small slot&tab tomb at Wahoo Baptist Church

Wahoo Baptist Church cemetery
Wahoo, Georgia

mini pic of slot & tab tomb diagram

Slot-and-Tab Tombs / the mystery of the rural georgia soapstone box tombs / burial cabinetry in stone

: an empty decorative stone grave shelter in the shape of a box with an oblong horizontal lid (ledger stone) of local soapstone (local greenish-grey soft chloritic schist) with two slots cut into it, through which the vertical head and foot stones are fitted, called a 'through mortise-and-tenon joint' in woodworking. The ledger stone is thus suspended over an internal empty cavity by the weight-bearing shoulders of the head- and footstones, and by either (a) long cut stone blocks (squared-stone-logs) approximately 5"x5"x(~length of body), stacked one on top of the other equally on each side, or by (b) one-piece side slabs, to create an above-ground stone box monument that resembles a tomb. The body is presumably underground since no remains have been seen inside exposed internal cavities of broken or collapsed boxes.
purposes: an ornate hole covering; a stone grave shelter; a decorative means of preventing wandering open-range livestock from stepping into the softer dug earth of a human grave; also used to prevent predators & scavengers, including human 'resurrectionists', from digging up a buried human body, especially in shallow graves dug into rocky ground;
similar in purpose to the wolf (ledger) stone.
168 found to date in 24 Upland South folk cemeteries
almost exclusively in rural northeast Georgia around Wahoo.
ethnicity: English & Scotch-Irish and predominantly Baptist.
dates: 1848-1889, the latter corresponding with the closing of the state's open range and fencing of livestock in pastures.   locally quarried & carved.
original research by tpkunesh 2000-2011

Georgia USA - Lumpkin, White & Hall Counties in black

" Many [Lumpkin County] graves are marked with Soapstone markers
carved to fit with precision of a carpenter with wood. "
- DP

    Lumpkin County GA [41 churches, 41 mines]
  1. Wahoo Baptist Church (est. 1819) (38)
  2. Mount Gilead Baptist Church (14)
  3. Old Soule's Methodist /'Word of Faith' (10)
  4. Brown's Chapel / Peck's Chapel (7)
  5. Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega (4)
  6. Mount Olive Baptist Church (2)
  7. Stringer family cemetery (2)
  8. Siloam Baptist Church (1)


    (listing does not include a couple private cemeteries)

    White County GA [41 churches, 3 mines]
  1. Shoal Creek Baptist Church (est. 1835) (22)
  2. O'Kelley family cemetery (8)
  3. Bowen family cemetery (4)
  4. Old Zion Baptist, now Faith Lutheran (3)
  5. Cleveland Cemetery (1/3)
  6. Mossy Creek Methodist Church (est. 1821) (1)
    Pickens County SC [154 churches, 0 mines]
  1. Oolenoy Baptist (1+)

- are these tombs related to look-alikes in the Middle East?

    Hall County GA [132 churches, 0 mines]
  1. Yellow Creek Baptist (28, all ground-flush)
  2. New Bridge Baptist Church (6)
  3. Dewberry Baptist No. 2 (3)
  4. Concord Baptist Church, Clermont (3)
  5. Eubanks family cemetery (1)
  6. Holly Springs Baptist Church (1)

Unique tombs tell story of North Hall's history

    Jackson County AL [154 churches, 0 mines]
  1. Dodson family cemetery (4)

two slot&tab tombs at Mount Hope cemetery, Dahlonega

Mount Hope public cemetery
Dahlonega, Georgia

O'Kelley family cemetery, south of Shoal Creek GA

O'Kelley family cemetery
south of Shoal Creek Baptist Church

Shoal Creek Baptist Church cemetery, west of Cleveland GA

Shoal Creek Baptist Church cemetery
west of Cleveland GA

slot & tab headstone shapes: flat, arch, peak, semicircular, head & shoulders, head & double shoulders

types of headstones

The double-shouldered headstone is found as a remnant of the slot&tab tomb.
The extra shoulders are used to support the slotted ledger stone.

