Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mystery Inscription

Can anyone make out this inscription? Several people from my family have tried without success. At first glance it appears that the inscription on John Harrigan's grave stone should be easy to read. Then after kneeling down and taking a closer look you realize that enough of the stone has eroded away to make reading it quite difficult. I'll send a jar of homemade jam to anyone who comes up with a good rendition.

If it were any other stone, I would not feel so compelled to decipher the engraving. This, however, is the grave stone of John Harrigan who committed suicide by slitting his throat (officially). Or did he? That is the question I have written about in previous posts (Suicide or Murder? What Do You Think? and Who Done It?). Because of this uncertainty I would dearly love to know what is engraved in the stone. Was his wife trying to tell him something posthumously?

The stone itself is quite large (almost 2 x 3 ft.), especially considering that John's widow now had five children, ages three to eighteen, to provide for. To me, this says that Mary didn't want John to be forgotten. An oak leaf and acorn are carved into the stone. These may represent endurance or longevity. Another message, perhaps?

My mother has made many attempts to read the inscription, but we only have part of it. Unfortunately, the stone has fallen over and lies facing downhill. It is not very steep, but it makes leaning over the stone a bit awkward. She tried foiling, but didn't have much success. She also tried sprinkling sugar in the inscription, but that only helped with a few words. Damp napkins fit into the crevices well, but then there is the problem of making the dried negative image readable. It doesn't help that the script is small and fancy. Pouring water on the stone definitely seems to help as I discovered when I was in town last October. I probably have nearly fifty photos of the inscription from various angles with different lighting, but I just can't make it out. Here is an example showing the entire inscription.

Here is what we think we have so far:
God is good. ___ ___ trust him
Turn your ___ ___ ___ alone/about?
And? think through ___ a? trial
One thing  ___ God is Lord?

A few of the above words may be incorrect, but this is our working version.

At first we thought that the inscription might be a Bible verse, but I have been unable to find anything that seems to fit the words we have. My cousin suggested that perhaps it was a family prayer, but pursuing this angle didn't yield results either.

At least John's resting place is in a beautiful part of Kalamazoo's Riverside cemetery, section B.  Looking at the stone you can gaze west, shaded by the many tall oak trees while listening to the wind rustling through the leaves.  It is a peaceful place even if John's end was far from it.  It is a good place to ponder whether he came to his end by his own hand or was helped to it.

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