August 26, 2006
Here are three examples of standard upright marble VA military grave markers that you might find in national or private cemeteries. These measure approximately 42″ x 13″ x 3″. Some of the newer ones are made of granite. Many have an optional religious symbol at the top of the marker (like the cross in the example at right). For a list of these see the Veterans Affairs website: Emblems of Belief on Government Headstones and Markers.
The two examples below are for pre-World War I grave markers. On the left is the headstone for the infamous cannibal, Alfred Packer, who was a Union Civil War veteran. On the right is one for a Spanish American War veteran. Note the way the name and regiment are enclosed in a shield on both of these markers – this was used for Union Civil War and Spanish American War soldiers. Some Confederate Civil War veterans have a symbol of the Southern Cross of Honor on their grave markers.
Photos: Alfred Packer’s grave marker is from Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado; the other two are from Fort Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colorado.
August 24, 2006
The Fraternal Order of Knights of Pythias is an international fraternity that promotes universal peace. It was founded in Washington, DC during the Civil War in 1864 by Justus H. Rathbone. The letters F, C and B stand for Friendship, Charity and Benevolence.
The three symbols on the headstone below are (left to right): Knights of Pythias, a Christian monogram for Jesus, and the Modern Woodmen of America (the original name of the Woodmen of the World).
Photos: Green Mountain Cemetery, Boulder, Colorado
August 24, 2006
The Order of the Eastern Star (OES) is a female companion organization to Freemasonry. Men who are Master Masons may also join. Their primary symbol in cemeteries is a five pointed star with a tip pointing down, representing the Star of Bethlehem. In the example at right the letters are FATAL, which stand for Fairest Among Ten-thousand, Altogether Lovely.
Photo: from the gravestone of Fred M. Moore (1878-1949) and Maria A. Moore (1879-1933), Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado
In the example below each symbol within the star is an emblem for the Biblical heroines Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha and Electa, whose stories inspire character building lessons.
Photo: from the headstone of Hannah Meyer (1874-1930), Emanuel at Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
August 23, 2006
IHS is a monogram of the name of Jesus, derived from the first three letters of the Greek version of his name: Iota, Eta and Sigma. Sometimes you will see the three letters IHS superimposed on each other, creating a symbol that looks a bit like a dollar sign ($). The Roman version is IHC.
Photo from the gravestone of George Traut (1883-1965) and Mary Traut (1883-1951), Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado.
August 21, 2006
Photo from Riverside Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
August 21, 2006
My favorite name for a fraternal association is The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF). The Odd Fellows purchase cemetery plots so you will often see many deceased members of this association buried near each other. Their primary symbol is three chain links joined together. In the picture above the number 30 is the lodge number.
Sometimes the chain links will encircle the letters F, L and T like in the example below. These stand for friendship, love and truth.
Top photo: Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado
Bottom photo: Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado
August 20, 2006
Colorado’s notorious cannibal, Alfred Packer (1842-1907), is buried in Littleton Cemetery with a military grave marker – he was a Civil War veteran. In the photo below you can see that his headstone is chipped and a cement slab covers his grave. Both of these were caused by a Halloween prank. In the 1960s and 70s kids would sneak into the cemetery and steal Alfred Packer’s gravestone, usually on Halloween. But it always turned up somewhere, often on someone’s doorstep. Your doorbell rings and you open the door expecting trick or treaters, only to find a cannibal’s tombstone on your front porch. During one of these pranks the grave marker was chipped, and eventually the city got tired of all this Halloween nonsense and had the grave and its marker cemented down. Just in case anyone had any strange ideas about stealing Alfred himself, they made sure the cement slab covered the whole grave.
This is a good example of a marble headstone for Union Civil War veterans – the person’s name and military unit are within a shield. Packer’s tombstone is engraved with: “Alfred Packer, Co. F, 16 U.S. Inf.”