Category Archives: Vernacular Headstones

Behavior Cemetery, Georgia

Sapelo Island, McIntosh County

Behavior Cemetery is an active cemetery believed to have been in existence prior to the Civil War. It now serves as a burial ground for the descendants of the earliest Black families who have called Sapelo Island home.

Boston Gardner’s grave features a clock. The clock likely represents the passing of time.

The cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The cemetery features many handmade markers that span several decades and more recent granite markers. Burial patterns are not in rows, and the older burials towards the middle and back of the cemetery.

Vases can be seen in many cemeteries, especially coastal ones.
Liberty Bell, 1900-1912
A fleur de lis next to the grave of Isabella Robinson, 1858-1889. In religion, it can represent the Holy Trinity. Additionally, some enslaved men and women were branded with a fleur de lis as punishment for trying to escape bondage.
Glasco Grovner, 1856-1928
Mary Lemon, 1906-1919. The star motif can be seen in many coastal cemeteries.
Deacon Grant Johnson, 1892-1956. The letter stamping is common method to mark headstones.
A modern memento
I believe these are giant checkers.
If you look closely, you can see the rebar and the mesh. It gives an idea of how some of these markers were made.

Pin Point Cemetery, Georgia

Pin Point, Chatham County
Edward Anderson

Pin Point Cemetery shares land with the Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church. It’s a small cemetery in the heart of the fishing community founded by freedmen and women from the Sea Islands. I cannot discern if the Pin Point Cemetery and Sweetfield of Eden graveyard are the same or if there was a boundary line that was no longer apparent.

Reverend Peter Famble

Ella Garmon
Margaret Devoe
Clarence Fleming, 1994-2017

Sunbury Missionary Baptist Church, Georgia

Liberty County

The Sunbury Missionary Baptist Church formed out of the Sunbury Baptist Chirch (c. 1806). During an 1846 census, the church had 161 men and women in bondage that enslaved by the white members of the church.

In June of 1866, this church was founded. they held services until 1918, the it was decided to relocate the church to the current site.

Talbird Cemetery, South Carolina

Hilton Head, Beaufort County
A view of Skull Creek

Talbird/Tabor/Talbot Cemetery is the largest Gullah cemetery on Hilton Head Island. On one side are condos and the other is Skull Creek. The cemetery’s founding is in the 1800s, but the exact date is not known. The Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church tends to the cemetery that experienced significant damage during Hurricane Matthew.

Katie Miller, 1854-1935. This is one of several crosses like this in the cemetery and other cemeteries on the island. This marker was damaged during Hurricane Matthew.
Corporal Worden White fought as part of the United States Colored Infantry in the Civil War.
Josephine Jones
Rosemary Greene, 1944-1948
Mary Jane Bryan, 1893-1936
Reverend I. S. Green, founder of Second Corinthian Baptist Church in New York City
Ida Jones, 1895-1921 “Softly and tenderly Jesus is colling.”

Drayton Cemetery, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County

Mitchelville was the first town built for newly freedmen and women in 1862 after Hilton Head fell to Union troops in 1861. The town was named for Union general, Ormsby Mitchel, who set up this town with roads, churches, and homes.

Drayton Cemetery is another Gullah Cemetery connects directly to those original freed men and women, as it is believed this cemetery started before the start of the Civil War.

It features several markers of members of the United States Colored Infantry.

It is cared for by the congregation at St. James Baptist Church.

Based on her age, Louisa Small experienced slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the retaliation against Reconstruction.
An interesting funeral wreath

Braddock’s Point Cemetery, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County

Flanked by condos and one of the many golf courses on Hilton Island is an historic cemetery called Braddock’s Point Cemetery. While the earliest death date on a marker is during the Civil War, it is believed this also served as a burial ground for the people held in bondage at the nearby Braddock Point Plantation.

One of the burial practices with the Gullah Geechee people is to bury their loved ones with personal items. Sometimes it is the last dish they used, or another object of importance. Braddock’s Point Cemetery illustrates older and more modern interpretations of this practice.

My assumption is that there was a plate in this grave marker that was lost over time.
This marker is one that I’ve seen repeated in several coastal cemeteries.
One of the few markers with a corresponding footstone.
A more modern take of using plates and seashells

Noah’s Ark Baptist Church, Georgia

Keysville, Burke County

Noah’s Ark Baptist Church was organized in 1864 in Burke County, Georgia. It was one of the founding churches for newly freedmen and women in Burke County. Starting under a brush arbor, the congregation moved into a tenant located near where their current church building stands.

Noah Smith donated land to build the first church. after the first two buildings were destroyed by wind and fire, They moved to their following location, where two more buildings were built. The building above was built in 1883 at a cost of $1900. It was in use until 2006. The congregation is now active at a new sanctuary.

This is a common headstone seen in Black church cemeteries throughout Burke and Jefferson counties.
An interesting marker in the cemetery.
An outside view of one of the windows
A view through a broken window shows the state of the church with more than a decade of being unused.

