Monday, June 4, 2012


An almost completely full-moon cast its soft glow over the grassy hills and meandering paths of Green-Wood Cemetery Saturday night as a large group of about 250 eager individuals walked silently through the grounds. Accompanied by the sounds of an accordion playing music from years gone by, Green-wood hosted its Moonlight Tour. Artie and I were among the participants.

Green-Wood historian Jeff Richman led us on an amazing trek through the moonlit necropolis, giving a wonderful running commentary about Green-wood's permanent residents.

One of our early stops was the monument to William Holbrook Beard. A famous American artist, known for his Bulls and Bears on Wall Street and The Bear Dance oil paintings, Beard died in 1900 and was buried in an unmarked grave. A headstone topped by a bronze bear statue sculpted by Dan Ostermiller was placed on the grave 102 years after the artist's death.

Three stops in particular were especially poignant.  The first was the monument to Jane Griffith. A housewife during the mid-1800s, the monument shows her standing on the stairs of her family  home, seeing her husband off to work. Her husband returned home that evening to find his wife had died from a heart attack. And carved on the monument at the top of the stairs near the mistress of the house is the image of the family dog.

The second poignant stop was a field set aside by Green-wood Cemetery for Civil War burials. Those who died in battle or from disease are interred there along with Veterans who passed in the 20 or so years after the end of the War Between The States. Prominent in this field is the monument to the Little Drummer Boy. Clarence McKenzie was 11 years old when he became a drummer boy for the 13th NYS Militia. Sometime after Clarence turned 12, his regiment was called up. He begged his mother to allow him to accompany them into battle. After refusing to allow him to go, she relented against his argument: Who would shoot a 12 year old drummer boy? At Annapolis, a private borrowed a musket from the acting cook. While the private practiced for battle, Clarence was accidently shot when the gun, which was thought to be unloaded, discharged. He died from his wounds becoming the first Brooklyn resident Civil War casualty. After Clarence was buried, his pet dog Jack refused to leave his grave for quite a few days after the interment.

The next stop was the Howe family plot. Elias was a man of poor means who invented the sewing machine. His invention made him a millionaire. The plot is impressive and its most touching feature is at the back. There is a small headstone dedicated to Fannie who died December 10, 1881. There is a beautiful verse carved into the stone to commemorate the Howe family dog. We all know 'people' cemeteries do not allow pet interments. Is Fannie buried with her family? I like to think she is.

We ended our moonlight tour at Battle Hill - the highest point in Brooklyn with a spectacular view of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.  Are there more animal stories connected to Green-Wood, you bet there are and I will be posting about the Green-Wood/animal connection again sometime soon.

Green-Wood's Main Gate before sunset with the moon visible in the sky. (photo by Artie)

William Holbrook Beard:

Clarence McKenzie:

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