18th Century Tympanic Icons of Midway Cemetery

Tympana are the semi-circular arches atop early headstones, usually featuring an iconic relief sculpture. In early America, the most common of these icons is the “winged death” head, usually represented as a cherubic face or skull above a pair of wings. New England churchyards and burying grounds abound with these earliest forms of American sculpture, but they’re rarities in the Deep South. Charleston has the largest concentration, with other examples scattered around the low country of South Carolina; Savannah has a few examples but Midway has the best variety in Georgia.

James Wilson (18 July 1739-10 December 1794)

This headstone is half-buried [see first photo]. Wilson was born at the Salem Plantation, Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Elisabeth Bennett Way (1 September 1771-21 October 1795)

Elisabeth Bennett married William Way in Liberty County on 4 September 1794. In regards to design, this is the most important headstone at Midway. In Early Gravestone Art of Georgia & South Carolina (UGA Press, Athens, 1986), Diana Williams Combs wrote: “As far as I know, the nimbus has not been employed elsewhere during this period of American gravestone art. In this context it emphasizes the salvation of the deceased.”

Susanna Winn Stacy (30 July 1770-8 February 1789)

Susanna Stacy was the daughter of John and Sarah Winn and the wife of James Stacey.

Margaret Wilson Stacy (28 January 1769-8 May 1792)

Margaret Stacy was born at the Salem Plantation, Beaufort County, South Carolina. She was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Wilson and the wife of John Stacy. She died soon after giving birth to their fourth child.

Sarah Winn (28 May 1746-23 June 1767)

Sarah Winn was born at Dorchester, South Carolina, the daughter of John and Sarah Winn. [not the same Sarah Winn whose headstone is pictured above].

Sarah Stevens

This is one of two Sarah Stevens stones in Midway. The other stone marks the grave of Sarah Milner Stevens (1731-1767). I’ll investigate this further when I can.

James Osgood

I believe this marble marker dates to 1793. I will update it soon.

There’s always a nice view of Midway Congregational Church (1792) across US Highway 17 from the famous brick wall surrounding the cemetery.

National Register of Historic Places




8 thoughts on “18th Century Tympanic Icons of Midway Cemetery

  1. Laurie White

    So am I, Russell. His daughter, Rosa Florence was my great-grandmother. Do you know the book Lyddy? It was written by Eugenia Jones, another daughter. It’s a novelistic treatment of their life on their plantation. I’d love a picture of their house.

    1. russellhicks

      I have material related to the Towers family, and their tie here is Laura Jones, who married Raleigh Camp. I have what is thought a photograph of her and one of the prior generation. My email address is rwhickscpa@gmail.com. I can send to you if I have your email address…Best, Russell Hicks

  2. Cecil Palmer

    My Mother, Evelyn Jean Butler Palmer was from the Butler family of Bryan County, Ga. They were early settlers and most were rice planters. I am in the SAR/SR organizations and have trouble tracing all the Butlers. My Maternal GM Mary Etta Richardson Butler was from Liberty County. I have the Buddy Sullivan book on Bryan County.

  3. john m

    I noiced that the writing on most of the stones are close to worn off. does anyone care or know anything that can be done to save these.

  4. Laurie Lake White

    I want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog! My relatives–the Moses Liberty Jones family–owned a plantation, Green Forest, in Liberty Cty that purportedly looked like a little “New England town.” No trace remains, I guess. Your evocative photos and historical research are wonderful! Thank you!

  5. Ginger Birdsey

    I really like your photographs Brian. Ginger Birdsey

    On Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 12:35 PM, Vanishing Coastal Georgia Photographs by

  6. Ashley Bowersox

    Dear Brian, It is always a pleasure to receive your posts. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to meet? We’d love to have you speak to our community at ThincSavannah, and showcase your photography. Next time you are coming to Savannah, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll be on Sapelo next weekend (with Leadership Southeast Georgia), then I plan to visit Jekyll on Sunday the 25th for the Transcontinental Centennial. Hope you’re well, and thank you for sharing your talent. Cheers, -ASH W. Ashley Bowersox 912.604.3356

    Sent from my iPhone



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