The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for March 13th, 2012

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Frustration marks this posting, which focuses in on the Moore Newman monument at First Calvary Cemetery here in Queens, at the very heart of the Newtown Pentacle. Stylish even after a century has passed, the monument consists of a central obelisk with figurative statuary at its apex and a series of foot stones demarcating the borders of the family plot.

It was also here in 1876, long before its two principal occupants ended their New York stories in the early 20th century.

from The visitor’s guide to Calvary cemetery, with map and illustrations (1876), courtesy

This is a most substantial double monument, the shaft being divided by a deeply cut line, as is also the die. It presents with the inclosure a very neat and pleasing appearance, displaying much taste in its design andi construction. It stands about twenty-one feet in height, is of Egyptian order of architecture, and of the best Quincy granite.

On the shaft, inclosed in palm wreaths, are the monograms ” M.— N.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Obviously people of certain means and social standing- the tenement poor of New York City didn’t get 21 foot granite monuments- there seems to be little or no record of Mary A. Moore or Michael James Newman. Passing references to a Tammany functionary named Michael J. Newman offer hints that this might be the fellow buried here, but nothing definitive can be ascertained. Additionally, a Mary A. Moore, referred to as “a widow” have popped up here and there.

Unfortunately, these were very common Irish names in the 19th century.

from Wikipedia

Granite is classified according to the QAPF diagram for coarse grained plutonic rocks and is named according to the percentage of quartz, alkali feldspar (orthoclase, sanidine, or microcline) and plagioclase feldspar on the A-Q-P half of the diagram. True granite according to modern petrologic convention contains both plagioclase and alkali feldspars. When a granitoid is devoid or nearly devoid of plagioclase, the rock is referred to as alkali granite. When a granitoid contains less than 10% orthoclase, it is called tonalite; pyroxene and amphibole are common in tonalite. A granite containing both muscovite and biotite micas is called a binary or two-mica granite. Two-mica granites are typically high in potassium and low in plagioclase, and are usually S-type granites or A-type granites. The volcanic equivalent of plutonic granite is rhyolite. Granite has poor primary permeability but strong secondary permeability.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The usage of Quincy Granite for construction of the stelae also indicate the social standing of the couple, as this particular mineral is the gold standard for permanence and has always been an expensive option as far as building materials goes. Quincy is a famous quarry town in Massachusetts, and the mining of Quincy Granite gave rise to one of the first industrial uses of rail in the United States.

from Wikipedia

The Granite Railway was one of the first railroads in the United States, built to carry granite from Quincy to a dock on the Neponset River in Milton. From there boats carried the heavy stone to Charlestown for construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. The Granite Railway is popularly termed the first commercial railroad in the United States, as it was the first chartered railway to evolve into a common carrier without an intervening closure. The last active quarry closed in 1963; in 1985, the Metropolitan District Commission purchased 22 acres, including Granite Railway Quarry, as the Quincy Quarries Reservation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Enormous effort was undertaken to discover the identity of the Moore-Newman’s, who seem to have disappeared into history. The antecedents on the Moore side of the family are listed here, but it is doubtful that their remains lie in Calvary. A standard practice of Irish New Yorkers in the 19th century was to list long lost family members as an “In memoriam” on their own stone. Often the parents were buried at one of the churchyards or private cemeteries which Manhattan once hosted, like the 9th street Catholic Cemetery, at their own plots after Calvary was established in Blissville in 1848.

from wikipedia

Taphophilia is a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. The singular term is a taphophile.

Taphophilia involves epitaphs, gravestone rubbing, photography, art, and history of (famous) deaths. An example of an individual’s expression of taphophilia is the character Harold in the movie Harold and Maude (1971).

Taphophilia should not be confused with necrophilia, which is a sexual attraction to corpses.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An understandable lack of documentation exists about the process by which, after the Rural Cemeteries Act was passed, the exhumation of thousands of internments and concurrent transportation of the remains to Calvary were accomplished. Understand that the somewhat tribal nature of New York City in the mid 19th century, marked by internecine warfare between religious denomination and nationalist creeds, made for a lack of record keeping. If the church offered a public record of its activities, the Protestant Anglophiles at newspapers like the NY Times would have pilloried them for one reason or another. Catholics were a favorite target of that culture, which still considered protestant England the apogee of civilization, and viewed the “Papists” as a fifth column to be feared and despised.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly, given other societal norms which we 21st century New Yorkers would find odious- specifically the role and rights of females- it’s the voice of Mary A. Moore which persists through time. An obituary notice preserves her grief over the loss of her husband, whom she would shortly follow into the emerald devastations of Calvary Cemetery.


In ever present sorrow of my devoted husband, Michael James Newman, who passed away Sept. 17, 1903. “Not gone from memory, not gone from love.”

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