Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cemeteries: A Grave Decision

In an earlier Blog, I touched on a trip that we made to North Carolina and some of the cemeteries we visited.  I wanted to do some more research on each of these places and have found some very interesting history and stories.  It made me think about what will happen when I pass.  Have you thought about where your final resting place will be?  Will you be buried in a family plot, in a different place from other family members, in a national cemetery, cremated?  What are your preferences when it comes to picking that final destination?  It's not something we like to think about, but necessary, none the less.  

Have you visited many cemeteries?  They can seem very eery, scary and dark places.  But they can also be fascinating.  There are many names for the places where we will be interred.  Cemetery, graveyard, churchyard, burial ground, boneyard, God's acre, final resting place, to mention just a few.

You have probably been at a cemetery, or two, during a funeral for a friend or loved one.  They come in all shapes and sizes and the grave markers are as different as the people they represent.  Some resting places are right next to the church's the people belonged to, some are on the land where they lived, and some are just on land somewhere in the city.

During my genealogy research, I have walked many graveyards looking for deceased ancestors.  Some large, some small, some very old, some more modern.  Some I couldn't even find.  All of them, however, leave me with a sense of sadness and on the other hand, curiosity.  I want to know more about the lives of these people. 

Photo by Ed Starling of Abbott's Creek Cemetery.  As
seen on Find A Grave website.  (4)
Some of my family members are buried at Abbott's Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Davidson County, North Carolina.  This cemetery has some very old gravestones and some very unique ones.    There are some 450 stones and the oldest one that can be read, dates back to 1795.  The ones that can't be read could date back further, since the church was started in 1756.  There are many ornate ones that were crafted by local German stonecutters.  A description in a form for the North Carolina National Register of Historic Places states, that it is "the largest collection of locally-made gravestones in Davidson County...  67 being the 'Pierced Style' attributed to the Swisegood School and it followers...The 'Pierced' group have death dates from 1802 to the 1850s."(1)

Entrance to Abbott's Creek Cemetery

Swisegood School, according to a website on Davidson County history says that it, "is believed that the makers of many of these stones were a group of early Davidson County cabinet-makers known as the Swisegood School from the Browntown/Abbotts Creek area of the county. No pierced grave markers are known to exist outside of Davidson County. According to the State Historic Preservation Office, these highly sculptured gravestones carved in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century by descendants of German settlers are not only historically and culturally important in NC, but also represent a nationally significant collection of folk sculpture."(2)
Photo by Keith Osborn as found on
Find A Grave (3)

On a sign located near the Abbott’s Creek cemetery, given by the Daughters of the American Colonists, it says: “This 1756 church contains unique and artistic North Carolina soft soapstone & pierced tombstones carved by Anglo-German cabinet and furniture makers, many attributed to the  Swicegood  School, using the same tools as used in furniture.  They made coffins and tombstones to supplement their furniture making income and decorated all with beautiful German symbols such as the fylfot cross meaning eternity.  These tombstones are unique to Davidson County and believed to be found nowhere else in America.”  

Above are some of the unique soapstone grave markers in the Abbott's Creek cemetery.  Check out the cutouts.  They are so cool and vary in some way.  You just don't see craftsmanship like this anymore. These are, by far, the most intricate of any of the rest of the family members I found in other locations.  

Unfortunately, many of headstones are very hard, if not impossible, to read.  I wish there was a group somewhere around that area that could take on, as a project, to help preserve them.  Click here to see an example of some successful preservation projects on Texas cemeteries, that did just that at some of their local cemeteries.  Do you have any one-of-a-kind tombstone pictures from your family members? I would love to see them.  
(3) Photo by Keith Osborne as found on Find A Grave website
(4) Photo by Ed Starling as found on Find A Grave website