Reid’s Chapel Baptist Church and Cemetery, Georgia

Willard, Putnam County

I am unable to locate much information on the church. The cemetery is active with burials as recent as 2021. The names on most of the headstones were some version of Clements, Clemons, and Clemmons. Several of the headstones had impressions on the back of the headstones.

Fairfield AME Church, Georgia

Jackson, Butts County

Founded in 1868, the Fairfield AME Church sits on the outskirts of Jackson, Georgia in Butts County.

Willie Compton, 1896-1971-This is one of the newer vernacular markers I’ve photographed.
Lue Berry, 1861-1915

Folk Art Headstone, Georgia

Roswell, Fulton County

This headstone is in the Historic Roswell Cemetery. There is no name to be located. I suspect it was on the part that is now missing at top. Below is the backside that looks like six panels are missing. It’s in a section where the markers are from 1900 to 1930.

McCullough Covenant Baptist Church, Georgia

Burke County

McCullough Covenant Baptist Church was founded May 14, 1876 (the second Sunday in May) when Adam and Henrietta McCullough, a freed husband and wife, donated land to start the church on the spot they considered the most beautiful on their land. Many parishioners came from Pine Hill Baptist Church (still an active congregation).

Mr. McCullough owned at least 900 acres of land by the time he passed. From what I can pull together via records, he and his first wife, Henrietta, were born in the 1820s. From later census records, the McCulloughs had at least four children (Delilah, Jonah, Mahala, and Cornelious).

Based on their ages, I believe that they were all born into slavery. I am unable to confirm, but I believe they were likely enslaved by Calvin McCullough, a planter from Burke County. According to the 1860 Slave Census, Calvin McCullough enslaved 36 people. There are no other McCulloughs in Burke County in the 1860 slave census. Ages and sex match up closely with the ages and sexes of the McCullough family.

According to information shared on findagrave, the family also has ties to Gray’s Grove Baptist Church.

Adam McCullough (1824-1909)
Adam’s first wife, Henrietta (1824-1896)
Henrietta and Adam’s son Cornelious (1850-1900)
Jessie Bell McCullough (1921-1970)
Square R. Heney (1872-1918)

New Springfield Baptist Church, Georgia

Alexander, Burke County

My friend and I had decided we wanted to drive around Burke County taking photos. When I realized that Ahmaud Arbery was buried in Burke, we put it at the top of our list to document. It was a surprise to see this church where a paved road transitions to a dirt road to have a sign honoring Betty White. It shows how she touched many people with her spirit of caring and sense of justice for all.

Some of Ahmaud’s descendants are from Burke County, so it’s not a surprise that this is his final resting place. It’s clear that people are tending to his grave regularly despite its relative remoteness.

Additionally, this cemetery also highlights two grave markers I’ve seen repeated in rural Black cemeteries. One is a marker with the applique cherubs, and the other is the boxy concrete headstone. I’ve seen both types in several cemeteries in Georgia.

Walker Grove Baptist Church, Georgia

Keysville, Burke County, Georgia
Louise Randell (1872-1930) This was likely made by the same marker company who made the Alex Steadman marker at Smith Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
I believe the same person who made the Annie McCloud ledger in Smith Grove Missionary Baptist Church also made this one.

Bright Star Cemetery, Georgia

Harris County

Located on a hunting plantation in Harris County, the Bright Star Cemetery is an important cemetery but holds a cautionary tale. Also known as the Thornhill-Williams Cemetery, it is the final resting place of Nelson and Mary Story Thornhill and several generations of their family.

They were born into slavery on the Sweet Home Plantation, a historic plantation owned by Joseph and Laney Story. According to the 1860 Slave Census, the Story family enslaved 45 people.

Augustus Crawford Thornhill, 1863-1947, was Nelson and Mary’s son.

Many of the Thornhill descendants still live in Georgia and still visit the cemetery frequently, according to the man I met while visiting the cemetery. He owns the surrounding hunting plantation. The county recently determined that a road leading to the cemetery would remain open.

Minnie Eubanks Thornhill, 1857-1931

Unfortunately, at some point, someone decided to spray paint the headstones to make them easier to read. This is not the method to use to read headstones. On many of these headstones, it was still hard to read the names on the markers. The spray paint will cause further damage as the years pass.

Ellis Nelson, 1892-1922
Idus Thornhill, 1881-1951
Memento left on a grave

Pleasant Hill AME Church, North Carolina

Cowee, Macon County, Georgia

Located in Cowee, or Too Cowee, North Carolina, Pleasant Hill AME Church was started in 1874. Prior to the Civil War, Cowee was home to a significant population of freedmen and women and enslaved people. After the Civil War, Cowee had the most significant population of Black families in this part of Western North Carolina. This church building was built in 1929 and restored in 2009. While the church is no longer active, the cemetery is still used. This church is part of the Cowee Historic District for Macon County, North Carolina.