About 83 flags were placed in front of the graves of veterans at Hood Cemetery on Monday – stars a stripes all, but not the same version of it at each of the old markers.
That’s because, as Memorial Day ceremonies go, the annual open house at the so-called “Lower Burial Ground” has a lot of ground to cover, and the flag has changed numerous times over the 300 year life of the place.
On Sunday, the Sons of American Revolution prepared the cemetery by placing flags in front of the graves of veterans from wars in three different centuries: The American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I.
The Memorial Day ritual is simple – the cemetery, which is only viewable through appointments and on the second Saturday of the month, was opened up to general visitors from 2 to 4 p.m.
The cemetery was managed by the Germantown Historical Society, but as of two years ago has been under the care of The Hood Cemetery Company, said Claudia Levy, president of the company’s board.
The group has mostly focused on tree pruning and making it a safe place for those who visit, but eventually, it wants to assess the condition of the tombstones and arrange the cleaning of the archway in the entrance, which was funded by Colonel William Hood in 1850, who is buried along the entrance.
Eugene Stackhouse, a historian and past president of the historical society, dropped in briefly.
He has been opening the cemetery on Memorial Day for about 15 years, and though he had other plans this year, he still couldn’t miss the event. Board members acknowledge it’s Stackhouse who really knows the most about the burial ground.
Stackhouse explained the difference between the flags used. Veterans of the Revolution had a flag with 13 stars, he said, for each of the colonies turned states after 1776.
Most Civil War veterans had Post 6 signs that held the flag. They were members of the Grand Army of the Republican. It was named after Ellis Post, the first Germantown resident killed in the war.
“Just about every union soldier joined it,” Stackhouse said.
He also took time to show visitors Daniel Conner and Michelle Guerra the first grave at the cemetery, which is dated 1707. The two were driving on Germantown Avenue and saw the historic grounds were open.
Conner, who works in a law office nearby, has always wanted to see inside of the cemetery, so he decided to put off work for a little while to see for himself. As he browsed the old markers with Guerra, he was drawn to Margaret Wilson’s grave. She lived between 1780 and 1879. Conner couldn’t help but image how much she must have seen in all those years.
It made him grateful he decided to drop in.
“It’s a beautiful cemetery,” he said. “People don’t realize what they’re sitting on.”