Figure 1. Adams monument, east face. Presbyterian Cemetery, Wilkes Street Complex, Alexandria, VA. Photo: author.

The Adams monument in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Alexandria’s Wilkes Street complex of cemeteries immediately stood out to me as a Roman historian. I chuckled and said to myself, “somebody got divorced.” I thought for a second and added, “or disinherited.”

The east face of this fairly plain monument has had three lines of text chiseled out, followed by another two. The first three are centered, the bottom two right justified. It seems likely to me that the bottom ones might have been a short religious motto with a citation underneath, whereas the top three lines appear to be a continuation of the anagraphic data.

The elimination of the anagraphic data seems not to be a mistake. It is just like inscriptions we see from Roman times in which the names of bad people (according to the winners in the latest civil war) have been chiseled out.

Here’s a squeeze of an inscription found early in the last century in Corinth commemorating the achievement, by a Roman general named Marcus Antonius, of dragging a fleet over the Isthmus of Corinth in about 100 BCE (figure 2).

Figure 2. Squeeze of Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 60 (1951) 81-100, facing page 84.

The stone is not in good shape, but the squeeze, i.e., thin paper wetted down and smacked with a brush into the cuttings on the face of the stone, makes the inscription easier to read. Taphophiles regularly make squeezes and rubbings, of course. You can see in the third line there is an erasure, not quite as definitive as that on the Adam monument. It was the name Antoni Marci, “of Marcus Antonius.”

Some 70 years after Antonius’ achievement, his grandson, the famous Mark Antony (also named Marcus Antonius), fell in mortal kombat against the future emperor Augustus. Among the sanctions upon Antony’s memory enacted by the victor was memoria damnata, more commonly termed damnatio memoriae, the erasure of a transgressor from history. The trouble (as usual) is when zealots go too far; in the Corinth inscription, the grandfather’s name was sideswiped by those going after his homonymous grandson: they couldn’t tell the difference, or didn’t care.

Now the Adam family monument seems to me to have been put up by Eliza Campbell Adam, whose name appears on what is clearly the front face of the monument; it sits on a base with the name ADAM facing in the same direction, and above Eliza’s name is a general inscription commemorating the family as a whole:

IN MEMORIAM.
WITHIN THESE SACRED
PRECINCTS LIE THE
DEPARTED MEMBERS OF
THE ADAM FAMILY.
ELIZA CAMPBELL ADAM
BELOVED DAUGHTER OF
JOHN AND MARY
DUNLAP ADAM.
BORN SEPT. 12, 1819.
DIED MAY 29, 1909.
XXXX XXXXX XXX XXXXX
XXXXX XXXXXXXXX
XXXXX XXXXX

Eliza’s parents and grandparents are found on the south side of the monument (figure 3):

JOHN ADAM
ELDEST SON OF
ROBERT ADAM.
FIRST WOR. MASTER OF
THE ALEXANDRIA
WASHINGTON LODGE
OF MASONS.
GRANDSON OF THE
REV. JOHN AND JANET
CAMPBELL ADAM,
OF KILBRIDE, SCOTLAND.
DIED SEPT 30, 1843,
AGED 62 YEARS.
MARY DUNLAP
WIDOW OF JOHN ADAM.
DIED JAN. 29, 1873.

So, if you’re following along at home, Eliza’s grandparents were John and Janet (ages and death dates unknown). Her father John died in 1843, aged 62, so born in 1781. Eliza’s middle name was (if conventional naming on tombstones has been followed here) her grandmother’s maiden surname.

The west face introduces a complication into the family tree. James Irwin, of Ireland, evidently raised Eliza’s father John after his father Robert died young (figure 4):

JAMES IRWIN
OF BELFAST, IRELAND.
THE FAITHFUL
GUARDIAN OF JOHN ADAM.
DIED SEPT. 5, 1822.

And finally, the mossy north face commemorates Eliza’s siblings Charles and Thomas, as well as her aunt Jane (figure 5):

JANE DADE
DAUGHTER OF ROBERT
AND ANNA ADAM.
DIED JAN. 23, 1873,
AGED 89 YEARS.
WIDOW OF CHARLES
STUART DADE, WHO WAS
LOST AT SEA JULY 1811.
CHARLES IRVIN
SON OF
JOHN AND MARY ADAM.
DIED JAN. 1823,
AGED 5 YEARS.
THOMAS IRWIN
SON OF
JOHN AND MARY ADAM.
DIED JAN. 19, 1879.

So way up at the top we have John and Janet, presumably born in the central years of the 18th century. Their son Robert married Anna. They had children John (b. 1781) and Jane (b. 1784). The latter, Eliza’s aunt, married Charles Stuart Dade, he of ill fated seamanship. Robert must have died soon after 1784, for we find James Irwin of Ireland as his son John’s guardian. Irwin died in 1822, but not before blessing John’s union with Mary Dunlap, for their child Charles Irvin Adam (a variant of the name Irwin) was born in 1818, dying only 5 years later. Undeterred, John and Mary tried again, producing Thomas Irwin Adam, again commemorating James Irwin. Got that? There’ll be a quiz on Wednesday.

Was Eliza divorced, having her ex-husband’s name chiseled off the stone she apparently raised? Was her name added, under the general commemorative text on the east face very late in the game (remember, she dies in 1909, decades after the rest)? Why go to the trouble of chiseling out text unless it was somehow offensive? We’ll never know, but it is interesting to think about.

If you smell thistles and hear the rustle of the sporin against the kilt, I do too: Campbell, Dade, Charles Stuart (!), Adam, Dunlap, and Irwin/Irvin are all good Scottish or Scots Irish names, and given where these folks were buried, they were evidently Presbyterians to boot: John, Eliza’s great-grandfather, was even a reverend. See, too, that Eliza’s father John was the first Worshipful Master of the Alexandria Washington Lodge of Freemasons, again tying us back to Scotland. There are several Kilbrides on the western side of Scotland (Skye has one, as does Arran).

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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