In interpreting symbols one must be aware
that sometimes there is more than one
meaning for some of these symbols, so one
cannot say with absolute certainty that he Anchor: Hope.
knows the meaning that was intended. Only Angel: Rebirth or resurrection; spirituality, agents of
the relative who ordered the gravestone for God, guardians of the dead.
the deceased knew exactly what these Clasped hands: Marriage, close bond, unity, affection Suffolk, Virginia
even after death. The person who died first holds the
symbols signified. Today we can only review
other’s hand, guiding the spouse to heaven.
what is written about the symbols, look at the
Daisy: Gentleness, youth.
lifespan of the individual and then try to
Dove (flying): Resurrection.
interpret these lovely motifs.
Fern: Sincerity, sorrow.
In old burying grounds the graves are Garland: Victory of the redemption.
positioned east/west, the most common Ivy: Immortality, fidelity, undying affection.
orientation. The dead were buried with their Lamb: Usually marks the grave of a child. Purity,
feet pointing toward the east and the head of innocence, sacrifice.
the coffin was toward the west. They were Lily: Majesty, often used on women’s graves,
ready to rise up and face the “new day” (sun) innocence, purity, resurrection. Restored innocence
when “the trumpet shall sound and the dead of soul at death.
shall be raised” or when Christ would appear Lily of the Valley: Purity, humility.
and they would be reborn. Thus, even the Morning Glory: Youth, resurrection, mourning,
farewell, brevity of life.
placement of graves connotes meaning in a
Obelisk: From an Egyptian form; power, lord over all,
Enjoy a leisurely walk into the heart of this Roses: Completion and the brevity of earthly existence. A SHORT WALKING TOUR
old cemetery while finding some of the Love, beauty, hope unfailing love. SUGGESTED BY
beautiful symbols that are pointed out in this Bud of rose: Normally a child under 13.
Partial bloom: Usually a teenager. THE NANSEMOND RIVER GARDEN CLUB
brochure. Full bloom: Deceased died in prime of life.
Rosette: The Lord, hope, promise and love.
Thistle: Earthly sorrow; Christ’s crown of thorns, In walking through this old part of the
Scotland = country of origin. circa 1802 cemetery, one finds many
Torch/Flame: Immortality of the spirit, resurrection. devices or designs that were likely to
Inverted torch: Extinction of life. Death. be immediately recognizable to people
Tree: Life. Trunk = shortened life; of an earlier era. The beautiful symbols
Severed branch = immortality. carved into a headstone denoted
Weeping Willow: Sorrow and mourning. something about the person interred
Tour and brochure created by The Nansemond River Garden Club
Wheat sheaves: Divine harvest; often represents the aged. there.
www.angelfire.com/ky2/cemetery/reid.html Donations to The Cedar Hill Project
from article on “Tombstone Symbols” in Oct 2000 Ancestry Magazine May be sent to
www.gravestonestudies.org/faq.htm P.O. Box 344
www.chicora.org Suffolk, Virginia 23439
1. THE WOODWARDS 6. EDWARD D. HARGROVES *Head downhill on Magnolia Street and look to the left
On your left as you ascend Holly (1846-1899) On this obelisk is the for this plot.
Street, look for a monument with a symbol for the Freemasons (Masons):
praying angel for Claire, 1881-83. square, compass and G (geometry
Also note the baby’s bed for Inez or God). 12. JAMES H. SMITH
with a dove at the head and the *Notice the draped obelisks and urns as (1864–1902) Look for this stone
lamb at the foot. The “bed” is used you walk. In Victorian times black cloth to the left beyond the Riddick’s
to mark young children’s graves. was often placed on monuments. plot. Cross, anchor and crown.
2. THE FINNEYS 7. LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT
On Martha Finney’s grave and see the cylindrical
(1837- 85) is a sheaf of wheat being monument typical of those C EDAR H ILL C EMETERY
cut by a scythe. Note the rosettes; shown in the Sears Tombstones
and the lily and rose on top. and Monuments 1902 catalog.
This design is relatively rare in
the southeast. Its bolster/pillow
3. RIDDICK’S OBELISK shape may indicate that the deceased is at rest.
Look for the down-turned torches
with a flaming urn on the top of the
obelisk. Notice the garland, as well. 8. ON YOUR LEFT
*Continue walking down Holly Street, is Mrs. Mary Parker with the weeping
pass the scatter garden on the left, and willow on her headstone.
turn left on Seventh Street (right before *As you continue walking, look right to
the woman grasping the obelisk). the enclosed Dunn plot.
4. LUCY ALLEN (1841-1893)
The headstone on the left has 9. DUNN PLOT
beautiful passion flowers. Hattie B. Dunn died at age 24. Her
Continuing on in this plot, we stone has a broken daffodil, signifying
find young Archibald Allen’s death of youth and beauty. Katie, 7
grave with its morning glory, ivy, months and 10 days with lily of the
fern, thistle, daisy, and lilies. valley. May, only 15 when she died,
Behind his grave is Janet has a scroll for her headstone. Notice
Whitehead Prentis’ grave. This the interesting footstones here.
headstone for a much loved infant is made to appear
to be a stump, covered with morning glory, lily of the 10. NURNEY ANGEL
valley, lily and fern. Susie Bartlett Nurney, age 17.
Notice the wheat, thistle and lamb
5. OBELISK WITH WOMAN in this plot.
This large monument across from *Slightly to the right across the street,
Lucy Allen’s headstone looking northeast …
symbolizes faith. Martha Jane
Rountree Smith (1840-1915)
Within this plot is Agnes P. 11. IDA J. WHALEY PARKER’S
Ashburn (lily), and her husband, (26 years old) monument is one of
Isaac Walter Ashburn, (clasped the most beautiful—trunk of a tree
hands on the headstone) and their with its anchor, broken limb, ivy and
infant daughter, Minnie (lily of the fern. The anchor was used by early
valley). Christians as a disguised cross.