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Headstone of Charles Henderson, USCT

risingfree

African American History
in South Central
Pennsylvania:
the 19th century

Midland Cemetery
Gallery of Home Crafted Burial Markers

 

Midland Cemetery was recently rescued from neglect by local historian Barbara B. Barksdale, who began the Friends of Midland organization.  That organization is the best source of information on the cemetery.  They can be contacted at the following address:
Friends of Midland, P. O. Box 7442, Steelton, Pennsylvania 17113-0442.

H

ome crafted burial markers, frequently found in African American cemeteries, are in abundance at Midland Cemetery.  They range from markers made of wood and sheet metal, to cast concrete markers with simple words inscribed into the drying form.  The use of these markers is not necessarily reflective of economic status, although lack of funds for an expensive, professionally made marker may, in many cases, be a factor in their popularity.  Instead, a long tradition of self-reliance on the part of the African American community in honoring their dead, a tradition rooted in slavery's harsh inequalities, has survived into modern times.  Many of these markers were produced by persons who knew the deceased personally-- a friend or family member.  Some were probably made by benevolent societies, to which the deceased belonged, a form of burial insurance common before the role was taken up by insurance companies and, prior to that, churches.

The burial markers depicted here represent a community honoring its dead in its own way, by its own hand-wrought effort.  

 « Two cast concrete markers, a common material for home crafted grave markers. The marker in the foreground has a small round hole in the top, which may, at one time, have held some sort of attachment to the marker.

« This stone is made of granite, but the lettering is inscribed by an amateur hand.  The broken piece on the ground shows lettering on the reverse side, but in a different hand.  The inscription is shallower.  It is possible the lettering on the reverse side was applied to the stone after it was already in the ground, possible for a later burial.  In both cases, the inscription is not entirely readable.

 

 

 

 

« Another example of a cast concrete grave marker, but with more finishing touches.  A simple border has been applied around the edges, and is embellished with corner cuts.  The inscription reads simply:
"Mary Bradford."

 

» A nicely cut granite slab in an older style.  It is inscribed laboriously by hand:  "MAMIE / JOHNSON / Born - 1875 / Died - 1935 / AT / REST."  The marker has been reset on a granite base.

 

 

 

 

Above, a small round concrete marker.  The inscription is difficult to read, but the marker appears to be relatively new.

More Midland Photo Galleries

The Civil War Burials at Midland
African American Burial Traditions at Midland
World War Burials at Midland
Gallery of Plot Boundary Markers at Midland
Artifacts of a Historic Cemetery

Names of Persons Buried at Midland

Tombstone Transcriptions
All Names, A-Z

Other Pages

Steelton Death Certificates, 1892-1893
About the Friends of Midland

Special Feature ~ The People of Midland:

Return to Midland Introduction

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This page was updated 25 February 2007.