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How Graves were marked

Photo of Williams Cemetery
Showing beautiful example of an old time plot
with head and foot stones.

Head Stones, Foot Stones, Corner markers etc. What were they and how were they used?

Today we often see examples of some of the old time plot markers. Particularly visible are the huge old obelisk markers that tower into the sky marking the graves of the loved ones of a family. Often times, in fact, more than one generation. It is very common to find a head stone or two plus a corner stone. Now and then you find an individual foot stone. BUT, it is very, very seldom that we find one in tact to look the way that they would have looked. We of course need to remember that not all had all types of stones. And many have been removed to allow the process of mowing the grass to become easier.

One of the very "Pretty" plots that we have found is in the photo above. Note the huge old stone giving the main source of information on the burials there. Then, down below and in front of it note the 4 matching head stones. They are flat "slate gray" stones very low to the ground. The purpose of these is to show who has been placed in that particular plot in the ground. You can tell from the huge stone that Catherine was interred here for example. On most of these huge old stones, you can tell the birth date, and very likely even the full name and, of course, date of death. Then, the gray slate head stones will tell you exactly where she is in the plot. This tells the family where she is and just as important tells the grave digger where she is.

But, which side of the head stone is she on? That is the function of the foot stone. Using the foot stone for reference, you then know the exact position of the casket under ground.

Add to that four corner stones and you have what would be a complete set of stones for the plot. The corner stones of course mark the borders of the plot itself.

As mentioned it is VERY unusual to see these today. Indeed seeing one like the photo above is quite unusual, but to see corner stones as well is just about impossible. Just because too many stones have been removed to allow for easier mowing of grass and plot upkeep.

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