… but not in a happy Fred MacMurray way.

Figure 1. May monument. Hancock Presbyterian Churchyard, Hancock, N.Y. Photo: author.

Elisha W.
son of Capt.
E. May
died Sept. 25
AE 1 mo.

Sam’l. O.
son of Capt.
E. M. died
April 1
AE 3 m’s

Elijah P.
son of Capt.
Ezra May
died Dec. 16
AE 1 mo.

Suffer little children to
come unto me & forbid them

Simple but attractive floral designs garnish this thin slab of limestone. In an economical way the images of three tombstones are carved with separate inscriptions on its face, and in a wide register below framed by more florals is a biblical verse, Lk. 18:16 (KJV has “[But Jesus called them unto him, and said,] Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not[: for of such is the kingdom of God]”). I think the visual intent of the design is to give the notion that we are looking at three individual tombstones in a graveyard with flowers around them.

Persistence marks the efforts of Captain May and his wife to beget children. See the dates: son number one was conceived around February 1820, dying on 16 December 1821, 10 months later; son number two was conceived in around May 1822, dying in April 1823; son number three was conceived in about November 1823, dying in September 1824. Such was life in those days. The inscriptions therefore run from youngest, on the left, in order to the oldest, on the right.

The stone offers no dates for the parents, and we know nothing of Mrs. May.

The early nineteenth-century letters are reasonably well cut, but close inspection reveals the numbers to be atrocious. The numbers, particularly, seem storm-tossed. Also interesting, but predicated upon the conceit that three different stones are depicted on the large limestone canvas, is the variation in the father’s name: E. May, E. M., and Ezra May.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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