Voices from the Past…

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Dear Reader:

Guess where Honey and I went yesterday? To historic Magnolia Cemetery! This is a photo I took of the marsh area right off one section of tombstones, statues, and grave markers. The sight was just beautiful…peaceful and serene (and very cold!)

I knew some famous people buried there…lots of governors and politicians (Legares, Rhetts, Maybanks, Simmons)…but discovered others…closer to home. We also discovered that Magnolia Cemetery, rich in South Carolina history, was surrounded by other cemeteries equally fascinating….Bethany…filled with German heritage….and St. Lawrence…with Irish. (Magnolia seemed to be open to everyone -regardless of their home country…but mostly upper middle and elite)

Magnolia cemetery was constructed in 1850 and today contains just under 100 acres…I was about to say it really is a “living” museum…but somehow it sounds inappropriate.  I think I will change it to an ‘outdoor’ museum of fascinating facts and tidbits.

Yesterday I read an article on cemetery decorations from different periods of history and their symbolism…so I looked for these different motifs (representing numerous time periods) and found several examples while touring the cemeteries..

But before I show them to you…here are a few trivia factoids that you might find interesting…

 “History of Gravestones”

The term gravestone emerged from a Jewish custom in which the visitors to a grave used to place stones at the head as a way to honor the deceased.

Gravestones are also known as grave markers, headstones, and tombstones. In earlier times when there were no cemeteries, people used to have burial plots near their family homes.

These graves were usually marked with rough stones, rocks, or wood, apparently, as a way to keep the dead from rising.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that public cemeteries came into acceptance. (Colonial markers were rather scary since the Puritans believed in pre-destination… as far as who was saved and who wasn’t…)

By the Victorian period public cemeteries had come into their own and were very ornate…the more ornate…the higher the social status.

Here are some pictures I took from several different cemeteries visited yesterday depicting symbols from this period.


photo 1

                              “The Hand” was a popular motif and if placed downward represented God’s Hand plucking us from the flowers symbolizing the brevity of life.

photo 2                                                                                                                                                                         photo 2                                      Flowers were very popular in the Victorian period…roses stood for sorrow, lilies- purity/re-birth and the resurrection, poppies/sleep/death. But they all stood for brevity of life.

Angels stood for rebirth, a guardian, or messenger from God

The urn (besides being convenient as a flower holder) was a popular symbol of mourning and indicated the person had lived a long life.

…Whereas the shortened/cut off tree trunk stood for a life cut short.

photo 3

A lion symbolized eternal vigilance and courage….photo 5 (52)

photo 1

At the Bethany cemetery-filled (with German immigrant ancestry…)  adjacent to Magnolia-…

Honey had just told me about her German origins from her great-grandfather when lo and behold…we saw a marker with the family name and on the back it was her great  grandparents. A God’s Wink. (She thinks she remembers that at one time they lived in the Elizabeth Arden home in Summerville)

Before we left Bethany to go to Magnolia cemetery we quickly hurried to get a photo to prove that we were there….you can see I was holding onto a limb from a tree…that limb was so cold..it felt like I was holding a block of ice….unbelievable! ( Honey was smarter…standing in from of a camellia bush….they were all over the cemeteries…so beautiful…with their red and white blooms.)

photo 1

photo 2

                                                                                                                One interesting tidbit that I didn’t know about…( was an unique building located right beside the church )….called the Receiving Tomb. It was here (in olden times) that bodies were taken until burial….their early version of the “funeral home.”

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It was in Magnolia that I really felt the presence of the past…and began wondering about the “voices from the past”…what they could tell us about life during their short sojourn on earth.

We saw the Hunley crew’s grave site, the Gettysburg memorial section, volunteer firefighters memorials…and numerous other noted people’s graves….but it was just the cemetery itself…that was so beautiful. (I was about to say “drop dead”gorgeous…but you get the idea.)

And hey…Honey didn’t have “no” flies on me…look what I found in Magnolia! (Doodle is checking on the connection.)

photo 3

  photo 4 (87)photo 3

photo 5 (56)photo

This marker was in the Gettysburg section…the rose is real and had been placed inside a vase with water days before and it survived the wind and temperatures of the last few cold nights. Perhaps a lesson  here….flowers might represent brevity in life…but they don’t go down easily!

photo 5 (55)photo 3


photo 3

 Grave markers of the Hunley Crew

I thought this iron-wrought gate and shaded area of the cemetery under the Spanish moss was lovely and serene.



photo 1

photo 1

This last marker might have been our favorite after freezing in the cemeteries…California Dreaming with the yummy house salad and hot potato soup!

So until tomorrow…let us all hope this epitaph can be placed near us for eternity….voices from the past still echoing the present and future.

photo 4 (89)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

* Fran….I had no idea one of my favorite authors and column writers Frank Gilbreth, Jr (“Ashley Cooper“) was buried here…(I know he and your mother must be having a “taradiddle” good time in heaven!)

