Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Headstone & Footstone

Headstone & Footstone
Originally uploaded by midgefrazel
Tombstone Tuesday 18 Aug 2009

This is a view of Nathan and Barbary (Palmer) STEWARD, one set of my fourth great grandparents who are buried in the Great Plain Cemetery (#57) in North Stonington, CT.

Normally, we take photos of the headstones and only take photos of the footstones if the headstone is unreadable or missing.

I felt that I should turn away from the gravestone that I was photographing, to look at the stones from this angle. I am glad I did because it made me think about all of the things I have learned about gravestones since I started photographing graves.

Many ancient cemeteries in New England have lost this classic arrangement of headstones and footstones due to the footstones being broken when the grass is mowed. Sometimes, the footstone sinks into the ground, as it is usually smaller.

All too often the person mowing the grass has removed the footstones to make the job of mowing easier. Remember, the body of the person is between the headstone and footstone! As a child, I was told I should not walk on the dead. Were you told this?

Yes, this is supposed to look like a bed for sleeping. It was the intention for us to think our loved ones are sleeping until the day of reckoning when the souls of the dead are called to heaven.

As this idea changed with the time period, people stopped paying for the footstones to be placed and the name or initials of the dead put on them. Sometimes, the carving on the footstones is all I have had to be able to match a name to a list of people who are buried in the cemetery.

As I am working up ideas for a presentation on learning about graveyards, I have been thinking about all the things that people might not know about New England graveyards.

If you didn't know about this, could you please leave a comment. Should this photo be part of my presentation?


Ambar said...

No, this was news to me! --

DianaR said...

I didn't know that - and it's very interesting. I definitely think you should include the photo.

JamaGenie said...

Yes, include the photo! btw, I was told not to walk on graves, too, but in many cemeteries it's hard to tell which side of the stone the grave is on. Hence, I've probably walked on hundreds by now, but like to think the Dearly Departed appreciate the "company", however brief!

David said...

I was unaware of this practice until seeing it at a grave dating to 1810 at a pioneer cemetery in Ohio last week. Your comments were interesting and informative, and I believe that you certainly should retain the photos.

York County Insider said...

didn't know this, appreciate the info!

Anonymous said...

I just read that in the UK felons were the only ones that had footstones at one time.

Noelle Tabor said...

I really appreciate the information! I just started my own blog to help document family cemeteries in my area in TN. I decided today that part of that process needs to be understanding the anatomy of a grave.


Anonymous said...

Actually your thought that "our loved ones are sleeping until the day of reckoning when the souls of the dead are called to heaven" is some kind of variation of the Bible's teaching found in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15. There it is taught that believers in Christ will one day be raised from the dead like Christ was to "be like Christ...and our earthly bodies will be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die."