The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peaceful Resters

A visit to an old cemetery.

Well, I had many fun adventures yesterday, exploring our beloved Valley with the talented lensman Jeff Ziff. Actually, it won't be possible to present all of the material at once, in part because Jeff left for a vaycay in Maine this morning. Yesterday he took most of the photographs, thereby freeing me to do what I do best, which is run around and act crazy, but that also means we must wait for him to process the photos and video. However it shall all be released for your pleasure and enlightenment, dear readers, in the by and by. Today, I'll tell you about our visit to the Smith's Ferry Cemetery which is located in Holyoke on Route 5 near the Northampton line.

This is a small cemetery which you've probably driven past a million times but never stopped to visit. However, as a history nut I'm fond of cemeteries, as they are often the repositories of historical information that cannot be discovered otherwise. For many of the people of the past, their tombstone is the only permanent record of their lives. Here is a picture of me taking a picture of the statue (shown above) on the tomb of someone named Richard F. Underwood.

I thought this was a pretty creative grave marker. The last name is apparently represented by a single block etched Strain, with accompanying blocks giving the first initials of the deceased. I guess this is the technique for those who wish to be discreetly dead.

One of the largest monuments in the boneyard belongs to this dude, William Caldwell Bowlen.

Never heard of him. However a Holyoke history book about cemeteries, Stories in Stone has this to say about him:

William Caldwell Bowlen was born in Newburyport MA in 1868, where his Nova-Scotian-born father, William Bowlen, was a grocer.... W. C. Bowlen not only designed timeless silver patterns, he was a talented artist who created evocative images of the landscapes and people around him. He was also an etcher, one who engraves metal printing plates, and produced limited editions of his artworks. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of sixty-six, while attending an auction sale in Greenfield.

So he was a famous local artist who probably shouldn't have gotten so excited about an auction in Greenfield. Here is what we found odd about his tomb however - there are air grates on the top, as you can see in the picture below.

Why does a tomb need air grates? Was Mr. Bowlen intending to return to life, and wanted to be sure he had fresh air? When Mr. Bowlen was freshly dearly departed, wasn't there a danger that those air grates would spew forth a stinky smell? If anyone has an explanation for those grates, I'd love to hear it.

Anyway, next time you're zooming down Route Five, stop for a few minutes of peaceful historical contemplation among the old stones of Smith's Ferry Cemetery.

How do you like this neat shirt Andy bought me based on Springfield's Dr. Seuss?

Hey wait a minute! Isn't that the book Dr. Seuss wrote about getting old?

Did you have good times in the 1980's? I sure did, and this classic 80's tune reminds me of them.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.


Mark T. Alamed said...

The grates? Perhaps Mr. Bowlen had 'taphophobia,' the fear of being buried alive.

Mr. Bowlen said...

I just finished reading your most interesting article about my ancestor, William Caldwell Bowlen (Aug. 20007). Loved the part about the grate near the top of his tomb at the Holyoke cemetery.

The book you quote from has a mistake------William's father was Caldwell Bowlen , not William Bowlen. Caldwell came down to Newburyport in the 1850's from Truro, Nova Scotia. Wiliam's mom was a local gal, Martha Belle Adams.

Caldwell and Martha are buried at the Belleville Cemetery in Newburyport, Mass. No grates in their stone, though.

Maybe William was ahead of his time and designed a tomb with air conditioning for he feared he might end up in a hot place.
Carry on.

Ken Bowlen

grandson said...


William Caldwell Bowlen was my Grandfather. He died when my mother was 10 years old.

He had 4 daughters and 2 sons.
The story I heard, about his grave, was that he didn't leave any instructions whether he wanted to be buried or cremated. So my Grandmother put him in a sarcophagus. His body is inside a coffin, inside the marble tomb.
I don't know why there are air vents on the sarcophagus.

My Grandfather started the Lunt Silver Company in Greenfield. Along with Mr. Rogers & Mr. Lunt.
It was originally called Rogers, Lunt & Bowlen Silver.
He commuted from his home on Madison Avenue in Holyoke to Greenfield.

He started out cutting dies or silver patterns at the Towle Silver Factory in Newburyport, Mass.

Some of his work can be seen at the Rhode Island School of Design. He was also an accomplished painter.
I heard he suffered a brain aneurysm while at an Art Auction. He was 66 years old.
Thanks for putting him on the Web.
-William Nord Bloombergh