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Karen Lowery


Familial Ties as Seen Through Gravestone Design

Good afternoon, my name is Karen Lowery and Ill be presenting my research on the family ties
seen through gravestone design in the Middleburg United Methodist Church cemetery. Myself, a
few colleagues, and our mentor Dr. Rakita originally went down to Middleburg to locate any
possible unmarked graves using GPR and practice with the Total Station, but as we spent time
there, each of us found that we wanted to dig more deeply into this historic cemetery.

[Slide transition to Church info]

The Middleburg United Methodist Church was founded in 1823 as the Black Creek Methodist
Episcopal Church. The original chapel was built in 1847 mostly by slaves. It was placed on the
Florida Register of Historical Places in 1986 and the National Register of Historical Places in

[Slide transition to Cemetery info]

Currently there are eight sections holding 666 graves and the cemetery is bisected by a sidewalk.
The oldest graves date to the mid-1800s, and the cemetery is still in use, with the most recent

burial as of February 27th, 2012 being October 2010. Sections 1 and 5 have the highest density of
graves and are the closest to the chapel.

[Slide transition to crypt photo]

Choosing a style of headstone is a way of making a statement that continues after our death. Its
design can be anything from reflection of the person buried to a message aimed at current and
future family members.

The choice to accept or refuse to take on the predominant style of the family can show both
personal decisions and societal pressures. For example, we live in a patriarchal, patrilineal
society, so it might be expected for a woman marrying into her husbands family to take on their
gravestone style.

[Slide transition to Chalker-Prevatt graves]

On the first trip I took with my colleagues to the cemetery, I saw that there was a man from the
Prevatt family named Walter Bruce Prevatt that married Lillian Chalker, but he took on the style
of the Chalker family. This immediately sparked my interest, as I assumed a woman would take
the style of the mans family if they had a specific preference.

I had so many questions about just that couple alone. What would make him choose to take on
the style of her family? Was it his choice? Was the Chalker family more prestigious than his?

Was he not on good terms with his family? He outlived her by about 25 years, so did he just
follow her choice of style? This led to a growing curiosity into the different styles that families
had adopted for themselves, and I knew that I wanted to do more research into these style
choices. My colleagues Rissia Garcia and Genevieve Day were also coming up with their own
research questions.

When it became clear that the three of us were interested in various aspects of the cemetery, we
decided to collaborate on data collection. Using a list of graves and a detailed map provided by
Sandra Wilson, the cemetery caretaker and church historian, we created forms that would cover
the data needed for all three projects.

[Slide transition to Gravestone Features]

I used the information collected on these standardized data collection sheets to determine what
types of grave markers were used throughout the cemetery and this is a list of the features that
were recorded.

[Slide transition to Headstone Shape]

Here are some examples of the various headstone shapes.

Flat headstones make up 7% of the cemetery, Arches 18%, and Peaks 3%, with Semicircles
making up less than 1%.
[Slide transition to HS 2]

Crypts are 1% of the cemetery and Lawn level headstones are 10%.
[Slide transition to HS 3]

Scroll shaped headstones are 1% and Bevel 19%

[Slide transition to HS 4]

Wide headstones are 16% of the cemetery and Monuments are 4%, with slants making up 9%.
[Slide transition to Base]

We also recorded if the headstone had a base.

[Slide transition to Number of Names]

And whether it had multiple names on a single headstone, such as a married couple sharing a
single large headstone.

[Slide transition to Slab, Footstone, Border]

Also important was if there was something marking the actual burial plot, whether it be a slab,
border, or footstone.

[Slide transition to Cemetery Pie Chart 1]

Here is the breakdown of Headstone Shape for the entire cemetery, showing that 53% is
comprised of three headstone shapes: Arch, Bevel, and Wide.

[Slide transition to CPC 2]

And we can see here that the majority of the graves had no slab, border, or footstone.

[Slide transition to Families of Interest]

There are many families buried in the cemetery that have been very prominent in Middleburg
history. A few houses that belonged to some of the families are also in the National Register of
Historical Places; including Chalker, Frisbee, and Green.

I chose to focus on families that had 10 graves or more, which gave me this list.

[Slide transition to Barthlow]

The Barthlow family tends to favor wide headstones and 82% of their headstones have a base.
There is some preference for slabs, but the majority have no burial site covering or borders. 73%
of their headstones have a single name. The Barthlow burials range from 1926 to 2005, with an
average death year of 1969.

[Slide transition to Baxley]

The Baxley family tends to favor bevel shaped headstones. 69% headstones have no base, and no
footstone or borders, with only a few slabs. 81% of their headstones are single name. Baxley
burials started in 1922 and their most recent was in 2006, with an average death year of 1963.

[Slide transition to Chalker]

The Chalkers prefer slabs with no headstones. 80% of their graves are single name. The first
Chalker burial was in 1906, and the latest in 1995, with an average death year of 1949.

[Slide transition to Dillaberry]

The Dillaberry family is fairly diverse, though they prefer arch headstones. 79% of their
headstones have a base. There are few multiple name headstones, with 93% being single name.
Dillaberry burials range from 1876 to 1946. 1876 is the oldest burial of the families I am looking
at, and 1946 is the farthest back of the latest burials of the families. Dillaberry burials have an
average death year of 1912.

