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Historic Mount Olive Cemetery

Wilmington, Delaware

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Why do tombstones sink? Tombstones are heavy, with a narrow edge set into the ground. A burial loosens the earth around the grave. As the earth settles, the weight of the tombstone can press the earth down, causing the tombstone to sink or tilt slightly.  As the years go by, freezing, thawing and heavy rains can cause the earth to settle more.  Sometimes tombstones can completely sink from sight. Modern burials often have a hidden horizontal slab under the stone to prevent sinking, but an older cemetery would not have these hidden slabs. How do I find an unmarked grave? Unmarked graves can be difficult to locate. Sometimes the earth settles roughly in the outline of a burial, sometimes the earth is smooth. There are row and site markers in Mount Olive. Family plots are often outlined with small stone corners, usually with the family name (or plot owner initials) carved into them. Look at ground level for these. How are the tombstones oriented in the cemetery? The traditional orientation for burials is facing East, in the hope and belief of Resurrection. How do you photograph a tipped tombstone? Sliding a flexible piece of mylar under the part of the stone which is not on the ground will enable you to photograph a reflection. ART IN THE CEMETERY
Many gravestones have crosses or other religious symbols. Some carvings have traditional meanings...look for this cemetery art throughout Mount Olive candle

candle - faith as the light of life

palm frond
palm frond - symbolizes triumphant entry, eternal life and victory over death. Crown and Fronds
crown and fronds - victoious entry and sovereignty of the Lord

cross and rosary

cross, scriptures and rosary

crown and cross

crown and cross - symbolizes the sovereignty of the Lord

rose - love, representing love.
morning glory - the Resurection, as the flower blooms in the morning and closes at night Tulip

tulip - charity and love


tree - a life cut short
oak leaves - strength, endurance, honor

laurel wreath -victory and remembrance lily of the valley
lily of the valley - innocence, purity and one of the first flowrs to bloom in the spring - renewal daffodil

narcissus (daffodil) - reflection

CHILDRENSpecial art adorns the graves of childrenshoes

baby shoeslamb
lamb - innocencedove

sleeping dove - peace and purity

Curved stone

Traditional curved stone. This type of stone has no base and can sink easily. Often made of marble or limestone, it is also subject to erosion.Scroll of Life
modern scroll
Scroll - represents the deceased's name on the Scroll of Life

Obelisk - modeled from ancient Egyptian obelisks, both pointed and square-topped versions exist.triple top grave

Tympanium headstone - early 1800s
This type of headstone has no base and can sink easily in soft ground.Urn

Cradle-style grave, often with a flower urn at the foot.

Initials J.C.B on urn at
foot of grave

tab base
tab in socket tombstone. bases showing sockets.

tab in base

die-cut base
Square-cut die in base tombstone.

cap base

die, base and capstone tombstone

brass marker

brass markers were popular grave markers in the early 1900s. the weather wears very hard on these markers


vaults - vaults are underground structures, usually covered with a table stone and / or monument


mausoleum - an above-ground burial site. although no mausoleums are currently at Mount Olive, St. Peters had at least one mausoleum before it was moved.

Department of Defense - stones provided for military veterans

Civil War

Civil WarDOD - 1900s
 Veterans - 1900s
WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam,flat veteran

Veterans - flat style, marble
metal veteran

modern style - metal plaquesG.A.R. - the earliest veterans' organization, formed for veterans of the Union Army. GAR
GAR on stoneAmerican Legion
American Legion - the largest veterans' group todayElks emblem
fraternal organizations - Masonic and Elks emblems adorn the gravestones of their members
masonic emblem

plot marker

plot marker - these small markers, engraved with family names or plot locations, often show the boundaries of a family site FOOTSTONESMany footstones bear only initials.
Some include sentiments, sculpture or elaborate stone vases.At Rest
At RestBeloved Wife

Sunken Tombstone
Tombstone - sunken