Burial Practices

Burial Practices Exhibit Change Since 1865 ...

Paris Beacon-News, May 26, 2005

By Becky Rhoads

jenksmonumentJim Englum, owner of Safford Monument Company in Paris, smiles as he talks about changes in cemeteries and burial practices through the years. When Englum bought his business at 314 S. Main Street, he kept the Safford name. The company has served the Paris area since 1865. Today, it is the second oldest continuing business in Paris.

Many stones erected in Edgar Cemetery from Safford's and other monument companies may have been purchased from India, Canada, China, Africa, Belgium or Sweden. Other different-colored tombstones in the United States may come from stone quarries such as Texas.

Englum appreciates the Edgar Cemetery tombstones as he drives the 12 miles of roadways through the 85 acres of flowering trees and rich green carpets of grass. If you ask Englum about different styles and colors of stones, he's quick to point out that much of the art work was originally generated from immigrants to this country.

Englum prefers to always give the personal loving touch when engraving a design on a loved one's tombstone. After listening to family memories about a loved one, Englum takes notes and suggests to the stone artist ideas for designing the lasting memory. It's too easy to show catalog pictures and simply copy another's designs. Englum argues that tombstones should preserve for future generations something about the person buried in the cemetery.

With Illinois quickly accepting cremation practices, Englum worries about future records in the court house. When families start searching for burial records and cemetery records, it's a problem if that person was never buried. Englum also talks about no place of final closure for the deceased with cremations.

There are funny stories about people finding ashes of family members cremated earlier and becoming extremely upset over the discovery. Imagine finding a first husband or wife's ashes in a closet, when the second wife or husband thought they had been buried. Not everyone is that forgiving, cautions Englum, who keeps a fun sense of humor in his heart.

Englum talks about the changes in mourning practices. For many years, people always wore black to funerals and usually purchased gray colored stones. And for some reason a few decades ago, people started purchasing colored stones and stopped dressing in black for funerals. Most stopped wearing hats to church or at funerals, also.

Cemetery art carvings reflect changes in lettering or fonts too. Even the stones with praying hands, wedding rings, angels, hearts and flowers are symbolic of changes.

When talking about massive large tombstones with family names and statues on top, Englum explained that the smaller head stones for individual family members were usually the same height as the base of the large family stone. Some of those today would be in excess of $50,000. There are some tombstones in the area that might cost $200,000 today because of the massive sizes and purchase of stone.

As Englum talked about the weight of tombstones he said that most of them will average 200 pounds per cubic foot or 225 for the black ones.

After hearing stories about huge giant pink boulders in fields near Grandview, Englum explained that those are from the melting ice age era. Those boulders if moved could be designed into tombstones or markers, too.

After talking about the large family tombstones in some cemeteries, including Edgar and Clark counties, Englum explained that families are mobile now and bury loved ones in different areas.

A salesman in another area suggested that tombstone costs often prevent people from purchasing the monuments for families they would really love to own.

Englum explained that often families remove single headstones and purchase a larger one for parents or loved ones. It's even a tradition now to keep the man's engravings to the right of the wife on the tombstone. In earlier years the first one to die had their inscriptions on the left hand side of the stone.

Area monument dealers all agreed that it's always possible to have tombstones removed with the inscriptions polished off and new ones engraved. However, they caution that it's expensive to change, but it is an option.

While driving through any cemetery, take time to appreciate cemetery art. Look at the shapes, colors, designs and changes in tombstones. Remember that in this area, there are still old settler cemeteries of unmarked graves where families didn't have what they needed to make memorial markers for the future.

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