Locating and Marking Unmarked Graves

A Project of

Madaris, Medearis, Medaris, McDaris, McDearis, Medaries

Mount Zion Cemetery
Atlanta, Georgia

    Marking the grave of Pvt. John S. Howell, Bartow's Artillery, CSA; my 2nd Great Grandfather, the great grandfather of my mother; Lynnell Howell Madaris.  I ordered a stone from the VA and placed it in the cemetery after verifying the location.  The first picture is of "me" digging the hole, approximately 12 inches deep.  The second picture is (l-r) Dennis Madaris, Kelly Madaris, James Earl Madaris and Lynnell Howell Madaris preparing to slide the stone into the hole.  Picture number three is of Dennis Madaris and myself, leveling and packing the dirt around the stone.

(1) km   (2) mz2   (3) mz3  

(4) mz4

    In picture 4 is the group shot from (L-R):  Kelly Madaris, Cindy Madaris, Everett Phillips, Dorothy Howell Phillips, Joshua Madaris, Lynnell Howell Madaris, James Earl Madaris, Jerri Madaris, Dennis Madaris and Brian Madaris.

To order a Veterans Headstone, provided free by the VA for Veterans of any American War, including Confederate Veterans.

There are eight more graves in this cemetery that I plan to mark.  These will be with flat stones approximately 20" x 12 ".

Chapel Hill Cemetery
Douglasville, Georgia

This is the grave of my Great Grandfather, Thomas Washington Madaris (10).  His current stone is a small piece of concrete that was etched at the time of his death and is now unreadable.  Image (1) is the current stone marker, which has been broken since this picture was made.  Images (2) and (3) are the wooden frame I made to use as a mold for the new stone.  It will be made of extra strong mortar similar to what they make bus stop and right of way post from.  This stone should last approximately 100 years, very similar to granite stones.  Image (4) is what the finished stone should look like.   I plan to make this stone this week and will update the success or failure with images.  If this process is successful I will offer plans or kits to those who are interested.

(1)  ch  (2)  ch1  (3)  ch2  
(4)  ch3  The frame is made of 2x4's cut to 33.5 inches in length.  The top ends are cut at a 45 degree angle to support the arch.  The bottom piece is 16 inches.  The top piece is 1/4 inch plywood cut to a 3.5 inches strip to match the width of the 2x4's.    Keeping the distance between the boards at 16 inches (using a spacer) screw one side of the plywood to one of the side pieces, then bow the strip to the desired curve and then screw it to the other side piece.  There is no specific measurement here, but it will complete the finished height of the stone at about 36.5 inches tall.  If you desire a taller stone, just add the length to the side pieces.  There should be 1 foot of the stone in the ground.  This particular stone will have 22.75 inches of stone above ground.   If you would like a measured drawing of the form for this stone just e-mail me and I will forward one to you.  If you would like a precut kit, e-mail me and I will work out the details with you.

The fun part is shown in Image 5, mixing the concrete.  This is not for the weak at heart and is quite a workout.  I used 1-1/2 bags of Pro Finish Quickrete Mortar Mix (120 lbs), Type S and 9-1/2 quarts of water.  Image 6 shows us making the headstone.  We started with the frame sitting on a piece of plastic, taped to the floor to prevent moving and wrinkling.  The concrete was mixed to the consistency of peanut butter then as seen in image 6, as Brian was shoveling it in, I was pushing it into the corners and smoothing out any airspaces.  After filling the form 1/2 full I placed a piece of 3/8 inch rebar, bowed into a U shape, into the mix for support.  Image 7, I am smoothing out the surface to create a smooth and level working space.  This Pro Finish Mortar will dry very smooth and shiny almost like smoothed granite.  Image 8 shows the lettering process using a square to keep the letters straight as well as for finding the center.  For this particular stone I used 1-1/2 inch high Lettering Stamps that can be purchased at http://www.magneticpoetry.com/search.asp.  Click on "Letter Stamps". I used Product ID: 6001 for this particular headstone.  I also purchased Product ID: 6002 for my smaller stones. As I placed the letters I worked from the center out.  Image 9, shows the final stone.  It will dry in the frame for two days, then I will remove the frame, and smooth out the sides and rough places.  I am not concerned with the bottom 12 inches of the stone as it will be below ground anyway.

(5)  ch-4  (6)   ch5  (7) ch6  
(8)   ch7    (9)   ch8  

It's not perfect, but I think the imperfections add to the look.  At the very least it is much better than what is there now, right ?  The style is old fashioned and the letters are old style as well.  I will remove it from the frame on Friday, July 11th and plan on placing the stone in the cemetery on Monday, July 14th.

Well it is Friday the 11th and I removed the frame and the stone looks terrific. Just as planned.  It has a very smooth shiny front, solid sides with fine edges and a flat smooth back.  As perfect as any granite stone I have seen.  The bottom is so level the stone stands on it's own.  Now it weighs about 120 - 130 lbs. and was a bit fun getting it up off the floor, but well worth the effort.  I plan to put it into the cemetery on Monday as planned.

(10)  ch9    (11)   ch10  

It's finally Monday and we took the stone to the cemetery.   I removed the old small stone and dug a trench about 17" by 12" deep.  After walking the stone into the hole, I put some dirt in, leveled the stone and then packed the dirt tight.  It looks great !!  While we were there, we also repaired the fallen stone to the right.  The base was sunken and leaning and the marker had fallen off.  We leveled out the base and replaced the stone upon it's now level base.  Not sure who he is but I am sure he appreciates it.

(12)   ch12   (13)  ch13  (14)  ch14

About the cost

The cost of this stone to make......  about $50 if you do not have most of the necessary supplies and tools.  If you already have most of this it will be about $8.  You can't beat that !!  

Now there are some up front costs to make your first stone.  The lumber may run you about $6 for the form.  The lettering was $19.95 plus shipping..  If you do not have a leveling or smoothing tool to work with the mortar that will run you about $6 - $10.  You need something to mix the concrete in such as a wheel barrow.  I purchased a mixing tub at Lowe's for $13.  So we are talking about an initial investment of about $50 to make your first stone.  After that each stone will be the price of the mortar or about $4 per 80lb bag.  I used 1-1/2 bags (120lbs) for this stone.

I have to acknowledge the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project for being my inspiration for making these stones.  They made flat stones from a simular technique and their work has proven their durability.  Their suggestion for the lettering of the stones is what made my project such a success.  I hope to inspire others as they inspired me to mark the many unmarked graves or our ancestors.

Stone     This stone is in a 16" x 18" frame, for a flat stone.
     I used 1X4, so it is 3-1/2" thick with a  1/4" rebar bent into an S shape in the center for strenght.
    The name is in 1-1/2" letters and the date is in 3/4" letters.

The stone was finished with a rough texture to bring out the lettering in the all white surface.  It gave it a rough stone appearance.  After the stone dried well, I used a brick to roughen the surface. This stone will be placed flat with the ground.

finshed stoen

Headstone for George Washington Madaris, placed in the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery, in Tyrone, Georgia.
GWM headstone                       Stone in place