Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Meant to Last

Stone Types
Originally uploaded by midgefrazel
As you can see by clicking on this collage of commonly found gravestones from a presentation by Fred Burdick of Stonington, CT, there are 6 clearly identified types of gravestones found in many graveyards or cemeteries.

What is not listed here are wooden grave markers and metal markers. Needless to say, no wooden grave markers last long enough to have photos taken of them but that doesn't mean they weren't used in America. It is commonly accepted that the graves of the Pilgrim Forefathers were marked with wooden markers or maybe fieldstones. There are probably still wooden markers in some places in America and there are whole cemeteries were there are no markers at all. (Quaker burying places, as an example.) Remember, religion plays a part in the burial customs of the time period.

From various books and Web sites it can be roughly estimated:

Fieldstones: before 1650s into the 1700s
Sandstone (brown or red): 1660s-1850s
Slate: 1600s -1730s (sometimes in to the 1850s)
Schist: 1730s-1780s
Marble: 1800s (1830s-1880s)
Metal: mid 1870s-1912
Granite: 1900s to present day

From the three basic rock groups, we know that rocks on this planet are igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic and except for metal stones (which are cast zinc), gravestones fall into two of these three groups.

Sandstone and brown stone are sedimentary, Schist, slate and marble are metamorphic.

I am amazed at the gravestones made of red or brown sandstone as most are deteriorating rapidly but some look positively untouched. Slate stones are my favorite because they are so "New England" and have the wonderful scary symbols on them. Granite stones can be very hard to photograph. I find it hard to identify graves that are marble and not white and I don't have many schist gravestone in my collection.

Gravestones are supposed to last forever. I think that was the intent. But, why some do and others don't is not clearly definable.


Julie said...

This is great information. Thanks for sharing!

Linda in Lancaster said...

I find this very interesting, and appreciate the time frame you've given us. Even if the older ones are still good, they can't last with the vandals that seem to think graveyards are recreation grounds recently. I've seen some beautiful old headstones smashed and ruined beyond repair. It saddens me.