After hours of slogging through data to construct a database of graves for Solebury Friends Meeting, I’m finally able to sort the data to reveal some interesting patterns. The map below shows Strangers Row, listed as Section B of the graveyard. As you can see from the aerial photo, it’s nearly empty. The rows follow the same trajectory as the lines of headstones below it in Section C.
Note: The row numbers begin at the lane and count up going east. The plot numbers begin against the wall and count up going south. The grave location is recorded as Section-Row-Plot, so the grave listed as B-01-02 is Section B, Row 1, Plot 2.
The green arrow marks the grave of our Stranger Found Dead, 1880. As you can see, headstones finally appear consistently in Section B, Row 6.
This is what I’ve learned so far by analyzing the information in my database:
- The plots were first come, first serve. When I sorted the graves by row and plot number (B-01-01, B-01-02, etc.), they were almost perfectly chronological. This is a significant difference from other sections, where families purchased plots and were buried sequentially in a line. (ex. in Section A members of the Blackfan family are buried in A-08-01 through A-08-08, even though their death dates range from 1825 to 1905.) The one regular exception to this rule is that when a spouse died, a plot was sometimes reserved next to them. This exception is responsible for most of the out-of-sequence graves. This pattern begins to break down in Row 10 around the 1930’s.
- Graves are undated until the late 1860’s. Assuming the undated graves were also dug in chronological order, all but three graves before 1866 are undated. Only four graves after 1866 are undated. This roughly corresponds to the oldest section of the graveyard, Section A, where only a handful of dates are listed in the 1860’s and earlier.
- Headstones appear consistently in the 1880’s. There are virtually no headstones in Section B until Row 6, which begins in the 1880’s.
- Strangers Row is full of children. In the undated section, children account for 52% of all graves. In the dated section, they drop to 31%. Many or most of them are buried without their parents. (ex. There are 4 Alcotts, 7 Birches (from 5 different fathers), and 8 Fishers, all children without parents.)
- There are some families, but their graves are not contiguous. For example, Eli Doan is buried in B-01-11, his wife is in B-02-42, and his children are in B-02-01 and B-02-02. There are 10 Kitchens, but only two are buried next to one another. This is the opposite of the rest of the graveyard, where adjacent plot numbers correspond to surname instead of date. There are no family plots in Section B.
An important question remains: Where does Strangers Row end? I pose this question both geographically and temporally. Is there an actual row of demarcating the end of Strangers Row? Is there a date at which Meeting decided to treat Section B like any other part of the graveyard? It’s possible that even after it was no longer Strangers Row in the older sense, Meeting found it convenient to use Section B to bury the “odds and ends,” people who did not own family plots.
I’ve got some more dredging to do. First of all, I’d like to compare family names in Section B to other parts of the graveyard and try to find the parents of some of the buried children. I’d also like to investigate the Moons, Doans, and Ely’s buried in Section B. As far as I know these families were Quaker, so I was surprised to find them buried here.
That’s all for now, but I’ve got a lot more work to do if I want to identify the social and economic factors that landed these poor souls in Strangers Row.