(I always showed the original movie (not Steve Martin) “Cheaper by the Dozen” each year when we studied the 1920’s! The students loved it!!!)


Please say a prayer for our little Rutledge…When Mollie went to pick him up yesterday from day care…his ears were bleeding, one tube had come out and the ear drum was compromised/bone exposed around it….he has been in terrific pain.

Mollie is taking him to his ENT doctor tomorrow…so we will see what we will see…he’s on antibiotics for all the infection….Mollie said she would send a funny picture because that is what she wants to see Rutledge act like again…not suffering in pain.

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Honey is amazing as all of you already realize who know her… we got lost in Magnolia looking for the Hunley Crew grave site. We saw some men raking and cleaning up around some grave sites….so stopped to ask directions. One worker called for his son…who, in broken English, produced a map he had used to locate work raking areas that day and gave it to us.

The young bi-lingual boy was so proud we could understand the directions. While I was following them on the map I heard Honey get out of the car and then get back in.

As we rode off she told the boy to check his jacket pocket and we could see the expression of joy as he pulled out a five dollar bill. She is the “charming human being” Elliott describes so eloquently. (She gives more “surcies” away than any one I know!)


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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17 Responses to Voices from the Past…

  1. Jo Dufford says:

    My, how I love old cemeteries and what they have to tell us (maybe the dead do talk?) I have been to Magnolia, but I always find something different there. I would have loved to have made that trip with you and Honey, but just not yesterday (a little cold for old bones, no pun intended). Isn’t it exciting to find connections to your family history! It’s like adding another thread in the tapestry of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky Dingle says:

      “Adding another thread in the tapestry of your life”….you are a born writer Jo Dufford…just beautiful and so true!


  2. Pat Jackson says:

    Oh what pretty ladies! Great pictures!!! Love you

    Pat McTeer Jackson


    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky Dingle says:

      Pat! So good to hear from you. Honey was just telling me yesterday about your beautiful new home….continue to stay so happy for you!


  3. Brooke says:

    What and interesting day you and Honey had!! It is so good to see the two of yo.. It’s been so long!
    I enjoyed learning about the tombstones of different periods!
    I have always found cemeteries so interesting. It’s a good thing because When Ted was in business we had to stop along the way to visit a lot of them.
    At first I would just roll my eyes but I started enjoying reading the tombstones… Especially the very old ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Becky Dingle says:

    It was fun…chilly but so interesting! We did have a good time catching up ….and Honey had some marvelous God’s Winks that had reminded her just how good God is.


  5. Gin-g Edwards says:

    Looks like y’all had a wonderful time…prayers for Rutledge…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Becky Dingle says:

    Thanks Gin-g…bless his heart…he struggles so with his sinuses and little ears…they just never seem to clear up…haven’t seen Rutledge without a runny nose in forever it seems….


    • Honey Burrell says:

      Oh what a wonderful day we had together! My prayers are with little Rutledge. Just hate it when a little one is hurting. Love to you dear one,


  7. Magnolia Cemetery has to be the loveliest graveyard there is; I have many friends and relatives resting there. The gravestones are so ornate! And gruesome!! I read many years ago that the Puritans didn’t believe in having any decorations in their homes or on their bodies, so being an artist was an unacceptable profession. However, they did approve artistic renderings on the tombstones, so most artistic expressions of that early period are in the cemeteries. You two lovelies had a great day together! Prayers for Rutledge, poor thing…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky Dingle says:

      It was fascinating…enjoyed the day tremendously….those Puritans definitely took themselves too seriously! Thanks for the prayers for Rutledge…am waiting to hear from Mollie to see what went down today.


  8. Shelly says:

    Two of my favorite people, Becky & Honey, out on an adventure! When I grow up, I hope I’m just like you two! Xoxo


    • Becky Dingle says:

      My precious darling…you’ve got it wrong…we want to grow up to be like YOU! A lifesaver in every definition of the word! Give Danny a hug for me!


  9. Cappelletti says:

    Thank you both for these lovely and so interesting stories. You are both VERY SPECIAL.

    Antonia S. Cappelletti Director Pupil Personnel Services Dorchester School District Two 843-873-2901. Ext. 3062



    • Becky Dingle says:

      Hi Toni!

      So good to hear from you! It was fun to be with Honey again…with my bronchitis…we couldn’t “talk” much over the holidays so a little adventure yesterday gave us time to catch up with life. Thank you again for the lovely gifts…especially the book…it had so many “pearls” of wisdom in it and made for some memorable blog posts!


  10. Lynn Staudt says:

    This was so fun to see, Becky. All of my family is buried in Bethany. We were just there a couple of weeks ago removing the Christmas flowers. Like you, I thought the camillias were so pretty.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Lynn…Bethany is so beautiful…the camellias were just loaded down with buds and blossoms…the statues and gravestones had such beautiful etchings and messages….a wonderful history museum of learning for all!


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