a Confederate soldier after officials mistakenly recorded his name and other demographic information. Decades later his true identity was revealed but he remains a Union soldier buried amongst his battlefield enemies.

There are plenty of other fascinating micro-biographies to be written about those interred at Oakwood, but sometimes it’s nice just to take a stroll and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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Cause of Death: “Saw Throat”

BORN NOV. 27, 1848
DIED JULY 24, 1859
This tall marble grave marker in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery belongs to ten-year-old Florence Ayres. Her parents were William Ayres, a wealthy tobacconist, and his second wife Julia Ann Henderson Ayres. At the time of the 1850 Federal Census, the only census that Florence was living during, her family lived in Danville. Sadly there is no street address listed on the census. I think it’s interesting to be able to link the house to its former inhabitants & imagine what life was like when they were living there.

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A Ghostly Prank Turns Fatal (1833)

In memory of Elizabeth
Eldest daughter of John B. and Pamela W. Royall
of Halifax County.
She was born in the year of our Lord 1818 and departed this life on the 30th day of July 1833.
Aged fifteen years, 4 mo’s. and 18 d’s.
When blooming youth be snatched away
By Death’s resistless hand
Our hearts the mournful tributes pay
Which pity must demand
While pity prompts the rising sigh
Oh may this truth impress’t
With awful power ‘I, too must die’
Sink deep in every breast”
Elizabeth’s grave in Grove Street Cemetery is memorable for two reasons: she the earliest known burial in the cemetery and according to folklore, the teenaged boarding school student was “scared to death” after a foreboding message appeared on her bedroom wall in 1833.

The plaque by her brick tomb gives an outline of the events surrounding her death. “Elizabeth Royall, a native of Halifax County, died while a student at one of Danville’s female academies. She was supposedly frightened to death by a prank played by schoolmates.”

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Death, Taxes, and Insanity

I made a note in my copy of Green Hill’s Mortuary Reports on William Fernald because it listed his place of death as the “Govn’t Hospital for Insane” in Washington, D.C. According to this record, he’d been buried on April 7, 1885 (the day after his death from “paresis.”)

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