Cemetery Fences and Borders

You are likely to see many different styles of fences and gates within the boundaries of any cemetery, particularly older burial grounds. The earliest functions of interior borders, particularly in rural areas where people were buried on family land on farms, were to keep cows and other animals from trampling over the graves. When the popularity of municipally owned cemeteries grew, fences and other borders became a way to mark a family’s burial plot as well as to keep people from tampering with flowers left or planted or to keep stray animals from wandering onto the grave. The type of border used depended on the financial resources of the family, the preferred style of the time period, or cemetery regulations. Brick, stone, wood, cast iron, and wrought iron were some of the materials used to divide sections of a graveyard from one another.

I regret that in my haste to photograph headstones that I have not taken more time to focus on the fences. They too are an integral part of cemetery history. To the left is an example of a short stone wall in South Boston’s Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The Holland-Conrad plot in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery has a number of tree shaped markers and monuments and is surrounded by a low stone wall made to look like rocks and tree stumps. You can see the back of Louise Conrad’s marker, which is also the marker of her sister Grace.



Post and chain fence, Grove Street Cemetery

A post and chain fence surrounds the Price plot in Grove Street Cemetery.



 Just beyond Arthur Flagg’s monument in All Saints Episcopal Church Cemetery in SC is what looks like a gas pipe railing fence.
Metal fences in historic cemeteries are typically made of either cast iron or wrought iron. At the peak of metal fencing’s popularity, catalogs offered many combinations of gates, pickets, and posts, so that each family could feel like they were surrounding their deceased loved ones with a special fence.
In this photo from Grove Street, the fence in the foreground has a plain top rail with picket posts but in the background, the fence on a nearby plot has a picket style top like the fence shown in the next photo from the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery.


Scalloped Picket


Presently there is no gate on the fence of the Gilmer’s plot at Greensboro’s First Presbyterian Church, but the posts to the entrance have a differently shaped ornament at the picket from the corner posts.
Hairpin and Picket
Hairpin and Picket in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Virginia


Bow and Picket, City Cem., Raleigh
This is the gate to the previous photo. You can see the family name on the silver-colored plaque underneath the ornate design. That design contains the name of the ironworks company that made it, but I can’t tell what that name is.
Curbing is another type of cemetery border. There is an abundance of curbs in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery, with many of the wealthier families having simple curbs rather than ornate fencing.
This is one of the Schoolfield family plots. Because the curb is “broken” between the two rock-like posts on the right side of the photo, this is an open curb.
Closed curb
This is an older photo I have from Green Hill of part of a metal fence (perhaps a gate, I don’t remember) that I found to be really lovely. The urn over the arch is surrounded by two angels. The arch is another popular Victorian cemetery symbol, representing victory over death.


 This gate in Raleigh’s City Cemetery is over 170 years old and narrowly escaped being destroyed by falling trees when tornadoes ripped through the city several years ago.


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