I am finally in the process of doing my family tree. My great grandfather’s name was Nicholas Kessell and I have always known he was a stonecutter in Fall River Mass in the mid to late 1800′s as he past on in 1904 of “stone consumption”. I came across a book “The Fall River Directory of 1882 and notice an ad in there for Kessell and Lawson, a stonecutting company. I can only guess that my great grandfather was in that partnership. My question is, if there is anyway you could find out if he was all involved in the cutting of the Borden tombstone in 1892? I have been intrigued all my life, but now am very curious.
There is never any information about stonecutters.
Thanks for your email. Sorry to say, the Borden stone was ordered from a Westerly, R.I. carver. Westerly was a hub for this sort of work and still today has a few remaining carving studios. Buzzi’s is still in business (Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In fame is in that family) The Borden stone was installed in January of 1894 and is made of Westerly blue granite. Fall River also had some great carvers and a rosy-colored granite.
In the mailbox today we received a query about Maidens’ Garlands- a custom which seems to have originated, or else was extremely popular in 19th century Great Britain. When a maiden lady passed away, especially a very young, unmarried girl, it was a custom for young ladies of the parish to construct garlands which were solemnly carried before the casket by two maidens on the way to the cemetery. These garlands were constructed of white paper, and after the cemetery service were hung in the church. Also crowns of white living flowers were made which would be borne to the grave by maidens in flowing white dresses, generally processing in pairs. Statuary in Oak Grove frequently makes use of the symbolism of a crown of rosebuds, lilies, and garland swags for the grave markers of maidens.
A Maiden’s Garland still hanging in a church in England
This particularly beautiful tall arch is to be found in the central west end of Oak Grove and is a familiar symbol of passing through from one state to another- from earthly to celestial, from life to the hereafter.
There are smaller arches, gateways and doors to be found in Oak Grove, some found carved onto tabular monuments and others carved completely as the symbol itself. This one has an Egyptian inspiration- complete with canopic jar.
A popular epitaph
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me.”
The Young Widow 1877, exchanging the wedding gown for mourning
The Victorian preoccupation with death is reflected in the art of the period. Photographs, paintings, death portraits, steel engravings, lithographs, etchings, and other art forms embraced the most sentimental and heartrending portrayals of loss and bereavement.
These works by both amateurs and the great artists such as Landseer and the Pre-Raphaelites were displayed in the parlor or sometimes in the bedchamber as a perpetual reminder that death is always with us.
The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner by Landseer
Animals and children were especially popular as subjects to portray pathos and grieving.
The 1894 sketch above is called For Such is the Kingdom by Frank Bramley and illustrates the custom of little children dressed in white walking in procession in front of a small white coffin containing a young person. Often four young maidens, also dressed in white attire served as pall bearers for the departed child. The custom of children wearing white to funerals continued well into the twentieth century.
Every August 4th, traffic to the Borden plot in Oak Grove increases. Flowers, notes, stones, coins and other mementos are left at the grave site of Lizzie Borden. More rarely are the victims, the elderly couple, Andrew and Abby Borden remembered with tokens. The burial plot is easily found by following the black arrows painted on the asphalt to the left after passing under the Prospect Street arch.
William Almy , Andrew Borden’s business partner, and his family share the raised corner knoll. Head stones for Lizzie’s grandparents face out toward the road at the front of the lot.
Many individuals associated with the trial and with the Borden family, as well as friends and neighbors have found their final rest in Oak Grove.