Owego Headstone History

By WBNG News

July 22, 2010 Updated Mar 5, 2009 at 7:27 PM EDT

Owego is home to a tombstone with the longest epitaph in the United States.

That's boasted on Budget Travel's website, as part of its "America's Coolest Small Towns" contest.

But as Action News Reporter Julianne Sweeney tells us, words described on the historical headstone are an etching of the past.

"They lived, loved, laughed, danced, sang, and suffered..."

These words are inscribed on this tombstone in Evergreen Cemetery in Owego.

"These people were just ordinary people that lived the way anyone does." says Tom McEnteer of Owego.

The 135-word headstone made history.

It was known to be the longest epitaph when it was created in 1935.

"I suppose maybe somebody else has, another cemetery does have a longer one, but I think not nearby." says Tioga County Historian Emma Sedore.

"I don't know, is it something that's brag-worthy that you've got a tombstone with a long epitaph?" says McEnteer.

80-years later, long epitaphs are uncommon.

Richards Funeral Home says monuments made today are also smaller in size.

"Families tend to tell a story by pictures nowadays more than just words." says Funeral Director and Monument Craftsman Neil Lewis.

The epitaph was written by Edward T. Gibson to mark his family plot.

The headstone tells the story of his ancestors and the connection of people from 5 families buried at Evergreen.

"Think about your own monument and future planning...and probably the age old question too of how do you want to be remembered?" says Lewis.

"Maybe he wanted to make sure in some small way to give advice to future generations." says Sedore.

A message of living life to the fullest, and experiencing love and suffering, song and laughter.

If you would like to vote for Owego in the contest...

Go to budgettravel.com.

And, click on Vote for America's Coolest Small Towns.

Polls close April 3rd.

Right now, Owego is in the lead.

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