Cemetery walk offers glimpse of Shrewsbury history
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Historical Society hosted its sixth annual “Walk Through History” at Mountain View Cemetery Sept. 11. The event gave history buff s the chance to visit several gravesites and hear the stories of the deceased’s lives as Shrewsbury residents in earlier times.
Some of the notables included Alice May Rich, a young woman who grew up in Shrewsbury and was a nurse who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. At the time, influenza claimed the lives of more than 50 million people worldwide. Linda Davis reenacted the role and explained how Rich, who decided to come to the aid of a neighbor with the virus, eventually succumbed to influenza herself while the person she tended actually recovered. As part of her presentation, Davis showed pictures of a sick ward at Fort Devens overflowing with soldiers, many of whom were brought to the former military instillation for quarantine and treatment during the epidemic.
“What it doesn’t tell you is that our bodies aren’t there,” he said, “but they’re not.”
In fact, Erving and his wife were lost at sea on the Steamer Pacific, a sidewheel steamer ship built in 1849 for transatlantic service for the American Collins Line. The ship left Liverpool for New York Jan. 23, 1856, carrying 45 passengers and 141 crew. It never arrived in New York. Other ships were sent to search for the Pacific, but it was never recovered.
As part of his presentation, Gerber mentioned that few clues have been recovered to tell an accurate tale of what happened to the ship. He said one of the only pieces of information came from a bottle that washed ashore a few years after the ship was lost. The bottle, containing a note, was found on the coast of the Hebrides islands, off of Scotland. Penned by a W.M. Graham, it claimed to be written by a person on board when the ship was going down.
“The note said simply that he was W.M. Graham, he was on board the Pacific and that the ship was sinking, chaos was abound and there were icebergs everywhere,” said Gerber, who also said a passenger list did confi rm a passenger with the name of William Graham was on board and headed to New York.
Perhaps the most recognizable name on the tour was Charles Ward (played by Bill Milligan), grandson of famous Revolutionary War general and Shrewsbury resident Artemas Ward. Charles Ward, like his grandfather, also served in the military and he fought in the Civil War, dying in battle at age 35. Other graves visited were those of William Taylor, an early settler, Dr. Franklin Brigham, Seth Hastings, Mary Cutting, and Dr. Min Cheuh Chang, a renowned scientist considered to be the inventor of the birth control pill and in-vitro fertilization.
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