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Newspaper Clips (1830-1839)
The Huntress, May 6, 1837
The Navy Yard
We were cut short in treating the public with a little excursion we took on foot, to breathe the air of spring, and forget our cares with the last winter's snow-call on a friend-the Navy Yard, etc., etc., etc.
Our friend (Mrs. Deneal) living near the burying ground-to gratify friend Sally, whose parents and nearest friends lie there-we called with her and took a walk through the Cemetery, beyond doubt the handsomest in the United States; the shade trees neatly trimmed and thriving, and from the great size and workmanship of the vaults; the wide and neatly graveled walks; the whole had the appearance of a village when seen at a distance.
We saw Mr. Gadsby's vault, just finished. It is a very beautiful specimen of architecture, and differs from the common mode-being covered with granite.
The Keeper (Mr. Taylor) whom we did not see, deserves much credit for his attention and taste in adorning and keeping this Cemetery in repair.
By the way, we are under great obligations to the Under-Keeper, whose name we do not know. He walked and talked with us, and patiently answered all our questions, and finally lifted my ladyship over the wall.
[Mem. Not to forget a pencil next time we stroll.]
Mrs. Deneal is a daughter of one of the original proprietors of the District, living within a few steps of the place of her birth, on the bank of the Eastern Branch.
Mrs. Deneal lives in very primitive style on the family patrimony, and received us with a smile and a brow as smooth as her own Ana Costa, which glides by her door at the foot of a hill upon which the house stands.
From her house we kept down the Branch to the Navy Yard, where we gave chase to Capt. Smoot. The rest is known.
For the National Intelligencer A writer in your paper a few days ago complains of the condition of the burial grounds of our city, which he is pleased to call a "disgrace to Washington," and directs the attention of the "Pastors of the several churches to their dilapidated situation." As these reverend gentlemen (many of whom, by the way, have as little to do with the grave yards of Washington as the writer himself) have not thought it their duty to enlighten your correspondent on the subject, and as I regard his remarks as calculated to injure, in some degree, the reputation of our city, I hope I will be excused for attempting its defense, and endeavoring to show that your correspondent is laboring under a very gross error, at least in relation to one of these repositories of the dead, with which he seems to be unacquainted, though the most frequented and best known in Washington. I admit that his description of most of the other burial grounds, which, however, are comparatively but little used, is correct; but it is very far from being so in relation to the Congressional or Eastern burial ground, under the direction of the Vestry of Christ Church. This beautiful burial ground is situated about a mile and a half east of the Capitol, and embraces an area of about ten acres, surrounded by a substantial brick wall, with three handsome gateways leading into the cemetery, through which run several fine avenues and smaller walks, ornamented with trees and shrubs, that are now beginning to give it the appearance of a garden. The site of this grave yard has been most judiciously chosen. It commands a fine view of the surrounding country and the Anacostia, which lows at a short distance below it, and, in a calm summer evening, when the water is still and placid, reflects from its polished bosom the beautiful landscape on the opposite side of the river. A spacious and tastefully constructed general receiving vault stands on one of the main avenues. It was erected by Congress for the reception of the dead for whom graves might not have been prepared. It is surrounded by a neat iron railing; its front built of freestone, the door of iron and the area within the railing ornamented with beautiful shrubs. In this vault bodies may be kept for two months, after which they must be removed for interment. This course is frequently adopted by families and strangers who have no vaults, in order to prevent those outrages which are sometimes committed in other cities upon the dead by resurrectionists. In one instance, however, the body of a distinguished citizen was permitted to remain for upwards of ten months, in the expectation that a tomb or monument would be erected by his friends, under which the remains were to be deposited. This was the body of the eloquent author of the British Spy, to whose memory his friends and the members of the Bar had promised to cause a monument to be erected, provided his family would consent to permit him to be buried in that cemetery. The pledge, however, as in the case of Washington and Marshall, has never been redeemed, and the remains of the illustrious Wirt were finally thrown into an obscure grave, to moulder with the dead around him.
In the southwest corner of this grave yard the eye rests upon a broken marble shaft which indicates the spot where the remains of the brave Brown repose.
"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
What thrilling events does not this mute memorial of the dead recall! But even the, too, are fast passing away from the memory of his countrymen, and the succeeding generation will know them only from the page of history.
In the northeast corner of the burial ground stand two neat marble monuments, erected to the memory of men who once filled a large space in the public eye-George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry, who died here while in the discharge of their official duties as Vice Presidents of the United States. These, at present, are the principal monuments in this cemetery. Almost in a line with these, and ranging from north to south; are the tombs of such members of Congress as have died at the Seat of Government, and been buried at the public expense. They are built of free or sand stone, painted white, have each four panels, on one of which are engraved, in black letters, the name, age, period of death, etc. of the deceased, and topped with a small pyramid. A brick wall is formed at the bottom of the grave, in which a splendid mahogany coffin, decorated with plated escutcheons, and containing the body of the deceased member, is deposited, and over which a brick arch is cast, and the whole surmounted by the very plain and rather tasteless tomb of which I have spoken. Some more beautiful design might be substituted without adding much to the expense; and the material should be marble, instead of the very ordinary sandstone of which they are now constructed. As a burial ground, partly national, great architectural might be united to fine horticultural tasks, and thus form a retreat to which the stranger as well as the citizen would feel a melancholy pleasure in repairing to tranquilize the agitations of feeling while meditating in solitude amid the silent repositories of the dead.
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