William, Hannah, and Dennis Barrett Monument, St. Mary’s Cemetery

Well, here is an interesting little mystery. There is some story behind this triple monument, but old Pa Pitt has not been able to unravel it. His usually fruitful speculative imagination has failed him. If anyone knows the real story of the monument, a comment below would be very welcome.

This triple monument commemorates three people named Barrett. Hannah Barrett died in 1864 at the age of 25; William Barrett died in 1868 at the age of 24; and Dennis Barrett hasn’t died yet. Well, clearly he has, since we have not heard of any 150-year-old Barretts roaming the earth; but his death date has never been filled in.

Now, who were these people? It is not impossible that William and Hannah were husband and wife, though she was five years older than he was, and he would have been only twenty when she died. The position of the stones seems to make that unlikely, however. Hannah takes precedence—again, not impossible, but every nineteenth-century instinct would have made a husband and wife’s monuments equal, or the husband’s the central and higher one. And who was Dennis? A son? A father?

It seems more likely that they were brother and sister, Hannah taking precedence because she was the elder. And then who is Dennis? Was he another brother who was still alive when the monument was bought? One can imagine the conversation with the monument salesman: “You have that other son, too, right? What’s his name—Dennis? He’s coming up on twenty now, and the way your family’s going you’ll need a stone for him in four or five years. It happens we’re having a three-for-the-price-of-two special this week only, so…”

If Dennis was a brother who lived a long life afterwards, it would explain why his stone was never filled in. He might well have married, fathered children, and been buried in his own family plot fifty or sixty years later, possibly in another part of the country.

One final question: When was the stone bought? Father Pitt’s eye for cemetery styles suggests that it’s more likely to have been in 1868, when William died, than in 1864, when Hannah died. Did Hannah go without a marker for her grave for four years? Or did the family purchase a monument for all three when Hannah died, on the principle that everybody’s got to go sometime?

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