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Cover: The Zion Cemetery, Washington Township, Pickaway 
County, Ohio. (Photograph by Francis Y. Duval) 

Centerfold: The Old Settlers' Burial Field, Lancaster, Massachu- 
setts, in wintertime. (Photograph by Daniel Farber) 

© AGS, The Association for Gravestone Studies, 1980. All rights 
reserved under Pan American and International Conventions. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a re- 
trieval system, or excerpted in any form or by any means, elec- 
tronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other methods 
without prior written authorization of the Executive Board of The 
Association for Gravestone Studies, except by a reviewer who 
may quote brief passages and use its illustrations strictly for 
review purposes. 

AGS Publications, mailing address: c/o American Antiquarian 
Society, Worcester, Mass. 01609. 

1979/80 EDITION 













F.Joanne Baker 

Vice-President/ Archives 

Peter Benes 

\/icePresidentl Conservation 

Lance R. Mayer 


Mary Anne Mrozinski 

VicePresidentl Grants 

Gaynell Levine 

Vice-President! Publications 

Jessie Lie Farber 

Vice-President/ Research 

AnneG. Giesecke 

Recording Secretary 

Ralph Tucker 

Corresponding Secretary 

Ruth 0. Cowell 


Sally Thomas 



Jessie Lie Farber 

Review Board 

F. Joanne Baker 

Daniel Farber 

James A. Slater 

Art Direction 

Francis Y. Duval 

Ivan B. Rigby 


Francis Y. Duval 

Mariners was produced on Warren Lustro Offset Enamel and set in Fritz Quadrata 
regular and bold, and in Compugraphic Helios regular, bold, and italic. 
Markers was printed by Mercantile Printing Company, Inc., 25 Foster Street, 
Worcester, Massachusetts 01608. 

Photographs are by the authors except the following illustrative material contributed 
by: AGS, p. 6; Peter Benes, p. 21; Francis Y. Duval, pp. 43, 58, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110, 
112, 113, 114; Duval/Rigby Collection, pp. 14, 18, 80, 98, 118, 122, 125, 126, 129, 130, 
132, 133, 135, 136, 148; Daniel Farber, pp. 17, 34, 38, 84, 142; Rhode Island Historical 
Society, pp. 145, 146; James Slater, pp. 28, 30, 37, 40; Alan Ward, p. 153. 


Introduction 7 

Wanted: The Hook-And-Eye Man 
Ernest Caulfield 


Ithamar Spauldin, Stonecarver of Concord, Mass. 
C. R. Jones 


Colorado Wooden Markers 
James Milmoe 


Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 
Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Ribgy 


Wisconsin's Wrought Iron Markers 
Julaine Maynard 


The John Stevens Shop 
Esther Fisher Benson 


Resurrecting the Epitaph 

Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 


Recording Cemetery Data 

F. Joanne Baker, Daniel Farber, Anne G. Giesecke 


The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 
Lance R. Mayer 


Protective Custody: The Museum's Responsibility for Gravestones 
Robert P. Emien 


The Willow Tree and Urn Motif 
Blanche M. G. Linden 


The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 
James B. Richardson III and Ronald C. Carlisle 


Mystery, History and an Ancient Graveyard 
Melvin Williams 


Resources for the Classroom Teacher: An Annotated Bibliography 
Mary Anne Mrozinski 


Gravestones and Historical Archaeology: A Review Essay 
David H. Watters 




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This first issue of MARKERS had its beginnings in Dublin, New 
Hampshire, five years ago. At that time, Peter Benes, a New Hamp- 
shire history instructor with an intense interest in colonial grave- 
stone iconography, recognized a need. In the course of his research 
and writing he noted that students of early gravestones tend to 
work more in isolation than in concert, largely unaware of each 
other's problems, contributions, and often of each other's ex- 
istence. As a result of this observation, Benes began in the fall of 
1975 to make arrangements for a gathering of interested scholars 
and laymen. The site selected for this meeting was the Dublin 
School, where he was a member of the faculty. The dates chosen 
were Saturday and Sunday, June 19 and 20, 1976, and the event was 
called "The Dublin Seminar." Benes' account of the meeting is 
related in his introduction to the Seminar's published proceedings, 
Puritan Gravestone Art. He writes that plans for about forty par- 
ticipants had to be expanded to accommodate: 

... a diversified, full-scale conference that attracted over 
116 scholars, curators, preservationists, and dedicated 
enthusiasts from as far away as California, Georgia, and 
Nova Scotia . . . The purpose of the conference was to 
give visibility and interdisciplinary focus to the study of 
Puritan gravestone symbols and artwork, a field limited in 
the past to genealogists and antiquarians, but which now 
attracts increasingly the attention of anthropologists, ar- 
chaeologists, art historians, and social historians. The 
conference was also seen as an attempt to address the 
problems posed by the deterioration and theft of colonial- 
period grave markers. 

We are pleased to report that many of these aims 
were realized. The seminar brought together a core of 
scholars and laymen, most of whom were meeting each 
other for the first time. No fewer than nineteen lectures 
were scheduled into 26 hours . . . Exhibitors filled six 
classrooms and the Dublin School auditorium with photo 
displays, maps, charts, and rubbings. 

8 Introduction 

Among the speakers and exhibitors were Allan Ludwig, Ann 
Parker and Avon Neal, David Hall, Daniel Farber, Stephen Foster, 
James Slater, Francis Duval and Ivan Rigby, Deborah Trask, and 
William McGeer. 

After the conference, the momentum it had generated needed 
direction. Benes invited five of the conferees— Nancy Buckeye, 
Gaynell Levine, Jessie Lie, Robert Mackreth, and Ralph Tucker— to 
meet with him to discuss the formation of an association. The 
meeting was held December 20, 1976, in the library of the Episcopal 
Diocesan House, One Joy Street, Boston. Notes taken by Ralph 
Tucker outline deliberations concerning the proposed 
organization's name and purpose. 

... it was decided that we adopt the title of "Association 
for Gravestone Studies" as being broad enough to be 
inclusive of a wide range of studies, and specific enough 
to define the area of our concerns. 

A general agreement was had that a brief statement 
of purpose be drafted stressing the "fast disappearing 
cultural resources" represented in our gravestones, and 
that these resources are little appreciated or under- 
stood . . . 

The group agreed that an organizational meeting, open to any 
interested person, should be called for the purpose of setting the 
proposed association into motion. Work areas were discussed and 
defined. Tucker's notes continue: 

An organizational meeting to be held at Dublin School on 
2 & 3 July, 1977, was agreed upon . . . workshop groups 
would develop a variety of goals in their several areas, 
then report one to another to develop a sense of direction 
and priorities for our new organization. 

A newsletter was seen as an immediate need, and Robert 
Mackreth was asked to edit the first issue. Benes announced ten- 
tative plans to conduct a series of Dublin Seminars on a variety of 
folklife subjects and, in 1978, to offer a second seminar repeating 
the gravestone topic. He expressed the hope that this 1978 meeting 
would be co-sponsored by the newly conceived Association for 
Gravestone Studies and by the Dublin Seminar, which would func- 
tion as a separate organization. It was agreed that the Association 
would want to share in such a joint effort. 

Introduction 9 

In January, 1977, in a letter to participants in the first (1976) 
Dublin Seminar, Benes announced an agreement between the 
Dublin School and Boston University's American and New England 
Studies Program to continue the Dublin Seminar as the Dublin 
Seminar for New England Folklife (DSNEF), retaining the format 
used at the 1976 conference but enlarging the scope of study to 
include not only gravestone art but a variety of subjects dealing 
with material culture and folklife in the Northeastern United States. 
The 1977 topic would be New England Historical Archaeology. The 
topic of the 1978 conference, to be co-sponsored by AGS and 
DSNEF, would be Puritan Gravestone Art II. 

In April, 1977, the first AGS Newsletter \Nas mailed to prospective 
members. It offered the following PROPOSED STATEMENT OF THE 

Early grave markers are important as memorials, as 
historic and genealogical documents, as art objects, and 
as material expressions of cultural attitudes. The value of 
these markers is not now widely appreciated, however, 
and natural erosion, the pressure of development, and 
vandalism in all its forms threaten to obliterate in a short 
time many monuments that have stood for centuries. In 
recognition of the need for immediate corrective action, 
the Association for Gravestone Studies has been organ- 
ized as an effort to encourage the study and preservation 
of this endangered cultural resource. 

The Association for Gravestone Studies will endeav- 
our to educate the public on the historic and artistic im- 
portance of early gravestones and graveyards, and will 
encourage communities to protect, restore, and record 
their burying grounds. The Association will promote 
research into the technology of gravestone preservation, 
and will work toward the creation of model laws that 
would aid their protection. The Association for Grave- 
stone Studies will cooperate closely with other organiza- 
tions devoted to similar goals, and will provide guidance 
and assistance to individuals or groups interested in the 
study and preservation of funerary art. 

To promote the study of gravestones, the Associa- 
tion will gather, record, and disseminate information 
through publications and meetings. The Association will 
publish a newsletter and plans to establish a journal 
devoted to gravestone studies; it will. hold meetings and 

10 Introduction 

seminars where ideas and information may be ex- 
changed. Finally, the Association will work toward the 
foundation of a center for gravestone studies, which will 
serve as a clearing house for information on the subject 
and will house collections of books, papers, photo- 
graphs, and reproductions. 

The July 2, 3, 1977, organizational meeting was attended by 37 
participants, who drew up the Association's constitution, chose its 
logo, elected its officers, and approved dues, fees, and dates for the 
1978 conference to be co-sponsored with the Dublin Seminar for 
New England Folklife. Daniel Farber was the recipient of the first 
AGS Award for Outstanding Contributions to Gravestone Studies, 
later named the Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award. 

In the months following the 1977 organizational meeting, 
James Slater, Peter Benes, and Nancy Buckeye began a concen- 
trated search for a repository for the Association's archival 
materials. The arrangements they worked out with New England 
Historic Genealogical Society in Boston concerning screening, 
housing, and care of the collections met AGS's needs. The 
Society's convenient location, within walking distance of the 
Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Public Library, and the Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society, was an additional factor in the deci- 
sion to house the Association's archives there. 

The second Annual Meeting and Conference of the Associa- 
tion for Gravestone Studies, co-sponsored by the Dublin Seminar 
for New England Folklife, was held in Dublin, New Hampshire, June 
23, 24, 25, 1978. It was attended by ninety-three conferees, who 
heard twenty-one papers on a wide variety of gravestone-related 
subjects and participated in demonstrations of stonecutting, 
photographing, rubbing, and reproducing gravestones. Featured 
speakers were Ann and Dickran Tashjian and Norman Weiss. The 
late Ernest Caulfield was named recipient of the Harriette Merri- 
field Forbes Award. Boston University published the proceedings, 
Puritan Gravestone Art II, edited by Peter Benes. 

The third Annual Meeting and Conference, held at Salve 
Regina College, Newport, Rhode Island, July 7 and 8, 1979, was at- 
tended by 1 19 Association members. The Newport Carvers were the 
central subject-theme of the conference program, which featured 
visits to Newport's Common Burying Ground and the John Stevens 
Shop. Nineteen speakers were on the program, among them Esther 

Introduction 11 

(Mrs. John Howard) Benson, Edwin Connelly, Jonathan Fairbanks, 
David Watters, Vincent Luti, and C. R. Jones. Seventeen exhibits 
were given space, and a publication sales table attracted con- 
siderable activity. The Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award was 
presented to Peter Benes, author of Masks of Orthodoxy, Director 
of the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, and the major force 
in the founding of the Association for Gravestone Studies. The 
presentation was made by Harriette Forbes' daughter, Catharine 
Forbes Erskine. 

The Association voted to hold its 1980 Annual Meeting and 
Conference at Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and to 
extend the meeting time from two days to three. The emphasis of 
the Conference: Above Ground Archaeology, with special attention 
given to the stonecarvers of the Merrimack River Valley School. At a 
November 2, 1979, meeting of the Executive Board, the Conference 
Planning Committee recommended that AGS schedule its dates to 
coincide with those of the Bay State Historical League, also 
meeting in Haverhill, with the expectation that the two organiza- 
tions would find a creative overlap of interests among their 
members. The recommendation was accepted, and the dates, June 
20, 21, 22, were set. 

It was at this November meeting in 1979 that MARKERS, The 
Journal of the Association for Gravestone Studies was born. An 
annual publication was needed, the Board agreed, to present the 
year's most interesting and significant papers dealing with grave- 
stone studies. The title MARKERS was chosen as one that would 
identify the publication's subject without limiting the scope of its 
contents to any period or location. A committee to review submis- 
sions to the first issue was named: Joanne Baker, James Slater, 
and Daniel Farber. Francis Duval and Ivan Rigby were chosen to 
design MARKERS 1980. 

Jessie Lie Farber, editor 
March, 1980 

Frontispiece: A page from Ralph Tucl<er's minutes of the 1976 meeting at which the 
formation of an association for gravestone studies was discussed. 


Wanted: The Hook-And-Eye Man 

Ernest Caul field 

About the Author 

The following essay was found among the unpublished 
manuscripts of the late Dr. Ernest Caulfield. It is fitting that the first 
issue of MARKERS, the Journal of the Association for Gravestone 
Studies, contain an article by Dr. Caulfield as he was the recipient 
of the Association's 1978 Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award for 
outstanding contributions to gravestone studies. 

Dr. Caulfield and Mrs. Forbes are by far the two most distin- 
guished figures in what was the pioneer period or really the genesis 
of serious study of American gravestones. In neither case, I think, 
do their gravestone-related publications, impressive as they are, 
quite do justice to the background scholarship behind them. 

Dr. Caulfield was working toward an extensive treatment of 
Connecticut carvers which he was unable to complete due to blind- 
ness in his later years. However, his series of articles published in 
The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, ably continued and 
edited after his death by Peter Benes, still constitutes the only 
substantial body of scholarly work on the identity of Connecticut's 
colonial carvers. 

While Dr. Caulfield's background and accomplishments are 
familiar to many members of the Association for Gravestone 
Studies, and while MARKERS hopes to publish in a future issue a 
detailed biographical profile, it is perhaps not inappropriate to com- 
ment briefly here on the life of this extraordinary man. 

Dr. Caulfield was for many years a practicing pediatrician in 
Hartford, Connecticut. His work on gravestones came after he pro- 
duced a number of important publications on causes of death in 
early New England. Indeed he was fifty-eight years old when his 
first article on Connecticut gravestones appeared in 1951. Despite 
our respect for his gravestone scholarship, his major publications, 
which include two books (and even an article on pediatrics of the 
Salem witchcraft tragedy), dealt chiefly with causes of death. 


especially of children, in colonial New England. His interest in 
gravestone carvers developed directly from his utilization of col- 
onial burying grounds as a resource base to obtain information on 
causes of death. Indeed in 1965 Professor L. G. Stevenson of Yale 
University published an article entitled "The Historical Writings of 
Ernest Caulfield" in which Caulfield's gravestone work receives 
summary treatment: "In yet another category are some of the brief 
notes on Connecticut gravestones . . ." Dr. Caulfield's masterpiece 
appears to have been A True History of the Terrible Epidemic 
Vulgarly Called the Throat Distemper. Carl Bridenbaugh, the emi- 
nent colonial historian, in reviewing the book a decade after it ap- 
peared stated, "It is undeniably the ablest study of colonial medical 
history that I have ever come across." 

Anyone who has seen Dr. Caulfield's original gravestone notes 
realizes only too well the tremendous amount of effort he put into 
his work and the amount of completely original information he 

Gravestone students will be using his published and un- 
published material for decades to come. It is most fortunate that he 
left a manuscript that allows us to catch a little of the personal 
flavor of the man. Stevenson's conclusion regarding his historical 
studies is very appropriate for his gravestone work as well: "Ernest 
Caulfield, historian, at once the model amateur and the genuine 

Mansfield Center, Conn. Oicd^SO James Slater 

January, 1980 

^-W-«^^^- JT.^.^ - \;^v5«^*w*iSi^j^^s.^^ ^^ V- 


Wanted: The Hook-And-Eye Man 

The Search for an Elusive Stonecutter 

Once while searching for the hook-and-eye man, we lost our 
way near Stafford Hollow, and we were happy to meet a toothless 
native trudging along the road, pitch-fork in hand. When we asked 
for the old graveyard, he asked us, "What do you want to go there 
for?" We explained that we were interested in gravestones as 
manifestations of early American art and that we could often iden- 
tify the stonecutter by the inscription and the design. "And what 
good does that do you?" he asked us next. We had no answer, and 
as we drove on we kept repeating to each other, "And what good 
does that do you?" 

Without doubt the hook-and-eye man was the most popular 
stonecutter of his day in eastern Connecticut, where he catered to 
the beaver-hat trade and won favor despite the repetitious and 
rather awkward creations which gave him his name. Years ago 
Harriette Forbes dubbed him the "hook-and-eye man," an appro- 
priate name because his carved faces, made with simple curved 
lines, suggest the eye of the old-fashioned garment fastener known 
as hook and eye. 

He was, of course, attempting to imitate earlier Hartford and 
Middletown carvers, but he lacked the material, the ability, and the 
imagination to go beyond the simplest designs. He embellished 
each moon-like face with a few notches on the jaw-bone, 
presumably to resemble teeth. He also carved under each bulbous 
nose a small turned-down mouth, which gives a sad but ludicrous 
expression to his mask. Two separated, raised eyebrows completed 
the face, which was surmounted by a four-pointed crown and 
enclosed on either side by three tiers of wings. For important 
people, ministers, deacons, and some others, he sometimes carved 
a formless mass exuding from the ears, its significance still 

In the rounded finials, where the more skillful artists usually 
carved the multi-foliate rose, a symbol of paradise since early 
times, the hook-and-eye man experimented with various figures and 
then adopted a simple four-leaved clover. Often he also carved a 

16 Ernest Caulfield 

heart at the bottom of the stone, and occasionally he supplied a 
footstone engraved with diamond shapes. We took many pictures 
in order to compare his work with that of others, since the old 
stonecutters frequently carved their letters, numerals, and designs 
in their own peculiar manner, which now helps us identify their 

One effort we made to trace the hook-and-eye man was a spot 
map of his stones, in the expectation of finding him near their 
geographic center. Some stones appear in Hartford, Farmington, 
and Wethersfield, west of the Connecticut River, but nine out of ten 
are located east of the river. His stones occur frequently in towns 
along the Massachusetts border, as in Enfield, Somers, and the 
Woodstocks, and they are also found in Pomfret, Brooklyn, and 
Plainfield near the Rhode Island border. Although he placed an oc- 
casional stone in New London, Old Lyme, and even in New York 
City, most appear north of the Glastonbury-Colchester-Norwich 

This geographic distribution, reinforcing the clue given by the 
stone itself, led us to believe that our stonecutter lived somewhere 
near the Bolton quarries. The stones are nearly all gray schists. The 
Bolton quarries produced a sparkling, quartz-containing schist and 
once occupied an important place in Connecticut economics. 
Grindstones from Bolton schist were inferior because the stone 
was too soft, but Bolton flagstones were in great demand in many 
New England towns. 

One day in summer we decided to hunt gravestones in Tolland, 
the ancestral home of President Grant. The Boston highway now 
skirts the town, leaving it as it was long ago— a one-store village 
with shade-trees surrounding a typical New England green. Even 
the Tolland jail, overlooking a broad, colorful valley, seemed an at- 
tractive place to live. 

After inquiries we found Cider Mill Road, leading to the old 
graveyard, with many exciting stones. There we were startled to 
come on a triple stone for three West children, who all died, prob- 
ably from diphtheria, within forty-eight hours in March of 1775. Their 
stone has many characteristics of the hook-and-eye design, even 
the misplaced teeth and four-pointed crown. Across the bottom of 
the stone, in letters written large, is this obvious advertisement: 
"Made by W"^ Buckland Juf Hartford." Our problem was solved, or 
so we thought. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 



^ft/hAn and MrArny V/oft^-M^iWrrY^;; 

KbyD JT55. in y 9 y^'^'ii^^-^J rl(^jl^\YiM/|^, 
|||Arn?ifa: Died ^he f^ame D^iy. inVo'^'^fl 



West Children, 1755, Tolland, Conn. 

Many clues favored William Buckland Jr. as the long-sought 
hook-and-eye man. Both his wife's and his mother's gravestones 
conform very much to type, indeed so closely that we decided that 
if Buckland did not make most of the common hook-and-eye 
stones, he was at least related in some way to the man who did. 
Reservations, however, soon began to accumulate. Buckland, we 
learned, lived in East Hartford, which was contrary to our belief that 
the hook-and-eye man lived in Bolton. A stonecutter in Bolton 
would have had difficulty enough transporting his stones over bad 
country roads as far away as Pomfret, Scotland, or Norwich, but 
carting them over the mountain from East Hartford would have 
been even more difficult. Furthermore, hook-and-eye faces that are 
known to be Buckland's work had tiny eyes and enormous bulbous 
noses that were almost caricatures rather than typical of the work 
we believed to be the original hook-and-eye man's. Buckland's 
footstones are also decidedly different; and, furthermore, all of his 
typical known stones were made from red sandstone. Not a single 
gray schist stone had the enormously enlarged nose found on the 


Ernest Caul field 


%J Body ■ o! d^d£M 


Daniel House, 1762, E. Glastonbury, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 19 

stones known to have been carved by Buckland. So we tentatively 
eliminated William Buckland Jr. as the man we were after. 

Next in line was William's brother, Peter Buckland, who also 
cut gravestones and signed his name at least once on sandstone 
and three times on gray schist. He lies buried in Manchester, not far 
from Bolton, so he had to be considered. Peter's known stones are 
also somewhat similar to typical hook-and-eye stones, but the style 
of his signed stones seemed to us quite distinctive, especially his 
border panels and footstones. At this point we felt much confused 
by our evidence. 

A year or so later, driving from Hartford to a medical meeting in 
Quebec, we spotted an old graveyard on the roadside in Wilder, Ver- 
mont, which is nearthe crossing to Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. And 
who should we meet there? None other than old Hook-and-eye 
himself. There he was, sneering at us through his funny faces. We 
soon began to doubt, however, that the Vermont cutter could be the 
same as our Connecticut hook-and-eye man, for although we saw 
some four-leaved clovers, typical hearts and diamonds, and the 
same ridiculous crowns, we thought he was much too far from 
home, about one hundred and sixty miles. So we concluded that 
some Vermont workman had attempted to imitate the master. 
Besides, rain began to fall, and we resumed our journey. 

Through two following years, good weather and bad, we con- 
tinued to hunt gravestones. The winding country lanes, inviting 
doorways, stone fences, hundreds of little lakes, and the ubiquitous 
laurel of the Connecticut countryside were never without charm. 
We could not see too much of Sharon, Gilead, Coventry, the 
Woodstocks, Old Lyme, and Essex, each with its graveyard on a 
hill— the choicest land in town. We will never forget that autumn 
day when we intruded on the old graveyard on the crest of a hill in 
Bolton Center where one could look over numberless hills and 
valleys far away to Rhode Island and see nothing but wave upon 
wave of color. What a glorious place it would be, we thought, to 
behold the Resurrection. 

For every interesting or pleasant aspect of gravestone hunting 
there was a compensating hazard. We soon learned to respect even 
a single leaf of poison ivy. We also learned the hard way that wood- 
chuck holes may be disregarded only by those with rubber bones. 
Snakes inhabit nearly every country graveyard, but they never 
bothered us much after our first encounter, for we always gave any 

20 Ernest Caul field 

snake the right of way. But these were minor irritations compared to 
the gruesome verse that abounds in old graveyards: 

All you that read with little care, 

And walk away and leave me here; 
Should not forget that you must die, 

And be intomb'd as well as I. 

Meanwhile, with all our theories on the hook-and-eye man 
upset by our Vermont discovery, we traced other stonecutters, 
especially George Griswold, the earliest known stonecutter in the 
American colonies, with his simple unornamented stones in Hart- 
ford, Windsor, Suffield, Longmeadow, Westfield, and Northampton. 
We also enjoyed pursuing Ebenezer Drake, with his scare-crow 
designs, and possibly the most fascinating of all Connecticut stone 
engravers, if only because he varied his designs from year to year. 
Always skillful with his chisels, Drake might have become a famous 
sculptor, had he not been so thoroughly infatuated with his own 
brand of surrealism. He almost seems to have created designs 
solely for the purpose of keeping colonial boys and girls out of 
graveyards at night, for surely nothing in this world could have been 
more discouraging to romance than suddenly to encounter one of 
Ebenezer's stony ghosts lighted by a harvest moon. But nearly 
everywhere we went, especially around Glastonbury and Wethers- 
field, we found old Hook-and-eye with his taunting sneer seeming 
to defy detection. 

Lacking any definitive evidence from the stones, we came to 
believe that probate records offered our only remaining possibility 
of success. 

At first a probate search seemed very simple. One had only to 
copy names and dates from hook-and-eye inscriptions and then to 
search the probate records of the decedent. In Connecticut, the old 
probate records for nearly all districts are on file in the State Library 
in Hartford, well-indexed and well-preserved, each in its own folder. 
These include some 6000 estates, all before 1800, for the Hartford 
district alone. We quickly realized, however, that this avenue of 
research was not as simple as it seemed. 

In the first place, many records consist of the decedent's will 
or bonds of administration, neither of which reveals the expenses 
of an estate. And again, many consist of only inventories and 
distributions, which though interesting, rarely yield any information 
on stonecutters. While glancing through some inventories, we did, 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 


1750, Enfield, Conn. A Gershom Bartlett design influenced by the "horsesfioe skull' 

carver of East Windsor. 

1751, East Hartford, Conn. A Gershom Bartlett variation of the basic design 

illustrated above. 

1755, Tolland, Conn. An imitation of a Gershom Bartlett design carved by William 

Buckland of East Hartford. 

22 Ernest Caulfield 

however, find items of interest. Ichabod Higgins of Durham, for ex- 
ample, left some unfinished gravestones in his estate (1758), so we 
thus discovered another Connecticut engraver that no historian had 
reported. In short, the probate records yielded no quick solution to 
our problem. 

When a stonecutter's name appears in the probate records, we 
usually find it in separate papers called "Accounts of Administra- 
tion" or "Returns to the Court," but only about one estate in five in- 
cludes such papers, so our problem was at least five times more dif- 
ficult than we first supposed. We were encouraged, though, to find 
the names of the men who made coffins, and we learned to our sur- 
prise that the leading cabinet makers also spent considerable time 
making coffins. Even gravediggers' names could be easily found. 
Old Uriah Burkit, who was no Dickens character, made his living 
digging graves in Hartford for fifty years. To Uriah, each burial was 
a statistic, for when he died in 1801, his obituary noted that he had 
buried 2,245 persons. 

The "Accounts of Administration" showed other expenses for 
funerals. The drummer boy had to be paid, and mourning gloves 
purchased by the dozen. When the widow Grant was buried in 1705, 
the "6 qts. of Rom for her funrill" came to ten and six, and this 
charge was typical of scores of similar entries. We found one in- 
stance where the mourners drank nearly the whole estate. 

Our problem, however, was that even detailed "Accounts" 
seldom included the name of the stonecutter, because, as we later 
discovered, the "Accounts" were made up fairly soon after the in- 
dividual's decease, and the estate was settled long before the 
gravestone was erected. Sometimes one or more years elapsed be- 
tween the funeral and the payment for the gravestone. Only when a 
contract for a gravestone was signed or the gravestone actually 
delivered could the cost be considered as a legitimate expense. We 
finally realized that often the cost of the gravestone was voluntarily 
contributed by one or more of the descendants after the estate was 
settled. On occasion, disagreement about the gravestone pre- 
vented timely allowance of the cost. In South Canterbury, for exam- 
ple, a gravestone dated 1804 bears this note: "This monument was 
erected wholly at the expense of Mr. G. Justin Son of the deceas'd." 

The most tantalizing aspect of our probate search was to find 
administrative accounts with names of creditors but with no indica- 
tions of the objects of expenditure. And worse still was occasion- 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 23 

ally to find the exact cost of the gravestone but no mention of the 
engraver's name. 

We searched over 350 probate records for the hook-and-eye 
stones on our list without finding a single, definite clue. We would 
go to the old graveyard in Windham, for instance, copy all the 
names and dates from the hook-and-eye stones, spend hours ex- 
amining the corresponding probate records, and come home with 
nothing more than a list of suggestive names, none of which meant 
much. We did this for town after town. 

We frequently cursed the old probate judges and clerks for 
keeping such miserable records. They would write the admin- 
istrator's receipts in one column and expenses in another, ac- 
counting for every shilling without divulging one bit of useful in- 

Making little progress in our search, we next made a list of 
creditors of Hartford estates for matching against the creditors 
from Tolland estates, hoping that any name common to both would 
be the name of the hook-and-eye man who made the gravestones 
for all the estates. Here again, we met disappointments. Joel White 
was a name common to both groups, but he turned out to be a 
money-lender. William Ellery turned out to be Hartford's first 
postmaster, who also kept a general store. Elisha Burnham hap- 
pened to be a blacksmith who was popular throughout both coun- 
ties. We found that certain men in every community were creditors 
of nearly everyone for miles around. 

