08 February 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - The "Bethlehem" Star

Over the past decade there has been a renewed interest in the stone cutters and carvers that were masters at their trades and artists who dedicated their talents to honor the dead. Digitizing and recording the cemeteries of Boyd County over the past 10 years I have become increasingly aware of many unique individual stones. But none have made me more curious than the ones that I have come to dub the "Bethlehem Star" or the "Cookie Cutter" tombstones for lack of a better description.

My first encounter with the handmade stone was many years ago in our own Klaiber Cemetery. The stones are all identical in height and shape. They stand in hand poured bases which are inscribed "At Rest" or "Gone but Not Forgotten." Each stone has an identical cookie cutter stamped 7 point star. The placement of the birth and death dates are in an unusual arrangement. There is no doubt that all these stones were made by the same person.

Among my travels I have encountered the stones in Coalton Cemetery, Lawson Cemetery on Strait Creek, Sexton Cemetery on Pigeon Roost and even Catlettsburg Cemetery. Most of the stones are for those deceased in the 1930's. The earliest, I have discovered to date, is for two year old Ida Sexton in 1904 in Sexton Cemetery at Pigeon Roost.

The example above is the grave of Joe Deskins 10 July 1916 - 7 July 1929, in section O of Catlettsburg Cemetery, Catlettsburg, Boyd County, Kentucky.

There is always more to a story. Did the person who made these stones charge less than the professional carvers? Were these donated stones given out of neighborly love? Did the maker devise the star stamp or utilize one similar to those wonderful cookie cutters in collections today?

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