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Thursday, March 11, 2010

OLD POOSEY RIDGE FOLK CEMETERY

THE WROUGHT IRON VICTORIAN FENCE I NOTICED BEHIND THE POOSEY RIDGE COMMUNITY CHURCH -- IT SURROUNDS A FAMILY BURIAL PLOT

I needed to turn around and go back down the other way on a rural road that I was driving on. I spotted a nice turn around church parking lot and pulled up the hill and swung around to go back down and out -- heading back the way I'd just been. But, as I reached the top of the hill and glanced behind the church toward a small stand of trees I noticed some lovely Victorian fencing. I stopped. I got out. And, I walked over to take a closer look. I was now looking at a small folk cemetery that I quickly assessed as mid to late 1800s.

I had recently read a non-fiction book titled, Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves, by China Galland. The book had certainly piqued my interest in folk cemeteries. It is a remarkable story of unearthing the folk stories of the families that were buried in Love Cemetery.


TOMBSTONE OF E & F FERRELL, DIED 1868, POOSEY RIDGE COMMUNITY CHURCH CEMETERY, KENTUCKY

But this post is not about Love Cemetery, it is about Poosey Ridge Cemetery located behind Poosey Ridge Community Church in Madison County, Kentucky. The name, "Poosey" was the name of the Native American tribe that lived in the area at the time of pioneer settlement. Today, the Poosey area is rural with a small population. Not an incorporated town but a "place."

In the photo above one can see the scarring of one the Poosey tombstones (markers) after years of rain reacting with its limestone causing an acidic reaction.
Limestone was a local material of the area and readily accessible

SCATTERED TOMBSTONES IN THE POOSEY RIDGE CEMETERY

It is difficult to pick out the tombstones in the woods above. There were about eight that I could spot. These eight were located outside the Victorian fenced family plot (see photo at the top).

Terry Jordan and D. Gregory Jeane have written well researched papers and books on folk cemeteries. Also Southern Graves website provides information.


THE ONE AND ONLY FANCY TOMBSTONE IN THE CEMETERY -- IT IS LOCATED IN THE FAMILY PLOT

Southern folk cemeteries have certain traits. I have gathered the following from the writers I have mentioned in this post; 1) grave tombstones of a "make do" quality, 2) pine and cedar are sometimes found on site planted by the caretakers of the cemeteries, 3) contains a family plot/s that is surrounded by curbing, shells or fencing, 4) lacks creative ornamentation, 5) small size, 6) rural area, 7) tombstones face east, 8) wife buried on the left, husband on the right. A folk cemetery does not have to meet all these criteria, just a few will do.

"MAKE DO," ROCK GRAVE MARKERS AT POOSEY RIDGE ARE AN EXAMPLE OF A FOLK CEMETERY TRAIT

Poosey Ridge has five traits to verify that it is indeed a folk cemetery. they are; 1) has, "make do," markers 2) has a family plot, 3) small size, 4) rural, 5) lack of creative ornamentation.

To sum up what folk cemeteries supply to our understanding of our culture, I will quote from D. Gregory Jeane ----

. . . cemeteries are a good place to accumulate information that can provide insight into a community's social and economic structure, its religious tenants, and its ethnic composition.

Also, from a gravestone restorer ----

Graveyards contain within them priceless historical information. They are in essence open air museums. Gravestones are often the only thing remaining in its original location from previous generations . . . please treat them with the respect they are due. ~~ Jonathan Appell, gravestone restorer

And finally, a quiet walk through a cemetery can be meditative and reflective.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting post Barbara, particularly the five traits that indicate the cemetery is a folk cemetery. A few years ago I purchased a book titled "Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial" by Mark Harris. I purchased the book because I'm not only interested in a natural burial, but also would like to create a family cemetery here on the farm. Apparently West Virginia, being the rural state it is, has few restrictions on this and I was unable to find any local restrictions besides a few best management practices. This post has reminded me that I need to do a bit more research and start planning now so I'll have peace of mind that everything is in order.

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  2. By the way Thomas, I used to live in Williamston, West Virginia when I was young -- about 40 years ago. It was and probably still is a beautiful state. I remember all the covered bridges in the countryside. I hope they have been maintained! Thanks for the book mention -- I will look for it at my library. I have heard about a natural burial movement, perhaps this book will help me understand it better. I have seen many family cemeteries on rural land here in Kentucky. Thanks for the nice comment.-- barbara

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  3. Thank you for this look at cemetery tradition in another part of the country.

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  4. barefootheart -- Cemeteries can be fascinating places if one looks at the artifacts that tell stories -- thanks for the comment -- barbara

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