Children's Graves on Martha's Vineyard
by Samuel D. Gruber
Early this morning I returned to the old cemetery of West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard that I first visited two year ago. The dead are buried facing east, awaiting their Resurrection, so the headstones face east, too. You want to get there early to have the sunlight on the images and verses, and not wait too long as the sun rises, making the incised lines often fainter.
West Tisbury has a good mix of gravestone types, spanning more than two hundred years. Death's Heads, Angels (or ascending souls), willows, urns, and hands pointing upward are all there, and some later obelisks and other more monumental markers.
Especially poignant are several eighteenth markers for children, such as this one for" Reliance Megee (A Hopeful Child)"who died at age 12 in 1754:
And this for Benjamin Russell, age 10, who died in 1712/13.
Stephen Luce, son of Stephen and Content, died in 1760 at age 12 and his grave was marked by this stone:
Reliance's and Stephen's graves were each decorated with a Death's Head - the winged skull, but Benjamin's grave was inscribed with a the winged face - either an angel or a representation of his own soul ascending heavenward. Stephen's mother was Content. Benjamin's was named Martha, but perhaps she was also "Hopeful."