Category Archives: Symbolism

Pinehurst and San Sebastian Cemeteries-Saint Augustine, Florida

San Sebastian and Pinehurst Cemeteries are located in West St. Augustine on Pearl Street. The two cemeteries are next to each other and are stated to be among the oldest Black cemeteries in the state of Florida. There is conflicting information on whether the cemeteries began before or after the Civil War.

The cemeteries contain a mixture of commercial and vernacular headstones, along with military ones. Additionally, there are mementos left on many graves. Everything from conch shells to dolls is scattered throughout.

Mr. James Jones Remembrance of his daughter Elizabith. Aslapp.
Edwin Mansell (1947-1999). This is one of the newer vernacular headstones I’ve seen. It uses tile which is a common material in handmade markers.
I do not know what this stands for.
Bessie R. James, 1883-1913
Lewis Mickell, 1872-1915
Elisah Felds, 1887-1905
The name is hard to read, but the Masonic symbol is still visible.
Ellen Simmons, d. 1910. This marker resembles an Angel.
One of the many concrete crosses in the cemetery.
Victorian grave markers heavily influence this marker.

There is no truth that carved chains on a headstone mean someone is born into slavery. Most chains represent the fraternal organization Fraternal Order of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows. They are frequently joined with the letters “ F L T,” which stands for “Friendship, Love, Truth.”

I read several journal articles about the documentation of slave and Black cemeteries, and there was no mention that markers with chains meant someone was born into slavery. What is consistently mentioned are broken dish ware, clocks, shells, and different plants.

A circle of chains, broken or unbroken, can represent death or hope respectively.

Willie Whitted, 1879-1917. This is one of several Odd Fellows markers in the cemeteries. This person was born after the end of slavery.

This cemetery shared two borders with the all-white cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery.

Joiner Cemetery-Dooly County, Georgia

When I first fell in love with cemeteries, I was always looking for impressive Victorian influenced markers. While I still love them, my interest has expanded to document vernacular markers. Folk art in headstones always interests me. I always wonder about the person being memorialized and the person who made the marker. The makers are often lost to history.

Close up of the marks on the Eliza Joiner Bullington. The marker’s inscription says, “MRS ELIZA WIFE
Carear Bell Bullington (1886-1887)

The Joiner Cemetery sits on the edge of farmland. Outside of traditional markers that can be seen in any cemetery, there are several folk art headstones where a sawtooth pattern can be seen. The letter stamping is all very similar.

The sawtooth and diamond pattern was an interesting addition to the crypt.

As many of the markers are in poor condition, it’s important that these headstones are documented before they are lost forever.

Bessie Joiner marker which has been stabilized.
Susan Carr, (1861-1881)
Sabra Mims, (1846-1896)
A collection of markers with no names or initials likely indicating children who have passed away.

Alpine Community Church-Menlo, Georgia

Originally the home of Alpine Presbyterian Church, the Alpine Community Church in Menlo, Georgia, is located in the northwest Georgia mountains. The church was built in 1853. The cemetery contains markers that represent the long history of the church with a number of Victorian and more modern markers.

R. A. McWhorter family plot marker
Mary Knox, 1886-1889
Thomas Knox, 1831-1882, has a marker made of zinc, also known as a zinkie.

Catholic Cemetery-Savannah, Georgia

Started in 1853, Catholic Cemetery was developed after leaders in the Catholic Diocese asked that there be a Catholic section in Laurel Grove North Cemetery, and their request was denied. After the cemetery opened, many remains were moved from Colonial Park Cemetery to here. Along with the remains, many of the stones were moved, too.

Marker for siblings, John Jasper, aged 11 days, and Mary Frances Rourke, 1874-1880.
Eugene Battle-1901-1912-His epitaph reads “drowned March 14, 1912. A victim of play.”

Sherman’s troops used the cemetery as an encampment area. Many markers were damaged, and the ironwork was used to build fortifications.

Francis Bohan-1871-1900-I love the relief details spell out Frank.

This is an overlooked cemetery when people think of the must-see cemeteries in Savannah. There are several grand Victorian markers. There’s at least one John Walz of “Little Gracie” fame.

Prince-He loved his master. This is a rare marker to a pet in a “human” cemetery.
A Confederate monument dedicated to the service of the “Irish Jasper Greens.”
Rose (1858-1881) and Richard (1855-1882) Roe

New Hope AME Church and Cemetery-Atlanta, Georgia

Located in Buckhead, the New Hope AME church is an anomaly compared to the exclusive homes that run along Arden Road. The vernacular church resembles many Black churches in rural Georgia with the central gable and tower. The church was founded in 1869 by newly freedmen and women. James H. Smith, a white Buckhead farmer, donated three acres of land to the congregation to build a church and a school.

The original church building was destroyed by fire in 1927. The current building consists of a 1928 basement and a 1936 sanctuary.

The school burned in 1942.

The cemetery’s earliest burial is 1889. Since the cemetery photos were taken, the cemetery has been restored.

Cliff Nelms (d. 1967)-This is an unusual marker that I believe is handmade.
James R. R. Maddox (1850-1913)-The overlapping Vs likely represent a Masonic organization.
Albert Daniel (1887-1904)
Ada Newton-One of the handmade markers by artist Eldrin Bailey

Wise Family Cemetery-Chesconessex, Virginia

Entry gate to cemetery

Henry A. Wise owned a plantation not far from the cemetery. Enclosed by a brick wall, burials range from the 1600s to 2017.

Left view
Col. John Wise, 1617-1695
Peggy Gillett, 1736-1808
Tympanum marker for John Wise, 1749-1760
John Wise, d. 1717
Henry Wise, V, 1998-2017