Tombstone Tuesday: Holyoke Man Was Casually Shot in 1794

by Laurel | February 7th, 2012

Remember in 1791, the location of Elmwood Cemetery was actually part of West Springfield. Early death records from this cemetery may be found in the publication “West Springfield Vital Records to 1850,” though I have found this publication full of errors. Pictures of this tombstone, shown here, were photographed more than a decade ago when I did a tombstone inventory of this cemetery. You can clearly see the “bullet hole.” I noticed a newer photograph of this tombstone on Flicker a few days ago and it looks as though this hole may have been repaired, though it is difficult to tell from the picture. Anyone know? I’ll have to add a visit to Elmwood next trip to Holyoke.

As to whether this tale is true or not, it is unknown to me. The hole in the stone seems purposeful. I suppose as the saying goes “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Nathan Parks Tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery

Nathaniel Parks Tombstone, Elmwood Cemetery

06 February 1921

So Hole Was Bored in Monument to Represent the Bullet

Few people but what are interested in he old stones in the older churchyards with their quaint carvings and quainter inscriptions, many of them humorous. Perhaps the oldest one in this locality is the Old Elmwood “burying ground.” According to an old man who joined the writer some time ago when engaged in looking over inscriptions on the old sandstone slabs that were the earlier monuments of Holyoke’s pioneer dead, the stone to Nathaniel Parks was peculiar in that the one who carved the stone had attempted to symbolize the “casuality” that caused his death. The inscription reads as follows:

“In memory of Mr. Nathaniel Parks, Age 19, who on 21st of March, 1794, while out a hunting and concealed in a ditch, was casually shot by Mr. Luther Frink.”

Under the “M” of the first “Mr.” the maker of the slab had gouged a deep hole into the stone, to symbolize the passage of the bullet into the body of Parks, who was “casually” shot. Evidently the meaning of the word “Casually,” too, has been restricted in the last 125 years. One wonders why “Mr. Luther Frink” was pilloried in this fashion. The ornamentation, too, is symbolic of that day, a few rude lines showing the early representations of a cherub or angel, that later was to appear in more realistic form on the tombstones.

Detail of "Bullet Hole" in Parks Tombstone.

Detail of "Bullet Hole" in Parks Tombstone.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican, photos © Laurel O’Donnell, all rights reserved.

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