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Worksheet: Epitaphs
(or "The Writing's on the Wall")

Definition: EPITAPH: A short poem, saying or other message on a gravestone in memory (whether fond or otherwise) of a deceased person. An example: (For Mary Fowler, 1792, age 24, Milford, CT):

Molly tho' pleasant in her day
Was suddenly seized and went away
How soon she's ripe, how soon she's rotten
Laid in her grave and soon forgotten.


Activity #1: Answer the questions below, referring to the handout from Over Their Dead Bodies: Yankee Epitaphs and History, by Thomas C. Mann & Janet Greene:

Write the numbers of two epitaphs that do the following:

a. remind us that we all are mortal

b. tell how an adult died at work

c. tell how a child died

d. tell that the person was murdered

e. do not rhyme

f. do rhyme

g. tell about an infant's death

h. are humorous

i. are "gross" (eeeeuuuuwwww!)

j. sound religious

k. sound like they might be from todays' headlines

l. use old-fashioned language/spelling


Activity #2: Answer the following questions in the spaces provided:

1. Look at epitaph # 61, about Benjamin Rowe, Esq. What does this epitaph tell you about the state of medicine and healing in 1790?





2. Look at epitaph # 74, about Jared Bates. What does the epitaph tell you about his widow?




What does the epitaph tell you about what kind of town Lincoln, Maine probably was?




3. Look at epitaph 156, about Warren Gibbs. Why do you suppose his brother had that headstone erected?