My recent trip to the Wiggins Cemetery Decoration day on Noland Creek reminded me of the traditional styles of graves that can be found throughout the cemeteries of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
In days gone by cemeteries were kept clear of grass and swept clean. Each grave had a mound of dirt along its length. Often the graves were facing East for a better view of the second coming of Christ. Field stones were most often used as gravestones. Amazingly, some of those field stones were shaped and carved with the deceased one’s information.
The tradition of keeping the graves swept clean was practiced in other parts of Appalachia too. A few years back Blind Pig reader Tim Ryan left this comment about the custom:
“Graveyard workings were an important social event on Keith Springs Mountain when I taught in the one-teacher school there. Three small graveyards at two churches and one isolated at the end of a long road along a ridge. One custom stood out as unique in my experience. The soil above each grave that had a family to tend it was chopped with a hoe till only bare dirt remained. Then the soil was mounded up like a grave that had just been filled. I asked a community elder why they did this. She replied, “So that we remember the pain we felt the day that daddy died.”