Laurel resident publishes book on Delmarva 'roofed grave' tradition

Delaware News Desk
Sussex Countian
Sussex Countian

Laurel resident Chris Slavens announced the publication of a book about the local “roofed grave” tradition — “The Roofed Graves of Delmarva,” which investigates the use of wooden, shingled grave covers in cemeteries in Sussex and Wicomico counties from the 1840s into the 20th century.

The mysterious grave markers have not survived to the present, but old photographs, newspaper clippings, and eyewitness accounts tell the tale of what was once a popular local burial custom.

“The earliest descriptions of roofed graves come from the 1930s, when there were hardly any left, and those were already in poor condition,” said Slavens. “I was trying to learn more about them, and realized that nobody had ever written more than a few sentences about the custom. This book is an attempt to document everything we know about this unusual local tradition — but hopefully we’ll learn more in the future.”

The book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or can be ordered from other booksellers via publishing and distribution platform IngramSpark. Copies will also be available at the Laurel Heritage Museum, 215 Mechanic St., and the Cook House Museum, 502 E. Fourth St., which are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month.

A book launch and signing event hosted by the Laurel Historical Society and featuring a presentation by the author is set for 2 p.m. March 28 at Abbott’s on Broad Creek, 300 Delaware Ave.