Tag Archives: vernacular headstones

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.

Memorial Cemetery-Jacksonville, Florida

Established by a Leo Benedict, a local businessman, in 1909, Memorial Cemetery is one of several Black cemeteries on Moncrief Road in Jacksonville, Florida. By 1911, the cemetery was run by the Memorial Cemetery Association.

Vernacular marker

The association utilized the Afro-American Life Insurance Company to manage the day to day operations of the cemetery. Abraham Lincoln Lewis served as the president of the company. When it disbanded, the Lewis family continued to manage the cemetery. They managed it until the 1980s when the family turned to a non-profit to run the cemetery. It disbanded and now the city of Jacksonville runs it.

Alice Anderson, 1876-1930, G. U. O. Of O. F. is the abbreviation for Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Alice was a Most Worthy Grand Superior for the Household of Ruth.
Back of Alice Anderson’s marker

Mt. Zion Baptist Church-LaGrange, Georgia

The congregation was founded in 1868 by freedmen and women of Troup County, Georgia. Initially, they met under a bush arbor. The church was built in 1906. An active church, baptisms were held in the nearby creek until recently, according to this article in the LaGrange Daily News.

I believe the wooden structure is a school since the history of the church states their first church building was built at the turn of the century. It also resembles the many one room schoolhouses that dot Georgia’s landscape.

The cemetery contains a mixture of prefabricated and handmade markers. It also includes at least two Eldren Bailey markers.

Mother Mary Clay (1859-1941)

I believe this marker was made in the likeness of the church.

Chollie Cameron, d. 1942

There were several markers in the cemetery that a similar angel and crown motif.

Bob Florence (1869-1946)

This marker contains the addition of P, 8, and S to the crown and wings. I am uncertain what means.

This marker did not have a name, but I was intrigued that the star was on the front and back side of the marker.

Katie Ruth Crowder, d. 1963

This is one of the Eldren Bailey markers in the cemetery.

Cobb Cemetery-Macon County, Alabama

I am unable to locate any information beyond what is shared on Findagrave. This cemetery once served the Shiloh AME Church in Macon County.

I love this vernacular marker. The use of concrete and stones with the hand stamping of the angel and the star. This is the marker for George Baker who passed in 1935.

This is the marker for Julia Woodall, 1858-1933. The handwriting and the star are very similar to George Baker’s, so my assumption is that this was done by the same person.

The name had fallen off the silver nameplate that you can see at the top of the photo. I am assuming this was a flower pot used to mark a grave.

There was no visible name, but the length of the spot made me think it might be the grave of a child.

This is an Eldren Bailey marker for Clemmie Felton. The family used the services of Haugabrooks Funeral Home, which was based in Atlanta.

I am only sharing this because when I drove up the dirt road to this cemetery, I thought it was a person leaning against a tree, which scared me.

Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery-Henderson, Georgia

The Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery is on the edge of the Henderson Community in Houston County. At one point, it was known as the Henderson Community Cemetery. The cemetery features some interesting markers and burial styles.

There were about a dozen plots utilizing the West African burial tradition of mounding. Based on the surrounding burials, I do not believe these were newer burials.
Mishom (?) Butts was buried with an Eldren Bailey marker.
Geppetto Montgomery, a concrete marker painted silver
There are no names on the ledger stones or the handmade marker.
Concrete marker painted with latex paint
This professionally made marker highlights that burials started during the Victorian years, and the age of the 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.