Archaeological investigations at the Old Frankfort Cemetery recovered a wealth of information about the 242 people who were laid to rest there. It included ethnic heritage, age and sex; the state of their overall health; the diseases they experienced; their work history; the kinds of foods they ate; and the tangible evidence of their final days on earth.
For most of its history, the Old Frankfort Cemetery was an integrated burial ground for Frankfort’s working class and the poor. European-Americans as well as freed and enslaved African-Americans were buried there.
Most of the graves were simple rectangular pits. In 67 cases, however, large limestone slabs, and occasionally bricks, covered the bottom and lined the sides of the grave shaft. Most of the stone was natural rock undoubtedly collected from nearby rock outcrops. This created a box or below-ground rectangular vault. Constructing these vaults required digging the grave shaft much wider than the coffin. In many instances, the use of a cover-stone was so effective that deterioration of the coffin wood and decomposition of the body created a void.
Archaeologists were able to identify differences among the dead that had as much to do with their economic standing as it did their ethnic heritage. Regardless of a person’s ethnicity, people buried in the Upper Area were relatively better situated, financially, than those buried in the Lower Area. This was reflected by the fact that the former ate a greater variety of foods, and by the amount of effort and resources their families spent on their loved ones’ burials (lining grave shafts to create below-ground vaults and purchasing somewhat fancier coffins).
Other factors, too, like religious beliefs or cultural traditions, undoubtedly contributed to the burial patterns researchers documented within the Old Frankfort Cemetery. These included, for example, placing coins mainly on the eyes of adult women; the preference for wrapping infants and children in shrouds; and the custom that led men to wear wedding bands on their left hand and women on their right.