distribution map of slot&tab tombs in NE Georgia USA
all sites are within an 11-mile radius from Wahoo Baptist Church
distribution of slot & tab tombs - the big picture
maps by google
local distribution
Always In Search of the Slot & Tab Tomb's Origins ...
Know of another slot&tab site that isn't listed here?
tell me about it:

maps | diagrams | search USGS for feature: cemetery
tom kunesh

other interesting SouthEast USA burial monuments

fun reading: Low-Cost Large Scale Aerial Photography &
the Upland South Folk Cemetery
, by Eric B. Wolf,
Northwest Missouri State University 2006

a world away:   slot & tab tombs in the Middle East (Israel/Palestine, Egypt, Turkey)

similar - the larger wooden grave shelter

  • "OBSERVATIONS ON THE FORM AND FUNCTION OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE GRAVEHOUSES", Donald B. Ball, Tennessee Anthropologist, Tennessee Anthropological Association II(1):29-62. 1977. An intensive survey of three contiguous Middle Tennessee counties (Cannon, Coffee, and Rutherford) has documented a total of 16 extant gravehouses in nine cemeteries plus to former location of several others. Built to cover an in-ground interment, these structures were found to exhibit a high degree of diachronic attribute similarity when recorded in detail and compared architecturally to one another. It is suggested that these structures represent a traditionally patterned mechanism for the tangible expression of sentiment on a personal, rather than social, basis. To place these little studied structures in a spatial and historical framework, data are presented pertinent to both their distribution in North America and probable European source area.

Gravehouse drawing,
photos of three grave houses in NE Georgia:  
  • child's low gravehouse ca. 1968
  • child's bavarian-style gravehouse ca. 1978. photos 11-14
  • group gravehouse

  • Triangular Burial Monuments
    by Lonsdale MacFarland Green 1999
    Center for Rural Life,
    University of the South
  •      Comb Grave tent-style
    comb grave, tent-style

    The tabletop tomb was a fad during the mid-19th century. "The people are buried in the ground, underneath the box tomb," Ruedrich said. "Yet half the box tombs I've worked on have had their tops taken off by curiosity-seekers looking for a body. So the more people who understand that no one is buried in there, the better off we'll be." - Dean Ruedrich, historic preservationist, Ruedrich Restorations of Bunn NC.

  • & btw, what does S.T.K.S.H.T.W.S. mean?
  • Falling Springs Baptist Church cemetery ->
    Allred, Overton County, Tennessee
    Overton County, Tennessee

    other sites w/photos 1 2 3 4 5 6
    slot & tab tombs at Falling Springs Baptist Church cemetery, Allred, Overton County, Tennessee tent graves at Falling Springs Baptist Church cemetery, Allred, Overton County, Tennessee

    in religion, opposition to the use of icons or visual images to depict living creatures or religious figures. Such opposition is particularly relevant to the Jewish, Islamic, and Byzantine artistic traditions, eg, iconoclasm. The biblical Second Commandment (part of the First Commandment to Roman Catholics and Lutherans), "You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness ... - Encyclopædia Britannica

    literally "empty tomb", from the Greek kenotaphion, from kenos empty + taphos tomb.
    A symbolic tomb, honoring the dead but not containing the body; often a tomb or a monument erected to commemorate a person or persons whose remains are elsewhere, such as soldiers buried abroad or sailors lost at sea.

    chest tomb aka cadaver tomb, tomb chest
    tomb designed in the form of a cist or stone box placed over a burial. Its outward form often reproduces the features of the classical sarcophagus or medieval effigy base. - Structural Images of the North East Project, England

    ledger stone
    large (typically 3ft x 6ft) flat (horizontal) stone that covers the top of a gravesite, flush with the terrain or floor; inscribed floor slabs
    One of the main challenges has been in repairing the monuments, many of which are brick lined graves with ledger stones on top and a monument on top of the ledger. The design of the graves was to facilitate the removal of a ledger stone so that additional family members could be placed in the grave (some graves contain up to eight people). - on Nunhead Cemetery

