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Mystery At Pine Log Cemetery

Pinelog cemetery

A while back I was wandering around the graveyard at Pine Log Baptist Church in Clay County NC. I have several family memebers buried there-but I had never noticed the unique grave above on past visits.

Grave houses

There is one gravestone surrounded by a foundation of sorts. The foundation made me think of Grave Houses-and I wondered if maybe over time the walls and roof rotted away-leaving the blocks and concrete behind. Since Pap lived in the Pine Log area for part of his childhood I asked him if he remembered the unique grave-he didn't. The grave is in the cemetery on the hill across the road from the church. There is another cemetery just below the church. 

Pap did tell me the grave is in the older of the 2 cemeteries. The first church built in the area was in the older graveyard-then when the newer church was built it was moved across the road to the present location. 

Inside of a grave house

One corner had a metal pipe sticking through the block. And there are 2 long poured concrete pieces which seem to symbolize-or cover 2 graves. 

RA Rickman

The stone is also a mystery. There are 2 names on it: R. A. Rickman May 17th, 1863 - March 17, 1924 and M. J. Coffey Nov 4, 1861 - Mar 14, 1924. I say the stone is a mystery-because it makes me wonder:

  • Why one stone for 2 graves? Someone said they were probably married-but I don't think so since their last names are different. Maybe the families chipped in and bought one stone together?
  • Why were they buried together? Were they related or maybe best friends?
  • Did they die in a freak accident-with R.A. living 3 days longer? Or maybe they died in the flu epidemic?
  • The block foundation looks newer than the date of the stone-so does that mean someone built the house or foundation at a much later date?

Pap says there used to be a lot of Rickmans around here-but I can't think of one now. However there are a lot of Coffeys who still live on Pine Log and maybe one of them can solve my mystery or who knows maybe you can.


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Coffey.... Ey and no they weren't druids.

I am from Southwest Virginia, and it was common practice among my people to build structures over graves. These structures were of particular importance if a child died. I've read that this is also common among Melungeons.
Maybe this was already mentioned, but I am unfortunately not wearing my glasses and couldn't bear to read at length.

Very interesting indeed! The blocks will also keep the mowers and herses and trucks from bumping into the stones and walking on the graves...A lot of stones are damaged or pushed out of place by the mowers and trucks...
Here's one for your genealogy
researchers...If I wanted to leave in my will that I wanted the birth date, death date, and name changed on the stone just for "poops and grins"...Would it be against the law and/or would they have to also inscribe the official date as well on the stone?
Thanks Tipper,

Great work, Liz, but it appears both persons were born only two years apart, so I would surmise sibling over father.Love trying to solve stuff like this!

I have seen grave plots similiar to this at cemeteries on Lookout Mtn., AL. Usually the walls contain the graves of a single family-mother, father, children & possibly their spouses. My Grandmaw always referred to them as "them rich folks". So maybe the partial walls were a sign of status in the community? A cemetery within a cemetery?

Georgia death records have a Jane Coffey with the same dates that are on the stone. It indicated that she was born in North Carolina. Her father was John Coffey and her mother Mollie McDorce. She died in Blackwell, Cobb County, GA.
Georgia death records have a Rosie A Rickman with the same death date as R A Rickman on the stone and Cobb County as the place of death.
The 1880 federal census for Brasstown, Clay, NC has a John Coffey, widowed, and what looks like Jame and Rosela, 20 and 16.
There is no 1890 census. 1900 has Joseph F Rickmon with wife Roselia A, both born in NC and married in 1895, and two sons John and William, both born in GA. 1900 has John Coffey, widowed, in Gum Log, Union County, GA living with and older son Robert Coffey. John was 90 in 1900 so he likely didn't make it to the 1910 census.
I haven't yet found Jane (M J) in 1900 but she is in Gum Log in 1910, single, 47, own income (meaning she had a means of support without having a job.) She is a few houses away from Robert Coffey and wife.
That's all I've had time for today but I'm fairly sure R A and M J were sisters and I'm also sure we have revealed more of this mystery than we have solved today.

I too enjoy spending time at a cemetery, the older headstones have so much history. I like to read the inscriptions on them .

RA Rickman was Rosie Aralene (Coffee) Rickman. Her husband was JF Rickman, both as indicated on census were born in NC. She died according to records in Cobb County, Georgia. Her parents were: John Coffee and mother was Molly McDearce. So evidently the graves are for Rosie and her father. On 1940 census JF Rickman is living with his son (MV Rickman, they were living in Rome, Floyd Co, GA. Liz

Tipper, I know that Edwin as well as me and others on your site are genealogy researchers. I think that any of us would be happy to assist any of your readers with mysteries like this.


