Wednesday, November 18, 2020


 Post by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

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I recently came across the phrase 'talking with the dead'. Initially, I thought it sounded rather morbid until I thought about what it was really about. To me, it's connecting with the past in ways we might not think about. This also follows an earlier post about what inspires your stories. For those who would like to take a look at that post, here is the link: What Inspires Your Stories 

The second post on inspiring stories: Talking with the Dead- Photographs

This post will focus on Cemeteries.  I know you may be thinking I'm talking about seances and such, but it's more about reading the headstones, taking in the style, and sometimes researching to find out more. 

One headstone I saw drew me in. It is almost faded and I felt I needed to find out more before the name completely disappears. The name is Jahn Jankovitz. The dates listed are 1848-1915. You can see the stone had been broken at one time. So who was Jahn (John) Jankovitz? According to Ancestry, he was born in Austria. He owned property east of Colorado Springs near the town of Calhan. He was Catholic and died of blood poisoning. He had a wife, but she doesn't have a headstone in the cemetery that I can tell. That may be a story worth following up to find out what happened to her. 

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Gerald de Coursey was born in 1833 in Pennsylvania. His father, Samuel, was a sea captain. He worked at an importing house in PA before moving to Colorado Springs in 1872 to work as the secretary/treasurer of the Colorado Springs Company and secretary of the National Land Improvement Company. He died at the age of forty-one. His obituary in the local paper sang his praises as a man who was good at details, modest, and generally liked my most. His life, when you start to put the puzzle pieces together, is fascinating. 

Another person who I've written about before, Helen (Hunt) Jackson, had this to say about de Coursey and his final resting place

"Below on the soft, pink planes is a grave. It lies in the shade of great pines on a low hill to the west of town. Surely, never did a little colony find ready to its hand, a lovelier burial place than this. Long ago there must have been watercourses among these low hills, else these pines could never have grown as high and strong. The watercourses are dried now and only Barron Sands lie around the roots of the great trees, but still they live and flourish as green in December as in June, and the wind in their branches chance endless chance above the graves. This grave that we love lies with four pines guarding it closely, on a westward slope which holds the very last rays of the setting sun. We look up into the glorious snow-topped peaks which pierce the sky, and the way seems very short over which our friend has gone."

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Maybe the next time you look for inspiration or just information, you might spend some time among the stones of a cemetery. From there you can use Ancestry, Digital Newspapers to find even more about who is resting there. So much history and so many stories waiting to be told if we spend some time 'talking with the dead'. 

One of the stories I'm working on is about a runaway boy who is taken in by a spinster. Here is a short excerpt from the rough draft:

The snow kept falling and Harold was worried. Miss Geraldine was feeling poorly, and the wind had drifted the snow up past the windows. Now, while the wind had died down, the temperature was steadily dropping.

Moving away from the window, Harold walked back to the kitchen where he’d moved the daybed. It was the warmest room in the house, but the woodpile was getting low. He’d need to venture outside for more fairly soon.

Harold tried to be quiet, but Geraldine, her cheeks flushed, spoke, “Harold, it will be okay. We all have our time on the earth, but it isn’t forever.”

Kneeling, Harold took her hand in his large one, “Don’t talk like that. You will be fine before you know it.”

Geraldine patted his larger one with her free hand. “We never know when our time will come, we only can do the best we can while here.”

Harold started to say something but her eyes closed, her hand dropping away.

Damn snow!”

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Western Writers of America,
Colorado Author League,
Women Writing the West

Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

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