Death Ways
By Cali Lewis

Death practices that are used in Appalachia are rooted in the past, as far back as even the Scots Irish ancestors of the early settlers. In Albion's Seed by David Hacket Fisher the death ways of the people from the Borders region of the British Isles are detailed. Some of these practices are still in use today in all reaches of the Appalachian Mountian region.

Learn More about Death Ways in the Borders region of the British Isles

There are three main parts of the ceremony, in addition to the prepartions made to the body before the ceremony: visitation, funeral, and burial services.

Preparation of the deceased

Some of the most basic practices and traditions surrounding death today, such as embalming and wooden and metal caskets were unavailable to the folks in rural Bland County during a good part of the twenty century. Instead, a number of home practices were commonly used during the preparation of the bodies for viewing and burial.

Learn More about the Preparation of the Body


The visitation, also called a viewing or wake, is the practice of placing the body on display in the casket, usually held in a funeral home or church. In Bland County, it's also common practice to have the wake in the deceased's home or the home of a close family member.

Learn More about Visitations

Funeral/Memorial Service

A funeral, sometimes called a memorial service, is officiated by a clergy members from the church or religion of the decedent or family, and here in Bland County, they usually take place at a local church or funeral home. The funeral usually takes place a few days after death, allowing out of town family and friends to attend the service.

Learn More about Funerals

Digging the Grave and Burial Service

In Appalachia, graves were dug by the family and friends. A burial service is conducted at the site of the grave, tomb, mausoleum, crematorium, and at the end, the body is either buried or cremated.

Learn More about Digging the Grave and Burial Services

Here are some Bland County residents talking about their experiences with wakes, funerals, and burial services in Bland County.

List of Sources used in this portion of webpage