It’s possible that the inscription found on a headstone can solve a mystery that has puzzled you for years, but sometimes the headstone is a puzzle itself. That was the experience of Find a Grave® volunteer, Christine Hanson, and her daughter at Slate Ridge Cemetery when they found headstone jigsaw puzzles by happenstance.
This cemetery sits high on a hill which overlooks the small town of Delta, Pennsylvania. Christine and her daughter were in the process of fulfilling photo requests that day. There are two sections and the old section doesn’t include a lot of shady spots.
They were working out in the sun and after awhile took a break by a small grove of bushes. Christine shared her story with us.
While we were getting some shade, it was obvious there were stone pieces all around us. Some just above the soil line, some that one would never see without digging. We began the process of carefully recovering the stones, turning them over to see if they had intact carving on them, digging out those that were barely visible and so on.
There were many types of stone used in this graveyard (including metal), though the majority were black slate, due to the huge slate quarry which sits below the cemetery. Initially we turned the stones over and left them in place, though when stones are found along the periphery, they tend to be nowhere close to the actual place of interment. There is always a combination of sadness and excitement when we find these pieces, particularly when we find multiple pieces of the same stone. It gives me an incredible sense of satisfaction when I find stones which are not currently documented and I am able to add them to Find a Grave, but even more so when I am literally able to piece together a broken stone that has been scattered about and left as rubble.
Elizabeth’s stone was in a pile of slate pieces not far from the edge of the cemetery, along the crest of the hill. We assembled her stone, along with many others and took photos. There was no way to tell where this person was initially buried, so like the others, we left them as they were, where they were, but assembled properly in a readable fashion. Again, we could tell she died in the 1700s, but that is a hundred-year span.
Her Find a Grave memorial existed, with a photo of three possible above ground stones taken in 2012 by another volunteer. Finding her stone allowed us to add a photo of her exact information to the Find a Grave memorial. Neither photo shows us exactly where she was buried, but considering this is a headstone from 1773 that may not be recorded anywhere else, it is so rewarding that I would be doing this everyday if I could!
John Wright’s stone was a particular challenge. It was carved from a local brownstone, which is very grainy and crumbles easily, not to mention the stone being over 150 years old and not well cared for. Still, we were able to find nearly all the pieces and reassemble them on the ground before photographing. The biggest challenge for that stone was finding the ‘when’ of Mr. Wright’s life. The only year had worn away. It was only just recently that we conclusively were able to match the stone to the young man and added the photo to his Find a Grave memorial.
These bits of stone, assembled into a complete picture, help me to add bits of information to often incomplete records. To me, each marker represents a human being, once living and breathing with a story or stories to share.
Thank you to all Find a Grave volunteers. Your valuable work and efforts are making a difference and helping family members with personal discoveries every day.