[Slide transition to Frisbee]

The Frisbees are another diverse family, and the largest with 28 graves. There is a higher amount
of slant and lawn level headstones. 68% are single name headstones. Frisbee burials started in
1902 and the latest was in 2010, which was the most recent of the families I looked at. The
Frisbee family has an average death year of 1958.

[Slide transition to Green]

The Green family is the second largest with 21 burials and is similarly diverse with two favored
styles: arch and bevel. 76% of their headstones are single name. Green burials started in 1912,
with the latest being in 1999. They have an average death year of 1959.

[Slide transition to Hatcher]

The Hatchers have many slabs and arch headstones. Though 69% of their headstones are single
name, 31% of headstones share a base; a relatively high percentage compared to other families I
have looked at. Hatcher burials range from 1941 to 2006, with an average death year of 1975.

[Slide transition to Knight]

83% of the Knight family headstones are single name. The shape of the headstone is fairly
diverse, though there is a preference for arches. Knight family burials started in 1887, with the
most recent taking place in 1996. The Knight family has an average death year of 1939.

[Slide transition to Long]

The Long family is unique in that monuments make up such a high percent of headstone shape
when they are only 4% of the entire cemetery. 82% are single name headstones and 73% have a
base. The Long family burials range from 1890 to 1958, with an average death year of 1919.

[Slide transition to Masters]

The Masters prefer wide headstones and arches, and 93% of their headstones have a base. The
first Masters burial was in 1906 and the latest in 1984. The average death year of the Masters
family is 1953.

[Slide transition to Newnham]

The Newnham family is fairly homogeneous. That might be due to having only 10 graves, but
both Barthlow and Long only have one more grave and seem to show greater diversity. All of
their headstones have a base, and around half have multiple names. Newnham burials date from
1925 to 1993, with an average death year of 1956.

[Slide transition to Prevatt]

The Prevatt family is very diverse with their choices of gravestone style. About half are multiple
name headstones and 62% have a base. The first Prevatt burial was in 1883, with the latest being
in 1965. The Prevatt family has an average death year of 1924.

[Slide transition to Register]

The Registers are also very diverse in shape. 83% of their headstones are single name and 75%
have a base. Register family burials range from 1882 to 1964, with an average death year of

[Slide transition to Family Graves by Section]

After collecting the data and then starting to analyze it, I thought that the families that were more
spatially diffused would have a more diverse spread of headstone styles. In some cases this is
true, like with the Frisbees, but in others like Long and Dillaberry, there is diversity but not much
spread into multiple sections.

Conversely, the Masters family is spread over several sections but is very homogenous in its
gravestone style. This could suggest a tighter sense of family identity, to keep a fairly consistent
style even when separated.

A map of how the family graves spread would help to determine how cemetery growth might
affect the separation of family graves. Social status and wealth might also play a part, as those

families with more money might have been able to buy more spaces in an area all at once, while
poorer families would have to make do with buying grave spaces one by one.

[Slide transition to Conclusions]

Through this initial data analysis I have found that some families tend to prefer a specific style,
while others are more diverse. The majority of the families I chose to look at, 8 out of 10, have
headstone choices that are markedly different from the general population that the pie chart of
the entire cemetery shows. Small sample size does not inhibit diversity, as the Long, Dillaberry,
and Register families show. Similarly, large sample size does not ensure it, as evidenced by the
Masters and Baxley families.

[Slide transition to Why We Should Care]

Cemeteries are a record of people who have lived in a community. We can learn a lot from
understanding the interaction between the most prominent members of a society. Because this
cemetery is historical, there are written records that can help answer questions and make
connections between people.

Everything we learn about these connections is another piece of the churchs history, and by
extension Middleburgs history, so it is valuable to the community. Our group went to
Middleburg United Methodist to help them by finding unmarked graves, but there is so much
more we can continue to do.


[Slide transition to Plan Going Forward]

As I continue to work with my project past this initial data analysis, I plan on trying to delve a bit
deeper into family history to see if I can make these connections between strong versus weak
family bonds and how they translate into these choices of gravestones. I would like to know if a
stronger sense of a family unit translates into a more cohesive family gravestone style.

I would also like to map the spread of family graves, especially where the graves are centralized
in one section, as in the case of the Chalkers, Barthlows, and Newnhams. In the case of the more
diffused families, it might give me an idea of when the diffusion started to take place. Several of
the families that are spread over various sections have one section that contains most, while
others are more evenly split.

From this map I would potentially like to see if wealth played any part in how a familys graves
did or did not spread into other sections, though this would depend on how much data I could
collect from historical records and whether those records were accurate.

Death date range and average death year are also interesting to me, and I would like to explore
the data further to see the relationship between those and diversity of family headstones. If there
is a correlation, I would want to research how this might tie into possible societal pressures of the
time to conform to a family standard.

[Slide transition Acknowledgements]


I would like to thank my two colleagues Rissia Garcia and Genevieve Day for being great
partners and collaborators throughout this project. Sandra Wilson was exceedingly generous with
her time and allowed us to make full use of the cemetery. I want to thank our mentor Dr. Gordon
F. M. Rakita for helping so much despite his busy schedule, and also the Lab Team for lending a
hand in collecting and entering data.