Have You Seen the Back of My Tombstone?

Seymour and Clara Curtis are buried in Newaygo, Michigan. You can see photographs of the front of their gravestones on both Find-a-Grave and FamilySearch, but you can’t see the other side of their tombstones.

Photo: tombstone for Clara Curtis, Newaygo Cemetery, Newaygo, Michigan
Photo: tombstone for Clara Curtis, Newaygo Cemetery, Newaygo, Michigan. Credit: Avalon Elizabeth Boullt; FamilySearch.

Why would you want to see the back of their tombstones?
Aren’t they blank?
Not exactly. In fact, the back of Clara’s tombstone attracts a lot of attention.

According to this Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article:

“…no one can visit Riverside cemetery without inquiring the reason for the odd and unusual tombstone that marks her grave.”

Because Clara had embedded “nearly a thousand” of the curious she had collected from “the ends of the earth” into the back of her tombstone.

Items like “a piece of the first Atlantic cable, a spike from the first railroad ever reaching Newaygo… a badge which her grandfather wore in the Revolution, skulls of birds… shells…” etc.

An article about Clara Curtis's tombstone, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 4 October 1911
Source: GenealogyBank, Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 4 October 1911, page 6

Wow – I’d like to see that.

According to this newspaper article, no one has ever stolen any of these items – and added that:

“Some of the shells are crumbling, but the firm cement holds them safe from the hands of would-be thieves.”

[Note: the article’s headline erroneously says “His,” but it should read: “Places Curios in Her Own Tombstone,” as Clara “built her own tombstone, or at least a part of it. To preserve to posterity the choicest curios of her collection she embedded them in cement…”]

We genealogists rely on the tombstone photos uploaded to the Internet. Without this newspaper article, we wouldn’t know that there is more to this story.

Do you live near Newaygo, Michigan?
If so, can you take photos showing us the curios embedded in this “odd and unusual tombstone”?

Genealogy Tip: Newspapers, such as those in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, record the stories of every day of our ancestors’ lives – even the stories of their tombstones.

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