Slide 1: My Journey
This is one of the first graves I can remember photographing. It was taken in 1977 and it would be more than 20 years before my travel plans intentionally included cemetery walks. My journey began in 1999 when I became interested in my family history. My research included visiting cemeteries to document the burial of my ancestors and somewhere along the way I began to notice the landscapes, beautifully carved headstones and epitaphs on many of the stones. I’ll be sharing some of the things I've found or look for on my walks.
Slide 2: Preservation
I've noticed that time, elements and vandalism are taking a toll on many cemeteries and stones. In 2004 I began to photograph for preservation purposes. If it is a large cemetery I locate the older section and photograph those stones first or as many as I can. This headstone in the Sylvia Cemetery is a reminder of why I choose to do this. The photos were taken 3 years apart and the image no longer exists on the stone.
Slide 3: Art
There are some incredible pieces of art that mark the resting place of people. I've seen some that take my breath away and others that make my heart sad. Beautifully carved stones with lifelike features and details. One of my future projects will be to research stone carvers. In this region I haven’t seen many headstones with the signature of the stone carver so I may find it to be a challenging project. There are a limited number that use skill, hands & tools to create these works today.
Slide 4: Headstone from Sears
Monument companies were not always the only place to purchase a headstone. For many decades you could order one from a Sears and Montgomery Ward catalog. Grave guards and arches first appeared in the 1897 Sears Fall catalog and Sears issued a special tombstone catalog annually from 1902 until 1949. Montgomery Ward began issuing their own in 1920. This stone is located in Rice County.
Slide 5: Death Heads & Soul Effigies
An interesting find in cemeteries I've visited on the east coast and southern states are headstones with death or winged heads and soul effigies. A symbol for death, danger or the dead, as well as piracy, a death head usually consists of a skull with or without two long crossed bones. The winged heads are not as sinister looking and symbolic of the soul freed and taken into the afterlife.