We continued until we had examined the estates for all of our 
hook-and-eye stones in Hartford, Tolland, and Windham counties, 
and we were no nearer to a solution than when we began. We still 
had some Colchester estates to examine, but we were leaving town 
the next morning on vacation, and it hardly seemed worth while to 
begin them. 

Suddenly we had a break. Colchester had had a judge who 
knew how to run a court. He had saved every scrap of paper. We 
found scores of individual receipts signed by every person to whom 
the estate had paid money. We had about twenty-five Colchester 
estates to investigate, each with five to thirty slips of paper, and we 
had to read every word. But it was closing time for the library, and 
the young lady in charge, though too polite to tell us to leave, began 
bustling around the room, shutting doors and windows, putting 


Ernest Caulfield 

away books from our table, turning out lights, and dropping other 
forceful hints. Yet we felt driven to finish those Colchester records 
before leaving on vacation. Noting our dejected expressions, 
James Brewster, the State Librarian, gave us permission, despite 
the rules, to return to the library that night to examine the records. 

It was a memorable night for us— that night of July 30, 1950. 
Alone in the eerie basement where the old probate records are kept, 
we felt squeamish in our task of tracking down those eighteenth- 
century ghosts. We had already learned to decipher most of the 
handwriting of the period, but even so, we found many receipts writ- 
ten and signed by tradesmen who seemed never to have grasped a 
quill before. The hours went by and our pile of unexamined records 
went down, but long after ten o'clock we were suddenly electrified 
by the discovery of a single scrap of paper with an item that seemed 
almost too good to be real. This precious, fragile document was 
among the records of the estate of Isaac Bigelow, who died on 
September 11, 1751: 

Colchester March y^ ll^h 1752 

Then rec"^ of Isaac Biglow Twenty four 

pound in bills of Credit, for wich 

I promis to Deliver 3 pare of Grave 

Stones at or before y® first Day of may 

next after y® Date herof 

at my Dwelling hous in bolton 

Rec^ as aforsd I say 

p"" me Gershom Bartlet 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 25 

The estate of Abner Kellogg (Colchester, 1755) proved an anti- 
climax, with another receipt signed by Gershom Bartlett, but we 
needed no additional proof. We had found our man. 

To us Gershom Bartlett was the most elusive carver of the 
eighteenth century, and we had caught him with his stone ham- 
mers, his chisels, and his leather apron. He lived in Bolton, right 
where the quarries are. The evidence was perfect! 

Now who was Gershom Bartlett? When and where was he 
born? What became of him after 1772, when he stopped carving 
gravestones in Connecticut? When and where did he die? 

Once we had his name, we had new leads into the old records 
and new leads through the old graveyards. 

The old Bolton church records, which have been published by 
the Connecticut Historical Society, show that Bartlett was born in 
1723, the son of Samuel and Sarah Bartlett. Samuel had migrated 
from Northampton, Massachusetts, and was admitted to the 
church in 1725. Gershom had many children by his wife, Margaret, 
but there is no record of his death in Bolton. 

The original Bolton land records also provided an important 
clue. An entry dated June 20, 1747, shows that John Ellsworth 
bought ten acres of land in Bolton from "Garshem Bartlett of 

Abraham Pease, 1749, Enfield, Conn. 


Ernest Caulfield 

%, -Hah , Van v. \7nh. of 


^jI V, 


Abiah Kent, 1748, Suffield, Conn. 

f> s ^-^ 


Abiah Kent (footstone) Suffield, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 27 

Windsor." Since we knew tiiat Bartlett had lived for a good part of 
his life in Bolton, this reference to Windsor came as a distinct sur- 
prise and opened up a new line of research. Stiles' "History and 
Genealogy of Ancient Windsor," confirmed Bartlett's residence in 
Windsor, because his son Joseph was born there in January 1749, 
and his daughter Lucy in November, 1750. 

The association with Windsor led back to the graveyards, since 
it reminded us of 14 red sandstones which we had previously 
classified as "modified hook-and-eye," but which we had been 
unable to assign to any known stonecutter of that period. Of these 
stones, four are in South Windsor (originally part of East Windsor), 
four in Enfield, four in Ellington, and one in Somers, all on the east 
side of the Connecticut River. There are no similar stones in 
Windsor proper or anywhere west of the river except a pair of 
stones for Mrs. Abiah Kent in Suffield dated 1748. 

We became convinced that these little gravestones were 
Bartlett's work, and our belief grew firmer when, on checking our 
files, we found that the estate of Abraham Pease of Enfield had 
paid "Garshem butlit ... 8 pounds" in 1750. Although this probate 
record does not specifically mention a gravestone and the amount 
is considerably more than was usually paid for gravestones at that 
time, we can be sure that Bartlett, the stonecutter, was a creditor of 
the Pease estate. The stone for Pease differs from the common 
Bolton hook-and-eye stones, being a velvety smooth red sandstone 
less than two feet high and having hollowed eyes and a rather 
pleasing tear-drop border. We later noticed that hollowed eyes and 
tear-drop borders appear on several early grey schist stones from 
the Bolton quarries. Furthermore, the Pease stone has the typical 
crown, raised eyebrows, turned-down mouth, and teeth at the bot- 
tom of the skull, all common characteristics of Bartlett's Bolton 

The tear-drop border, representing grapes or leaves growing on 
a vine, then took on added significance, because this feature 
helped attribute to Bartlett five more stones, including markers for 
Hannah Parce (1749) and Ebenezer Chapin (1751) in the same grave- 
yard. These early stones all show typical Bartlett features, and four 
of them show a sixteenth century numeral 5, which became our 
principal means to identify more of Bartlett's early work. No other 
eighteenth century stonecutter made this unusual 5. 

Having found that Bartlett's early stones could show con- 


Ernest Caulfield 


John Barret, 1750, Ellington, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 29 

siderable variations in border designs, we then returned to Somers 
to review one of the earliest stones there, the marker for Jacob 
Ward, who died in 1748. On Ward's stone was the imperfect pin- 
wheel for a finial, typical crown, raised eyebrows, misplaced teeth, 
unclosed small a's, space-filling serpent, as well as the typical and 
distinctive numeral 5. We concluded that Bartlett was the carver, 
despite some variations, such as the slit-like eyes, angular nose, 
and crude, elementary wings, but the most interesting variation 
was the border, which showed an undulating climbing vine adorned 
with simple, pointed philodendron leaves, noticeably asymmetrical. 

The border on the Ward stone became in turn the clue that led 
us to finding the first stones that Bartlett ever made, at least the 
first of all his stones still standing in place. Two are in Ellington, 
both dated 1747. We can see at a glance that Sarah Moulton's and 
John Bingham's stones were cut by the same carver who made the 
Ward stone because the borders are practically identical. Other 
similarities include square shoulders and the absence of a mouth. 
The only differences are in the lack of teeth and in the crowns, the 
two early stones having crowns with three tufts, one of them 

We thus found that in his early days, Bartlett was not a hook- 
and-eye man at all. His squinted eyes, joined to an angular elemen- 
tary nose, though lending an amusing, inquisitive expression to the 
face, cannot be classified as a hook-and-eye design. And his 
earliest stone, for Deborah Ellsworth who died in East Windsor in 
1747 shows no face at all, but a meaningless (to us) pair of 
"cucumbers" and some six-pointed stars, indicating that Bartlett 
had been trying a compass to lay out his work. 

Stones for the two Barret boys, who died in Ellington during a 
dysentery epidemic in September 1750, show Bartlett's variations 
in style, even for stones made at the same time. One stone shows a 
turned-down mouth, three tiers of wings, perpendicular numeral 1's, 
and a tear-drop border. The other shows no mouth, a tier and a half 
of wings, a numeral 1 slanted and hooked, and— most interesting of 
all— a border which later evolved into the pattern of bisected mush- 
rooms on an undulating stalk that Bartlett adopted for nearly the re- 
mainder of his life. 

We searched for every kind of Bartlett record, published or un- 
published, while he lived in Windsor, but except for references to 
the births of his first two children, we had little luck. We had little 


Ernest Caul field 

William Barret, 1750, Ellington, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 31 

prospect of finding him for, after all, stonecutting was not a trade 
commanding great respect and, besides, Bartlett was only a novice 
at this period of his life. Then, while engaged on another project, we 
came across the manuscript account book of Ebenezer Grant of 
East Windsor. Grant's house still stands, a lovely colonial mansion 
on "The Street" in what is now South Windsor, north of the old Ed- 
wards burial ground. Grant kept a general store where he traded 
assorted goods, including cloth, salt and rum; and many a neighbor 
crossed a page of history merely by charging a purchase in Grant's 

On the debit side of Grant's account book are some entries 
made when Bartlett was a boy of twenty years: 

Gershom Bartlett Dr 

1743 0ctobr5 to three qrts Rum 4s/2d pr quart 00 12 06 

1745 April 4 to 2 Gallons Rum 18s/prG 

& 1/2 quire Paper 01 19 00 

" 15 to pint Rum 2s/4d: 

23rd from Day Book 72s 0314 00 

May 13 to4yrds Green Tammy 10s peryrd. 

pdSugr3s/ 02 03 00 

May 28 yrd fine Holld for Wallis 23s 0103 00 

From the Windsor vital records we can deduce that Bartlett 
married around April or May in 1748, so it was of interest to see 
what he might have bought for his bride on that occasion. The only 
entries for 1748 are as follows: 

1748 May 21 to Galln Rum 45s/2pd Sugr at 6s/ 02 17 00 
July 28 tohalf pint Rum3s/ 

29th Galln molas 28s/ 01110 

Sept 29 to Bushel Salt 46s/ 02 06 00 

October 14 to molas 6/6 & pound Sugr 5/6 0012 00 

The price of rum went from 18s to 45s between 1743 and 1748, 
or else Gershom was treating his bride to better quality. Numerous 
other entries show Bartlett buying salt, sugar, molasses and "sun- 
dries," and at one time his debt to Grant was as much as £22-02-02. 

The opposite side of the ledger is also revealing. In the first 
place, the rum that Bartlett bought on October 5, 1743, was not paid 
for until February 24, 1745, although it cost a mere twelve shillings. 
We might suppose that he was nearly broke, except that it was not 

32 Ernest Caul field 

unusual for even the well-to-do to let their accounts stand unpaid 
for years, only to be settled in full at a later date by barter or some- 
one else's note. Cash was scarce, but trade nevertheless went on. 
The fact that Bartlett was not a wealthy man, however, is confirmed 
by other entries: 

Gershom Bartlett pr Contra is Cr[edited] 

1748 July 28 Reed 2 Days to mow as by Day Book 0112 00 

1749 July 11 By Day to take up Oats 0100 00 
July 19 By three Days to mow and be kept 

night and Day at 18s 0214 00 

1750 June 12 Reed a Day to mow. Come late 0016 00 
July 27 Reed a day to mow 0018 00 
Septr 10th Reed a day to thresh flax 0016 00 

Rub Stone las July 00 05 00 

Apparently Bartlett lived far enough away from Grant to find it 
convenient to stay overnight at least on one occasion in July 1749; 
but he still lived within Windsor bounds, because his children were 
officially listed as having been born there. We can conclude, 
therefore, that he lived east of the river (thirteen of his fourteen 
early stones are there) and that his home was probably far to the 
east of Grant's, probably in that part of Windsor, East Parish, which 
became the farming town of Ellington. 

Ebenezer Grant's account book is still more interesting for 
other entries, which at first sight do not concern Bartlett but which 
may throw light on some of his early work. Among the latest entries 
are transactions with Joseph Johnson, who on two occasions was 
paid for gravestones for members of Grant's family. The Johnsons 
were a family of skillful stonecutters in Middletown, and Joseph 
was, in my opinion, the most versatile and accomplished stonecut- 
ter in Connecticut in colonial times. His carvings, easily identified 
by their excellence in workmanship, may be found in almost every 
old town in the Connecticut Valley south of Springfield. Grant's ac- 
count book definitely places Johnson in South Windsor in the 
1740's, which explains the presence of so many of his stones there 
and in Windsor, East Hartford, and Glastonbury. It also explains 
why all the Joseph Johnson stones of this period were carved on 
smooth Windsor sandstone. 

No direct evidence of his acquaintance with Gershom Bartlett 
has so far come to light, but Johnson's influence in Bartlett's early 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 


•iHGie Lies \^^^ \1 ^ 

Died- QcV/\># 

Sarah Moulton, 1747, Ellington, Conn. 


I® Here 'Lie? 

Ih' \X "h O ■ J i e Cl-"(i2.p\ ■ (;'/ 

Jacob Ward, 1748, Somers, Conn. 

^c; s^^- '^ 


Ernest Caulfield 

Mete LieSilii^ 
c^^Gly at rl^^. 

u ^ 




^ "-'■ 


Ebenezer Chapin, 1751, Enfield, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 35 

work cannot be doubted. The best of Bartlett's early stones, the 
marker for Mrs. Abiah Kent who died in Suffield on February 23, 
1748, shows carefully cut, even letters, with serifs, fancy capital H's 
and A's, and other imitations of Johnson, such as a Johnson crown 
and a time-consuming stippled background. In fact, Mrs. Kent's 
gravestone was so well made that at one time we tentatively at- 
tributed it to Joseph Johnson, but we came to believe that Bartlett 
cut the stone during his formative years when he either worked as 
an apprentice to Johnson or when he needed patterns to follow. 

The last purchase that Bartlett made from Grant was dated 
May 18, 1751, which is near the date of his last red Windsor sand- 
stone. He soon moved to Bolton, because his next child, Margaret, 
was born there on September 6, 1752; and practically all hook-and- 
eye stones for the next twenty years came from the Bolton quarries. 
Determining the exact date of his move to Bolton was a problem. 
Dates on gravestones are not reliable, inasmuch as the stones were 
frequently made much later than their inscribed dates. For exam- 
ple, stones from the Bolton quarries often carry dates in the 1740's, 
at a time when Bartlett is known to have lived in Windsor. The tex- 
ture of the stones is more helpful. The last of his smooth, red 
Windsor sandstones is dated March 31, 1751, whereas his stones 
from grey Bolton schist increase in number during and after 1751. 
Bolton land records give another clue. A deed dated December 27, 
1750, mentions "Garshem Bartlett of Windsor," whereas another 
dated October 7, 1751, mentions "Garshem Bartlett of Bolton." We 
can suppose that he moved to Bolton in the summer of 1751. 

Just as carving gravestones did not fully occupy his time in 
Windsor, so he had time in Bolton for other pursuits. Like many of 
his contemporaries, he tried his hand at real estate speculation and 
enjoyed beginner's luck. On August 27, 1753, he bought 24 acres of 
land "on East Side of ye Great River" within Windsor bounds from 
William Phelps for £75, and he then sold the same land on May 12, 
1756, to Salvanus Willobee for £115. As time went on, however, he 
was less fortunate. In 1764 he paid £100 for a "Sartain tract of Land 
in Coventry . . . with a Grist-Mill Standing thereon, the whole of ye 
Land where the Grist-mill stands and ye whole of ye Land that is 
Ponded by the said Mill Dam and Liberty of a Convenient pent Road 
from Sd Gristmill Southerly to ye highway." 

Possibly he considered becoming a miller, especially since he 
raised "corn grain flax and oats" on his Bolton farm, but the grist- 
mill venture did not succeed, because two years later he sold out 

36 Ernest Caul field 

for £85. Altogether he bought about eighteen parcels in different 
parts of Bolton, yet when the time came for him to sell his land and 
buildings, the £369 which he received was considerably less than 
his original costs. Despite his losses he still was considered finan- 
cially respectable, for at one time he was tax collector in Bolton and 
collected part of the town dues in 1763. 

Bartlett might have done some work with wood, but our 
evidence on this score is all indirect. His son Joseph, when about 
twenty-one, "builded a small house" in Bolton, so Gershom prob- 
ably knew the tricks of carpentry. In 1754 he bought fifteen hundred 
four-penny nails from a store in Coventry; also, the land he sold in 
1772 had buildings on it which did not come with his purchase. His 
largest plot in Bolton was about fifty acres of none-too-fertile land 
running slightly northeast from "a Great Rock on the Top of the 
Ledges" which still exists as a landmark a few rods north of the 
famous notch in the mountain. 

All this time Bartlett's production of gravestones was increas- 
ing, although his resulting prosperity barely kept pace with the 
increase in his family. In addition to his two children born in Wind- 
sor, eleven more were born in Bolton between 1752 and 1771. On 
January 24, 1754, John Potwine of "Covintrey" sold Bartlett some 
paper, pins, and "a primer (costing) 0/4/6." Four Bartlett children 
died in Bolton, all when very young. 

A list of persons for whom Bartlett made gravestones during 
his Bolton period would make a good "Who Was Who in Colonial 
Connecticut." For examples, there were the Reverend Samuel 
Tudor of East Windsor, the Reverend Thomas White of Bolton, the 
Reverend Nathaniel Huntington of Ellington, and the Reverend 
Ephraim Avery of Brooklyn. Also Colonel John Whiting of West 
Hartford, Captain Joseph Hooker of Farmingtoji^ Captain John 
Manning of Scotland, and a host of other captains and lieutenants. 
TheHlsrot doctors includes Dr. Jonathan Marsh of Norwich, Dr. 
Thomas Mather of Farmington, Dr. John Wells of Wethersfield, and 
Dr. Jonathan Bull of Hartford. Mrs. Esther Edwards (mother of 
Jonathan Edwards) of East Windsor, Thomas Welles, Esquire, of 
Glastonbury, Colonel Israel Putnam's sons of Brooklyn, Benoni 
Trumbull of Gilead, and David Luce of Scotland all had stones by 

As every Dartmouth man well knows, "Eleazar Wheelock was a 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 



John Bingham, 1747, Ellington, Conn. 

very pious man." He lived in tliat part of Lebanon called "The 
Crank" (now Columbia), where he kept a school for educating^Lo^ 
dians. His most famous pupil, Samuel Cecum, was converted from 
his primitive beliefs to become, at least temporarily, "a saved 
heathen." In 1766, Cecum went to England to raise funds for a new 
college, and there he proved his conversion to the white man's 


Ernest Caulfield 

Sarah Wheelock, 1746, Columbia, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 


ways by organizing a drive which yielded a handsome sum of 
money. In this effort he was aided by the Earl of Dartmouth, and in 
grateful remembrance, Eleazar Wheelock named the new college 
after the good earl. The point of this digression is that the illus- 
trious Eleazar Wheelock must have known Gershom Bartlett. 

In Hebron we found a miniature hook-and-eye stone for Mercy 
Wheelock, who died in 1758; and a double hook-and-eye stone in 
Columbia marks the graves of two more of Eleazar's children, both 
named Eleazar and both dying under three months of age. 

More interesting still is the Columbia gravestone for "Miss 
Sarah the wife of ye Revd Eleazar Wheelock who died Novr, 13, A:D: 
1746." She was the daughter of John Davenport of Stamford and 
was earlier married to William Maltby, by whom she had a son, 
John, who later became the first to be buried in the Dartmouth 
graveyard in Hanover, New Hampshire. The interest in Sarah 
Wheelock's gravestone, other than its elaborate coat of arms and 
fine inscription, which could not be Bartlett's work, is the stone 
itself, which came from Bartlett's quarry. The footstone, however, is 
certainly Bartlett's, being engraved with diamond shapes, a Bartlett 

v^]^'^' bisd .^ece 21 ip.,. ^ 


Deborah Ellsworth, 1747, E. Windsor, Conn. 


Ernest Caul field 

Capt. John Manning, 1760, Scotland, Conn. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 41 

As soon as we had identified Gershom Bartlett, we made a 
triumphant call to Kendall Hayward, another gravestone sleuth who 
had been as annoyed by the hook-and-eye mystery as we had. 
Hayward had visited us to swap photographs and yarns about our 
various discoveries. He was particularly interested in the Collins 
family, starting with Benjamin, one of the finest early stonecutters, 
and one who had been both proud and obliging enough to place an 
occasional signature on his work. At that time, Hayward was in- 
vestigating Zerubbabel Collins who, after discovering that Vermont 
marble was a superior medium for inscriptions, settled in Shafts- 
bury, where he carved some of the most beautiful of all New 
England gravestones. Having just returned from tracing Zerubbabel 
in Vermont, Hayward told us that he had seen some hook-and-eye 
stones near White River Junction. We immediately recalled the 
stones that we had seen in Wilder, so the itinerary of our vacation to 
Vermont was decided at that moment. 

During the summer, Dan Harvey, a colleague of mine at the 
Hartford Hospital, had invited us to visit in South Strafford. The 
night before our departure, Dan had dropped in to give us directions 
for finding their house. He also told us that a friend of his at the 
Hitchcock Clinic in Hanover had just shown him an old graveyard 
that had been long deserted and was not well known. We always 
followed leads like this and usually found why they were deserted; 
they usually contained nothing but urn-and-willow designs, the 
most uninteresting gravestones ever carved. Nevertheless, we 
promised Dan that we would take a look at his new discovery, 
which, he told us, was on top of a hill at the end of a country road 
across a bridge near some railroad tracks somewhere in Vermont. 
"You just can't miss it," Dan told us, and we knew what he meant; it 
would be hard to find. 

Winding up the Connecticut River valley past Brattleboro and 
Putney, finding nothing exciting, we stopped at Ascutney for lunch 
in an old graveyard where we noticed two designs new to us, which, 
for want of better names, we called "the fat-faced angel" and "the 
sloe-eyed guy." In the churchyard of the Old South Church in Wind- 
sor we picked up Bartlett's trail, five or six stones, including a small 
black soapstone for Rachel Abbot who died in 1774. This stone, 
without question by Gershom Bartlett, showed not a letter or figure 
that was not duplicated on his Connecticut stones. 

Crossing the river we proceeded north to Plainfield, where we 

42 Ernest Caulfield 

found more Bartlett stones, one for Persis Freeman dated 1793. The 
date made Bartlett seventy years old and still cutting gravestones. 
Then to Lebanon, and across the bridge to White River Junction, 
with a side trip to Hartford, which, like numerous other towns in the 
region, contained many stones for the Bartlett family, but none 
carved by Gershom Bartlett. We then proceeded to Wilder where we 
had found hook-and-eye stones in 1948. Wilder had over a dozen 
early Bartlett stones, dating from 1775. About five o'clock in Nor- 
wich, we found one hook-and-eye design on a poor grade of Ver- 
mont marble, though most of the stones were various attractive red 
slates, dating between 1775 and 1791. We also found gravestones 
which suggested a dysentery epidemic among the children during 
the autumn of 1775. 

Enough daylight remained on our reaching Hanover, just 
across the river, for us to see that Gershom Bartlett was not only 
the earliest stonecutter in the region, but that he had been suc- 
cessful, just as in Connecticut, in building a large trade. From the 
perpendicular 7's and bisected mushroom borders, we could tell 
that he had made the table stone for the Reverend John Maltby, 
step-son of his friend Eleazar Wheelock. Nor was there much doubt 
that Bartlett had joined the migration from Connecticut to New 
Hampshire and Vermont. Convinced that somewhere in the upper 
Connecticut valley he had lived and died, we retired for the night, 
anticipating some fruitful exploration on the following day. 

It was crisp and cold as we started up the east bank of the river 
the next day on a clear September morning. It was a New England 
autumn day in all its glory. It seemed good just to be alive. We 
picked up the Bartlett trail again in Lyme and in various small 
graveyards along the road to Orford. On some stones he showed 
causes of death, which he had seldom done in Bolton. Two stones 
in particular, those for Mrs. Abigail Barron and Mrs. Lydia Dewey, 
aroused our interest, as we had long been studying maternal mor- 
tality in colonial times. One stone was inscribed: "My sister and I in 
childbed died and here we lie both side by side." One sister was 
twenty-one years old, and the other twenty-three. We took 
photographs of these for our collection. 

At Peirmont were some peg-shaped stones and another stone 
of white marble dated 1792. We noticed that throughout the region 
most of the leading military men had Bartlett stones. In Orford, we 
had seen a stone for Captain Jeremiah Post who fell at Bennington; 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 




Wells River 







Wilder >ij Hanover 
Hartford (^"T 
White River *f^ Lebanon 
Junction ^y 



Caulfield's Journey in search of the Hook-and-Eye Man. 


Ernest Caulfield 

■-v l/I..LemtTelI 'i vyci/ , 

■V irlfecTiHChilrrKpcr' ** i-l 

Lydia Dewey, 1784, Orford, Vt 



there was one for Colonel Bailey in Peirmont dated 1794; and in the 
next town, Haverhill, noted for its handsome village green, there 
was a large double stone for Colonel and Mrs. Timothy Bedel. 

We paused in many places to admire the ox-bows in the river 
and the foliage on the far side, but having lost the trail, we crossed 
at Wells River and drove on as far as East Rygate. We later conclud- 
ed that Rygate Corners, two miles inland, is the northernmost point 
for Bartlett stones. Near noon we turned south to Newbury and had 
lunch in the Ox-Bow Graveyard, said to be the oldest and most 
beautiful in all Vermont. There Bartlett carved a double stone for 
two of the three wives of Captain Robert Johnson, a military hero of 
the town. 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 


Our next stop was in Bradford, where Bartlett stones increased 
in number. He surely had an eye for attractive material. The jet- 
black soapstones have so well retained their sharp inscriptions that 
they look as if they were made yesterday, although the red and 
black slates are often badly shaled. Vermont must have invigorated 
Bartlett as he advanced in years, because he began to use various 
sizes and shapes of stones, and he even made many scalloped 
borders. He showed more originality as he grew older than he had 
shown at the peak of his career in Bolton, though he retained the 
perpendicular descender on the numeral 7, which appears on all of 
his Bolton stones. 

In the old graveyard in East Thetford were more Bartlett stones, 
one dated 1796, when he would have been seventy-three years old, 
but his hand was as steady as ever. One badly shaled stone has par- 
ticular interest: "In Memory of M"" Stephen ar y® 3^ of Mid- 

dletown [who] was Killed by [breaking up] a Jam of Logs. April 
1793." This stone commemorated Stephen Miller, whose estate 
was settled in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1796, and among the 
creditors was Gershom Bartlett with a charge of three pounds for 
that gravestone. The selfsame identity of the Vermont and Connec- 
ticut hook-and-eye men is clearly established by Miller's 

^ m:^.: 


Stephen Miller, 1793, E. Thetford, Vt. 


Ernest Caul field 

Near sundown we left East Thetford, with one more stop to 
make before we were expected at the Harvey's. We had promised 
Dan that we would visit his deserted graveyard in Pompanoosuc, 
and when he had said that very few people knew its location, he 
spoke the truth. After going off course, our second trial took us over 
a covered bridge and up a steep hill where the road turned to make 
a sharp angle. We took this hair-pin turn in high gear, and our luck 
ran with us, because the car stalled within inches of a gully. Within 
the week since Dan's visit, a flood had washed out gullies on both 
sides between two and three feet deep. So we panted up the re- 
mainder of the hill, only to find the graveyard shoulder high with 
brush. It was near darkness, but we were determined to be able to 
report to Dan that we had given the place a look. The snakes had 
gone to bed, but woodchuck holes honeycombed the ground, and 
we stumbled repeatedly as we peered from stone to stone. 

Gershom Bartlett, 1798, Pompanoosuc, Vt. (old marker) 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 


To our great surprise, we found over twenty-five Bartlett stones 
in Pompanoosuc, many of them for members of the Fitch, Kimball, 
Spaulding, and Waterman families, all eastern Connecticut names. 
In the center of the yard were many stones for the Bartlett family, all 
difficult to read in the darkness. One white stone suddenly caught 
my eye. I let out a yell that echoed back from across the Connect- 
icut River in the distance. Nothing like it had been heard in that 
region since the St. Francis Indians raided Royalton, nearly two 
hundred years before. The name on the stone was GERSHOM 

We could barely read the recently erected white marker for 
"Gershom Bartlett Pvt. Olcott's Regt. Vt. Mil. Rev. War December 
23, 1798." The end of the trail. Fully satisfied but exhausted, we 
found our way up to South Strafford and the Harveys. 

Gershom Bartlett, 1798, Pompanoosuc, Vt, (new marker) 

48 Ernest Caul field 

Up early the next morning, we could not wait to return to Pom- 
panoosuc. Driving back we imagined that along that very road old 
Gershom Bartlett and his eldest sons had marched with their has- 
tily aroused Norwich neighbors "to assist the Strafford people in 
their retreat" in August and September, 1777, and again in 1780 
when "the enemy came to Royalton." In charge of that small band 
of citizen soldiers was Colonel Peter Olcott, Bartlett's old friend 
and neighbor from home in Bolton. 

