This is part one of the history of the pet cemetery in Aspen Hill, Maryland, now known as Aspin Hill Memorial Park.
On July 14, 1920, Richard C. Birney and his wife Bertha took possession of what was referred to on the deed as “10 acres more or less on the Seventh Street Pike.” (Seventh Street Pike is now known as Georgia Avenue.) On this tract of farmland, seven miles north of the Washington, D.C. border, the Birneys planned to breed dogs, to board other peoples’ dogs, and to run a pet cemetery. Continue reading Aspin Hill Cemetery for Pet Animals, The Early Years→
This is my favorite tombstone in the entire cemetery — Frosty, a white cat, posing in a blue dress. If you’ve ever had a cat, you know that they are usually not inclined to tolerate nonsense like this from their owners. Frosty, owned by the Foster family, must have been one special cat. The simple tagline “a pal” at the bottom of the tombstone is understated yet sincere.
FOSTER (across the top edge)
Aspen Hill Memorial Park
N 39° 04.751 W 077° 04.585
Get out your hankies, because this is one sad story. On a lovely Sunday morning in August 1928, Eric and Alvina Matus of Capitol Heights, Maryland went on a boating trip on the Potomac. They and another couple were fishing from a skiff near Colonial Beach, Virginia when they capsized. The couple with them were rescued by nearby fishermen, but the Matuses disappeared in sixty feet of water. Days later, their bodies were recovered. Continue reading This Ever Faithful Barking Ghost→
J. Edgar Hoover was, among other things, devoted to his dogs. His first, Spee De Bozo, was so beloved that Hoover kept his photograph on his desk at work. When Spee De Bozo died in 1934, Hoover buried him in Aspin Hill Memorial Park. Accompanied by three of his aides, he watched as his beloved Airedale was lowered into the ground. He told the cemetery groundskeeper, “This is one of the saddest days of my life.” Continue reading J. Edgar Hoover’s Dogs→
Here’s what I’d like to know. If they loved these cats so much that they’d bury them in Aspin Hill Memorial Park, underneath a solid granite tombstone, why couldn’t they have come up with more imaginative names than Cat #1 and Cat #2?
Timmie was, by all accounts, and extraordinary cat. For one thing, he loved birds. Most cats would rather eat them than befriend them. But Timmie would let them perch on his head or his back. Once he had a baby robin as a companion, but it had to be released into the wild. His owner bought him a pair of ducklings. Timmie loved those ducks, and was devastated when they had to be sent away because they were too big to keep in a city apartment. They were replaced by a baby chick. Timmie’s most famous avian pal was Caruso, a canary who belonged to Calvin Coolidge. Timmie was so enamored of Caruso that Coolidge gave him to the cat for keeps. Continue reading Timmie the Cat→
Tipperary Mary was indeed a great jumper. In 1928, with a 13-year-old boy on her back, she jumped to victory at the National Capital Horse Show at Bradley Farms in Chevy Chase. Young Don Bradley and his little brown mare competed in the “Touch-and-Out” event, involving a series of jumps up to four feet high. According to the report in The Washington Post, Tipperary Mary was the only horse in a field of 39 who completed the course perfectly on her first try.
By 1934, Tipperary Mary belonged to Jean Barnsley of Olney, Maryland. She was an avid equestrian who competed in a charity horse show that year in Montgomery County. The pair took first place in the “handy hunter” class, which involves a course that attempts to replicate the turns and jumps of hunting. Tipperary Mary continued to compete at 25 years of age.
Donald Bradley, who rode Tipperary Mary to local fame in 1928, married her owner, Jean Barnsley, some time between 1935 and 1940. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I like the idea of this remarkable horse bringing them together. Tipperary Mary died in 1951 at the age of 36. The Bradleys’ shared devotion to the spirited Tipperary Mary led them to bury her at Aspin Hill Memorial Park with this beautiful gravestone.
THE GREAT JUMPER
Jean-Don & Donna Bradley
Aspin Hill Memorial Park
N39° 04.745 W77° 04.662
“Eleven Big Events Inaugurate Horse Show in New Home: Donald Bradley, Only 13 Wins Coveted ‘Touch-and-Out’ Jumping Award.” The Washington Post, May 18, 1928, pg. 2.
“Gov. Ritchie Sees ‘The Hour’ Win Charity Horse Show: Crowd Ignores Showers as County’s Best Mounts Run and Jump.” The Washington Post, Sep 30, 1934, pg. M6.
“Horse Show Crown Again Won by Recall,” by Anne Hagnet. The Washington Post, Sep 15, 1940, pg. 3.
This gravestone caught my eye, and not just because of the noble German Shepherd dog whose photograph graces it. It was the inscription, “Mack Famous Seeing Eye Dog of George Ramey,” that got my attention. I wondered just how famous this dog might have been. I found the answer in the pages of three local newspapers of the period, The Washington Post, The Evening Star, and The Alexandria Gazette. Continue reading Mack the Famous Seeing Eye Dog→
During one of my many visits to Aspin Hill Memorial Park, I couldn’t help noticing Napoleon the Weather Prophet’s gravestone, especially when the afternoon sun gave it an orange cast. It stood out among mostly gray markers which surrounded it. When I read the inscription, I felt I simply had to investigate this cat. Continue reading Napoleon the Weather Prophet of Baltimore MD→
One of the most frequently repeated stories about Aspin Hill Memorial Park is that Petey from the Our Gang movies is buried there. As evidence, newspaper articles about the cemetery in Aspen Hill, Maryland point to the grave of General Grant of R.K.O., whose nickname was Jiggs.
When I visited General Grant of R.K.O.’s grave in 2012, I found a gravestone with a photo of a bulldog on it. That was my first clue that something was amiss. I knew already that all of the dogs who played Petey (there were three of them) were American pit bull terriers. I’ve never seen a bulldog in an Our Gang movie, nor were any of the dogs named Jiggs or General Grant. Continue reading Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? Not Petey of Our Gang.→