A noteworthy citizen in Clarke County history is Ike Nettles. Mr. Nettles, an African American, lived in Carlton, very near Hal’s Lake. He devised a way to remember the dead by making masks of their faces and putting them on the tombstones. To do this, he took mud and made an impression of their face before death.. These were then transferred to plaster of paris and later onto the tomb.
One tomb has three faces, presumably a mother and her two children. Another, said to be Mr. Nettles’ mother, Selena, has the whole figure of a woman to the knees. It has a wire frame and was filled with concrete. He only did four of these masks, the first dating to 1883 and the last to 1945.
Mr. Nettles also had many talents. He devised a machine he hoped would revolutionize the timber industry and was even asked by the Ford Motor Co. to come demonstrate his machine.
Unfortunately, he died before things could materialize. He also did not pass on his secrets for the death masks. Only a simple tombstone marks his grave.
Today, these “death masks” are on the National Register of Historic Places. We are in great danger of losing these important folk art pieces from the weather and vandals.