The Tradition of Grave Tokens
These photos feature a somewhat mysterious facet of cemeteries, the leaving of tokens on graves.  Examples from
the Smokies in western North Carolina and Mammoth Cave National Park in western Kentucky show that the tradition
is more than local.

Leaving flowers or tending a gravesite are signs of respect for the dead, but the occasional token that one
encounters is a very intimate and personal communication with the departed.  Sometimes it is simply a smooth,
rounded stone, left in the spirit of “I was here to visit you.”  But sometimes there is a more powerful message, as can
be seen here.  Tokens have something in common with personal objects left on a grave, such as a child’s shoe or an
adult’s coffee mug.  But tokens are not objects stirring memory so much as they are direct and powerful
communications with the spirit of the departed one.
Glassy stones on a statue over a grave in Watkins Cemetery, near Bryson City,
NC, NSCD 8-8-04 KJ
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Message carved on an old stone resting on a grave: “Hattie Brendle I Love
You,” in Brendle Hill Cemetery, Swain Co., NC, NSCD 9-2-04 KJ
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Sand dollar inscribed “I love you daddy” on gravestone in Joppa Cemetery,
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY, 8-6-05
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Coin, seed, and stone tokens on top of gravestone of Floyd Collins, Mammoth
Cave Church Cemetery, 8-7-05 KJ
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Tokens on the base of the gravestone of Floyd Collins, Mammoth Cave
Church Cemetery, 8-7-05 KJ
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Want to read more about Floyd Collins?  Click here for field notes from my visit
to his grave, including more photos and a brief background on his story.  
Grave with a heart-shaped stone token, Monymusk Church, Monymusk, Scotland