In the morning, the graveyard was easier to find. By daylight 
the gullies looked even more formidable than they had in darkness. 
The graveyard looked more unkept, with its broken-down fence, 
overturned stones, weeds and bushes, and with a forest obstructing 
the view. We could easily imagine, nevertheless, the beautiful spot 
that it must have been in the old days, situated on a high crest 
overlooking the Oompomponoosuc and Connecticut Rivers. We 
found Bartlett's original gravestone, its surface badly shaled with 
only fragments of the original lettering still clear. What irony! This 
man who had spent at least fifty of his seventy-five years taking ex- 
traordinary care to see that his contemporaries had enduring 
monuments on their graves had for himself a stone which in a very 
few years would be but a heap of dust. 

We found other interesting surprises in the Pompanoosuc 
graveyard. Bartlett had two wives, Margaret, who died in 1778, and 
Hannah, who survived him. Margaret's stone is puzzling. We had 
seen many similar stones in Vermont and decided they were cut by 
someone closely associated with Bartlett, perhaps an apprentice 
or, more likely, a son. The skull and wings bear no resemblance to 
the hook-and-eye stones, yet there were snails, four-leaved clovers, 
perpendicular sevens, typical borders, and most important, the 
completely unmistakable Gershom Bartlett footstone with its 
diamonds. We came to suppose that the old man himself had cut 
the borders and the inscription after a son or other associate had 
cut the skull and wings, though we felt less certain about our at- 
tribution of this important Bartlett stone than about any other that 
we had ever made. 

The inscriptions especially surprised us. "In Memory of Mrs. 
Margret wife of DD Gershom Bartlet," and "In Memory of Hannah, 
wife of Gershom Bartlet DD." We later learned more about him from 
Vermont records, many supplied by Arthur Chivers, who was then 
working on the history of the Dartmouth graveyard. We learned that 
Bartlett had subscribed to the first Dartmouth College Fund about 

Wanted: The Hook-and-Eye Man 



Margret Bartlett, 1778, Pompanoosuc, Vt. 

1770; he was a pioneer settler in Norwich (Pompanoosuc was then a 
district of Norwich), an official fence viewer, also a member of the 
committee for laying out roads to the meeting house. Numerous 
Vermont records tell of his service in the militia during the Revolu- 
tionary War and earlier service in 1757 in the French and Indian 

But how did he get his doctorate in divinity? Throughout his 
life he had preached sermons on stones, frequently using scriptural 
quotations, but his name is not officially listed as a graduate of 
Dartmouth or of any other American college existing at that time. 
JH^is probate papers, now in Woodstock, Vernnont^revealed many 
facts, among them the fact that he lived on the banks of the Oom- 
pompanoosuc River not far from the old graveyard; that he died 
intestate and left some household furniture including a looking- 
glass valued at 21 cents and a tea set valued at 71 cents. We can 
also note the significant fact that he left not a single book, sug- 
gesting that he had no formal education. 

) We ended be believing that Bartlett's degree was justly earned, 
if not by scholarship, then by his contributions to early American 
art, recognized by his life-long friend, Eleazer Wheelock, scholar 
and founder of Dartmouth College^ Perhaps Bartlett assisted 
Wheelock in transporting from Connecticut those five hundred gal- 
lons of New England rum, now celebrated in Dartmouth song, and 
perhaps his degree in divinity was granted, though not recorded, on 
the happy occasion of its arrival. 

Frontispiece: Hook-And-Eye Man carving, Farmington, Conn. 



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Ithamar Spauldin, Stonecarver 
of Concord, Massachusetts 1795-1800 

C. R. Jones 

In 1895 the Rev. Calvin Keyser found a Concord account book 
in Solon, Maine, and, recognizing its antiquarian interest, presented 
it to the Concord Antiquarian Society. The book, Ithamar Spauldin's 
Book of Accounts and Proceedings from April 13, 1795, is a lucky 
survival, for it gives a vivid picture of the manufacture and sale of 
gravestones and the activities of the man who carved them. 

Ithamar Spauldin, the eldest son of Thomas and Lydia Spaul- 
din, was born in Pepperell, Massachusetts, March 2, 1767. He ap- 
pears in the Concord, Massachusetts, records in August, 1794, 
when he declared his intention to marry Lydia Tarbell Reed, also of 
Concord. The couple were wed April 12, 1795, in Littleton, 
Massachusetts, by Sampson Tuttle, Justice of the Peace. They did 
not have any children. 

In 1797, Spauldin was a charter member and served as the first 
Junior Steward of the Concord Masonic Lodge. On June 30, 1800, 
he asked to be dismissed from membership as he intended to leave 
Concord. Records indicate that he moved to Norridgewoc, Maine, in 
that year. 

From the entries in the account book an interesting picture of 
Spauldin's life and work can be constructed. The first 24 pages 
were used as a day book or diary. His first job was laying a cellar 
wall for Joshua Jones. The construction of this large brick house 
kept him busy for some time. Ithamar's younger brother Joseph 
worked with him "in the shop" for several years. On May 17, 1795, 
he and Lydia "went to keeping House." No work was done on Sun- 
days or Muster Day for the Concord Regiment. November 19, 1795, 
was designated "Thanksgiving." On November 24 he "salted Cab- 
bage." Several entries suggest that he tended a large garden. On 
February 4, 1797, he "went a fishing to Flint's Pond." On March 4 he 
"went to Lincoln and brought home our puppy who was 5 weeks 
and 2 days old." On October 14, 1799, he bought six green chairs. 
He made several trips to Pepperell and "Kenebeck," Maine, in 1799 
and 1800, apparently to visit relatives and prepare to relocate. On 
August 27th, 1800, he agreed with "S. Emerson to keep the bed that 

52 C. R. Jones 

was in my house & allowed him 13 dollars with what I had before 
paid him." 

Most of the time was devoted to business, either working in his 
shop or at various houses and business establishments. Frequent 
trips were made to the Harvard, Massachusetts, quarries to "get 
out stone." On October 25, 1797, he paid Joseph Willard's wife "one 
dollar for the last year's quarry rent." 

The second section of the book lists the charges for individual 
jobs and in some cases for produce or services— hauling stone, for 
example— received as payment. Dollar values are included with 
each entry. Toward the end of the book, the entries appear to have 
been made at irregular intervals, so it is possible that some work 
was paid for at completion and not put into the book at all. 

Spauldin produced more than tombstones. In the five year period 
he built 34 chimneys, 9 foundations, and one brick house. He 
plastered 20 rooms, did 8 whitewashing jobs, and papered a barber 
shop. He sold 12 whetstones, grindstones, and hammers. One 
customer ordered a "stone to pound paper on." He also set several 
hatter's kettles, built an "ash hole," fixed the "mouth of a copper 
furnace," and repaired the local jail after someone damaged the 

During the five years, Spauldin recorded the sale of 71 pairs of 
tombstones, 36 of them in Concord. At least 26 of these can be 
located today. Six pairs were sold to people in Carlisle and six pairs 
in Bedford; five pairs in Lincoln; three pairs in Acton; two pairs each 
in Framingham, Ashby, and Sudbury; and one pair each in Temple, 
Westford, Pepperell, Maynard, Billerica, Marlboro, Dracut, Peter- 
borough, and Hallowell. 

The hard, greenish slate he used came from the Harvard 
quarry. He produced three styles. His cherubs have moon faces, fre- 
quently with hair parted in the center and wings with a row of 
scallops, connecting at the neck. Shallow incised lines form a sim- 
ple border and inscriptions are in rather small, fine lettering. The in- 
scription is usually flanked by Tuscan columns. His small portrait 
stones are quite simple with the bust in an oval, flanked by sprigs. 
(Figure 1) The larger portrait stones have slightly more elaborate 
busts, trees on either side, and columns below to frame the inscrip- 
tion. (Figure 2) His urn-and-willow stones are also shallowly carved. 
(Figure 3) 

IthamarSpauldin, Stonecarver 


:«. ;•:• i 

•'^^\jt ^W?^c 


? ? ^' . 

•- f.- 

Figure 1. 

Figure 2. 


C. R. Jones 

Figure 3. 

The account book provides a rare opportunity to determine the 
cost, date of sale, and purchaser for these eighteenth century ar- 
tifacts. Charges ranged from two dollars to twenty-four dollars, the 
most popular size costing about seven dollars. Four lines of poetry 
cost an extra seventy cents, and in one case he charged one dollar 
for "putting the age & death of a child on the lower part of Mrs. 
Betsey Mead's gravestone." He sold two "Monumental stones," 
one of which survives. The cost was "£10, extra writing 12 shillings 
— $35.34." 

At this writing, not all of the Spauldin stones referred to in the 
account book have been located and documented by present day 
students of gravestone studies. I have not investigated Spauldin's 
work after his removal to Maine. Fortunately, another researcher, 
John S. Wilson of Natick, Massachusetts, has continued this study 
and has already located a number of stones which were not listed 
by town, and others not mentioned in the account book but cer- 
tainly cut by Spauldin. 

IthamarSpauldin, Stonecarver 55 

A final section of the account book is worthy of note. A list of 
books owned by Spauldin gives an interesting picture of the man. 
One might hope that an examination of the appropriate editions of 
these works would reveal printed designs that may have influenced 
Spauldin's carving style. 

List of books from Ithamar Spauldin's account book, 1795. 

Jan. 179(?) Perry's Dictionary 
Dec. 1794 Manser Universal Geography 2 Vol. 
1795 Tristram Shandy 6 Vol. 

Thompsons Works the second volume 

The American Young Mans best companion 
1795 The American husbandry 2 Vol 

Websters 2 & 3 part 

Childs Friend 

Chesterfields Principles of Politeness 
1795 Ashort account of Algers(?) 
Nov. 1795 Popes Works 

An Authentic Key to Masonry 
Dec. 1795 The Paine rights of Man 
1795 Pains Age of Reason 
1795 The Age of Infidelity 

Female ? detected 

Shaws Justice the second volume 

A new Introduction to Book Keeping 

The Prompter 

British Album 

for binding American Apollo 

for binding Historical Collection of Algers (?) 

Loves Surveying 

Johnson's Dictionary 

Pains Age of Reason 2 part 
Sept. 1796 Dr. Franklins Life 

Saundery{?) Journal 

Massachusetts Constitution 
1797 Brigs Cookery 
1797 Valuable Seceretts 

Frontispiece: A page from Ithamar Spauldin's Book of Accounts and Proceedings. 
























































Colorado Wooden Markers 

James Milmoe 

The rare wooden grave marker on the facing page was 
photographed recently in the cemetery of the small town of Lake 
City, Colorado. Lake City, population ninety-one in the 1970 census, 
is the county seat of Hindsdale County in southwest Colorado. It is 
the only town in that mountainous county of about the size of the 
state of Rhode Island. Lake City is fairly isolated, fifty-miles south 
of its nearest neighbor, Gunnison. Isolation, I am sure, is partly 
responsible for the survival of this and similar markers. More 
significant to their preservation, I believe, is the altitude of the 
cemetery (about nine thousand feet), the low average temperature, 
and the low relative humidity. 

The professional quality of the lettering suggests that it is the 
work of a sign painter in Lake City. The paint protected the lettered 
area of the wood from the weather, producing the high relief effect 
we see today. At these high altitudes with cool dry air, rot and 
fungus attack is at an absolute minimum. 

The accompanying M. B. C. marker is a footstone, relatively 
unusual in Colorado. Both markers are weathered to a silver grey. 
The photographs are printed with exaggerated contrast to increase 
legibility and texture. 

The markers for W. H. Harrison and Jane Lampshire on the 
following pages were photographed in the Aspen Grove Cemetery, 
Aspen, Colorado, in June, 1966. They may or may not still be there. 
Aspen Grove is a small, rather secluded cemetery with an altitude 
similar to that of Lake City. It is located in a dense aspen forest, as 
its name implies. As in the cemetery at Lake City, the force of the 
weather is modified by trees. The Lampshire marker is not com- 
pletely legible and has been damaged, probably by woodpeckers. 


James Milmoe 

Most of these rather primitive, hand-made wooden markers 
were erected in the second half of the nineteenth century. They can 
be found in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. 

The photographs shown here illustrate three representative 
styles of western tablet markers. Wooden cross styles are found 
throughout the world, particularly in areas of Catholic influence, 
such as New Mexico and Mexico. Time and weather have taken a 
heavy toll on the wood in these areas, and few are as well preserved 
as the ones illustrated here. 

Frontispiece: Myra B. Clevenger, 1892, Lake City 

Locations of Hinsdale County, Lake City, and Aspen, Colorado 

Colorado Wooden Markers 


M.B.C. (footstone), 1892, Lake City 


James Milmoe 

W. H. Harrison, 1891, Aspen 

Colorado Wooden Markers 


Jane Lampshire, ca. 1890, Aspen 


Openwork Memorials 
of North Carolina 

Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 

Davidson County is located in west central North Carolina 
(map, top). It was formed from Rowan County in 1822, about the 
time many of the openwork memorials were being carved. The 
county seat is Lexington, and specimens of this style still stand in 
the churchyards of eleven parishes in various townships surround- 
ing it (map, bottom). Most of these churchyards are within a few 
miles of each other. The distance between Abbotts Creek and 
Jersey, the most distant points, is about twenty-five miles. 

The churches of this region were organized during the second 
half of the eighteenth century by immigrants from the Palatinate 
(western Rhine region), from Switzerland, and also from the eastern 
part of France, such as Alsace. This North Carolina flatland was 
commonly referred to as the Piedmont, where English, Scots and 
Welsh settlers also made up the early population. 

The oldest memorials found in these parts date to the 
mid-1770's, but none of these early unadorned markers are of the 
openwork type due to appear over a generation later. The earliest 
openwork memorial bears a 1797 date, probably back-dated by 
several years. The latest example is dated 1857, and its carving is a 
dilution of the openwork style at its peak period, 1815-1840. 

Openwork stonecarving was practiced in ancient times, long 
before that technique became identified with Gothic structures. 
The tracery-like effect it produced has been much admired ever 
since its introduction. While on a lesser scale in size and intricacy, 
and of a more recent vintage, the openwork memorials of Davidson 
County are equally deserving of admiration for their unique 
gravestone style and their refined craftmanship. The majority of 
these unusual memorials can be seen in the burial yards of the 
following churches: 


Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 



■ Winston-Salem 






■ Charlotte 



South Carolina ^^^^^P 


Atlantic Ocean 










I.Abbotts Creek 




2. Bethany 





5. Fair Grove 



7.Spring Hill 




S.Good Hope 
11. Jersey 

Top: location of Davidson County, North Carolina, immediately south of Winston- 
Salem and northeast of Charlotte. Bottom: Davidson County's churchyards with 
openwork stone examples. 1-4 are choice locations; 5-11 offer fewer specimens. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 


Abbotts Creek, a Baptist Church, which bears the name of 
William Abbott, who named the creek. He and Matthew Rowan, 
after whom the county was originally named, were among the 
early eighteenth century settlers of the region. The churchyard 
abounds with some fifty specimens of openwork stones. 

Bethany, a Reformed Church, which was originally called 
Fredericktown in honor of Frederick Miller, who granted the 
land for the church in 1789. It was renamed Bethany in 1861. Its 
yard is also a prime location, with over thirty examples. 

Pilgrim, a Lutheran Church, which was once called Dutch Con- 
gregation on Abbotts Creek and is sometimes referred to as 

Josiah Spurgin, 1802, Abbotts Creek churchyard. A rare signed specimen inscribed, 


Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 

Moses Welborn, 


Abbotts Creek 


(^ in>-H's\\(>|jv)rivi 

Catharine Counse, 


Beulah churchyard. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 


RosaniVcrR- league 
born \ovv2R ' iri^ . 
^"^iecl SepI ^"isps , 


Rosanna B. league, 

Abbotts Creek 
^Y,'' churchyard. 

Amie T. Jones, 


Abbotts Creek 



Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 

Leonard's Church, after Valentin Leonard (Valentein Leonhart, 
originally), who parceled some of his land holdings to the 
church. It is in that churchyard that German inscriptions appear 
with frequency. The burial yard offers only seven openwork 
memorials, but it abounds with other styles indigenous to the 

Beulah\ a Reformed Church, which is located in the little town 
of Arnold. It was also known as Sauer's (Sowers) Meeting 
House in appreciation of the land donated by Phillip Sowers. 
This yard offers over twenty openwork stones. 

A more limited openwork style sampling may be seen in these 



♦ . 


. *" 




fcLst^'^'v ■ 


-f t---*/^*Biti6*2Sfc'''V. itl 

Felix Gladfelter, 1814. Bethany churchyard. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 


churchyards: Fair Grove, Emanuel 
Luke's, Beck's, and Jersey. 

Spring Hill, Good Hope, St. 

The openwork memorials are generally tapered in silhouette 
and small in size — within 20-30 inches in overall height, 12-20 
inches in overall width. Their thicknesses vary from one inch to over 
two inches. Some other specimens, footstones especially, are 
among the most diminutive markers ever seen. With the exception 
of a few slate specimens, the majority of these gravestones were 
fashioned of steatite, a soft soapstone rich in talc, which probably 
encouraged the openwork carving technique. The negative volume 
design effect was probably achieved by a combination of drilling, 
gouging, and abrading. A clue to the technique used is offered by 

Christian Weaver, 1836. Beulah churchyard. 


Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 


Benjamin Farabee, 1836. Bethany churchyard. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 


Jacob Long, 1824. Beulah churchyard. 

72 Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 

an unfinished memorial at Abbotts Creel<, wliich displays only drill 
holes as design elements. 

The most frequently used symbol is the fylfot, whirling sun, or 
swastika (from the Sanskrit: su-asti-ka, meaning "it is well"), in- 
timating resignation to things as they are.^ The fylfot is an ancient 
symbol with implications other than a resignation to the inevitable. 
It often stood for the sun and, by derivation, for eternal life. It is 
presumably in that context that it appeared with such frequency on 
these memorials. The heart motif is also recurrent, as are (not il- 
lustrated here) trees of life, birds and tulips, and the Ur-bogen, a 
sacred Nordic symbol of the diminishing arc of the sun, which 
brings on the barrenness of winter, earth's season of death. Many 
stones bear unrelated carvings on their two faces— the fronts 
displaying the inscriptions, the backs or reverse faces showing 
high-relief geometric designs (illustrated in the frontispiece). The 
openwork design is, of course, visible from either vantage point. 

It is thought that these memorials represent the collective out- 
put of members of the Swisegood school of cabinetmakers.^ These 
eighteenth century woodcarvers are known to have produced 
household items such as cupboards which have details bearing a 
close resemblance to the memorials' decorative style. It is recorded 
that in 1810 John Swisegood became apprentice to Mordica Col- 
lins, a local wood artisan, until Collins made a sudden move to In- 
diana in 1816. While in business, Swisegood took on two appren- 
tices, Jonathan Long and Jesse Clodfelter, and taught them the 
woodworking trade. Jesse Clodfelter might well have been the 
"Joseph" Clodfelter who identified himself by signing the back of 
the 1802 Josiah Spurgin memorial" at Abbotts Creek. This stone is 
probably back-dated by at least two decades, a common practice at 
the time. John Swisegood moved to Illinois in the mid-1840's, while 
Jonathan Long remained a thriving carver until about 1853. Little is 
known of the whereabouts and/or trade pursued by Jesse or Joseph 
Clodfelter during the 1820's, which saw the carving of most of these 
unique memorials.^ One thing is clear upon scrutiny: they are not 
from the hand of a single carver. Therefore, it is safe to assume that 
Jesse or Joseph Clodfelter carved a fair share of the total output, 
either operating a stone workshop of his own or moonlighting from 
his woodcarving activities. The artisans who chose anonymity are 
equally deserving of admiration for their contribution to this 
remarkable local art form. It is hoped that one day these carvers will 
be identified. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 


Peter Lapp, 1827. Pilgrim churchyard. 


Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby 

Fragile as they are, most of the openwork memorials are in sur- 
prisingly good condition. However, recent stone chipping and scar- 
ring are painfully visible on the lower half of many specimens. 
Before further serious power mower defacements occur, local 
cemetery associations should insist on better supervision of the 
yards' maintenance crews. The alternative is the extinction of this 
unparalleled gravestone art legacy. For the sake of posterity, local 
and state governments should collaborate in arranging the removal 
of some memorials from the burial yards to the safety of museums. 



' haw ell 




',H^r lender carf^AKroiicvlvnA 

^Afflictions CI-irTstlUcv^icjUt tt^J;^^. 



tnpVfvrs ilio lord ?\lv->\'e 
Ko air 

Elisabeth Bodenhamer, 1824. Abbotts Creek churchyard. 

Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 



1. For an unexplained reason, this important location was overlooked in the 
Rauschenberg survey of Davidson County's memorial styles. 

2. Preston A. Barba, Pennsylvania German Tombstones: A Study in Foli< Art, Penn- 
sylvania German Folklore Society, vol. 18 (Allentown: Schlecter's, 1954), p. 7. 

3. Bradford L. Rauschenberg, "A Study of Baroque and Gothic-Style Gravestones in 
Davidson County, North Carolina," Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 3, no. 

4. Ibid, p. 46. The author writes, "It is regrettable that research has not located a 
single stone that was signed." 

5. Isolated instances of openwork stone memorials exist elsewhere, for example in 
Scotland and Nova Scotia, but not on the scale existing in Davidson County, North 


Barba, Preston A. Pennsylvania German Tombstones: A Study in Folk Art; Penn- 
sylvania German Folklore Society, vol. 18. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Schlecter's, 

Lane, Richard N. and Betty K. Somers. Editors. "Davidson County's Graveyards." 
Homespun, Winter 1976, Lexington, North Carolina: 13-20. 

Rauschenberg, Bradford L. "A study of Baroque and Gothic-Style Gravestones in 
Davidson County, North Carolina." Journal of Early Souttiern Decorative Arts, vol. Ill, 
no. 3, Winston-Salem, North Carolina: 24-50. 

Wust, Klaus. Folk Art in Stone: Southwest Virginia. Edinburg, Virginia: Shenandoah 
History, 1970. 

Frontispiece: the back surface of the Kezia Jones memorial, 1828, Abbotts Creelc. 



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1 COilSplTOlOj^ri,."^ 


Sowers, 1823. Beulah chur( 



Wisconsin's Wrought Iron IVIarkers 

Julaine Maynard 

St. Mary's Catholic Church of Pine Bluff is located in a tiny 
crossroads community about eight miles west of the city of 
Madison, in Dane County, Wisconsin. It is a stone church of im- 
pressive size with brilliant stained glass windows. Behind the 
church, on a hilltop, lies a quiet rural cemetery that contains, 
among its markers, fifteen wrought iron crosses. They stand out 
starkly in their haunting beauty. Although they resemble delicate 
lacework, they are deeply weathered with age. 

Some of the crosses give no clue to who is buried beneath 
them. Church records do not help, for the locations of early burial 
sites are not documented. Other crosses have an oval stone plaque 
attached to the center of the cross. Inscriptions on the stone 
plaques show death dates ranging from 1873 to 1898. 

One prominent pair of crosses bears the following in- 

Michael Birrenkott Geb Sept 7 1830 Gest Jan 12 1874 
Maria Clara Birrenkott Geb Juli 13 1830 Gest Feb 26 1884 
R.I. P. 

The church records show that John Michael Birrenkott and 
Maria Clara Kalscheur, natives of Kerpen, Prussia, were among the 
earliest members of the church. They were married August 15, 1854, 
the day of the church's very festive dedication ceremonies. The 
church was hung with branches of tamarack and filled with fragrant 
flowers. Rifle shots announced the start of the morning services. 
Immediately after their wedding in the early afternoon, the blessing 
of the cemetery took place, after which the young couple moved on 
to their wedding dinner. 

Other iron crosses in this cemetery mark the graves of early im- 
migrants from Scotland, Germany, England and Ireland. Only three 
iron crosses have been found in other Dane County cemeteries. 
Two are in Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison; one is in a cemetery in 


Julaine Maynard 

St. Mary's, Dane County. 

Wisconsin's Wrought Iron IVIarkers 


Lois Stein of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has long been interested in 
the iron crosses that mark the graves in St. Alfonso's and St. Fran- 
cis Xavier Catholic Church cemeteries of Kenosha County. Accord- 
ing to Mrs. Stein, the presence of Wisconsin's iron cross markers 
appears to be limited to Catholic churchyard cemeteries, and to 
date from the 1880's. The two Kenosha cemeteries contain about 
thirty-five iron crosses of many different designs and sizes, some of 
which are said to have been made by a blacksmith in Burlington, 
Wisconsin. Members of the Wisconsin State Old Cemetery Society 
report the existence of a few isolated iron crosses in Racine and 
Milwaukee Counties. 

The ornamental iron crosses marking the graves of early 
Wisconsin settlers remain intricate enigmas. Until these markers 
are more thoroughly studied, one can only speculate about their 
origin and their distribution patterns and how these may relate, for 
example, to the settlement patterns of Wisconsin's German and 
Austrian immigrants. 

Frontispiece: Wrought iron cross detail, Dane County, Wis. 

St. Mary's, Dane County. 

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The John Stevens Shop 

An introduction and a welcome delivered at the opening session of 
the 1979 Annual Conference of the Association for Gravestone 
Studies, Newport, Rhode Island, July 7, 1979. 

Esther Fisher Benson 

Several years ago a letter came to me at the John Stevens 
Shop from one of AGS's founding fathers. The letter asked how 
many graveyards still exist on this Island. My answer, giving a large 
figure, met with his request that I might show him where these 
graveyards are. I did not answer that letter, being floored by the 
prospect of tramping all over Aquidneck Island through brush and 
briar, trespassing, searching, climbing broken walls, consuming 
many hours. There are many small burying grounds on the Island; 
each farm had its own. These are now, for the most part, in a 
devastated condition, the walls fallen away, bushes and briars 
overgrown, the stones split, knocked sideways, lettering often 
obliterated. Well-preserved family grounds can be seen at Lawton's 
Valley, the Prescott farm, John Clarke Burying Ground, Coggeshall, 
Holmes, and Bliss. On Farewell Street in Newport lies the Gover- 
nors' Burial Ground, with two Wanton and two Bull governors. 
About a block away is the Common Burying Ground, which, thanks 
to Ed Connelly, will survive many more years. The Golden Hill 
Cemetery is small and has certainly suffered in the past. Trinity 
Church and the Jewish cemetery are kept in excellent condition. 
There is also the Arnold Burial Ground on Pelham Street, where lie 
Governor Benedict Arnold and his son-in-law, Edward Pelham. 

Newport was, as I am sure you know, an important coastal city, 
forming a link between New York City and Boston. There was 
wealth and culture and taste developing through the large shipping 
interests up until the Revolution. The single element that gives 
Newport a particular value to all of you is the John Stevens Shop, at 
29 Thames Street. Begun in 1705 by a fifty-two year old mason from 
England, it grew and prospered, rose and fell with the times, but has 
continued until the present day. Within those walls now, as in the 
past, skilled hands wield the mallet and chisel, cutting into the fine 
density of the slate, revealing patterns, shadows, depths, and 
above all — letters. 

82 Esther Benson 

It has bothered me many times to realize that your membership 
seems uninterested in lettering. Wandering as you do, like bird- 
watchers or hunters of wild flowers, how have you resisted all those 
words and their messages? Is it because the fact of death, the 
message on these stones is too dreary, too gloomy for you? Why in 
your photographs and rubbings do you so often cut off the lettered 
area? The purpose of a gravestone is not primarily sentimental or 
even decorative. It is factual, so that the dead may not be forgotten 
by future generations. It is a record to last as long as may be possi- 
ble. Sometimes I have felt that you are really interested only in early 
American decoration. 

Yet to us in the John Stevens Shop, much thought and time go 
into the balancing, the unifying of the parts which make up a 
headstone. The lettering and ornament must fit into a given space. 
Neither should dominate the other. The Stevenses were not, 
perhaps, innovaters, but in lettering they were masters: John the 
first, scratching the grim skull with hanging jaw and teeth, which he 
softened with stylized chrysanthemum heads down each side, and 
tying the whole thing together with correct seventeenth century 
capitals; John the second, cutting away the background to define 
his leafy borders, pursing the lips of his cherub heads, while across 
his great tombstones march capitals and lower case never to be 
surpassed; John the third starting his creative life with delicate por- 
trait heads, ending up after the Revolution— pushed to the wall like 
so many others in the post-war depression— no ornament, only let- 
ters, competent and satisfying; Philip Stevens, cutting into the 
nineteenth century white marble a type face letter, deep and very 
small. They all possessed it, these Stevenses, an unfailing under- 
standing and love of lettering, inherited in their genes, learned in 
the shop from parents or grandparents. 

We have four Stevens account books, going back to 1705 and 
carrying through until 1794. The present building was put up by 
John III in 1781. the Newport Historical Society pamphlet gives the 
story as revealed in these books. 

How have we, then, maintained the Stevens Shop tradition in 
this age when speed and multi-production are all-important? We do 
not copy colonial stones, although we will do so if asked. We use 
mostly slate for gravestones, though of a much tougher quality than 
the local stone got from around the Island in the past, so hard with 
iron that we must use carbide-tipped chisels. We cut the head 
shapes with an electrically driven saw; we sharpen the tools on an 

The John Stevens Shop 83 

electric wheel. The rest we do by hand. We prepare the surface on a 
slate stone by lengthy hand rubbing, using modern silica grit bricks. 

