CM Library Cemetery Database: Stone Cutters

Stone Cutters | Techniques | Monuments | Cemeteries

 
Stone Cutters

The most famous early stone cutters in Mecklenburg County were the Bighams, who lived in the Steele Creek area. Their stones survive today not just in Mecklenburg but elsewhere in North and South Carolina. Their intricate designs and personal touches, such as coats of arms, made their work recognizable. They also trained others in their techniques so their traditions continued.

For more information on the Bighams and other early stone cutters, please read

  • Sticks and Stones by M. Ruth Little, published by The University of North Carolina Press in Chapel Hill in1998
  • Early Gravestone Art in Georgia and South Carolina by Diana Williams Combs, published by the University of Georgia Press in Athens in 1986 
  • Cemeteries & Gravemarkers, edited by Richard E. Meyer, published by UMI Research Press in 1989
  • The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry by Daniel Patterson, published by the University of North Carolina Press in Chapel Hill in 2012.

 

Example of stone cutters' work Example of stone cutters' work
Examples of intricate design patterns

Some other early stone cutters in the 1800s were J. T. White and T. Walker. These artists developed a style that was their trademark and carved their names on their work. G. Brown of Columbia signed a stone in the 1820s. Several of his stones appear with later dates in this county but no longer have Columbia as his place of residence. It is unknown if he had moved to the area or just did a lot of business in Mecklenburg County.

Stone carved by G. Brown Stone carved by T. Walker
Stone carved by G. Brown Stone carved by T. Walker

Working with stone has always been a difficult job from the standpoint of working with hard materials. A good stone cutter needs artistic ability to design and execute lettering. The work of a stone cutter outlasts them and can be around for hundreds and thousands of years. Most occupations cannot claim that honor! 

Historic Mecklenburg Stone Cutters / Companies Dates First Known To Be In Business
Benton, Calvin 1850
Biggart, James 1850
Biggart, William 1860
Bigham family shop late 1700s and early 1800s
Chapman, Robert 1860
Carolina Granite Works 1912
Charles & Chesser 1896
Charles, Wm. S. 1899
Charlotte Granite Company 1896
Charlotte Marble & Granite Works 1914
Charlotte Quarry & Company 1912
Conner, Abraham 1860
Cox, Richard 1860
Dewese, Calvin 1860
Dewese, John A. 1850
Dewese, William 1850
Dresser Stone Works 1909
Durham, I. W. & Company 1891
Elliott, T. L. 1896
Gillett, Arneau 1850
Interstate Granite Corp. 1930
Johnston & Berryhill (M. G.) 1878
Johnston & Elliott 1891
Lonergan, James 1850
McCoy, John W. 1860
Mecklenburg Marble & Granite Company 1908
Morse, R. H. & Son 1891
Morton, John J., Company 1916
National Granite Works 1928
Ornamental Stone 1935
Piedmont Granite Quarry Company 1912
Piedmont Marble Company 1920
Plummer, R. A. 1904
Robinson, Alexander 1860
Rupell, Sterling 1860
Queen City Marble & Granite 1912
Scoggins Memorial Art Shops 1927
Smith, U. J. & Son 1927
Standard Memorial Works 1935
Thomas, Henry 1860
Tiddy, James 1860
Tiddy, John 1860
Tiddy, Josiah 1860
Tiddy, Richard 1850
Tiddy, Thomas 1860
Tiddy, William 1850
Toffoli & Marus Marble & Tile Company 1912
Walker, T. 1800s
White, J. T. 1800s
Wilson, Isaac H. 1874

These are ads showing various stone cutter companies over the years.

 

Charlotte Marble Yard, 1857 Dresser Stone WorksW
Charlotte Marble and Granite Works
Piedmont Marble Company
Wm. Tiddy and Sons promoted their company in this January 1957 Charlotte newspaper ad. Examples of advertisements from various Charlotte city directories.

 

