by Dr. DL Henderson and Ashley Shares
This month the Preservation, Restoration, and Operations (PRO) Team has restored Lot 2 of Block 70 in the African American Grounds. Block 70 is located east of the Confederate Obelisk on the north side of Monument Drive. Work on this lot consisted of: leveling and resetting a medium-sized marble obelisk belonging to Henrietta Flood; a medium marble “cross and base” monument belonging to Samuel Flood; and a small marble marker that bears no inscription but is possibly a headstone belonging to James Flood, who died in 1940. Additionally, the PRO Team reset marble coping on the west and south sides.
To reset the two medium-sized markers, we removed them piece-by-piece using a chain hoist and nylon strapping. The existing below-ground bases (made of brick and concrete, respectively) were intact and nearly level. We reused these pieces, along with a bed of compacted gravel to facilitate drainage away from the markers.
The coping on the west side of the lot had sunken severely. To remedy this, the PRO Team dug out and removed the three differently-sized pieces, then tightly compacted the soil and laid and a bed of gravel. The coping on the south side, which sits on a concrete parged* wall, was loose and out of alignment. A parged wall refers to a wall, in this case brick, where the entire surface of the multi-unit structural system is covered in a smooth layer of cement to mimic the appearance of one solid surface.
We reset the pieces on thin beds of type-N mortar. Type-N mortar is preferred for soft stone masonry because it withstands severe weather conditions and heat. By using this mortar, we’ve ensured that the coping will stay put for years to come.
In concert with the plot restoration, we delved deeper into the Flood family records to put history behind the names. Only months before his death in September 1905, Samuel Flood wrote his last will and testament. He arranged for payment of all his debts and made specific monetary bequests to relatives. An issue of special importance to Samuel was his grave marker and the care of his cemetery lot. He left explicit instructions in his will to ensure his final wishes were carried out.
Samuel, a carpenter, suffered the loss of his wife Henrietta, in 1881. He buried her at Oakland, and her grave is marked by a marble monument featuring a cross-vaulted top. The couple had no children of their own, but Samuel left his estate to his niece and nephews. He gave the bulk of his assets to his oldest nephew, Charlie Flood. Samuel also bequeathed to Charlie the responsibility of making his funeral arrangements, buying his tombstone, and taking care of the Flood family lot at Oakland.
Samuel was particular about the cost of his grave marker. The will specifically requested that Charlie purchase a tombstone at a cost “not less than $100 and not more than $150.” For this price in 1905, Charlie would have been able to choose from a wide selection of quality gravestones. The marble tombstone over Samuel Flood’s grave bears a cross with the inscription, “In Loving Memory of My Uncle.” In addition, Samuel recognized that his childlessness, and the lack of perpetual care at Oakland, might leave his grave untended. His will also directed Charlie to keep the Flood family lot “in good repairs and condition.”
Charlie Flood died in 1925 and was buried in his uncle’s lot, but it is unknown if other family members cared for the lot after his death. For Samuel Flood, the preservation of his cemetery lot was an important family duty, but over the years, as descendants have moved away or lost contact, many lots at Oakland have gone untended. Today, the Flood family lot is being restored to good condition as part of the African American Grounds restoration project.
Dr. DL Henderson is a professional genealogist and Board Trustee at Historic Oakland Foundation.
Ashley Shares is Preservation Manager at Historic Oakland Foundation.
As HOF begins planning for the African American Grounds hardscape and landscape restoration, community engagement and support is critical. You can make a financial contribution to the restoration project in person at Oakland Cemetery’s Visitors Center & Museum Shop, located at the Bell Tower. Or donate online by clicking here. On the online donation page, be sure to select “African American Section” from the designation drop-down menu. Visit our African American Grounds page to learn about this restoration project in-depth.