We make many tablets for libraries, churches, hospitals, 
schools, and museums. We cut large names on public buildings, 
and dedication inscriptions on walls. More than half our work is 
architectural— not so out-of-line when you consider that John I and 
II were primarily masons. 

It is, however, the gravestone which afford us the best creative 
opportunity. Each one is designed individually. The letters are com- 
posed fo fit nicely across the stone. We cannot, like John I, pay no 
attention to the number of letters which must be stretched or 
squeezed into a given line. We cannot indulge in primitiveness, no 
matter how charming. Although choosing these ancient techniques 
of stonecutting, we are, nevertheless, of the twentieth century. 
Every piece of work we do must stand up against machine-made 
products, must in fact be far better. The process of creativity, of 
imagination, lies now as it always did in the mind of the stonecutter 
who was and still is the designer. The image in his mind, coupled 
with his skill and an understanding of material and tools, continues 
to produce the stones which you will see this weekend. 

As you walk through the Common Burial Ground I hope that 
your visit to the John Stevens Shop will have given you a new in- 
sight into these early gravestones, so that you can see that the let- 
ters and their words, together with the peaceful cherub heads, are 
the essence of a colonial gravestone. 

Oh, what a place to lie until eternity. 

Frontispiece: Inscription by John Stevens, Junr., the Pompey Brenton slate, 1772, 
Common Burying Ground, Newport, Rl. 

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Resurrecting the Epitaph 

Dianna Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

The central focus of modern gravestone studies is the carved 
icon, not the words on the stone or the arrangements of stones in a 
burying ground or other possible emphases. Literary approaches to 
gravestones and the early American culture of death— and serious 
study of American epitaphs— has yet to begin, although Ludwig^ 
and the Tashjians^ have given significant encouragement in this 

We here present our argument for two badly needed shifts in 
emphasis which will both complement and develop iconographic 

1. Study of epitaphs, their linguistic and literary effects, 
literary sources, and symbolic significance; and 

2. A holistic approach to the study of gravestones, treat- 
ing epitaph and icon as a single unified work in which 
each element complements, completes, or contrasts 
with the other, producing different and more powerful 
effects than those which emerge in studies of the iso- 
lated individual elements. 

We suggest that these avenues of gravestone research will show a 
great deal more than we already know about the behavior and 
beliefs of the people who lie under the stones. 

Most Americans commission only one work of art in a lifetime: 
a tombstone. What they select is a function of pressure, availa- 
bility, price, and fashion— and it always was. Yet what they choose, 
and what they chose two and three hundred years ago, is as accu- 
rate and intimate a statement as we are likely to find in durable 
physical form of things beyond mere fashion and price: feelings 
and attitudes, held both consciously and unconsciously, about the 
most ultimate matters. The gravestone record is even more impor- 
tant in the case of a culture like the Massachusetts Puritan culture 
of the colonial years. Because of the Second Commandment's pro- 
hibition of "graven images," we have a slim legacy of the artistic 

86 Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

visions of these people. The physical expressions of beauty which 
remain are their trim, functional tools and elegant buildings, not 
their painting or sculpture. Formal "fine art" as such is preserved 
for us in only one great storehouse, the early burying grounds. And 
in the burying grounds of the colonial period we find no conflict or 
substantive difference between elite and folk art. With a few 
notable exceptions, it seems that in early America death levelled 
not only all men, but also all men's responses to it. The icons of ear- 
ly American gravestones, as documented by gravestone research, 
preach to us truths we can find nowhere else. 

The accepted view of the development of iconographic motifs 
in American gravestones is roughly as follows. The dominant sym- 
bol of the first century of American gravestone making is the 
winged skull. Its meaning is less clear than its dominance. Does it 
represent the memento moril Does it remind us of the most com- 
mon of all early American epitaphs, with which it is often united? 

Stranger, stop and cast an eye; 
As you are now, so once was I, 
As I am now, so you shall be. 
Prepare for death and follow me. 

Do the skulls' rows of fearsome teeth grin at us the dusty truth 
about the mouldering fate we all share? In a word, yes. A fearsome 
death is what the skulls are telling us about, staring hollow-eyed 
from hundreds of dark slates. Death was, after all, a more familiar 
companion to these people than it is to us. They knew and expected 
and met with him earlier and more frequently than we do. As David 
Stannard documents in The Puritan Way of Death, death had not 
the same taboo status that it does for us. (See Phillippe Aries' 
Death in America for an assessment of the way death developed 
into the kind of taboo it now is.) Those who lived to maturity in early 
America were a minority, and they knew it, as the poignant grave- 
stones forchildren— as many as six in one family dead in a month— 
mutely attest.^ 

But the perversely grinning skull is grinning as well as grimac- 
ing, and it is also winged, probably suggesting the flight of the new- 
ly fledged soul to heaven." The soul is freed by death as the body is 
enslaved by it, and the winged skull looks two ways: down into the 
grave, and up to heaven, as is proper for a symbol of the greatest 
and most permanent rite of passage. There is hope in the grin, as 
well as fear. More than hope, there is the wish, expressed repeat- 
edly in epitaph as well as icon, for the release into eternity prom- 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 87 

ised by death. In the icon of the grinning skull, fear and wish are 
one, as they are in the unconscious depths of the human psyche, 
where opposites are always true, and paradox dissolves into unity. 
Yet, though the gravestone icon combines opposites, it also pre- 
serves ambiguity. Grinning and winged, a skull is still a skull, a 
representation of the decayed body divested of its individuality, its 
particulars, its dear human flesh and features. 

The winged skull is eventually succeeded by the winged 
cherub, after a great deal of delightful experimentation by carvers 
with transitional forms— playful abstractions which develop the 
motif of the skull almost beyond recognition. The cherub motif is, in 
our view, less a distinct and total transformation than a shift in em- 
phasis. Indeed, there are many stones which are impossible to clas- 
sify as either skull or human face.^ But the shift is still clear; the 
skull is supplanted by the cherub with its fully fleshed human face 
denying death, while its wings reaffirm its angelic nature, "The 
dead shall be raised incorruptible." 

It is noteworthy that the shift from skull to cherub occurs just 
after the Great Awakening of the 1740s, that the hard and dour Cal- 
vinism of the founders is replaced by a more euphemistic or more 
simply optimistic gospel of salvation at the same time that the 
human face supplants the skull. ^ It is similarly significant that, as 
the intellectual life of the American colonies is more and more 
influenced by Continental thought and by the attempt to achieve on 
earth "the heavenly city of the eighteenth century philosophers" (in 
a pragmatic Yankee incarnation); that as human possibility and per- 
fectibility are trumpeted in Poor Richard's Almanac and the Decla- 
ration of Independence and The Rights of Man, so the aspect of 
gravestones becomes more tonally positive, more affirmative, more 

The next great shift in tombstone motifs similarly fits into ma- 
jor social and intellectual developments of American society. By 
the 1820s, the human face is almost entirely replaced in Massachu- 
setts, chiefly by the motif of the Age of Jackson: the urn and willow. 
Later, icons will tend to disappear altogether, and most stones will 
look like a newspaper page— full of rich and beautiful typefaces, 
but without icon. This dehumanization is appropriate for the first 
American age of Mass Man. In its earlier incarnations at the turn of 
the century and the first decades of the 1800's, the urn and willow 
motif also reflects the emphasis on nature as symbol for a kind of 
salvation characteristic of the spirit of Romanticism. Similarly, less 

88 Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

restrained versions of the urn and willow, often flanked by dramatic 
mourners at the tomb or the urn, are carved embodiments of roman- 
tic sentimentality. 

The pattern of motif development traced above is accurate 
enough, subject to the usual discount for sweeping and partial 
truths, without which scholars could write almost nothing. But 
there is more to learn from gravestones than the closest study of 
icons can yield. Epitaphs comprise the still untold story. Until we 
began studying epitaphs with the same kinds of techniques that we 
bring to the study of other literature, epitaphs were the province 
of collectors of the quaint, the outrageous, the unintentionally 
hilarious. Indeed it is hard not to be amused by the lugubrious woe 
expressed by the "disconsolate" hearts of the survivors of "Mrs. 
Mary McHard ... of Newburyport . . . [Who was] suddenly sum- 
moned to the Skies ... by swallowing a Pea at her own table, 
whence . . . she sweetly breathed her Soul away into her SAVIOUR'S 
arms."^ There is more than quaintness in such epitaphs, of course. 
The details of one's last moments which are deemed worthy of pos- 
terity's ear tell us something valuable about what the survivors 
considered important. 

The writers of this piece were first attracted to these grand old 
stones as much by language and script style as by skulls and 
cherubs. We can find as much material for study in a motifless 
fieldstone as in a sumptuously decorated carving, if the language 
has power: 

MARY DR TO Mary, daughter to 

IRA ATKINS Ira Atkins 

HAR 14 DAYS Here 14 days 

1744 1744 

[Truro, Mass.] 

Even a parenthetical aside can make a family's grief and loss 
come alive for one powerful moment; consider Reliance Megee, 
"(a hopeful child)," dead at twelve years of age in West Tisbury, 
Martha's Vineyard.^ 

Epitaphs must be studied seriously as the last and in most 
cases the only lasting verbal representation of the people who 
sleep under the stones. "I have been and that is all."^ One modifi- 
cation on that; as everyone knows, burial rituals and artifacts, 
including gravestones, are really for the living, rather than the dead. 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 89 

Living people, in most cases, either write or select the epitaph, but 
they do so as a memorial to their dead. Furthermore, the broad 
generalizations of the shift from skull to cherub are sophisticated 
and complicated by a study of not only epitaph, but of epitaph and 
icon, the whole work of art, the gravestone as conceived, designed, 
and created. The fact that pre-carved icons were often united with 
epitaphs after the fact matters little, except to those concerned 
with the impossibly conjectural question of artistic intention. What- 
ever the circumstances of composition, a whole and single artistic 
statement results and remains for later viewers. 

To illustrate the importance of considering the whole work, we 
choose a great stone from the Old Burying Ground in Brewster, 
Massachusetts. It memorializes the death of John Simpkins, the 
young son of the third minister of the Brewster parish. The stone is 
large, dark, and simple, the work of John Just Geyer of Boston; Har- 
riette M. Forbes ^° refers somewhat deprecatingly to Geyer's "level- 
eyed cherubs." This one is appealing and animated, and looks like 
a child whose attention has been quite suddenly drawn to his right. 
The mouth smiles slightly, and the hair is rumpled. Beneath this 
pretty, thoroughly humanistic reproduction of the living child is the 

Here lies the body of John Simpkins. 
Son of the Rev'd John Simpkins, 
Who died Feb 17th 1799 
Aged 2 years and one month 

Lovely in life, pleasant in death. 

Let this stone, erected over the grave. 
Of one who was once, the florid picture of health, 
but rapidly changed into the pale image of death, 

Remind thee. 
That God "destroyeth the hope of man." 

"Lovely in life, pleasant in death," at first the pleasant aspect 
of the icon is reinforced. Then, slowly, through carefully developed 
dependent clauses, we are led to that thunderclap of a last line, 
with its tough, bitter, paradoxical, even tragic statement. 

The child was "pleasant," but was also "the pale image of 
death." This was the beloved son of the parish's spiritual leader, his 
namesake, probably his first son. The homiletic statement of the 

90 Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

fragility of life is expressed with classic balance and control ("florid 
picture of health . . . pale image of death"). A smiling cherub, a 
conventional epitaph, and then — "God 'destroyeth the hope of 

The source of the last line is Job 14:16, slightly modified. In 
this context, it gives a stunningly ambiguous view of Divine Provi- 
dence, yet remains within the boundaries which must be observed 
by a vicar of that Providence which has destroyed his own hope 
with his child. This epitaph, under the smiling face, channels an- 
guish, bitterness, even rage, into doctrinally and socially accept- 
able statement. Job lost his children to the unknowable dictates of 
Jahweh. Job got a whole new set, and this stone could have moved 
toward that hopeful projection into the afterlife which is so com- 
mon on American gravestones. It refuses to indulge in that easy 

On the basis of its carving, its icon, its physical aspect, the 
John Simpkins stone is attractive but unremarkable. Considered 
holistically, the stone is a profound and powerful work of art. It tells 
us that death, particularly the death of the young, was a terrible 
thing, even to a sophisticated, well-educated, and pious minister 
of the enlightened 1790's. The elder John Simpkins was a Harvard 
graduate of the class of 1786, and was very likely responsible for 
the epitaph on his namesake's stone. The joining of that epitaph 
with this sweet and smiling human face may have been largely acci- 
dental, but no matter; Reverend John Simpkins left a powerful ser- 
mon in stone which does not depend on his artistic intention. The 
sweet and smiling face reinforces the agony and irony of the sud- 
den death of the child and makes our two points clear: icon must be 
read with epitaph; and smiling cherubs are indicative of only the 
most highly qualified optimism. 

A reverse example will make both points clearer. The James 
Minott stone, from Concord, Massachusetts, is a large and beau- 
tiful slate from the Lamson workshop. It is elaborately and ele- 
gantly carved, richly decorated, and topped by a toothy and 
awesome death's head. Here is the epitaph: 


Excelling Grammarian Enriched 

with ^Gift of Prayer & Preaching 

a Commanding Officer, a Physician of 

Great Value, a Great Lover of Peace 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 91 

as well as of Justice. & which was His 
greatest Glory a Gen."^ of Distinguisht 
Virtue & Goodness, happy in a Virtuous 
Posterity, & Living Religiously Died 
Conrifortably. Sept. 20th 1733 

James Minott's is a very worldly epitaph, emphasizing not only 
the usual virtue and goodness, but also the grammatical and homi- 
letic skills, medical knowledge, military leadership, even the vir- 
tuous offspring to insure the earthly continuity of his life. The 
phrase "Living Religiously Died Comfortably" implies a long and 
full life; Minott died in his 83rd year. This phrasing subtly indicates 
a cultural assumption commonly reflected in early American 
stones; if you live virtuously in the Lord, you will die full of years 
and, probably, worldly goods. The epitaph could be a text for a ser- 
mon on Religion and the Rise of Capitalism V And all this celebra- 
tion of earthly achievements, all this sweet and positive treatment 
of life and death on James Minott's stone, stands under the fiercest 
of grinning winged skulls. 

Another example from the Brewster Old Burying Ground is the 
stone of Benjamin Bangs, 1769, a grand and imposing slate carved 
by William Codner of Boston. It shows a mature, bewigged human 
face, a fully fleshed head with wings, carved in a firm and assertive 
style. It is a proud and worldly stone, and its position in a whole row 
of Bangs family stones (Benjamin was the patriarch) reasserts that 
pride in human, worldly affairs. Here is the epitaph: 

Some hearty friend shall drop his Tear 
On my dry Bones and say 
"These once were strong as mine appear 
And mine must be as they." 

Thus shall our mouldering Members teach 
What now our senses learn: 
For Dust and Ashes loudest preach 
Man's infinite Concern. 

This is a sophisticated version of "Stranger, stop and cast an eye." 
The voice of the dead speaks to the ear of the living, reversing their 
roles; the deceased lives through the voice of the stone, defying 
death and yet reminding the living of their own mortality. Here, two 
voices are involved, deepening and complicating the relation of 
dead and living, and the relation of both to death. It is, in fact, even 
more distant than that. A living poet— in this case, Isaac Watts— 

92 Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

attributes words to the dead, who then attributes them back to the 

In the second stanza, the epitaph drops the distinction be- 
tween the voice of the dead and the voice of the living, which per- 
mits, even insists on, the ultimate unity of living and dead. The 
"mouldering Members" of the dead "teach" the senses of the liv- 
ing, their students and inheritors. "Dust and Ashes loudest preach / 
Man's infinite Concern." The teaching/ learning metaphor is a wry 
analogue on preaching, one not likely to be lost on the early readers 
of the stone. The preacher in the pulpit, which is about forty yards 
from Benjamin's stone, may convey his message through logic or 
harangue, but no matter how loudly he exhorts, the voices of the 
dead in the burying ground just outside preach more eloquently and 
loudly than he ever could. 

Benjamin Bangs' expensive and fashionable stone, with its 
human icon and worldly aspect, concentrates on mutability, al- 
though, with characteristic epitaph reticence, it does not state the 
hope and fear it embodies. "Man's infinite Concern" is that which 
concerns man infinitely, ultimately, endlessly, i.e., death, and the 
mortality which obsesses man. This infinite concern is neatly hid- 
den in wit; man's infinite concern is infinity, for what liesterrifyingly 
beyond death and time and space, in eternity. And over all this 
troubled complexity stares the face on the stone, paradoxical, 
tonally ambiguous. The gaze is even, direct, open-eyed, probably 
smiling. The viewer can see in it a face enough like his own to iden- 
tify with it as the epitaph invites him to, and which he could less 
readily do if it were a skull. The whole work of art is neither cheerful 
nor gruesome— it is too complex for that. Icon and epitaph are a 
forceful and ambiguous whole, capable of complex interpretation. 

We will close our discussion of skulls and cherubs with two 
brief examples from one small yard. Tower Hill, in Edgartown, Mar- 
tha's Vineyard. Mary Smith died in 1755 in her eighth year; she lies 
under a tiny winged skull and this epitaph: 

If blooming Beauty, Innocence 
Fine wit, or Grace, were a Defence 
Against the Dart of cruel Death 
This Child had not resigned her Breath. 

What a fine little poem, restrained yet eloquent. Death is cruel, but 
drawn with a sense of classical imagery (Dart). Great claims are 
made for the virtues of the little lady, but all in a cool subjunctive 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 93 

mode ("were . . . had not"). Her beauty, wit, and grace are now all 
reduced to a neat little skull. The whole effect is one of delicacy and 
sweet acceptance. 

Her neighbor, Thomas Trapp, died in 1719, and lies under a 
harsher, earlier winged skull, and this epitaph: 


Death could indeed be fearful, powerful, even cruel, especially 
when he took pretty children like John Simpkins or Mary Atkins or 
Reliance Megee or Mary Smith. The grinning skulls on the slates 
seem to tell us this, and epitaphs often reinforce that interpretation. 

But this epitaph tells us that Thomas Trapp welcomed death— 
or that those who were responsible for his monument wished to 
believe so— and the grinning skull on his stone must be seen as a 
supporting qualification of this assertion, not its negation. To those 
who visualized death in the hideous grinning skull, death seems to 
have been a more intimate acquaintance than he is to us, a per- 
sonified guest at the banquet of New England life. Like Job's and 
John Simpkins' God, like a powerful but capricious uncle, he could 
be cruel, but he could be benevolent as well. These early Americans 
did not yet need to euphemize his appearance with wigs or plump- 
cheeked cherubs, or keep him at two removes with urn and willow, 
which emphasizes mourning, not death. The skull shows us a death 
to be confronted and understood, so that a busy and practical peo- 
ple could get on with the difficult business of living. 

Exclusive concentration on icons has produced another kind 
of omission in gravestone studies as well. When the icon is stand- 
ardized, or unremarkable, or judged to be dull and unimaginative, 
researchers often bypass the stone, whose epitaph may have con- 
siderable literary merit. The study of the urn and willow motif has 
not been nearly so fully developed as that of death's head or 
cherub. This is unfortunate, in part because some beautiful carving 
exists in this style; yet one must agree that the urn and willow motif 
tends to be less complex and interesting than the skull or the 

A perfect example is the tall gray slate of Desire Bangs, from 
the Old Burying Ground in Brewster, Massachusetts. She died in 

94 Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 

1807, and her slate shows a sudden leap into the nineteenth cen- 
tury; its motif is almost embryonic, even apologetic, a small, thinly 
inscribed urn and willow, easy to overlook. Beneath it is this 

Dear to her children 
loved by all who knew her 
her memory will be charrished 
So long as these Survive. 

But for Immortality 
Vain are monuments, Vain were 
the Historian's pen. 
The Painter's or the Poet's pencil, 
VIRTUE has made it sure. 

The first part of this is simply a reminder that the dead Desire 
lives on in the lives of those who knew her; the model is memory, 
projected into the future of remembrance. But this future is itself as 
mortal and mutable as the body of the dead, and lasts only as long 
as her survivors survive. The second part recognizes this, disclaims 
the efficacy of its own words, and undercuts each element of the 
memorial of which it is a part. The historian, the poet, and the 
painter (or carver) are ultimately useless; only virtue ensures immor- 
tality, not the transient attempts of the living to commemorate the 
dead and reassure themselves. ^^ In effect, the epitaph erases itself 
and the stone on which it is carved, acknowledging that both will be 
obliterated in time. This gesture is, of course, partly rhetorical, but 
it has considerable wit and eloquence. 

Desire Bangs' stone is a memorable anti-memorial. The icon 
is something like the epitaph— modest, quiet, unexceptional— and 
thus, well suited to the self-effacing tone of the whole composite 
work of art. And it is a work of art we would never have noticed had 
we not given epitaph equal status with icon. 

Probably the replacement of skull by cherub and of cherub by 
urn and willow do betoken important shifts in social and religious 
behavior. But epitaphs have as much to tell us as icons. From epi- 
taphs, and from their relation to icons, we can learn that American 
gravestones are beautiful composite works of art, and we can learn 
that death was no less terrifying to the man who lies under the 
cherub than to the man who lies under the skull. This approach can 
take gravestone studies closer to the minds and souls of our Ameri- 
can predecessors than a study of icons alone could ever do. 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 95 


1. Allan I. Ludwig, Graven Images (Wesleyan University Press, 1966), Cf. especially 
"The Language of Religious Symbolisnn," pp. 6-20. 

2. Ann and Dickran Tashjian, Memorials for Children of Change (Wesleyan University 
Press, 1973). 

3. Six children of Abijah and Sarah Childs died between August 23rd and September 
6th, 1778— within two weeks— and lie under one horrific stone in the Old Burying 
Ground, Lexington, Massachusetts. 

4. Ludwig, Graven Images, pp. 17-18. Ludwig is, of course, fully aware of the ambig- 
uous nature of the "language of paradox." 

5. Cf. the wonderful icon on the slate of Desire Thacher (d. 1769) in Brewster, Massa- 
chusetts. It is basically a rounded skull with formalized but formidable teeth, but it 
also has the fleshiest, most naturalistic nose this side of pop art. 

6. Peter Benes, The Masks of Orthodoxy (Univeristy of Massachusetts Press, 1977), 
passim. Cf. especially pp. 159ff. 

7. From our rubbing of the stone at the top of the hill in the old yard at Newburyport. 
Thanks to Andrew Kull for calling our attention to it in his New England Cemeteries 
(Stephen Greene Press, 1975). 

8. One thinks of that other young "hopeful lady of my earth," Juliet. 

9. From the slate of the Reverend Caleb Upham (d. 1786), Old North Burying Ground, 
Truro, Massachusetts. 

10. Harriette Merrifield Forbes, Gravestones of Early New England and the Men who 
Made Them (Boston, 1927), p. 64. 

11. Paradoxically, this assumption exists side by side with the contrary attitude 
toward an early death— that those who leave this life early are innocent, untar- 
nished, and fortunate. Both are necessary rationalizations, both ex post facto justifi- 
cations. They do not disturb, much less refute, each other. 

12. These stanzas are taken from "Death and Eternity," from Isaac Watts' Horae 
Lyricae, Book I. Thanks to Allan Ludwig for the clue that helped us discover this. 

13. Cf. George Herbert's "Virtue": 

Only a sweet and virtuous soul. 

Like seasoned timber, never gives; 
But, though the whole world turn to coal. 

Then chiefly lives. 

Frontispiece: Capt. Obadiah Smith, 1727, Norwichtown, Conn. 

This powerful and touching stone, not specifically referred to in the accompanying 
article, illustrates the importance of viewing a marlcer as a whole. Its carving and 
epitaph combine to produce a total work of greater artistic and dramatic impact than 
either produces in isolation. 

5^ •'i''%.^\~ \x^ 


Recording Cemetery Data 

F. Joanne Baker and Daniel Farber 
Field Testing — Anne G. Giesecke 

Weather, time, industrial pollution, and an alarming increase in 
vandalism are threatening one of our most valuable cultural 
resources, old gravestones. If the information they bear, both verbal 
and iconographic, is to be available for future generations, it is im- 
perative that it be recorded as soon as possible. In some places 
both scholars and community groups have recognized the impor- 
tance of this task; individual communities such as South Hadley 
and Bradford, Massachusetts, and organizations such as the Maine 
Old Cemetery Association have carried out important recording 
projects. However, thus far there has been no attempt to 
systematize or coordinate the information collected by various 
groups or to make it available for general use. In order for the value 
of such material to be fully realized, it must be collected in a uni- 
form and systematic way, housed in accessible locations, and 
organized to allow for future treatment by computer. 

The need for systematic and useable procedures for data col- 
lection became evident at the founding meeting of the Association 
for Gravestone Studies. A survey of those present indicated that the 
single most useful service AGS could provide would be the develop- 
ment of an information collection process which could be used 
effectively by both community groups and scholars. The purpose of 
this article is to suggest a method whereby information from 
cemeteries can be gathered, organized, and maintained by local 
groups for use by both the professional and lay researcher. 

Of course, all persons doing work in any graveyard should have 
permission to be there. Before any part of a recording process 
begins, the person in charge of the project should determine who 
has the legal authority over the graveyard and then secure a written 
acknowledgement of the work to be done. 

100 Baker, Farber,Giesecke 

A complete set of information on a given cemetery includes 
four kinds of documentation, coded so that all the data collected 
can be readily identified. 

1. A master survey card gmng information about a ceme- 
tery—its location, size, general condition, stone styles 
represented, and significant historical background. The 
master card should be assigned a code number or letter 
which is repeated on each of the other pieces of data. 

2. An individual record card for each marker giving de- 
tailed information about it — its size, condition, compo- 
sition, location, decorative carving, and inscription. The 
card should bear the master card code followed by the 
individual number of the stone. 

3. A compass oriented diagram showing permanent land- 
marks and the location of each grave marker. The dia- 
gram should have the same code number as the master 
survey card. 

4. A photograph of the inscribed face(s) of each marker 
and several views of the yard. The photograph and the 
individual record card of a stone should be coded the 

The Master Survey Card 

The master survey card gives capsulated information about a 
particular cemetery. It should contain the cemetery name, an esti- 
mate of the number of stones there, their condition, the time span 
they cover, remarks about any special characteristics of either the 
stones or persons buried there, and a clear designation of the 
cemetery's location. Location can be given by citing route numbers, 
road names, prominent landmarks, and mileage figures. The most 
accurate method, however, is to identify location by giving the coor- 
dinates of a United States Coastal and Geological Survey map. 

The master card file serves two important functions. First, it 
provides local authorities with summary information for deciding 
which burying grounds should receive priority time and funds. Sec- 
ond, it helps researchers and visitors determine which cemeteries 
they might wish to see. AGS recommends that community master 
card files be housed in the town clerk's office, the local library, or 
other central location accessible to the public. A second copy 
should be placed in a secure, fireproof place, and a third copy 
would be welcome in the AGS archive for use by diverse research- 
ers. Figure 1 is an example of a master survey card. 

Recording Cemetery Data 



MATERIAL of which markers are made. Approximate number of markers of each material: 

slate: marble; schist; granite; sandstone; . fleldstone; 

other(s) . 

DECORATIVE CARVING on the markers. Approximate number of stones with these motifs: 

skulls; faces; urns and/or willows: other(s) 

NAK/IES OF STONECARVERS whose work Is In the cemetery, when known: 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND of the cemetery, if known. For examples: Is the cemetery m Its original location or 
moved? Are the markers m their original locations or rearranged? Has the cemetery been documented before, 
and If so, when? Are there unusual features or historical Incidents which are of interest? 


Name of cemetery 

Master Card Number 

Religious affiliations, if any 

Year of cemetery survey 

Person or group in charge 

Nearest street/road/junctlon 

Nearest city/town County State 

U.S.C.G.S. coordinates 

Access into the cemetery: (check) 
D by foot n by car 

Orientation: Most stones face 

D north D south D east r] west 


Terrain: (check) 
D level 

D hilly— moderate 
D hilly— steep 

Bounded by: 

D fence C hedge 
C wall D other 


D mostly shaded 
D mostly unshaded 

Figure 1. Master survey card: Front side (1 and 4). To be folded. 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 


SIZE: Approximate number of markers 

D over 2000 
D 2000 
D 1750 
D 1500 
D 1250 

;_ 1000 

^ 500 
D 250 
D 100 
n fewer than 100 

AGE: earliest date 

most recent date 

Overall Evaluation 

D generally excellent 
D generally good 
D generally fair 
D generally poor 

Approximate area size 

ft. x ft. 


meters x 

Approximate number of markers w/dates from: 

17th century 19th century 

18th century 20th century 

Specific Problems 


D overgrown vines 

D overgrown grass 

D overgrown shrubs 

n unpruned trees 

D fences, walls in poor repair 

D other(s) 


Overall Evaluation 

n generally excellent 
n generally good 
D generally fair 
D generally poor 

Specific Problems 
(give number) 

badly tilted stones 

fragments on ground 

broken but standing 

damaged surfaces 

(give number) 

metal supports 

capped w/metal 

set in concrete 

enclosed in concrete 

repaired w/adhesive 

painted to protect 




D none, or very few 

D reset behind headstones 

D in original positions 

Figure 1A. Master survey card: Reverse side (2 and 3.) 