Stone Cutters / Businesses in Mecklenburg County, NC in 2001
Name Address City Phone Additional Information
Alexander Funeral Home, Inc. 1424 Statesville Ave. Charlotte. NC 704-333-1167 formerly known as W. L. Coles
Almond Raymer & McConnell Funeral Home 16901 Old Statesville Rd. Huntersville, NC 704-892-9669  
Beasley's Funeral Home 3925 Beasley Ln. Charlotte 704-376-2273 est. 1977
Carolina Mortuary Service 6101 Idlewild Rd. Charlotte 704-369-0221  
Carolina Transportation-Mortuary 7300 Rollinridge Dr. Charlotte 704-362-2044 est. 10/17/1997
Carolina Funeral and Cremation Center 5505 Monroe Rd. Charlotte 704-568-0023 est. 6/1/1997
The Casket Outlet 4913 Chastain Ave., Suite 29 Charlotte 704-523-8058 est. 1999
Casket Mart 9229 Lawyers Rd. Mint Hill 704-573-0001 est. 5/1999
Charlotte Mortuary Funeral Home 3431 Rozzelles Ferry Rd. Charlotte 704-399-7610 est. 1994
Consumer Casket 1427 South Blvd. Charlotte 704-346-0011  
Family Mortuary 2310 Statesville Ave. Charlotte 704-377-4400 est. 1995
Grier Funeral Service 115 N. Cloudman St. Charlotte 704-332-7109 est. 1930
Hankins & Whittington Funeral Service – Dilworth Chapel 1111 East Blvd. Charlotte 704-333-6116 est. 1946
Harry and Bryant Company. 500 Providence Rd. Charlotte 704-332-7133 est. 1883
A. L. Jinwright Funeral Service 4300 Statesville Rd. Charlotte 704-599-5994 est. 10/1997
Johnson Funeral Service Inc. 3715 Beatties Ford Rd. Charlotte 704-399-6301 formerly known as Metrolina Funeral Home
King Funeral Home 4000 Beatties Ford Rd. Charlotte 704-394-2722 est. mid 1960s
Long & Son Mortuary Service 2312 Beatties Ford Rd. Charlotte 704-394-1111 est. 1947
Lowe Funeral Home 4715 Margaret Wallace Rd. Charlotte 704-545-3553 est. 9/1999
McEwen Funeral Service, Inc. 10500 Park Rd Pineville 704-544-1412 est. 12/1993
McEwen Funeral Service, Inc. 727 E. Morehead St. Charlotte 704-334-6421  
McEwen Funeral Service, Inc. 7428 Matthews-Mint Hill Rd. Mint Hill 704-545-4864 est. about 1918
McEwen Funeral Service, Inc. 6300 Mallard Creek Rd. Charlotte 704-596-3291 est. 1971
Raymer Funeral Home 16901 Old Statesville Rd. Huntersville 704-892-9669 est. 1999
Richmond Funeral Home Inc. 6701 Beatties Ford Rd. Charlotte 704-399-2664 est. 1/1998
Tucker Mortuary Services 1315 E. Woodlawn Rd. Charlotte 704-892-9669  
William-Dearborn Funeral Service 3700 Forest Lawn Dr.   704-846-3771  
Wilson Chapel of Hankins & Whittington Funeral Service 5301 Albemarle Rd. Charlotte 704-568-2106 est. 5/1999; also formerly known as Wilson Funeral Service; Douglas and Sing; Miller and Kerns


Techniques (back to top)
 

Chisels and hammers were the only tools of the trade until the beginning of the last century. Blacksmith skills were necessary to keep the wide variety of chisels sharpened for each task.
With the invention of compressed air tools, stone cutters were able to go faster, do more intricate designs and work with harder materials. Transportation improved and so did people's taste in materials.  Materials from granite mines in Georgia, Vermont, and around the world were being shipped to Mecklenburg to meet the demand of the public.  
Stonecutter's tools
Ad in Sears Catalog Catalog shopping was also available. You could order your own stone from companies, like the ones shown in this 1900 ad from the Sears catalog.

Types of stones and words of sentiments are no longer just chosen by grieving relatives. Customers can now set up appointments to plan their own markers. They can select materials from precut slabs or samples, choose the type and style of lettering, add images, have the stone set in the cemetery and just wait until their death for that last date to be chiseled.

Selection of the stone is one of the most important decisions because durability is key. Once the selection is made, the stone cutter breaks the stone into the approximate shape, grinds any rough places and may polish or put on the finish desired by the customer. These steps can be done by hand or machine.
 
Design comes next. Getting everything to exact detail is of major importance. Early stone cutters would have had to lay out their designs with skill and experience.
Slabs
Cutting Stone Today, stencils are made by computers and are placed on a thin layer of rubber. The desired lettering and design is chiseled, sandblasted and/or done with laser. Double outlined lettering is done currently by stone cutters, which would not have been possible to the early stone cutters.

The final process is to clean and set the stone in the cemetery. Upright stones set on a base are more expensive but are less likely to sink or tip over because the weight is more evenly distributed. 

Monuments (back to top

Burial markers in this county are mainly fieldstones, granite, marble, sandstone, or bronze emblems on a stone. Some recent burial plots have wooden crosses or wooden markers that will not stand the test of time. Even though a field stone does not bear the name of the deceased, at least it continues to mark a grave, if left alone by humans.
Styles in monuments have changed here, just like fashion. The types of carving, color of stone, insignias, height, foot stone and other choices made for the deceased make any cemetery visit a tour of art history also.
A plain stone
Early Mecklenburg headstone Very early stones in this area look like those often found in New England. They are usually of medium height, thin, curved on the top, and dark, if made from slate. They often tell biographical information about the person, such as a military rank, their spouse's name, and political, educational or religious contributions in life. Angels, sunrises, scrollwork and detailed designs were popular on stones from the late 1700s and early 1800s.

