Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Thing #278--The Rub

Manchester, the city where I live, has quite a history. The explorers Marquette and Joliet first came through what’s now Manchester in 1673. By the early 1800s Manchester was a one-day stagecoach ride from St. Louis along the Overland Trail, and a small rural community (of mainly German settlers) had developed.

There are several area churches that trace their roots back to those days. Manchester Methodist Church dates to 1826, St. Joseph Catholic Church started as a mission in 1851 and built their first church in 1865, and St. John United Church of Christ was formed in 1860. Each has its own cemetery dating back to the beginning of the church. I find old cemeteries and tombstones fascinating, and have wandered through them on several occasions. However today for the first time I took newsprint and charcoal with me and did a tombstone rubbing.

Although all of the cemeteries are convent to me, St. John's is closest to where I work, so I decided to go there. The cemetery is divided into several sections. The oldest is at the bottom of a steep hill, a second section is halfway up the hill, and the newest section is at the top of the hill, closest to the parking lot. I started at the top, and picked a tombstone that had been placed within the last couple of years. I set a piece of paper over the top and started rubbing. Much to my surprise, I wasn't able to get a clean copy, probably because the new engraving was thinner and more precise.

I moved down to the second section and picked a tombstone for a woman who had died in the mid-1950s. Again, I placed my paper and began rubbing. This one worked well; I was able to clearly read the name on my copy and see the details of the decorations in the corners.

I walked down to the oldest section, but just to take a look at the graves there. Although some tombstones had fallen over and some had crumbled so much they were hard to read, I found several from the 1890s. I stopped for a moment of respect, then gathered my supplies and went back to the modern world.


  1. We used to go on a lot of field trips to the cemetary when I was in elementary school [small town]. Part of one of our cemetaries is legitimately haunted [it's been in numerous books] - well, as legit as it gets.

    Anyway, we used to do rubbings when we went...

  2. I went to a cemetery not too long ago and did some photography. I got some neat shots. Today at work a guy brought in some print to have mats cut. I recognized some of the headstones from my visit. Kind of an odd coincidence.

  3. I love reading some of the inscriptions of the gravestones,some serious, some humourous and some tragic but always memorable.

    Do you do brass rubbing centres over in the US? the older tombs in UK churches are full of brass figures and at one point in time it was permitted to do brass rubbings of these which could then be framed.