Recording Cemetery Data 


The Individual Record Card 

An inscription is most easily and accurately read when the 
stone is lit by bright sun raking across its face, causing highlights 
and shadows to outline the carving. If the stone is facing away from 
the sun or is in a shadow, bright light can be raked across the shad- 
ed surface by using a mirror to reflect the sun's light. The use of 
either direct or reflected sunlight is by far the best method for 
deciphering an inscription which is eroded, lichen covered, or 
otherwise hard to read. When it is not possible to use sunlight, 
other methods such as rubbing, tracing with the fingertip, and artifi- 
cial lighting have been used with limited success. Some sources 
recommend the use of chalk rubbed over the surface or worked into 
the lettering. AGS does not recommend this practice as residue 
from the chalk could harm a porous stone's surface. The Associa- 
tion urges recorders to exercise great caution in selecting methods 
for making stones readable. Similar care should be taken in the re- 
moval of moss or lichen. No harsh abrasives, detergents, chem- 


Cemetery or Graveyard 

Religious Affiliation (If any) . 

Master Record Number 

Date of Record 

3. Name of Recorder or Group 

4. Marker Number (from Grid) 

5. Marker Type: Liable 2. Head 3. Foot 4. Tomb 5. Family 6. Othier 

6. Material: 1. Slate 2. Marble 3. Granite 4. Sandstone 5. Scfiist 6. Fleldstone . 

7. Stonecarver ^__ 

8. How many surfaces are carved? 

9. Carving technique used: 1. Incised 2. Relief 3. Higfi 4. Three dimensional . 
10. Decorative carving motif(s): 1. Skull 2. Face 3. Urn and/or willow 

4. Lettering only 5. Other(s) 


Number of people commemorated I I I I I 

Condition of marker: 1. Sound 2. Unsound— chipped 3. Unsound— cracked 
4. Unsound— Crumbled 5. Eroded 6, Broken 7. Tilted 8. Sunken 9. Discolored/Stained 
10. Moss/Lichen covered 1 1. Overgrown (vines, grass, brush) ^ — — | — __ — | — | — . — _ 

12. Repaired or protected 13. In situ 14. Displaced I I I I I I 11 I 

13. Condition of the inscription: 1. Mint 2. Clear but worn 3. Mostly decipherable 

4. Traces 5. Illegible or destroyed 

14. Dimensions (in centimeters) Height Width Thickness 

15. Photograph negative number 

16 Which way marker faces? (circle) 

N S E 






Figure 2. Individual record card: Front side. 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

icals, or metal should ever be used to clean gravestones. If em- 
ployed carefully, plastic brushes, plastic dish scrubbers such as 
Chore Girl, natural bristle brushes, orangewood sticks, and water 
from a spray bottle are effective and safe. 

Many communities long ago recognized the genealogical im- 
portance of transcribing the written information on gravestones. 
Check your local library, historical society, and town hall for 
records about local graveyards and stones. Records made when the 
stones were more legible can be of tremendous assistance. They 
may, however, be carelessly transcribed and should be used as an 
aid, not as a substitute for taking accurate readings of the stones. 
When copying inscriptions, write the words as they appear on the 
stone. That is, copy each word and line exactly with regard to spell- 
ing, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, and the number of 
words per line. Take care that letters and numerals are read cor- 
rectly. The numbers three, five, and eight, for example, are easily 
confused. Figure 2 is an example of an individual record card. 




Figure 2A. Individual record card: Reverse side. 

Recording Cemetery Data 
The Cemetery Diagram 


To diagram a cemetery accurately, construct a measured grid. 
The diagram should be made to metric scale; one to 100 or one to 
200 will probably be the most suitable. In selecting a scale, the 
most important consideration is whether or not it will allow for a 
neat, accurate diagram. If a large scale must be used, the finished 
plan can be reduced photographically. Begin by numbering each 
stone. With an indelible felt tip pen, number a square of masking 
tape and affix it to the edge of the stone, as in Figure 3. These 
squares of numbered tape hold up rather well, but they should be 
checked and replaced as needed until the documenting work is 

Next, establish a base line. Do this by setting up two poles, 
such as dowels or broomsticks, near a boundary of the yard and the 
length of the yard apart. Connect them with a string. At ten meter 
intervals along this line, lay off additional lines at ninety degree 

Figure 3. 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

Figure 4. 

angles to it. A simple way to construct a ninety degree angle is illus- 
trated in Figure 4. Point A is the spot along the base line at which a 
perpendicular line is needed. Measure along the base line and mark 
two points, B and C, on either side of and equidistant from A. Point 
D is the place at which two tapes attached to B and C cross at the 
same length. 

Along these secondary lines, also mark off points at ten meter 
intervals until a grid of ten meter squares is established. Mark the 
ten meter interval points with pegs or other markers durable 
enough to remain in place throughout the entire mapping opera- 
tion. Record the position of these pegs on your scaled diagram. 
NumberXhe pegs along the base line and letterXhose perpendicular 
to it. Then identify individual pegs by citing the letter/number com- 
binations. Figure 5 is an illustration of a grid. 

Within each ten-meter square, the position of individual head 
and foot stones should be plotted by measuring the distance from a 
given stone to both the vertical and horizontal boundaries of the 
square. In order to measure accurately, first mark the perimeter of 
the square by meters. To do this you will need four ten-meter 

Recording Cemetery Data 

" i/ 

i ..... . 

, ___Y — • • • • • • 

E f-m •••••• 

r ^ - w - - 

C2 C3 
B2 83 


T T T T t - — 

— \ — 1 — ! — 1 1 

12 3 4 5 



Figure 5. 

Figure 6. 

108 Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

lengths of rope or clothesline, attached at each end to stakes such 
as tent stakes. At one-meter intervals mark the rope with tape of 
contrasting color. Stretch one such piece of rope along each border 
of the ten-meter square by inserting the stakes next to the corner 
pegs already in the ground. When these steps are completed, the 
perimeter of the square will be outlined by this measured rope. 

Next, stretch any piece of rope straight across the square so 
that it touches a particular stone and intersects the horizontal 
boundaries of the square at points equidistant from corresponding 
pieces of tape. Repeat the process from the stone to the vertical 
boundaries. For example, in Figure 6 the lines between the B and C 
coordinates represent the perimeter of the square marked off by 
meters. The dotted lines indicate how individual stone locations 
have been plotted both horizontally and vertically. (Figures 13-17.) 

Although it is desirable to plot the positions of individual 
stones with absolute accuracy, as described in the preceding para- 
graphs, such accuracy is expensive in terms of both time and 
resources. As an alternative it is possible to produce acceptable 
drawings by sketching freehand the positions of the stones within 
each ten meter square. 

The Photograph 

A fine photograph of a gravestone is not necessarily an excel- 
lent photographic document of the stone. 

The artist/photographer has technical skills which he uses as 
his taste, judgement, and emotional involvement dictate. His work 
exists to be enjoyed for its beauty and esthetic impact. A photo- 
graphic document serves a different purpose, and the photographer/ 
documenter uses a different approach. His primary purpose is to 
produce an accurate, detailed, long lasting record of the stone. The 
following paragraphs offer suggestions for making good photo- 
graphic records of gravestones. 

Whenever possible, photographic records of gravestones 
should be made in bright sunlight; hazy and cloudy conditions pro- 
duce inferior records of the inscribed surfaces. Good photographic 
records cannot be made when snow is on the ground because 
reflected light from the snow diminishes the contrast needed to 

Recording Cemetery Data 


Figure 7. 

give sharp delineation to the carved surface. The sun should rake 
across the face of the stone from the side or top at an angle to the 
stone of no more than thirty degrees. (Figure 7.) If the sun strikes 
the face of the stone squarely instead of at a raking angle, the 
details of the stone's design will not be as well defined and legible. 
(Figure 8.) 

Figure 8. 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

Figure 9. 

Because the sunlight strikes most stones at a raking angle for 
less than two hours daily, the photographer must know when to be 
at the site. The stones in new England burying grounds tend to face 
west and to "light up" between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m., standard time. 
Stones that face north are lighted by the sun in the late afternoon in 
midsummer and are in shade at all other times of the year. Stones 
that face south are in raking light all day in midsummer but are 
lighted flatly from the front in other seasons. (Figure 9.) 

Figure 10. 

Recording Cemetery Data 111 

Dependance on the position of the sun can be avoided by the 
use of a mirror. Sears Roebuck & Co. sells an inexpensive door mir- 
ror tall enough to light the entire face of most stones. (For photo- 
graphing only a portion of a gravestone, a small mirror is adequate.) 
To protect the mirror from breaking, it should be framed. The frame 
can be made of plain pieces of lumber; framing with molding by a 
custom framer is expensive. To prevent a distorted reflection, the 
frame should cover any beveling along the edges of the mirror. All 
grades of mirror glass are effective. Plate glass, while heavier to 
work with and more expensive, produces the sharpest, brightest 
light with the least distortion. The reflected light of the mirror can 
be used to light any shaded stone, provided the mirror can be posi- 
tioned in a spot of bright sunlight. This spot can be as far as 100 
feet from the stone being photographed. (Figure 10.) 

Any camera with a good lens can produce a good photographic 
record. With a single lens reflex camera the photographer is less 
likely to make errors centering the stone in the picture; what he 
sees in the finder is what he gets on the negative. The single lens 
reflex camera, on the other hand, is expensive, and it is by no 
means necessary for making good photographs of gravestones. 

Another feature to be considered when selecting a camera is 
the film size the camera uses. Cameras which produce small 
negatives are generally easier to handle and less expensive to 
operate. Large negatives have the advantage of making better 
quality enlargements, which may or may not be important to a 
recording project. For making prints in the 8x10 size or smaller, the 
35mm camera is excellent. 

Film speed, like choice of camera, involves weighing various 
advantages. "Fast" film allows the use of faster shutter speeds and 
smaller apertures than "slow" film. Fast shutter speed prevents 
blurring due to camera motion and often eliminates the need for a 
tripod. Small aperture increases the depth of focus so that objects 
in front of and behind the gravestones are more likely to be in focus. 
Slow film has a fine grain and should be used when large prints are 
desired. For most documentary work, fast film such as Tri-X (ASA 
400) in black-and-white, and Ektachrome 200 (ASA 200) in color are 
recommended. Black-and-white film is more suitable than color. 
Black-and-white prints are more permanent than color prints and 
both the film and the prints are usually less expensive than color. 
They also reproduce better for publication. If there is a need for 
color slides in addition to the black-and-white record, time will be 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

saved if it is possible to work with two cameras. Once the photo- 
graph has been set up, it takes very little additional time and effort 
to make the second exposure. 

Using a light meter to determine the correct exposure will save 
the photographer countless trips to the graveyard to remake im- 
properly exposed photographs. If a hand meter is used, it should be 
held close to the stone while the reading is taken so that only the 
light on the stone is recorded by the meter. If the meter is built into 
the camera, the camera itself should be near the stone while mak- 
ing the reading; otherwise the meter reading will be distorted by 
light and dark areas surrounding the stone. 

In some instances a graveyard record may require photographs 
of groups of stones — a grouping in a family plot, for example— but 
usually only one marker is shown in each photograph. To photo- 
graph a single gravestone, the camera should be placed as close to 
it as is possible without cutting off any part of it. Attaching to the 
camera a -h 1 Portra lens will allow close-up exposure for recording 
details. In all instances, the camera should be positioned so that 
the vertical sides of the stone are parallel to the sides of the view 
finder. If the camera is pointed upward or downward, the shape of 
the stone will be distorted. 

Background details are occasionally of interest, but often they 
detract from the photographic record. Irrelevant and unattractive 
backgrounds can be eliminated by the use of a backboard. A dull- 
finish formica makes a suitable backboard material because it is 
not reflective and it is both durable and easily cleaned. For black- 
and-white photographs, any color of formica is suitable, but for col- 
or work, gray should be avoided as it merges with the color of many 
stones. It is best to choose a contrasting value: dark if most of the 



Figure 11. 

Recording Cemetery Data 113 


Figure 12. 

Stones to be photographed are light; light if the stones are dark. For 
general use with a variety of stone materials, a medium shade is 
recommended. The formica backboard works nicely when mounted 
on V4 " plywood cut enough wider than the formica on one side for a 
hand-hold to be cut into it as shown in figure 11. The size of the 
backboard is limited only by the size of the car that will transport it. 
For a shop to make this board, look under "kitchen counters" in the 
yellow pages of the telephone book. 

If the photographer has an assistant, the assistant can hold 
the backboard in place. If not, a light angle-iron about forty-five 
inches long propped against the backboard will hold it securely 
against the stone. A cushion between the stone and the board pre- 
vents scratching the board. A piece of urethane foam secured from 
the scrap pile of an upholstery shop, probably at no cost, makes an 
effective cushion. (Figure 12.) Stains and scratches can be removed 
from the board with furniture polish. 

Before a stone is photographed, it should be cleaned with a 
soft bristle brush and water to remove dirt and bird dung. Chem- 
icals, detergents, and stiff brushes may damage the stone and 
should not be used. Clippers often come in handy for trimming 
grass around the marker. Grass obstructs the camera's view of the 
lower lines of many epitaphs and of bottom border designs. It also 
hides signatures, prices carved into the stone, and other significant 
markings which should be recorded when the marker is photo- 

In the course of documenting an entire graveyard, each monu- 
ment will probably be given an identifying number to be recorded on 
a master diagram of the graveyard and on an individual record card 
for each stone. It is desirable for this identifying number to show 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

Figure 13. 

also in the photograph of each stone. It is helpful to the researcher 
if the photograph shows, in addition, the size of each gravestone 
and the direction in which it faces. There are simple devices for 
recording this data photographically without sacrificing the detail 
or beauty of the photograph. (Figures 13 and 14.) 

Before the documenting begins, the photographer should 
recommend that no one affix an identifying number to the carved 
face of a stone. Instead, identifying numbers can be placed on the 
stones' sides or backs, where they will not show in photographs 
and obliterate important details or interfere with the esthetics of 

Figure 14. 

Recording Cemetery Data 115 

the photographs. The photographer can record a stone's identifying 
number in the photograph and in the negative by inserting a 
numbered marker into the ground close to but not in front of the 
stone to be photographed. Such a marker is easily made from a 
length of sturdy coat hanger wire to which a numbered cardboard 
square has been attached. The same identifying marker can be 
renumbered and used to record the number of every stone 

To indicate stone size in a photograph, use transparent tape to 
attach a length of coat hanger wire to a 30 centimeter ruler so that 
the wire extends a few inches beyond the length of the ruler at the 
zero end. The wire extension, when pushed into the ground, will 
support the ruler in a vertical position. When the stone is photo- 
graphed, the ruler should be positioned a little to the side of the 
stone in line with its carved face, not in front of the stone. It will pro- 
vide a scale from which the stone's size can be derived. 

A stick with one pointed end is all that is needed to show the 
directional facing of a stone in a photograph. Lay the stick on the 
ground to one side of the stone and point it to north. 

These devices are effective for recording a stone's identifying 
number, size, and directional facing in a photograph, and all three 
devices can be positioned so that the photographer can crop them 
from any photograph he may want to exhibit or publish without 
these data. 

In very large cemeteries it may be necessary to use numerous 
rolls of film. In these cases, it is desirable to use a simple device to 
maintain continuity from one roll of negatives to the next. The last 
stone photographed on each roll should be photographed a second 
time so that it becomes also the first stone on the next roll. 

Photographs are more useful than other forms of documenta- 
tion such as drawings and rubbings. While the latter have their own 
special appeal as works of art, they have characteristics which 
make them far less valuable as documents. First, they take longer 
to produce and are more difficult to store and reproduce. From a 
photographic negative it is possible to make unlimited reprints of 
any size at a relatively low cost. Second, not all stones lend 
themselves to the rubbing technique, and some can be damaged by 
rubbing. The fact that rubbings do show exact size, and the fact 
that drawings and rubbings are not dependent upon bright sunlight 


Baker, Farber, Giesecke 

may recommend their use in specific recording situations. Never- 
theless, the fact remains that an excellent photograph is the best 
single record one can make of an old gravestone. 

A complete record of a cemetery, then, consists of a master 
survey card and a compass-oriented diagram for each cemetery, 
together with a photograph and an individual record card for each 
stone. However, AGS recognizes that not every community will find 
it possible to provide full documentation of its old graveyards in the 
near future. The process suggested in these pages is flexible 
enough to allow communities and individuals to work toward com- 
plete data collection as they are able to muster time and resources. 

Where choices must be made, AGS recommends that the 
master card file and the photograph be given priority. The master 
card file will locate and identify the old burying grounds and pro- 
vide decision-making information. A high quality photograph will 
record a stone's salient features before it is further destroyed. 

lf}ij Stone if 

Example of photographic documentation: Polly Harris, 1787, Charlestown, Mass. 


Recording Cemetery Data 


Moreover, in many cases, an individual record card for a marker can 
be made from the photograph at a later date. 

If groups begin now to document uncharted burying grounds, 
we can look forward to a uniform information base throughout the 
cities, towns, and villages of our country. Moreover, the use of the 
system set forth here will assure that information gathered can be 
processed and stored by computer, the only feasible means of deal- 
ing with large quantities of information. In this way, we can make 
the vast cultural heritage of our old graveyards available to both 
present day laymen and scholars as well as to those of future 

The authors are indebted to Jeremy Jones, author of How to Record 
Graveyards, published and distributed by the Council for British Archae- 
ology, 7 Marylebone Road, London NWI 5HA, England. 

Frontispiece: The Old Bradford Burying Ground, Bradford, Mass. 



(■ill 1 H ^ :i \ i > [ 


Example of photographic documentation: Patience Watson, 1767, Plymouth, IVIass. 



The Care of 
Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 

Lance R. Mayer 


The Importance of Old Gravestones 

More and more people are coming to realize that gravestones 
are one of the most beautiful and distinctive forms of American ex- 
pression. Several books and dozens of scholarly articles have been 
published on gravestone topics, primarily within the past twelve 
years. In general, however, gravestones have not attracted as much 
public attention as more portable antiques, which have grown in 
monetary value and scholarly esteem through constant trading on 
the art market. Nor have they yet any economic value as tourist at- 
tractions, so they have not aroused the interest of governments in 
the way that Europe's cathedrals and monuments have recently 
spawned a number of nationally funded research projects. 

The Seriousness of the Problem 

The deterioration of gravestones and graveyards is becoming 
increasingly evident. In Connecticut alone the beautiful and unique 
portrait of a child, illustrated as a full-page plate in Allan Ludwig's 
1966 Graven Images (plate 12),^ is now completely destroyed; 
another important stone in East Hartford (Ludwig, plate 192B) has 
recently lost half of its face; the well-known Amasa Brainard stone 
(Ludwig, plate 202) is in imminent danger. 

In addition to the natural weathering of stone, it is thought that 
growing industrial and automobile pollution may be causing some 
types of stone deterioration to increase at an ever faster rate, so 
that the next several decades may see as much damage as has oc- 
curred in the previous 200 years. ^ Estimates of the rate of loss of old 
gravestones in various parts of the Northeast vary widely, ranging 
from 1 to 5 stones per year per thousand stones^"* to 30 stones per 
year per thousand^ 

120 Lance R.Mayer 

Conservation vs. Restoration 

There are no easy answers to these alarming problems, and 
before pursuing them further, it may be useful to discuss briefly the 
philosophy of modern conservation. 

Conservation is a relatively recent discipline, one which is just 
beginning to extricate itself from the ignorance, alchemy, and 
secret recipes of previous decades. Known as restoration until fair- 
ly recently, conservation is favored in modern use because it em- 
phasizes the preservation of the original object rather than its 
restoration, which in the past often meant trying to make it look 
new. The number of qualified art conservators is not large, and the 
number of stone conservators is even smaller, consisting of only a 
handful in the United States. Although there is a professional 
organization of conservators— the American Institute for Conserva- 
tion of Historic and Artistic Works^— there is, at present, no licens- 
ing body. Thus, anyone may call himself a conservator and set up 
business. Most responsible professionals favor word-of-mouth 
referrals by respected colleagues as the best way to select a con- 
servator. This system is far from perfect and is open to charges of 
elitism, but it may be the best answer for the present. The Conserva- 
tion Committee of the Association for Gravestone Studies serves 
as a clearinghouse for information relating to gravestone conser- 
vation by maintaining contact with American and international 

In an ideal world, all old gravestones would receive the same 
kind of care as do valuable museum objects. However, their great 
number, outdoor location, and other factors preclude such treat- 
ment in the immediate future. 

Therefore, priorities for treatment should be determined. A ma- 
jor question is whether some of the best early stones should be 
moved indoors for safekeeping. This was suggested as early as 
1938,^ and the idea has been recently revived. There is, however, a 
philosophical conflict between preserving the integrity of individual 
gravestones as art objects, and preserving the integrity of a 
cemetery as a collection of memorials made for that location. This 
question will be discussed later in this article. 

It cannot be emphasized too much that old gravestones are im- 
portant enough to deserve the best efforts of modern conservation, 
including serious consideration of all possible alternatives, con- 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 121 

sultation with the best experts available, and caution appropriate to 
navigating in uncharted waters. 

Political Considerations 

It is extremely important to seek permission from the govern- 
ing authority of a cemetery before contemplating any conservation 
activity. Of course, jurisdiction over cemeteries varies. Only one 
state, Rhode Island, has a full-time Cemeteries Director with the 
authority to act for the preservation of old gravestones. Through his 
efforts, the state legislature recently passed an act which requires 
each city and town to record the locations of all historic cemeteries 
on a tax plat or other permanent record. Such records will be 
valuable aids to researchers. Moreover, the act may prevent some 
of the abuses which have occurred occasionally in other states, 
where cemetery land has been appropriated for other purposes and 
the stones dispersed. 

State laws may sometimes inhibit local initiatives unless legal 
changes are sought. For example, the Gloucester, Massachusetts 
Community Development Corporation found that Massachusetts 
laws, in an effort to protect the stones, strictly prohibit their 
removal from cemeteries. As part of a restoration project this group 
worked for the passage of an Enabling Act which permits com- 
munity sponsored, professionally directed teams to temporarily 
remove monuments for repair, while insuring adherence to high 
standards of technical assistance and treatment ^ If legal changes 
are necessary in other states to conform to modern conservation 
practice, similar groups or individuals should petition for changes. 


Since interest in old gravestones and knowledge of stone con- 
servation are recent developments, poor communications often 
prevent their paths from crossing. For example, a well-meaning 
New England town council recently appropriated money for the 
treatment of a cemetery by an amateur. Any professional conser- 
vator could have advised the council that the proposed treatment 
would almost certainly do more harm than good. Again, it should be 
emphasized that the best advice should always be sought. Experts, 
both here and abroad, have expressed their willingness to advise 
the Association for Gravestone Studies on specific problems, but 
interested individuals at the local level must initiate the chain of 


Lance R. Mayer 

The magnitude of gravestone conservation problems requires 
the interest of a great number of people if anything is to be ac- 
complished. Individuals can help, first of all, by promoting interest 
in gravestones. Raising interest on the local level will increase the 
potential for the funding of projects, because federal or state con- 
servation grants must usually be matched by town councils or other 
local groups. Secondly, individuals can educate themselves and 
others with regard to the problems of conservation. 

Improving Maintenance 

Simple maintenance is an important first step in the conserva- 
tion of any graveyard. Well-kept cemeteries tend to discourage van- 
dalism. Uncontrolled growth of trees and weeds not only hides 
loiterers or vandals, but can cause the widening of cracks in 
already damaged stones, or even cause the toppling of stones. For 
example, large, unpruned trees have been known to destroy several 
gravestones with the fall of a single dead limb. The regular repair of 

Charlestown, Mass. The Phipps Street Burying Ground is a major site which is 
endangered by lack of maintenance and conservation efforts. Rubbish often clutters 

the enclosure. 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 


fences and mowing of grass will emphasize to members of the com- 
munity that their old cemetery is an important part of the town, and 
a well lettered sign can underscore the point. 

Power mowers, when carelessly used, have scarred and broken 
old tombstones; maintenance personnel should be made aware of 
both the importance of the monuments and of the fact that the 
types of stone used in old gravestones are softer and more easily 
damaged than are modern granite markers. If possible, the grass 
growing closest to old gravestones should be either clipped by 
hand or cut with a rotating plastic filament-type cutter which will 
not damage the stones. An English book suggests keeping sheep in 
the churchyard to keep grass short! A more practical solution may 
be reseeding with a variety of grass which does not grow so tall that 
it needs frequent cutting. 

Improving visibility of a graveyard from the road or illuminating 
it at night are reported to decrease vandalism. ^° Citizen's com- 
plaints to the police, if a graveyard is a hangout for destructive 
juveniles or derelicts, can also help. In extreme cases, cemeteries 

r >■'■, 


Boston, Mass. One of the many sunken gravestones repeatedly damaged by careless 
lawnmower operators in the historic King's Chapel Burying Ground. 

124 Lance R. Mayer 

have been fenced and locked by local authorities; this may, how- 
ever, keep out scholars and the interested public without deterring 

Discouraging Theft 

If interest in gravestones continues to rise, outright theft may 
eventually become as serious a problem as vandalism. Already, 
there are rumors of antique dealers looking for gravestones to sell, 
and a few have appeared on the market. Even if the stone was 
removed from its original site many years ago, the private owner- 
ship of an old gravestone is ethically questionable, and every effort 
should be made to determine the origin of the stone and to effect its 
return. The AGS Archives at the New England Historic Genealogical 
Society in Boston may be able to assist in such efforts. The raising 
of public consciousness should not be underemphasized; for exam- 
ple, a proposed auction of some privately-held gravestones recently 
aroused such public outcry that the sale was cancelled and the 
stones donated to a museum. ^^ 

Establishing Rubbing/Daubing Criteria 

The practice of making gravestone rubbings has aroused con- 
troversy, notably at the 1976 Dublin Seminar.^^ some communities 
and the entire state of New Hampshire have restricted rubbing to 
those who have obtained a permit. Ideally, such legislation should 
also require that the applicant demonstrate competence in an ac- 
ceptable rubbing technique before being given a permit. Such steps 
have been taken because of an increasing number of incidents 
where stones have been defaced by careless applications of wax or 
ink. A very serious example of such accidents has occured in Col- 
umbia, Connecticut; the Lydia Bennitt stone (Ludwig, plate 244), 
one of the most beautiful marbles in New England, has been 
disfigured, perhaps permanently, by a black ink-like substance, 
presumably applied by a person using an Oriental style wet ink rub- 
bing technique. 

Persons taking rubbings from gravestones must understand 
that stones differ in their fragility. While a sound stone can be 
rubbed with perfect safety, many are so delicate that touching the 
surface could cause the detachment of a major portion of the 
design. Connecticut Valley sandstones are particularly susceptible 
to damage from handling, but every stone should be examined 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 


If persons who rub or daub were required to demonstrate competence in an accept- 
able technique, valuable stones would not be defaced; this example bears the scars 

of an amateur's attempts. 

carefully before rubbing. If cracks can be seen, if a hollow sound is 
heard when the face of the stone is tapped lightly with the back of a 
fingernail, or if grains become detached when the stone is rubbed 
with the fingertip, the stone should not be rubbed. 

Even greater caution should be exercised in making three 
dimensional castings of gravestone designs. Casting materials 
which might penetrate or stain a stone, or release compounds 
which could eventually discolor and become insoluble, such as 
vegetable oil aerosols like Pam, should never be applied to the sur- 
face of a gravestone. 

Enforcing rubbing standards is difficult for municipalities, 
especially since most rubbings are done on weekends, when of- 
fices which issue permits and offer advice and guidelines are 
closed. Therefore, the task may be left largely to word-of-mouth 
transmission by interested individuals. 


Lance R. Mayer 

Recording Data 

Since gravestones are going to continue to deteriorate and be 
lost, the single most important service that an individual or group 
can do for an old cemetery is to carefully record everything that 
remains. The AGS article, Recording Cemetery Data,^^ outlines 
steps which can be taken by a local group. Documentation should 
incorporate both a written record and archivally processed black 
and white photographs of every gravestone, fragment, and field- 
stone. Black and white photography is preferable to color 
photography for visual recording because color slides and 
photographs fade; rubbings tend to be more subjective than 

Springfield, N.J. In a neglected yard for Revolutionary War dead, broken gravestones 

are piled randomly on top of and under a table stone. While this practice avoids 

stone loss, it is contrary to sound gravestone conservation. 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 127 

photography. Not only will photography record the appearance of 
stones, but it will also serve as future evidence of their rate of 
deterioration. The deposition of copies of cemetery records with 
the AGS Archives in Boston will enhance the value of the archive for 
both art historians and conservators. 

