Friday, April 11, 2014

Tree Shaped Tombstones - J.J. Lundy, Independence Iowa

To finish off a week where I have tried to pay homage to the few craftsmen I have been able to associate with "Tree Shaped Tombstones", I present the marvelous cabins of J.J. Lundy from Independence Iowa.

And here is his rather understated signature on one of the above:

Stone cutting seems to have been one of the niches in American society in which immigrants dominated.  Lots came from Italy. John J. Lundy on the other hand, came from England.  He was born in Otley, Yorkshire in 1869 and came over with his family when he was 13 years old.  He moved to Independence, Iowa and never left.  He learned the stone carvers trade from an uncle and set himself up in business in the early 1890s.  He was the usual solid citizen of his day, member of multiple fraternal organizations and such.  On his death in 1921 the byline read:


But if you go beyond the basics of his life it does sound as if there was a lot of sadness there as well. He married, but their only child died at age three "..this being a crushing blow to the parents."And his health was not good.  Mention is made of him having to retire from business for a time due to poor health.  And his death at the fairly young age of 52 occurred when he contracted ptomaine poisoning, ironically on a trip to Pueblo Colorado where he had gone "..on account of ill health."

I am just speculating today, but I wonder if perhaps he suffered from silicosis.  This is a nasty chronic lung disease caused by exposure to stone dust.  Miners, stone cutters and tomb stone makers were all plagued by this until better understanding of occupational exposures and wider use of respirators made it, in the modern era, an uncommon disease.

Next trip through I shall look up the monuments of the Lundy family.  I suspect J.J. has a swell one, his company continued on after his death.  And I fear there will be a smaller, sadder one for his infant son somewhere nearby.

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