Arkansas January 24, 2019
Most People Don’t Know The Story Behind These Bizarre Tent Graves In Arkansas
Paying special respect to a passing procession and always bringing a casserole aren’t the only funeral traditions found in the region. Although this southern tradition began in Tennessee, the tent or comb graves are also here in Arkansas. Let’s explore this strange burial practice.
Tent graves, also known as comb graves, are a rather strange burial tradition.
The custom of forming V-shaped roof over a grave was predominately used in Tennessee. The earliest of these graves dates back to the 1820s. A collection of 3,000 of these graves can be found in the middle of Tennessee. The tradition seemed to have died off in the mid-1900s.
The short lived though strikingly odd tradition is also found in Arkansas.
Although we don't have near the collection of our neighboring state, we do have small scattering throughout Arkansas. Most of these are found in the Ozark Mountains, both in public and private cemeteries. A privately owned cemetery in Franklin County has the most documented tent graves - 13. A pair of children's tent graves can be found in the Witts Springs Cemetery in Searcy County. This tent grave pictured above was taken at Alma's Love Cemetery. It reads, "Moses husb. of Elizabeth Ford/Killed on Mill Creek through mistake/Apr. 23, 1870/aged 45 years."
There's quite a few speculations as to why this tradition began.
Some theories are more practical, such as keeping livestock off the graves or deterring robbers. Some are more supernaturally based in that the tradition was used to keep spirits from wandering. Most of these graves are mixed in with normal headstones (approximately around the same year) so it's still unclear why this method was used.
The tent graves have been constructed with a myriad of material and can be found in a mix of conditions.
Most are just made with whatever rock or sandstone material was available at the time. Some are structurally reinforced with iron while others are haphazardly roofed with uncut slabs. The graves can be rather hidden among the rest of the normal graves or stand out with a large headstone.
Today these unique graves just sit quietly among the rest of the headstones.
To view a partial listing of the tent graves in Arkansas, visit
. Some of these cemeteries are on private property so be sure to double check before you head out to take pictures.
Did you know about this short lived tradition? Have you visited a cemetery with a tent grave or two? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Arkansas is also home to a delightfully morbid
funeral museum, it’s not for the faint of heart!