The dictum that nothing should be thrown out is an important 
principle of modern conservation. In the case of cemeteries, even 
fragments of stones, however illegible, can provide clues for future 
investigators. They should be photographed, their locations 
carefully recorded, and they should be labelled and deposited for 
safekeeping. In particular, fragments of identifiable origin should 
be put into plastic bags with labels and kept for that day in the 
future when repairs can be made. Cemetery custodians and inter- 
ested groups or individuals can do a great service by saving such 
broken pieces, which will crumble to bits in a very short time if they 
are allowed to remain scattered about the yard, to be run over by 
power mowers and otherwise carelessly treated. Often an adjacent 
church or a local historical society is a convenient repository. In- 
terested parties should, of course, check state laws and talk to 
local authorities before removing any fragments from a graveyard. 
A special warning is warranted concerning unmarked fieldstones. 
These were often used as grave markers during the earliest periods 
of settlement and should be recorded and preserved as carefully as 
carved gravestones. 

Conserving Tilted or Fallen Gravestones 

If a gravestone is tilting so that it is in danger of falling over, or 
if it has already fallen, it should be reset in an upright position. 
Stones which are tilted or lying flat are more liable to be damaged 
by lawnmowers. Deterioration may be accelerated because they 
will collect rainwater and absorb moisture from the ground.^" The 
temptation to straighten a tilted stone by force, without digging out 
the soil around it, must be resisted, for the stone may snap off at 
the ground line. 

Some communities have set stones in concrete to prevent 
tilting and theft. This has several major disadvantages and prob- 
ably should not be recommended. A gravestone set in concrete has 
no "give," and is more likely to snap off at the base if pressure is ex- 
erted, maliciously or otherwise. Also, soluble salts in a poor quality 
cement may migrate up into a porous stone such as sandstone, for- 
ming efflorescences and accelerating deterioration. To a certain 

128 Lance R.Mayer 

extent, this may be mitigated by careful choice of cement. For ex- 
ample, on the recommendation of the Portland Cement Associa- 
tion, a low alkaline content cement was used to set stones at Trinity 
Churchyard in New York; this seems to have produced no ill effects 
on sandstone markers after several years. Perhaps the most impor- 
tant disadvantage of setting stones in concrete is that they cannot 
be removed afterwards for conservation treatment, such as 
washing to remove salts, or impregnating with a consolidant. Better 
than setting a stone in concrete is placing it in alternate layers of 
soil and a mixture of sand and broken stone, (V2 "- V4 "sharp-edged 
gravel), periodically wetting the earth as it is applied. This base will 
not prevent theft, but even concrete will not prevent a thief from 
snapping off and taking the thinner stones. 

If a gravestone is broken so that there is insufficient shaft to 
reset the stone, it might be leaned against the back of another 
stone; this, however, may invite theft. In the past, important frag- 
ments were occasionally encased in granite or concrete, and the 
new structure set in the ground. A less drastic solution, perhaps 
more respectful of the integrity of the piece, might be to erect a 
copy of the stone (identified on the back side as a replica) and place 
the original indoors for safekeeping. 

Documentation of treatment by both written records and pho- 
tography, before and after treatment, is an important conservation 
practice. Not only will this document the appearance of a 
gravestone at a certain time, but it will provide evidence of the effi- 
cacy of different types of treatment after weathering and aging. 

Removing Lichen 

The benefits of lichen removal are debatable. Lichens do pro- 
duce acids which can, on a geological time scale of thousands of 
years, eat into stone, especially marble and limestone. On the other 
hand, the wholesale removal of lichen, particularly from weakened 
stones, has considerable potential for harm. A professional stone 
conservator could determine the advisability of lichen removal in 
specific cases, and eventually AGS may be able to provide this ex- 
pertise. In the absence of such advice, examination techniques, as 
discussed under Rubbing, should be employed to insure that the 
stone is in good condition. If it is secure and the removal of lichen 
is necessary to photograph or read an inscription, the safest 
method is to soften the lichen with water and gently remove it with 
a plastic brush or wooden stick. Dilute ammonia solutions, ex- 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 


eluding proprietary ammonia/detergent mixtures, have been recom- 
nnended by some experts; others believe they might cause eventual 
harm, especially to porous stones. Formaldehyde (formalin) and 
several commercial products have also been recommeded for kill- 
ing lichens. ^^ Because research in this area is inadequate, an appro- 
priate spirit of caution should be adopted. 


A great deal remains to be learned about the deterioration and 
treatment of outdoor stone objects. Although only substances com- 
mercially available in the United States were tested, a 1977 Na- 


\' ^■"?*'?J#-;S 

Simsbury, Conn. Lichen acidity has damaged this otherwise well preserved 

sandstone grave marker. 


Lance R. Mayer 

Bedminster, N.J. Cracks develop and widen, then stone layers pull apart during the 
initial phase of eradication caused by the freeze/thaw cycle. 

Norwichtown, Conn. Overall fissures in stone fronts bring about crumbling and 
erosion during the terminal phase of eradication caused by the freeze/thaw cycle. 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 131 

tional Bureau of Standards publication concluded that "None of the 
stone preservative materials evaluated fulfilled all the proposed 
performance criteria. "^^ Furthermore, the author stressed that 
"When choosing a stone preservative for a specific stone decay 
problem it is essential to identify the cause of decay."^^ 

The identification of the cause of decay is difficult, and 
therefore may be expensive, because of the complexity of stone 
deterioration. Causes of deterioration can include pollutant gases 
and acidic rainwater, soluble salts which repeatedly crystallize and 
dissolve depending upon the relative humidity, and freeze/thaw 
cycles, as well as other factors which are only in the initial stages 
of investigation. 

Another significant cause of deterioration is previous restora- 
tion, a fact which should temper present treatments. For example, 
the application of a surface consolidant to a stone which contains 
soluble salts will probably accelerate deterioration because salts 
may crystallize beneath the surface and cause large pieces of the 
surface crust to fall off. The British Commonwealth War Graves 
Commission used a sealer on some 500,000 gravestones between 
1920 and 1951 and found that those which had been treated were 
generally in worse condition than those which had not.^^ The ap- 
plication of consolidants impermeable to water has likewise 
caused exfoliation because water rising from the ground or ab- 
sorbed from uncoated surfaces tends to build up behind the con- 
solidated layer. The application of high strength substances, such 
as epoxies, for the consolidation of weak, porous stone has caused 
shearing at the strong/weak interface. Futhermore, cements or mor- 
tars, traditionally used for securing detached pieces, have often 
been found to become unstuck. Iron has often been used for sup- 
ports or braces in the past, but it can stain stones badly, or, if used 
as internal dowels, crack a stone by expanding as it rusts. 

Some types of epoxies and other resins have shown promise 
as stone adhesives, and field tests have been carried out on a 
number of slate gravestones in New England. In the near future, it is 
hoped that there will be enough evidence to allow the results of 
these trials to be published, and specific materials and procedures 

The problems connected with porous stones, such as sand- 
stone, are more complex than those of non-porous stones like slate. 
For example, if a porous stone contains soluble salts, it may need 


Lance R. Mayer 


N if 



Coshocton, Ohio. Natural erosion has transformed this marble carving of a wreath, a 
lily, a rose, and a farewell handshake into these monster-like features. 

to be washed in tanks of water for up to several months in order to 
remove them. A major difference stems from the nature of deteri- 
oration; sandstone binder tends to dissolve and cause general 
weakening of the stone fabric, whereas slates tend to separate 
strictly along bedding planes. Therefore, porous stones such as 
sandstone, marble, and limestone may require general consolida- 
tion. Various types of silicate compounds have been under in- 
vestigation for a number of years as consolidants for porous 
stones, and some show considerable promise. ^^ However, even 
these can be dangerous if improperly applied. 2° Complete im- 
pregnation with plastics, such as methyl methacrylate, has also 
been advocated.^^ These types of treatment are expensive, because 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 


Scituate, Mass. Malicious acts of vandalism deplete many old burial yards of 

valuable gravestone art. 

of the cost of the materials and the labor involved, and they have 
other disad\;^antages. Treatment with silicates may have to be 
repeated approximately every twenty-five years. The stability of 
methyl methacrylates has been questioned, and they may alter the 
stone's appearance slightly. 

For the present, a sensible approach to the conservation of 
deteriorating gravestones must recognize the importance of: 1, con- 
sultation with a number of experts regarding causes of deteriora- 
tion and possible treatments, and 2, small-scale trials, on actual 
tombstones, of any type of treatment which is proposed. This may 
seem extremely difficult and frustrating to those who love old 

134 Lance R.Mayer 

gravestones, see them deteriorate daily, and are eager to do 
something. But the sad lessons of the past must be heeded. Josef 
Riederer writes: "Particularly in the period before 1940 many 
buildings and sculptures in Germany were treated with oils, waxes 
and similar substances which at that time had already been tested 
out for a fairly long period. But today after 30 years we find that this 
treatment was harmful, because the objects are destroyed to a 
greater extent than those which were untreated."" 

This raises again the question of whether some of the most im- 
portant and most fragile American gravestones should be put, at 
least temporarily, into museums. The legal ramifications of removal 
will have to be worked out, but there are precedents elsewhere. On 
the Scottish island of lona, many of the great stone crosses and 
gravestones, some of which had stood in the same place since the 
ninth century, have been moved indoors to an "infirmary museum." 
A bronze plaque politely explains to visitors that the measure has 
been taken to prevent the complete destruction of the stones. In 
Canada, resin and fiberglass replicas of some important early 
wooden grave markers have been erected; the replicas are almost 
indistinguishable from the originals, which are now in a museum. A 
start in this direction is being made in New England, where at least 
two gravestones have recently been brought indoors and replaced 
with cement casts made by William McGeer." In the past, monu- 
ment firms have occasionally arranged for the cutting of replicas in 
stone, but in this case, the quality of the copy depends upon the 
skill of the stonecutter. 

It is hoped that this publication, which is of necessity general 
in content, can be revised to include more specific information, 
such as lists of recommended conservators or tips on state or 
federal grants. To this end, the author and AGS welcome any and all 
information about conservation projects, problems, and successes. 
Readers are also strongly urged to get in touch with local museum 
conservators, who will often give valuable advice, or recommend 
others who can, if they are made aware of the importance of old 

There is much that can be done at present and it will take a 
great many interested people to help the spread of information and 
to generate support for the small or large research projects which 
will pay dividends in the future. European countries are already 
investing large amounts of money and personnel for very sophisti- 
cated work on stone conservation problems, and it is hoped that 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 


Maiden, Mass. The deliberate disfigurement of gravestones is increasing in both 
urban and rural burying grounds. Spray paint in the hands of youngsters is often 

the culprit. 

Boston, Mass. No thought was given to protecting King's Chapel gravestone art 
from paint spillage during the renovation of nearby buildings. 


Lance R. Mayer 

Logan, Ohio. The unique IVIaria Smith memorial and over fifty others were brolten, 
uprooted, or overturned following a defeat of the local high school basketball team. 

five or ten years' time will see substantial progress. 

The most useful function which the Conservation Committee 
of AGS can play at this time may be to serve as a clearinghouse for 
information on cemetery conservation. A dream for the future is for 
federal, state, or local funding which would permit the organization 
of a national or international team of specialists to analyze the 
causes of gravestone deterioration and conduct field tests of pos- 
sible solutions to the problems. 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 1 37 

This paper is a compilation of the ideas of many people. I would especially like 
to thank Norman Weiss of the Historic Preservation Program, Columbia University, 
and Clifford Price of the Building Research Establishment in England for their very 
useful advice and critiques of an earlier draft. Encouragement, advice, and 
references to published sources were given by K. Lai Gauri of the Department of 
Geology, University of Louisville, Erhard M. Winkler of the Departmemt of Earth 
Sciences, University of Notre Dame, James R. Clifton of the National Bureau of Stan- 
dards, and Seymour Z. Lewin of the Department of Chemistry, New York University. I 
am grateful for the suggestions of many members of the Association for Gravestone 
Studies, including Joanne Baker, Jessie Lie Farber, Anne Giesecke, Gaynell Levine, 
Ralph Tucker, Francis Duval, Thomas McGrath, and Edwin Connelly, Cemeteries 
Director of the State of Rhode Island. A great deal of thanks is due Carol Grissom of 
the Center for Archaeometry, Washington University, for helping to improve the 
manuscript in matters of both style and substance, and to Gay Myers of the Cincin- 
nati Art Museum for her advice and help during every stage of its preparation. 

Author's address: Conservation Department, Cincinnati Art Museum, Eden 
Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 


1. New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 1650-1815 (Middletown: Wesleyan 
University Press, 1966). 

2. Erhard M. Winkler, in The Conservation of Stone I, Proceedings of the International 
Symposium, ed. R. Rossi-Manaresi (Bologna: 1976), fig. 2. 

3. Gaynell S. Levine, "Colonial Long Island Gravestones and Trade Networks," (M. A. 
thesis, SUNY-Stony Brook, 1978). 

4. "Stone Rubbing: Are Model Laws Needed?," Puritan Gravestone Art, The Dublin 
Seminar for New England Folklife: Annual Proceedings, vol. 1, ed. Peter Benes 
(Boston: Boston University Press for the Dublin Seminar, 1976), p. 102. 

5. Peter Benes, "The Restoration of Burying Grounds: the Viewpoint of Gravestone 
Artwork," Journals from tfie Gloucester Experiment: A School Community Partner- 
ship Project (New England Program in Teacher Education, 1974), p. 10. 

6. AlC publishes a Journal and Newsletter. For information contact Martha Morales, 
Executive Secretary, 1522 K Street, N. W., Suite 804, Washington, D. C. 20005. 

7. Marion Nicholl Rawson, Candleday Art (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1938), p. 63. 

8. Coit Butler, "Laws, Regulations and Procedures Governing Historic Cemeteries," 
Journals from the Gloucester Experiment: A School Community Partnership Project, 
pp. 23-29. 

9. Rev. Henry Stapleton and Peter Burman, The Churchyards Handbook: Advice on 
their Care and Maintenance (London: CIO Publishing, 1976), pp. 55-56. 

10. Peter Benes, The Masks of Orthodoxy (Amherst: University of Massachusetts 
Press, 1977), p. vii. 

138 Lance R.Mayer 

11. "Stone Rubbing," p. 103. 

12. Ibid., pp. 92-105. 

13. A nnodel publication is The Old South Hadley Burial Ground, ed. Jessie Lie (South 
Hadley Historical Society, 1976). 

14. One author, however, feels that the opposite nnay be true of slate gravestones in 
Australia. See John H. Cann, "A Field Investigation into Rock Weathering and Soil 
Forming Processes," Journal of Geological Education (November, 1974), p. 228. 

15. Norman Weiss, "Some Notes on Stone Conservation," Journals from the 
Gloucester Experiment: A School Community Project, p. 79; and Barry A. Richard- 
son, "Control of Moss, Lichen and Algae on Stone," in The Conservation of Stone I, 
pp. 225-231. 

16. Gerald A. Sleater, Stone Preservatives: Methods of Laboratory Testing and 
Preliminary Performance Criteria (Washington, D. C: National Bureau of Standards, 
1977), p. 29. 

17. Ibid. p. 21. 

18. W. H. Dukes, "Conservation of Stone: Chemical Treatments." The Architects' 
Journal Information Library, 23 August, 1972, p. 434. 

19. See K. Lai Gauri, "Conservation of Stone: A Literature Review," Decay and 
Preservation of Stone, Engineering Geology Case Histories, no. 11, ed. Erhard M. 
Winkler (Geological Society of America, 1978), p. 102. 

20. Dukes, p. 434. 

21. For example, Rolf Wihr, "The Use of Aethyl-Silicate and Acrylic-Monomers in 
Stone Preservation," Deterioration and Protection of Stone Monuments, Pro- 
ceedings of the International Symposium June 5-9, 1978, 3 vols., (Paris: 1978), 7-12. 

22. "Stone Preservation in Germany," Conservation of Stone and Wooden Objects: 
Reprints of the Contributions to the New York Conference on Conservation of Stone 
and Wooden Objects, 7-13 June 7970 (London: International Institute for Conserva- 
tion of Historic and Artistic Works, 1971), p. 129. 

23. William McGeer, 48 Harwood Avenue, Littleton, MA 01460, provided copies of the 
James Foster slate stone, 1681, Dorchester, MA, and the Sarah Nisbett slate stone, 
1698, Milford, CT. 



Farber, Jessie Lie, ed. The Old South Hadley Burial Ground. South 
Hadley, MA: South Hadley Historical Society, 1976. 

Baker, F. Joanne; Farber, Daniel; and Giesecke, Anne G., "Record- 
ing Cemetery Data." See pp. 99-117 of this volume. 

Jones, Jeremy, How To Record Graveyards. London: Council for 
British Archeology and RESCUE (The Trust for British Archeology), 
Available from 

Council for British Archeology 

7 Marylebone Road 

London NW1 511A 


The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 1 39 

Stone Conservation 

Lewin, Seymour Z., "The Preservation of Natural Stone 1839-1965." 
Art and Archeology Technical Abstracts vol. 6, n. I. (1966), Supple- 
ment, 185-272. 
Abstracts of all publications prior to 1966. 

Conservation of Stone and Wooden Objects: Reprints of the Con- 
tributions to the New York Conference of Conservation of Stone 
and Wooden Objects, 7-13 June 1970. London: International Insti- 
tute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1971. 
Available from IIC 

608 Grand Buildings 

Trafalgar Square 

London WC2N5HM 


Joint Committee for the Conservation of Stone. The Treatment of 
Stone: Proceedings of the h/leeting October 1-3, 1971. ed. R. Rossi- 
Manaresi and G. Torraca. Bologna, 1972. 
Available from the publisher 

Centre per la Conservazione delle Sculture all 'Aperto 

Via de 'Pignattari 1 

40124 Bologna, Italy 

International Symposium on the Conservation of Stone. The Con- 
servation of Stone I: Proceedings of the Symposium June 19-21, 
1975. ed. R. Rossi-Manaresi. Bologna, 1976. 

Available for $20 plus postage from the publisher (same address 

as the 1972 Bologna publication above). 

International Symposium on the Conservation of Stone. The Pro- 
ceedings of the Second International Symposium on the Deteriora- 
tion of Building Stone, Athens, September 1976. Athens, 1976. 
Available for $50, postage included, from 

Laboratory of Physical and Applied Electrochemistry 

National Technical University of Athens 

Patission Str. 42 

Athens 147 


Winkler, Erhard M., Stone: Properties, Durability in Man's Environ- 
ment. New York-Vienna: Springer-Verlag, 1976. $41.90. 

A thorough, technical treatment of the mechanisms of stone 


140 Lance R. Mayer 

Sleater, Gerald A., Stone Preservatives: Methods of Laboratory 
Testing and Preliminary Performance Criteria. Washington, D.C.: 
National Bureau of Standards, 1977. 
Available for $2.30 from 
Superintendent of Documents 
Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 
A number of stone preservatives designated by code numbers 
only v\/ere tested by accelerated aging. This work is being con- 
tinued at NBS. 

International Symposium on the Conservation of Stone. Deteriora- 
tion and Protection of Stone l\/lonuments: Proceedings of tlie Inter- 
national Symposium, Paris, June 5-9, 1978, Paris, 1978. 
Available for 350 French francs, postage included, from: 

Centre Experimental de Recherches et d' Etudes du Batiment 
et des Travaux Publics (Messieurs Mamillan or Bouineau) 
Boite Postale n° 1 

78470 St. Remy les Chevreuses, France 
74 papers, in English and French, by specialists from 27 

Gauri, K. Lai, "The Preservation of Stone," Scientific American 238 
(June 1978): 126-136. 

A good brief introduction for the lay person. 

Winkler, Erhard M., ed. Decay and Preservation of Stone. Engineer- 
ing Geology History Case Histories, no. 11 n. p. Geological Society 
of America, 1978. 

Available for $10 from 

Publication Sales Department 
Geological Society of America 
3300 Penrose Place 
Boulder, Colorado 80301 
A good collection of recent articles, though not nearly as wide a 
selection as the Paris conference above. 

New England Program in Teacher Education. Journals from the 
Gloucester Experiment. A School Community Partnership Project. 
Gloucester, Massachusetts: Gloucester Community Development 
Corp. 1974-5. 

Available for $5 from 

Gloucester Community Development Corp. 

Box 15, 

Gloucester, MA 01930 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 141 

An extremely important collection of articles on various aspects 
of a cemetery conservation project including legal, social, educa- 
tional, and archaeological aspects as well as articles on land- 
scape restoration and stone conservation. 

Cemetery Conservation 

Matthias, George F., "Weathering Rates of Portland Arkose Tomb- 
stones." Journal of Geological Education 15 (1967): 140-144. 

Mechanisms of decay are briefly described, and an attempt made 

to measure varying rates of decay. 

Dukes, W. H., "Conservation of Stone: Chemical Treatments." The 

Architects' Journal Information Library, 23 (August, 1972): 433-438. 

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission reports that certain 

types of conservation treatment seemed to accelerate decay of 


Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife. "Stone Rubbing: Are 
Model Laws Needed?" Puritan Gravestone Art: Proceedings of the 
Dublin Seminar 1976. Dublin, NH, 1976: 92-105. 

A transcription of a panel discussion which extends to many 

areas of conservation. 

Stapleton, Rev. Henry and Burman, Peter, The Churchyards Hand- 
book: Advice on Their Care and Maintenance. London: CIO 
Publishing, 1976. 
Available from the publisher at 42.40 
Church House 
Dean's Yard 
London SWIP 3N2 
Intended for clergymen of the Church of England, this book is of 
limited interest to American readers. It was reviewed in the AGS 
Newsletters no. 1 (Winter, 1979): 5. 

Farber, Jessie Lie, "Recommendations for the Care of Grave- 
stones." Association for Gravestone Studies, 1979. (Mimeo- 
Available free of charge from the Corresponding Secretary 

Ruth O. Cowell 

21 Bogert Place 

Westwood, NJ 07675 

Frontispiece: Wapping, Conn. Remnant of a once superb gravestone, one of the 
countless victims of the freeze/thaw cycle in the Connecticut River valley. 


Protective Custody: 
The Museum's Responsibility for Gravestones 

Robert P. Emien 

The Sara Tefft gravestone of Warwick, Rhode Island, dated the 
same year the town of Warwick was settled, bears the earliest date 
of any known gravestone in New England: 1642. (Opposite) Docu- 
mented events associated with its long life may be significant in 
our evaluation of ways to preserve old gravestones. 

Sara Tefft's gravemarker was noted at the end of the nine- 
teenth century by Rhode Island Antiquarian James Arnold, who had 
set out to record his state's early gravestones. By 1890 he had 
worked his way to the Warwick shoreline, where, on August 17, he 
jotted in his notebook: 

In open pasture at Mark Rock, without protection, a yard 
containing but a few graves . . . Possibly there may have 
been more here, [of] which time has obliterated all traces. 

Then he recorded the Tefft stone's simple epitaph: 

Here lieth the bodie of Sara Tefft, Interred March 16, 1642, 
in the 67th year of her age. 

But the stone Arnold was documenting that day ninety years 
ago was not Sara Tefft's original grave marker. It was a replacement 
stone, thoughtfully erected on the site of the original when that 
highly regarded memorial to Warwick's past was removed for safe- 
keeping about 1868, twenty-two years earlier. His quotation from 
the inscription on the replacement stone continues: 

The above is a copy of the original stone, taken from this 
spot and deposited with the Rhode Island Historical 
Society in Providence. 

The original stone is still in the safekeeping of the Society's 
museum. But today Mark Rock, the site of Sara Tefft's grave, is 
crowded with summer cabins, the open pasture long gone. The old 
cemetery is hidden in a clump of brush and only one stone remains 

144 Robert P. Emien 

— the Victorian replacement stone for Sara Tefft's original grave 
marker — and even that has been vandalized. Pulled from its 
cement footing and smashed, it will doubtless disappear altogether 
before much longer. (Figure 1.) It appears that the local historian 
who removed Sara Tefft's original stone saved it from obliteration. 

Gravestones disappear in all sorts of ways. Natural erosion is 
constantly deteriorating and destroying the old stones, and the sad 
fact is that without protection from the weather they will all disap- 
pear in time. Only the rate of their loss varies from yard to yard and 
stone to stone. Some markers, like Sara Tefft's replacement stone, 
have been actively destroyed. Others, like those Arnold noted in the 
yard with the Tefft stone, are just lost, probably scattered or plowed 
under the soil. 

But genteel vandalism is also growing, and stones are disap- 
pearing into private collections. Whether we want to acknowledge 
it or not, there is a market for gravestones, and occasionally buying 
and selling are carried out in the open. In the fall of 1975, nineteen 
Shaker grave markers, deconsecrated by the Shakers some years 
earlier, were catalogued and advertised for sale at public auction. 
(Figure 2.) The March, 1979, issue of the Maine Antique Digest car- 
ried an art gallery's advertisement for a fragment of a Connecticut 
stone, handsomely mounted on metal. (Figure 3.) 

As our culture's traditional reverence for burying grounds 
diminishes, as the availability of open land grows ever scarcer, and 
as collectors of American art and antiques discover the beauty of 
gravestones, graveyards become increasingly vulnerable. We can 
no longer assume that they will be protected by the good faith and 
mutual repect of our fellow citizens. In fact, graveyards are under 
siege, and we need to develop long-term strategies for their 

A first consideration for those interested in preserving 
gravestones may be laws such as the Archaeological Resources 
Protection Act, now under consideration in Congress. Passage of 
the bill will improve considerably upon the 1906 Act for Preserva- 
tion of American Antiquities, which provides minor penalties for the 
violation of archaeological sites on federal lands. The new legisla- 
tion recognizes the fast-growing trade in archaeological antiquities 
carried on by both weekend treasure hunters and systematic, profit- 
minded looters, and includes criminal penalties, namely fines of up 
to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years. Provision is also 

Protective Custody 


Figure 1. 


Robert P. Emien 


Art & Biisc-s Inc. 

Folk iiiid primilixc siiilpiiirc 
Fine biist's in iiK-lnl, lut itc .iiul xsood 

Figure 2. 

Figure 3. 

Figure 2 shows a Shaker gravestone catalogued and advertised for sale in Lenox, 
Massachusetts in 1975. In this case the advertised sale was legitimate and legal. 
Nineteen Shaker markers had been removed by the Shakers in 1943 from their Han- 
cock Village cemetery, replaced by one central monument, and subsequently given 
or sold to a homeowner who used them to floor his cellar. A later owner of the house 
sold them to the auction gallery. When the Hancock Shaker Museum learned of the 
impending auction, it offered to purchase the stones. This offer was announced at 
the auction, and as there were no objections from the audience (rather, there was ap- 
plause), the stones did not go on the block. However, the fact that a market for 
gravestones exists is underlined rather than denied by this series of circumstances. 

made for strong enforcement of the law. It is unclear whether the 
Archaeological Resources Protection Act applies to old burial 
grounds. We may have to resort to similar, equally serious 
measures to insure the security of our graveyards. 

Meanwhile, immediate solutions are needed to protect the 
stones. One such answer is to deposit particularly vulnerable 
examples in institutions where they can be cared for and protected. 
Community museums are the best places to do this. 

The decision to remove a gravestone from its original site is a 
serious one; it contradicts the wishes of those who erected the 

Protective Custody 147 

memorial. There must be no doubt that the stone's new site will be 
an improvement over its original one. Removing a stone implies the 
acceptance of large obligations and means that basic respon- 
sibilities must be met. This distinguishes the serious preserva- 
tionist from the collector who "saves" a stone by taking it home to 
use as a coffee table. 

Because it is large, heavy, and fragile, an uprooted stone must 
be carefully protected. The museum that accepts it accepts the 
responsibility not only to care for it properly, but also to make it 
available for public view. Grave markers are intended to leave 
messages for posterity, and it is incumbent on those who take 
responsibility for a stone to respect and support that original 

It is essential, not only out of consideration for the dead but to 
all who study gravestones, that some documentation be left at the 
site. This documentation must identify the grave and record the 
inscription left for the deceased. The Victorian stone left at Sara 
Tefft's gravesite performs this service and explains where the 
original stone can be found. Better still is the replacement for the 
John Foster stone of Dorchester, in Greater Boston. Threatened by 
weather, vandals, and powermowers, this spectacular stone was 
recently removed by the City of Boston to the Boston Museum of 
Fine Arts, where an excellent replica was cast from it. When the 
copy is placed in the Dorchester Burying Ground, it will provide the 
community with a durable facsimile of one of our most important 
pieces of seventeenth century American sculpture, while the 
original work can be viewed and studied in a secure setting. 

Separating a gravestone from its gravesite is a drastic move, 
and we hope that better ways to save important stones will be 
found, but we must recognize that in many cases this is the only 
procedure currently available to us. Any thoughtful person would 
prefer that the stones be left in their original settings, but for some 
stones, to leave them is to insure their speedy destruction or disap- 
pearance — as in the case of the Sara Tefft replacement stone, 
lying in pieces in the leaves. As the problem grows, we must put 
our wishful thinking behind us. Responsible museum custody for 
selected gravestones may be one of the steps necessary to 
preserve this important heritage for everyone, for all time. 

