Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Brothers, Trees Through Eternity

Daniel & William Shafer, Oakwood Cemetery
Every summer when I visit my parents in my hometown of Mt. Vernon, IL I spend quite a bit of time in the local cemeteries looking for headstones of my ancestors and always end up taking pictures of numerous other stones that catch my attention.  A couple of years ago I took pictures of these unusual looking headstones and forgot all about them until I read the recent call for submissions of your favorite headstones for Graveyard Rabbits' resurrected Carnival.  This will be my first submission for Graveyard Rabbits and think these headstones fit my blog's premise of "Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places."  I don't have pictures of these two young men, but hopefully through this blog post they will now not be forgotten.

(L) Daniel H. son of M. & C.M. Shafer
Born Nov 16, 1881
Died Sept 21, 1908
(R) Wm. H. Shafer
Born Sept. 3, 1875
Died Nov 21, 1898

Wm & Daniel Shafer, Oakwood, Mt. Vernon, IL

These stones were made to look like tree trunks with limbs, vines, leaves and flowers wrapped around them.  They each hold a scroll hung with rope with the decedent's name, birth and death date.  After I started looking at the information on the stones I realized I had to know more.  The two brothers died so young, Daniel at age 26, William at age 23. Although not unusual for the times, how very sad for their parents.  Obviously from the intricacy of the stones these young men were greatly loved.  

After checking I found this information on their parents in the 1880 Mt. Vernon, Illinois (Jefferson County) census:  Daniel M. Shafer age 28 born about 1852 in Illinois, wife Cynthia M. age 28, his father's birthplace Germany, mother's name Nancy M. Duffer, her birthplace was Tennessee.  Daniel's occupation was miller.  In 1880 Daniel Sr. and Cynthia had two children, Wm. Hy. age 4 and Lillian C. age 10 months  (son Daniel, Jr. would be born in 1881).  Daniel's mother aged 55 lived with them.  I found them again in the 1900 Mt. Vernon census, Daniel Sr. was listed as Darnel.  They had three children living with them, Lillian C. age 20, Daniel age 18 and Mary M. age 16, William having died in 1898. 

If you look closely at the second picture you will see a rectangular shaped stone between the two brothers' stones.  That stone is their parents, Daniel Sr. and Cynthia Shafer.  Daniel was born 16 Dec 1851 and died 9 Feb 1906 just two years before Daniel Jr.  Cynthia was born 1852 and died 1943.  I could find no further information on and also had no luck with finding any obituaries.  I really wish I knew how these young men died.  Now however, I feel I know them a little and next time I go back I will look again for these stones just to maybe say that someone remembers.

If you want to see more of this Carnival's favorite cemetery photographs head on over to Graveyard Rabbits!


  1. Those are peculiar headstones, I've never seen anything like it (but then I don't visit cemeteries much).

  2. These are generally associated with Woodman of the World. There are so many versions and I love them. It is rare when I don't photograph them when visiting a new cemetery. I have seen so many in the midwest and southern states.

    1. Thank you, Gale, I had never heard of Woodman of the World. I Googled them - so many different types of stones for this group - very interesting! From now on when I am walking through cemeteries I will be on the lookout for these types of stones.

  3. Nicely done!!! I LOVE tombstones shaped like tree trunks. I have posted as many as I have found in my cemetery wanderings. Having two together for two brothers is a very good find on your part. Thank you for posting. Also, Gale is correct, often the tombstones belong to Woodman of the World and have their symbol prominently displayed.

    1. Thank you. As I said to Gale, I had never heard of the Woodman of the World. Now I can't wait to find more of their tombstones!


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