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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Carlton in Clarke County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Mt. Nebo Death Masks

 
 
Mt. Nebo Death Masks Marker (Side 1) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
1. Mt. Nebo Death Masks Marker (Side 1)
Inscription.
Side 1
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mt. Nebo Cemetery is home to the unique folk art of African American inventor and artist, Issac "Ike" Nettles, who used concrete to make images of living people's faces for their tombstones.
Born in 1885 near this location, Nettles was described by family as a "brilliant recluse" who studied at Tuskegee University. Though earning his living as a farmer, he received several patents on inventions he created, most notably a child's pedal car. He built other machines around his home in Nettles Quarters
(Continued on other side)

Side 2
(Continued from other side)

to aid in his farming endeavors. Three of the four death masks are Nettle's family members. The largest gravestone was his mother Selena (d. 1933), which he represented from the waist up and according to some, included her hair. The grave of Angel Ezella Nettles included her face and nickname "Sis Dollie." Another was his wife, Korean (d. 1933), and also featured the faces of his three daughters, Pauline, Marie and Clara. The last mask was Manul Burrell (d. 1946). The death mask gravestones have been recognized as unique and significant by folklorists in the state may be unique in the southeast.
 
Erected
Mt. Nebo Death Masks Marker (Side 2) image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
2. Mt. Nebo Death Masks Marker (Side 2)
2016 by the Clarke County Historical Society.
 
Location. 31° 20.797′ N, 87° 52.059′ W. Marker is in Carlton, Alabama, in Clarke County. Marker is on Mt. Nebo Road 0.4 miles north of Belqueen Road, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Carlton AL 36515, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 12 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bartram's Trail (approx. 2.7 miles away); Gravesite of Major Jeremiah Austill (approx. 5.4 miles away); Central Salt Works (approx. 6 miles away); Town of McIntosh (approx. 11.1 miles away); The Clarke County War Memorial (approx. 11.2 miles away); Andrews Chapel (approx. 11.2 miles away); City of Jackson (approx. 11.3 miles away); Jackson (approx. 11.3 miles away).
 
More about this marker. Some maps note Belqueen Road as 'Hals Road.' Recently someone has removed the street signs at the corner of Carlton Road (CR-19) and Belqueen Road and also at Belqueen and Mt. Nebo Road. There are no signs at that corner to indicate the church or cemetery is located in the area (arrow sign-Mt. Nebo is gone). Belqueen and Mt. Nebo Roads are dirt roads.
 
Regarding Mt. Nebo Death Masks. The death masks or "frozen face" motif has been identified
Marker near cemetery and south of church. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
3. Marker near cemetery and south of church.
by folklorists as characteristic of African-derived symbolism in African American art. The exact technique used by Nettles to create the gravestones is not known but is thought that the faces of the deceased were pressed in sand to create a mold and concrete and wire were used to create the gravestones

He also devised a machine he hoped would revolutionize the timber industry and was even asked by the Ford Motor Company to demonstrate his machine. Unfortunately, he died before things could materialize.

Isaac Nettles did not pass on his secrets for the death masks. Only a simple tombstone marks his grave.
 
Also see . . .  Wikipedia article on the gravestone death masks. (Submitted on February 26, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
 
Categories. African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicCemeteries & Burial Sites
 
Mt. Nebo Death Masks image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
4. Mt. Nebo Death Masks
Gravestone of wife of Issac Nettles, and his daughters, on left. Gravestone of Angel Ezella Nettles on right.
Mt. Nebo Death Mask of Manul Burell. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
5. Mt. Nebo Death Mask of Manul Burell.
This mask was vandalized and was the most detailed of the death mask gravestones in the cemetery. The deceased's shirt collar and buttons are visible on the stone. Only mask not part of artist Ike Nettles family. Note spelling of his name is different from marker.
Nearby Mt. Nebo Church. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 25, 2017
6. Nearby Mt. Nebo Church.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 26, 2017. This page originally submitted on February 26, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 147 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on February 26, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of gravestone of Issac Nettles and also of his mother Selena. • Can you help?
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