My Time at Machpelah

To start out, let me just say that this project was a very awesome one to do. I don’t often get to go out in the field like that in school and work on things like this. I did, however, grossly underestimate the work involved here. While there wound up being plenty of graves that fit into our time period required for the assignment, actually finding them wound up taking much longer than I predicted. I remember saying to myself before the event “500 pictures! No problem!” However, when it took me over an hour to get my first 150 pictures I was a little worried.

The place we went to was Machpelah Cemetery in Leroy. I say “we” because this was a joint project I did with my sister Sarah and our fellow classmate Doug. We chose this place because it has over 5,000 graves. Since between the three of us we only needed 1,500 photos, we figured this was a great spot to go to. Fortunately we were right. This was a beautiful place to be because of its natural park setting and decorative and largely well looked after graves. The only tough part we encountered from the start was that the stones weren’t in any real order save for families being in the same place. The cemetery was broken up into about six or seven parts on a map we found at the entrance, each given a letter in sequence A, B, C, etc. We decided to split up so as not to take pictures of the same graves by mistake. Doug ventured all the way to A section at the far end of the cemetery and got his pictures there, and Sarah went to section C and got her photos there. I however, was not so lucky. I wound up having to traverse sections D, E, and B in order to get all of mine.

It was really cool looking at the various styles of graves and reading the inscriptions as I walked around taking photos. There were stones of all sizes, shapes and, textures. Some looked like they were made yesterday, others like they were made out of rocks already there. Some had death dates, others had just names. While this one was out of my area, I saw one as tall as the trees around it. Some even had accounts as to how the individual(s) died; especially one that told that the two people laid to rest there had been hit by a train near their house in Pavilion. It was creepy and intriguing at the same time.

I’d like to say that the historical reverence stayed with me the entire time, but after about 3 hours out of about the 4 ½ we wound up spending there I went from “This is so cool!” to “Rock, click…rock…tall rock, click…pointy rock…” you get the idea. In all seriousness though, let’s just say I was really tired by the time I was done.

A thought occurred to me though as I was on my way home talking to my mom (who had been exploring the place as Sarah and I were taking photos) and my sister. Some of the graves that I couldn’t photograph honored people who had lived from the early 1900’s through now. It dawned on me that the world probably changed so much around them. They went from a time of only necessity to a world wrapped around technology and promoting indulgence. They saw the World Wars, the Cold War, Vietnam, and even the struggles of today. In contrast to this is my life where there always has been computers, video games, TV, and even cars. It just made me wonder what it must have been like for them. All in all, it was a great project and I can’t wait for my next one!

By Ian Lawson

Ian is a home schooled high school student taking U.S. History I at GCC (and doing very well).

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About Derek Maxfield

Associate Professor of History Genesee Community College
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