Debra Christiansen thought she needed to practice her upcoming guided tours of the township cemetery. So she invited a few knowledgeable Schoolcraft historians on a preview of the tour she’ll offer as a fundraiser the first three Saturdays of October.
An extensive amount of research has gone into her presentation centered around Schoolcraft notables who are buried in the cemetery that fronts on U.S. 131. She isn’t revealing in advance the identities of the famous or infamous people in her presentation. But she includes some stories about the Spiritualist movement in Schoolcraft at the turn of the century, especially as they relate to activities at the Troxel House Hotel, now Bud’s Bar.
Part of her research dealt with the discovery of “seen forces” such as bacteria, and “unseen forces” such as electricity combined with the “new thought” that the dead don’t die, indicating that Victorians were forced to deal with death in a different way.
This excerpt from her dialogue speaks to the use of the color black.
“For women, the customs involved wearing heavy, concealing, black clothing, and the use of heavy veils of black crêpe. Special caps and bonnets, usually in black or other dark colors, went with these ensembles. There was mourning jewelry, often made of jet. Jewelry was also occasionally made from the hair of the deceased.
“It was thought that after a person died and before they reached the other side, they could possibly snatch the soul of their loved ones and take them with them. It was also thought that these souls in transition could not see the color black. So if you haven’t chosen to wear black today in our cemetery… Pity.
“Widows were expected to wear special clothes to indicate that they were in mourning for up to four years after the death, although a widow could choose to wear such attire for the rest of her life, as in the case of Queen Victoria. To change the costume earlier was considered disrespectful to the deceased and, if the widow was still young and attractive, suggestive of potential sexual promiscuity.
“Those subject to the rules were slowly allowed to re-introduce conventional clothing at specific times; such stages were known by such terms as ‘full mourning’, ‘half mourning’, and similar descriptions. For half mourning, muted colors. One color called heliotrope was named for a flower that is purple-ish. It could be introduced selectively.”
Tickets are for sale at pureschoolcraft.org for $20 each. There is a limit of 16 people per tour and 39 tickets have been sold thus far, Christiansen reported. The dates are October 7, 14 and 21, all at 1 and 4 p.m.
Proceeds will benefit the Schoolcraft Community Library, Schoolcraft Ladies Library, Schoolcraft Historical Society.