Category Archives: Symbolism

Baby in Half Shell Monument

Katie Lou Bell (1905-1905), Cleveland Cemetery

For approximately fifty years after the Civil War, a popular way to memorialize young children who had passed was a figure resting in a half shell. Prior to 1900, twenty-two percent of all children in the United States died before their first birthday.

The shell can represent a pilgrimage, spiritual protection, and innocence. Using those meetings, it makes sense this became a symbol for child graves.

Wealthier families would employ sculptors to make one that represented their child. Poor families, who wanted their children memorialized, adopted the shell as a way to mark graves when Sears Roebuck offered them in their catalog.

Here is a great academic article about these monuments by Annette Stott.

Cinderella Cooper (1885-1887), Evergreen Cemetery
Harry (1886-1892) and Nellie (1888-1892) Roberts, Kennesaw City Cemetery
April Lee Porterfield (1975-1988), McDonough City Cemetery
Ruby Colley (1899-1890), Morgan Methodist Church Cemetery

Village Cemetery, Glynn County

Peter Ramsey, 1873-1931

The Village Cemetery is located on the 258 acre Guale Preserve which is part of the Musgrove Plantation. It is a private cemetery that is only open to the ancestors of the enslaved who are originally buried there. This is one of the most incredible collection of vernacular headstones I have personally had the opportunity to document.

The glasswork and friezes are all done by an incredible artist(s). I tried to do genealogical searches to determine why these markers are here. Sometimes there are clues in the records, but I am unable to determine any.

My appreciation to Brian Brown to showing me this hidden treasure of a cemetery.

Hattie Lee, 1871-1929
John Davis, 1871-1927
Lucinda Ramsey, 1924-1956
William Ramsey, 1887-1952
Aaron Loman, 1891-1931
Camilla Sullivan, 1896-1923
Jim Hightower, 1884-1934
Albert Hampton, 1897-1937
Thomas Lee, 1881-1933 – “Death is eternal. Life why should …”

The Wonder of Life, Spartanburg County

In Spartanburg, South Carolina’s Greenlawn Cemetery, there is an impressive monument, sculpted by Bernard Zimmerman , called “The Wonder of Life.” Commissioned by the cemetery, it’s one of the largest monuments I’ve seen in a lawn cemetery. Each sculpted figure (18 in total) represents different aspects of life. It was restored a a few years ago, and the trees that surrounded it were removed.

Smith Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Jefferson County

This a well cared for church and cemetery in Jefferson County, Georgia. The vernacular headstones and some of the ledgers are incredibly interesting. One of the ledger stones reminds me of stained glass. I wondered as I photographed it if glass was once there.

In doing a doing genealogical search, I am unable to determine why it is Professor Lewis Seabrook. I was hoping to find out that he was a professor for a local college. In census data, he is listed as a farmer. Maybe he was just so knowledgeable that he earned that name.

I will continue to research about this church. It’s still active, or as active as a church can be during COVID.

Circus Train Wreck Memorial, Muscogee County

On November 22, 1915, the Con T. Kennedy Carnival Show left Atlanta for a show in Phenix City, Alabama. Unfortunately, over 50 passengers were killed when their train collided with a steel passenger train, which was significantly stronger than the carnival train. After a mass service at the Columbus First Baptist Church, there was a large funeral procession to Riverdale Cemetery, where the carnival show members were laid to rest. The Con T. Kennedy erected the “Under the Big Tent” monument in memory of those who lost their lives.

Sheffield UMC Cemetery, Glynn County

Down a sandy road, there is the Sheffield UMC Cemetery which has several vernacular headstones made with tile. Outside of marbles, this is one of the most used materials I see in homemade headstones and ledgers. There was a church next to the cemetery, but it burned many years ago.

Lord. I Am Redy, Tift County

This vernacular headstone can be found in Greenwood Cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. The KOFP represents the Knights of the Pythias. The interlocking links is a symbol of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, and the links stand for friendship, love, and truth.

Bennett Monument, Clay County

Located in Fort Gaines, Georgia, the monument is for Colonel James Bennett (1800-1868). He was originally buried in Alabama, but he was moved at the request of the great grandson.

The monument features the winged hourglass. The hourglass represents the marching on of time. The wings represent a descent to heaven.

The Lady in Black, Cobb County

Located in the Marietta City Cemetery, this memorial for Mary Annie Gartrell (1853-1906) was erected by her sister Lucy. The grieving sister visited her sister’s grave twice a week, often on foot and in black, for the next 48 years. She became known as the “Lady in Black.”

Myron Hinson Grave marker, Cook County

This incredibly detailed monument for Myron Griggs Hinson (1908-1913) stands in Woodlawn City Cemetery in Adel, Georgia. He was the son of George and Virginia Hinson who you can see in a poignant photograph on Findagrave.

While this page is more about the live-in housekeeper for the Hinsons than the Hinsons, here is an interesting Facebook page by someone dedicated to keeping this monument clean and sharing what they have discovered about the family and their housekeeper,

Clayton Smith (1897-1897), Butts County

Clayton Smith only lived a mere five months. His marker can be found in the Jackson City Cemetery.

Many children did not live past the first few years due to illnesses like diphtheria. The cherub is almost exclusively seen as markers for young children and represent innocence. The dropped cloth can represent the earthly ties that someone leaves behind as they descend to heaven.

Riverview Cemetery, Cherokee County

Located in Canton, Georgia, Riverview Cemetery is one of the older cemeteries in Cherokee County. The Brady Monument memorializes Thomas Brady, the sculptor for the Lion of Atlanta that used to be in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.

This memento is on Marie Brady’s grave who died at a young age.