Iron Cemetery Fences

This style of iron fencing is known as bow and picket.  It is a combination design constructed with a picket under an arched piece (the bow), connected by horizontal rails.  The post is called a square or solid post.  This particular design also features an urn-like finial and designs on the post.  While many of the pickets are simple, this features a fleur de lis element.

Woven wire fencing was also used in the late 19th century and there were a number of intricate designs available.  This one combines the wire fence with a pipe or “gas pipe” railing.  An acorn caps the post.

Two different types of crosses decorate the top of the pipe rail.

This is also a bow and picket style, however, the post is called an open or scroll post.

This is a variation of a picket design, with a line post.  This fence appeared to be more recent than the others.

The original purpose of fences in cemeteries was two-fold: protect the graves from cattle and define the family plots.  As styles of cemeteries changed, and the desire for easier maintenance developed, fences were no longer in fashion, and were removed in some cases.  Theft of grave fences, particularly in isolated rural areas, is a major problem.  One can find them at any number of antique stores around the country, but the likelihood is high that if you purchase it, you are purchasing stolen property from a cemetery or grave site that has been vandalized.

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10 Responses to Iron Cemetery Fences

  1. Pingback: Belle Plaine Cemetery « suzassippi

  2. I never paid much attention to cemetery fences but now will look at them differently! It makes sense, sadly, that they would be stolen. At a local cemetery where my parents are buried many of the copper flower urns were stolen. Good post!!!!

    • Suzassippi says:

      Thanks, CC! I have always loved cemetery fences, and was always especially fascinated by the tiny ones around infant graves. They were very common in the part of Texas where I grew up.

  3. Loren Rhoads says:

    So many fences were taken down during World War II as scrap metal for the war effort! It breaks my heart to think of what was lost. Thanks for your fascinating post.

    • Suzassippi says:

      I appreciate your mentioning the scrap metal for the war effort–we probably forget how that role in losing so many fences. While it was at least a more noble reason that stealing them to sell for profit, likely a few of them went that way as well even back then.

  4. kocart says:

    Cemeteries are among our most endangered historical places. For every intact cemetery, you can find five or six thoroughly desecrated or destroyed sites. Thank you for your enlightening post!

    • Suzassippi says:

      Probably like grain elevators to some extent, except it is harder to steal a grain elevator I imagine.

      • kocart says:

        It is a heavier job, but elevators disappear just the same. The wooden ones, mostly, get taken down–their wood is prized more than their utility as grain elevators. In that regard they are stolen from us and leave only memories.

        I love your posts!

  5. Suzassippi says:

    Thanks so much, kocart. I agree about the loss of the elevators. There were so many of them as icons to me growing up and seeing them along the railroad tracks in the small towns of Texas. It is painful to drive through one of those towns now and see an empty spot where the elevator once stood–the “skyscrapers” of the part of Texas in which I grew up!

    • kocart says:

      Indeed–each represented another town along the road, and as a child they are how I marked time when we drove across Nebraska. Another elevator meant one more landmark closer to Grandma’s house.

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