Saturday, April 11, 2009

Joshua V. Throop - Steamboat Captain

Copyright on photographs and text by Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG
May not be copied without written consent

Tombstone of Maria R. Throop, Smithland Cemetery, Smithland, Kentucky.

The past couple of years I have been photographing tombstones in Smithland Cemetery, which is in Livingston County. I am rather partial to Smithland Cemetery and many tombstones from this cemetery have been featured on Tombstone Tuesday. The tombstones are varied here – some showing the artwork and epitaphs common to the mid-South and others are similar to those found in other parts of the country. Being located at the confluence of two rivers, Smithland experienced a great deal of river traffic in the past, which resulted in people from various parts of our country making this their home. When they came to this area, they brought with them their beliefs and traditions. Subconsciously or not, these traditions are revealed in the artwork on their tombstones.

Some tombstones are very plain with only the name and dates of births and deaths. Many others have a weeping willow tree, the universal symbol of sorrow. And there are the tall, elaborate monuments marking the final resting places of the more affluent. None grab my attention more than the plain, simply carved stones. One such stone (see above) is that of Maria R. Throop, whose inscription is this:

Maria R. Throop
Born Novr. 8th 1822
Died Decr. 19th 1842

Weep Not for me Nor Shed a Tear
My tender husband and relations dear
My debt is paid my grave you see
You all must die as well as me
Depart my friends and dry your tears
I must lie here till Christ appears.

This inscription is a variation on the well-known epitaph of “Pause as you pass by, As you are now, So once was I …”

Maria died just one month past her 20th birthday. Surely there was a story here – if not about Maria, then about her family.

As she died so young, I did not learn much about Maria, but her husband had a wonderful life story. Maria married Joshua V. Throop 8 April 1842 Livingston County. Just eight months later, she was dead. Was it from consumption, that dreaded disease that racked the body and stole the life from the soul? Or was it a premature childbirth? No records have been found to tell us what happened and there is no record of the birth of a child. We do know that on 12 April 1847, her widowed husband married her younger sister, Eliza Johnston. Both were the daughters of John Johnston, who is buried next to Maria.

Joshua V. Throop descends from the Throop family that was part of that large migration from Vermont to the area that is today Lyon County. He began working on the Cumberland River early in life, commanded his first steamboat at the age of 19 years and spent his entire adult life either as a commander or pilot. He is found in Smithland on the 1850 and 1860 Livingston County census records and by 1863, he and his two sons had moved to Evansville. Steamboatin’ on the Cumberland by Byrd Douglas describes the family in the following words: “The patriarch of this family was Captain Joshua V. Throop, who started on the river as early as 1830, and continued until the outbreak of the War Between the States. John Throop and George S. Throop succeeded their distinguished kinsman after the War, and their boats during this period brought heavy cargoes of grain and other commodities from the rich Ohio Valley section up to Nashville.”

Joshua V. Throop died 25 November 1874 in Evansville, Indiana. His remains were taken to Smithland upon the steamer Silverthorn for burial beside other members of the family. It is of interest that the only tombstone for any Throop in Smithland Cemetery is that of his first wife, Maria. If Joshua or Eliza ever had tombstones, they have disappeared.

The Evansville Daily Journal of 30 November 1874 describes his return to Smithland and funeral as follows:
“The Silverthorn came up from Smithland at 2 p.m. Saturday. She reached Smithland at 9 a.m. Friday, and the whole population attended the funeral services of Capt. Throop, which were held in the Methodist Church, and followed the remains to the grave. Judge Fowler pronounced a beautiful and touching eulogy over the remains of the son of an old and intimate friend, for such had the father of Capt. Throop been to the venerable Judge, who spoke feelingly upon this occasion, his voice at times being suppressed by his emotions.”

Death did not extinguish the name Joshua V. Throop. A steamboat carrying his name distinguished itself by being the first inland vessel in America to fly the America Red Cross flag and, along with Clara Barton, carried emergency supplies to the victims of the Ohio and Mississippi river floods of 1884. A fitting tribute to a good, honest man.


villette1 said...

I am so glad you are taking photos of the cemetery. I was there in February and noticed that a lot of them are deteriorating rapidly from when I was there in high school (I graduated in 1996). Do you know of any efforts at restoration?

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

No, I don't. When I was there a week ago, a number of local men were cleaning up fallen trees and brush from the late January ice storm, but I don't know of any attempt to repair the tombstones. The stone for Maria R. Throop was covered with some kind of growth and I had to clean it with an old towel in order to photograph it. Many of the older tombstones are in the same condition - or worse.