Itawamba County is known far and wide for its unique pottery cemetery monuments made in the various local pottery operations of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another unique monument type found in Itawamba County cemeteries is the cast iron monument.
The cast iron monuments found in Itawamba County cemeteries were patented during 1887 by James K.P. Shelton, a native of northeast Mississippi (born in nearby Pontotoc County) who lived in Sumter County, Alabama at the time the patent was awarded.
These cast iron monuments were used primarily to mark the graves of recently deceased family members, whereas the pottery monuments widely in use at the time, were used extensively to mark the grave sites of family members long since deceased.
The Shelton patent reads in part: “Be it known that I, James K.P. Shelton, a citizen of the United States, residing in Gaston, in the county of Sumter and State of Alabama, have invented certain new and useful improvements in Monuments or Sign Holders or Posts…It is frequently customary to place a photograph of a deceased person upon a tombstone or within a cavity formed for that purpose therein, and a construction of my invention...is particularly adapted for this purpose…The inscription usual in such cases, together with the photograph, or other memento may be attached to a plate of any desired material and placed within the receiver…if desired a glass plate may be secured in front of the plate…”
Unfortunately this was not a good idea. In Itawamba County, no cast iron monument has been found yet to contain the glass and mementos intact and the result is scores of cast iron monuments marking grave sites, with no personal information about who is buried beneath the monuments.
James K.P. Shelton was born July 19, 1845 in Pontotoc County and died March 18, 1896 in Sumter County, Alabama (buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery). He was the son of Andrew Jackson Shelton (born December 26, 1821 in Lauderdale County, Alabama, the son of Robert Roan Shelton, and died December 23, 1881 in Sumter County, Alabama) and Elizabeth Faulkner (born March 19, 1824 in South Carolina, the daughter of Jabal Faulkner, died October 13, 1906 in Sumter County, Alabama, buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery).
James K.P. Shelton served the Confederacy during the Civil War, serving in Company A of the 12th Mississippi Cavalry. In all the census records through 1900, James K.P. Shelton is listed as single. He is listed in the 1850 Pontotoc County, Mississippi census and in Sumter County, Alabama in all subsequent census records through 1900.