Below are some common tombstone incriptions and what they mean.
B.P.O.E.: Benevolent Protective Order of Elks
F.L.T.: with each letter in a link of a chain: Friendship, Love and Truth (see I.O.O.F.)
F.O.E.: Fraternal Order of Eagles
G.A.R.: Grand Army of the Republic. It was an
organization of Civil War Union Army veterans.
I.O.O.F.: International Order of Odd Fellows (see F.L.T.).
V.D.M.: verbi Dei minister (Minister of the
Word of God).
W.O.W.: Woodmen of the World. Upright tree
stump markers are typical of the fraternity.
Relect carved on a woman's headstone: she died
Consort: she outlived her husband.
Some examples of engraved symbols include:
Anchors and Ships: Hope or Seafaring profession
Arches: Victory in Death
Broken column: Loss of head of family
Broken ring: Family circle severed
Bugles: Military (see Trumpeters)
Butterfly: Short-lived; early death
Candle being snuffed: Time, mortality
Compass and Square: Masonic emblems
Corn: Ripe old age
Cross: Symbol of Christian hope
Crossed Swords: Officer in the military
Doves: The soul, purity, innocence, gentleness
Father Time: Mortality, The Grim Reaper
Flowers: Brevity of early existence, sorrow
Flowers: Condolence, grief, sorrow
Flying Birds: Flight of the soul
Fruits : Eternal plenty
Garlands : Victory in death
Hand of God Chopping: Sudden death
Hands of God Chopping: Sudden Death
Handshakes: Farewell to earthly existence
Harp: Praise to the Maker
Hearts: Blissfulness or love of Christ
Hourglass with wings: Time flying; short life
Hourglass: Swiftness of time
Ivy: Friendship and immortality
Laurel: Fame or victory
Lily or lily of valley: Emblem of innocence and purity
Morning glory: Beginning of life
Oak leaves and acorn: Maturity, ripe old age
Open book or Bible: Deceased teacher, minister, etc.
Palm Branch: Signifies victory and rejoicing
Picks and shovels: Mortality
Portals: Passageway to eternal journey
Rose in full bloom: Prime of life
Rosebud: Morning of life or renewal of life
Roses: Brevity of mortal life
Sheaf of wheat: Ripe for harvest, divine harvest time
Shells: Pilgrimage of life
Stars and stripes around eagle: Eternal vigilance, liberty
Suns: The Resurrection
Torch Inverted: Life extinct
Tree stump with ivy: Head of family; immortality
Trumpeters: Heralds of the resurrection
Urn with flame: Undying friendship
Urn with wreath or crepe: mourning
Willows: Emblem of sorrow
Winged effigies: Flight of the soul
A cenotaph is not a grave marker at all. It is a monument erected in memory of someone who died elsewhere, perhaps at sea.
Rodney R. Hammons
433 N Main Street
Rushville, IN 46173