Oakwood Cemetery Spartanburg South Carolina

South Carolina Cemetery Tour

CAO’s Association Outreach and Organization Manager, Anna Mehrer, visited Spartanburg, South Carolina in April and was naturally compelled to get a taste of the local culture – especially, cemetery culture. Oakwood Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery were at the top of the list. Accompanied by a professor from Wofford College, they made their way through these historic gems.

Oakwood Cemetery is a large, grassy knoll and home to over 5,000 burials. While the cemetery was chartered in 1885, it was most likely originally a family cemetery, with its first burials between 1828 and 1872. Many historically significant members of the community are buried at Oakwood: Confederate Col. Joseph Walker, Simpson Bobo (responsible for signing the secession ordinance prior to the Civil War), Converse College founder, Dexter Converse, local politicians, and wealthy textile mill owners (Spartanburg had a burgeoning textile industry in the 1800s), among others. It is the first cemetery in the region to have a Jewish section. Several gravesites are decorated with iron crosses indicating service in the Civil War (pictured). Marked “CSA” with the Confederate flag, these are an unusual sight for those accustomed to seeing memorials in the Northwest. In 1914, some graves were moved to Oakwood Cemetery from Magnolia Cemetery to make room for a railroad.

Magnolia is a much smaller cemetery, situated across from what is now the coroner’s office. The earliest death dates in the cemetery are from 1810, with perhaps the most notable resident being William “Singin’ Billy” Walker (1809-1875), who composed the tunebook, “The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion”. As you can see from the photos, Magnolia’s gravesites have many different styles. One mausoleum has a unique appearance reminiscent of an indigenous hut, but the view from the front presents a more traditional aesthetic. Other graves are arranged piles of brick.

As with most cemeteries, Magnolia and Oakwood have had a history of popular places to party among the locals, often incurring vandalism and extensive, expensive damage. Magnolia appears to have received some level of love in years past, but there is evidence that finding resources for upkeep may be a challenge. Through the preservation of history in these beautiful resting places, there is hope for a legacy of learning and discovery for future generations.

We hope you enjoy a pictorial tour of these cemeteries.

Oakwood Cemetery

Magnolia Cemetery


Interview with Coldspring

I sat down with Eric Romppanen of Coldspring recently on an overcast Portland morning at a quaint donut shop. Based in Seattle, Eric was already quite familiar with the city. His background in the aluminum business grounded him in the value of earth’s resources and how sometimes these products are taken for granted (or granite!). He noted that many downtown Portland curbs and building fascia are granite, the primary material Coldspring quarries.

Coldspring is a North American memorial company with quarries in the United States and Canada, the dominant provider of US-sourced granite that is sold to monument dealers, funeral homes, and cemeteries. As the burial industry has evolved, so have Coldspring’s product offerings. They offer glass-front niches for cremations, “Expressions in Bronze” and other bronze castings, and memorial spaces — for example, an 826-crypt mausoleum in Book Park, Ohio.

As I became acquainted with what Coldspring offers, Eric mentioned marble is not the best option for headstones. Marble can stain easily and erode with weather – important to note due to our wet and mossy Pacific Northwest environment, hence, the prominence of granite in newer cemetery installations. Granite can also be laser or water etched, something we have seen become more popular lately. Here are examples of how different types of etching on certain types of granite can produce dramatically different results.

coldspring granite etching

This style has grown in popularity due to the more realistic depiction of the deceased and/or a scene representing their hobbies or interests. It made me wonder what the future of memorials will be – video presentations on outdoor flat screens with live video broadcasting via Google Streetview? Holograms of the deceased telling their own story?

A trend Eric is seeing is an increase in the need for housing cremains, since people are not taking home the cremains like they used to. Cemeteries are challenged with memorialization in this way, so Coldspring offers an attractive display system called, “Glass-Front Niches”. These display cases are housed in a memorial building where there could be seating for visiting families and grievers. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for this funeral home in Colorado?

Another form of memorialization is Coldspring’s “Expressions in Bronze”, where the sand-cast bronze image is painted in black, then sanded down to reveal the realistic two-tone image. (Pictured: Eric holding an example) Bronze and granite stand the test of time and the elements, so this type of memorialization is a practical solution for preserving one’s legacy.

One of the myths Eric would like to dispel is that foreign-sourced granite memorials are less expensive. Domestically-sourced granite offers more advantages than people think in terms of turnaround time, flexibility, and customization. While people think bronze is expensive, it’s important to remember you get what you pay for. If you’d like something unique, like Expressions in Bronze, there will be no other thing like it. Many Veterans request US-made memorials. Cemeteries will guarantee families receive US-quarried memorials and bronze cast in the US. The standard lead time is 45 days, once the order is received and approved by the family. That is a service that can’t be matched by sourcing overseas. While overseas quarries are less expensive, they don’t have environmental standards. Therefore, when a person is looking to buy a granite memorial, it is recommended to request a domestic source.

Some of Coldspring’s crowning achievements include memorials for Jimi Hendrix, Bud Adams (Tennessee Titans owner), Tara Lipinski (she’s planning ahead!), and the blue pearl granite fountain at the Kennedy Space Center. To learn more about Coldspring, you may visit their website.

Please comment below with your challenges and achievements regarding memorialization!