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John B. Wood to Walt Whitman, 24 December 1889

 loc_zs.00628.jpg Walt Whitman, Esq., My dear Sir,

I enclose you a map of Harleigh Cemetry,2 which I though I had sent before. I have marked your lot thereon as near as possible. At any time that you want any thing done to it we are at your service. I thing in mentioning the matter to an architect, the lay of the ground should be particularly described to him, so that he may avoid interfering with the trees. When your brain is weary please put on the map the name of the spring, which is about where the star is, and when it is very active, please do not forget the old tree, and name it. I have tried to put its gnarled form on paper, not at all like it for fear I should interfere with your work, but yet a sort of sign post to it. Below is the old willow and pine. I need not write in more, for him you won't forget, and even if you do, he will always remember you, until he is safely esconsed in  loc_zs.00629.jpg the island in Magnolia Lake. He thinks after having laid us all away, that we will be perfectly safe from his cruel work to us, if there is water surrounding him to keep our heated thoughts off his cool body,

But I am a little glad myself that we have such a decent fellow to look after what we have left or shall leave ourselves after having almost completely used it up, and then again I look a little further, clear on to resurection morn, and though I rather regret that Harleigh should be spoiled, I do believe that, Christ will conquer death, and we who are laid away in Harleigh will come out to meet him, I do not know exactly how, it matters not, except I will know then that 2,000,000 men are not being annually murdered in Africa nor 20 million men in Europe stand ready to cut each other throat, but all will be peaceful, all will be merry, all will be perfect. With both these thoughts in mind, I wish you the Merriest Christmas that I can, God bless you.

Very truly, Jno. B. Wood  loc_zs.00630.jpg  loc_zs.00631.jpg Wood J B  loc_zs.00632.jpg

John B. Wood (ca. 1845–1915) resided in Philadelphia. In his youth, he worked with his father Horatio Wood in the ship-building business. Later, he married author Lydia C. Wood (1845–1921) and began to develop Harleigh Cemetery on land owned by Lydia (The Wood-Woods Family Magazine, Volumes 9–13, Virgina Wood Alexander: 1981, 24). The Harleigh Cemetery Association was formed in 1885, and the land where the cemetery is laid out was purchased from John and Lydia Wood. In 1886, John B. Wood was the manager of the Cemetery Association (George R. Prowell, The History of Camden County, New Jersey [Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co., 1886], 554.)


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman Esq | Mickle St. | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Philadelphia, P.A. | Dec24 | 12PM [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | Ded | 24 | 8PM | 1889 | Rec'd. A series of mathematical calculations are written in pencil on the envelope. [back]
  • 2. Whitman was making plans to be buried in Harleigh Cemetery, in Camden, New Jersey, in an elaborate granite tomb that he designed. Reinhalter and Company of Philadelphia built the tomb, at a cost of $4,000. Whitman covered a portion of these costs with money that his Boston friends had raised so that the poet could purchase a summer cottage; the remaining balance was paid by Whitman's literary executor, Thomas Harned. For more information on the cemetery and Whitman's tomb, see See Geoffrey M. Still, "Harleigh Cemetery," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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