A little later in the early to middle 1800s, the stones were often chiseled with just the person's name, date of birth and death. There was a time when it was popular to not give the death date but to calculate the person's age in years, months and days. Plain and stoic were in vogue in both design and wording. 

Gravestones styles changed again during the late 1800s and early 1900s and had a more Victorian approach with interesting works of art with sculpture, urns, flowers and elaborate columns. Enduring terms of the deceased were added to their stones, such as “precious,” “angel,” “beloved,” and “dear.” Lambs were often used on infant and children's stones.
More elaborate headstone  Headstone with lamb
Examples of more elaborate designs
The style soon reverted back to telling more biographical information about the person, either through words or design. Soldiers may have markers or flags on their tombstones to designate in which war they fought or to tell which battle was their last. Ancestors of soldiers that belong to patriotic groups or members of fraternal groups may also have carvings or additional emblems on their stones to designate their previous memberships in organizations. Members of the Woodmen of the World may have a tombstone with a tree carving, or their tombstone may be in the shape of a limb or stump.
 
Examples of sculpture, carving and insignia  Examples of sculpture, carvings and insignia  Examples of sculpture, carvings and insignia
Burial markers have often expressed people's religious beliefs in text and form. They are a memorial to the deceased and express the love and admiration of those left behind
Cemeteries (back to top)

The majority of the cemeteries and those oldest in this county belong to Presbyterian churches, reflecting the early settler's religious preference. Some churches have two sites, one usually abandoned when the church relocates to another area.   

We do not have a military cemetery in Mecklenburg, but some cemeteries have sections set aside for veterans. Some cities of Mecklenburg County own cemeteries for their citizens but not all do. 
Poorhouse cemetery The County Home was built in the northeast part of the county to assist less fortunate citizens. Gravestones for the Mecklenburg County. Home, also known as the “Poor House” or “Green Acres,” were purchased by the county government. They all contain the basic information about the deceased and are fairly identical in size, shape and carving. It is the only cemetery in the county that has the appearance of a military cemetery, in that the plots are all facing the same direction and the stones are similar.

  

  Most other older cemeteries in the county follow the terrain and have stones that face the same direction. Stones may suddenly change directions in their placement due to additions to the cemetery or the need to add roads to accommodate automobiles.
When visiting a cemetery, it is often easy to find the area you want to research by looking at the height, color, thickness and type of stones, i.e. the older stones are never made of thick, pink granite with a high gloss finish. You can usually tell by the type of stones and the dates on stones when and where new additions have been made to a cemetery.

Many of the newer cemeteries owned by businesses have restrictions in the type of monument that can be purchased for the deceased. Flat stones or markers are now common place due to the desire to easily mow and maneuver within the cemeteries. These markers often face the many roads within the cemetery. 

New stones
Fieldstones were used for people whose families could not afford or have access to carved monuments. They were also used to mark a grave until a more elaborate marker could be acquired. Sometimes the fieldstones will have marks scratched on the stones, but most are unreadable. These, along with evidence of periwinkle or perennial flowers, are often signs of a long-forgotten cemetery.

Some cemeteries have metal markers with the deceased's name and information on a card, enclosed by plastic. These are usually temporary markers provided by the funeral homes and will not stand up to the test of time.

Vault The style of stones can vary from a basic slab to an elaborate column, multi-person stone or flat stone in a mausoleum. Due to the weather, tradition and water table, most of the people in Mecklenburg, historically and currently, are still buried underground in individual graves. For those that do choose to be buried above ground, the county has many beautiful memorials to those individuals or families.
 
The work of the stone cutters of Mecklenburg County has lasted for over 200 years. Ignorance and carelessness by family members or researchers are causing some of the stones to deteriorate at an unnatural rate. In order to get an accurate or clearer picture of what is written on stones, some people have put shaving cream or other chemicals on the stones. The residue can damage or stain the stones and cause enormous, permanent deterioration.

Using a mirror to illuminate tombstones for photographs is a much better way to achieve the objective. For more information about appropriate preservation and inscription techniques to use in a cemetery, please read A Graveyard Preservation Primer by Lynette Strangstad, published by the American Association for State and Local History in Nashville, 1988.

We should all work to preserve, protect and cherish the graves and stone work of these cutters for the true gifts of art that they are. Gravestones are Mecklenburg County's greatest historical art legacy! 
 
Reference/Research Policy

Damaged stone