Satan in the Cemetery

Date Published: 
August, 1906
Original Author: 
J. J. Stephens
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention

The chief object in writing this paper is to show as near as possible the true value and character of this association, to the new members and the young men.

I think they should know something of what the old members have gone through with, in order to accomplish our present high standard of proficiency.

Satan is our strongest adversary in every walk of life and the cemetery is no exception to the rule.

Prior to 1887 or the inception of the AACS, the graveyard, as they were usually called at that time; but the most appropriate name would have been the wilderness of Satan.

Satan behind the monument,
Satan behind the shrub and tree,
Satan in every pathway,
Satan looking for you and for me.

The monuments in those days had little or no character at all. They were mutilated by all sorts of lettering, emblems and epitaphs such as,

Beneath this mound lies all we found
Of little Johnny Green,
Who went one night by candlelight
To get some gasoline.

In the twenty years past, the influence and better judgment of the superintendent alone has been very marked indeed, so that we now have monuments with character, grace, dignity and true art, and with no lettering on them but the family name. So you can readily see we have succeeded in driving Satan away from the monument.

The shrubs and trees, I say, have had Satan behind them too, for it keeps the superintendent continually alert for the almost endless variety of insects and each year brings some new imp of Satan for us to battle with, but with the aid of so many good sprays now on the market and such thorough hand books on entomology it is not much trouble for the active superintendent to keep his trees entirely free from Satan.

Perhaps it would be proper here to mention some of his imps that infest the tree. Gypsy moth, Umber moth, Leopard moth, Tiger moth, Ermine moth, Goat moth, Lackey moth, Thrips moth, Gold-tail moth, Brown-tail moth, March moth, Brindled Beauty moth, pine bark beetles and pine Weevils, musk beetles, sawflies, San Jose scale and the tree borer.
The avenues where Satan was always in evidence and especially after every heavy rain, both in wash-outs and with many varieties of weeds. Those that are fortunate enough to have cement curb and gutters on all grades and with the aid of the weed killer (several good formulas) and the practical and scientific methods employed by the up-to-date superintendent, we have succeeded in driving Satan from the avenues.

The lawns are not without their troubles with this same Satan.  There is the cutworm, the Tipulide or grubs, black and red ants, wireworms, and ground moles, all here to test our faith and patience.

Since the inception of this organization the active or progressive superintendent has driven Satan farther and farther until now he has him very close to the boundary line, if not out altogether. So that now, the name could well be, "God's Acre Beautiful or "Silent Park of Repose."

For the benefit of the young man, and the new members, I should like here to enumerate some of Satan's vexations that the older members had to encounter, before and since the inception of this organization. But I am delighted to report at this time that most all of these annoyances of the devil are now things of the past.

There was the hedge fence, the iron fence and the post and chain fence, the small wooden fence around single graves, the stone coping, shells, toys, toy houses, glass globes, tin wreathes, tripods, wire arches, gravel walks, terrace lots and all the other old tin and glass ware they did not want at home they took out to the cemetery.

The inception of this organization placed before us in the far distance an object to be attained. What was that object? Men in life and especially men of the American people are usually actuated by that indomitable spirit of gain, of honors, or wealth for themselves. What was the aim of these few men twenty years ago? What was that high ideal that they placed a way up in the sky shining like diamonds in the stars? That was to benefit mankind.

It was not to attain any present gain of great honors or high position. No, it was on the contrary, taxing them to their greatest abilities to achieve for the benefit of the common masses of humanity safety, and for your profession, for your calling, the title, position, elevation and advancement that should be in keeping with the progress of the age.

The present age is preeminently the age of progress.

The present age is preeminently the age of the young man and I am very much pleased to see so many young faces grace this assembly here today, as these very old members that have worked so faithfully for you, are one by one passing to their reward into that higher life of the soul unseen by mortal vision.

And now, gentlemen, with this heritage handed down to the young man, and the new members, these men of perhaps higher education that have been breathing in the spirit of progress of the age, what can we not expect? Will you not appreciate the efforts of these men so unselfishly accorded? Will you not endeavor to discharge the duties as not to bring reproach or anything like reproach or disgrace upon these efforts?

It should, I think, emulate in you higher ideals and nobler actions, to higher aims and greater achievements. Therefore, in all your considerations, in all your deliberations, please be careful to maintain the purity of this ideal.

Please give these older members credit for what they have accomplished in the face of so much discouragement. You have far better laws. Don't prostitute these laws. Don't misuse them. Don't aim to make them ends for personal gain. But hold them in the highest possible respect to the end that the whole nation may honor and respect you for it.

I am pleased to see so many ladies here. Manifestly there are fewer branches that exclude them in the higher walks of life. I am pleased to see them, for their gentle influences carry refinement, higher aims and nobler thoughts into our hearts and minds.

What we want to plead for, is not primarily new resolutions, it is a new life. I hope that we may see the difference. We need a new conception of what we are living for, a new picture of the sort of life which it is worthy of a man to live. You must have this or your good resolutions surely come to naught.

No haunt of nature is more sympathetic or attractive than the small, well-kept and well embellished lake or stream in the cemetery.

It is ever singing a song to the understanding heart. The friendliness of its babble touches the chord that vibrates when a kindred spirit reveals itself in the light of a human eye.

To my neighbor and friend, "drive away Satan" and join the AACS. You will find it the most intelligent movement ever conceived and carried out by the cemetery superintendents for their own moral betterment, higher ideals, intellectual and social advancement.

This association is made up almost exclusively of members of one profession. There are now very close to 600 members in the national and auxiliary associations combined.

We are looking for new members of course all the time, but they should be men of the right kind of material, not selfish and impartial, but always ready to impart what little you do know. "No Satan in that." But the man that does not want to impart same of his knowledge to others has Satan about him at all times.

Every cemetery should receive all, strangers and especially the commercial travelers, with a hearty and most cordial welcome. Do not be like some churches to the Sunday visitor, receive them with a coldness and indifference that make them wish they had never gone to that place and declare that they will never go back. Satan has first lease on that place.

It is one of the singular things about this business that the devil never takes a vacation, whilst most business men do, one or two times every year.
Satan is continually sowing the seeds of sin. What will you do with them, destroy them or cultivate them?

Satan with some of your employees,
Satan with same of your lot owners,
Satan in some of your drain tiles,
Satan looking for you and for me.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention
Held at Detroit, MI
August 21, 22 and 23, 1906