In the early 1800’s stone from the Hindostan Whetstone beds of Orange County Indiana became the first commercial tombstone in Indiana. This was a vast improvement over fieldstone and wood markers. They are composed of thick and thin layers of river silt deposits and are commonly known for sharpening tools. The number of layers seen on a headstone has been as few as nine and as many as 32 within the space of less then three inches.
At the lower right of the inscriptions you may find the headstone signed by the engraver or dealer. The lettering used on the headstones are similar to fonts used by newspapers and books prior to the pre-Civil War era. The stone layers are prone to splitting and flaking away over time.
Transported from the quarries in ox drawn wagons to the White river and then placed on barges. Many stones where taken to New Orleans and then shipped overseas. The last quarry closed in 1980, with the railroad lines opened up Indiana to white marble from other states. The Indiana limestone industry began to produce gravestones.
You can identify a Hindostan Whetstone Marker by three physical features. First they are mush more weather resistant than limestone or marble, so the inscriptions can be very clear and easy to read. The color is often tan with off white, buff, light brown and rust streaked. Once you have seen one you will be able to easily spot more. Most vital is the layers show a progressive overall pattern of thickening and thinning. A thick-thin pair is referred to as a “couplet”. You can view these on the top or side of the monument.
In Southwestern Indiana and Pope County, Ill many Whetstone headstones have been identified in pioneer cemeteries. Some have been found near the Wabash River along the lower Ohio and Mississipi rivers because of the rivers being used for transporting the stone. The Indiana Geological Survey at Indiana University is recording the locations of ever stone found. If you encounter a monument that you believe may be made from Whetstone they ask that you send in or email your photos of the face and of the edge. The contact information is IGS 611 N Walnut Grove Bloomington IN 47405 or email Dr. Richard Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org
See more photos at this Findagrave.com link