For a brother and sister, a gravestone can be a form of closure

07/31/2018 12:05 PM |

After three generations, Gail Boyd and her brother, Wayne, are finally able to memorialize their great-grandparents’ gravesite.

The siblings had long know that Louisa Elizabeth Hunter and George Anderson Brazier Sr., both of Native American ancestry, were buried at Mattituck Presbyterian Church. They died two years apart, in 1920 and 1922, respectively. Ms. Boyd said her grandmother and mother had both tried to get a headstone placed there, but had been discouraged by the church. 

“My grandmother, mother and I frequented the area, so I knew where they were buried,” said Ms. Boyd, who lives in Flanders. “My grandmother wanted to put a tombstone on the site, but she was discouraged. Every time. She was not given permission to put a tombstone at the church. They just couldn’t believe that they were buried there, and she had the paperwork.”

After her grandmother passed away in 1980, her mother continued the effort to memorialize the site, but was also unsuccessful.

Gail Boyd and her brother, Wayne. (Jeremy Garretson photo)

Finally, with the help of Hollis Warner, owner of Peconic Monument Works in Riverhead, and the church’s transition to an electronic records system, Ms. Boyd was able to have its official archives examined and confirm the location of her great-grandparents’ burial. 

Church bookkeeper Janice Fliss said it is unclear why Ms. Boyd’s family had trouble getting the burial site properly marked.

“I couldn’t tell you why,” she said. “Usually there’s no trouble doing this. The wheels just turn slowly and we have to dot our Is and cross our Ts.” 

“I had to write a letter,” Ms. Boyd said, “saying we’re not going to corrupt anything, we just want to put a tombstone there and get some closure for our family. That’s all we wanted, closure. About five weeks later, I got a phone call saying that it’s been approved and, boy, did we move.”

Ms. Boyd said her great-grandparents were known around Mattituck as “the little Indian couple.” Ms. Hunter was 4 feet 11 inches tall; Mr. Brazier was around 5 feet 3 inches tall. Ms. Boyd said Ms. Hunter was known to grow her hair below her waist, then cut and sell it to help support the family. She was a seamstress, and sold clothes to women around the town. Mr. Brazier was a seaman.

“They got married; she was about 18, he was about 38,” Ms. Boyd said. “He then settled down, and farmed the land in Mattituck. But he was a seaman all those years before. His father was a sailor, too. They had four children, two boys and two girls, and one of them happened to be my grandmother, Viola Brazier-Murray.”

A headstone for Louisa and George Brazier was put in place and a dedication was held July 22 at the church, led Ms. Boyd, who told stories about her great-grandparents and the hardships they faced in life. 

At the ceremony, the Rev. John Carrick said, “Gail described how the Native American population lived as agricultural workers and household servants, which struck me with its modern parallel to the Hispanic population … I prayed to the other graves which remain unmarked and gave thanks to God, who knows each one by name.”

“It’s just something that we figured we’d do after all these years to just keep some faith,” Ms. Boyd said, “and it took 98 years. It had to be on my watch, because I have no children. It’s all about closure.”

Photo caption: Family and friends came to mark the occasion (Jeremy Garretson photo)

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