At first glance, this grave might look like any other tombstone. Cracked and weathered with age, it’s difficult to tell that it covers the bones of an unlikely local celebrity.
Born in Ontario, Canada, with the name Ska-Run-Ya-Te, Moses Carpenter was a First Nations man from the Mohawk tribe. In the 1880s, he journeyed across the pond to England, where he traveled through the country as part of a snake oil salesman’s entourage. It was here that he adopted an English name and reportedly converted to the Church of England.
Carpenter, along with other First Nations and Native American migrants, entertained crowds with a man who called himself “Sequah” and claimed to be a Native American medicine man selling various health tonics, which he touted could cure an assortment of ails. In reality, “Sequah” was an Englishman named William Hannaway Rowe. As part of Rowe’s sales pitch, members of his caravan attracted crowds by letting him pull their teeth and apply potions to their bodies in an attempt to prove his curious concoctions worked.
As it turns out, Rowe’s tonics couldn’t cure all they claimed. Carpenter fell ill with a severe bout of pneumonia while traveling through Middlesbrough and soon died. Thousands of kindly locals, likely enamored by the traveling act, showed up to escort his funeral procession. One man was so moved by Carpenter’s passing that he offered to tend the grave for the rest of his days. A local girl wrote the poem that is inscribed on the stone.
Know Before You Go
Enter at the eastern side of the cemetery, via the Ayresome Green Lane/Roman Road/St. Barnabas Road junction. Plot 20.