C. H. and W. H. Tombstone, Mount Pisgah Cemetery

A priceless piece of folk art, this memorial to two children who died in the late 1800s was carefully carved by a barely literate family member or friend who makes the letter N backwards. The carver could not carve delicately enough to spell out the names, so we get only initials, which doubtless were enough for the family as long as memory endured.

Old Pa Pitt calls this “priceless” not necessarily because of the skill involved—it is not an especially skillful work—but because it documents how ordinary people of the late 1800s imagined a tombstone should look. It is clearly an imitation of the tombstones of fifty years or more before, complete with a little tree laboriously scratched into the stone for each of the two deceased.

Father Pitt is having a little trouble working out the dates. The obvious way of reading the stone is to divide it in left and right halves:

C. H.
BORN AUGUST
26 • DIED
OCT • 6
1881

W. H.
BORN
FEB • 19
DIED•FEB
1
1891

You can see the difficulty: this reading has W. H. dying before he was born. Perhaps the stonecutter has recorded only the birthdays and omitted the years of birth, in which case we do not know for certain even that these were children.

The picture was taken when the stone was strongly backlit. Father Pitt has boosted the local contrast and used various other manipulations to make the inscription more legible.

You might have trouble finding this stone if you went looking for it. It is well into the overgrown woods section of the Mount Pisgah Cemetery, and Father Pitt actually used his foot to hold back a hickory seedling in order to get an unobstructed picture.

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