    (Middle English, from Latin, from Greek mausOleion, from MausOlos Mausolus died ab 353 B.C., ruler of Caria; 15th century) 1 : a large tomb; especially : a usually stone building with places for entombment of the dead above ground

    a hole, groove, or slot into or through which some other part of an arrangement of parts fits or passes; especially : a cavity cut into a piece of material (as timber) to receive a tenon: a projecting member in a piece of wood or other material for insertion into a mortise to make a joint

    a block serving as a base for a statue or gravestone; the lowest member of a base; subbase

    (Latin sarcophagus (lapis) limestone used for coffins, from Greek (lithos) sarkophagos, literally, flesh-eating stone, from sark- sarc- + phagein to eat; 1619) : a stone coffin; broadly : COFFIN

    or sepulcher (Middle English sepulcre, from Old French, from Latin sepulcrum, sepulchrum, from sepelire to bury; akin to Greek hepein to care for, Sanskrit saparyati he honors; 13th century) 1 : a place of burial : TOMB

    (Middle English tombe, from Anglo-French tumbe, from Late Latin tumba sepulchral mound, from Greek tymbos; perhaps akin to Latin tumEre to be swollen; 13th century) 1 a : an excavation in which a corpse is buried : GRAVE b : a place of interment 2 : a house, chamber, or vault for the dead 3 : a building or structure resembling a tomb (as in appearance)

    tympanum / crown
    the top portion of a gravestone (or doorway) above the uppermost horizontal line. Traditional English and New England headstones had semicircular tympanums and footstones triangular typmpanums.

    b o o k

    Sticks and Stones: three centuries of North Carolina gravemarkers

    M. Ruth Little,
    Sticks and Stones:
    Three Centuries of
    North Carolina Gravemarkers

    1998 University of
    North Carolina
    Press, Chapel Hill

    "best book i've read on the subject" - tpk

    types of    --->
    figure 1.2

    gravemarker types, by Ruth Little in _Sticks and Stones_

    types of
    headstone shapes
    figure 1.10

    1 Baroque (eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries);

    2 Neoclassiscal Revival (nineteenth to early twentieth centuries).

    headstone shapes by Ruth Little in _Sticks and Stones_

    articles related to cemetery studies in Tennessee ...

    • Ball, Donald B., Social activities associated with two rural cemeteries in Coffee County, Tennessee, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro, September 1975) XLI:3, 93-98
    • Ball, Donald B., Observations on the form and function of Middle Tennessee gravehouses, Tennessee Anthropologist (Murfreesboro, Spring 1977) II:1, 29-62
    • Ball, Donald B., Wooden gravemarkers: neglected items of material culture, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro, December 1977) XLIII:4, 167-185
    • Ball, Donald B., Types of early grave decoration in Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro 1997) LVIII:3, 117-127
    • Ball, Donald B., Continuity and change in traditional material culture: notes on a poured concrete gravehouse in Middle Tennessee, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro 1999) LIX:2, 69-75

    • Cantrell, Brent, Traditional grave structures on the Eastern Highland Rim, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro, September 1981) XLVII:3, 93-103 [comb & box tombs]
    • Cooper, Patricia Irvin, Some strange North Georgia tombstones, P.A.S.T./ Pioneer America Society Transactions (Akron OH 1982) V, 27-36 [housetombs / slot-and-tab tombs]
    • Evans, E. Raymond, The strip house in Tennessee folk-architecture, Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin (Murfreesboro, December 1976) XLII:4, 163-166
    • Finch, Richard C., "Ashes to ashes: burial Upper Cumberland style", in Rural Life and Culture in the Upper Cumberland, edited by Michael E. Birdwell and W. Calvin Dickinson (University Press of Kentucky 2004)
    • Kantor, Shawn Everett, Politics and Property Rights: The Closing of the Open Range in the Postbellum SouthPolitics and Property Rights: The Closing of the Open Range in the Postbellum South by Shawn Everett Kantor 1998 University of Chicago Press
    • graverobbery in Chattanooga in 1894 ©2000-2012, 2021