folk art

Another grave marker artist, this one anonymous.

I have repeatedly gushed my admiration for the artistry of gravestone cutter Clarence B. Best. In William Chapel church cemetery, I noticed two headstones bearing the distinctive work of another artist, this one unknown. He worked in concrete, incising narrow, upright letters with oversized serifs into the face of each marker. These markers, created during the decade after World War II, also feature highly stylized floral designs.

William Wells July 30_1886 Oct. 25_1946 Gone But Not Forgotten

Walter Farr April 2_1888 Aug. 13_1955

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, April 2022.

Anchor-and-Ivy Style.

I’ve written about the artistry of Clarence Best‘s distinctive grave markers and the markers I’ve dubbed Concrete Stipple Style. Another common school of gravestones found in Black Wilson County cemeteries is one I’ll call Anchor-and-Ivy. The basic form: a concrete monolith with rounded top; a panel featuring an anchor and ivy vine; deeply stamped letters in a strongly serifed, all-caps font similar to Century Schoolbook; tight line spacing; and irregular indentation. They also often display lengthy, if formulaic, epitaphs. 

The headstones below are found across Wilson County, though I’ve seen the style as far afield as southern Wayne County. Were they the work of a single artist or workshop? 

Renda wife of James Green. Died June 2, 1908, Age 47 Yrs. Gone to a brighter home where death cannot come.

W.S. Ward. Born Apr. 12, 1901. Died Jan. 12, 1929. Another link is broken in our household bank, but a  chain is forming in a better land.

John H. Jones. Born July 4, 1851. Died June 10, 1928.  

Rufus, son of James and Amelia Artis. Born July 16,1900. Died April 24, 1916. We Can Safely Leave Our Darling Harboring In Thy Trust.

Tempsey, wife of Rufus Speight. Died July 15, 1917. Age 75 years. Gone To A Brighter Home Where Grief Cannot Come.