11 October 2011

Tuesday Tombstones

Tombstones can tell an amazing story. Not just of the person remembered there, but of the family or friends that left the marker, of the community and of the social status of the area as a whole. See below for a variety of examples and a short description. Not all of these people are family members, but some are!  Most of the photos' are from the Valley Brook Cemetery in Breckenridge, Summit County, Colorado.
**All photos copyright of the author.**

Warren Lawrence Brown. This example is for a relatively common military style headstone.

Oscar F. Brown. Headstone was placed well after he passed away by descendants.  Although he served in the United States military and it is recognized on the stone, it is not a traditional military marker.

Good example of a family marker - shared by a couple, and these at times will include children, especially if they die young. These stones are also quite expensive, so it indicates that the family was in fairly good financial standing at the time of death, or the couple paid for it themselves prior to death.

Common scene at a United States cemetery. Although they are now intended to be places of peace and quiet respect, cemeteries were once at the heart of the social activities for communities, and included bandstands, picnic areas, and designated "parks" or wilderness walks. 

Headstone and Toe Stone: generally the toe stone only includes initials or abbreviated names and runs the length of the  grave.

The lamb is very common on children's graves; this example only having lived from April to July.

A truly wonderful example of a wooden tombstone, which is still readable. Most now have deteriorated well past the point of being able to gain any information.

Some cemeteries are known for a certain style that remained popular through the years. This example show's a family plot in the Valley Brook Cemetery of Breckenridge, Colorado that is gated. The gates were ornate and are seen throughout the cemetery, even backed up to one another. 

Another example of the use of gates in Breckenridge... this one is around a single grave.

Headstones can of course be very ornate, or incredibly simple.

This marker, including the cross, is well over 8 feet tall. 

Unfortunately, remains are not always identified. The original cemetery was abandoned, and the remains moved into a mass grave site.

A unreadable wooden marker with a newer stone marker added to the site. 

This is a marker from the mortuary, and is intended to be temporary while the headstone is being made. There are of course instances where this is the only marker left, or it is not removed when the headstone is put in, leaving two markers side by side of the same person. 


Many headstones reflect the personality of the individual, or tell a unique story. After ten years, this is the only marker I have ever found that is made to look like a Forest Service or BLM geographical marker. See plaque below. 

Not only does this indicate a double grave, it is a bench, which is commonly used by family members to indicate the deceased is at rest, or used when they expect to spend a lot of time next to the grave. 

Unique regions come with unique markers... in the mountains, you see a lot of boulders, stones, or large rocks used as headstones (above and below). Near the ocean, people may have them shaped into shells, or surfboards. 

Another wooden marker, unreadable. This is an odd shape, and probably indicated a family plot, not an actual person. It is too narrow to engrave anything on.


A wooden cross that is being lost. It has sunk into the ground as far as the cross bar will allow.

Another bench example, however, this one tells a much more detailed story, including four different people in the immediate area of the bench. How did the end up here, and how were they connected? It answers those questions. It also tells us that someone, a man with whom one lady had a relationship, was buried near by, but far enough away to not give anything away to those they left behind. 

A family plot, with the boundaries marked.

Photo headstone, which were very popular in the 1970's, 80's and 90's and continue on today.

A common military marker. This happens to be a son back to back with his father, both having served.

Describing the deceased in some detail, indicating their preferred lifestyle, or the thing that was most important. 

A T.O.T.E. marker, for an individual belonging to a fraternal organization. This style is common for the Masons, Rebekah's, I.O.O.F., Eagles, etc. 

The unknown. Typically simple, metal plaques left to mark the grave itself, not necessarily remember the individual.