When next you go to that cemetery, take a spirit level (no pun inte....well, maybe, just a little intent there) and check to see if the structure is level; the ground looks as though it is not, so if the stones are level then it could well have been a foundation for a grave house. On the other hand, we have a grave site here that is done up in much the same manner, with a stone border and river gravel within. Most notable as if you want a rock in this county you have to buy it as the soil is all sand, and the only locally-available gravel is crushed limestone. The man who did this is still living; it's a memorial to his son, who died in an auto wreck, perhaps ten years ago. Point being that it was not intended to be a grave house or mausoleum, just a beautiful resting place for his young'un.

The pictures kinda remind me of a Stonehenge sort of structure. Did Brasstown have Druids?

Thanks Tipper, this is a very interesting story. I would think they had to be related in some way and the family could only afford one stone so decided this
was the best thing to do. I love
old cemeteries and sometimes I go
to one here in Hendersonville and just wander around and read the names and dates on the old stones.
It's always sad to see ones that
are children or babies. I really enjoyed your posts about the old cemeteries that you and your family have visited near Fontana Lake. That is such an interesting

This is intriguing! How nice that some of the readers have already supplied the names of the deceased, but the mystery of the stone foundation remains...

Very interesting post.. Let us know if you find out anything..

We poured a concrete form around my in-laws plots like the one in the picture and filled it in with white gravel. I bet that's what they did there. Looks like there might be gravel in yours too. The pipe is a drain in case water pools inside. My in-laws' graves don't have the concrete slabs over the graves.

It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who enjoys wandering in old cemeteries. We half expect a tap on shoulder.

Tipper, you make me think too much some mornings. I love a good mystery! I think the 1918 flu epidemic was mostly over, and there are some studies that showed it killed mostly younger adults with no immunity. There was possibly a smallpox problem. Sometimes when close relatives or friends die from tragedies unusual burial methods are used. My uncle liked to tell me about a couple of men in the 1800's who got in a gun battle, and area people buried them starting a cemetery. Please update us at a later date if mystery solved.

I have never gotten into geneology, but I tend to agree that they were somehow related. They passed on within three days of each other, so I would guess that there was some sort of close connection - probably family. This is very interesting and I await the results of those who know how to seach this type of information. Good post!

The structure around the graves has made me very curious. My Grandparents are buried in a very similar fashion. The stones surrounding their graves are not quite as tall as the ones pictured here but they completely surround their graves. No other graves in that grave yard have these stones and I always wondered why they were there. After thinking about it I think that maybe it was a way to save the space for the last one to die. It is a family cemetery and no one purchased grave plots. When someone died they would bury them wherever the immediate family wanted.

I have no help on the Coffeys and Rickmans (although some of both families have been in Swain County for a while).

But the practice of multiple folks and a single stone is one that is commonly practiced in places with less acreage than we have. An example is the one at the link below, which is in the cemetery surrounding the church where William Shakespeare is buried in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Oh, I love cemetaries and the stories they have to tell. Sounds like your readers have solved at least part of this mystery. I am anxious to hear more.

Tipper, it is amazing to me that you posted this mystery this morning and already have half the solution. It's only 8:30!
It's in the 20's here this morning....cold! My cats don't even want to go out.

I'll be watching through the day for the remainder of the answer.

M J was Rozelia Aveline's sister. Don't have the M part yet but the J was Jane. Mary Jane?? They were daughters of John Coffey and Mollie McDorce? Their mother died before 1880. Both died on Cobb County Georgia.

Tipper, I think I can help you out with part of the mystery of the grave at Pin Log Cemetery.As a genealogist I was pleasantly surprised to find a research project for today. The R. A. Rickman is Rosie Aralene Coffey Rickman who married a J. F. Rickman. Her father was John Coffey. At some point Rosie and J.F. moved to Cobb Co. GA. where she lived until her death. I am inclined to think that the M. J. could be a beloved member of her family. I will do futher research on the project and will be in touch. Thanks for giving me such an interesting project.

For sure R. A. Rickman was Rozelia Aveline Coffey Rickman. M.J was probably a sister or brother. I will get back to you if somebody else don't beat me to it.

The death records at the courthouse might give you some clues, including their descendants. For a cemetery mystery solved, see my August 17 post, entitled "The Story Of L.E.G." (True story.)

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