Frontispiece: The Sara Tefft stone, 1642, in protective custody at the Rhode Island 
Historical Society since ca. 1868. 



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The Willow Tree and Urn Motif: 
Changing Ideas About Death and Nature 

Blanche M. G. Linden 

Certainly the colonial craftsmen who produced gravestones 
and the people who bought thenn did not ponder the intellectual 
nuances of the stones' symbols and decorative elements. Yet in 
order for a gravestone to sell and to receive community acceptance 
for placement in the common burial ground, the iconography had to 
have a certain degree of resonance with the values, beliefs, and 
tastes of the society. With this in mind, I would like to survey briefly 
some of the changing ideas about death and nature in the eight- 
eenth and nineteenth centuries that contributed to and were 
manifested by the appearance of the willow tree and urn motif on 
New England gravestones. 

The earliest examples of this motif which I have found date 
from the 1760's, but some of these were probably post-dated, judg- 
ing from the use of neo-classic columns in the decorative panels 
flanking the stones. The motif's real introduction occurred in the 
1780's and 1790's and reached a peak of popularity in the first three 
decades of the nineteenth century.^ During the period of its use, the 
willow tree and urn design evolved from a single hieroglyph to a 
more detailed and faithful depiction of reality, progressing from a 
line drawing in the early years to a three-dimensional landscape 
haut relief in the decade after the Civil War. 

This motif preceded and pointed the way to the creation, from 
1830 to about 1865, of a new sort of burial landscape, the rural or 
garden cemetery. Urban boosters in every major city east of St. 
Louis built one of these institutions during this period, following 
the form and example of Mount Auburn, outside of Boston. 
Numerous practical considerations, such as the threat of disease 
from overcrowded city churchyards, dictated the removal of graves 
to rural locations, but there was also a growing philosophical and 
cultural disposition which contributed to the move.^ For the first 
time in America, burials were placed in a landscaped setting of pic- 
turesque winding roads and paths, where ornamental planting ac- 
cented the existing forest growth. The aesthetics of the rural 
cemetery were derived both from the English country garden and, 

1 50 Blanche M. G. Linden 

more directly, from P^re Lachaise, the Parisian cemetery estab- 
lished in 1804. 

The symbol of the willow tree and urn preceded the creation of 
the landscape it depicted by about sixty years, implying that the 
symbol was only a shorthand for ideas about death and nature 
which began to change dramatically around the middle of the eight- 
eenth century throughout America and most of North Atlantic 

As Deetz and Dethlefsen have noted in connection with the 
transition from death's head to cherub on gravestones, the at- 
mosphere of religious ferment following the revivalism of the Great 
Awakening in America during the 1730's and 1740's contributed to a 
new, more optimistic, and increasingly liberal outlook on death. ^ 
The stern, Calvinistic belief in predestination, which mandated an 
eternity of hell for large segments of the population, declined, and 
Arminianism, which held that the individual could gain his own 
salvation through good works and grace, increased. This was in- 
deed a more optimistic attitude than that reflected by the cultural 
legacy of the Middle Ages, though from our vantage point in the 
twentieth century we see in this trend the roots of the denial of 
death that grew from the second half of the nineteenth century. 

Americans, moreover, were not immune to the romanticism 
and sentimentalism growing in England and on the Continent dur- 
ing this period. The willow and urn motif was borrowed from neo- 
classicism and the taste for Roman archeology that became the 
vogue in art and architecture in eighteenth century England and 
Europe. Along with the decline of Puritanism in the colonies, ideas 
about death mellowed to the point in 1757 when Jonathan 
Edwards'daughter would rationalize the death of her child as a God- 
given opportunity for sacrifice. Like other New Englanders, she 
began to muse on "the glorious state" enjoyed by dead relatives 
and even looked forward to her own death with "longing desires." 
More liberal clergy, like Charles Chauncy of Boston, encouraged 
this trend by advising their congregations to "be not discouraged" 
at the thought of death." 

Beginning in the years just preceding the Revolution, the new 
liberalized attitude toward death reverberated in sermons, poetry, 
journals, correspondence, and in popular art forms. Increasingly, 
death was equated with benign sleep under the aegis of a 
benevolent Providence, rather than as a possible route to hell. This 

The Willow Tree and Urn Motif 1 51 

trend was also reflected in the turn-of-the century change of ter- 
minology associated with the place of burial. No longer would the 
explicit words "graveyard" or "burial ground" be used except with 
reference to already existing burying places. From the 1797 found- 
ing of New Haven's Grove Street burial site to the present, new 
spaces opened for burials were called cemeteries, meaning dor- 

The rise of the willow tree and urn motif in New England was 
the result of significant changes in the attitude toward nature as 
well as toward death. For the first settlers in the Massachusetts 
Bay Colony, wilderness seemed evil. The woods were a netherworld 
where the faithful could become bewildered by evil spirits, witches, 
or even the Devil Himself. A hostile, menacing Nature loomed large 
around the Puritan town, tightening community cohesion.^ 

From the mid-eighteenth century, the American view of nature 
changed for another reason. Philosophers in England and France 
viewed nature as a holy place capable of eliciting a spiritual 
response within the soul of the visitor. Shaftsbury said that "Rural 
Meditations are sacred." Addison agreed that nature in the form of 
groves, woods, fields, and meadows "heightens the Pleasures of 
the Eye, and raises such a rational admiration in the Soul as is little 
inferior to Devotion." Aldous Huxley later noted that "for good 
Wordsworthians a walk in the country is equivalent to going to 
church." This view, in tune with the liberalization of religious 
beliefs, called for the fostering of environments conducive to con- 
soling meditation.^ This particular landscape is the one 
represented by the willow tree and urn motif. 

Additional factors in New England sped the adoption of new 
ideas about nature. With the end of the French and Indian War in 
1763, the woods were not quite the dangerous places they had 
previously been. By that time colonists began to feel that they 
could master their environment. Settlers had initially found New 
England land poor and difficult to cultivate, a fact which certainly 
did not predispose them to look on nature as benevolent or benign. 
By the 1760's, however, they had mastered the farming of the area 
and migrated north into the former wilderness of Vermont and 
Maine. By this time, also, gardens began to appear near the homes 
of the wealthy in towns and cities. Previously, the few existing 
gardens contained only vegetables and other useful plants, or they 
were formal, cramped squares of cultivation walled in from the con- 
trasting wilds of nature. The introduction and development of orna- 

1 52 Blanche M. G. Linden 

mental plantings was an unheard of luxury until well into the eight- 
eenth century.^ 

While these changes were developing in the popular Annerican 
mind, they were not reflected in the actual burying grounds of the 
time. Aside from the artistry of the stones themselves, colonial 
graveyards, and for that matter, most of those in England and 
France until the beginning of the nineteenth century, were gener- 
ally barren, purely functional spaces. Few if any trees and shrubs 
were planted there, with the possible exception of a somber yew.^ 
The only grounds-keeping was provided by the sexton's cow, which 
used the enclosure as a grazing common, preventing it from becom- 
ing a tangle of weeds— leaving a browsing line along the bordering 
trees. Exceptions to this pattern of neglect did not emerge until the 
last half of the eighteenth century, when the town of Newport, 
Rhode Island, for instance, planted imported flowering bulbs in its 
common graveyard and James Hillhouse placed trees and shrub- 
bery along the grid of roads in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery, 
incorporated and laid out in 1797.^ 

In gravestone art, the coalescence of these new attitudes 
toward death and nature manifested itself in the appearance and 
rapid domination of the willow tree and urn motif. In epitaphs, the 
trend was manifested in the increased use of biographical detail, 
while verses of consolation and hope replaced those of grim 
resignation and loss.^° They are short poems, personalized 
statements in which death and nature are joined. The stone erected 
for John Thompson, Junior, buried in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 
in 1796 is an example of this association. It proclaims under its urn 
and willow: "Death, like an overflowing stream / sweeps us away, 
our life's a dream . . ." 

What willow trees and urns on gravestones have in common 
with eighteenth century intellectual thought in England is that they 
both reflect certain attitudes or ideas that were in the a/rduring that 
period. The connection may seem tenuous if we consider the 
iconography alone; but as Deetz and Dethlefsen discovered, the 
gravestones marked by the willow tree and urn motif evince a much 
greater number of descriptive epitaphs and funeral verse than do 
stones with even the contemporaneous cherub motif. 

Now, there is a wide gap between the writings of philosophers 
and the creation of a popular art form. We do not know, nor should 
we assume, that New England stonecarvers read British or French 

The Willow Tree and Urn Motif 



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The willow tree in the "rural" cemetery landscape, Halcyon Lake, Mount Auburn 
Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass., founded 1831. 

philosophy. Yet we should not assume because they worked with 
their hands that they did not. In any case, it is reasonable to 
assume that the thrust of the philosopher's ideas filtered down to 
the craftsmen of the period. 

The native flora of New England was much less diverse than it 
is today. Specifically, the Babylon weeping willow, or salix 
babylonica, was not introduced into America until 1730. This is the 
tree which became internationally associated with melancholic 
meditation during the Romantic era and is depicted on gravestones 
and in mourning pictures. It became preferable to other plants tradi- 
tionally associated with death. The yew, the cypress, and the holly 
now seemed too somber. They lacked the airiness, lightness, and 
purity of form which appealed to the neo-classic tastes of 
Americans who had sought these qualities in Georgian and Federal 
architecture. The willow reached the peak of its popularity in the 
1820's following the report that the exiled Napoleon sat under one 
for daily meditation on the island of St. Helena and loved it so much 
that he asked to be buried on that spot. Cuttings from that one 
willow were in demand and were shipped throughout the world." 

1 54 Blanche M. G. Linden 

Half a century after its introduction to America, the willow tree 
was found everywhere, not only because of the melancholy, bitter- 
sweet associations attached to it but because of the speed and 
ease with which the species propagated itself. Like hope, it seemed 
to spring eternal. It virtually grew like a weed, preferring moist land 
along streams, rivers, and lakes. Perhaps in the context of a burial 
ground it was thought to help dry the land and hence became 
desirable for functional reasons; but this would have been only a 
secondary factor in hastening its adoption. 

The popularity of the willow motif in America preceded the 
popularity of the tree itself by several decades. The willow became 
a common design for the folkart form of embroidered or painted 
mourning pictures which began to be produced by school girls in 
the 1790's. These pictures generally depicted mourners and an urn 
under the shelter of a weeping willow. The urn bore the name of a 
deceased family member and the pictures functioned as shrines 
within the home as well as elements of interior decor.'^ 

The weeping willow in its very shape suggested the prevalent 
and growing spirit of romanticism as well as the neo-classic tastes 
of the new American republic. The tree captured the imagination of 
an age, a fact evident in the spread of the willow tree and urn motif 
on gravestones. 


1. Susan Noel Verrier and Thomas Heyward Taylor, "Gravestone Style and 'Family' in 
Sudbury, Massachusetts," in "Style Change in Colonial Gravestone Design" (1963 
typescript: Tosser Library, Harvard University), p. 12. Verrier and Taylor found that in 
Sudbury a few examples of the combined motif appeared around 1760 and 1780 but 
did not find extended use until the 1790's. By 1800, "practically no other designs 
were used." Individually, the urn first appeared there around 1770, the willow from 

2. For a brief overview of this developnment, see Stanley French, "The Cemetery as 
Cultural Institution: The Establishment of Mount Auburn and the 'Rural Cemetery' 
Movement," American Quarterly 26 (March 1974): 37-59. 

3. Edwin Dethlefsen and James Deetz, "Death's Heads, Cherubs, and Willow Trees: 
Experimental Archaeology in Colonial Cemeteries," American Antiquity 31 (1966): 

4. David E. Stannard, Ttie Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and 
Social Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 150. 

The Willow Tree and Urn Motif 1 55 

5. See Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, eds. The Puritans: A Sourcebook of their 
Writings, 2 vols. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963). Nathaniel Hawthorne ex- 
pressed this attitude in The Scarlet Letter. The woods were the place of lawlessness, 
the only site where Hester Prynne and the Rev. Mr. Dinnmesdale could have their illi- 
cit rendezvous. 

6. Basil Willey, The Eighteenth-Century Baci<g round: Studies on the Idea of Nature in 
the Thought of the Period (London: Chatto and Windus, 1949), pp. 64-65. 

7. For a discussion of austere Puritan gardens see Grace Tabor, Old-Fashioned 
Gardening: A History and a Reconstruction (New York: McBride, Nast, and Connpany, 

8. For further reading, see John R. Stilgoe, "Folklore and Graveyard Design," Land- 
scape 22 (summer 1978): 22-28. 

9. I would like to thank Edwin Connelly, Cemeteries Director of the State of Rhode 
Island for the information concerning Newport. The history of the Grove Street 
Cemetery is detailed in Report of the Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Condi- 
tion of the New Haven Burying Ground . . . , (New Haven: B. L. Hamlen, 1839). 

10. See Kay de Luca and Sister Blanche M. Leonard, "The Epitaph," in "Style Change 
in New England Colonial Gravestone Design," (1963 typescript, Tozzer Library, Har- 
vard University. 

11. Donald Wyman, VJyman's Gardening Encyclopedia (New York: Mcmillian, 1977), 
pp. 975-977; also Donald Wyman, Trees for American Gardens (New York: Macmillan, 
1965), pp. 416-422. 

12. I want to thank Jane Nylander of Old Sturbridge Village for sharing her 
bibliography on mourning pictures. For more information, see Anita Schorsch, 
Mourning Becomes America: Mourning Art in the New Nation (Harrisburg, Penn- 
sylvania: William Penn Memorial Museum, 1976); Margaret M. Coffin, Death in 
Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1976); and 
Sunday Globe (May 27, 1979), p. 64. 

Frontispiece: An urn and willow motif, Marlboro, Mass. 


The Archaeological Significance of the Mausoleums 

in the Allegheny and Homewood Cemeteries 

of Pittsburgh: A Preliminary Statement 

James B. Richardson III 
Ronald C. Carlisle 

James Deetz has demonstrated in his studies of eighteenth 
century New England gravestones that changes in art styles reflect 
changes in the religious ideologies of the period. He has further 
demonstrated that the various art styles have a temporal and 
spatial distribution. Deetz's studies of artistic change within the 
historic mortuary art styles of New England explain how these par- 
ticular art styles change in relation to changes in religious values. 

The archaeologist attempting to interpret changes in art styles 
of prehistoric societies has a more difficult task because there is 
no recourse to a written record of the concomitant changes within 
the culture being studied. The prehistorian is readily able to see the 
end result of stylistic change in ceramics, sculpture, and architec- 
ture of prehistoric societies, but he is not able to discern the 
cultural dynamics underlying and producing them. Most studies of 
prehistoric art styles deal with stylistic seriations and the devel- 
opment of chronologies, but there is little attempt to provide an 
explanation of how and why the style changes through time. 

Of special concern to the prehistorian is the explanation of 
revivals of long dead art styles which reappear in the archaeo- 
logical record hundreds and thousands of years after their disap- 
pearance. The revival of a past art style is usually seen by the 
prehistorian as either the duplication of a found object due to its 
aesthetic qualities, or as a recurrence of the style due to a rebirth 
of the related religious, political or social ideologies which had 
remained latent for hundreds of years before regaining favor. 

The mausoleums of the Allegheny and Homewood cemeteries 
of Pittsburgh provide us with an opportunity to historically docu- 
ment the revival of Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, and Romanesque 

1 58 J. B. Richardson III and R. C. Carlisle 

art and architectural styles for the burial of North America's Chris- 
tian dead after 1830. Central to the study is our knowledge that in 
these examples of style revivals, the original function of each 
revived architectural style, with all of its concomitant religious 
systems, was not reintroduced. A prehistorian, if faced with a 
revival of Greek parthenons and Egyptian pyramids and temples, 
might very well incorrectly interpret their reappearance as the 
result of a revival of long dead religions. He would also be hard put 
to interpret the masked Christian symbolism contained within the 

The Allegheny and Homewood Cemeteries 
and the Rural Cemetery Movement 

In 1831 Mount Auburn, America's first rural cemetery, was 
opened in Boston, and soon thereafter numerous other rural 
cemeteries sprang up in the eastern United States— Laurel Hill, 
Philadelphia, 1836; Greenwood, Brooklyn, 1838; Mount Hope, 
Rochester, 1838; Greenmount, Baltimore, 1838; Worcester Rural, 
Worcester, 1838; Allegheny, Pittsburgh, 1844; Spring Grove, Cincin- 
nati, 1845; Cave Hill, Louisville, 1848; Hollywood, Richmond, 1849; 
Magnolia, Charleston, 1850; Homewood, Pittsburgh, 1878. The crea- 
tion of Mount Auburn Cemetery marked a radical change in the 
prevailing attitudes toward death and burial. The church graveyards 
with their headstones portraying death's heads and skulls and 
crossbones were morbid and constant reminders of death and were 
to be avoided. The rural cemetery movement had two overriding pur- 
poses: first, to provide a pleasant place for the burial of the dead; 
second, to function as a cultural institution. The movement from 
the small urban burial ground to the non-profit and non-sectarian 
rural cemetery was in part brought about by space limitations of ur- 
ban graveyards which were unable to expand within the crowded 
cities. The resulting unsanitary conditions and the increasing need 
to bury large numbers of persons who had succumbed to various 
epidemics prompted the development of the rural cemetery. In addi- 
tion to providing a decent burial place, these cemeteries, laid out 
with carriage paths, gardens, fountains, and lakes, were designed 
to serve as centers where historic continuity with the past could be 
preserved and patriotism strengthened. The sculptures and 
mausoleums erected to memorialize the dead and beautify the 
landscape were important in the establishment of the American 
school of sculpture. Soon rural cemeteries became, in essence, 
open air museums where imitations and duplications of Greek, 
Roman, Egyptian, Romanesque, and Byzantine art treasures were 

The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 1 59 

collected and viewed. According to Stanley French, one nineteenth 
century commentator on the importance of Mount Auburn 
Cemetery as a cultural institution stated that Boston hospitality 
included a boring dinner followed by a ride through Mount Auburn. 

As early as 1834, Dr. James Speer attempted to establish a 
rural cemetery in Pittsburgh, but it was not until April 24, 1884, that 
the Allegheny Cemetery was incorporated. The first interments 
were made in September of 1845. Covering 275 acres, the cemetery 
was originally situated far outside the central city, but with the ex- 
pansion of the steel industry the city soon engulfed the cemetery so 
that Allegheny is now within its huge urban sprawl. The cemetery 
has maintained its integrity and as recently as 1976 was referred to 
in the Pittsburgh Press as the only place in that part of the city 
where, walking among the impressive monuments, one could 
spend peaceful hours. 

In 1878, the Homewood Cemetery was established to provide a 
suitable burial place in the eastern section of the city. Its rules and 
regulations expressed the hope that it be ". . . forever free from the 
smoke and dirt of manufacturing establishments." The Homewood 
Cemetery covers 175 acres, formerly a portion of the estate of 
William Wilkins. Although partly encroached upon by the eastern 
suburbs, this cemetery borders the extensive grounds of Frick Park, 
which preserves much of the cemetery's original rural flavor. 

Both Allegheny and Homewood cemeteries have strict regula- 
tions concerning types of interments, grade of monument stones, 
upkeep of plots, etc., stated in their published guides. These hard- 
cover publications also include attractive photographs of the 
mausoleums as inducements to those who are considering the pur- 
chase of a burial plot. The speech dedicating Homewood Cemetery 
on August 18, 1878, provides the rationale of the period for burying 
the deceased in park-like cemeteries using pagan art and architec- 
tural styles to commemorate the Christian dead. 

. . . The difficulties and dangers of continuing the 
church yard in a city will suggest themselves without fur- 
ther mention; the practice had been discontinued in 
cities built long before the Christian era, and thus, 
naturally, came about the greatest advance in the mode 
of disposing of the dead— the rural cemetery— and in the 
dedication of one of these we meet to-day. Whatever love 
can prompt, whatever skill can give, is now a ready offer- 
ing to make beautiful the homes of the dead. There are in 

160 J. B. Richardson III and R. C. Carlisle 

this two thoughts— one for the dead and one for the liv- 
ing. We may stand with awe within Westminster Abbey, 
or with sorrowful wonder in the Catacombs of Rome- 
think of the Egyptian swathed in bands and with spices, 
or of the Greek and his funeral pyre, but we turn from all 
with the hope that for our dead there may be none of 
these; that they may sleep their last sleep with the 
loveliness of nature around them, far away from the city's 
din and dust, where loving hands shall care for their last 
resting place— where flowers shall come in spring and 
sunlight shine, and birds sing carols above their graves— 
and the troubles and toils of an unthinking world be far 
off, while everything around them speaks the place of 
God! . . . 

. . . We devote, then, these grounds, to the love of the 
living and to the repose of the dead. 

The Study of Mausoleums 

Our study of the Allegheny and Homewood mausoleums was 
begun in 1969 and has resulted in a detailed architectural analysis 
of each mausoleum; an analysis of the art styles of the stained 
glass windows; a photographic record of each structure; extensive 
use of the cemetery records of dates for pouring foundations, dates 
of interment, names of the builders' firms; and interviews with mon- 
ument companies concerning construction, sources of granite and 
marble, and the cost involved in various phases of construction. 

There are two predominant architectural styles represented in 
these cemeteries: Egyptian and Greek, or Greco-Roman. It was 
originally hypothesized in 1969 that the revival of these mortuary 
and religious styles of architecture was a reflection of the increas- 
ing amount of archaeological work in the Mediterranean during the 
nineteenth century. This supposition appears to be valid, for during 
the same period classical architectural revival styles were in vogue. 
The interest in Greek and Roman architectures stemmed from the 
eighteenth and nineteenth century archaeological finds which 
made classical qualities highly attractive for both religious and 
non-religious architecture. Ancient revivals— the Greek from 1820 
to 1860, the Egyptian from 1820 to 1850, the Gothic from 1820 to 
1860, and the Romanesque from 1835 to 1870— and the eclectic 
styles of the 1870's to the 1930's all had their impact upon the 
design and execution of cemetery mausoleums. During the eclectic 

The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 


period, all architectural styles were acceptable, including revivals 
of the pre-Civil War styles and recently introduced modern styles. 
There is no need to verify the fact that increasing archaeological 
work was the main impetus to the development of the revival of 
Greek and Egyptian styles, for this correlation has been amply 
documented by the architectural historians and archaeologists, 
namely Bratton, Daniel, Hamlin, Irwin, Kidney, and Whiffen. 

Of the ninety-six mausoleums in the Homewood Cemetery, 
sixty-six are Greek, ten are Egyptian, and the rest are of various 
other styles. In the Allegheny Cemetery there are eighty mauso- 
leums that date between 1880 and 1960; forty-two Greek, six Egyp- 
tian, and the remainder of various other styles. The majority of 
these mausoleums date prior to 1930— only eight are dated after 
1930— suggesting that this ostentatious mode of burying the dead 
either declined for reasons of preference or possibly due to in- 
creased costs of construction, especially after the initiation of the 
federal income tax system. 

The Mellon Tomb. Homewood Cemetery. 

162 J. B. Richardson III and R. C. Carlisle 

The Egyptian mausoleums in both the cemeteries were con- 
structed after 1900, which coincides with the tremendous ar- 
chaeological activity in the Nile Valley by British and American 
archaeologists, culminating in 1922 with Carter's discovery of 
Tutankhamen's tomb. The only true pyramid is in the Homewood 
Cemetery, the foundation of which was poured in 1921. The Brown 
pyramid has eight vaults, six of which have been used by the family. 
The largest Egyptian temple in either cemetery is the McAllister in 
Homewood with a foundation date of 1912. It contains twelve vaults 
of which five are used. The most elaborate mausoleum is in 
Allegheny; the foundation was laid in 1930. It has two female 
sphinxes on either side of the stairway leading up to the main en- 
trance, and the bronze door portrays three personages in Egyptian 
costume. In the interior there are two sarcophaguses with Egyptian 
hieroglyphics in their borders. 

The Greek mausoleums are usually small temples with four 
columns on the front portico with Doric, Corinthian, or Ionic 
capitals. In each cemetery there is a single Greek-like parthenon 
with columns on all sides. The mausoleums are generally located 
on the acropolis or highest ground within each cemetery, and from 
the family names associated with them it is clear that they were 
seen as symbols of social and economic status. The few statistics 
that we have suggest that the cost for pre-1930 mausoleums ran 
between fifteen and twenty-five thousand dollars. 

The use of pagan monuments for the burial of Christian dead 
was readily accepted during this period, but the non-Christian 
religions that they reflected were never part of the religious values 
of those interred within these Greek and Egyptian temples. The use 
of Greek forms was an expression of ideal societal and artistic 
perfection; by using the Greek and Egyptian styles, Americans 
hoped to bask in the glory of these long vanished civilizations. 
Except for the single Egyptian pyramid, the function of the Greek 
and Egyptian temples was radically changed from its original pur- 
pose as a religious temple to an edifice which was solely for the 
burial of the dead. 

Interpretations and Conclusions 

To the archaeologist of the future looking back on these struc- 
tures, even if he had no written record to help him, there would be 
many clues that could lead him to the correct conclusion that the 

The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 163 

mausoleums in the Homewood and Allegheny cemeteries are not 
the product of the diffusion of Greek and Egyptian culture from the 
Old World. The stained glass windows, for example, are full of 
Christian symbolism and scenes which place the mausoleums in 
their nineteenth century cultural context. But if this hypothetical 
archaeologist looking back on our culture through our mausoleums 
were not careful to investigate thoroughly and discover these clues 
and read them correctly, he could easily be misled by the stagger- 
ing number of these buildings that reflect pure Greek and Egyptian 
architecture to assume that, after several thousand latent years, 
Greek and Egyptian religion had been revived along with their 
architectural styles. 

This exercise with mausoleums emphasizes the need for cau- 
tion in the interpretation of religious revivals based on the re-use of 
artifact and architectural forms, designs, and styles. The 
prehistoric archaeologist, hampered by the lack of written record to 
aid in the explanation of his data, must exercise extreme caution 
when interpreting his findings. 


Allegheny Cemetery. Allegheny Cemetery: Historical Account of 
Incidents and Events Connected with its Establishment. Pitts- 
burgh: Bakewell and Martens, 1873. 

The Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA: Its Origin 

and Early History. Pittsburgh: n.p., 1910. 

_ Allegheny Cemetery 1844-1947. Pittsburgh: n.p., 


Borchardt, Susan. Religious Architecture in America 1632-1976. 
Washington, D.C.: St. John's Church, 1976. 

Bratton, Fred G. A History of Egyptian Archaeology. New York: 
Thomas Crowell, 1968. 

Curl, James S. The Victorian Celebration of Death. Detroit: 
Partridge Press, 1972. 

Daniel, Glyn E. A Hundred Years of Archaeology. 
London: n.p., 1950. 

1 64 J. B. Richardson III and R. C. Carlisle 

Darden, Joe T. "The Cemeteries of Pittsburgh: A Study in Historical 
Geography." MA Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1967. 

Deetz, James and Dethlefsen, Edwin S. "Death's Heads, Cherubs, 
and Urn and Willow," Natural History 76, no. 3: 28-37. 

Dethlefsen Edwin S. and Deetz, James. "Death's Heads, Cherubs, 
and Willow Trees: Experimental Archaeology in Colonial 
Cemeteries," American Antiquity 31, no. 4: 502-510. 

French, Stanley. "The Cemetery as a Cultural Institution: The 
Establishment of Mt. Auburn and the Rural Cemetery Move- 
ment," American Quarterly 26, no. 1: 37-59. 

Gillon, Edmund. Victorian Cemetery Sculpture. New York: Dover 
Publications, 1972. 

Hamlin, Talbot. Greek Revival Architecture in America. New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1944. 

Homewood Cemetery. Homewood Cemetery: Rules and Regula- 
tions. Pittsburgh: n.p., 1905. 

The Homewood Cemetery, Rules, Regulations and 

General Information. Pittsburgh: n.p., 1912. 

Kidney, Walter C. The Architecture of Choice: Eclecticism in 
America 1880-1930. New York: George Brazilier, 1974. 

Irwin, John T. "The Symbol of Hieroglyphics in the American 
Renaissance," American Quarterly 26: no. 1. 

Morley, John. Death, Heaven and the Victorians. Pittsburgh: Uni- 
versity of Pittsburgh Press, 1971. 

Richardson, James B. "Death's Heads, Cherubs, Urn and Willow: A 
Stylistic Analysis of Martha's Vineyard Tombstones," The 
Dukes County Intelligencer 10, no. 3: 179-200. 

Rotundo, Barbara. "The Rural Cemetery Movement," Essex Insti- 
tute Historical Collections 109, no. 3: 231-240. 

