Home History Mysteries History Mystery: Grave House?

History Mystery: Grave House?

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By: Laura Frazier, Georgetown College Senior and KHS Winter Intern

Graphic20_Box2_FF114 Click to enlarge

Graphic20_Box2_FF114 Click to enlarge

This image is from the Robert Burns Stone collection, a recent acquisition of the library and special collections. In this photo, a man stands by what appears to be a mountain grave covered by a small house and surrounded by a fence. This grave house is most likely located on a private property, so this could have been in a family cemetery. According to some sources I have found, grave houses were used to protect the grave from the elements such as rain, snow, and hail. The fence surrounding the grave was most likely built to keep free ranging livestock and wild animals out. Grave houses also seem to be unique to the eastern Kentucky area. This also seemed to be a way to honor and serve the dead. According to Asher Young his article, Cemetery Gravehouses, most grave houses are rectangular or square with gable roofs, and they cover one to two graves. The larger grave houses offered a space for friends and family of the deceased to grieve or visit. Sometimes temporary structures were built over the grave until a nice, larger grave house could be established, so it is possible that the structure in this image is a precursor to the grave house that would be built.

Does anyone know anything on burial traditions and grave houses in Eastern Kentucky, especially from 1920-1940? Is it possible that the structure in this image might NOT be a grave house? Any alternative theories out there? To learn more about the Robert Burns Stone Collection please see the Digital Collections Catalog: kyhistory.com

IMG_0445About the Author: Laura Frazier is a Senior at Georgetown College, currently finishing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication/Media Studies and Studio Art. During our Winter Hours, December-March, she served as an intern in the library, assisting with processing photographic collections. To read more about her adventures while working as an intern at KHS, be sure to check out his blog post on the main site: http://history.ky.gov/intern-gets-well-rounded-look-at-khs/ 

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  1. wrote on September 2nd, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Mary Florez

    Could this possibly be an old spring house?

  2. wrote on April 9th, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Shannon M Smith

    This looks like an old Hen house to me, or something of that nature maybe even a rabbit hutch?

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