Frozen Faces of Mt. Nebo Cemetery
By Kelly Kazek
An isolated dirt lane in the woods of Clarke County, Alabama, leads to a tiny, picturesque white church. Nearby is the burial site of late members of the church, some of whom stare blankly back at visitors through concrete eyes molded into grave markers. Four graves in Mt. Nebo Cemetery are marked with death mask headstones crafted by Isaac Nettles Sr, an inventor born in the 1880s. The exact dates of his birth and death are unknown, because in an odd twist, he is buried in an unmarked grave.
No one is sure why or how Nettles created the stones, though local lore says he made impressions by pressing their faces into wet sand and used concrete and wire to create the masks. Sadly, only two of the four markers are intact, and even those are eroding. One marker has three faces on it and is marked with the word “mother.” There is a legend that the woman died while giving birth to twins, but Kerry Reid with the Clarke County museum said the marker bears the faces of Nettles’ three daughters—Pauline, Marie and Clara—and that the stone marks the burial site of his wife, Korea Nettles.