GRAVESTONE SYMBOLS

by Vernon B. Paddock

On a number of the marble gravestones in the Fort Hill Cemetery are engraved symbols.  There is a good variety of these engravings throughout the cemetery.  The question is: “What do they mean or symbolize?”  I did some research and even though there is no exact answer to each one, my findings have come to the general idea of what each one represents.

 

ACORNS AND OAK LEAVES

Acorns represent that the individual lived a long life or symbolizes strength, honor, endurance and solid development.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Acorn - John Cooper.jpg

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Cooper, John and Eliza 2020-06-11 final clean DSCN6448.JPGJohn Cooper (1800-1860)

 

AMERICAN FLAG

An American flag symbolizes the deceased was a military veteran and died in battle.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Flag - Arthur Whitney.JPG

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Whitney, Arthur 2020-05-09 final clean DSCN5966.JPGLieutenant Arthur Whitney (1840-1863)

 

BOOK

A book may symbolize a book of life.  It can also represent the death of a young person whose story of life was not fully written or scriptures, as a sign of faith.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Book - Austin Briggs.jpgAustin Briggs (1786-1862)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Book - Lemuel Davis.jpgLemuel Clark Davis (1822-1915)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Book - Robert Carroll.jpgRobert A. Carroll (1816-1854)

 

DOVE

A flying dove may represent the Holy Spirit.  The symbolism of a dove with an olive branch in its mouth may represent divine peace or hope.  An ascending dove may represent the soul rising to heaven.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Dove - Hettie Lindsey.JPGHettie L. Lindsey (1856-1859)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Dove - Jennie White.JPGJennie M. White (1860-1861)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Dove - Louisa Whitney.JPGLouisa Whitney (1846-1857)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Dove w Olive Brank - Marie Freeman.jpgMarie Antoinette (Marble) Freeman (1828-1854)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Flying bird - Virginia Wright.JPGVirginia M. Wright (1855-1860)

 

FINGER POINTING UPWARD

The symbol of a finger pointing upward may represent the soul of the departed has risen and for the loved ones to look up to heaven.  It may also represent the relationship the deceased had with others and with God.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Finger up - Frank Wright.JPGFrank S. Wright (1852-1859)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Finger up - Martha Whitney.JPGMartha E. Whitney (1842-1860)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Finger up - Thomas Crosby.jpgThomas Baker Crosby (1793-1872)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Finger up Gone Home - Horatio White.JPGHoratio N. White – “Gone Home” (1827-1862)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Finger up Gone Home - Lena Race.JPGLena C. Race – “Gone Home” (1867-1873)

 

FLOWERS OR PLANT BUDS

Flowers may represent a full bloom of life when the individual became deceased.  A plant bud may represent that life was not in full bloom often appearing on the gravestones of children.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Flower - Lettie Willson.JPGLettie Willson (1866-1868)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Hand holding flower - Jane Wilson.JPGJane Wilson (1840-1891)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Leaves - Eddie Lindsey.JPGEddie H. Lindsey (1857-1858)

 

HANDSHAKE

A handshake may mean a final farewell to an earthly existence or an eternal bond between the living and the dead.  It may also indicate God is reaching out for the deceased or a welcome to the heavenly world.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Handshake - Jared Crosby.jpgJared M. Crosby (1822-1863)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Handshake - John Sayles.JPGJohn Sayles (1815-1879)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Handshake - Subrina Goodale.jpgSubrina (Washburn) Goodale (1786-1851)

 

LAMB

A lamb represents innocence and purity and is common on children’s gravestones.  The lamb is a symbol of Christ.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Lamb - Charles and Russel Thrall.jpegCharles and Russel Thrall (1848-1848)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Lamb - William Burgess.jpgWilliam Burgess (1849-1849)

 

LILY

Lillies symbolize innocence, purity and chastity.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Tulip - Alice Combs.jpgAlice B. Combs (1871-1873)

 

MILITARY SHIELD

The military shield was used to mark the graves of Civil War Union soldiers and Spanish-American War dead.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Shield - James McMillen.JPGJames H. McMillen (1839-1895)

 

OLIVE BRANCH

An olive branch may symbolize peace in that the soul has departed in the peace of God.  An olive tree may represent longevity, fertility, maturity, fruitfulness and prosperity.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Olive Branch - Isaac and Mercy Kingman.JPGIsaac Kingman (1776-1867)
Mercy E. (Bigelow) Kingman (1772-1867)

 

POPPY

The poppy flower is associated with sleep and death.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Flower - Infant Son Paddock.jpgInfant Son Paddock (?-1904)

 

WEEPING WILLOW TREE

A weeping willow represents sorrow or mourning.  It symbolizes the drooping spirits and hearts by those that have lost a loved one of the family.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree - Ann Cooper.jpgAnn Cooper (?-1850)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree - Asel Granger.jpgAsel C. Granger (1828-1872)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree - Delia Owen.JPGDelia Hanna (Caswell) Edwards Owen (1813-1887)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree - Hiram Briggs.jpgHiram Briggs (1814-1855)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree - Infant Son Morse.JPGInfant Son Morse (1851-1851)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree w Dove - William Devoe.jpgWilliam Devoe (1829-1856)
(with dove and olive branch)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree w monuments - Elizabeth (Crosby) Marble.JPGElizabeth L. (Crosby) Marble (1828-1855)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree w Vase - George Case.jpgGeorge W. Case (1793-1853)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Tree w vase - Warren Scovill.JPGWarren Scovill (1798-1844)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Trees 2 w Vase - Clarissa Davis.jpgClarissa “Clara” (Denney) Davis (1795-1856)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Willow Trees 2 w Vase - Lemuel Davis.jpgLemuel Davis (1789-1856)

There are a few symbols that I have not been able to distinguish the meaning.

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Leaves - Jeremia Fuller.jpgJeremiah P. M. Fuller (1837-1860)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Leaves - Mary Goodale.jpgMary Goodale (1818-1855)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Leaves - Merritt Booth.jpgMerritt C. Booth (1858-1858)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Leaves and arrows - William and Nancy Paddock.JPGWilliam Robert “Robert” Paddock (1827-1904)
Nancy S. (Stickney) Paddock (1834-1911)

C:\Users\Vern\Pictures\Historical\Fort Hill Cemetery\COMBINED FORT HILL PHOTOS\Fort Hill gravestone symbols\Shield - John Cooper.jpgJohn Cooper (1800-1860)


References:

  • BillionGraves website. Understanding Cemetery Symbols, Part I: https://blog.billiongraves.com/understanding-the-cemetery-symbols-on-your-ancestors-gravestones/
  • BillionGraves website. Understanding Cemetery Symbols, Part 2: https://blog.billiongraves.com/understanding-cemetery-symbols-part-ii/
  • Stqry website. Symbols on headstones, and their meanings: https://discover.stqry.com/v/symbols-on-headstones,-and-their-meanings/s/11754a94-ed4e-4862-86f6-303c44847d3b
  • ThoughtCo. website. Photo Gallery of Cemetery Symbols and Icons: https://www.thoughtco.com/photo-gallery-of-cemetery-symbolism-4123061
  • stoneletters. Flower symbols and meanings on gravestones: https://stoneletters.com/blog/flower-symbols-and-meanings-on-gravestones#