Rowe, John H. "The Influence of Chavin Art on Later Styles," Dum- 

The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 165 

barton Oaks Conference on Chavin, Proceedings ed. Elizabeth 
Benson. Washington, D.C., n.p.:101-124. 

Van Trump, James. "A Pittsburgh Pantheon: Allegheny Cemetery," 
Carnegie Magazine 33, no. 8: 271-273. 

Whiff in, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780: A Guide to 
Styles. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969. 

Frontispiece: Top— The Brown Tomb, Homewood Cemetery; 
Bottom— The Winter Tomb, Allegheny Cemetery. 

1ks' ^^m f' m.^ i *.Mm f i^'' ^«Mmar'>aimit''*tmr-''^ 


Mystery, History, And 
. An Ancient Graveyard 

Melvin Williams 

There is little doubt that the hands-on kind of learning 
that is becoming popular in many of our finest indoor 
museums works equally well in the outdoor museums in 
which students of gravestones are interested: in the burial 
grounds that can be found in so many of our old com- 

Educating young persons about the value and the 
attractions of these repositories of culture is important; 
they can learn to respect their heritage as they learn to en- 
joy it and understand it. 

This article, reprinted with permission from Today's 
Education: The Journal of the National Education Associa- 
tion, describes one such hands-on approach for younger 
school children. 

Ask any class of fourth or fifth graders what they know of col- 
onial life in New England, and you'll get answers ranging from the 
expected ones about Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth to others 
about the primitive living conditions or the cruelty of the stocks and 
ducking stool. If the students put all their information together, 
they can probably create a wide-ranging and substantially accurate 
"history" of the New England region. 

Their sources of information will be almost entirely second- 
hand—from books and television and from other children and 
adults, particularly teachers. And they may never have considered 
trying to verify any of the "facts" of history they know. 

It is these students who can profit from a fascinating lesson in 
the historian's method of making firsthand observations and then 
drawing conclusions about some aspect of the past. Finding the 
data is not hard in any community in coastal or southern New 
England, and it should be fairly easy in other regions as well, for 
students all over the country have access to an unused and unap- 
preciated museum close at hand — old burying yards. 

168 Melvin Williams 

One may well ask, What can an old graveyard tell that students 
will find interesting and worthwhile? Let the students— and the 
teacher— find out for themselves. (At least the teacher should try to 
be working and learning along with the class.) 

Here is a four-step procedure. 


1. Ask the students to tell what they know of colonial life in their 
area (town or state). Write some of these answers on the board, 
organizing them under such headings as occupations, family life, 
government. Next, find out where the students got their information 
(teachers, books, TV, travel), and ask their reasons for accepting the 
information as accurate. 

2. Ask students how they would get authoritative, firsthand infor- 
mation about their region's history. (After suggesting visits to 
historical sites or local museums, they will probably have no other 
ideas on the subject.) 

3. Then introduce the local graveyard as a source of history. 
Describe it as a firsthand record of the way of life and death of the 
people who made their homes near the graveyard, a record carved 
in words and designs on stone. 

The Trip 

1. Plan to take a whole afternoon in the fall or spring for the trip. 
Permission to enter a graveyard is seldom necessary, but check 
anyway to be sure. Also check the graveyard and note the time of 
day the sun best lights the stones. Try to schedule your visit for the 
hours the inscriptions are most legible. 

2. For efficiency, let the class divide into several small groups, each 
with a secretary (provide a clipboard to go with the title) to write 
down the data from the stones and any other information his team- 
mates discover. (Call them reporters; then everybody has a title.) 

3. What should the students look for? Don't tell them. They're going 
on a fact-finding expedition, not a treasure hunt. Let them be 

Mystery, History and an Ancient Graveyard 169 

Follow-Up in the Classroom 

1. Have each group prepare a report of their findings in class, and 
let them choose one nnember to give it orally. You will want to help 
them with the organization of the report, but again, you must not 
help supply the data. 

2. Lead a class discussion after each report to help resolve uncer- 
tainties, to add support to any tentative judgments, and to give 
each student a chance to participate. 

3. Then have each student write his report, outside of class, on a 
limited topic of special interest to him. Perhaps the class reports 
taken together could be developed into a town history, and, if some- 
one is willing to type it, the history can be dittoed and distributed to 
class members. 

4. Only at this point should you add any secondary material. 
Remember, the purpose of the lesson is not to fill students full of 
facts they can get from other sources, but to show them how to 
gather information themselves. 

A Second Trip? 

1. Plan one more trip so students can make rubbings of inscriptions 
or images on the stone. 

2. Although several methods are possible, one is both simple and 
effective. Give each student a black wax crayon, a piece of white 
wrapping paper big enough to generously cover the part of the 
stone to be rubbed, and masking tape to hold the paper securely in 

After stretching and fastening the paper over the part of the 
stone to be copied, all a student has to do is rub lightly with the flat 
side of the crayon until the image or inscription is transferred from 
the stone to the paper (just as he could rub over a penny and get the 
face of Lincoln). Once the image is visible, it can be darkened 
without letting any color get into the areas that should stay white. 

The teacher who has taken the time to experience the stone- 
rubbing technique will be able to offer guidance concerning the 
type of stones which will yield the most satisfactory rubbings as 

170 Melvin Williams 

well as advice which will prevent careless defacement or damage 
to the stones. 

What will the class actually learn from this project? Most 
valuable should be the experience of collecting and assessing data 
for themselves, with the sharpening of critical abilities that goes 
with this process. They will also develop an appreciation for the 
stones as artifacts worthy of care. But the information they gather 
will be important, too. 

Consider the following information a class gained during an 
afternoon's work in a graveyard in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, a 
fairly representative example of a small town burying ground in 
New England. 


1. Spelling of some words in colonial times differed from today's 
spelling. Did a stonecutter make a mistake when he carved hear 
for here? Probably. But lyes and dyed appear too often to be mis- 

Apparently colonials weren't as concerned as we are about 
consistency; One family spelled its name "Alvard," "Olverd," and 
"Alvord" on three different stones and another varied its spelling 
with "Merrick," "Mirick," and "Mirrick." 

2. Some words— "landskip" and "consort" for example— sent us to 
the dictionary after we returned to the classroom. In the poem 
where the students found "landskip," it seemed to mean landscape 
and the dictionary confirmed the students' assumption. "Consort" 
yielded no hint, however, that it meant wife. 

Activities and Occupations 

1. Colonials apparently enjoyed swimming and boating just as we 
do— according to the record of a drowning of a group of people in 
Nine Mile Pond. (From stones in other graveyards, one learns of 
people flung from horses and of a group of people killed by a 
fireworks explosion.) 

2. In addition to a stonecutter (obvious from the stones here, it 
seemed, though perhaps they were brought in from another town). 

Mystery, History and an Ancient Graveyard 171 

evidence was found of a doctor and a minister in the area. Stones 
showed that sonne military men were buried in the area. 

3. Education must have been highly regarded, for the stone of one 
man records his having attended Wesleyan Academy. Later the 
teacher would explain that the Academy has no connection to 
Wesleyan University, but is now Wilbraham Academy— a private 
boys' school less than two miles from the graveyard. (In other 
towns, gravestones record that men attended Yale or Harvard- 
announcements of special status.) 


1. Many colonials died young. One stone tells of twin sons who died 
in 1767, only "seven wee hours" old, and others of infants who died 
in the first weeks or months of their lives. Some may have died of 
smallpox, a disease mentioned twice on other stones. But some 
people lived surprisingly long lives. (A Plymouth man was 99 when 
he died there in 1745.) 

2. People seem to have been very religious. The Bible verses quoted 
and the carvings of wings (flights to heaven?) and crowns (of 
glory? ) on the stones support that. So do a host of Biblical names, 
including many that are unusual today: Dorcas, Jesse, Ebeneezer, 
Ichabod, Jerusha, Ezra, and Abel. 

3. Other unusual names appear that couldn't be found in the Bible 
index: Thankful, Experience, Temperance, Mercy, and Deliverance. 

4. In time people seemed reluctant to mention death. Instead of say- 
ing "Here lyes ye body," later stones read "In memory of" or 
"Sacred to the memory of" the person. And the images on the 
stones changed from ugly, skull-like faces to Madonna-like ones. 

For the teacher who wants to supplement secondary sources 
on history with books about graveyards themselves, several ex- 
cellent ones are available. By far the best is Allan I. Ludwig's 
Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 
1650-1815 (Wesleyan University Press, 1966.) It is valuable for its 
scholarly thoroughness, its excellent photographs, and its fine map 
of most of the important old graveyards in New England. 

Frontispiece: Rubbing of the Sarah Revere slate, 1773, Granary Burying Ground, 
Boston, Mass. By permission of the author. 


Resources for the Classroom Teacher: 
An Annotated Bibliography 

Mary Anne Mrozinski 

Halporn, Roberta. Lessons From The Dead: The Graveyard as a 
Classroom for the Study of the Life Cycle. Brooklyn: Highly 
Specialized Promotions, 1979. 

A serious and sensitive approach to many areas of death 
education, using the cemetery as a catalyst. The discussion 
guide is invaluable for any class or group leader. It includes 
topics for discussion, questions, and areas for research such as 
the life cycle in nature, epitaphs, history, and art. Excellent 
thanatological bibliography. Fifty-eight pages. For more infor- 
mation address Ms. Halporn at 228 Clinton St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 

New England Program in Teacher Education. Journals from the 
Gloucester Experiment: A School-Community Partnership 
Project. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Gloucester Community 
Development Corporation, 1974/75. 

A series of eight monographs detailing the restoration of a 
colonial burial ground by local youths. It is written to help other 
communities design similar programs. Chapters 3, 5, and 6 are 
of particular interest to teachers and youth leaders. Eighty-six 

Milligan, Betty Ann and Trask, Deborah. A Cemetery Survey: 
Teachers Manual. Halifax: Nova Scotia Museum Publication, 

Geared for secondary teachers, this manual focuses on 
mapping, recording, and interpreting collected data from ceme- 
teries. It is filled with thought-provoking questions and activi- 
ties to stimulate and motivate students and teachers in many 
areas of study. Seventeen pages. 

Stranix, Edward L. The Cemetery: An Outdoor Classroom. Project 
KARE ed., Philadelphia: Con-Stran Productions, 1974. 

A student workbook containing 27 activities to do while 
visiting a cemetery. Designed for use with middle school 


students, the activities directly involve mathematics, language 
arts, social studies, science, and environmental studies. Some 
activities are suitable for elementary school students. Thirty- 
one pages. 

Weitzman, David. "History at the Cemetery." In My Backyard 
History Book. pp. 72-74 Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 

A witty, inspiring, and cleverly illustrated book to help 
young people, and adults too, learn about the past. Visiting the 
local cemetery is just one of many activities mentioned in this 
book to discover the past. Recognizes the wealth to be found in 
cemeteries but provides few specific details for planning a 
cemetery visit. 

Weitzman, David. "Resting Places," In Underfoot: An Everyday 
Guide to Exploring the American Past, pp. 67-89. New York: 
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. 

Focuses on using cemeteries as outdoor museums for 
learning about the past. Lists many ways to locate burial 
grounds and suggests possible activities and studies to be car- 
ried out in the cemetery, ranging from collecting colorful names 
to studying immigration to your area. 


Gravestones and Historical Archaeology: 
A Review Essay 

David H. Waiters 

Deetz, James, In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early 
American Life. 

Glassie, Henry, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern 
United States. 

Glassie, Henry, Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural 
Analysis of Historic Artifacts. 

Grave, Alexandra, Three Centuries of Connecticut Folk Art. 

St. George, Robert Blair, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material 
for the Study of Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New 

Since the publication of Allan Ludwig's Graven Images,^ and 
James Deetz and Edwin Dethlefsen's "Death's Head, Cherub, Urn 
and Willow"^ which revamped gravestone study by asserting that 
gravestones could be interpreted as reflections of religious/ 
aesthetic values, an increasing strain of criticism has appeared. 
Summarized by Stephen Foster and David Hall in papers published 
in the proceedings of the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife,^ 
the argument goes that no real proof is offered that elite cultural 
and religious concepts were present at the time America's seven- 
teenth and eighteenth century gravestones were being carved, with 
the implicit assumption that craftsmen do not think about such 
things. Furthermore, historical archaeologists stress that artifacts, 
before any act of interpretation can occur, must be studied objec- 
tively in terms of form and use. While no resolution to the split 
between the camps is presented in the books reviewed here, it is 
possible to see the direction artifact study is now taking, and to 
speculate on possible new approaches to the study of gravestone 

For readers familiar with James Deetz's earlier work on 
gravestones. In Small Things Forgotten'^ presents in a fuller form 
the methods of historical archaeology for the study of early 


American artifacts. He stresses first the importance of establishing 
the typology, or form, of an artifact. Chronology is then explained, 
with useful definitions of the terminus post quern (date after which) 
and the terminus ante quern (date before which) an artifact could 
not have been created. Although most gravestones are dated, these 
concepts can help in establishing the true date of backdated 

Deetz then elaborates the thesis of the book, "the relationship 
between material culture and cognition." His broad definition of 
material culture as "the vast universe of objects used by mankind 
to cope with the physical world," encourages the examiner of arti- 
facts, be they gravestones, ceramics, or houses, to look at each 
artifact not just in relationship to others of the same type, but to the 
whole material culture system of the time. The system as a whole 
can then be seen to reveal the ways in which people perceived and 
ordered their world. The strength of Deetz's approach lies in his 
elucidation of different cultural levels within a society, and of broad 
cultural changes over time. He offers sensible distinctions between 
folk and popular culture; he describes three periods of American 
colonial culture, an early time of recreating the home culture during 
the first generation of settlement, a period of indigenous develop- 
ment of cultures, and then, ca. 1760, a "re-anglicization" of 
American with Georgian style. Perhaps most compelling is his 
description of the deep psychological, social, and material changes 
from the "medieval" to the Georgian world view in America. 

Which brings us to the chapter entitled, "Remember Me as You 
Pass By," the reworking of Deetz's earlier articles on seriation 
which argued that the three basic designs of colonial gravestones, 
death's head, cherub, urn and willow, have successive peaks of 
popularity which reflect cultural changes. Deetz backs away from 
his earlier error of identifying the Great Awakening as a liberaliza- 
tion of Calvinism, but he still argues the Awakening bred more 
hopeful views on death: thus the change from death's head to 
cherub in the mid-eighteenth century. Deetz also attempts to cor- 
rect an earlier omission with an analysis of the effigy style carved 
by John Hartshorne which seems to violate the concept of seria- 
tion. James A. Slater, Ralph L. Tucker, and Daniel Farber's brilliant 
study of Hartshorne's work,^ establishing Hartshorne's practice of 
backdating stones, provides a comprehensive view of one carver's 
work. While death's heads were carved in Boston before Hart- 
shorne began cutting stones, his style certainly did not follow a 
death's head design in the Essex County region. While admitting 

176 David H. Waiters 

that Hartshorne's images do not follow the death's head and that 
they are "strikingly different" from the death's head, Deetz claims 
that "their symbolism was the same as that of the death's head."^ 

There remain, then, basic problems of identification in seria- 
tion study. Perhaps the simplistic classification of certain images 
as death's heads or cherubs, combined with assumptions of which 
images are more or less hopeful to our eyes for the sake of 
"proving" changes in religious and cultural attitudes, blurs the 
perceptions of the stones themselves. 

The problem for Deetz lies in the move from identification to in- 
terpretation. Though Henry Glassie's Pattern in the Material Folk 
Culture of the Eastern United States^ treats gravestones only 
peripherally, and his Folk Housing in Middle Virginia^ examines a 
small sample of houses, the methodology presented bears direct 
relevance to the problem of moving from analysis of form to inter- 
pretation of meaning of artifacts. Glassie shares Deetz's broad 
definition of material culture and agrees that definition must 
precede interpretation. Any artifact has form, construction, and 
use, but the most important is form, which reveals the underlying 
conceptual patterns in the maker's mind. 

Some contemporary folklorists, dissatisfied with 
traditional sallies at tradition, are shifting their studies so 
that they move inward from the item to inspect the indi- 
vidual and his culture, rather than outward, away from the 
item, in a quest for hypothetical origins and unusual con- 
nections. Historic-geographic worries — types and tax- 
onomy, systems of cultural relationship — must precede 
functional and psychological considerations.^ 

It is in Folk Housing that Glassie presents a full-blown theo- 
retical work on just how form can reveal cultural values which can 
then be the subject of functional, psychological, or religious inter- 
pretations. He describes two fundamental abilities of the crafts- 
person: the ability to compose, "competence," and the ability to 
relate the composition to things external to it in its "context." The 
result of this interrelation is a person's actual "performance" — the 
product that can be observed by the scholar. Borrowing from Noam 
Chomsky's concepts of generative syntax, Glassie demonstrates 
that competence in the creation of forms is based on the posses- 
sion of a "grammar." With certain fundamental spatial relation- 
ships, such as room size, and rules for combining them, a "syntax," 

A Review Essay 177 

the folk architect can create certain houses. And indeed, Glassie 
demonstrates that all houses in his sample area can be described 
as resulting from grammatical combinations. Given this system, 
Glassie can then move on to examine how it adapts to changing 
cultural values. While one may not agree with Glassie's emotional 
preference for one form of architecture over another, the conclu- 
sions about the psychological and social mind revealed by the 
forms seem sound. 

Thus the direction of historical archaeological study demands 
an identification of stonecutter competence and its relation to 
other arts as the basis of interpretation, and two books published in 
conjunction with recent exhibitions provide such an opportunity. 
Three Centuries of Connecticut Folk Art^° accompanied a major 
exhibition organized by Alexandra Grave, which toured through- 
out Connecticut in 1979-80. Illustrations of textiles, paintings, 
ceramics, decoys, school girl's art, and gravestones provide a 
glimpse of a variety of arts, but they also allow a comparative view 
of style through the centuries. One of the most interesting sections 
of the book is a selection of Susan H. Kelley's and Anne C. 
Williams' rubbings of seventeenth and eighteenth century Connec- 
ticut gravestones. Besides revealing the growing status of 
gravestone art in the museum world, the rubbings reveal the 
stylistic similarities between gravestone designs and furniture 
carving in the Connecticut River Valley. The startling originality of 
portraiture in folk carving leaps out from the Noah Andruss (Farm- 
ington,1780) and the Peter Miner (Woodbury, 1796) stones. Indeed, 
the gravestones are among the book's few examples of true folk art, 
as much of the furniture and painting was produced by 
sophisticated makers — an example of the necessity of Deetz's 
distinctions between folk and popular culture. 

Tlie Wrought Covenant,^^ by Robert Blair St. George, docu- 
ments a large group of furniture from the region studied by Peter 
Benes in The Mas/fs of Orthodoxy.^^ Indeed, St. George compares 
particular furniture carvings to designs on tombstones cut by 
Jacob Vinal, Jr. and Nathaniel Fuller, and goes on to establish what 
Glassie called the competence of craftspersons in the region. 
Without explanation, St. George dismisses as fruitless "recent 
studies, especially those of gravestone carving traditions [which] 
labor inconclusively on the basis of iconographic referents to 
define the 'puritan aesthetic' as religion-linked."^^ He looks to a 
close study of individual craftspersons as a means of 
"humanizing" history, to reveal the richness of everyday life in the 

178 David H. Waiters 

seventeenth century. Unfortunately, St. George does not deliver on 
his promise, leaving the reader to speculate on the significance of a 
craft competence in furniture and gravestone carving in the region. 

Nevertheless, the technique of identifying a competence 
should be applied to gravestone carving. Perhaps such a study 
would reveal just what the relationships between design areas on 
stones are — what can or cannot appear in the tympanum, on the 
pilasters, in the body of the stone, and what happens when certain 
elements appear in each area. Was there a "grammar" in the mind 
of the carver which told him that only certain combinations of 
designs were appropriate on given stones? Can we detect a design 
grammar which could be related to person's status, age or sex? 
Would it then be possible to consider changes in gravestone 
designs as the result of a changing "grammar" which could be 
related to cultural or religious principles? 

Glassie demonstrated that craftspersons take new design 
elements, whether from other carvers or from high style sources, 
and integrate them into the preexisting conceptual framework. It 
would seem that we could then look at the similar process of in- 
tegration of a new design element in a carver's work as a way of 
understanding the carver's own commentary on the design by his 
treatment of it. Moreover, it might be more appropriate to use a 
combination of Deetz's seriation study and Glassie's notion of com- 
petence to discover what cultural values do not change despite 
variations in gravestone imagery. Judging from printed sources, 
basic Protestant doctrine or eschatology remained remarkably con- 
sistent in England and America from the seventeenth to the nine- 
teenth centuries. Perhaps too much time has been spent trying to 
match particular designs to such popular events as the Great 
Awakening, at the expense of recognizing much more basic, un- 
changing beliefs which gravestones express. Finally, it is to be 
hoped that such methodology can provide a meeting ground for 
students of gravestones, so that iconographic studies and material 
culture studies can complement rather than compete with each 


1. Allan I. Ludwig, Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 
1650-1815 (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1966). 

2. James Deetz and Edwin S. Dethlefsen, "Death's Head, Cherub, Urn and Willow," 
Natural History Magazine (March 1967): 28-37. 

A Review Essay 179 

3. Stephen Foster, "From Significant Incompetence to Insignificant Competence," 
Puritan Gravestone Art: The Dublin Seminar for New England Folk Life, Annual Pro- 
ceedings 1976, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University Press, 1976), pp. 33-40 
and David D. Hall, "The Gravestone Image as Puritan Cultural Code," Puritan 
Gravestone Art, pp. 23-32. 

4. James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life 
(Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1977). 

5. Daniel Farber, James A. Slater, and Ralph L. Tucker, "The Colonial Gravestone 
Carvings of John Hartshorne," Puritan Gravestone Art II: The Dublin Seminar for 
New England Folklife, Annual Proceedings 1978, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston 
University Press, 1978), pp. 79-146. 

6. Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten, p. 82. 

7. Henry Glassie, Pattern in the f^aterial Folk Culture of the Eastern United States 
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1971). 

8. Henry Glassie, Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic 
Artifacts ( Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1975). 

9. Glassie, Pattern, pp. 15-16. 

10. Alexandra Grave, Three Centuries of Connecticut Folk Art {Ne\N Haven, Connec- 
ticut: Art Resources of Connecticut, Inc., 1979). 

11. Robert Blair St. George, The Wrought Covenant: Source Material for the Study of 
Craftsmen and Community in Southeastern New England, 1620-1700 (Brockton, 
Massachusetts: Brockton Art Center, 1976). 

12. Peter Benes, The Masks of Orthodoxy: Folk Gravestone Carving in Plymouth 
County, Massachusetts, 1689-1805 (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts 
Press, 1977). 

13. St. George, The Wrought Covenant, p. 18. 


F. Joanne Baker 

64 North Main Street, Concord, NH 03301 

Ms. Baker is an educational consultant for the State of New Hampshire 
and is the current President of the Association for Gravestone Studies. 

Esther Fisher Benson 

The John Steven's Shop, Thames Street, Newport, Rl 02480 

Mrs. John Howard Benson and her sons are continuing the tradition 
begun by John Stevens I in the early eighteenth century. 

Ronald G. Carlisle 

Department of Anthrolpology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 
Mr. Carlisle is the Editor, Cultural Resources Management Program, 
Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Francis Y. Duval 

405 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brool<lyn, NY 11238 

Mr. Duval is a New York based designer/photographer whose interest in 
gravestone art is long-standing. He is a frequent contributor to AGS 

Robert P. Emien 

11 Young Orchard Avenue, Providence, Rl 02906 

Mr. EmIen is Curator of the Rhode Island Historical Society. 

Daniel Farber 

11 l\Aoreland Street, Worcester, l\/IA 01609 

By profession Mr. Farber is a businessman, by avocation he is a museum 
photographer. He was the first recipient of the AGS Award, later named 
the Harriette M. Forbes Award. 

Jessie Lie Farber 

11 Moreland Street, Worcester, MA 01609 

Ms. Farber is the Editor of the AGS Newsletter and Professor Emeritus, 

Mount Holyoke College. 

Anne G. Giesecke 

9224 OI<la Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031 

Ms. Giesecke is an archaeologist with the Iroquois institute and the Vice- 
president/Research for AGS. 

Dianna Hume George 

720 West Main Street, Brocton, NY 14716 

Ms. George teaches at the State University at Fredonia, New York. 

C. R. Jones 

New Yorl< Historical Association, Cooperstown, NY 13326 

Mr. Jones Is a Conservator with the New York Historical Association. 

Blanche M. G. Linden 

11 Peabody Terrace, Apt. 802, Cambridge, MA 02138 

Ms. Linden is an Instructor of American Studies at Brandeis University 
and a doctoral candidate in the Program of History of American Civili- 
zation at Harvard. 


Juliane Maynard 

67 7 demons Avenue, Madison, Wl 53704 

Ms. Maynard is the Capitol Region Director and State Treasurer of the 
Wisconsin State Old Cemetery Society. She works as a Library Assistant 
at the Legislative Reference Bureau of the State of Wisconsin. 

Lance R. Mayer 

Cincinnati Art Museum, Eden Park, Cincinnati, OH 45202 

Mr. Mayer is a Conservator with the Cincinnati Art Museum and Vice- 
President/Conservation for AGS. 

James Milmoe 

14900 Cactus Circle, Golden, CO 80401 

Mr. Milmoe is a professional photographer and photographic consultant 
who teaches photography and photographic history at the University of 
Colorado at Denver. 

Mary Anne Mrozinski 

47 Hammond Road, Glen Cove, NY 11542 

Ms. Mrozinski is a teacher of art at the junior high school level and Vice- 
President/Education for AGS. 

Malcolm H. Nelson 

720 West Street, Brocton, NY 14716 

Mr. Nelson teaches at Behrend College, Pennsylvania State University. 

James B. Richardson III 

Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 
Mr. Richardson is Chairman of the Department of Anthropology, Univer- 
sity of Pittsburgh, and Chief Curator, Section of Man, Carnegie Museum 
of Natural History, Pittsburgh. 

Ivan B. Rigby 

405 Vanderbllt Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11238 

Mr. Rigby is a sculptor, designer, and educator. He is an Art Professor in 
the Industrial Design Department of the School of Art and Design, Pratt 
Institute, Brooklyn, New York. He has frequently contributed to AGS ac- 

James A. Slater 

373 Bassettes Bridge Road, Mansfield, CT 06250 

Mr. Slater is a Professor of Entomology at the University of Connecticut. 

He is actively engaged in identifying colonial stonecarvers. 

David H. Watters 

Hamilton Smith Hall, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824 

Mr. Watters is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of New 


Melvin Williams 

American International College, Springfield, MA 01109 

Mr. Williams is an Associate Professor of English. He has taught eighth 
grade reading and social studies and eleventh grade English and history. 


MARKERS is an annual publication which seeks to 
make available the best thinking in the field of grave- 
stone studies. Articles submitted for publication are 
welcome at any time. They should be the result of ori- 
ginal research and deal with some aspect of gravestone 
study. Prospective articles should be sent to Editor, 
AGS Publications, c/o American Antiquarian Society, 
Worcester, MA 01609. 

Membership in the Association for Gravestone Studies 
is open to all interested individuals. Membership ex- 
tends from one annual summer conference to the next. 
Tax-deductible rates for 1979-80 are: Individual $10; 
Institutional $10; Student $5; Sustaining (includes 
MARKERS) $25.* All members receive a subscription to 
the NEWSLETTER, waiver of the $2 fee for admission to 
the library of the New England Historic and Geneal- 
ogical Society, and a reduced advanced-order price for 
the Association journal, MARKERS. Membership fees 
may be sent to Mrs. Philip D. Thomas, AGS Treasurer, 
82 Hilltop Place, New London, NH 03257. 

'Membership fees are subject to change from the time 
of this publication. 





Introduction 7 

Wanted: The Hook-And-Eye Man 
Ernest Caul field 


Ithamar Spauldin, Stonecarver of Concord, Mass. 
C. R. Jones 


Colorado Wooden Markers 
James Milmoe 


Openwork Memorials of North Carolina 

hrancis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Ribgy 63 

Wisconsir.'c Wrought Iron Markers 

Julaine Maynard 77 

The John Stevens Shop 

Esther Fisher Benson 81 

Resurrecting the Epitaph 

Diana Hume George and Malcolm A. Nelson 85 

Recording Cemetery Bala 

F. Joanne Baker, Daniel Farber, Anr.e Q. Giesecke 99 

The Care of Old Cemeteries and Gravestones 

Lance P.. Mayer 119 

Protective Custody: The Museum's Responsibility for Gravestones 

Robert P. Emien 143 

The Willow Tree and Urn Motif 

Blanche M. G. Linden 1 49 

The Archaeological Significance of Mausoleums 

James B. Richardson III and Ronald C. Carlisle 157 

Mystery, History and an Ancient Graveyard 

Melvin Williams 167 

Resources for the Classroom Teacher: An Annotated Bibliography 

Mary Anne Mrozinski 172 

Gravestones and Historical Archaeology: A Review Essay 

David H. Waiters 174 

Contributors 180