A couple of weeks ago in the post about outdoor concrete baptistries, “Washed in the Water,” I mentioned that another interesting concrete phenomenon I’ve noticed primarily in African American cemeteries are concrete grave markers. Some are very clearly shaped by hand, while many others seem to have been produced at least in small quantities. But even those identical markers seem to be confined to a single cemetery, or at least I haven’t noticed markers that are identical in more than one cemetery.
Since I started that post with the concrete baptistry at the Bleak House Baptist Church in Wilkinson County, I’ll start this series of posts with the interesting concrete markers from that cemetery. There’s an interesting variety here–several different matching designs, including a flat obelisk in both tall and short editions, an angel motif on an arched-top marker, and a marker dating to 2005, indicating that this tradition has survived into the present or at least until very recently. Maybe that means someone in Wilkinson County can tell us the story of these markers and who created them? As you can see in the background of these pictures and on the Google map below, there’s also a strong tradition here of concrete vault tops that cover the graves, sometimes just outlined with curbs, but often covered with a concrete slab or curved top.
Categories: African American History, Cemeteries, Woodville
Always loved cemeteries and headstones–hope someone responds to the questions.
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I have located a number of concrete headstones (similar within cemeteries) as well as common across cemeteries. Seems like an interesting research project.
So much better than a rock. Rocks get rolled away during mowing sessions, and then the grave becomes unmarked. It is NOT unusual for someone digging a new grave to discover that spot was “already taken.” Back in the 1960s, men in the community would dig the grave, and my “city born” dad was asked to help. Imagine his shock when he dug up a skull, with long hair still attached! He never offered to help again.
Concrete grave markers were really pretty common back in the day particularly in the early to mid-20th century. Often the markers were “homemade” or made by the family or someone they knew particularly in the early to mid-20th century. My dad made one for my sister who died not long after birth. And my great-grandfather’s grave in Carolina Cemetery in Prentiss County, Mississippi has a concrete marker.