Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grave Houses

The Grave House
By Frederick Smoot

Genealogy will lead the ardent researcher down many roads. Obscure burial grounds and lesser known burial customs can be the reward for following those roads. One reward could be the discovery of the ruins of a grave house, sometimes called a grave shelter. They can be found throughout the south, especially in hill country. The grave house is different from the mausoleum. The grave house is built over an “in earth” interment, while in the mausoleum the bodies are above ground, often being placed in a alcove in the walls. As we might expect, our early grave houses may contain more than one body. The style of the grave house could vary. Logs, milled lumber, field stones, ashlars, and even brick are the potential materials of the grave house. Some grave houses were built without doors. Many abandoned early grave houses would have totally disappeared as the wooden parts rotted away. Those grave houses that had a stone perimeter foundation may today appear simply as old stone walls - and if no headstones remain -- may be passed over as cemetery - looking too much like the foundation of a small building.

To continue reading: Click Here.

To read a Knoxville News-Sentinel article about finding a grave house in Hancock County: Click Here.

Important Note: Some authors and web sites claim that grave houses are indicative of the occupant of the grave having been a Melungeon. This is another Melungeon myth, howbeit a minor one, which is simply untrue. As stated above, grave houses are found throughout the South. And in fact, some American Indians of the Southeast constructed grave houses, as can be seen in the early 20th century picture of Seminole grave houses shown below.

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