(Free Download) Rainsford Island: A Boston Harbor Case Study in Public Neglect and Private Activism by William A. McEvoy Jr. and Robin Hazard Ray
Boston artist Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842–1904) is most celebrated for the highly original book covers she designed for Houghton, Mifflin from 1884 to 1900, and for her stained-glass windows, including the Brimmer Memorial window at Harvard’s Memorial Hall. Less known is that she also designed gravestones for friends and family. Of those so far identified, all but one are in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Stuart Walker – who wrote the accompanying article to this webpost in Sweet Auburn Magazine 2020 Vol 1 – wishes to acknowledge the many years of assistance and support of Meg L. Winslow, Curator of Historical Collections at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Stanley Cushing, Curator Emeritus of Rare Books at the Boston Athenaeum, for alerting him to the Lodge family monuments, and Mary L. Kwas, independent researcher, for discovering the Wyman family lot and helping confirm the identity of Sarah Adams Wyman.
Timmins Lot #2424 Jasmine Path photos below
Sarah Whitman was especially fond of the two nieces of her close friend Martin Brimmer, the president of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and author of Egypt: three essays on the history, religion and art of ancient Egypt, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1892. When Brimmer’s niece Sara Greene Timmins, known as Gemma died in 1890, Whitman designed something like a stained glass window in marble in memory of her for Lot 2424 Jasmine Path. The monument has a border in Italian that translates “You are far from steep pathways, you are far from art; Now you see the sun shining before you” (Dante). Nearby is a small stone, also designed by Whitman that marks the grave of Gemma’s little niece Minna. Photos of the Timmins lot below:
Wyman Lot #4543 Oriole Path photos below
In December 1889, the Evans & Tombs Company delivered three “tablets” marking the graves of two of Whitman’s siblings, who died in childhood, and her father’s youngest sister, Sarah Adams Wyman, who died in 1841 at the age of sixteen. These three had been re-interred in 1880 alongside Whitman’s father, William White Wyman, who died two years earlier. The children’s stones are dark and rough, but the young aunt’s marker, created out of a soft, rose-colored stone, is decorated with a central cross flanked by massed leaves, above a line from Proverbs: “They that seek me early shall find me.” Photos of the Wyman lot below:
Lodge Lot #5458 Excelsior Path photos below
Mary Greenwood Lodge died in December 1889. She was buried at Mount Auburn between her husband James and her three young sons, who had all predeceased her. The marker for the children is particularly affecting; in form it suggests three small figures standing shoulder to shoulder. Across their shared “torso” is inscribed “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” followed by a line of intertwined flowers. Photos of the Lodge lot below:
Prescott Lot #5975 Orion Path photos below
After the death of Whitman’s friend Josephine Augusta (Peabody) Prescott—mother of Catherine Elizabeth Prescott (little Minna’s mother) and of Edith Prescott, who married Roger Wolcott (Governor of Massachusetts, 1896–1899)—Whitman designed a number of gravestones for the Prescott Lot. They are all made of “Iowa marble,” which unfortunately has degraded over time. Sketch in the gallery below is from the Evans Co. Workbook (for the seven Prescott Family stones with designs by Sarah Wyman Whitman) and appears courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library.
Photos of the Prescott lot below:
Sarah Whitman Lot #6084 Indian Ridge Path photos below
Sarah Whitman’s own gravestone, and those of her husband and brother, bear none of the artistry and little of the distinctive lettering that define so much of her work. Her own marker bears no name, only a cross and the words “Sursum corda” (Lift up your hearts). The graves are tucked into a corner along the Indian Ridge Path, far from her family but just across the path from her close friend Martin Brimmer. Photos of Whitman lot below: