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The Journal of the 
Association for 
Gravestone Studies 

David Watters, Editor 



r he Journal of the 
Association for 
Gravestone Studies 

David Watters, Editor 



Copyright © 1985 by 

University Press of America,™ Inc. 

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Lanham, MD 20706 

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All rights reserved 
Printed in the United States of America 

ISBN (Perfect): 0-8191-4538-6 
ISBN (Cloth): 0-8191-4537-8 
LCN: 81-642903 

Co-published by arrangement with 
The Association for Gravestone Studies 

All University Press of America books are produced on acid-free 

paper which exceeds the minimum standards set by the National 

Historical Publications and Records Commission. 

Dedicated to 

Avon Neal 
Ann Parker 




David Watters, Editor 

Peter Benes Jessie Lie Farber 

John L. Brooke James A. Slater 

Manuscripts may be submitted for review for future 
volumes to the editor, Department of English, University 
of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824. Manuscripts should 
conform to TJie. Chicago M anual of Style and be accom- 
panied by glossy black and white prints or black ink 
drawings. For information about other Association for 
Gravestone Studies publications, membership and activi- 
ties, write AGS, c/o American Antiquarian Society, 
Worcester, MA 01609 

The editor wishes to thank the University of New 
Hampshire for support for this volume. All photographs 
are by the authors except: Figure 16, p. 19, courtesy 
of Daniel and Jessie Lie Farber; Figure 2, p. 51, 
courtesy of David Watters; Figure 5, p. 55, courtesy of 
Daniel and Jessie Lie Farber; Figure 6, p. 57, by 
Harriette Merrifield Forbes, courtesy of the American 
Antiquarian Society. Articles appearing in this journal 
are annotated and indexed in Historical Abstracts and 
America ; History and L ife . 




Acknowledgments v 

Where the Bay Meets the River: 

Gravestones and Stonecutters in the River Towns 

of Western Massachusetts, 1690-1810 

Kevin M. Sweeney 1 

Speaking Stones: New England 

Grave Carving and the Emblematic Tradition 

Lucien L. Agosta 47 

A Particular Sense of Doom: 

Skeletal "Revivals" in Northern Essex County, 

Massachusetts, 1737-1784 

Peter Benes 71 

The Colburn Connections: 

Hollis, New Hampshire Stonecarvers, 1780-1820 

Theodore Chase and Laurel Gabel 93 

"And the Men Who Made Them": 

The Signed Gravestones of New England 

1984 Additions 

Sue Kelly and Anne Williams 147 

Index 151 

Notes on Contributors 154 



Where the Bay Meets the River: 
Gravestones and Stonecutters in the River Towns 
of Western Massachusetts, 1690-1810 

Kevin M. Sweeney 

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 
the towns lying along the Connecticut River in western 
Massachusetts constituted a distinct region within the 
Bay Colony. Though politically a part of Massachusetts, 
the river towns were separated from Boston by over 
eighty miles of sparsely settled hill country (Fig. 1). 
Because of the distance to the Bay and the rugged 
nature of the intervening terrain, the Massachusetts 
river towns found themselves more closely tied to the 
colony of Connecticut, and from the time of the first 
settlements, ties of family, trade and communication 
bound the settlers of western Massachusetts to the 
residents of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersf ield, Con- 
necticut. At the same time, however, kinship, politics 
and commerce helped preserve ties with Boston, and in 
the course of the eighteenth century, such links with 
the Bay grew in importance. The happenstance of poli- 
tical development and the influence of geography, there- 
fore, combined to produce in the river towns of western 
Massachusetts a cultural region which was, despite its 
comparative isolation, open to influences from the Bay 
area and from Connecticut and which could occasionally 
produce its own distinctive artistic expressions. 

The region's surviving gravestones, when studied 
in combination with relevant documentary evidence, 
offer a coherent picture of changing cultural orienta- 
tion in western Massachusetts and provide insight into 
the relative influence that craft practices, family 
ties, patronage preferences and religious sentiment had 
on changing styles in funerary art. What emerges is a 
portrait of a craft tradition strongly influenced by 
trained, full-time stonecutters and their networks of 
apprentices and journeymen, and by consumer preferences 
for particular materials as opposed to particular mo- 
tifs. The progression in gravestone styles in this 
region can be traced through five distinct stages. 
These stages differ significantly from the tripartite 
scheme of death's head, cherub and urn popularized by 
some studies of New England gravestones, and in partic- 
ular the evidence provides little support for the asser- 
tion that "the stylistic sequence there [the Connecticut 
River valley] seems to follow the urban Boston-Cambridge 
pattern . . . . Each of the five stages in western 



Long Island Sound 

Figure 1. Map of Connecticut River valley region. 

Drawing by author after J. Ritchie Garrison, 

Massachusetts is marked by the ascendancy of a partic- 
ular shop tradition and by a particular cultural orien- 
tation. Though exceptions to this rather schematic 
approach exist and will be noted, the overall pattern 
that is revealed parallels other cultural changes in 
the river towns of western Massachusetts. 

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the settlements 
along Massachusetts's Connecticut River frontier formed 
a relatively isolated cultural pocket whose residents 
had limited resources and relatively restricted cultural 
horizons. Very few surviving gravestones date before 
1720, and a number of these are clearly backdated 
examples of later work. The majority of the residents 
of the river towns of Old Hampshire County, Massachu- 
setts lay in unmarked graves or possibly in graves 
marked only by woo den markers . The earliest stone 
markers were probably cut bv George Griswold (1633- 
1704) of Windsor, Connecticut, "and~~cTran sported up the 
river valley. Griswold's carefully lettered stones in 
the distinctive reddish brown Windsor sandstone mark 
three graves in Enfield, six graves in Northampton, and 
five in Westfield, including that of his son Edward, 
who died in 1688 (Fig. 2). The stones with right-angle 
shoulders, rounded tops and simple, incised borders set 
the pattern for utilitarian sandstone grave markers 
that were in Old Hampshire County from the early 1700s 
to the late 1730s. 

Figure 2. Edward Griswold, 1688, Westfield, Mass, 
Attributed to George Griswold. 

Most of the lettered but undecorated gravestones 
set up in the early 1720s and 1730s were the work of 
-\ t Joseph Nash (1664-1740) of Hadley. It is unlikely that 
va there was any direct connection between Nash and Gris- 
wold who died in 1704. An unidentified Northampton 
stonecutter working in the 1710s and 1720s produced 
stones similar to Griswold's gravestones and may have 
provided a stylistic link between Griswold and Nash. 
Nash's own work ranges in date from the early 1720s to 
the mid-1730s, and references to Joseph Nash in probate 
records begin in the 1720s (Fig. 3). The earliest 
stone in his style, for Dr. John Westcarr, 1675, Hadley, 
was actually cut in 1737 (Fig. 4). This stone for 
which Nash was specifically paid provides the key to 
documenting his work. 4 It is possible that Nash, the 
son of Timothy Nash, a Hadley blacksmith and joiner, 
may have been making wooden grave markers before taking 
up stonecutting. The granite coffin post Nash made for 
Jacob Warner, 1711, Hadley, which, as Peter Benes ob- 
served, "was probably in imitation of comparable wooden 
posts . . . , n provides a piece of circumstantial phys- 
ical evidence suggesting an earlier career as a maker 
of wooden grave markers. 

During his working career as a stonecutter, Nash 
placed his stones in just about every Massachusetts 
town then existing along the Connecticut River, and cut 
stones for the families of yeomen farmers and leading 
magistrates such as Col. Samuel Partridge of Hatfield 
and Lt. Col. Eleazer Porter of Hadley. ° Nash's crudely 
lettered stones show little awareness of contemporary 
stone carving in eastern Massachusetts and only hint at 
their indebtedness to Griswold's style of cleanly cut 
stones. Six of his stones that have some crude attempts 
at skulls, picks and shovels are notable only for their 
scarcity. 7 Variations in style alone relieved the 

.sameness of Nash's markers. The religious enthusiasm 
^ of the valley revival of 1735, a precursor of the Great 

lAwakening, left not a mark on his work. The same 
conservatism and entrenched craft practices that sup- 
ported the continued production of carved, joined Hadley 
chests and of houses with hewn overhangs during the 
early 1700s also supported Nash's conservative, plain 
gravestones. After Nash's death in 1740, another stone- 
cutter—possibly John Clark (1704-£. 1750) of Hadley^— 
made a half dozen stones in his style that are in South 
Hadley's cemetery. 

Alternatives to Nash's simple markers became avail- 
able in Old Hampshire County during the 1720s and 

. Nash 

x Nash imitator 

Before 1710 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 

Figure 3. Distribution by Date of Surviving, Legible 

Gravestones Attributed to Joseph Nash (Mass- 
achusetts river towns only) . The stones with 
dates before 1710 and those with dates in the 
mid-1710s were probably backdated. 

Figure 4. Dr. John Westcarr, 1675, Hadley, Mass. 
Documented to Joseph Nash. See note 4 

1730s, but their limited distribution underscores the 
extent to which Nash's local patronage rested on more 
than just isolation and a lack of alternatives. In 
Deerfield several interrelated families began importing 
slate gravestones from the Boston area. In 1715, Eben- 
ezer Barnard of Deerfield moved to Roxbury and married 
Elizabeth Foster, sister of the Dorchester, Massachu- 
setts carver James Foster (1698-1763), and, probably as 
a direct result of this marriage, winged death's heads 
cut by members of the Foster family began appearing in 
Deerfield's burying ground during the later 1710s or 
early 1720s. Almost two dozen greenish gray slate 
stones cut by the Foster shop, a single stone made in 
the Lamson shop in Charlestown and two red slate stones 
which can be attributed on the basis of style to Nathan- 
iel Emmes (1690-1750) of Boston were transported to 
Deerfield at various times between 1715 and 1756. Two- 
thirds of these stones were erected by members of the 
Barnard, Hinsdale, Wells and Williams families. Though 
the total number of such g raves tohesHpurclrased by the 
town's leading families was comparatively small and had 
no impact on the surrounding towns, the patronage of 
Boston area carvers did create in Deerfield a taste for 
slate stones that lingered and that distinguished Deer- 
field's burying ground. 

The second challenge to Nash and established grave- 
stone cutting in the mid-Connecticut River valley came 
from the quarries around Middleto_wn, Connecticut. Early 
in the 1700s a few members of the county's elite bought 
stones from the Stancliffs — James Stancliff (1634-1712) 
and his son William Stancliff (1687-1761) — of Chatham 
and had them shipped up the Connecticut River. In 
Hadley the tablestones of Rev. John Russell, 1692, and 
of his wife Rebeckah Russell, 1688, and the Nathaniel 
Dwit [sic Dwight] stone, 1711, West Springfield, docu- 
ment the importation of Middletown, Connecticut grave- 
stones in the 1700s and 1710s. In the late 1720s, some 
of the county's leading families turned to Thomas John- 
son I (1690-1761) of Middletown for gravestones. In 
1729, the heirs of Rev. John Williams of Deerfield 
purchased two pair of gravestones to mark his grave and 
that of his first wife Eunice. ° The winged death's 
heads on the stones were typical examples of Johnson's 
work, 11 and resembled the effigies on contemporary 
stones from eastern Massachusetts (Fig. 5). Early in 
the 1730s, other families ordered similar stones from 
Johnson, or other Middletown carvers. 12 

Around the same time, residents of Westfield and 


5. John Gunn, 1726, Longmeadow, Mass. Attri- 
buted to Thomas Johnson I. 

Figure 6. Mary King, 1737, Suf field, Ct. Attrributed 
to "The Bat Carver." 

b, ^m^m^<su 

Figure 7. Henry Dwight, Esq., 1732, Hatfield, Mass, 
Attributed to Gideon Hale. 

Suffield (then a part of Old Hampshire County, Massachu- 
setts, but now a part of Connecticut) started obtaining 
gravestones with death's heads from a carver working in 
the Simsbury, Connecticut area. This still unknown 
carver has been dubbed "The Bat Carver" because his 
death's heads usually have blank wings with scalloped 
borders that resemble the wings of a bat. 3 The hollow 
eyes, triangular nose, long chin and prominent teeth of 
the death's heads and the borders found on the earliest 
stones by "The Bat Carver" clearly show the influence 
of Thomas Johnson's death's heads (Fig. 6). At present 
it is not possible to determine if "The Bat Carver" was 
apprenticed at the Middletown quarries or merely imi- 
tated Thomas Johnson's work. Ten examples of his work 
are in Westfield and about twenty are located in Suf- 
field. His influence remained circumsribed geographi- 
cally and chronologically. 

The efforts of Gideon Hale (1712-1776) to establish 
a market for his work in western Massachusetts proved 
to be no more successful. Sometime around 1734, Hale 
moved to Northampton from Middletown, married a woman 
twenty years his senior, and set himself up as a grave- 
stone cutter. 4 During the next six years he cut a 
few — approximately a dozen — stones with winged death's 
heads that are easily distinguished from Thomas John- 
son's own work by Hale's use of local sandstone which 
is not always of the best quality (Fig. 7). Again, as 
in the case of Nash's work, the enthusiasm of the 
revivalism in Northampton and the surrounding towns was 
not expressed in Hale's gravestones, though Hale himself 
was moved and joined the church in 1735. Unfortunately 
for Hale, he failed to make much of an impression on 
individuals who bought gravestones locally. About 
1740, he abandoned his wife and returned to Connecticut 
where he worked briefly for Joseph Johnson in East 
Windsor before going into partnership with the Johnsons 
in Middletown, where he subsequently died in relative 
poverty. 5 

Despite Hale's failure to sell many of his Middle- 
town style gravestones, Connecticut shop traditions 
centered in Windsor and Middletown eventually won accep- 
tance in western Massachusetts during the 1740s, and 
this development marked the beginning of a second stage 
in the evolution of gravestone carving in the mid- 
Connecticut River valley. From the mid-1740s to the 
early 1770s, stonecutters from down the Connecticut 
River or those trained by them grew to dominate grave- 
stone making in Old Hampshire County. Patronage net- 

works among the region's leading families also played a 
role in diffusing new fashions throughout the entire 
valley, and differences in patronage came to be more 
closely related to differences in status than to differ- 
ences in residency. Certain purchasers" of gravestones 
in Old Hampshire County appear to have had more in 
common with some consumers in Middletown and Wethers- 
field than with their immediate neighbors and fellow 
townsmen. 6 

The new stones from Windsor and Middletown which 
began appearing in Old Hampshire County graveyards 
during the 1740s bore w_iaged cherubs that marked a 
break from the earlier Johnson stones with winged 
death's heads (Fig. 8). While it is tempting to attri- 
bute or to relate the shift in effigies from winged 
death's heads to cherubs to the religious revivalism of 
the mid-1730s and the early 1740s f the character of 
some of the earliest Hampshire County patrons of the 
new style of stones belies this theory. Johnson cherubs 
found favor with Col. Israel Williams, who publicly 
opposed the visit of itinerant revivalist George Whit- 
field to the county in 1745; with Rev. Jonathan Ashley, 
one of the region's first clerical "cTi^ETcs~ of^th e ur"ea t 
Awakening; and with Lt. Col. Oliver Partidge, Colonel 

**^¥ TFW^f^lW 


Men TenYty;:**:;! t^$% 



Figure 8. Israel Williams, Jr., 1741, Hatfield, Mass, 
Attributed to Thomas Johnson II. 


Williams's ally, who sat on the council that voted to 
dismiss Rev. Jonathan Edwards in 1750. These indivi- 
duals were very self-conscious consumers, and it is 
hard to believe that they would have knowingly purchased 
recognizable emblems suggesting religious enthusiasm or 
association with the Awakening. The purchase of such 
stones probably indicated nothing more nor less than a 
desire to k_aep up with funerary art down river and to 
affirm their kinship with leading gentry families in 
the lower valley who also patronized the Johnsons. 

The majority of the strikingly similar cherub 
stones with elaborate foliate borders that appeared in 
Old Hampshire County during the 1740s were carved by 
Thomas Johnson II (1718-74), Joseph Johnson (1698-e.. 
1770), William Holland (working 1748-67) and Nathaniel 
Phelps (1721-89). 8 The similarity of the stones re- 
sulted from the master-apprentice relationships which 
bound together these cutters (Fig. 9). Thomas Johnson 
II, his uncle Joseph Johnson and Gideon Hale all un- 
doubtedly trained with Thomas Johnson I in Middletown, 
and even though Joseph worked in East Windsor during 
much of the 1740s, the Middletown quarries remained the 
focal point for the family. William Holland is known 
to have worked for Joseph Johnson in East Windsor in 


Thomas Johnson I 
Middletown, Ct.) 

Gideon Hale 
E. Windsor) 

I . j 

| Gideon Hale, Jr 

I (Middletown) 

Nathaniel Phelps 


Joseph Johnson- 
E. Windsor) 

-Thomas Johnson II 

Elijah Phelps Ruf 
(Northampton, (No 

Thomas Johnson III 

William Holland 

(E. Windsor, Longmeadow, 

Middletown) ^^ 


Joseph Williston 

v. (Springfield) 

us Phelps j 


Aaron Bliss Ezra Stebb'ins II (?) 
(Wilbraham) (Longmeadow) 

Ezra Stebbins 


Figure 9. Middletown-Windsor-Hampshire Network. Solid 
lines: documented; dashed lines: probable. 


1748, and very well may have been trained by him, for 
he returned with Joseph to Middletown around 1750. 
Nathaniel Phelps, the son of a prosperous Northampton 
brick mason, probably received his training from Hale 
or possibly a Johnson. The connection has not been 
documented, but the echoes of their work in Phelps's 
early stones are so striking that his work could be 
mistaken for that of a Johnson. 19 Once established, 
this Connecticut-based network of stonecutters working 
in sandstone put down deep roots as Thomas Johnson II, 
Gideon Hale and Nathaniel Phelps all trained sons to be 

Phelps, the Northampton native, initially captured 
the largest share of the growing gravestone market in 
Old Hampshire County. For four decades, from the late 
1740s__to _the_-mid-1780s, his shop was the most prolific 
in Old Hampshire County as he became the prime source 
of gravestones for those of moderate means. He supple- 
mented his income by farming, and he followed his 
father's trade as a brick mason, building and repairing 
chimneys. He usually obtained sandstone for grave 
markers from a quarry he owned on Mount Tom, but occa- 
sionally he carved markers of shale, of schist, and of 
sandstone obtained from outside of the Northampton 
area. His earliest work, which probably does not 
date before the late 1740s, included a few death's 
heads (Fig. 10). In the early 1750s he carved winged 
cherubs which were clearly indebted to the Johnsons' 
work, although Phelps's use of local stone, usually 
flatter relief and hollow eyes without pupils distin- 
guished his cherubs from those of his probable master 
(Fig. 11). Phelps's later work was marked by stylistic 
diversity. Circumstantial evidence suggests strongly 
that the increased diversity resulted from constant 
efforts to keep up with competition from other stonecut- 
ters. For a time in the mid-1760s, the competition 
from stonecutters down river and the apparent loss of 
his usual source of sandstone seem to have put him out 
of business, plunged him deeply into debt and forced 
him to mortgage his lands (Fig. 12). 2l He resumed 
cutting and selling stones in the late 1760s and recov- 
ered some of his lands, though he still faced stiff 
competition and remained in precarious financial circum- 
stances for the last twenty years of his life. 22 

The competition that threatened Phelps's livelihood 
came initially from the Johnsons and William Holland. 
The ties that linked stonecutters in v TKe-tTonne"cticut 
River valley during the third quarter of the eighteenth 


a. 1742-53 

b. 1745-85 

c. 1745-70 

d. 1767-72 

e. 1767-74 

f. mid-1770s 

Figure 10. Major examples and date ranges of effigies 
by Nathaniel Phelps. 

{«£ - 

^ S ; 

J • _ Av .. 

V - 

Figure 11. John Arms, 1753, Deerfield, Mass. 
Attributed to Nathaniel Phelps. 


Before 1740 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 

Figure 12. Distribution by date of surviving, legible 
gravestones attributed to Nathaniel Phelps 
(Massachusetts river towns only) . In the 
late 1770s the Phelps shop is producing 
other stones which clearly are the work of 
another hand. Even the stones in the 1780s 
with motifs similar to those cut earlier by 
Nathaniel are lettered by another hand. 
The chart includes only those in which 
Nathaniel had a hand. 

century did not blunt competition among individual 
shops. Despite the advantages provided by Northampton's 
central location in Old Hampshire County and by his 
access to locally quarried stone, Phelps failed to win 
the patronage of certain groups of consumers. Some of 
the county's leading gentry families continued to prefer 
gravestones and large imposing tablestones produced at 
the Johnson quarry in Middletown. They bought stones 
with cherubs from Joseph Johnson and Thomas Johnson 
II's "curiously wrought" (i. e. heavily ornamented) 
stories with shaped profiles and baroque scrolls (Fig. 
13). Phelps did not have a counterpart for these 
latter stones during the 1750s and 1760s, nor did he 
produce the tablestones that found favor with the lead- 
ing gentry families. His failure to win the patronage 


m f err ft; f ne * rtetnsms ot 

•r -r- •*■ 

\ » V 

*TTN V HESTER LV. c.ccl 



Figure 13. Sarah Williams, 1770, Hatfield, Mass. Doc- 
umented to Thomas Johnson II. See note 24. 


of the region's wealthiest residents limited his oppor- 
tunities to produce the elaborate and ambitious works 
of which he was capable. 

Competition also cut into the market provided by 
middle class consumers in the county's southern towns. 
Residents in the towns of the Connecticut River's east 
bank from South Hadley to Longmeadow continued to buy 
from the Johnsons, who supplied most of the gravestones 
placed in these towns during the late 1740s and early 
1750s. Around 1756, William Holland moved from Middle- 
town to Longmeadow to take advantage of this ready 
market for~The "work of Middletown stonecutters. He 
bought land and began producing grave markers in locally 
quarried stone. An extremely skillful carver, Holland 
spent most of his career as a journeyman working for 
others and working in their styles. Several distinctive 
gravestones in Connecticut which can be documented to 
be his work clearly reveal that his status as a journey- 
man had nothing to do with his talent asj stonecutter 
or "stonecarver" as he called himself. During his 
three to four year stay in Longmeadow, he was his own 
master and produced stones with his own distinctive 
touches (Fig. 14). The low hairy foreheads, the precise 
lettering and the hooked numeral '1' recall his earlier 
work and that of his probable master, Joseph Johnson, 
but the languid, open foliate borders and the crown 
surmounted by a glpfc>e and the Maltese cross are innova- 
tions of Holland. 26 The use of the cross may explain 
why Holland placed only a few stones outside of Long- 
meadow in neighboring Springfield; the mid-Connecticut 
River valley probably was not really ready for such a 
papist symbol. Holland left Longmeadow at some time in 
1760 and returned to the Middletown area where he cut 
stones with his distinctive pointed crowns that can be 
seen in Durham, Middletown, North Guilford and North 
Haven, Connecticut graveyards. He stopped working in 
the late 1760s and vanished without a trace. 

Holland's influence in southern Hampshire County 
lingered long after his departure, for he appears to 
have trained two or three Springfield area stonecutters. 
Between 1759 and 1767, Joseph Williston (1732-68) of 
Springfield produced approximately 100 gravestones in a 
red sandstone. Williston copied Holland's lettering, 
borders and effigies, but dispensed with the hair on 
the forehead and only cut three stones with crosses. 2 ' 
A certain stiffness, a reduction in scale and a tendency 
to simplify distinguished his work from that of Holland 
(Fig. 15). He embellished at least four of his stones 



Figure 14. Thomas Hale, 1750, Longmeadow, Mass. Doc- 
umented to William Holland. See note 26. 

Figure 15. Mrs. Christian Williams, 1766, Hatfield, 

Mass. Documented to Joseph Williston. See 
note 27. 


by carving a brick wall under the effigy. He placed 
most of his stones in South Hadley, Springfield, West 
Springfield and Westfield, and examples are found in 
Chicopee, Deerfield, Hadley, Hatfield and Northampton. 
The four latter towns had been prime markets for Nathan' 
iel Phelps who, as noted above, produced few stones 
during the mid-1760s. Williston's untimely death cut 
short what appears to have been a promising career. 

After Williston's death, Aaron Bliss (1739-76) of 
Wilbraham attempted unsuccessfully to supply WillistonV 
market. 28 Ever since the publication of Harriette 
Merrifield Forbes's work in the 1920s, Aaron Bliss has 
been confused with a contemporary Longmeadow stonecutte 
who may or may not have beenan Aaron Bliss living in 
Longmeadow from 1730 to 1810. It was, however, Aaron 
Bliss of Wilbraham who called himself a stonecutter, 
and it was his probate inventory that contained "four 
stone axes 6/, four hewing Chisels 3/, nine writing 
Chisels 4/, two Iron Claws 1/6, l£Qn Mallet 1/ , Iron 
Sledge 8/ and Pair of Compass 2/6. " 30 A man of modest 
circumstances, Bliss supplemented his income from stone- 
cutting by blacksmithing. He appears to have begun 
cutting gravestones in the later 1760s in a dark brown 
sandstone easily distinguished from the red sandstone 
used by Williston and the paler, closer grained brown 
sandstone used by the Longmeadow stonecutter. His 
stones usually had winged cherubs and foliate borders 
which recall the work of Holland and Joseph Johnson 
(Figs. 16-17). Most of Bliss's stones, including those 
which mark his children's graves, are in Wilbraham; 
several are in Westfield, and examples can be found in 
South Hadley, Springfield and West Springfield. His 
death brought a temporary halt to stonecuting in Wil- 
braham, and when activity resumed in the 1780s, under 
the direction of John Buckland (1748-93) of East Hart- 
ford, it marked a bjreak with the traditions derived 
from Holland's work. ^ 

The legacy of William Holland persisted much longer 
in Longmeadow. After Holland's departure, a stonecutter 
obviously trained by him continued to produce crowned 
cherubs that closely followed his work, even though the 
Longmeadow stonecutter's cherubs are more broadly pro- 
portioned and less deeply cut than Holland's own work 
(Fig. 18). Traditionally, Aaron Bliss (1730-1810) of 
Longmeadow has been identified as the Longmeadow stone- 
cutter who began working in the 1760s. This Aaron 
Bliss appears to have been a mason and may have been a 
stonecutter, but this latter assumption cannot be docu- 


Arifcre vr? v < mv X.t\z 

v. O \ -v. i Li I \\U. 4 A - 
\ ' r% tic ax r >~f-\ - *~! * **» *~! « 

s ,->r«^ 

VL\L\ ^,C- . K * i Ail 

>*'-■ MM ■ 

-k. L'l! t 






Figure 16. Nathaniel Bliss, 1772, Wilbraham, Mass. 
Documented to Aaron Bliss. See note 28 


H v 

fpx\ V; vppir. f\A \<tx "Ave 
i-i J V a ^ A^U, ^nC!- r?ll,-:: A\j3 


-■^* — i 

SSBtS***** ~~- ~"' f ^r. 

'4*"S , »*»».' ,, w ! '• , ' 

Figure 17. Abel Bliss, 1762, Wilbraham, Mass. 
Attributed to Aaron Bliss. 


■■■Br ■ 



3 Ti •Memory,. 

Pa .His;.8^^ r e^i 
| Ton ai^ XWCoiitji 

Died of itfie" ^all-Pox 

HoT.y lOrdeTv^ 
to P^a:cli tKe Crcxfpel 
tn a ParisK of tfi' 
.Kpisc opal CH^rt-fr" 

» In Pt ^ v bVbq\) - 

■W . ' 

a a 

Figure 18. George Colton, 1760, and Jonathan Colton, 
1752, Longmeadow, Mass. Attributed to 
Ezra Stebbins I. 


merited for he never called himself a stonecutter, and 
the record for payment cited by Harriette Merrifield 
Forbes clearly refers to a stone cut by Aaron Bliss of 
Wilbraham. 2 A more likely candidate for the Longmeadow 
stonecutter is Ezra Stebbins (1731-96) of Longmeadow 
who was paid for gravestones in 1773 and 1784 and is 
identified as a gravestone maker in the Stebbins family 
genealogy. The 1773 payment to Ezra Stebbins could 
have been for the Mary Bliss stone, 17,57, Longmeadow 
(Fig. 19). Whoever he may have been, 35 the Longmeadow 
stonecutter soon dispensed with Holland's crosses and 
eventually did away with the hairy foreheads. In the 
late 1760s and 1770s, the Longmeadow shop began to 
develop motifs that were richly symbolic: hour glasses, 
cocks crowing, and flowers cut by scythes (Fig. 20). 
During the 1780s and 1790s, the shop produced portrait 
stones and crowned cherubs reminiscent of, though dis- 
tinguishable from, the cherubs of the 1760s. These 
stones with profiles and crowned cherubs, which contin- 
ued to be produced after the death of Ezra Stebbins I 
in 1796 may have been the work of Ezra Stebbins II 
(1760-1819) of Longmeadow. 36 Under the leadership of 
Herman Newell (1774-1833), the Longmeadow shop continued 
to produce gravestones until the 1820s. 37 

The developments in the southern towns of Old 
Hampshire County, Massachusetts, during the 1760s and 
1770s did not have much of an impact on the more nor- 
therly river towns. Williston did place gravestones in 
Deerfield, Hadley, Hatfield and Northampton during the 
mid-1760s, but Phelps resumed his business and recovered 
his customers by the late 1760s. Most people around 
Northampton bought from Phelps during the late 1760s or 
did not buy. _ln_ Northf ield and Sunderland, the vast 
majority of those who died before 1770 lay-in graves 
unmarked by stones. West of the river in the recently 
settled and rapidly growing hill towns, unmarked graves 
were the rule. 

The situation in the northern part of the county 
changed dramatically during the 1770s. Once again 
Nathaniel Phelps saw his livelihood threatened by out- 
siders. The challenge to Phelps and to the popularity 
in western Massachusetts of the Connecticut shop tradi- 
tions of sandstone carving came from the Soule_^f_a mily 
of southeastern Massachusetts stonecutters who had 
already established themselves in neighboring Worcester 
County. Around 1760, Ebenezer Soule, Sr. (1711-92), 
the patriarch of this family of gravestone cutters, 
moved from Plympton in Plymouth County to Rutland Dis- 


Figure 19. Mary Bliss, 1757, Longmeadow, Mass. Docu- 
mented to Ezra Stebbins I. See notes 33-34 


a. 1760s 

b. 1760-70S 

c. 1780s 

d. 1780-90s e. 1780-90s 

Figure 20. Longmeadow shop motifs, 


f. 1790-1810S 

trict, now called Barre, in Worcester County. 38 Later 
his sons Beza (1750-1835) and Coomer (1747-77) joined 
him. Visits by members of this family to the mid- 
Connecticut River valley marked the beginning of a 
third stage in the progression of gravestone carving in 
western Massachusetts. During the late 1770s and 
1780s, the successors of these southeastern Massachu- 
setts stonecutters, who preferred to work in slate, 
dominated stone carving in the northernmost towns of 
Old Hampshire County and even challenged the popularity 
of sandstone gravestones as far south as Hadley and 

The Soules were the first true itinerants to cut 
gravestones in the river towns of Old Hampshire County. 
From their base in Barre, they traveled to Deerfield, 
Sunderland, Stockbridge, Lanesborough and other towns 
in western Massachusetts to cut grave markers in locallj 
available slate, sandstone, limestone and marble. Un- 
like Gideon Hale and William Holland, they did not own 
land in Old Hampshire County nor give any other indica- 
tion of an intention to settle in the communities they 
visited; occasional account book references, payment of 
a poll tax, and scattered gravestones mark their pere- 
grinations during the early 1770s. 39 When they found 
there were few gravestones to cut, they hired themselves 
out as casual laborers. Farming appears to have played 
only a minor role in providing for their subsistence. 

The distribution of their stones in western Massa- 
chusetts suggests the varying degrees of success that 
greeted their itinerancies. In the graveyards of Sun- 
derland and neighboring Montague, where there had been 
few grave markers, Ebenezer Soule or possibly his son 
Coomer used a locally available sandstone to cut approx- 
imately two dozen stones with the family's distinctive 
"medusas." 40 Because of the poor quality of the stone, 
the^se medusa markers were rather roughly cut and the 
placement of such markers remained a localized phenome- 
nom. In Deerfield, where Beza and Coomer placed two 
dozen anthropomorphic angel stones in 1772, they suc- 
cessfully capitalized on a lingering taste for slate 
gravestones (Fig. 21). The availability of slate in 
nearby Bernardston enabled them to satisfy an existing 
desire for quality slate gravestones at an affordable 
price. Few of these slate stones, however, were placed 
by the Soules in neighboring towns. Sometime around 
1774, Coomer traveled through Berkshire County in far 
western Massachusetts, but cut only a few stones, for 
members of the region's leading families. 



Figure 21 

. **&/*jk 

Margaret Williams, 1773, Deerfield, Mass, 
Attributed to Beza or Coomer Soule. 





•:^^P.EI) ; , ih the {Mr.rjiory bj ' Mrjj/' 
Jo? '/THAI' A LLEJ r ?vpAo foq vfic\)fr 

at Jm u/)(\ r' Hlvi+mg .,q.ti' :: 'i be %;|fe 
Day o/ JriH 1 ". 17/J0. .boning J ilfi ' 
mlr-rtiWhe jl'tcI year : () j )/ n /jw'r. j 
i "<=.r 0/ a Srm>oj a Brother \ 

brine) o Pftrrnt eV.a joi/b 
liil '?s Br ewe offirffr ip i-fir- ' Con") iff: 
neh}fi%(hnifr ; - t 'u bethel: 

Jry himr. H^' bo< . , ; r ir\ 



3&5 1 

Figure 22. Jonathan Allen, 1780, Northampton, Mass. 

Documented to Nathaniel Phelps. See note 43 


The itinerancies into western Massachusetts by the 
Soules ended with the death of Coomer in 1777 and 
Ebenezer's departure for Hinsdale, New Hampshire in the 
same year. Despite the brief duration of the itineran- 
cies, the family's work had a lasting influence in the 
Massachusetts river towns, because competitors such as 
Nathaniel Phelps and their own apprentices quickly 
domesticated the anthropomorphic angel. For the remain- 
der of the 1770s and throughout the 1780s, naturalistic I 
angels replaced stylized winged or crowned cherubs as 
the most popular image on gravestones in the northern 
towns of Old Hampshire County. J*-* 

Soon after the Soules* stay in Deerfield, Nathan- 
iel Phelps's Northampton shop began making very austere 
sandstone markers with anthropomorphic angels (Fig. 
lOe). In the late 1770s or the 1780s, the shop produced 
several very ambitious stones with angels or imps hold- 
ing aloft crowns and blowing trumpets or bugles that 
owed little or nothing to indigenous traditions but 
attempted to respond to a new taste for naturalistic 
gravestones (Fig. 22). While Phelps received payment 
for at least one of these stones, they could be the 
work of another hand. 3 Phelps's son Elijah (1761- 
1842) could have had a hand in producing these stones 
or they may be largely the work of an undiscovered 
stonecutter working as a journeyman for Phelps. 

More directly indebted to the Soules' angels were 
the images on slate stones that a new generation of 
stonecutters in the Deerfield area began producing. 
These stonecutters continued to supply interested cus- 
tomers in Bernardston, Deerfield, Greenfield, Hatfield, 
Montague, Sunderland and Whately with a version of the 
Soule angel until at least 1800. The training of these 
stonecutters who set up local shops was the most lasting 
legacy of the Soules. Though it is not possible to 
document certain stonecutters' associations with the 
Soules, timing, proximity and visual evidence suggest 
the existence of master-apprentice relationships with 
members of the Soule family (Fig. 23). The production 
of slate gravestones by these cutters and their accept- 
ance in the northern river towns broke the unity 
created by the Connecticut River valley's network of 
stonecutters working in sandstone. 

First of the local stonecutters to begin working 
in slate was Ebenezer Janes (1736-1808) of Northfield. 
Janes may have been a practicing stonecutter before the 
Soules' itinerancies, but the dates of the surviving 


Ebenezer Soule, Sr. 
(Barre, Hinsdale, N. H.) 

Coomer Soule— Beza Soule Ivory Soule Ebenezer Janes 
(Barre) (Barre) (Hinsdale, N. H.) (Northfield) 

John Locke- 

(Deerfield, West- 
minster, Rockingham, Vt.) 

Solomon Ashley 

Isaiah Soule 

Henry Locke Jonathan Allen 

(Brattleboro, Rockingham, Vt.) (Bernardston) 

Figure 23. The Soules and their probable apprentices. 
Solid lines: documented; dashed lines: 








Figure 24. Ebenezer Janes, Jr., 1766, Northfield, Mass. 
Attributed to Ebenezer Janes. 


examples of his work suggest that he learned the stone- 
cutter's trade late in life, perhaps from Ebenezer 
Soule, Sr. A prominent life-long resident of North- 
field, the forty-one-year-old Janes stood fifth on 
Northf ield's tax list in 1771. He pwned_a mill and_ 
sixty-three acres of prime farm land. A town~leader, 
he served as a selectman and would later represent the 
town in the legislature and would receive a commission 
as justice of the peace. Janes was also a part time 
"gravestone manufacturer." 45 The earliest stones which 
can be attributed to him are winged angels that began 
appearing in the Northf ield graveyard" pToHabTy during 
the 1770s; among the earliest dated of these stones is 
the marker of his son, Ebenezer Janes, Jr (Fig. 24). 
These early slate stones, which bear a strong resem- 
blance to the "fish winged" angel stones of Ebenezer 
Soule that are found in neighboring Hinsdale, New Hamp- 
shire, suggest that sometime in the 1770s Janes came 
under the elder Soule's influence (Fig. 25). Several 
characerteristics found on contemporary angel stones of 
the Soules are found on Janes's earliest stones: almond- 
shaped eyes with split pupils, a split upper lip, wings 
with scalelike feathers and stripes, and tightly curled 
hair or wigs. During the 1780s and 1790s, Janes devel- 
oped his own distinctive winged effigies characterized 

Figure 25. Sara Doolittle, 1773, Northfield, Mass, 
Attributed to Ebenezer Soule, Sr. 


by very human-looking, puffy faces with long narrow 
eyes and wavy hair and wildly flapping wings (Fig. 26). 
Around 1800, he began to cut stones with male and 
female portraits (Fig. 27). Despite his obvious art- 
istry and technical proficiency, he placed few stones 
outside of Northfield and the neighboring towns of 
Bernardston, Gill and Warwick. It appears that for 
this prosperous and prominent Northfield resident, 
gravestone manufacturing remained a sideline. 

For Janes's neighbors and contemporaries—John 
Locke (1752-1837) and Solomon Ashley (1754-1823) — 
gravestone cutting was a way of life and probably the 
chief source of their income. Locke moved in the early 
1770s from Woburn, in eastern Massachusetts, to Deer- 
field, where he probably came into contact with a 
member of the Soule family who trained him as a stone- 
cutter. 46 Surviving stones in Deerfield, Hatfield and 
Whately as well as documentary evidence suggest he 
began working on his own around_JL780. Like other 
stonecutters who were masons, h^Tsupplemented his incoirn 
by plastering and laying bricks. His earliest grave- 
stones with anthropomorphic angel heads with feathered 
wings and vine borders bear a striking resemblance to 
the gravestones Beza and Coomer Soule placed in the 
Deerfield burying ground, though Locke's flatter relief 
overall, his more cursory articulation of the feathers, 
his treatment of the pupils, and the angel's broader 
proportions distinguished his angels from those of his 
probable mentors (Fig. 28). 

At some time in the late 1780s, Locke forjD_ed a 
partnership with Solomon Ashley, the son of Deerfield's 
former minister. Ashley was trained either in HijnsdaJLfi. 
by Ebenezer Soule, Sr. around 1783 or in DeerfTeld by 
Locke himself. The fact that Ashley's angel stones 
were virtually identical to Locke's version and remain 
hard to distinguish from it suggests strongly that 
Locke may have been his master (Fig. 29). Clearly the 
two worked together during the later 1780s and early 
1790s, producing flocks of winged angels. During this 
period Locke also produced a male portrait stone which 
closely resembled his almond-eyed angels, and an 
angel stone with blank eyes and no articulation of the 
wing feathers, while Ashley produced gravestones for 
children with coffins or six-pointed rosettes as the 
central motif (Fig. 30). They placed their stones as 
far south as South Hadley and Northampton and as far 
north as Hinsdale, New Hampshire, but the river towns 
immediately adjoining Deerfield and the rapidly growing 


Figure 26. Elisabeth Stratton, 1789, Northfield, Mass, 
Attributed to Ebenezer Janes. 


a. 1770-80s 

b. 1780s 

c. 1790s d. 1800s 

Figure 27. Effigies by Ebenezer Janes and date ranges, 

Figure 28. 


Samuel McCall, 1780, So. Deerfield, Mass. 
Documented to John Locke (Hampshire County 
Probate Registry, Box 95, no. 51) . 


hill towns to the north and west formed their prime 

In addition to producing slate gravestones, the 
shop offered marble markers. As early as 1787, Ashley 
purchased marble from Elijah Phelps, the son of Nathan- 
iel, who operated a quarry in Lanesborough, Massachu- 
setts. * It is possible that Ashley received some 
training in working marble from Phelps. It is docu- 
mented that both Locke and Ashley began producing marble 
gravestones with abstract effigies and angels in the 
early 1790s. Some of their portrait stones, such as 
those in Hatfield for Deacon Obadiah Dickinson and his 
wives, that can be documented to different hands, are 
indistinguishable and suggest common workmanship. 52 
Eventually, Ashley's marble stones evolved into haunt- 
ing, stylized mourning figures, while Locke produced 
primarily abstract angels in marble. Occasionally, 
Locke put his abstract angels and unadorned heads on 
slate stones, a practice which became more common after 
he moved to Brattleboro, Vermont around 1797. 3 

This experimentation by Locke and Ashley was not 
an isolated development peculiar to their shop. During 
the 1790s other stonecutters working in the region 
produced alternatives to the anthropomorphic angel that 
had become popular in the 1770s and 1780s. In Northamp- 
ton, the Phelps shop, under the direction of Rufus 
Phelps (1766-1826), produced rather abstract, incised 
angel stones that marked a break with the naturalistic 
carving that had distinguished the shop during the late 
1770s and 1780s. Up the Connecticut River in the 
area of Rockingham, Vermont, imaginative stonecutters 
working in slate produced unusual stones that mixed 
previous gravestone motifs and neoclassical devices 
with soul discs, foliated carving, scalloping, hearts, 
rosettes and birds. Despite the diversity of tech- 
nique, training and materials, the work of all of these 
cutters shared a rejection of the literal reproduction 
of gravestone designs taken directly from southeastern 
Massachusetts or Connecticut and an increasingly ab- 
stract treatment of central motifs. 

Abstract treatment of effigies and the presence of 
folk motifs could also be found on the gravestones 
purchased by residents of the Massachusetts river towns 
from stonecutters outside of the Connecticut River 
valley. Members of the Sikes family working in Belcher- 
town, Massachusetts sold some of their stones decorated 
with stylized spirit images or effigies, undulating 


- 'V. 

j*.>'Wlk : mst 

Figure 29. Joseph Smith, 1798, Hatfield, Mass. Docu- 
mented to Solomon Ashley (Hampshire County 
Probate Records, vol. 20, p. 278). 


a. Locke & Ashley, 

b. Locke, late 1780s 

c. Ashley, 1780s 

d. Locke, 1790s 

e. Locke & Ashley, 1790s f. Ashley, 1790s 

g. Locke, early 1790s 

h. Locke, mid-1790s 

Figure 30. Effigies produced by the shop of John Locke 
and Solomon Ashley. 


vines, hearts and whorl rosettes to customers in Hadley 
Hatfield, Northampton and Sunderland. 56 These schist 
stones did not lend themselves to precise detail, and 
their carvers drew upon a more abstract ornamental 
tradition from eastern Connecticut. Also distinguished 
by stylized portraits, whorl rosettes, tudor roses, 
vines and hearts were the marble gravestones of Roger 
Booth (d. 1849) that leading families in Northampton.* 
Hadley and Hatfield imported from southern Vermont. ' 
Elijah Phelps of Lanesborough also supplied marble 
gravestones, and other stonecutters from the hill towns 
east of the Connecticut River supplied customers along 
the river with schist or granite gravestones during the 
late 1780s and the 1790s. 

It is difficult to decide what to make of this 
sudden popularity of abstract treatment of effigies and 
folk motifs. Though this development in the northern 
part of Old Hampshire County remained a counterpoint to 
the continued production of stones with winged angels 
and to the introduction of neoclassical urns and more 
naturalistic portrait stones, these gravestones do 
represent a recognizable stage--a fourth stage--in 
gravestone usage and carving in the Massachusetts river 
towns. The use of marble and harder materials such as 
schist and granite, which did not lend themselves to 
cutting precise detail, probably encouraged the abstrac 
rendering of stylized images. The slowly growing popu- 
larity of marble stones, especially among the well-to- 
do, supported the production of such portrait stones 
and spirit images, for the customers may have bought 
the stones because of the material as well as the 
images. Advertisements in newspapers during the 1790s 
and early 1800s make much of the materials used. The 
specificity of the information on materials such as 
"best blue stone, of the Bernardston kind" (slate from 
the Bernardston quarry), "Lanesborough white marble," 
and "Middlebury Marble" contrasts sharply with the 
complete lack of information in advertisements on the 
decoration of the stones. 58 In addition to the aesthe- 
tic appeal of the materials, claims in the advertise- 
ment^ for their durability may have encouraged their 
use. 59 

Competition among stonecutters also contributed to 
the innovation and experimentation. Newspaper adver- 
tisements indicate that competition existed among local 
stonecaryers and between established carvers and new- 
comers. 60 By reducing detail, eliminating foliate 
borders and employing stylized effigies, stonecutters 


such as Ashley and Rufus Phelps reduced the labor that 
went into their stones and presumably made them less 
expensive to produce and more marketable. At the same 
time, use of folk motifs could produce distinctive 
stones that would be distinguishable from the flocks of 
winged angels. Competition in a developing commercial 
environment rather than isolation and unchallenged 
traditions seems to have produced these individualistic 
stones rich in imagery. 

Whatever the factors initiating and supporting it, 
the flowering of the 1790s proved to be short-lived. 
Neoclassical motif s--primarily the urn and willow-- 
began appearing in the region's graveyards in the 1790s 
and marked the beginning of the fifth and final stage 
in eighteenth-century stonecutting in the river towns. 
In Deerfield, Greenfield and Sunderland, the urn motif 
quickly came to dominate in the first decade of the new 
century. Local cutters working in slate, such as Solo- 
mon Ashley and Jonathan Allen (1766-1836) of Bernards- 
ton, and their customers adopted the new motifs with- 
out apparent hesitation. By the 1810s the urn motifs 
penetrated the hill towns, while rosettes and hearts 
assumed a distinctly subordinate and diminishing role 
as secondary motifs. The speed with which the neoclas- 
sical imagery was adopted probably resulted from the 
intense competition among established local cutters and 
their vulnerability to incoming eastern Massachusetts 
stonecutters who could quickly set themselves up to 
supply slate gravestones for local customers. 2 The 
neoclassical stones not only bespoke the latest fashion, 
but also could be inexpensively produced. 3 

In those towns in which a preference for sandstone 
gravestones continued to hold sway, the urn and willow 
made a late and often rather brief appearance in the 
1810s and 1820s. The shop in Longmeadow and other 
stonecutters who worked in sandstone in the Springfield 
area could still market stones with motifs that were in 
many cases direct descendants of William Holland's 
gravestones of the 1750s (Fig. 31a). Until around 
1810, an imitator of the Sikes family's style continued 
to supply residents of Granby, South Hadley and Wilbra- 
ham with sandstone imitations of the Sikes family's 
distinctive effigies. In Northampton during the 1800s 
and 1810s, Rufus Phelps produced sandstone markers with 
heads simply outlined and surrounded by wavy lines or 
arched bands (Fig. 31c). The sandstone medium in which 
these cutters worked and their customers' preference 
for it temporarily protected the cutters from some of 


a. Longmeadow shop 

b. Sikes family imitator 

c. Rufus Phelps, Northampton 

Figure 31. Late effigy styles. 

the innovations in motifs that grew out of the intense 
competition among the stonecutters who worked in slate 
in the county's northern towns. In particular, migrat- 
ing stonecutters from eastern Massachusetts, who worked 
in slate, avoided the sandstone quarries and preferred 
to establish themselves in areas where they could obtain 
a material with wich they were familiar. The urn would 
eventually triumph even in the towns from Hatfield and 
Hadley to Agawam and Longmeadow, for the shift in 
motifs eventually transcended the shift in the prefer- 
ence for particular materials. With the acceptance of 
the urn and willow and the growing dominance of marble 
as the material of choice, the Connecticut River valley 
traditions in stonecutting passed from the river towns 
of western Massachusetts. 

As with other regional analyses of stone carving, 
a study of the eighteenth-century gravestones and stone 
carvers of the mid-Connecticut River valley helps to 
refine the views of New England gravestone carving that 
were created by the early focus on eastern Massachusetts 
and also by the early fascination with iconographic 
analysis. This study points up the often slighted 
roles played by networks among craftsmen and by mate- 
rials in shaping regional styles in stonecutting. It 


also suggests the extent to which competition among 
stonecutters may have influenced stylistic change. 

In the Connecticut River valley the availability 
of river transport, the similar training of stonecutters 
and the distribution of the valley's sandstone created 
an environment in which it was hard for the archetypal, 
isolated folk craftsman to flourish, and few did in the 
Massachusetts river towns. Stonecutters in the river 
towns in Old Hampshire County were by and large skilled 
craftsmen knit together by shared training and kinship 
into networks that transcended parochial boundaries. 
Their customers included merchants, ministers and pros- 
perous yeomen farmers enriched by the valley's commer- 
cial farming. Changing gravestone fashions from the 
1730s to the 1770s were quickly communicated throughout 
the valley by stones shipped from Middletown as far 
north as Deerfield and by Middletown trained apprentices 
and journeymen who traveled up the valley seeking to 
establish themselves as local masters. Resident stone- 
cutters in the river towns of Old Hampshire County had 
to respond or watch their clients purchase stones from 
these readily available alternatives. 

The favored styles in gravestone carving shifted 
over the course of a century as stonecutters and their 
customers responded to changing fashions. The resulting 
progression of styles from the unadorned, simply let- 
tered markers to gravestones with urns and willows did 
not closely parallel the evolution of styles in eastern 
Massachusetts. Old Hampshire County stonecutters work- 
ing in sandstone responded to stonecutting traditions 
rooted in Windsor and altered by innovations from Mid- 
dletown, Connecticut. Outside of Deerfield's burying 
ground, winged death's heads made only a brief and 
uneventful appearance in the 17J30s. The ebb and flow 
of religious enthusiasm in what was the cradle of 
religious revivalism in eighteenth-century New England 
left no obvious impression on the region's funerary 
art. The 1735 valley revival left not a mark on local 
cutters' work, and the introduction of the cherub in 
the 1740s was embraced by friends and foes of the Great 
Awakening of the 1740s. 

A taste for different materials and a shift in 
materials did clearly influence consumers' preferences 
and influenced motifs. In Deerfield, family ties to 
Dorcester stonecutters created a preference for slate 
gravestones in the 1720s and produced a burying ground 
that has fifty-five stones with death's heads. After 


1770 f this preference for slate gravestones and the 
availability of slate deposits opened the county's 
northern towns to influences from eastern Massachusetts. 
The shift in material introduced a new motif — the an- 
thropomorphic angel — and broke the unity in the river 
towns which had rested on the shared use of sandstone. 
By the 1790s competition among local stonecutters, who 
worked in slate, and newcomers produced a creative 
flowering. It was curiously under these conditions of 
competition in an environment shaped by population 
growth and economic growth that the production of 
stones with motifs usually associated with folk tradi- 
tions and folk artists flourished. During the same 
period the introduction of marble as a medium encouraged 
the creation of stylized, abstract angels and portraits. 
The medium in which stones were cut, as well as the in- 
scriptions and iconography, thus appears to be part of 
the message worth studying in an analysis of a region's 
changing preferences in gravestones. 


The author wants to thank Peter Benes, Elizabeth 
Fox, Laurel Gabel, William N. Hosley, Jr., Leigh Keno, 
Amelia Miller, James Slater, Robert Trent, David Watters 
and Philip Zea for their contributions to this article. 
Special thanks to Daniel and Jessie Farber who supplied 
some of the photographs, to Carol Perkins who did the 
line drawings and to Robert Drinkwater who gave the 
first draft a critical reading and shared his own 
research on western Massachusetts gravestones. 

1 James Deetz, In Sma ll Things Forgotten : Tiie. Arche- 
ology Q£ £a£ly Am.e_r_Ac.3Jl Life (New York: Doubleday, 
1977), p. 85. 

^All Massachusetts towns west of today's Worcester 
County were part of Hampshire County from 1662 to 1761. 
In 1761 the far western towns were set off to create 
Berkshire County. In 1812 Hampshire County was divided 
into thirds to create today's Franklin, Hampshire and 
Hampden counties. In this article the term "Old Hamp- 
shire County" will be used to refer to the area pre- 
sently covered by the counties of Franklin, Hampshire 
and Hampden. The river towns of Old Hampshire County 
on which this study focuses are Bernardston, Gill, 
Greenfield, Deerfield, Whately, Hatfield, Northampton, 
Easthampton, Southampton, West Springfield, Agawam, 
Westfield, Northfield, Montague, Sunderland, Hadley, 
South Hadley, Chicopee, Springfield, Longmeadow, Wil- 


braham (originally a part of Springfield), and Enfield 
and Suffield, Connecticut which were a part of Old 
Hampshire County, Massachusetts until 1750. See map. 

3 Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones I," 
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin , 16, no. 1 
(1951), 1-5. 

4 Hampshire County Probate Records, vol. 6, p. 77. 

5 Peter Benes, The Ha_S_ks. q£ Orthodoxy ! F_o_lk Grave- 
s_Loji£ carving in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, 1689- 
1805 (Amherst, Mass: University of Massachusetts 
Press, 1977) , p. 38. 

6 Mehitable Partridge, 1730, Hatfield; Jerusha and 
Eleazer Porter, 1726, Hadley. 

7 £. 5. Experience Nash, 1724, Northampton; Sgt. John 
Marsh, 1725, Hadley; Dr. John Bernard, 1726, Hadley. 

8 Called stonecutter in deed dated 1747, Hampden 
[originally Hampshire] County Deeds, vol. R, p. 129 
(Springfield, Mass. Registry of Deeds). 

9 Harriette Merrifield Forbes, Gravestones o_f_ £ajJLy 
Hew. England and ±te Ueji wJao. Made ThejQ, 1653-18QQ (1927; 
rpt. New York: DaCapo, 1967), p. 55. 

10 Hampshire County Probate Records, vol. 5, p. 64. 

■^Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones V," 
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin , 21, no. 1 
(1956), 1-21. 

12 Tne Thomas Bliss stone, 1733, Springfield, is by 
an unknown Connecticut carver referred to as the "Glas- 
tonbury Lady Carver." See Ernest Caulfield, "Connecti- 
cut Gravestones IV," Connecticut Historical Society 
Eullsiin , 19, no. 4 (1954), pp. 105-08. The Rev. 
Daniel Brewer stone, 1733, and the Daniel Brewer, Jr. 
stone, 1733, Springfield, are of a type that have been 
attributed to the Johnsons but may be by an unidentified 
carver working in their shop. For an example of the 
type, see Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones V," p. 9, 
figure 11. 

^Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones VII," 
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, 25, no. 1 
(1960), pp. 1-6. 


14 Caulf ield, "Connecticut Gravestones V," p. 11; 
"Connecticut Gravestones VI," Connecticut Historical 
Society Bulletin. 23, no. 1 (1958), p. 36; Hampden 
County Deeds, vol. K, p. 381; Donald L. Jacobus and 
Edgar F. Waterman, Hale . House , and Relate d Fam ilies 
(Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1952), pp. 
38, 64, 65. 

15 Estate of Gideon Hale, 1777, Middletown Probate 
District, File no. 1563 (Connecticut State Library; 
cited hereafter as CSL) . 

■^Kevin M. Sweeney, "Mansion People: The River Gods 
and Material Culture," pp. 6-7, paper delivered at His- 
toric Deerfield Colloquium on Material Cuture in the 
Connecticut Valley, 1982 (copy at the Historic Deerfield 
Library, Deerfield, Mass.). 

17 Israel Williams, 1741, Hatfield; William Ashley, 
1742, Deerfield; Col. Samuel Partridge, 1740, Hatfield. 

18 Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones V," pp. 11-13; 
"Connecticut Gravestones VI," pp. 33-39; James Russell 
Trumbull, "Northampton Genealogy," unpub. vol. 3 of his 
Histor y of Northa mp ton , p. 336 (Forbes Library, Nort- 
hampton); Hampden County Deeds, vol. 4, p. 600. 

19 Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones V," p. 6. 

20 Joseph Hawley 2nd, "Account Book, 1724-58," p. 95 
(Forbes Library, Northampton). 

21 Anne B. Webb, "On the Eve of Revolution: Northamp- 
ton, Massachusetts, 1750-1775" (Ph. D. diss. University 
of Minnesota, 1976), pp. 242-43. 

22 Hampshire County Probate Records, vol. 13, p. 4; 
he died insolvent, Hampshire County Probate Records, 
vol. 16, p. 110. 

2 ~*E. g« Rev. William Williams tablestone, 1741, Hat- 
field; Col. John Stoddard tablestone, 1748, Northampton. 

24 The Sarah Williams stone, 1770, Hatfield, is called 
"curiously wrought" in a receipt signed by Capt. Thomas 
Johnson in John Williams, "Journal and Account Book," 
n. p. (Northampton Historical Society). 

25 Hampden County Deeds, vol. Z, p. 19; e_. g. Nathan- 


iel Sutlieff, 1760, Durham, in Allan I. Ludwig, Graven 
Images: Hew. England stone Carving ajid. its Symbols, 
1650-1815 (Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan University Press, 
1966), plate 192 A; see also Estate of Nathaniel Sut- 
lieff, 1760, Middletown District File no. 3449 (CSL). 

26 Thomas Hale, 1750, Longmeadow; agreement to make 
two pair of gravestones for the parents of Jonathan, 
John and Noah Hale, ms. receipt, Feb. 21, 1757, signed 
by William Holland (Springfield Public Library). 

27 Thomas B. Warren, "Springfield Families," vol. 3, 
p. 755 (Springfield Public Library); Joseph Williston 
was paid forty-one shillings, four pence for the Chris- 
tian Williams stone, 1766, Hatfield, John Williams, 
"Journal and Account Book," n. p. (Northampton Histori- 
cal Society). 

28 Estate of Nathaniel Bliss, 1772, Box 16, no. 35, 
Registry of Probate, Northampton; John H. Bliss, Gene- 
alogy q£ iJi£ Bliss F_amily aJiojii iJie Year 155.Q. to 1M.Q. 
(Boston: privately printed, 1881), pp. 54, 84. 

29 Forbes, pp. 117, 118, 127. 

JU Hampden County Deeds, vol. 13, p. 95; Hampshire 
County Probate Records, vol. 13, pp. 83-84. 

- ,1 Hampden County Deeds, vol. 29, p. 88; East Hart- 
ford, First Church Records, vol. 1, p. 21 (CSL); Estate 
of John Buckland, 1793, Box 22, no. 3, Registry of 
Probate, Northampton. 

£. .g. Hampden County Deeds, vol. 2, p. 431, vol. 
13, p. 64, vol. 23, pp. 483-84. In 1752 Aaron Bliss of 
Longmeadow is paid for the following: May 30, "making 
brick," June 1, "carting clay," and July 10, "seting 
Brick." See Samuel Colton, "Account Book, Journal A, 
November 18, 1748 to November 28, 1753," p. 46 (Long- 
meadow Historical Society). See n. 28. 

33 "Ezra Stebbins, May 4, 1773 By a pair of Grave 
Stones for Mary Bliss 22/," entry in an unidentified 
merchant's account book (Longmeadow Historical Society); 
Estate of Jedediah Bliss, 1778, Box 16, no. 17, Registry 
of Probate, Northampton; Ralph Stebbins Greenlee and 
Robert Lemuel Greenlee, Hue Stebbins Genealogy (Chicago: 
privately printed, 1904), I, 180. 

34 The stone in Figure 19 is backdated. It is of a 


type probably made between the late 1760s and late 
1770s. A 1773 date of manufacture is consistent with 
the Mary Bliss stone in Longmeadow. It is the only 
Mary Bliss stone which the author has located. 

3 ^A Martin Root is paid b 20 for the stone for Rev. 
John Ballentine, 1776, Westfield. See John H. 
Lockwood, Westfield and Its Historic Influences/ 1669- 
1SJL2 (Springfield, Mass: by the author, 1922), II, 159. 
The Ballentine stone is clearly part of the production 
of the Longmeadow shop. There is no record that Root 
was a stonecutter. He was a life-long resident of 
Westfield; the Ballentine stone and the others like it 
were clearly made in Longmeadow. Root appears to have 
been acting merely as a third party in this transaction. 
See James Pierce Root, Root Genealogical Records , 1600- 
1870 . Com prisin g the General History si the Root and 
Roots Fam ilies in America (New York: R. C. Root, 
Anthony & Co. 1870), p. 329. 

36 Ezra Stebbins, Jr. was the son of a stonecutter 
and the son-in-law of a mason, Aaron Bliss (1730-1810). 
There is no proof that he cut gravestones. The family 
genealogy provides no support for the supposition that 
he was. See Greenlee and Greenlee, vol. 1, p. 246. 
Forbes lists Ezra Stebbins (1760-1819) as a gravestone 
maker (p. 130). 

37 Forbes, p. 129. She lists Herman Newell (1774- 
1833) as having signed gravestones, such as the stone 
for Roger Ellsworth, 1811, Windsor, Ct. 

38 See Benes, pp. 123-30, 134-41. 

39 1772 Deerfield Tax List, microfilm (Historic Deer- 
field Library); Sarah Barnard, "Account Book," Septem- 
ber, 1772, Nov. 24, 1772 (Pocumtuck Valley Memorial 
Association, Deerfield; hereafter cited as PVMA) . 

40 Benes, p. 140. 

41 See n. 39. 

42 E. .g., Timothy Woodbridge, 1774, Stockbridge; 
Abigail Woodbridge, 1772, Stockbridge; Hannah Williams, 
1769, Lanesborough; Nathaniel Williams, Jr., 1769, 

43 Estate of Jonathan Allen, 1780, "paid Nathaniel 
Phelps for grave Stones b 9-17-0," on April 11, 1786, 


"List of Debts paid by the Executrix of the Estate of 
Jonathan Allen," Box 2, no. 46, Probate Registry, Nort- 

44 Betty Hobbs Pruitt, ed. T_h_£ M assachuse tts Ia_x 
Valuatio n List of 1771 (Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 
1978), p. 458. 

4 ^j. H. Temple and George Sheldon, History of the 
Town ol Northfield, Massachusetts (Albany, n. y.: Joel 
Monsell, 1875), pp. 319, 338, 364, 342, 364-65. 

46 George Sheldon, A History £f Deerfield, Massachu- 
setts (Deerfield: Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Associa- 
tion, 1895-96), vol. 2, pp. 231-32. 

4 'Advertisement by John Locke in Greenfield Gazette , 
July 2, 1795. 

4 °See ms. bill, John Williams to John Locke, Williams 
Papers (PVMA). 

49 Amelia F. Miller, TJie Reverend Jonathan Ash ley 
House (Deerfield: Heritage Foundation, 1962), p. 37. 

-^Portrait stones of this type can be attributed to 
both John Locke and Jonathan Allen (1766-1836) of Ber- 
nardston. Neither carver's portrait stones can be 
firmly documented at present. 

51 Hs. bill, Elijah Phelps to Solomon Ashley, Nov. 
26, 1787, Ashley Papers (PVMA). 

52 See ms. bill, John Williams to John Locke, March, 
1790, March, 1791, Box 4, Williams Papers (PVMA); Estate 
of Obadiah Dickinson, Hampshire County Probate, Box 48, 
no. 32. 

5 ^William N. Hosley, Jr., "The Rockingham Stonecar- 
vers: Patterns of Stylistic Concentration and Diffusion 
in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, 1790-1817," 
Puritan Gravestone AJLfc 11, The Dublin Seminar for New 
England Folk Life Annual Proceedings, 1978 (Boston: 
Boston University Press, 1979), pp. 70-76. 

54 Advertisement by Rufus Phelps in Hampshire Gazette . 
Sept. 1, 1802; Hampden County Deeds, vol. 27, p. 114; 
Hampshire County Probate, box 113, no. 50, Registry of 
Probate, Northampton. 


55 Hosley, pp. 66-78. 

56 Forbes, pp. 108-09; Ludwig, pp. 412-16; additional 
work is being done on the Sikes family by Robert Drink- 

57 0ne of the stones was signed "R Booth, Sculpt. 
Bennington." See Sue Kelly and Anne Williams, "'And 
the Men who Made Them': The Signed Gravestones of New 
England," MARKERS U: The Jour nal si £h_e Associat ion 
foj: Gravestone Studies (1983), p. 10. 

58 Greenf ield Gazette. July 2, 1795; Hampshire G_a- 
zett e. Aug. 24, 1812. 

59 Ham pshire Gazette . Jan. 26, 1807. 

60 Greenfield Gazette. Sept. 18, 1794; GjLesulifild. 
Gazette . July 2, 1795. 

61 Greenfield Gazette . Sept. 18, 1794; Sheldon, His- 
tory q£ Deerfield . vol. 2, Genealogies, p. 17. 

62 For examples, see advertisements for Luke Carter, 
Greenfield Gazette. Oct. 25, 1802, Alpheas Longley, 
Hampshire Gazette . Nov. 19, 1805, and Samuel Doughtery, 
Ham pshire Gazette . Dec. 30, 1806. 

63 Hosley, p. 78. 


Speaking Stones: 
New England Grave Carvings and the Emblematic Tradition 

Lucien L. Agosta 

And know, reader, that though the stones in 
this wilderness are already grown so witty as K^ 
to speak, they never yet that I could hear of, 
grew so wicked as to lye. 

— Cotton Mather, 1693 1 

Most commentators on Puritan gravestone art agree 
that New England Puritans, from the educated minister- 
ial class to the laboring class responsible for the 
gravestone carvings, were familiar with the popular 
emblem tradition and were aware of specific English 
emblem books, most notably George Wither's A Collection 
of Emblemes (1635) and the enormously popular works of 
Francis Quarles, Emblemes (1635) and Hieroglyphikes o^ 
the Life q£ Uaji (1638) , z According to John W. Draper, 
the works of Francis Quarles "became for a hundred 
years the most approved expression of social and relig- 
ious uplift among those Puritan readers whose powers 
could hardly presume to the consumption of Paradise 
Lo_s_£," while Rosemary Freeman, in discussing John Bun- 
yan's use of emblems, has observed that "emblematic 
habits of thought" had been thoroughly "fostered in the 
Puritan mind by Quarles and Wither." 3 In spite of 
evidence for the popularity of emblems among Puritans 
in England and the New England colonies, however, few 
commentators on Puritan stonecarving have used the 
emblem tradition as a perspective glass with which to 
view the carvings. Including the carvings in the lar- 
ger European emblematic tradition, however, helps to 
explain the origins of the various epitaphic conven- 
tions manifested on Puritan stones, many of which are 
quite voluble with moralizing verse addressed to the- 
deceased or to the viewer. In addition, the identifi- 
cation of emblems and gravestones helps to explain why 
the iconophobic Puritans paradoxically exempted from an 
otherwise strict ban the profusion of images which fill 
their burial grounds. More important, seeing the 
stones as emblems provides a way of understanding how 
they may have been interpreted by those who erected 
them. In this essay, then, I would like to suggest 
that the Puritans, trained in ways of se_eing_J?y the 
emblem tradition, perceived their gravestones themselves 
a^ emblems and derived from the emblematic conjunction 
of epitaph and image the same kinds of moral, metaphysi- 
cal, even mystical meanings which resonate in emblems 


for those accustomed to viewing them. The communal 
Puritan burial ground may thus be seen as an emblem 
book with each separate stone a page in that book. 

Due in part to the resilience of conventional 
images, the emblematic stonecarving tradition persisted 
in New England from the seventeenth through the eigh- 
teenth centuries, surviving even the significant changes 
wrought in Puritan culture by the Great Awakening and 
by a growing nationalism. Though aware of the need for 
qualification, I will use the term 'Puritan' to refer 
to that part of New England colonial culture which 
continued to carve and read gravestones as emblems 
until the end of the eighteenth century when the intro- 
duction of machine engraving, standardized urn and 
willow images, and marble as a replacement for slate 
ushered in a new set of gravestone conventions. 

The slate markers carved by the Puritans and their 
'Old' and 'New Light' eighteenth-century successors 
share the features of the trad itional emblem, whic h 
combines picture and words that reciprocally intexpxet 
each other. The emblem's meaning is more connotative 
than denotative. Emblems suggest meanings which tran- 
scend the images and verses which compose them; they 
shadow forth the metaphysical or the unknown and thus 
provide intimations of that which can only be intuited. 
The emblem usually consists of three parts: the in - 
scriptio or motto, which provides a general or abstract 
meaning; the pictura or image, which provides concrete, 
visual particulars; and the subscriptio or moral expo- 
sition, which provides, usually in verse, the applica- 
tion or exploration of the general idea. The emblems 
in George Wither's Collection of Emblemes have all 
three parts, though emblems in other collections may be 
truncated. In Wither's emblem 27 of book iv, for 
example, appears a picture of a death's head surmounting 
a winged hourglass (Fig. 1). Surrounding this pictura 
is the motto or inscriptio "Vive Memor Lethi Fugit 
Hora" (Live mindful of death; time flies). Under this 
illustration and motto appear the verses which moralize 
the emblem, including the following lines: 

This vulgar Figure of a winged glasse, 

Doth signifie, how swiftly Time doth passe. 

By that leane Scull, which to this houre-glasse 

We are informed what effect it brings; 
And, by the Words about it, wee are taught 
To keepe our latter ending still in thought. 


Live, ever mndfull tftbj dying. 
For, Time u Al»*yet from thee $)in£. 

| Wis vulgar Fignrt of a atngrd gUfft, 
Doth (ignifie, how fwiftly Time doth paiTe. 
By that lcanc f r«tf,which to this be*regt*fjt dinp, 
Wc are informed what effe6 it brings; 
AnH,l<ythc iVerds about it, wee are taught 
Tettepe tmr Uttt< ending ft ill in thenrbt. 
1\\r common h$nre~gUJje, of the Lift of iMtm, 
Lxcerduh not the largeneiTe of a fr*n. 
7 he '^"■d Mtnntu, flye away lo raft, 
That, fttrei ate out,c're wee thinke w#»tA/arc part : 
'Yea,ma-v nmcs,our n*t'r»i dtj is gone, 
Pefor wcelool'd In it»<nedtUektMNmne y 
And,wbrre wee fought tor Bt*mw,*t tie fni, 
Vv\e hndc the f/tyi quire rotreJ from the Sknt. 

L t 'hefc Faorrffions >f timet pafiage.bec 
feme-**"* eeri tor ever, Ltfd, to mee j 
Tnar, I m y It'll bee guilt IcfTe of their crime, 
Whii fui 1 fly confume their piecious Time: 
And, mode my Dm** •, not with a flavirti feare, 
Bur, with a thankfull ufc,of lifetime, here : 
Not grieving that my 4;« away doe poftj 
Eut,canng ta her, that they bee not loft, 
And Ub'ring with Ducretibn, how I may 
Redecme the Time, that's vainely flipt away. 
So when that ■»"••«" comes, which others dread, 
I uniifmav , d,Mlcl'mbcmy4w*«*i 
With joyful' fUflt roduft commend, 
In Stent, with a ftedfift /«** afcend j 

And, whilfl I Atw? an, to m* iodjt, 

Thnt dymj , 1 may live eternally. 

Figure 1. 

George wither, h Collection o£ Emb l ernes 
(1635), book iv, emblem 27. 


This emblem from Wither's Collection was a popular 
one in emblem books and appears, with variations, again 
and again on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New 
England stones. For example, on the stone~erected Tn 
"1678 for Captain Jonathan Poole of Wakefield, Massachu- 
setts, appears the image of a skull surmounting an 
hourglass (Fig. 2). Wither's pictura is almost exactly 
reproduced on this gravestone, except that the wings, 
clearly attached to the hourglass in Wither, have becomf 
ambiguous on the Poole stone: Do they belong to the 
skull or to the hourglass, or to both? The stone also 
includes crossbones, a coffin, and a pick and shovel, 
schematized representations of the funeral procession 
depicted in the background of the pictur a of Wither's 
emblem. As in the Wither emblem, the pictura on the 
Poole stone is surrounded by an inscr ip tio or motto; 
"Memento Te Esse Mortalem C ye 2" is inscribed over the 
arch containing the pictura , and "Fuqit_j jora. " is in- 
scribed beneath. The image and motto on the stone are 
followed, in true emblematic fashion, with a moralized 
verse which emphasizes the transformations death and 
time bring: 







This stone, and the many like it, could thus be read in 
the same way that one would read an emblem by Wither or 

Not all New England emblem-like stones have the 
three components of the emblem as clearly delineated as 
on the Poole stone. Though it is a very early or a 
very unusual later stone indeed which has no pictura , 
many stones have no inscriptio or motto and many, 
especialy early stones, truncate the subscriptio into a 
retrospective identification and chronology of the 
deceased, omitting a moralized verse. Though the 
stones vary in their adherence to strict emblem form, 
they are nevertheless to be read as emblems. This 
seems to be insisted upon by the carver of the Elizabet 
Butterick stone, 1772, Concord, Massachusetts, whc 
replaces the moralizing verse by a long retrospective 
encomium to the virtues of this "Gentlewoman of Uncommc 
Prudence" (Fig. 3). That we are to read this stone as 
an emblem the carver has left no doubt. Above the 


- ^^mggammmmmm 

Figure 2. Capt. Jonathan Poole, 1678, Wakefield, Mass, 

Figure 3. Elizabeth Butterick, 1772, Concord, Mass 


pictur a, a schematized portrait, he has inscribed the 
word 'MOTTO 1 and on either side of the portrait medal- 
lion the words "Not as I will / But as Thou wilt." 
Though the stone has no clear explanatory verse in the 
tradition of Quarles and Wither, it nonetheless has a 
feature which forces us to read the stone as an emblem 
or, better, as an im presa , an emblem composed only of 
motto and image. Similarly, the reader of the Rebecca 
Bond stone, 1767, Concord, Massachusetts, is guided, 
probably by the same carver, to an emblematic reading 
by the placing of the word 'MOTTO 1 over a portrait 
flanked by "All is / Well!" 

The emblems on Puritan stones may be divided into 
two large classes according to whether or not they 
include verse epitaphs. Those with epitaphs derive 
their power from the conjunction of image and verse, 
while those without rely primarily upon the immediac y 
of a startling image. These two classes of Puritan 
emblems reflect a similar division in the emblem tradi- 
tion which early forked into two streams according to 
which aspect of the emblem, the verbal or the visual, 
the emblematist wished to emphasize. Those emblematists 
who emphasized the verbal component of the emblem be- 
longed to the epigrammatic or rhetorical stream of the 
emblem tradition. Puritan gravestones featuring verse 
epitaphs may be included in the epigrammatic stream as 
well. On the other hand, those emblematists who empha- 
sized the visual or pictorial component of the emblem 
belonged to the representational or hieroglyphic stream 
of the tradition. Most New England gravestones carved 
before the early eighteenth century are in this stream 
of the emblem tradition because they feature an image, 
usually a winged death's head, uninterpreted by a moral- 
izing verse or epitaph. For Puritan viewers of these 
hieroglyphic stones, the verbally uninterpreted picturae 
served as ideograms in a pictorial language for making 
important religious truths accessible to all in the 
community, even to children and to the illiterate, much 
as did the bas-reliefs on medieval cathedrals. 

The Puritans were heirs to an understanding of 
emblems as hieroglyphics through their familiarity with 
the works of Francis Quarles, who apparently accepted 
the Renaissance humanist belief that a major source of 
the emblem tradition was Egyptian hieroglyphics, which 
were interpreted as f oreshadowings of divine things in 
the mysterious language of God. In the preface to 
Emblemes , Quarles asserts that "Before the knowledge of 
Letters God was known by Hieroglyphicks. And indeed 


what are the Heavens, the Earth, nay, every Creature, 
but Hieroglyphicks and Emblemes of his Glory?"-' Quarles 
called his second book of emblems Hieroglyphikes of the 
LiJLs. Ql Uaji, and his preface to the reader called the 
work "an Aegyptian Dish," though it was "dress'd on the 
English Fashion," apparently a reference to the verses 
he attached to each image. The makers of hieroglyphic 
Puritan stones, then, were emblematists for whom the 
uninterpreted pictura spoke internally to the hearts of 

Those featuring a conjunction of image and moral- 
ized verse belong to the epigrammatic stream of the 
emblem tradition. This stream has its source in the 
Greek Anthology (sometimes referred to as the Planudean 
Anthology ) . that collection of ancient Greek tituli , 
votive offerings, and elegiac tombstone inscriptions 
preserved by various scholars through the ages, most 
notably Maximus Planudes (c_. 1255-1305). Quarles and 
Wither derived a number of their emblems from the Greek 
Anthology through their borrowings from Andrea Alciati, 
the first emblematist and the coiner of the term. 
Alciati was so indebted to the Greek Anthology that 
almost fifty of the 220 verses in his Emblematum Liiiej: 
(1531) were either imitations or translations directly 
from it, leading Mario Praz to assert that "between an 
emblem of Alciati and an epigram of the Anthology there 
is a difference only in name." 

The verse epitaphs of epigrammatic New England 
stones, the epigrams of the Gree k Ant hology , and the 
emblematic verses of Quarles may all be divided into 
three rhetorical types according to their varying speak- 
er-auditor relationships. That they all employ similar 
rhetorical conventions suggests a close familial rela- 
tionship. The first type includes those verses in 
which the speaker describes the subject of the verse in 
third person. On the Hannah Goodwin stone, 1777, Ply- 
mouth, Massachusetts, for example, a winged cherub 
presides over the following epitaph: 

A Soul prepar'd Needs no delays 

The Summons comes the Saint obeys 

Swift was Her flight & short the Road 

She closed Her Eyes & saw Her God 

The Flesh rests here till Jesus comes 

And claims the Treasure from the Tomb. (Fig. 4) 

The voice in this epitaph refers to Hannah Goodwin in 
third person and directs the viewer into a sequential 


reading of the emblem. The saint, represented in bliss 
by the winged cherub carved on the stone, is described 
as being now in the presence of God. The viewer who 
contemplates the angelic image of Hannah Goodwin is 
thus granted a glimpse of the celestial realm by the 
speaker in the epitaph, much as Dante is guided through 
Paradise by Beatrice. The viewer is then conducted 
back into this world in the concluding lines of the 
epitaph. Prepared by the celestial vision for the grim 
contemplation of the grave itself, the viewer is left 
with the assurance that death reigns over this realm 
only until Jesus comes to reclaim "the Treasure from 
the Tomb." 

Figure 4. Hannah Goodwin, 1777, Plymouth, Mass. 


Figure 5. Mary Brown, 1782, Plymouth, Mass. 

The second rhetorical type consists of those epi- 
grams, emblematic verses, and epitaphs which address or 
apostrophize their subject. Numerous examples of apos- 
trophe appear in the Greek Anthology, in Quarles 1 em- 
blems, and on New England stones. On the Mary Brown 
stone, 1782, Plymouth, Massachusetts, the pictura. a 
portrait of a woman wearing a locket and holding a 
spray of flowers, represents a dead woman who is ad- 
dressed directly (Fig. 5). The verse offers her the 
consolations of the promised resurrection: 

Sleep silent Dust till Christ our Lord 
The Omnipotent, will speak the word. 
Then Soul & Body both will arise 
To endless joys above the Skies. 

The voice which speaks through this stone counsels Mary 
Brown to rest in hope of the resurrection when both her 
body and her soul will flee from death's captivity to 
share in the "endless joys" promised by her Redeemer. 
Mary Brown confidently holds in her hand the symbol of 
the promise that she, though decayed into "silent 


Dust," will freshen and bloom again. The viewer, who 
eavesdrops on the speaker's direct address to the dead 
woman, shares in the hope with which she is consoled. 

The third rhetorical type is composed of those 
verses in which the subject, whether it be a statue, a 
dead person, or a tombstone, speaks directly in the 
first person to an auditor. The Paul Titcomb stone, 
1773, Newburyport, Massachusetts, contains a verse in 
which the speaker is quite voluble, even playful in his 
address to the passerby: 

You that pass by this place may think on me 
For as you are so once you did me see, 
What I am now will quickly be your Doom 
My house is straight but by my side their' s room, 
And if your dust should fall into my Grave 
Tis no great matter every man should have, 
His very dust and neither new nor more 
For he that made it keeps it all in store. 

(Fig. 6) 

Paul Titcomb's verse interpretation of the dour skull 
and crossbones by which he is represented is grimly 
playful. After the traditional meme nto m ori of the 
First three lines, Titcomb's tone changes from the 
admonitory to the consolatory: it matters not if the 
dust of those soon to lie by his side mingles with his 
own because God will sort it all out at the resurrec- 
tion. Comforted with this realization, Paul Titcomb 
can defy death by joking about it. 

Though Puritan gravestones with epitaphs governed 
by descriptive, apostrophic, and first personal rhetori- 
cal conventions may all be read as emblems, the stones 
with first personal epitaphs most direclty suggest the 
nearly mystical way in which gravestone emblems were 
used to connect this world with the next. According to 
Peter Benes, first personal epitaphs represented "the 
voices of what Cotton Mather liked to call the 'Invisi- 
ble World. •" 9 These voices communicated news from 
regions towards which the Puritans were ever mindful of 
journeying. Perhaps the Puritans so readily attended 
to the voices of first personal epitaphs because of the 
way in which emblems were perceived and interacted with 
by those in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
accustomed to emblematic conventions, modern viewers 
are no longer familiar with these conventions which may 
grant a clearer access to the power and significance of 
the stones. 


I i< '•• Ik v i !>r i; n( \ 
I'm 'i 1 i ■ tu x i 
I ox, \| 

'■ h I ■ 
-l' his V 

Figure 6. Paul Titcomb, 1773, Newburyport, Mass. 

Mario Praz describes the ways that emblem writers 
"made the supernatural accessible to all by materializ- 
ing it" in emblems: 

The fixity of the emblematic picture was 
infinitely suggestive; the beholder little by 
little let his imagination be eaten into as a 
plate is by an acid. The picture eventually 
became animated with an intense, hallucina- 
tory life, independent of the page. The eyes 
were not alone in perceiving it; the depicted 
objects were invested with body, scent, and 
sound: the beholder was no longer before 
them, but in their midst. He was no longer 
impressed only, but obsessed. 10 

The early emblematists were certainly aware of this 
"iconomystical" animation of images which they could 
accomplish through emblems. Paulo Giovio, an early 
Italian emblem theorist, argued that an impress (a 
truncated emblem) "should have just proportion between 
body ( pictura ) and soul (incriptio) . n11 George Wither 
is also within the tradition of seeing emblematic images 
as being animated by the addition of verses. On the 


title page of his Collection of Emblemes f he indicates 
that his emblems are " quickened with metricall illus- 
trations," and in his preface to the reader, he asserts 
that the picturae alone are delightful only to "Chil- 
dren, and Childish-gazers," but with the addition of 
the moralized verses, "they may now be much more worthy; 
seeing the life of Speach being added unto them, may 
make them Teachers, and Remembrancers of profitable 
things." 12 

Thus, Puritan stones may be seen as animated 
through the collaboration of emblematic image and verse. 
For the beholder who lets "his imagination be eaten 
into as a plate is by an acid," the Puritan stones seem 
endowed with a sort of consciousness, a mental as well 
as a physical presence. This presence is most acutely 
perceived in those stones inscribed with first personal 
epitaphs where the speaker's image, whether it be a 
death's head, a cherub, or a portrait, appears in the 
tympanum with his or her words incised beneath. In 
true emblematic fashion, this image is capable of becom- 
ing "animated with an intense, hallucinatory life" if 
viewed by one familiar with the workings of emblems and 
in a receptive frame of mind. 

This "hallucinatory life" of the gravestone emblem 
is more intense than that assumed by other "speaking 
pictures" in the emblem tradition because the stone is 
directly associated with a dead body and with what was 
believed to be a living spirit, while an emblem confined 
to the pages of a book does not share this proximate 
and potent association. The unique power of the stones 
comes from the confusion in the viewer between artistic 
convention and life itself, a confusion which the em- 
blematist encouraged. Rationally the viewer knows that 
the winged death's heads, soul effigies, or portrait 
medallions speak in first personal epitaphs only because 
the gravestone carver has adopted various artistic 
conventions to endow them with mentality and speech. 
On the other hand, as Praz indicates and as the emblem- 
atists apparently intended, it is easy for a viewer to 
lose that rational, denotative awareness of artistic 
convention and to adopt in its place a nonrational, 
connotative perspective which allows the dead individual 

to speak through the image on tfte _ stro~neT The viewer 

then becomes unable to sort out the claims of life from 
the claims of art. For such a viewer the illusion of 
the image speaking and taking on a life of its own 
assumes primacy because the stone serves as a lapidary 
double for the dead. Through this illusion the dead 


come to life and communicate about the afterlife 
through their stones. 

Apparently the Puritans were avid listeners to 1,^— 
these voices which accosted them on their visits to the \ > 
burying grounds. The eschatological consciousness of 
the Puritans predisposed them to see the dead human 
being prjjmar_ily_as an immortal spirit who had shed the 
body but had nevertheless retained ties to those members - 
of the body of Christ who have not yet died. These ^C 
spirits thus return to admonish members of the ocmmunity 
to look towards death and reunion with God through the 
intercession of Christ. According to Dickran and Ann 
Tashjian, the Puritans recogj^^d^tjie^r^yeyard as "a 
ground of discourse between this world and the next 
rather than a final resting place." 1 - 3 Cotton Mather 
seems to have been of that opinion when he encouraged 
what he called "conversations with heaven": 

The Saints, whose Bodies are Laid in the 
Earth, are the Excellent ones in whom we are 
to have a singular Delight, and are the Nobler 
members of the Family, which we in a Lower 
State belong unto. And they may be thus 
convers'd withal. To bring some warmth into 
us, & make our Hearts burn within us, Lett us 
thus bring down the Rayes of Paradise upon 
our souls. 4 

This "intercourse with paradise" was to be accomplished i 
most cogently in the Puritan burial grounds through the \ 
emblematic animation of images. 

Thus, far from seeing emblems as "magical, mysti- 
cal, monkish and Gothic," as Shaftesbury did, the Puri- 
tans apparently saw them much as did George Wither, 
offering "wholsome nourishment to strengthen the consti- 
tution of a Good-life," so that those who "have most 
need to be Instructed, and Remembered," and those "who 
are most backward to listen to Instructions, and Remem- 
brances, by the common course of Teaching, and Admonish- 
ing," shall be "hereby, informed of tjieir Dangers, or 
Duties . . . before they be aware." 15 Accustomed to 
and approving of emblems, the Puritans apparently had 
relatively little difficulty transferring thej^ from 
their emblem books into their burying grounds. 10 The 
iconophobic Puritans admitted symbolic representations 
of the spirit world into their graveyards because they 
perceived these images as emblems charged with instruc- 
tional force. 


An emblematic reading of Puritan stonecarvings 
allows an approximate understanding of the significance 
these stones may have had for those who originally 
erected and viewed them. Like emblem books, the New 
England burial grounds feature a variety of verse in- 
scriptions and picturae on the stones, the predominant 
images being winged death's heads, cherubs (or soul 
effigies), and portrait medallions. By the beginning 
of the nineteenth century, neoclassical urn and willow 
stones begin to displace the traditional images, markinc 
the end of the emblematic stonecarving tradition in New 
England. The stones discussed below have been chosen 
to demonstrate the emblematic interaction of first 
personal epitaphs with a variety of images. 

On the Abiah Holbrook stone, 1769, the Granary, 
Boston, is a winged death's head followed by an inscrip- 
tion identifying Holbrook as "Master of the South Writ- 
ing-School in Boston" (Fig. 7), The pictura is com- 
plemented by the following verse: 

Still speaks th' Instructor from the solemn Shade: 

"Ye living! learn the Lessons of the Dead. 

Repine not that these dreary Vaults conclude 

A Life of Labours for the Publick Good: 

Calm sleeps the Flesh — Far distant, unconfin'd, 

In Joys unbounded wakes th' immortal Mind." 

The first line of the epitaph instructs the passerby 
how to view the emblem, insisting that we perceive 
Holbrook as speaking through the stone. Represented by 
a stylized death's head to which animating features 
have been added, Holbrook continues after death to do 
what he did in life; he teaches "the Lessons of the 
Dead" and shares the new knowledge he has acquired in 
the world to which he has gone. He reflects, with some 
pride, on his "'Life of Labours for the Publick Good'" 
and gives and takes comfort in the belief that though 
the flesh is confined to "'these dreary Vaults,'" the 
mind (as befits an educator) wakes in unbounded joy. 
Ultimately, the stone denies the power of death: the 
teacher is not silenced; he does not despair; he revels 
in his ultimate fulfillment; he directs his pupils in 
his footsteps. In short, the teacher teaches still, 
animated by his emblematic stone. 

Another verse which specifically directs our read- 
ing of the emblem may be found on the Mary Peirce 
stone, 1776, the Granary, Boston. The stone is sur- 
mounted by a foreshortened skull centered on crossbones 





Figure 7. Abiah Holbrook, 1769, the Granary, Boston, 

similar to the one found on the Paul Titcomb stone. 
This dour pictura is accompanied by a memento mori 

Behold: this little Pile enfolds my Limbs, 
And puts a Period to my Time below. 
Mortal attend: there's no mutation here, 
Ere long you will Participate my Lot. 

In this emblem, the dead woman speaks directly, and 
peremptorily, to the passerby, a very frequent feature 
of the Sta , Viator I first personal epitaphs recorded 
in the Greek Anthology. In the verse Mary Peirce 
demands that we view her entire grave — stone and mount 
— as the pictura . The two parts of the pictura . the 
first chiseled on slate, the second dug in earth, 
interact so that the skull and crossbones on the stone 
provides us with a glimpse of what lies beneath "this 
little Pile" over which the stone stands. Together, 
the verse and pictura preview or shadow forth, in true 
emblematic fashion, a realm we do not yet occupy but 
towards which we all are tending. 


Though the idea of a talking skull is grotesque to 
a modern viewer, it was not grotesque to contemporary 
Puritans who, according to Peter Benes, apparently saw 
the image as a pictorial representation of the spirit. 
In The Ua_s_k_s Ql Orthodo xy f Benes argues persuasively 
that these winged death's heads, often overlaid with 
personalizing features, such as eyebrows and mustaches 
and witty expressions, "did not represent 'death 1 or 
even 'death and resurrection,' but . . . the invisible 
and immortal spirits which were separated from their 
bodies by the event of death." They were souls "pic- 
tured in an embryonic form before the general resurrec- 
tion." 17 Benes also notes in an earlier article that 
certain New England carvers frequently added "tokens 
and signs of intensity, life, and energy" to winged 
skulls so as to animate them. "This they did," he 
continues, "by carving nostrils in the skull so the 
spirit could 'breathe'; a mouth, so the spijrit could 
'talk'; and intense eyes so it could 'see.'" 18 If this 
is indeed the case, then the Holbrook and Peirce stones 
are emblems invested with what Praz calls "an intense, 
hallucinatory life." 

The same may be said of the Sally Goodwin stone, 
1781, Copp's Hill, Boston. A winged death's head sur- 
mounts an inscription indicating, in addition to Sally 
Goodwin's identity and chronology, the names of her 
husband and parents. In the following verse, Sally 
Goodwin speaks: 

My hope is fix'd my Spirit's free, 
Longing my Saviour for to See; 
Such joy and bliss doth fill my soul, 
Nothing on earth doth me controul. 
My loving Husband and Infant small, 
My Parents dear I leave you all; 
My Soul doth wing the heavenly way, 
My Saviour's call I must obey. 
Read this and weep, but not for me, 
Who willing was to part with thee, 
That I may rest with Christ above, 
In peace and joy and endless love. 

Sally Goodwin's auditors form a smaller group than the 
universal audience addressed by Abiah Holbrook and Mary 
Peirce. Dead at twenty-five, Sally Goodwin informs her 
husband, child, and parents that she abandoned them 
only because she goes to one who has prior claims on 
her. Though the stone remains even now a powerful 
emblem, it must have been extraordinarily expressive 


and consolatory for the family audience at whom it is 
specifically aimed. The young wife and daughter returns 
to assuage grief and to presage joy. She dissolves the 
boundaries between worlds: the living and the dead 
commune; eternity penetrates time; past, present, and 
future coalesce; sorrow is mastered by joy; and private 
grief is shared in a public, communal way. 

The coalescence of past, present, and future may 
also be seen on the Ruth Nicholson stone, 1789, Marble- 
head, Massachusetts (Fig. 8). Surmounted by a beauti- 
fully carved cherub or soul effigy are the following 

A few more rolling suns at most, 
Will land me on fair canans cost, 
Where I shall sing Redeeming grace 
And see my blessed Saviour's face. 



Figure 8. Ruth Nicholson, 1789, Marblehead, Mass, 


The soul effigy has replaced the earlier death's head, 
and, accordingly, the verse deals, not with the memento 
m ori theme, but with an expectation of bliss. Benes 
argues that these "new angel designs," which be gin to 
predominate after the Great Awakening, depict the" same 
spirits as are represented in the death's heads, except 
they are now pictured "in a realized form after the 
resurrection and after their translation into time- 
resistant celestial beings." 19 This seems to be the 
case on the Nicholson stone. The sprightly cherub 
appears as a resurrected spirit already in rapture, the 
verse is anticipatory and apparently looks towards the 
general resurrection and the end of time, and the 
inscribed identification and chronology remind a viewer 
of the presence of Ruth Nicholson's dead body. The 
stone thus seems to deny the importance of human time, 
to coalesce it. The body over which the stone stands 
figures in the past, the epitaph looks to the future 
for the general resurrection, and the soul effigy por- 
trays present happiness. 

Portraits too could be emblematized, a feature 
prominent in the G.r e e k Anthology where verses appear 
which were originally attached to statues and paintings. 
George Wither uses his own portrait as his first emblem 
in the Col l ect ion. As are all his emblems, Wither's 
portrait is circled by a motto and followed by "The 
Authors Meditation upon sight of his Picture," a moral- 
ized verse employing the portrait as an introduction to 
the nature of emblems: 

A Picture, though with most exactnesse made, 
Is nothing, but the Shadow of a Shade. 
For, ev'n our living Bodies, (though they seeme 
To others more, or more in our esteeme) 
Are but the shadowes of that Reall-being, 
Which doth extend beyond the Fleshly-seeing; 
And, cannot be discerned, till we rise 
Immortall-Objects, for Immortall-eyes. 

In short, Wither uses his fleshly portrait as an emblem 
for the immortal spirit which dwells obscured behind 
the "Carnall-Screene." 

The Puritans used portraits on stones in much the 
same way. For example, on the Reuben Hunt stone, 1777, 
Concord, Massachusetts, appears a schematized portrait 
of a three-year-old boy in collar, waistcoat, and coat 
surrounded by trees of life. The moralized verse on 
this stone is particularly interesting because it in- 


volves a dialogue between the boy's parents and his 

Say, lovely prattling, playful boy 
Thy Father's hope, thy Mother's joy; 
Why didst thou make so short a stay 
But steal our hearts, & then away! 
God gives & takes let men adore! 
Death wafts me to th' immortal shore. 

Appropriately, this child's epitaph imitates the ques- 
tion-answer format of the catechism and the schoolbook, 
though here it is the adult parents who go to school to 
their dead infant. The question the parents ask in the 
first four lines betrays their blind bereavement, their 
inability to understand or accept the will of God. In 
the last two lines the boy answers with a consolatory 
reprimand for their lack of submission to God's will. 
In death, the child has become father to the man; 
granted oracular powers, Reuben Hunt speaks dispassion- 
ately, with a gravity and authority far beyond his 
years, because he has been transformed from the "lovely 
prattling, playful boy" to an eternal spirit. Through 
this emblematic portrait stone, then, Reuben Hunt re- 
turns to grant his parents a glimpse of divine things, 
an understanding of God's workings behind the "Carnall- 
Screene. " 

The winged death's heads, cherubs, and portraits 
persist on New England stones into the nineteenth cen- 
tury before being replaced by the ubiquitous images of 
urns and willows. Some early urn and willow stones 
retain the flavor of the emblematic tradition, though 
most repeat, for a while, the old pious verses without 
accomplishing the connection of pictura and verse char- 
acteristic of emblem-stones. The Sarah Hine stone, 
1804, Marblehead, Massachusetts, is an example of an 
urn and willow stone which does attempt the emblematic 
fusion of pictura and moralized verse, but it is one of 
the few stones of its kind which do. The verse reads: 

Sure never with my latest breath 

Shall I forget your looks my tender friends, 

I must leave thee 

And go to Christ that died for me: 

Rise up my friends, condole the loss 

Of those that mourn this day, 

A solemn march we make, 

Toward the silent grave; 

what a striking scene! 


In this cold grave we pass, 

To Day I'm seen by all my friends 

But this must be the last. 

Let friends no more my sufferings mourn 

Nor dont my children be alarm' d; 

Cease to drop the pitying tear, 

I'm got beyound the reach of fear. 

The urn on the stone is completely appropriate, since 
the verse insists that Sarah Hine is no more to be seen 
on earth. The urn thus conceals that which is mortal, 
but Sarah Hine speaks to her friends and children of 
her comfort beyond the grave, concerning herself with 
earthly matters only up to her final leave-taking at 
interment. Though the Sarah Hine stone may be consi- 
dered an emblem, the majority of the urn and willow 
stones cannot since in most of them the pictura has 
become divorced from the verse. 

When image and verse are no longer complementary, 
even interpenetrated, there is^ no enrblem. An emblem 
may, however, be composed of conventional and cliched 
images or verses if the combined image and verse cliches 
remain interdependent. Originality is not a precondi- 
tion for an effective emblem or even for an effective 
epitaph verse, as the poet Wordsworth maintains. In 
his second "Essay upon Epitaphs," Wordsworth argues 
that "it is not only no fault but a primary requisite 
in an Epitaph that it shall contain thoughts and feel- 
ings which are in their substnce common-place, and even 
trite," as long as they are "perceived in their whole 
compass with the freshness and clearness of an original 
intuition." The writer "must introduce the truth with 
such accompaniment as shall imply that he has mounted 
to the source of things--penetrated the dark cavern 
from which the River that murmurs in everyone's ear has 
flowed from generation to generation." 20 This the New 
England carvers managed to achieve in the stones they 
carved. The carvers were mediators between time-bound 
mortals and immortal spirits who return to provide 
common, received truths with an immediacy which allowed 
their auditors to readmit them as revelations. Though 
the souls of those who preceded their families and 
friends in death often speak in formulaic and regular- 
ized conventions through the stones, they nevertheless 
bring comforting and coherent news from supernatural 
regions, and for such news the Puritans were avid, 
especially if it is true, as David E. Stannard claims, 
that they "were gripped individually and collectively 
by an intense and unremitting fear of death." 21 


For Puritan auditors the stones, with their famil- 
iar images and verses, provided a consistent and coher- 
ent vision of the world beyond. They made the invi- 
sible intelligible by shadowing forth, in true emblema- 
tic fashion, the mysterious realm towards which all 
mortals travel. Viewing the stones they erected in 
their burial grounds, the Puritans could share the 
vision that George Wither claims to have been granted 
through the mediacy of emblems God has planted in 

Even so, me thinks, I see 
A Glimpes, farre off, (through FAITH'S Prospective 

Of that, which after Death, will come to passe; 
And, likewise, gained have, such meanes of seeing, 
Some things, which were, before my Life had being, 
That, in my Soule, I should be discontent, 
If, this my Body were, more permanent; 
Since, Wee, and all God's other Creatures, here, 
Are but the Pictures, of what shall appeare. 22 


This study results from my participation in a 
National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar on fune- 
rary monuments and Puritan iconography held at the 
University of Massachusetts, Boston, in the summer of 
1982. I am grateful to Ruth Butler for selecting me as 
a participant. 

■'■Quoted in Harriette Merrifield Forbes, Grave - 
Stones ol £axly Eew. England and the Hen who Made Them, 
1653-1800 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927), p. 7. 

A number of commentators demonstrate that some 
Puritan carvers apparently used emblem collections as 
pattern books. See Dickran and Ann Tashjian, Memorials 
for Child re n stl Change; Ihs. Art ol Laxly. Hew. England, 
Stonecarving (Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan University 
Press, 1974), p. 176 and Figs. 119-20; Allan I. Ludwig, 
Graven images : Kew. England Stoneca rvi ng and its Sym- 
bjils, 1650-1815 (Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan University 
Press, 1966), pp. 263, 274. 

3 lhs Funeral Elegy and the Rise ot English Roman- 
ticism (New York: New York University Press, 1929), p. 
76; Rosemary Freeman, English Emblem BjioJts (New York: 
Octagon Books, 1966), pp. 206-207. 


4 Photofacsimile edition of George Wither, A. Collec- 
tion M Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne . 1£3_5_ 
(Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1975), 
p. 235. 

5 Francis Quarles, Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes of 
the Lile o£ Haja (London: William Freeman, 1710?). 

6 Quarles, p. 321. 

7 Mario Praz, Studies In Seventeenth-Century Imagery 
(Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1964), p. 25. 

8 Though the linking of Puritan epitaphs with clas- 
sical sources will seem odd to many, Allan Ludwig has 
shown convincingly that classical and early Christian 
iconography appears on Puritan gravestones. See Ludwig's 
"Eros and Agape: Classical and Early Christian Survi- 
vals in New England Stonecarving," in Puritan Grave- 
stone Ar_t, ed. Peter Benes (Boston: Boston University 
Press, 1977). Harriette Merrifield Forbes has also 
demonstrated that certain of the mottoes inscribed 
around the picturae on Puritan stones come from classi- 
cal writers, particularly Ovid, Perseus, and Horace 
(Gravestone.5 ai Early Hew. England, p. 25). This is 
certainly not to say that New England carvers were 
directly or consciously influenced either by Egyptian 
hieroglyphics or by classical Greek epigrammatists in 
the carving of stones. Instead, they came by these 
influences through the emblem tradition. Examples of 
the three rhetorical types of Puritan stones follow in 
the text. Examples of the three rhetorical types of 
epigrams abound in the Anthology and in Quarles' emblem 
books and need not be cited here. 

9 Peter Benes, Tjj£ H&sKs Ql Orthodoxy : £oJLk Grave- 
stone Carving in Plymouth County, Massachusetts . 1689- 
1805 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 
1977), p. 43. 

10 Praz, p. 170. Praz writes here specifically on 
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Jesuit emblem books, 
though this animating tendency characterizes the entire 
emblematic tradition. 

:.e in the Light si the 
£mj2ie.m (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), 
p. 21. 

12 Wither, A Collection oi Emblemes . p. A2. 


jLoi Children ol Changer p. 14. 

14 Quoted in David H. Watters, "With Bodi lie 
£y^s": Eschatoiogicai The mes in Puritan Literature and 
Gravestone Ar_t (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981), 
pp. 111-12. 

15 Jean Hagstrum, T_he. Sister Axis: The Tradition 
Ol Literary Pictorialism and English Poetry fro m Dryden 
to Gray (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 
p. 123; Wither, "Preface," pp. A1-A2. 

*•* Since both British and American Puritans were 
iconophobes who feared the animation of images, the . 
profusion of gravestone carvings in the burial grounds \ 
is perplexing to modern students of Puritan culture. j 
Rationales for Puritan prohibitions against images were 
offered by various Puritan divines, including Joseph 
Mede, who, in TJie. Apostasy of. the Latter Times, argued 
that "Images were made as Bodies, to be informed with 
Daemons as with Souls: For an Image was as a Trap to 
catch Daemons, and a device to tie them to a place, and 
to keep them from flitting." See TJie Works q£ the 
Pious snd Profound ly-Learned Joseph Mede, B.C. (Lon- 
don: R. Royston, 1663-64), Bk. Ill, p. 779. Puritan 
revulsion at Catholic and more liberal Reformation 
iconography came from an intuitive recognition that it 
is easy to cross over from the rational realm of artis- 
tic and representational convention into an idolatrous 
interaction with the image as if it were living and 
animate. The central irony of Puritan tomb carvings is 
that they facilitated what the Puritan iconophobes most 
feared: the carvers and the Puritan viewers did cross 
over into a perception of the stone images as endowed 
with voice and human presence. In spite of the danger 
of idolatry, however, the Puritans apparently made 
animate images because, as Allan Ludwig claims, the 
rational, mediate theology of Congregationalism was 
insufficient to provide the common folk with a felt 
connection betwen the mutable and the eternal. To feel 
this nexus more fully, the Puritans placed animate 
emblems in their graveyards. I would like to suggest 
that their tolerance for this iconography stemmed at 
least in part from their familiarity with the emblematic 
tradition. Accustomed to seeing emblems in their in- 
structional and devotional books, most were not dis- 
turbed to see emblems in their burying grounds as well. 

17 Benes, pp. 52, 133. 


l**Peter Benes, "The Caricature Hypothesis Re- 
examined: The Animated Skull as a Puritan Folk Image" 
in Purita n Gravest one Art , ed. Peter Benes (Boston: 
Boston University Press, 1977), p. 66. 

19 Benes, The. Ma_s_lis. &L Orthodoxy , p. 133. 

2 The Prose W orks q£ Hilliajn HordSMOtth/ ed. W. 
J. B. Owen and Jane Worthington Smyser (Oxford: Claren- 
don Press, 1974), II, 78-79. 

21 David E. Stannard, The P uritan Hay Ql De ath 
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 79. 

22 Wither, "The Authors Meditation upon sight of 
his Picture." 


A Particular Sense of Doom: 

Skeletal "Revivals" in Northern Essex County, 

Massachusetts, 1737-1784 

Peter Benes 

Until the extinction of their native decorating 
practices in the late eighteenth century, gravestone 
carvers in northern Essex County, Massachusetts, pursued 
a succession of characteristically regional styles that 
followed a model developed by the Haverhill carver Lt. 
John Hartshorn (1650-1734), and distinguished by the \ 
use of schist and by geometrically conceived "primitive" 
spirit faces (Figs. 1-5). The style was initially 
distributed in a handful of lower Merrimack River valley 
towns such as Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, 
Haverhill, Bradford, Amesbury, and Andover; but through 
the relocation of carvers, the style gradually dissemi- 
nated into Rockingham and Hillsborough counties in 
southern New Hampshire and into portions of Middlesex 
and Worcester counties of Massachusetts (Figs. 6-7). 
When Lt. John Hartshorn removed to Norwich, Connecticut 
in 1720, a comparable Connecticut variant of the Merri- 
mack school developed in Tolland, Windham, and New 
London counties in eastern Connecticut where it survived 
in derived forms until the early nineteenth century 
(Figs. 8-9). 3 

A comparison of the dispersed variants of the 
Merrimack designs with those found at its point of 
origin in northern Essex County reveals an interesting 
difference. Each of the four dispersed offshoots is 
characterized by a continuous evolution in which the 
Hartshorn model undergoes increasing stylization, com- 
plication, and animation. In Connecticut, for example, 
a three-generation succession of carvers that included 
Obadiah Wheeler (1673-c_. 1750), Benjamin (1691-1759) 
and Zerubbabel (1733-1797) Collins, the Loomis family 
(fl. 1760-1800), and the Manning family (fl. 1770-1800) 
animated Hartshorn's spirit face into a distinctive 
geometric angel noted for its large, round eyes and 
heavy, down-turned mouth (Figs. 8-9). A comparable 
animation of the Hartshorn face took place in the work 
of other dispersed Merrimack school carvers such as 
Jonathan and Moses Worcester of Harvard, Massachusetts, 
Abel Webster of Hollis, New Hampshire, and a handful of 
still-unidentified Hartshorn imitators who left stones 
in southern New Hampshire and along the Maine coastline. 
By contrast, the several Merrimack school carvers who 
continued to live and work in northern Essex County 




O Miles IO 

Map 1. The lower Merrimack River valley of eastern New 
England showing Essex County, Mass. and the 
locations of towns cited in this study. 

towns where Lt. John Hartshorn was initially active, 
abandoned Hartshorn's face symbols and replaced them 
with unrelated skeletal ones, presumably imitating 
Boston and Charlestown models. In doing so they became 
the only gravestone makers in New England to revive the 
Massachusetts Bay skull image at a time (1737-1784) 
when the image elsewhere was rapidly being animated 
and/or replaced. 

Any explanation of the short-lived popularity of 
the Hartshorn model in the area where it originated 
must bear in mind that time itself was a factor. "Aes- 
thetic fatigue," as it has been called elsewhere, may 
in part account for this reversal in local Merrimack- 
school designs. Indeed, colloquial or naive styles 
are replaced in Essex County several decades before 
they are replaced in eastern Connecticut. But aesthetic 
fatigue argues for a quicker evolution of existing 
images rather than a revival of earlier ones. This 
essay addresses the artistic intentions of the third- 
and fourth-generation Merrimack-school carvers active 
in northern Essex County and attempts to learn to what 


extent, if any, compelling regional or particular cir- 
cumstances may have influenced their delayed adoption 
of the Massachusetts Bay skull. 

Besides Lt. John Hartshorn himself (who continued 
to make gravestones in Haverhill and Rowley until 
1720), the second generation of local Merrimack school 
carvers included Hartshorn's nephew-in-law, Richard 
Leighton (1686-1749), who worked in Rowley; Richard 
Leighton's father, Ezekiel Leighton (1657-1723), of 
Rowley; Hartshorn's presumed apprentice, Robert Mulican 
(1664-1741), who worked in Bradford; and at least two 
and perhaps as many as four unidentified lesser, semi- 
professional Hartshorn and Mulican imitators who left 
stones in the second parish in Rowley (now Georgetown) 
and in Topsfield. Before 1737 these carvers closely 
approximated Hartshorn's spirit faces and duplicated in 
some form Hartshorn's circular-maze, bell-shape, or 
vine-and-leaf borders. Some imitations were clearly 
more faithful than others; some are scarcely recogniz- 
able as faces. All clearly display the primitive qua- 
lity for which the Merrimack school designs and their 
offshoots are known. 

In 1737, however, a Bradford innkeeper tentatively 
identified as Robert Mulican's son Joseph Mulican 
(1704-60) introduced into local burying grounds a hand- 
ful of stones emblematically and decoratively unrelated 
to the Hartshorn model. Joseph Mulican is identified 
as a stonecutter on the basis of two probate payments 
and an inventory filed in 1768 by his widow Phebe that 
cited gravestones in stock. Neither probated stone has 
yet been recovered; however, he commonly received pay- 
ments (presumably for providing stones) from estates 
where stones attributed to him have survived. Made of 
the usual schist, these stones were decorated with a 
skull and wings or skull and trees images carved without 
the customary double lines and ridges of stone. The 
earliest examples lack teeth and are recognizable as 
skulls from their hollowed eyes and wedge-shaped nose 
sections. All have a prominent "mouth mark"--a line 
or lines ostensibly representing the lower element of 
the triangular nose but positioned to suggest a mouth. 
The stones' lettering style (particularly the m and e_) 
indicates they originated from the Mulican's shop; 
clearly, someone in the shop had replaced the usual 
Mulican decorative vocabulary with a new one. 





Figure 1. Birds and face by Lt. John Hartshorn, Haver- 
hill and Rowley. 

Figure 2. Stars and face by Robert Mulican, Bradford 

Figure 3. Stars and face by Richard Leighton, Rowley. 

Figure 4. Stars and face by an unidentified carver 
active c_. 1730 in the second parish, Rowley 
(now Georgetown) . 

Figure 5. Rare stars and skull by Robert Mulican noted 
for its triangular-section eyes. 



Figure 6. Stars and face by Jonathan Worcester, Har- 
vard, Massachusetts. 

Figure 7. Whorls and face by Abel Webster, Chester and 
Hollis, New Hampshire. 

Figures 8 and 9. Cherub faces by the Manning family, 
Norwich and Windham, Connecticut. 

Found principally in Haverhill and Bradford, the 
Mulican shop's skull stones (£. 1737) were the first of 
a series of related skull designs produced by Joseph 
Mulican, by his brother Robert Mulican, Jr. (1688- 
1756), and probably by Joseph Marble (1726-1805), over 
a period of four decades. (Figs. 10-14). 1U The new 
designs kept some Merrimack-school traits (maze borders, 
geometric stars, schist stone). Initially, too, the 
earlier Hartshorn "face" images co-existed with the new 
series. By 1740, however, when the skull symbol had 
displaced the Hartshorn face on most Mulican stones, the 
skull had gained clenched teeth and had converted its 
"smiling" mouth-mark into a "frowning" one (Fig. 12). 
The result was a steadfast scowl that is found on 
scores of stones in Bradford and Haverhill, and in 
communities contiguous to them. 

In the two decades that followed, the Mulican 
skull evolved through a succession of variants distin- 
guished by rounded- or oval- shaped outlines, long 



Figures 10 and 11. 

Whorls and skull and winged skull, 
c_. 1737 , and attributed to Joseph 
Mulican, Bradford; designs include 
"smiling" mouth-mark. 

Figure 12. Detail of winged skull introduced by Joseph 
Mulican after 1740 revealing the "scowling" 
mouth-mark and explicit teeth. 

Figure 13. Winged skull with "wig" or "bonnet" by the 
Mulican/Marble shop, Bradford, before 1768, 

Figure 14. Winged skull by the Mulican/Marble shop, 
Bradford, 1770-84. 


noses, and close-set eyes. It also acquired an interest- 
ing secondary trait: on the stones of women, the image 
was provided with a composite wig, sometimes made up of 
as many as fourteen segments, but usually fewer. Later 
versions of the wig were simplified and resemble bon- 
nets; their use was so common that by 1750 a wig or 
bonnet on a stone from the Mulican/Marble shop was an 
unmistakable mark of a woman's headstone; the lack of 
such a wig, a man's (Fig. 13). 

After Joseph Mulican died in Bradford in 1768, 
"wig skulls" were no longer produced in the Mulican 
shop. At this point (1768) the shop began to carve a 
new skull variant (Fig. 14). Distinguished by its 
keyhole profile, prominent circular eyebrows, a squared 
jaw, and a quizzical expression, this stone is the 
presumed work of Joseph Marble and John Marble (1746- 
1844). It is commonly found in Bradford, Rowley, and 
Haverhill burying grounds in the years from 1766 to 
1780 and represents the Mulican skull in its final 

In the meantime, a comparable design reversal had 
taken place in the work of a gravestone shop centered 
in Newbury and Rowley, which produced distinctive "spec- 
tacles" stones (Figs. 15-16). The principal workers in 
this shop have tentatively been identified as Jonathan 
Hartshorn (1703-?) and Jonathan Leighton (1715-?). One 
of the three grandsons of Lt. John Hartshorn who sur- 
vived the 1708 Haverhill massacre that took the lives 
of the father, John, Jr., and three other brothers, 
Jonathan Hartshorn is known to have been living in 
Newbury in the 1750s and 1760s when most of the specta- 
cles type were made. He is paid for gravestones by 
Joseph Coffin of Newbury in 1764, and by James Pearson, 
probably of Newbury, in 1742. (Neither pair of stones 
has yet been discovered.) Jonathan Hartshorn married, 
first, Sarah Cross of Methuen in 1729 where their five 
children were born in the years 1730 to 1738. Two of 
his children died in 1738 and were buried under crude 
prototypes of the spectacles design in the Methuen 
burial ground. He married, second, Mary Boynton of 
Newbury in 1739; five children were born to Jonathan in 
Newbury fron 1745 to 1752. 11 Jonathan Leighton in turn 
was the son of the Rowley stonecutter Richard Leighton 
and grandson of the carver Ezekiel Leighton, Lt. John 
Hartshorn's brother-in-law by his fourth wife Mary 
Spofford Leighton. "Jona. Lighton" is paid for grave- 
stones by John Barker of Ipswich in 1740. In 1749 his 
father Richard Leighton willed Jonathan one-half his 


lands, meadows, and barn. Jonathan Leighton sold pro- 
perty j-ji Rowley in 1761 and 1771, and later moved to 
Maine. 12 

The reversal to skulls was accomplished somewhat 
more slowly in the Hartshorn/Leighton shop in Newbury 
than in the Mulican/Marble shop in Bradford. The source 
design was Richard Leighton's attenuated, if crude, 
version of the Hartshorn face. Following Richard Leigh- 
ton's death in 1750, an unknown apprentice or appren- 
tices (presumably Jonathan Leighton jointly with Jona- 
than Hartshorn) worked the Leighton variant into a 
geometric face found commonly in Newbury and Rowley 
from 1751 to 1759 whose eyes were joined by a distinc- 
tive, ridge. Through a gradual process of elimination 
and substitution, the spectacles design was divested of 
its Hartshorn characteristics and assumed a more conven- 
tional appearance. At the same time the image itself 
became more skeletal (Fig. 17). Whereas early versions 
of the nose are suggested by a single vertical line, 
later versions are drawn with the caret mark usually 
associated with skulls (Figs. 18-19). After 1758 Harts- 
horn/Leighton stones lost all their Hartshorn charac- 
teristics and became explicit winged skulls whose ex- 
pressions appear benignly amused (Fig. 20). These 
skulls, only tentatively identified as the work of the 
Leighton/Hartshorn shop in Newbury, were produced in 
large numbers in the sixteen-year period between 1767 
and 1782. By 1783 the shop had converted the skull 
into an angel. 

Map 2. 

Distribution of 700 skull stones by the Mulican/ 
Marble and Hartshorn/Leighton shops, 1737-84. 
475 (70%) are located in Bradford and Newbury. 





Figure 15. "Scowling" winged spirit-face by the Leigh- 
ton shop, Rowley, 1747-50. 

Figure 16. Winged spirit face or cherub with "specta- 
cles" eyes by the Hartshorn/Leighton shop, 
£. 1750-55. 

Figure 17. Winged spirit face or cherub by the Harts- 
horn/Leighton shop showing the substitution 
of a skeletal nose, c.. 1750-55. 


Figures 18 and 19. 

Details of winged skull-faces by the 
Hartshorn/Leighton shop, 1755-59, 
showing the increasing skeletaliza- 
tion of the "spectacles" design. 

Figure 20. Winged skull by the Hartshorn/Leighton shop, 
Rowley and Newbury, 1770-84. 



Because their work was largely confined to a dozen 
small- to middle-size coastal parishes located in nor- 
thern Essex County, the domestic Merrimack school of 
gravestone makers was serving a rural constituency that 
was rarely in touch with Boston, but that was neverthe- 
less aware of Boston's influence. An initial explana- 
tion of the skeletal reversal is that third- and 
fourth-generation Merrimack school carvers were divest- 
ing themselves of embarrassingly provincial decorating 
practices and assuming the styles of urban Massachusetts 
Bay carvers. Ipswich, for example, which before 1735 
had drawn about equally on local carvers and those in 
Massachusetts Bay, after that date turned increasingly 
to Boston, Charlestown, and Salem gravestone makers. 
It is quite possible that Joseph Mulican in 1737, and 
the Leighton/Hartshorn shop in 1758, consciously re- 
worked their designs in response to competition from 
gravestone makers working in "The Bay". This explana- 
tion is reinforced by the fact that comparable imita- 
tions of urban cultural and ecclesiological models were 
undertaken by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century nor- 
thern Essex County housewrights and meetinghouse buil- 
ders and that the more sophisticated and fashionable 
community of Ipswich, like Beverly and Salem, was the 
channel for these innovations. In 1696 Haverhill de- 
signed the pulpit, galleries, windows, doors, floors, 
and stairs of its new meetinghouse "after the pattern 
of the Beverly meeting house." In 1700 the new meeting- 
house erected by Newbury duplicated (and, in fact, 
probably imitated) the exact dimensions of the giant 
Salem meetinghouse of 1670, including its hip-roof, 
four-gable exterior contruction. 1,3 Similarly, in the 
choice of psalms, Ipswich First and Third churches, 
were the first in northern Essex County to sing Nahum 
Tate and Nicholas Brady's translations (their version 
had been previously adopted by six Boston and Salem 
churches); the two Ipswich churches were followed by 
Newbury First in 1761; Haverhill First in 1764; and 
Boxford First in 1767. 14 Here, then, is a familiar 
pattern whereby fashionable urban cultural modes are 
filtering or seeping into the Essex County hinterland 
through a chain of imitations in which certain key 
parishes (such as Ipswich First) play a leading role. 

A fashion hypothesis has several drawbacks, however. 
Not only did Merrimack skull carvers fail to duplicate 
the secondary elements of their presumed Boston and 
Charlestown gravestone models (borders, feather work, 


lettering, skull outline, and eyebrows), but they boldly 
reworked the skull design to their own special purposes 
--for example, the wig variant. By way of contrast, 
stonecarvers in Groton, Massachusetts, and Milford, 
Connecticut, who clearly did imitate the designs of the 
Charlestown carvers, Caleb and Nathaniel Lamson, accu- 
rately reproduced these designs almost to the last 
detail. Groton and Milford replicas of Lamson stones 
can only be distinguished from Lamson originals by the 
differing stone source of the imitators. Then there is 
the social evidence. Prominent families in Andover, 
Ipswich, and Newburyport frequently purchased angel 
stones from the Lamsons rather than the Lamsons's more 
common skull stones. If imitation of a Boston area 
high style had in fact been a reason for abandoning the 
Hartshorn tradition, there was at least as much reason 
to imitate a fashionable Lamson angel as a fashionable 
winged skull. No such angel imitations were attempted. 

A better explanation for the reversal may be found 
in the "mentality" of the northern Essex County parishes 
that produced and patronized these designs. Was there 
anything unique in the history of the region that might 
have encouraged or inspired the use of winged skulls? 
Three particular circumstances immediately stand out. 
The first of these was the earthquake that was felt 
throughout New England on the night of October 29, 
1727. Although no fatalities were reported, the tremor 
toppled chimneys, tolled bells, and woke a starled 
people from their sleep. By all contemporary eyewitness 
accounts, as well as modern geological and seismological 
studies, the epicenter and the strongest tremors were 
located near the mouth of the Merrimack River at the 
confluence of what present-day maps call the Essex and 
Bloody Bluff faults where loud explosions were reported 
and fissures appeared in the earth. 5 Major after- 
shocks were also recorded in the area, sometimes several 
in the same day. 

More lasting, perhaps, were the religious repercus- 
sions. Ministers throughout New England, and particu- 
larly those in parishes located in northern Essex 
County, used the occasion to remind their congregations 
of the disaster that took place at Port Royal in 1692 
and to consider the October event as a divine warning. 
Interpreting the earthquake as a divine "Voice" or 
"Token of displeasure," ministers chastised their lis- 
teners for having "gone a whoring from . . . [their] 
God" and urged them to shun a list of sins that among 
others included pride, sensuality, drunkenness and 



Map 3. Map showing the location of the Essex and Bloody 
Bluff geological faults which converge in the 
town of Newbury, and which determined the epi- 
centers of the 1727 and 1755 earthquakes. From 
Robert Castle, et. al., Structural Dislocations 
in Eastern Massachusetts . 

unchastity. While ministers balanced their interpreta- 
tion in terms of God's mercy (no serious casualties), 
uncompromising imagery such as the dog turning to "his 
own vomit," and the newly washed sow returning "to her 
wallowing in the mire" was not uncommon in the sermonic 

The results, perhaps, were predictable. As the 
minister John Fox wrote, "never were the Body of this 
People . . . thrown into the like Consternation. ' An 
estimated five thousand New Englanders took communion 
for the first time in the six months following the 
event. And what was true of New England generally was 
true particularly of a line of towns and parishes lying 
along the eastern half of the Essex fault system that 
stretches from the mouth of the Merrimack River south- 
westerly to Worcester, where the intensity of the shock 
had been greatest. In the six months following the 
October earthquake, Haverhill First Church received 226 
new communicants; Andover First, 158; Newbury Second, 
147; Newbury First, 133. Admissions elsewhere in New 
England ayeraged one-fifth to one-tenth these figures 
or less. 9 So alive was the memory of earthquakes in 
the fault region that when another powerful tremor 


shook New England twenty-eight years later in 1755, a 
number of Essex County churches experienced what might 
be described as an "echo"— a sudden rise in church 
admissions — the only area in New England to do so. 20 

The second circumstance was the diptheria epidemic 
that struck New England, New Jersey, and New York in 
the years from 1735 to 1737. Called "throat distemper," 
the epidemic first broke out in the household of a 
Kingston, New Hampshire, farmer who had butchered an 
infected hog. It soon spread south to Haverhill and 
Newbury, and thence along the Boston-Portsmouth post 
road to Salem. The epidemic ravaged the Merrimack 
Valley more severely than any other sector of New 
England. More than half the estimated two thousand 
deaths resulting from this outbreak in Massachusetts 
occured in Essex County, most of these in the county's 
northern and eastern parishes. Byfield parish, for 
example, lost one-third of its infant population and 
one-seventh of its total population within a year; 
Haverhill lost one-half its infant population; Rowley 
lost one-eighth of its total population. Comparable 

losses decimated the towns of Newbury, Ipswich, Rowley, 
and Bradford. In the words of a contemporary Boston 
verse writer: 

To Newbury . go and see, 
To Hampton and Kingston 
In York likewise, and Kittery 
Behold, what God hath done."" 

A third circumstance is the mid-century religious 
revival in northern Essex County, or more accurately 
the absence of this revival. Excepting what was then 
the third parish in Newbury (Newburyport) , which admit- 
ted 158 new communicants during the Great Awakening, 
church admissions in northern Essex County parishes 
were negligible during the peak revival years from 1741 
to 1742, which saw parishes elsewhere in New England 
admit scores and hundreds of new communicants. Haverhill 
First, for example, which admited 226 new communicants 
from 1727 to 1728, added only four new communicants 
from 1741 to 1742. Newbury Second (West Newbury) 
gained 147 in 1717-28, but only thirty-two in 1741-42. 
Amesbury Second admJLtted 100 in 1727-28, but only thir- 
ty-one in 1741-42. 3 The same pattern is found among 
congregations elsewhere in the northern sector of the 
county and in the towns and parishes that lay on the 
Essex fault system, and it is accompanied by comparable 
attitudes on the part of the clergy. Although a handful 


of ministers invited itinerant evangelical ministers 
such as George Whitefield and John Davenport to preach 
in their pulpits, the lower Merrimack area clergy as a 
whole was clearly inclined toward Arminian (formalistic) 
sentiment. In a letter sent to their Boston colleagues 
in December 1744 r nineteen ministers out of thirty-five 
in the Merrimack region announced publicly their deter- 
mination to exclude Whitefield from their pulpits and 
affirmed their opinion that enthusiastic preaching did 
more harm than good. 24 Only three clergymen took the 
opposite view. Revival-generated separations took 
place in only two parishes; Baptist denominations 
emerged at relatively late dates and were few in num- 
ber. 25 So far as can be read through church admission 
data and the known positions of practicing ministers, 
therefore, the Merrimack area was antienthusiastic in 
its orientation. Indeed, the area ultimately developed 
its own style of Arminianism that in the early nine- 
teenth century was identified as "Merrimack Divinity." 26 


The question to be considered, of course, is whet- 
her these special circumstances — the 1727 earthquake, 
the 1735-37 epidemic of throat distemper, the prevail- 
ing postrevival Mer r imack-area Arminianism--had any 
influence on iconographic and artistic choices made by 
the Bradford innkeeper Joseph Mulican and by the pre- 
sumed stonecutting partners Jonathan Hartshorn and 
Jonathan Leighton. And, if so, whether these influences 
were in any way stronger or more meaningful than aes- 
thetic fatigue or shifts in fashion. To answer this (if 
only on a tentative basis) it is necessary first to 
refine our interpretation of Puritan gravestone skulls. 
Now commonly regarded as symbols of death, the winged 
skull symbols carved on colonial gravestones were proba- 
bly perceived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centu- 
ries as spirits released by death (hence the wings). 
It is likely that they were ghosts in the traditional 
sense of "giving up the ghost," and were equivalent in 
meaning to other skull-based and face-based spirit 
symbols and emblems, such as the trees and skull, bird 
and skull, stars and skull, stars and face, trees and 
face, and winged face. There is evidence to suggest, 
moreover, that through a complex, superimposed folk 
language of caricature and heraldry, eighteenth-century 
New England stonecarvers sometimes expressed popular 
hopes and fears and conventional religious attitudes 
and expectations towards death and resurrection. Scow- 
ling spirits presumably anticipated resurrection with 


caution; blissful or ecstatic ones perhaps confidently 
awaited it. In between were semiskeletal and semifa- 
cial variations that exhibited mixed elements of both. 

The shift by Merrimack school carvers to skull 
emblems and to harsh caricatures within these emblems 
can be interpreted in this folk heraldic context. Two 
key dates are involved in the iconography: 1737 when 
the Mulican shop introduced a skull stone (Figs. 10-11), 
and about 1750 when Hartshorn and Leighton skeletized 
their spectacles stones (Figs. 16-19). The 1737 date 
is probably linked to the outbreak of throat dist emper; 
indeed, the initial Mulican skull stones mark the ear- 
liest victims of the disease, principally children in 
Haverhill and Bradford. Some relationship — still un- 
clear in its details, but perhaps involving a community- 
sensed recognition of a terrible tragedy, probably ties 
the choice of the new skull design to the epidemic. 
This follows a pattern found elsewhere in New England 
where carvers introduced major design changes at moments 
of unusual societal stress. In a 1747 epidemic, for 
example, the carver Nathan Hayward of Bridgewater, 
Massachusetts, introduced highly innovative variations 
of traditional Plymouth County skull designs. Simi- 
larly, the Soule carvers of Plympton, Massachusetts, 
animated their "Medusa" stones after smallpox struck 
Chatham, Massachusetts, in the years from 1765 to 
1766. 27 

The 1737 epidemic in Essex County, however, must 
also be seen in its wider context. As has already been 
pointed out, the October 1727 earthquake produced more 
religious conversions in northern Essex County than 
anywhere else in New England. But there may have been 
a difference in perception, as well. This is hinted at 
by the highly suggestive language of a 1727 letter by 
Richard Waldron of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to his 
sister in which he describes the experiences of "a Man 
who lives about a mile distant from us," and who 

immediately after the first Rumbling and 
little Shock, heard a fine musical sound, 
like the sound of a Trumpet at a distance. 
He could not distinguish any Tune that he 
knew; but perceiv'd a considerable Variety of 
Notes. The Musick continued till after the 
Second Rumbling . . . The Man's wife 
heard what he did. 8 

Perhaps not everyone in the Merrimack region believed 


the world was coming to an end with a blast of a "Trum- 
pet" on the night of October 29, but enough may have 
that when the throat distemper epidemic struck their 
communities then years later, their worst fears became 
confirmed. From this viewpoint, the absence of the 
1740-42 religious revival in the region can be seen as 
a symptom of a continuing malaise. Having already 
experienced conversions and renewals after the 1727 
earthquake, Christian believers in northern Essex County 
may have found few new converts to make among them- 
selves. It might be said that the region found itself 
in the unenviable predicament of sharing a prevailing 
religious apprehension while having exhausted the col- 
lective means of coping with it. 

Precisely how a state of mind might be translated 
into a specific gravestone symbol is now impossible to 
say. In a surviving 1739 letter addressed to the 
Bradford stonecarver Robert Mulican (1664-1741), a 
buyer specified only names, ages, and death dates of 
the deceased; no reference to pictorial symbols was 
made, and no document has so far come to light that 
provides any real insight as to Mulican's artistic 
intention or that of his innkeepper son, Joseph. 9 We 
can only presume that in their reversal to skull imagery 
Joseph Mulican and the Hartshorn/Leighton carvers, 
acting alone as naive artists or collectively with 
their neighbors and communities, chose skeletal imagery 
over the earlier Hartshorn imagery, in part because the 
former was now in fashion, and in part because they, 
the carvers, judged it more appropriately met the felt 
needs and purposes of memorialization. Whatever our 
interpretation, one fact stands out: the greatest 
number of 1727-28 earthquake-related conversions, the 
highest mortality rate in the 1735-37 throat epidemic, 
and the only known instance in New England of a reversal 
to skeletal gravestones all took place in northern 
Essex County at roughly the same time period. If we 
are correct in our belief that New England carvers 
devised masks and caricatures in order to express popu- 
lar hopes and expectations about death, the late intro- 
duction of skull imagery in northern Essex County was 
compatible with at least two and perhaps three histori- 
cal circumstances that had uniquely affected this region 
and that may have generated a particular sense of doom. 
Articulated with the freshness, wit, and simplicity 
that eighteenth-century gravestone artists brought to 
their work, this doom (if indeed it was doom) is pre- 
served in the haunting and intensely beautiful folk 
effigies of the domestic Merrimack school. 



Thanks are due to Ralph L. Tucker of West Newbury r 
Massachusetts, for furnishing key probate and genealogi- 
cal data for carvers in northern Essex County; for 
locating relevant seismological monographs; and for a 
critical reading of the manuscript. This paper was 
presented at the Association for Gravestone Studies 
annual conference held at Bradford Junior College in 

^•Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones XII: 
John Hartshorne vs. Joshua Hempstead," Connec ticut 
Historical Society Bulletin. 3 2 (July, 1967), 6 5-7 9; 
Peter Benes, "Lt. John Hartshorn, Stonecutter of Haver- 
hill and Norwich," ££_£££ Institute Historical Collec - 
tions, 109 (April, 1973), 152-64; James A. Slater and 
Ralph L. Tucker, "The Colonial Gravestone Carvings of 
John Hartshorne," Puritan Gravestone Axi JLI: 1978 
Annual Proceedings o_f ihe. Dublin seminar £sll EfiW England 
Folklife (Boston: Boston University Scholarly Publica- 
tions, 1979), pp. 79-146. 

2 Peter Benes, "Abel Webster: Pioneer, Patriot, 
and Stonecutter," Historical New Hampshire , 28 (Winter, 
1973), 221-40; James L. and Donna Belle Garvin, "Step- 
hen Webster, Gravestone Maker," Histo rical Ue_w. Hamp^ 
silir_£, 29 (Summer, 1974), 93-104. Harriette M. Forbes, 
Gravestones o.f EarJLy. Re_w. England and. £h& E&n Who. M&&& 
Them. 1653-1800 (1927; rpt. New York: Da Capo, 1967), 
pp. 77-78; Allan I. Ludwig, Graven Images : Ne w Eng la nd 
Stonecarvi ng and its Symb ols . 1650-1815 (Middletown, 
Ct.: Wesleyan University Press, 1966), pp. 371-73; 
Dickran and Ann Tashjian, Memorials for Ch i ldren q£ 
change : The Aii ol Early Hew. England s.jtQnecarving 
(Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan University Press, 1974), 
pp. 201-04. 

3 Forbes, 102-05; Ludwig, 380-89; 401-16; Tashjian 
and Tashjian, 204-11; Ernest Caulfield and James A. 
Slater, "The Colonial Gravestone Carvings of Obadiah 
Wheeler," Proceedings £f the American Antiquarian S_q- 
ciet y. 84 (April, 1974), 73-103; James A. Slater and 
Ernest Caulfield, "The Loomis Carvers: Connecticut 
Gravestone Art XVI," Con necticut Hi storical Society 
Bulletin . 48 (Fall, 1983), 143-68. 

4 Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones XIII: 
Richard Kimball, Lebbeus Kimball, Chester Kimball," 
Connect icut Hist oric al Society Bulletin. 40 (April, 


1975), 33-45; "Connecticut Gravestones XV: Three Manning 
Imitators," Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, 43 
(January, 1978), 1-16; "Connecticut Gravestones VIII: 
Josiah Manning, Frederick Manning, Rockwell Manning," 

1962) , 76-82. 

5 George Kubler, The Shape ol Iime_«. ££Hia_r_k£ on the 
histor y of things (New Haven: Yale University Press, 
1962), p. 82. 

6 For evidence that Ezekiel Leighton carved stones 
similar to Hartshorn's original style, see Sue Kelly 
and Anne Williams, "'And the Men Who Made Them 1 : The 
Signed Gravestones of New England," MARKERS 11 (1983), 
45, 85. 

7 "Joseph Mulickon" was paid forty shillings for 
gravestones in 1738 by John Sanders of Haverhill (Caul- 
field, XII, p. 77), and by Stephen Morss of Newbury 
(Essex County Probate Records, hereafter cited ECPR, 
326:311). Joseph's widow "Phebe Mullikin" was paid two 
pounds, five shillings, and four pence for "two Setts 
of grave stones" by the estate of Ebenezer Osgood, of 
Andover in 1768, presumably the same "Two Pair of Grave 
Stones" that were inventoried in her husband's estate 
at the same value (ECPR 345:25, 26). Cited in his 
inventory as an "innkeeper," Mulican left "twelve Bow- 
back't Chares" in his estate along with "Six black 
Chares," "ten pair of Sheets," and no fewer than "twen- 
ty Gallons" of "Rum and Spirits." 

8 Fifteen examples of Robert Mulican's early skull 
stones are known: six in what were then Newbury pa- 
rishes; six in Haverhill; and three in Merrimac. Four 
of these stones have unusual triangular eyes. The 
inscription date distribution of the group is: 1736 
(2); 1737 (3); 1738 (6); 1739 (3); 1740 (1). Hartshorn 
occasionally gave his faces jagged teeth or triangular 
noses, but he is not known to have used a skull design 
as such. 

9 Ralph L. Tucker and Fred W. Boughton, "By Their 
Lettering Shall Ye Know Them," Newsletter Ql the ASSQCJ- 
aiioji loj: Gravestone St ud ies, 8 (Spring, 1984), 7-9. 

10 Kelly and Williams, p. 87; Forbes, p. 129. Jo- 
seph Marble is first paid for gravestones in 1776 (ECPR 
352:197, Edward Barnard, Haverhill); John Marble is 
first paid for stones in 1789 (ECPR 360:174, John Ela, 


Haverhill). Both stonecutters left signed stones. 

1] - Vital Records of Newbury (Salem, Mass: The Essex 
Institute, 1911), 1:216; ECPR 341:357; Caulfield, XII, 
p. 79. This is the same Jonathan Hartshorn who as a 
child in 1710 scratched his name on the base of a 
footstone now standing in the Ipswich burying ground 
(Benes, "Hartshorn," p. 160). 

12 Forbes, p. 128; Amos E. Jewett and Emily M. 
Jewett, Rowley . Massachusetts . "Mr« Ezechi Rogers plan- 
tation ." 1639-1850 (Rowley, Mass.: Jewett Family of 
America, 1946), p. 141; ECPR 324:604; Vital Records of 
Rj2Hl£y, Hs_s_s.a.c_h.u.s£i:Ls, ££ iJie end q£ iJue year 1QA2., 2 
vols. (Salem, Mass.: The Essex Institute, 1928-31), I, 
129; ECPR 328:614. 

13 D. Hamilton Hurd, History Cif £s_s_e_x. County . M assa- 
chusetts (Philadelphia: Lewis, 1880), pp. 1947-48; The 
First Parish . Newbury . Massachusetts . 1635-1935 (New- 
buryport, Mass.: The First Parish, 1935), pp. 31-32; 
Marian C. Donnelly, The New Eng land Meeting Houses o.£ 
the Seventeenth Century (Middletown, Ct.: Wesleyan 
University Press, 1968), p. 126. For a study of the 
transmission of architectural styles through a sequence 
of regional and local imitations, see Peter Benes, "The 
Templeton 'Run' and the Pomfret 'Cluster': Patterns of 
Diffusion in Rural New England Meetinghouse Architec- 
ture, 1647-1822," Old-Time Hew. England, 68 (Winter- 
Spring, 1978), 1-21. 

14 Henry W. Foote, Thre e Centuries cJL American 
Hymnody (1940; rpt. Hamden, Ct.: Archon Books, 1968), 
p. 160; Joseph B. Felt, Hi sto ry £i!, Essexr and 
Hamilton f Massachusetts (Cambridge: C. Folsom, 1834), 
p. 212; First Parish. Newbury, p. 35; B. L. Mirick, 
History of Haverhill , Massachusetts (Haverhill, Mass.: 
Thayer, 1832), p. 166; Sidney Perley, History q£_ Rqx- 
f ord . Essex County. Massachusetts (Boxford, Mass: The 
author, 1880) , p. 193. For a more complete study of the 
movement of translations by Tate and Brady and by Isaac 
Watts in eighteenth-century New England, see Peter 
Benes, "Psalmody in Coastal Massachusetts and in the 
Connecticut River Valley," The Bay and the River : 1S_8_1 
Proceedings of ±M Dublin S eminar f or lfew. England Folk- 
life (Boston: Boston University Scholarly Publications, 
1982), pp. 117-31. 

15 William T. Brigham, "Historical Notes on the 
Earthquakes of New England, 1638-1869," Boston Society 


q£ Natural History , Memoirs . 2:1; a contemporary account 
appears in Thomas Prince, Earthquakes the Works fil Qq& 
and Tokens ol Ms Just Displeasures (Boston, 1727). 

16 0f thirty-three earthquake-related sermons pub- 
lished in New England following the October tremor, ten 
were composed by ministers of Essex County parishes; 
three others were composed by ministers in Rye and 
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. See Charles Evans, American 
Rihlioaraphv (Chicago: Privately printed, 1903), list- 
ings for 1727-28; William D. Andrews, "The Literature 
of the 1727 New England Earthquake," £a£ly. Am erican 
Literature . (Winter, 1973), 280-94. 

17 John Fox, God Jay his p.qw.££ causes the £^xiJa and. 
its inhabitants ic tremble (Boston, 1728), p. 28. 

18 Robert 0. Castle, £i. al-r S_Ltii£i^XSl Pi s loca- 
tions in Eastern Ma£sacil!l.S_££:t£ : A descr iption fil £Jl£ 
major faults and m ylonite zones that Xoiffi £n£ eastern 
Massachusetts dislccaiiojl b£l£. Geological Survey 
Bulletin 1410 (Washington, D. C: United States Govern- 
ment Printing Office, 1976), pp. 3-4, 8-15. 

19 Essex North Association, C_ojaiiJj2MiJLQHS ££■ ths. 
Kr.rTesiastical History q£ £s_s_£x. County, ftass^. (Boston: 
Congregational Board of Publication, 1865), p. 290; 
Abiel Abbot, History ot Andpver, £rj2ffi its settle ment ifi 
UL2_2 (Andover, Mass.: Flagg and Folsom, 1829), p. 77. 
The east precinct in Middleborough, Massachusetts, 
admitted twenty-six new members into the church in 
1727-28; by contrast, this church admitted 162 in the 
revival years of 1741-42 See Book q£ ine. First Church 
Ol Christ in Middleborough (Boston: Moody, 1852). 

20 Salisbury Second Church admitted seventy-nine in 
the years 1755-56 after averaging three or four new 
communicants per year; Bradford First Church admitted 
thirty-five, and Newbury Third Church (West Newbury), 
twenty-seven in 1755-56. See Essex North Association, 
p. 290. 

21 Ernest Caulfield, "A True History of the Terrible 
Epidemic," Disease and Society in Provincial M assachu- 
sett s (New York: Arno, 1972), pp. 103-04, 110, 62, 
279. See also, Felt, p. 196. 

22 Awakening Calls ifi Eatlv. Piety (Boston, 1738). 

23 Essex North Association, p. 290. 


24 A Letter Irom T.w_o NeigJibsrjjig AssocJ3ti.PJls. £f 
ministers in £he Country. . . . rel^tin^ £.0. .the. 
admission of Mr. Whitef ield into their pulpits f December 
2&, 1744 . quoted in Joseph Tracy, The Great A wakening 
(Boston: Tappan, 1842), pp. 344-45. 

25 0f the thirty-five parishes in northern and 
eastern Essex County, only Topsfield, Gloucester First, 
and Ipswich First openly favored the revival and invited 
Whitefield on his 1744-45 tour of New England. They 
were joined by two separating parishes: Newburyport's 
Presbyterian Church and the separatists at Chebacco 
parish in Ipswich. Amesbury Second, Andover First, 
Beverly First, Bradford First and Second, Byfield, 
Ipswich Second, Manchester, Newbury First through 
Fourth, Salisbury First and Second, Methuen, and Boxford 
Second all went on record against the revival. 


Essex North Association, p. 185. 

27 Peter Benes, The M asks of Orthodoxy : Folk Grave- 
stone Carving in Pl ymouth County . Massachusetts . 1689- 
1805 (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts 
Press, 1977), pp. 116, 136-37. 

2 °Letter from Richard Waldron, Portsmouth, N. H., 
to Madam Waldron his sister, in Boston, January 12, 
1728; quoted in "A Letter Book of Samuel Sewall," 
Massachusetts Historical Society Collections , II, 6th 
series (Boston, 1888), 232. 

29 Forbes, p. 15. 


The Colburn Connections: 
Hollis, New Hampshire, Stonecarvers, 1780-1820 

Theodore Chase and Laurel K. Gabel 

We began our study of the gravestone carvers of 
the Lancastrian towns with an article on James Wilder 
of Lancaster, Massachusetts. 1 Paul Colburn appeared to 
have taken on the mantle of James Wilder, and our 
research reveals that Colburn became a highly influen- 
tial carver in the region. Colburn came to Sterling 
from Hollis, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire in 
1784, three years after Sterling had separated from 
Lancaster. Our field studies in Hollis yielded a large 
number of stones which we at first attributed to Paul 
Colburn. It gradually became apparent, however, that 
there were several other carvers in Hollis, contempo- 
raries of Colburn, most of them related to him by 
marriage, and one with a carving style almost indistin- 
guishable from his. As a result, we found ourselves 
studying not simply the life and work of Paul Colburn, 
but also that of four hitherto unknown stonecutters of 
the 1790s and early 1800s. By examining their lives 
and work, we discovered a great deal about the patterns 
of intermarriage, apprenticeship, and craft succession 
in the stonecutting trade. Documents reveal the eco- 
nomic status of stonecutters in the period, and an 
inventory of stones outlines significant patterns of 
image used on stones for men, women and children. 

PAUL COLBURN 1761-1825 

The Colburn line in Hollis began with Paul's grand- 
father, William Colburn, who in 1738 brought his family 
from Concord, Massachusetts to Patch's Corner "in an 
oxcart, guided by marked trees." This land was then 
part of West Dunstable, Massachusetts. In the year of 
his arrival, William Colburn was one of those who 
signed a petition to the General Court seeking to have 
West Dunstable set off as a separate town from Groton 
and Dunstable. A new line was established between 
Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1741, and Hollis was 
chartered as a New Hampshire town on April 3, 1746. 
William Colburn was assessed the first parish tax in 
1740 and was a member of the pulpit committee which 
secured Daniel Emerson as the first Hollis minister in 
1742. Two years later he signed a petition for the 
protection of West Dunstable from the Indians. Paul's 
father, William, Jr., was born in Concord in 1726. He 
married Abigail Wheeler of Concord in 1757, and they 


too settled at Patch's Corner in Hollis. William, Jr. 
farmed the fertile land which brought the first settlers 
to the town, leaving only to serve in the French and 
Indian War. Paul, William and Abigail's first son, was 
born in Hollis October 4, 1761, the second of seven 
children. 2 

Paul Colburn was fourteen years old when his father 
died in 1776. John Ball, who was also to become a 
stonecutter, was living in Hollis at that time; he was 
two years older than Paul. We believe that both boys 
learned to carve gravestones, and perhaps apprenticed, 
together for they later used almost identical designs 
and lettering styles. While Colburn and Ball may have 
been influenced by the work of the brothers Abel and 
Stephen Webster, both of whom lived for a time in 
Hollis, the Websters 1 work in that town was confined to 
the period prior to 1766, and hence Colburn and Ball 
would have been too young to have served in their shop. 
Abel and Stephen moved to Plymouth, New Hampshire in 
1765 and 1766, respectively. In any event, Paul mar- 
ried John Ball's sister Mehitable in 1780. In the 
following year William Ball, brother of John and Mehi- 
table, married Elizabeth Colburn, Paul's first cousin, 
thereby drawing the two families even closer. Two 
children, Mehitable and Elizabeth, were born to Paul 
and Mehitable Ball Colburn while they were still living 
in Hollis. Elizabeth, or Betsy, was born January 13, 
1784. 4 

Among the papers in the estate of Paul's father, 
William Colburn, Jr., is a bond dated December 9, 1784 
in which Paul is described as "of Sterling, Massachu- 
setts, cordwainer." It seems evident, therefore, that 
Paul moved to Sterling in 1784, although he did not 
acquire land there until February 1786 when he bought a 
parcel from John Kilburn containing 133 rods, a little 
less than an acre. John Kilburn was the father of 
Samuel (1783-1858) and Cheney (1796-1873) Kilburn, both 
stonecutters at Sterling, Massachusetts. Samuel's home 
and shop were less than a mile from Paul Colburn's 
house. It is possible that Samuel Kilburn learned the 
trade from Colburn. Paul Colburn's house still stands 
on the Old Princeton Road near the top of Fitch Hill. 
The 1798 Direct Tax Census for Sterling shows Colburn 
as the owner of a dwelling valued at $80 and one acre 
of land valued at $14. Some twenty years ago the 
present owner found a quantity of slate stones buried 
in the yard, some "with lettering on them," presumably 
relics of Colburn's occupancy. Paul's shop was less 



Rutland • HOLDEN 

Figure 1. Map of towns in which carvers resided. 

than two miles to the south, near the Quag, as it is 
called (being a small lagoon cut off from Washecum Pond 
when a causeway was built for the railroad); the Town 
and Country Restaurant now stands near the site. The 
Worcester Registry of Deeds has no record of his acqui- 
sition of the shop, but there is a deed dated January 
8, 1806 whereby Paul Colburn, described as "of Holden, 
stonecutter," for $30 conveyed to Israel Allen, a phy- 
sician, "one certain shop, being and standing in Ster- 
ling near Washecum Pond, so-called, in or near land 
belonging to Abigail Wait which said shop I ha^e here- 
tofore occupied in my business of stonecutter." 

We have found little evidence of Paul's life in 
Sterling, since many of the early records of that town 
were destroyed by fire. It does not appear from the 
records of the Court of Common Pleas or the Court of 
General Sessions that he engaged in litigation or was 
involved in any criminal proceedings. We know, however, 
that he and his wife had nine more children, born at 
frequent intervals from 1786 to 1798 and named for 
various members of Paul's and Mehitable's families. 
Notes found at the American Antiquarian Society indi- 
cate that he had a seat in the side gallery of the 


Second Church in Sterling, the Chocksett Meetinghouse. 
He and his wife evidently left the Congregational 
Church and became Baptists, for they are listed among 
the forty-seven members of the First Baptist Church in 
Holden as of December 31, 1807. At the Sterling 
Historical Society we found an engaging recollection in 
a centennial address given by William Frederick Holcomb 
on June 15, 1881: 

It would be no small treat now to hear the 
Sterling choir of old-fashioned men and women, 
boys and maidens, singling 'Old Hundred, 1 
'Cornonation, ' 'Old Lang Syne,' or the 'Dox- 
ology 1 as led by Paul Colburn or Cephas Newell 
with fiddles, accompanied by a full orchestra 
of strings and wind instruments as in former 
times . . . There was one large (or double) 
bass viol ... a single bass viol; and Paul 
Colburn and Cephas Newell always led with a 

Paul's father, William, died intestate so that his 
real estate, valued at L100 "silver money the old way," 
was inherited one-third by his widow and two-thirds by 
his children. Abigail disclaimed her interest in favor 
of her children. Thus Paul acquired an interest in 
Hollis real estate, and the assessors' records indicate 
that he paid taxes thereon in 1781 and 1782, but not 
thereafter. 7 The widow's taxes for 1777, the year 
after her husband died, were abated, presumably because 
of her disclaimer. In 1783 Paul's mother, Abigail 
Wheeler Colburn, married Gershom Hobart of Plymouth in 
central New Hampshire, she being his third wife. They 
subsequently lived in the neighboring town of Hebron, 
and upon their deaths were buried in a now unmarked 
grave in the Hebron Village Cemetery. Paul's oldest 
sister Isabel married Reuben Hobart of Groton, New 
Hampshire, another neighboring town; Paul's brother 
William married Phoebe Hobart of Groton, and they are 
believed to have lived in Lyme, New Hampshire; another 
brother, Abel, married Elizabeth Bailey of Groton, and 
they lived there. Accordingly, when Paul decided in 
1807 or early 1808 to leave Holden, Massachusetts, he 
had few remaining ties in Hollis, but many reasons for 
moving to central New Hampshire. 

And so in 1808 we find Paul in Hebron, assessed a 
poll tax and a tax for owning one horse. In 1809 he 
was again assessed a poll tax and a tax for two neats 
(oxen) for a total of $1.35. In that year, school 


district six was divided by a line "beginning at the 
pond and running between Paul Colburn's and Mr. Chaf- 
fin's," and Paul paid a school tax of forty-six cents. 
In the following year his livestock had increased to 
one cow, three neats and one horse, and he paid a tax 
of eighty-three cents for the support of school district 
seven. In 1811 he was chosen sealer of leather (one 
remembers his original trade as a cordwainer). Town 
records show that by 1814 his livestock had increased 
to two oxen, two cows and two horses, and that he 
continued to pay taxes in 1815. Both the tax records 
and the absence of any recorded deeds suggest that Paul 
Colburn never owned land in Hebron. 

In September 1815 Paul Colburn and his wife, his 
twenty-seven-year-old son Isaac with his wife and chil- 
dren, his son William (who had married Achsa Phelps of 
Hebron on August 15, only a few weeks before) and his 
unmarried daughter, Isabel, started out from Hebron in 
wagons to seek a new home in the west. xu They took 
five years to reach that home in Loami, Illinois. On 
reaching Olean, on the Allegheny River in the southwes- 
tern part of New York, they found the river too low to 
bring all their goods in boats. They sold their wagons 
and teams, put their remaining goods and families on a 
raft, and started down the river, reaching Pittsburgh 
on Christmas Eve. Ice was forming on the river, and 
they were compelled to stop there for the winter. 

While in Pittsburgh they were joined by Paul's son 
Ebenezer, who had been serving in the War of 1812 (as 
had his brothers Abel and William). In the spring of 
1816, sons Isaac and Ebenezer went up the Allegheny 
River and made a raft of logs suitable for later use as 
shingles, and partially loaded the raft with hoop 
poles. They expected to go down the Ohio River in 
June, but the season was one of unusually low water and 
they did not reach Pittsburgh again until December. 
All of them continued down river on the raft to Mari- 
etta, Ohio, where they paused to engage in farming and 
"other pursuits." Ebenezer married Julia Smith, of New 
York, in Marietta and stayed on there temporarily, as 
did William and his wife, while Paul, Isaac and Ebenezer 
and their families continued down the river to Shawnee- 
town, Illinois, where Paul, his wife Mehitable and 
their daughter Isabel remained. Ebenezer and his new 
wife went on to join her relatives in Monroe County, 

In August 1820 tragedy struck when Isaac and his 


wife died within two days of each other, leaving six 
young children orphaned and alone in Louisville, Ken- 
tucky. On November 1, 1820, Paul's wife Mehitable died 
at Shawneetown. At about the time of her death William, 
having closed up the family business in Marietta, em- 
barked on a boat with his family, floated down to 
Louisville and took on board four of his brother Isaac's 
children. One of the other children had died and still 
another had been placed in a good home. William arrived 
in Shawneetown with his group on December 24, 1820, the 
fifth anniversary of the family's arrival in Pittsburgh. 

In March 1821 Paul Colburn, his twenty-five-year- 
old daughter Isabel, his son William with his wife and 
three children, the four orphaned children of Isaac, 
and a Mr. Harris, started in Mr. Harris's wagon drawn 
by four oxen for Morgan County, Illinois. They tra- 
velled through spring rains and mud and across unbridged 
streams for about five weeks until they came to the 
south side of Lick Creek in what is now Loami Township 
in Sangamon County, Illinois, where they found an empty 
cabin. Too tired to proceed further, the Colburn family 
decided to stay there. 

Soon after their arrival William Colburn exchanged 
his gun for a crop of newly planted corn and thus began 
to provide for the family. Shortly after their arrival 
William and his brother Ebenezer built a small horse 
mill and for some years ground the grain of the neigh- 
boring farmers. Subsequently they built a watermill on 
Lick Creek, but this proved a failure and they erected 
a steam saw and gristmill in 1836. Around this mill 
grew up the village of Loami, where Colburn's Mill and 
its successors became the most noted institution in the 
area. Having succeeded in the long and arduous trek 
west, established his family and helped to found a new 
settlement in the wilderness, Paul Colburn died on 
February 27, 1825 near the present town of Loami. 

Despite the large number of stones in the grave- 
yards of Sterling and surrounding towns which we attri- 
bute to Paul Colburn, we have found only three, those 
of Joseph Eveleth, 1790, Princeton, Nathan Whitney, 
1803, and Nathan Cutting, 1803, both buried in Westmin- 
ster, where the probate accounts contain specific en- 
tries showing payments to Paul Colburn for gravestones 
(Worcester, Mass. Probates A19398, A65066, A14990). 
However, there are five other stones where the records 
at the Worcester Registry of Probate show payments to 
him in amounts clearly appropriate for his work: 



Silent Wilde 
Princeton, 1790 
Prudence Manning 
Lancaster, 1793 
John Fessenden 
Rutland, 1793 
Jonathan Wilder 
Sterling, 1797 
Paul Moore 
Princeton, 1799 

Paul Colburn fel-8-0 
Paul Colburn rec't fel-10-0 
Paul Colburn $10.33 
Paul Colburn &2-2-0 
Paid Paul Colburn $9.00 

The Nathan Whitney and Nathan Cutting stones carry the 
urn and willow design (Fig. 2). The remaining six 
stones are similar in style: an oval face set between 
wings in the tympanum, embellished with foliage in bas 
relief. This we have called the "face with wings" 
design (Fig. 3). 

We have attributed one other major style to Paul 
Colburn because of the similarity of lettering and 
design elements to those of the probated stones, because 
of the large quantity of stones carved in this style in 
Sterling area burying grounds and because they all fall 
within the period of his residence there. This third 
style portrays a face in a niche or arch, made familiar 
by the earlier work of the Park family of Groton, 
Massachusetts (Fig. 4). 

Figure 2. Nathan Whitney, 1803, Westminster, Mass. 



<* j I 

; ' i 

L i j* 

Figure 3. Mary Morse, 1801, Boylston, Mass. 

Figure 4. Elizabeth Temple, 1796, Boylston, Mass, 


We were mystified to find a pair of Colburn face 
with wings and face in arch stones as far east of 
Sterling as Lexington, Massachusetts — those of Deacon 
Joseph Loring, 1787, and of his wife Kezia, 1789. 
Deacon Loring had purchased a farm in that part of 
Lancaster which became Sterling and conveyed it to his 
son John in November 1764, presumably as a wedding 
present, for John married Elizabeth Howe of Concord in 
January of that year. John was the oldest son, and 
when his parents died no doubt it was he who arranged 
to have their gravestones cut by his fellow townsman, 
Paul Colburn. Two of John's children, Becky and Betsey, 
who died in 1786 and 1800, respectively, are buried in 
the Cookshire Cemetery in Sterling with Colburn stones 
marking their graves. The stone done for Becky is of 
the face in arch variety and that done for her sister 
Betsey, who died at the turn of the century, is, appro- 
priately enough, of the urn and willow design." 

JOHN BALL 1759-1840 

Our search for the work of Paul Colburn took us to 
many beautiful graveyards in Hillsborough County in 
southern New Hampshire and to Middlesex County, Massa- 
chusetts border towns such as Pepperell, Townsend, 
Dunstable and Ashby. In these graveyards we found 
literally hundreds of stones, representing all three of 
the Colburn designs discussed above (face with wings, 
face in arch, and urn and willow). All of these stones 
fall within the period when Colburn was known to be 
working in Sterling, and a search of the records at the 
Hillsborough Registry of Probate and at the Middlesex 
Registry disclosed not a single payment to Paul Colburn 
for these gravestones or anything else. They did dis- 
close, however, five payments to a John Ball for grave- 


03729 Nathaniel Griffin 

Temple, 1790 62-5-0 

01498 Wyseman Clagett 

Litchfield, 1784 63-16-2 

08204 John and Molly Seccombe 

Amherst, 1796 63-18-0 

13703 Captain James and Mary Lawrence 
(Msx) Pepperell, Mass., 1800 $15.25 

09553 Thomas Whiting 

Amherst, 1801 $14 

There were also probate payments in appropriate amounts 
to John Ball in eight other instances: 

04481 Josiah Hodgman, Merrimack, 1787 63-0-0 

02933 Ralph Emerson, Hollis, 1790 68-8-0 

05583 Daniel Kendrick, Hollis, 1790 61-19-13 

09058 Benjamin Tenney, Temple, 1790 63-8-0 

05365 Samuel Jewett, Hollis, 1791 61-12-0 

02477 John Duncklee, Amherst, 1792 62-14-0 

03183 David French, Bedford, 1793 64-0-4 

08266 Eldad Spafford, Temple, 1806 63-0-11 

And in Bedford, New Hampshire we found a handsome 
double stone, with Ball's urn and willow design, for 
the Reverend John Houston and his wife. The account 
filed in his estate (Hillsborough, N. H. Probate 04527) 
contains the following entry dated October 1803: "by 
gravestones for the Rev. John Houston and for Madam 
Houston $15.00; for transporting said stones from Hollis 
and setting them up $4.00." As indicated above, all 
three styles are represented by these stones. The John 
Seccombe stone in Amherst, marking the grave of John 
and his wife Molly, includes both the face with wings 
and the face in arch designs, thus linking these two 
designs indisputably to the same carver (Fig. 9). 

The census, tax and vital records show that there 
were a number of men by the name of John Ball who lived 
in southern New Hampshire between 1780 and 1800. The 
administrator's account in the estate of Captain James 
Lawrence provided a clue that John Ball of Hollis was 
the carver: 

For going to Hollis to speak for gravestones for dec'd 

$ 1.00 
Pd to man team to bring gravestones from Hollis 
and helping set them up $ 2.00 

Pd John Ball for gravestones $15.25 

Pd David Shattuck for setting them up .25 


Examination of the Ball family genealogy and of Hollis 
town records indicates that there were only two John 
Balls in Hollis, our John and his son, who was not born 
until 1788. Deeds of various parcels of land to John 
Ball of Hollis in 1794, 1798 and 1802 all describe him 
as a stonecutter as do the deeds by which he sold his 
land in 1806, in one of which his wife Molly joined to 
release her dower rights. 14 

The Ball family, like Paul Colburn's family, came 
from Concord, Massachusetts. Mrs. Forbes's notes at 
the American Antiquarian Society indicate probate pay- 
ments to a Nathaniel Ball of Concord in the 1730s. 
This would have been John's grandfather. John's father 
Ebenezer was born in Concord in 1721, was married by 
Rev. Daniel Bliss to Sarah Gookin in 1746 and moved to 
Hollis, where their first child Ebenezer, Jr. was born 
in February 1749. We should like to have found that 
John's father Ebenezer was himself a stonecutter, thus 
establishing from whom John Ball and Paul Colburn 
learned the trade. But our efforts to confirm that 
either Ebenezer or Ebenezer* Jr. was a stonecutter have 
thus far proved fruitless. 17 

A further word about John's father, Ebenezer the 
first, may be of interest. He was chosen as a surveyor 
of highways by the town meeting from time to time and 
engaged in various real estate transactions in Hollis. 
He may have been the Ebenezer Ball who was one of 
sixty-four grantees of the town of Granby, Vermont. 
He was one of thirty-four Hollis men in a regiment of 
600 raised in 1755 and commanded by Colonel Joseph 
Blanchard to aid in the expedition against the French 
forts on the west shore of Lake Champlain, serving as a 
private, or sentinel, under Captain Peter Powers. He 
enlisted on May 1 and was discharged on October 22. 
Attempts to place John Ball's father in the war of the 
Revolution probably confuse him with his son and name- 
sake, Ebenezer the blacksmith, who answered the call on 
April 19, 1775, was a member of Captain Reuben Dow's 
company in Col. Prescott's regiment at Bunker Hill, and 
saw further service in 1776 and 1777. The elder Ebene- 
zer's other three sons, Nathaniel, William and, as will 
appear later, John, also saw service in the 
Revolution. 19 

John Ball the stonecutter was the sixth child of 
Ebenezer and Sarah Gookin Ball, born in Hollis January 
7, 1759. He married Mary (or Molly) Chamberlin, daugh- 
ter of Samuel Chamberlin of Hollis, on April 24, 1782. 


They had eleven children, all born in Hollis between 
1783 and 1804. We found many bits and pieces in the 
Hollis town records from which we endeavored to recon- 
struct the life of John Ball: the birth dates of his 
brothers and sisters and of his own children; his 
marriage; his appearance on the tax rolls in 1781 at 
the age of twenty-two and continuing annually there- 
after through 1805; his appointment in 1793 as constable 
and collector of taxes for the east side of the town, 
for which he was to receive fourpence on the pound 
collected; his election as tithing man in 1794 and 
1801; and as a surveyor of highways in 1805; drawn as a 
petit juror in 1795 and 1796; appointed with eight 
others in 1796 to promote the "decent and laudable 
purpose" of seeing that his neighbors marched two-by- 
two at funerals in the town; and in 1801 his name 
appears along with ninety-three others (including Solo- 
mon Wheat, Sr., whom we shall meet again) as a signer 
of the articles of association of a religious group 
dedicated to prayer meetings and general moral uplift 
(a contemporary newspaper article describes the group 
as "a Philanthropic Society formed to support the gospel 
without taxes"). 20 

The town records with respect to John Ball's ser- 
vice in the Revolution are somewhat confusing. He 
appears in a list of Hollis militia under Joshua Wright 
as of January 26, 1775, when he had only just reached 
the age of sixteen, and in a list of the militia in 
June of that year; but unlike his brothers Ebenezer and 
Nathaniel, he was not one of the ninety-two men who 
marched to Concord on April 19. He was one of the 
"several soldiers belonging to Hollis that went into 
the army to Canady July 1776 as apprised by the Commit- 
tee of Safety for said Hollis," being a member of 
Captain Daniel Emerson's company in Col. Joshua Win- 
gate's regiment of volunteers. Though recruited for 
service in Canada, the regiment went no further than 
Ticonderoga. Ball's signature appears on a receipt 
dated Mount Independence 19 September 1776 for billeting 
and mileage lls.3p. and on another receipt dated 7 
October 1776 for one month and twelve days of service. 
The roll of Captain Daniel Emerson's company in Col. 
Wingate's regiment as mustered and paid by Azar Davis, 
Muster Master, July 1776 lists John Ball as receiving 
in advance wages and bounty &9-18. At another point 
the records indicate that John Ball was paid &12 for 
about six months' service in this campaign. Ball is 
shown as one of the Continental soldiers from Hollis 
enlisted in 1777 for a period of three years. But the 


return for the Fifth Regiment in New Hampshire, Col. 
Nichols, shows John Ball of Hollis in Captain Frye's 
company, Col. Scammond's regiment, and enlisted for 
eight months. Worcester, in his History M the To wn QL 
Hollis . New Ha m pshir e summarizes John Ball's eight 
months of military service in 1777 as including the 
Battle of Saratoga, the Battle of Monmouth, the Pennsyl- 
vania Campaign and winter at Valley Forge. l 

Further light, and some darkness too, is cast upon 
the life of John Ball by examining the various deeds in 
which he was either a grantee or a grantor. The ear- 
liest of these is a deed dated April 28, 1783 from his 
father Ebenezer granting to a syndicate of seven men, 
including John Ball and Solomon Wheat, in consideration 
of fa5 "all such mines, mine ores, minerals or other 
hidden treasures of the earth that may be dug up or 
found upon, in or under the surface of the earth in my 
the said Ebenezer Ball's land or farm in Hollis." 22 
The history of Hollis contains no suggestion that there 
were any hidden treasures within its bounds. However, 
John's circumstances appear to have been such that he 
was prepared to gamble a bit, for the records of the 
Court of Common Pleas indicate that he had given a note 
for B7-9-6 on February 21, 1780 to Daniel Boyle, a 
carpenter, which he was unable to pay. Boyle brought 
suit and obtained judgment for fc4-6-7 and court costs 
of fal-17-10, and execution issued March 3, 1784. In 
any event, this 1783 deed indicates an early interest 
on the part of John Ball in what, like slate, may be 
extracted from the earth. 

In this connection a lease dated October 20, 1786 
from Jonathan Wetharbee of Harvard, Massachusetts to 
John Park, Sr. and Jr., Thomas Park and Daniel Hastings 
of a portion of the famous Pin Hill slate quarry in 
Harvard is of interest. This indenture refers to "Mr. 
Marble and Ball's part of the quarry." Mr. Marble was 
presumably either Joseph or John Marble, father and 
son, both stonecarvers of Bradford, Massachusetts. We 
have found no lease or deed of land in Harvard to John 
Ball, but this is not significant since leases were at 
that time rarely recorded. A deed from Joseph Stone of 
Harvard to Israel Reed and Thomas Park, stonecutters, 
dated December 1794 refers to "blue stone in Pine Hill 
except what lays opposite of Ball's quarry." 2 - 3 We have 
recorded forty-six gravestones in the Sterling and 
Hollis areas with a "B" or "JB" quarry mark on the back 
(Fig. 5a). The slate appears to come from Pin Hill. 
Nearly all of these stones seem to have been carved by 


Paul Colburn or John Ball. The conclusion is almost 
irresistible that John Ball leased a portion of the 
quarry and shared its produce with his brother-in-law. 

We have found in southern New Hampshire thirty- 
four gravestones of the late eighteenth and early nine- 
teenth centuries with "W on the back (Fig. 5b). The 
stone for Mindwell Brigham, who died in 1784 and is 
buried in Northboro, Massachusetts appears to have been 
carved by Paul Colburn; this stone has the letter "C" 
on the back. We have found a variety of such quarry 
marks. It is tempting to assign them to individual 

B or JB for Ball (or Colburn) 

C for Colburn 

dh or H for Daniel Hastings 

H for Luther Hubbard (another Hollis carver) 

S for Ithamar Spauldin 

W for Wheat (also Hollis carvers) 



Figure 5a. Rachel Pierce, 1791, Pepperell, Mass, 


Figure 5b. Martha Farrar, 1798, Pepperell, Mass. 

Figure 5c. Aza Spaulding, 1815, Merrimack, N. H. 


Likewise the marks T, ?p or T are seen on many 
Park stones and }C on stones carved by Spauldin. 
However, an occasional exception makes any such connec- 
tions doubtful. For example, there is a handsome stone 
carved by Ball in Bedford, New Hampshire with a Park 
quarry mark and a probated Park stone with a "W" on the 
back. This letter also appears occasionally on Ball's 
stones, and so, even though the "H" on Hastings stones 
are of an earlier period, the "H" on stones of Hubbard's 
time cannot be established as related exclusively to 
Hubbard (Fig. 5c). Some of these marks may simply 
identify the quarryman. At this stage of our research 
we can only say from a study of these symbols that 
carvers seem to have had professional associations with 
each other and occasionally exchanged or shared their 
quarry rights or slate supply. 

On April 1, 1790 John Ball acquired from his 
father for L150 the homestead farm in Hollis, contain- 
ing about forty-five acres. In 1794 by deed in which 
he is described as "stonecutter" he acquired land ad- 
joining that of his brother William from Daniel Emer- 
son, Jr. and Solomon Wheat for L3-6-18, and on March 
28, 1798 he acquired from Peleg Lawrence for $566 two 
parcels of land, with the buildings thereon, lying on 
the road leading from Hollis to Pepperell. Almost 
exactly a year later he sold the homestead and the land 
which he had acquired from Emerson and Wheat "excepting 
gold, silver and led ore in or under the surface" 
(still clinging to the hope that treasures might be 
found there). One of the two parcels acquired from 
Peleg Lawrence consisted of ten acres on the east side 
of the road. We believe that Ball built his house 
there and that this is part of the attractive enlarged 
cottage at 84 Main St. The other parcel, consisting of 
one acre, lay on the other side of the road; records 
suggest this as the location of his shop. 

In January 1802 Ball acquired from Josiah Hoar 
nine acres in the western part of Hollis, and in May of 
the same year he bought from William Hale another ten 
acres of land about three-quarters of a mile southwest 
of the meetinghouse. In the latter part of 1806 Ball 
started to dispose of his land, beginnning with the two 
parcels which he had purchased from Peleg Lawrence. 
The grantee was his apprentice Luther Hubbard and the 
consideration was $833, represented by five notes pay- 
able over a period of five years and secured by a 
mortgage on the property. In September he sold another 
parcel and in December the last of his land in Hollis. 


At this point John Ball and his wife Molly disappear 
from the records of that town. 25 There is some juris- 
prudence involving a Lucy Ball, single woman, of Hollis, 
to be found in the records of the Court of Common Pleas 
involving suits for support of an illegitimate child 
(Vol. 12, pp. 184-93). John and Molly Ball had a 
daughter Lucy born in 1790. John's brother Ebenezer 
had a daughter Lucy born in 1785. We have found no 
record of any other Lucy Ball living in Hollis in 1810, 
so the plaintiff in this case appears to have been 
either the daughter or the niece of the stonecutter. 

On April 30, 1806 John Ball purchased two large 
tracts of land in the northwest corner of Vershire, 
Orange County, Vermont, one consisting of 100 acres for 
$1200 and the other of 190 acres for $800. On January 
9, 1807, still describing himself as a stonecutter of 
"Holies, New Hampshire," Ball sold 100 acres for $525. 
The large tracts involved and the fact that he disposed 
of more than one-third of the land less than a year 
after he bought it may indicate that Ball entered into 
these transactions as a matter of speculation rather 
than for farming the land himself. We do not know just 
when the Ball family moved from Hollis to Vershire, but 
it must have been early in 1807, for he was one of 
those who asked that town to establish a separate 
school district, and an article for that purpose ap- 
peared in the warrant for the August 14, 1807 town 
meeting. None of the petitioners attended the meeting 
and accordingly the article was dismissed. 26 

Nor do we know why the Ball family moved from 
Hollis to Vershire. John appears to have been a person 
to whom religion was important, and it may be that he 
was attracted by Stephen Fuller, who had married Phebe 
Thurston of Hollis and had been called to be the first 
minister of the Church in Vershire in 1788. Fuller was 
beloved by his congregation and stayed in Vershire 
until his death on April 12, 1816. It may be of signi- 
ficance that John Ball and his family moved to Thetford 
at about that time. 27 

In 1808 a general revival of religion in the town 
of Vershire, commencing in February and inspired by a 
preacher named Wright who was passing through, resulted 
in bringing fifty new members into the small church. 
Perhaps John Ball was one of these. In any event, a 
manual of the church published in Windsor in 1863 lists 
John Ball in a catalog of church members as of 1814, 
indicates that he was received into the church by 


profession of faith in 1801 (the year in which he and 
others established the Philanthropic Society in Hollis) 
and that, subsequent to 1814, he "moved away." More 
important, the manual lists John Ball as a deacon. 

It appears from the town clerk's records that on 
January 27, 1808 the town constable served notice on 
"John Ball and family now residing in the town of 
Vershire to depart said town." A similar notice was 
served on many other families. The action of Vershire, 
and later of Thetford, in "warning out" John Ball and 
his family shortly after they had settled in town is 
explained by Charles Latham, Jr. in his Short History 
cj: Thetford ; 

The poor traveling from place to place seem 
to have become a matter of growing concern. 
In 1797 the state legislature passed an act 
which, while making each town chargeable for 
its poor, empowered justices in each town to 
examine new arrivals and if necessary order 
them to 'remove to the place of his or her 
former settlement*. Under the provisions of 
this act, the town of Thetford voted in August 
1805 'that the selectmen be directed to warn 
all Persons who may come into said town to 
reside to depart said town without discrimi- 
nation* in order 'to prevent their gaining a 
legal settlement or becoming chargeable to 
said town'. That September began the first 
of a series of actions in which the selectmen 
ordered the constable to serve writs on people 
to leave town. In the next six years a total 
of 58 persons were ordered to leave town; 
several of them were women; among them were 
at least two, Adolphus Fellows and Joseph 
Lord, who had previously lived in town. This 
'warning out* was a standard practice at the 
time in both Vermont and New Hampshire. Ap- 
pearance on a warning-out list is a fairly 
good indication that the person named has 
recently arrived in town, but it was not 
indicative of present or probable destitution. 
It is left to the reader to decide what the 
practice teJLls about the New England social 
conscience. ° 

Neither Ball nor his family left town as a result 
of that warning, and less than three months later, at 
the March town meeting, John was chosen a grandjuryman 


and a highway surveyor. Tax collector's deeds in April 
1809 discharging tax liens imposed on almost 200 acres 
of land indicate that John Ball had failed to pay a tax 
of one cent per acre imposed by the Vermont legislature 
at its October session in 1807 to defray the expense of 
erecting a state prison, that a public auction was held 
on April 4, 1808 and that Ball thereupon redeemed his 
property for the trifling sum of $2.80. 9 

In 1811 Ball sold a ten-acre parcel to Isaac 
Senter. Four years later he and Senter engaged in a 
land swap, the stated consideration in each deed being 
$550. On November 24, 1815 John Ball, still described 
as a stonecutter, disposed of the rest of his land for 
$900. He thus received a total of $1525 for land that 
he had bought for $2000--hardly a successful specula- 
tion. 30 

We do not know precisely when John Ball and his 
family moved to Thetford but it must have been shortly 
thereafter, for on May 18, 1816 an order to leave 
Thetford was served on them. Again the order was not 
carried out and again John Ball proved his respectabi- 
lity by becoming a Deacon in the church. (The church 
records have been destroyed by fire, but he was so 
described in a deed dated November 27, 1817 and on his 
gravestone.) On October 6, 1817 he acquired nine acres 
of land in East Thetford with a small house which had 
been built some years before by William Heaton. This 
house, or the original structural members, still stands 
and is much like the house which Ball had owned in 
Hollis. It was removed some 800 feet westerly up the 
hill when Interstate 91 and the exit ramp at Route 113 
were built. On November 27, 1817 Ball purchased from 
Henry Gillet for $150 an adjacent piece containing 
about four acres. He mortgaged this property back to 
Gillet to secure a note representing half the purchase 
price. The note was payable January 1, 1819, but Ball 
again mortgaged the property on April 5, 1819, this 
time to Joseph Hosford to secure payment of a note for 
$100. On February 17, 1823 Ball borrowed $200 from his 
brother, Nathaniel Ball of Hebron, New Hampshire. On 
April 2, 1823 he used $130 of this money to pay off a 
mortgage on the original nine-acre parcel held by Wil- 
liam Latham and Thomas Kendrick, and in the following 
September he gave his brother a mortgage on the entire 
property to secure the $200 note. 

John Ball's son John married Phila Pomeroy of 
Vershire in January 1810. Their first child, Elisha 


P., was born August 10, 1810 in Vershire. John, Jr. 
was chosen a highway surveyor in 1811 and enlisted in 
the War of 1812. He continued a resident of Vershire 
after his father and mother had left and is shown as a 
resident in the 1820 census. Four of his nine children 
were born there. He must have moved from Vershire some 
time in 1820 after the census was taken, for his son 
John William is shown as born in Thetford in that year. 
On January 23, 1826 his father conveyed to him for $200 
both parcels of the land which the father had thereto- 
fore acquired in Thetford, totaling some thirteen acres, 
reserving the right for the father and mother and their 
daughter Mary to live in the house during their respec- 
tive lives and reserving also "use of the woodhouse and 
Pen adjoining the house." John Ball and his daughter 
Mary were still living there in 1835 when the property 
was mortgaged to William Ball of Hebron, New Hampshire, 
John's nephew. 2 

John Ball's wife Molly died February 6, 1827. 33 
It is evident from a letter written on September 26, 
1828 by John Ball to his nephew and namesake (then of 
Lansingburgh, New York and later of Grand Rapids, Michi- 
gan) that both Molly and her husband had been ill for 
some time and that life had been far from easy for 
them. 34 

Thetford, Sept. 26, 1828 

John Ball Esq Sr — 

Through the goodness [of] God I am yet in 
the land of the living. I have had several 
sick turns the summer past of the disentary 
diarea & colick that I did not expect to se 
this day, but I am some more comfortable now. 
Mary was sick of a fever last fall & has been 
in a very low state of health ever since, we 
are not able either of us to sit up more than 
half the time yet we have had to do chiefly 
alone for 5 or 6 weeks excepting washing 
baking &c. John's little Mary comes in at 
night makes our beds & sleeps with her aunt. 
They fetch in our wood & water, we are not 
able to hire & it has been & is now very 
sickly here & very difficult getting a girl. 
John & his family was very sick last fall & 
sick with a feever at one time. He has to 
work very hard. He does everything for us 
that we can expect--Eben was at home last 


winter. He got me up a good wood pile & did 
considerable more. Your father was over last 
summer & made me some help. Saml sent me a 
present of several dollars not long since. 
By reason of such help I have kept a long 
till the present time without calling upon 
the town but how soon I shall come to the 
disagreeable task I do not know — Why it is, 
whether on the account of the name or nature 
& disposition or all that it is so, but I 
feel a greater nearness to you than to my 
nephews in general. You must therefore excuse 
me if I use freedom in writing. You may 
think strange that I have gotten reduced to 
poverty but a short history may remove the 
difficulty. I had not much property fifteen 
years since. In this fifteen years I have 
lost nine years of labor myself. 

Your aunt was sick about one year before 
she died. Mary has been unable to do any 
labor. As much as three years out of six I 
have had 300 dollars to pay to the doctors & 
hireing young women more than two years & a 
large bill for necessaries besides about 200 
dol I lost by men going a way in my debt. I 
hope I do not mention these things in a way 
of complaining thinking about my hard lot, 
for I receive daly mercies Infinitely greater 
and more numerous than all my chastisements & 
afflictions that it does appear to me that I 
ought to consider all my trials as light 
afflictions, they are so much less than my 
iniquities deserve. I was much disappointed 
that you did not come & se me when you was 
over last. The coat you gave me when you was 
in Coledge was the best coat I had till I 
rec'd another from you last week for which I 
am greatly obliged to you for which I hope 
you will be rewarded in the great rewarding 
day. Your Sr [sister] was here last week. 
Your friends were well in Hebron. Your Sr 
brought me some flower, some fresh meat & 
some honey. I have reason to bless God for 
all liberality I receive from my friends for 
were it not for that I must fare very hard. 
I hope you will write to me by the bearere my 
grandson respecting your [afjfairs of life 
but especially what are your hopes of futur 
happyness. Mary & I send our love to you & 


kindest respect to Mr. and Mrs. Powers. I am 
afraid you will be weary in reading Uncles 
letter. This from your Uncle & friend and 
well wisher. 

John Ball 

John Ball Esqr 

Mrs. Ferrin said she thought you put up a 
pair of [?] with the coat but if you did they 
somehow got lost. It is very difficult get- 
ting wheat here. I thought if I could have 
gotten the money of sending by my grandson 
for half hundred of flower but I understand 
it is very dear with you. I often think of 
the wheat loves your Sr said they had in 

John B§11 died on May 25, 1840 at the age of 
eighty-two. 5 He and his wife are buried in the beau- 
tiful Hillside Cemetery in Thetford. The road beside 
the graveyard winds down the hill and crosses the 
Pomponoosic River through a covered bridge to the little 
hamlet of Union Village. John and Molly lie beneath a 
small marble marker on which appears the epitaph which 
John had himself used so many times as a gravestone 

Friends and physicians could not save 
Their mortal bodies from the grave 
Nor can the grave confine them here 
When Christ shall call them to appear 

John Ball, Jr. lived until March 29, 1847, when he 
died at the age of fifty-nine. He is buried in the 
North Thetford Cemetery. His sister Mary did not fare 
well after the deaths of her father and brother John. 
She is listed in the 1850 census of Thetford as one of 
"seven elderly paupers" in the household of Dennis 
Howard. The Ball house in Thetford remained in the 
hands of the sons of John Jr., John W. and Merrill, 
until the latter acquired full title in 1860, conveying 
it out of the family three years later. 36 

The inventory which we found among the probate 
:s of John Ba! 
:ling informa 
ing items appear: 

papers of John Ball, Jr. disclosed what was for us some 
startling information. 3 ' In this inventory the follow- 


Farm and buildings $650 

Stone Quarry $ 20 

Shop, Teakles [tackle], Tools $ 10 

Grave Stones and Stone for Grave Stones $ 20 

So John Ball's son was also a carver of gravestones, as 
was h is oldest son, Elisha P. 38 As indicated above, 
John Ball's grandfather, Nathaniel Ball of Concord, 
appears to have been a stonecutter. If we were able to 
establish that John's father Ebenezer followed the same 
trade, we should have another family like the Lamsons 
of Charlestown, the Parks of Groton and Harvard and the 
Stevenses of Newport, in which the craft was carried on 
in four or five successive generations of the same 
family. In fact, Thomas Ball, the famous American 
sculptor born in Charlestown, Massachusetts on June 3, 
1819 known for such Victorian memorial masterpieces as 
the Lincoln Emancipation Group in Washington and the 
equestrian statue of George Washington in the Boston 
Public Gardens, and the Chickering monument in Mount 
Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, was descended from John 
Ball, brother of Nathaniel, our John's grandfather. 

It seems fairly certain that John Ball continued 
to carve gravestones after he gave up his business in 
Hollis and moved to Vermont. He still described himself 
as "stonecutter" in the deed dated October 5, 1815 to 
Isaac Senter. We found a number of stones in the 
Thetford area which appear to have been done by him 
(for example, that of Mrs. Eunice White 1809 in Vershire 
Center). We do not know when he gave up stone carving. 
It may have been in 1826 when he sold his real estate, 
presumably including the shop, to his son, John, Jr., 
who was then thirty-two years old. John Ball's 1828 
letter to his nephew contains no reference to his work 
other than the obscure sentence: "I had not much 
property fifteen years since; in this fifteen years I 
have lost nine years labor of myself." John Ball, Jr. 
was undoubtedly trained by his father, and this sentence 
may suggest that he took over his father's business 
long before 1826. 


In pursuing the Colburn connections, we gathered 
data from almost 1100 stones in three different states. 
The information collected in this inventory was arranged 
according to the towns we visited. For each stone we 
recorded the name of the deceased, the date of death, 
age at death, the location of the stone by town and 


Face in an Arch Face with Wings 




1.5% Males 
16 + 

47% Females 
16 + 


76% Males 
16 + 

22% Females 
16 + 

r- 2% Children 

Figure 6. Distribution of designs. 

specific burying ground, and the design category of the 
tympanum carving. As indicated above, it was soon 
obvious that there were three major design groups: a 
face in an arch, a face with wings, and an urn, willow 
or urn and willow combination. 

Three hundred eighty-five, or 35%, of the total 
markers inventoried were of the urn and willow design. 
These were produced collectively by Colburn and four 
other carvers with Colburn connections. Except to 
illustrate the Colburn and Ball style, the urn and 
willow stones will not be discussed here. Instead we 
shall concentrate on the remaining 700 stones, all of 
the face in arch or face with wings design, which 
represent the pre-1800 or pre- urn and willow work of 
Colburn and Ball. 

The face in arch design turned out to be used 
almost exclusively for women and children (Fig. 6). A 
remarkable 98.5% of the 423 face in arch stones are for 
children and females over the age of sixteen. Thus the 
face in arch design is clearly considered a feminine 
style. Women and children appear to be linked by 
common treatment in the late eighteenth-century social 


structure. Conversely, the face with wings design is 
used for adult males in 76% of the examples studied. 
Although definitely considered a masculine design, 
there was more cross-over usage, with 22% of the face 
with wings design found on stones for women. Thus, 
while it was occasionally appropriate to use the so- 
called male design for women, the converse was almost 
never the case. 

All of the inventoried stones for adults were 
checked for possible probate entries. This meant exam- 
ining the original documents or microfilm copies on 
file in five different probate districts. Although 
time-consuming, this search of primary sources did 
yield a record of eight payments to Paul Colburn and 
fourteen to John Ball, as well as numerous probate 
entries showing payments to various other carvers having 
Colburn connections. The probate search was vital in 
establishing the existence of the stonecutter John Ball 
of Hollis and in distinguishing his work from that of 
Paul Colburn. 

The work of these two carvers is almost identical. 
Consider, for example, the stone of Paul Moore, 1799, 
Princeton, for which Colburn was paid $9.00, and the 
stone of Josiah Hodgman, 1787, Merrimack, for which 
Ball was paid b3 (Figs. 7 and 8). 

Paul Colburn carved in the Sterling area of Worces- 
ter County between 1784 and 1808. His work is concen- 
trated in the area to the west and north of Sterling, 
with relatively few stones to the east or south. This 
more western distribution seems to be fairly typical of 
carvers working on the fringes of Boston's influence. 
John Ball lived and carved in Hollis, twenty-five miles 
north of Sterling, from 1783 to 1806. His work, al- 
though more evenly distributed north and south than 
Colburn's, is also heaviest in the west and relatively 
scarce in the towns to the east of Hollis. All of the 
probated Colburn stones are in the vicinity of Sterling, 
while all of the stones probated to John Ball are in 
the vicinity of Hollis (Fig. 1). 

Let us now examine the three major styles of Paul 
Colburn and John Ball. First, the face in arch style. 
There are no probated face in arch stones to illustrate 
because, as we have seen, this was almost exclusively a 
design for women and children. Few women, and no 
child, had an estate to probate. But there is no doubt 
that the face in arch was a Colburn/Ball style. As we 


H f\ ic r 7 k i) 1 I> \1 |, moor 
f///r^ r/r-A, 
r H ). "j i ) 


m a i 

Figure 7. Paul Moore, 1799, Princeton, Mass, 





Figure 8. Josiah Hodgman, 1787, Merrimack, N. H. 




in memory of M-| ( 
Jovian Hoik; man, 

ir/?o rM//r/r/rr///,/) //fr, 
S r p' \x sj$% in 
(he 40" YetiY of 


have already pointed out, evidence is in the form of a 
probated "double stone" for John and Molly Seccombe in 
Amherst, New Hampshire, the husband's half marked by a 
face with wings and the wife's with a face in an arch 
(Figs. 9-11). The more common separate markers for hus- 
band and wife support the same finding: the husband's 
stone bears a face with wings, the wife's a face in an 
arch. The husband is almost always on the left side of 
the stone and the wife on the right. This is how the 
couple faced God at their marriage and likewise in 
death and resurrection. 9 

"»""»"«P»!ll»#PP»»lpP"' I I I 

'>> > > > i > j i'.\ 

"■"« '■ 

memory of Mi: John 
Mrs. Molly Seer 01 n be 

Mi: Sec u omlK^Mix Seeeomb 


Figure 9. John and Molly Seccombe, 1796, Amherst, N. H, 



Mr.mory of 
S,hihiH I ,r.< 

In Memory ( 
IJiriiy If ^rn 1,1 

• X /» , / 

Figure 10. Samuel (1756) and Mary (1760) Leeman, 
Hollis, N. H. 




v / 

,■ /; / 

'm<:( "ii;n 

Figure 11. Stephen (1775) and Mary (1786) Harris, 
Hollis, N. H. 


There are many examples supported by probate evi- 
dence of the second design group, the face with wings 
(Fig. 3). Although there are minor variations in style 
(Ball tended to use slightly more elaborate backgrounds, 
pie-crust detailing around the tympanum and mem ento 
mori additions, while Colburn produced a greater quan- 
tity of simple stones), the overall design remained 
relatively standard. Many of Colburn's carvings have a 
smoother, more highly polished look, almost as if the 
faces were sculpted in ice and then allowed to melt 
ever so slightly. This characteristic is associated 
with a particularly fine-grained slate. His faces 
convey a diminutive, more delicate proportion. 

The third major design group consists of urn and 
willow stones (Fig. 2). Again the work of the two 
carvers is very similar, with Colburn favoring a 
slightly less ornate style. Ball's willow boughs com- 
monly sprout two sprigs near the base, Colburn's more 
typically one. Both carvers frequently used bevelling 
as a means of dividing the tympanum from the tablet, 
and a smoothly indented arch for the urn. 

The arrangement of the inscription in the work of 
both carvers is similar: frequently it begins "ERECTED 
In Memory Of," has "who departed this life" in italics, 
and the final work "Age" sometimes begins with a capital 
"A" or more frequently with an enlarged lower case "a." 
Italicized words are carved in exactly the same manner; 
characteristic are the open "p" and open "h" (Fig. 12, 
by Ball; Fig. 13, by Colburn). 

Both Colburn and Ball occasionally produced unique 
stones. That for William Harris in Sterling, for ex- 
ample, has an armorial emblem in the tympanum. The 
initials "IB" appear on the back of the headstone and 
"B" on the footstone. The Rev. Joseph Davis stone in 
Holden combines a portrait in an arch with a willow 
tree. The lettering on these two stones is similar and 
demonstrably the work of Paul Colburn. 

In the cemetery behind the town hall in Amherst, 
New Hampshire is a large table stone, supported by four 
granite posts, marking the grave of Rev. Daniel Wilkins, 
pastor of the church for twenty-three years. He died 
February 11, 1784. At its annual meeting less than a 
month later the town voted B4-5-1 to defray his funeral 
charges, directed the selectmen to "provide gloves for 
the Bearers" and chose a committee of three to erect a 
monument over his grave. The town records contain no 


6W //^.i mtrrW bmmfth $h vhn{\ 
mat r-ifwffy.% r/ia Lvhey Jm (lot! : 

/ ^ /v /// A/ s / tf/.v/ //tfj coiuitn /'(lilrali). 


Figure 12. Matthew Thornton, 1787, Merrimack, N. H. 

m/o/w nnntk. who rftfd » 

iVar Smomhs U * 
4 rin v 




Figure 13. Daniel Mirick, 1792, Princeton, Mass, 


report of that committee or evidence as to whom payment 
for the work was made, but the stone itself carries the 
statement that it was erected by the town, as well as a 
lengthy and rather fulsome account of the beloved pas- 
tor, prepared no doubt by the committee itself. The 
lettering includes the large "a" and the open italic 
"p" and "h" which are characteristic of John Ball's 
work. The stone bears no design — only lettering — but 
it is tempting to cite this as another unique product 
of Ball's shop. 

Colburn and Ball produced some delightful, though 
usually simple, children's stones. See, for example, 
Colburn's stone for Daniel Mirick (Fig. 13). The foot- 
stones of both carvers are sadly noncommittal. Most of 
them are plain, and those with designs are not unique 
enough or sufficiently standard to be useful as an 
identifying factor. 

It is interesting to speculate on the source of 
gravestone designs and the possible influence of other 
carvers. Few late eighteenth-century stonecutters 
worked in isolation. There is ample evidence to suggest 
that carvers borrowed freely, adapted, refined, com- 
bined, and consequently created their own style which 
seldom remained static. In fact, the three designs 
which we have been discussing were commonly used by 
virtually all carvers in this area during the latter 
part of the eighteenth century (Figs. 9-11). The Parks 
were probably the most dominant carvers in both Hollis 
and Sterling in the 1780s and 1790s. Their work is 
seen in great numbers in both areas (Fig. 10). Groton, 
Massachusetts is central to both Hollis and Sterling 
(Fig. 1). Colburn and Ball were undoubtedly influenced, 
if not actually instructed, by the Parks. There is 
also an undocumented carver — quite probably of the Park 
school — whose work is highly visible in the Hollis area 
in the late 1770s and 1780s and also seems stylistically 
connected with that of Colburn and Ball (Fig. 11). 

Although an extended discussion of epitaphs is not 
within the scope of this article, a few used by Colburn 
and Ball are of interest. On the stone which Colburn 
carved for Nathan Cutting, 1803, Westminster, the in- 
scription informs us that he "died in a surprizing and 
effecting manner" and the epitaph explains more expli- 

Lo! Where this silent marble weeps 
Our neighbor, friend and brother sleeps 


Insanity and death are near alli'd 
He gave the wound by which he died. 

Both Ball and Colburn used this epitaph on many of 
their stones: 

Youth like a vernal flower appears 

Most promising and fair; 
But death like an untimely frost 

Puts all in silence there. 

On Matthew Thornton's stone in Merrimack, 1787, done by 
John Ball (Fig. 12), the epitaph "Wrote by the deceased" 
reads as follows: 

One lies inter'd beneath this clod, 

That always did obey his God; 
And willingly resign'd his breath, 

For Christ his Lord has conquer 'd death. 

Paul Colburn used these prophetic lines on a stone in 
Boylston, Massachusetts: 

The Stars shall fade away, the Sun himself 
Grow dim with Age, and Nature sink in Years; 

But the Soul shall flourish in immortal Youth, 
Unhurt amidst the War of Elements, 

The Wreck of Matter, and the Crush of Worlds. 


In our pursuit of Paul Colburn's work in Hollis, 
where we found so many stones that we later discovered 
were the work of John Ball, we came upon a large and 
elaborate monument with a portrait face framed in an 
oval and the floral design, architectural columns and 
tablet characteristic of Ball and Colburn (Fig. 14). 
The inscription reads: 


In Memory 

of Doctor 


who departed this life 

July 14, 1796 in the 

Year of his age 

In youth he was a scholar bright, 

In learning he took great delight; 

He was a Major's only Son, 
It was for love he was undone. 


Figure 14. 

John Jones, 1796, Hollis, N. H, 

We found a description of "Doctor" Jones and of the 
intriguing last line of the epitaph in a biographical 
sketch appearing in Worcester's Histoxy. Ql UsUJLs. 
According to tradition, Jones was the son of a wealthy 
British military officer of good family, born in England 
early in the century. He led a wandering life until he 
came to Hollis soon after the Revolution, when he built 
a cottage in a remote part of the town and devoted 
himself to the growing of fruit trees, shrubs, herbs 
and flowers. He supported himself by preparing medi- 
cinal herbs and various nostrums, which he peddled in 
Hollis and neighboring towns, thereby acquiring his 
title of "Doctor." In his youth he had an unfortunate 
love affair, as a result of which his mind became 
unsettled, and he thereafter lived an eccentric and 
wayward life. He told the entire story in a ballad of 
forty stanzas which he used to sing to himself in his 
isolated cottage and which, after his death, was sung 
for many years by the young people of Hollis and neigh- 
boring towns. It appears from the ballad that his 
father and mother were opposed to his marrying a young 
woman who they thought to be "of low degree." Angered 
at this opposition, the young lady's father refused to 
permit his daughter to marry Jones, and after this 
forced separation the girl pined away and died. Her 
brother returned the engagement ring to Jones, who 
attended her funeral as the chief mourner, as the 
ballad has it, 

And after that distracted run, 

And so forever was undone, 
And wandered up and down, alone. 

Worcester's account concludes as follows: 

There were at the time, in Hollis, three 
young men to whom the doctor was strongly 
attached, and whom he called his adopted 
sons, viz., Thaddeus Wheeler, Jun., Timothy 
Emerson, and J. Coolidge Wheat, the last 
named, by trade, a stonecutter and maker of 
gravestones. During the life of Jones, and 
under his eye and direction, Wheat had made 
for him a large, neatly finished gravestone, 
fully completed and lettered, except the date 
of his death, with the epitaph inscribed upon 
it, furnished by the doctor, and copied from 
a stanza of his ballad. By his will dated 
January 1, 1791 the little estate that the 
doctor left was given to his three adopted 


sons, with the single condition, that Wheat 
should finish and set up his gravestone. 

An examination of the probate papers in the estate 
of John Jones confirms the accuracy of the reference to 
his will, and other evidence which we found in the 
course of our investigation, including deeds and the 
papers in his own estate, confirmed that J. Coolidge 
Wheat was indeed a stonecutter (Hillsborough, N. H. 
Probate 05378). However, since he was only twenty-one 
years old at the death of his patron and since the 
stone gives every evidence of having been done by a 
mature craftsman, there is reason to doubt that Wheat 
was solely responsible for the work. In fact, it will 
be noted that Worcester himself states that Wheat "had 
the gravestone made" for Doctor Jones. We believe that 
the stone was done or supervised by John Ball, who was 
by then an accomplished carver. 

We believe that Josiah Coolidge Wheat probably 
worked in Ball's shop. Some support for this belief 
may be found in the probate records for Ralph Emerson 
of Hollis, who died in 1790, payments being shown to 
John Ball of &8-8-0 and Josiah Wheat bl-4-0 (Hillsbo- 
rough, N. H. Probate 02933), and of John Smith of 
Peterborough who died in 1801, in whose estate payments 
show $6.89 to Josiah C. Wheat and $3.97 to J. Ball 
(Hillsborough, N. H. Probate 08268). The tympanum on 
the Emerson stone is badly defaced but appears to have 
been of the face with wings design. The Smith stone 
has a stiff and angular face in an arch surmounting a 
circle; and the design is in other respects quite 
unlike the work of Ball or Wheat. 

The stone of Martha Farrar, 1798, Pepperell has 
"W" on the back. The administrator's account in the 
estate of her husband Joseph 1802, which was allowed 
April 18, 1804, contains an entry indicating a payment 
of $26 to Coolidge Wheat (Middlesex, Mass. Probate 
7312). Since son Coolidge was only a child at that 
time, the stone must have been carved by, and the 
payment intended for, the father, J. Coolidge Wheat. 

These Hillsborough County Probate estates show 
payments to Josiah Coolidge Wheat for gravestones: 

0469 Joseph Beard, New Boston, 1799 $ 9.00 

0325 Sarah Glover, Francestown, 1807 6.50 

09105 Katherine Thurston, Hollis, 1809 8.50 

02556 James Dinsmore, New Boston, 1814 13.82 


and the following non-specific payments: 

05614 Hannah Kendrick, Hollis, 1805 $18.75 

05392 James Jewet, Hollis, 1808 9.50 

All of these stones are of the urn and willow style. 
The price, $13.82, is carved on the Dinsmore stone. 
The James Jewet stone, like that of Martha Farrar, has 
a "W" on the back. 

A comparison of the Sarah Glover stone, done by 
Wheat, with the Thomas Whiting stone, probated specifi- 
cally to Ball, readily shows the affinity between the 
two carvers and reinforces the surmise that Wheat worked 
for a time in John Ball's shop (Figs. 15-16). 

Josiah Coolidge Wheat was born April 18, 1775 in 
Hollis, the son of Solomon and Sarah Ball Wheat. He 
was named after his paternal grandfather Josiah and his 
grandmother, Ruth Coolidge Wheat. In tracing his gene- 
alogy we discovered a number of relationships which 
tied him to the Ball and Colburn families. Both his 
grandfather Josiah Wheat and his father Solomon, like 
John Ball's father and Paul Colburn's father, were born 
in Concord, Massachusetts. Solomon became an orphan, 
probably in 1759 when he was ten years old, and in 1764 
was taken by his uncle Thomas Wheat to Hollis, where he 
grew up, became a prominent citizen, served as a lieu- 
tenant in the Revolution, held town office as clerk and 
selectman and occupied a fine house on Main Street. 
Uncle Thomas had married Mary Ball of Concord, John 
Ball's aunt, and Solomon married as the first of his 
three wives Sarah Ball, sister of John Ball, of Mehi- 
table Ball Colburn and of the William Ball who married 
Elizabeth Colburn. 
related to both carve 

Josiah Coolidge Wheat was thus 
rs John Ball and Paul Colburn. 

There are other points of connection between the 
Wheats, Paul Colburn and John Ball. Solomon Wheat, the 
father of J. Coolidge Wheat, was initially described in 
deeds as a cordwainer, though later as a "gentleman," 
and the papers in his estate (Hillsborough, N. H. 
Probate 09718) suggest that even after he had gained 
wealth and status he continued as a cordwainer, for a 
list of his debts shows amounts owed to C. P. Farley 
for sole leather, upper leather, dressing sheepskins, 
dressing calfskin, black grain upper leather and hide 
Calcutta leather. His son Solomon, Jr. was also a 
cordwainer. Thus it is possible, even likely, that 
Paul Colburn learned his original trade of cordwaining 








^ r 


In rncmorv of 
Miss Sarah Glover, 
DaiigMer of 
Mr 1 lenrv r Mrs 
1 lnnn?h Glover, 
who died 
[ Sept. 13. 1 8 o y; 
;w-cd 4^ Years. 

^ ' 

Figure 15. 

Sarah Glover, 1807, Francestown, N. H. 


C A 



Ih incmoiA ol Cap 
I I iom \s i i i \ c, 

w ho ( K -(I (his 1il( 

l)( ( 

I / 

I 8 ( 

aged «>y Years 

f <; 


Figure 16. Thomas Whiting, 1801, Amherst, N. H, 


from the Wheats. 2 We believe that the homestead of 
Solomon Wheat, Sr. was adjacent to John Ball's land and 
shop, and J. Coolidge Wheat's own house (now 5 Ridge 
Road) and shop were very near the house and shop of 
John Ball (later owned by Luther Hubbard). 

Josiah married Sarah Cummings of Litchfield, New 
Hampshire, sister of his older brother Solomon's first 
wife, Hannah. Josiah and Sarah had seven children. 
The oldest was Coolidge Wheat, who was born in Hollis 
in 1797. Josiah appears on the tax rolls annually from 
1797 until his death in 1815, with the exception of 
1802-04, 1806-08, and 1811. In 1801 the town voted to 
abate his taxes and not to tax him for the ensuing 
year . 4 

Josiah acquired three acres of land in Hollis from 
his friend Timothy Emerson, Jr. by deed dated February 
8, 1792 which described him as "minor yeoman." On 
January 30, 1797 in consideration of $45 he sold three 
acres, with the buildings thereon, to Benjamin Fletcher, 
the deed describing Wheat as "stonecutter." 45 

Josiah Coolidge Wheat died April 9, 1815 at the 
early age of forty. His widow declined appointment as 
administrator of his estate (Hillsborough, N. H. Pro- 
bate 09634) and his father Solomon was appointed and 
gave bond in the amount of $1000. The inventory filed 
in the estate shows one-quarter acre of land, a shop 
and old barn valued at $80 and personal estate of 
$276.93 of which $143.14 is represented by unfinished 
gravestones, described as follows: 

60 feet gravestones unfinished $ 24.00 

6 DoDo 2.40 

136 Do smoothed 102.00 

22 Do lettered 14.74 

1 box stonecutters tools 2.50 

Claims against the estate in the amount of $980.72 were 
presented. The administrator represented the estate as 
insolvent in October 1815. Commissioners were appointed 
and a vendue was held, resulting in proceeds of 
$298.98. After payment of $80 for the widow's support 
and $81.64 for preferred claims, only $137.34 was left 
for creditors. The administrator was licensed to sell 
the real estate, and the shop and quarter acre of i^nd 
were bid in by Josiah's son Coolidge Wheat for $21. 



Three weeks after his father's death Coolidge 
Wheat placed the following advertisement in the Farmer's 
Cabinet f a weekly newspaper published in Amherst: 


THE STONE-CUTTING business will be continued 
by the subscriber, at the shop of Josiah C. 
Wheat, lately deceased. Those who had left 
orders with him for grave-stones, which were 
not executed, are requested to renew them to 

Holies . April 29, 1815 

This advertisement was repeated in the issues of May 6, 
May 13, and May 20. 

Coolidge Wheat was born December 19, 1797. ' The 
W hea t Genealog y by Silas Carmi Wheat and Helen Love 
Scranton says that he was married twice and "by profes- 
sion a marbleworker. he was also a musician and played 
many instruments." 48 He is listed as head of a family 
in Hollis in the 1820 and 1830 census. At some time 
after 1830 he moved to Montpelier, Vermont, where he 
died July 27, 1849. Henry Gilman Little in his Hollis . 
New Ham pshire 1Q. ,Y e a r s A go says that he lived in the 
northern part of the town, next to Ethan Willoughby and 
that he "had a taste for lighter things, as was shown 
by the dash of horse-jockey in his composition." Little 
goes on to say: 

I listened on training day to Coolidge Wheat 
and other musicians while they discussed, as 
they drank, the question of what kind of 
liquor was best to blow their wind instru- 
ments. One could blow best on West Indies 
rum; another on brandy; and still another, 
who was already pretty 'full,' could blow 
best on gin. 9 

We found two handsome stones in New Ipswich, New 
Hampshire with the urn and willow design, both signed 
by Coolidge Wheat. That of Susanna Wilson, 1815, bears 
a legend just above the ground, "C. Wheat, Holies, N.H. 
1817." The other stone is that of Francis Appleton, on 
which the legend reads "C. Wheat, Holies, N.H. $27.00." 
We discovered a stone in Thompson Cemetery, Tyngsboro, 
Massachusetts for Capt. Nathaniel Holden, 1817, "Exec. 


Daniel Emerson, 1820, Hollis Center, N. H, 

by C. Wheat, Holies, NH." The table stone which marks 
the grave of Noah Worcester, 1817, in the Main Street 
Cemetery in Hollis has this legend at the top: "En- 
graved by C. Wheat for J. Worcester, Jan. 1832." The 
stone is bare of decoration but offers a rich genealogi- 
cal resource, for it recites not only the decedent's 
ancestry but his numerous progeny as well. It must 
have been ordered by Noah's son Jesse. The handsome 
stone for Daniel Emerson, 1820, in the Hollis Center 
Cemetery (Fig. 17) bears the inscription "Exc. by John 
Park, Jr. & C. Wheat." John Park, Jr. was in the 
fourth of five generations of stone carvers in a family 
in which at least twelve members made gravestones. The 
signatures suggest the possibility that there may have 
been an earlier association between the Wheats and the 
Park family shop. 


One more Hollis carver of this period remains to 
be discussed, Luther Hubbard, who, it will be remem- 
bered, was an apprentice of John Ball and bought his 
house and shop to continue the business when Ball left 
Hollis. Charles S. Spaulding gives a succinct account: 

Major Luther Hubbard, son of Thomas and Lois 
White Hubbard, was born in Hollis, August 13, 
1782. He married Hannah Russell, of Carlisle, 
Mass., December 18, 1806, and settled at the 
Page Wright place, Butterfield Hills, Hollis; 
he purchased this place of John Ball, of whom 
he learned the stone cutting trade, which he 
worked at during his life time. Mr. Hubbard 
acquired the title of Major, although he 
never held a Major's commission. In 1834, 
Mr. Hubbard moved to Kendall Mills at North 
Hollis, residing here until the fall of 1836, 
he then removed to near Riddles in Merrimac, 
from here he went to Manchester about 1845, 
residing here uiitil his death, with his son, 
Thomas Russell. 50 

The account goes on to recite the names and birth dates 
of Major Hubbard's children and to state that he died 
in Manchester, New Hampshire March 2, 1857, while his 
widow survived to die at Manchester June 21, 1870. A 
Hubbard genealogy adds the following information: 

The abutments on which rested the bridge over 
the Nashua at Runnel's Mills were constructed 


by him, and were the only ones that stood the 
test when the ice gave way in the spring, 
while the bridge was below the falls. He was 
a good husband and father . . . Monumental 
stones finished by him may be seen in the 
cemeteries of Hollis, Nashua, Litchfield, 
Groton, Brookline, Amherst and Milford, where 
he was well known and highly esteemed. He 
probably never had an enemy. 51 

Perhaps in order to capitalize on the recent death 
of Josiah Coolidge Wheat, his competitor in Hollis, 
Luther Hubbard inserted the following advertisement in 
the Far m er's Cabinet : 


The subscriber acquaints the public, that he 
keeps constantly on hand a stock of GRAVE 
STONES, and will prepare them to orders on 
short notice, either at his shop in Amherst, 
near David Stewart, Esq. house, or at his 
shop in Hollis. 

Luther Hubbard 
June 20, 1816 

This advertisement appeared in the June 22 issue. The 
same advertisement with a small engraving of an urn and 
willow gravestone and signed "Luther Hobart" appeared 
in the June 29 number and again a week later. In the 
issues of July 20 and September 7 the notice was the 
same but the signature reverted to "Luther Hubbard" and 
the cut was changed to that of a tipsy gravestone and a 
getting sun. 

The Hollis town records indicate Hubbard as a 
taxpayer from 1805 until 1829, his name sometimes being 
spelled Hobart, Hobard and Hubert. He was elected a 
surveyor of highways in 1812, 1823 and 1829, hogreeve 
in 1816 and 1817; and in 1827 he received one vote for 
governor's council. Like so many of the stonecutters 
whom we have studied, Luther Hubbard ran into debt. He 
bought his house and shop from John Ball with a purchase 
money mortgage. On December 31, 1814 he again mortgaged 
the property, this time to Nathan Thayer to secure a 
debt of $200. In January 1821 he mortgaged the property 
of Benjamin Farley to secure an indebtedness of 
$105.30, and on April 1, 1823 he placed a first mortgage 
on the property in favor of Josiah Conant to secure 
repayment of $200 and a second mortgage for $100 to the 


Philanthropic Society. Thus the Society founded in 
1801 by a group which included both John Ball and 
Solomon Wheat as well as Josiah Conant truly lived up 
to its name. 2 

The Hillsborough, N. H. Probate records indicate 
payments to Luther Hubbard for gravestones in five 

Deacon Josiah Conant, Hollis, 1807 
Timothy Lawrence, Hollis, 1815 
Asa Spaulding, Merrimack, 1815 
Deacon John Ball, Temple, 1815 
Hannah Ball, Temple, 1814 



Figure 18. John Ball, 1816, Temple, N. H. 


Deacon John Ball was the son of our John Ball's uncle 
Nathaniel and therefore his first cousin. 53 The pro- 
bate account has these entries: "Paid Luther Hubbard 
for gravestones $29.65" and "For hauling up said grave- 
stones $3." The stone for Asa Spaulding in the charming 
Turkey Hill cemetery has an "H" on the back (Fig. 5c). 
We found two very similar stones, each with the same 

quarry mark and undoubtedly done by Hubbard one for 

Colonel Daniel Warner in Amherst, 1813, and the other 
for Sarah Standly in Francestown, 1814 (where the "H" 
appears on the footstone). And Hubbard must have done 
the marker for his son Thomas, who died July 21, 1815 
aged twenty months and is buried in Hollis. 

All of these gravestones carry the urn and willow 
pattern and are, as one might expect, in the tradition 
of John Ball's shop. Thus in the Conant and Standly 
stones the central panel is flanked by the familiar 
architectural columns, although in the former the carver 
has added an ornamental shaft of lozenges in the side 
panels. This diamond pattern, and panels decorated 
with a simple column of crosses, we soon recognized as 
standard indicia of Luther Hubbard's work (Fig. 18). 
He continued to achieve the same crisp lettering, with 
the open "h" and "p" in italics, which had been charac- 
teristic of John Ball's carving. 

Thus our pursuit of Paul Colburn led us inexorably 
to four other stonecutters who carried on their craft 
in the attractive New Hampshire town of Hollis. Four 
of these five craftsmen traced their family origins to 
Concord, Massachusetts and were interrelated. With the 
exception of our initial subject, Paul Colburn, none of 
these artisans appears to have been listed in hitherto 
published gravestone studies. We also found stonecut- 
ters in succeeding generations of the same families. 
And in the course of our study we encountered dozens of 
others, only a few of whom we knew about. 4 While this 
paper cannot claim to present a definitive study of any 
of these carvers, it does suggest, we think, the impor- 
tance of genealogical research in gravestone attribu- 
tion and the important results which such research can 



This paper was prepared for the Association for 
Gravestone Studies, and parts of it were presented were 
presented at the annual conference of that Association 
in June, 1983. A fuller version of the paper is on 
deposit in the archives of the Association for Grave- 
stone Studies at the New England Historic Genealogical 
Society. Beside those whose assistance is specifically 
acknowledged in later notes, we should like to thank 
the following for their interest and help in the prepar- 
ation of this article: Lucy Beebe and Ellen Nichols of 
Hollis, New Hampshire; Ruth Hopfmann and Barbara Dudley 
of Sterling, Massachusetts; Daniel Farber of Worcester, 
Massachusetts; Charlotte McCartney and Marian J. Fi- 
field of Thetford, Vermont; the town clerks of Thetford 
and Vershire, Vermont; Philip A. Hazelton of Hebron, 
New Hampshire, and most particularly, Pamela Bryson, 
who cheerfully typed countless versions of this mono- 

ln James Wilder of Lancaster, Stonecutter," New 
England Historical and Gene a logical Register f 136 

(April, 1983), p. 87. 

2 For William Colburn, Sr. (1689-1769), see Charles 
S. Spaulding, An Account £f Some o_f the Eaxly Settlers 
ol West Dunstable. Monson and Hollis. &. 1L. (Nashua, N. 
H.: Telegraph Press, 1915), p. 34; Samuel T. Worcester, 
History ol the X&un ol Hollis, He_w. ijajopshire. (Nashua, 
N. H.: 0. C. Moore, 1879), pp. 34-35, 46, 57, 42, 51, 
96. For William Colburn, Jr. (1726-76), see Concord, 
Massachusetts Birt hs , Marriages and Deaths 1635-1850 
(Boston: Beacon Press, n. d.) , p. 117; Spaulding, p. 
97; George A. Gordon and Silas R. Coburn, Descendants 
q£ Edward Colburn/Coburn (Lowell, Mass.: Walter Coburn, 
1913), no. 55; estate of William Colburn, Jr., Hills- 
borough, N. H. Probate 01521. We have found no evidence 
to support the conclusion that Elias (b. 1762) was a 
son of William and Abigail; Abigail and Hannah appear 
as daughters in the will of William Colburn, Jr. 

3 See articles by Peter Benes, "Abel Webster, Pi- 
oneer, Patriot, and Stonecutter," Historical New Hamp- 
shire . 28 (1973), p. 221, and James L. and Donna-Belle 
Garvin, "Stephen Webster, Gravestone Maker," Historical 
New Ham pshire . 29, p. 93. 

4 Frank D. Warren, comp., Descendants of J_o_h_n ILaJJL 
£l£ W aterto wn (Boston: n. p., 1932), Part 1, no. 265; 


Worcester, pp. 365, 370; Spaulding, p. 82. In a Hollis 
antique store we discovered a framed family register 
made in 1845 showing the issue of Betsy Colburn and 
Eliphalet Kendall; Betsy's birth is recorded as January 
13, 1784. 

5 Hillsborough, N. H. Probate 01521; Kilburn to 
Colburn, Feb. 17, 1786, Worcester, Mass. Deeds, bk. 99, 
p. 297; Colburn to Allen, Jan. 8, 1806, Worcester, 
Mass. Deeds, bk. 160, p. 411. 

"Gordon and Coburn, no. 139; Sterling Church Re- 
cords, p. 168; notes in Colburn file, Sterling Histori- 
cal Society. 

7 The New Hampshire State Library in Concord has 
copies on microfilm of most New Hampshire town records 
prior to 1835; a card index of names mentioned provides 
quick access to the appropriate records.. 

®For tax payments, see Hollis, N. H. town records 
(N. H. State Library microfilm), vol. 4, pp. 455, 494, 
339. For Abigail's marriage and death, see Spaulding, 
p. 97; Ezra S. Stearns, History of Pl y m outh. N. iL., 
Vol. II (Cambridge, Mass.: University Press, 1906); 
John Keniston, "Plans of Village and Pratt Cemeteries" 
(ms., New Hampshire Historical Society, 1930). For the 
marriages of Paul Colburn's siblings, see Gordon and 
Coburn, nos. 55, 141-42. 

9 Hebron town records, 1808-15 (N. H. State Library 
microfilm) . 

10 Paul's son Abel had married Achsa's sister Deb- 
orah Phelps of Hebron in 1811, and Paul's daughter Mary 
married a brother, Adna Phelps. John Carroll Power, 
History &£ ih£ Early settlers oj[ Sangamon Countyr Illi- 
nois (Springfield, 111.: Edwin A. Wilson & Co., 1876), 
states that Adna was born in Hebron in 1792, moved to 
Loami, Sangamon County in 1844 and died in 1852. Two 
of Adna's children intermarried with other members of 
the Colburn family in their generation. See Power for 
the story of the westward movements of the family. 

11 Charles Hudson, History of Lexington . Vol. II 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913); Charles Henry Pope, 
Loring Genealog y (Cambridge, Mass.: Murray and Emery, 
1917), nos. 84, 201. 

12 (Chicago: Inter-state Publishing Co., 1881). 


13 The account in the estate of Thomas Whiting 
(Hillsborough, N. H. Probate 09553) contains an entry 
dated November 8, 1802, "Paid E. Ball for gravestones 
$14." John Ball's father and brother, both Ebenezers, 
were probably dead by this time. John's son Ebenezer 
was only six years old; his nephew Ebenezer was twenty- 
one, but we have found no evidence to indicate that he 
was a stonecutter. The Whiting stone appears to be the 
work of John Ball. The next entry in the account 
reads, "Paid E. Rea for digging grave $1.50." We think 
that the initial letter in the preceding entry is an 
error and have accordingly included this stone in the 
list of specific payments to John Ball. 

14 Hillsborough County, N. H. deeds: Emerson and 
Wheat to Ball, February 4, 1794, bk. 62, p. 407; Laur- 
ence to Ball, March 28, 1798, bk. 62, p. 409; Hoar to 
Ball, January 2, 1802, bk. 62, p. 411; Hale to Ball, 
May 20, 1802, bk. 62, p. 412; Ball to Hubbard, Aug. 16, 
1806, bk. 71, p. 113; Ball to Merrel, September 17, 
1806, bk. 75, p. 383; Ball to Cumings, December 9, 
1806, bk. 77, p. 233. 

15 The administrator's account in the estate of 
Thomas Flagg, Jr., of Weston, 1733, contains an entry, 
"Nathaniel Ball for gravestones b 5-7-0" and in the 
estate of Robert Ward of Charlestown, 1736, a non- 
specific payment to Nathaniel Ball of Ll-18-6 (Middle- 
sex, Mass. Probate vol. 20, pp. 62 and 372). We have 
been unable to locate either of these stones. 

16 Warren and Ball, nos. 41, 104, 261, 266; Concord 
Massachusetts Births, Ma rr iages ajid Deaths , pp. 36, 
104, 166; Worcester, p. 365. 

17 John*s father Ebenezer is described in deeds as 
"yeoman" and appears regularly on the tax rolls of 
Hollis from 1750 until 1791. It is said that he died 
after 1790 by Dorothy Stivers Brown and Forrest David 
Brown, comps., The. B_aXLs in the Ball-Stivers Line. 
(Lewisburg, Pa.: n. p., 1976), I, 21, and it is very 
likely that he did, but we have not as yet found the 
date of his death. His son Ebenezer, Jr., John's 
brother, is described in deeds as "blacksmith." He 
first appears on the tax rolls in 1770, and an Ebenezer 
Ball, Jr. is listed on the rolls every year thereafter 
until 1796, when the listing becomes simply "Ebenezer 
Ball." There is no Ebenezer Ball, Sr. or Jr., in the 
1800 census for Hollis. Both may have died before that 
year. Certainly Ebenezer, Jr. died before February 


1803, for in that month his brother, our John Ball, was 
appointed guardian of the blacksmith's son David 
(Hillsborough, N. H. Probate 0494), presumably so that 
David, not yet twenty-one, could join in a release of 
interest in his late father Ebenezer's estate. In this 
deed, which is dated May 28, 1804, the blacksmith's son 
Ebenezer, then twenty-three, is described as "late of 
Hollis, Gentleman" (Hillsborough, N. H. deeds, bk. 90, 
p. 297). 

18 The document, dated October 10, 1761 and signed 
by Governor Wentworth, provides that the town may have 
two animal fairs and, when it reaches fifty families, a 
market; grants must be taken up and five acres planted 
for every fifty acres within five years; tall white 
pine trees are to be preserved for the King's navy, and 
an annual rent of one ear of corn is to be paid the 
first ten years and one shilling thereafter ( New Hamp - 
shir e State Papers, vol. 26, p. 195). 

19 For Ebenezer Ball, Sr. (1721-96), see Hollis 
town records, vol. 1, p. 247; vol. 4, p. 40; Worcester, 
p. 99; Chandler E.Potter, Military History .of New Hamp- 
fihJxe 1623-1861 (Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publish- 
ing Co., 1972), part 1, p. 132. For Ebenezer Ball, Jr. 
(1749-before 1803), see Hollis town records, vol. 6, 
pp. 135, 147, 154, 191, 196, 179, 181, 182, 211, 330, 
331, 333, 335. For Nathaniel and William Ball's role 
in the Revolution, see Hollis town records, vol. 6, pp. 
9, 79; new. ijaippsluxe. state. Papers,, vol. 14, pp. 32, 
206; Worcester, pp. 128, 147. 

20 Vital statistics: Hollis town records, vol. 6, 
pp. 236, 283, 237; vol. 1, pp. 321, 264; Worcester, p. 
365; taxes listed annually in town records, vols. 3-5; 
constable and collector, vol. 5, pp. 306, 323, 331; 
tithing man, vol. 5, p. 357, vol. 3, p. 14; surveyor of 
highways, vol. 3, p. 73; petit juror, vol. 5, pp. 361, 
374; funeral procedure, vol. 5, p. 378; Philanthropic 
Society, vol. 6, pp. 341, 51; Worcester, p. 248. 

21 Hollis town records, vol. 6, pp. 178, 180, 195, 
88-90, 133, 197, 109; New Hampshire State Papers , vol. 
14, pp. 346, 573; Worcester, pp. 170-76. 

22 Hillsborough, N. H. deeds, bk. 11, p. 220. 

23 Worcester, Mass. deeds, bk. 143, p. 46; bk. 124, 
p. 109. 


24 Hillsborough, N. H. deeds: Ebenezer to John 
Ball, April 1, 1790, bk. 29, p. 105; Emerson and Wheat 
to Ball, February 4, 1794, bk. 62, p. 407; Lawrence to 
Ball, March 28, 1798, bk. 62, p. 409; Ball to Powers, 
March 21, 1799, bk. 56, p. 222. 

25 Hillsborough, N. H. deeds: Hoar to Ball, Janu- 
ary 2, 1802, bk. 62, p. 411; Hale to Ball, May 20, 
1802, bk. 62, p. 412; Ball to Hubbard, August 16, 1806, 
bk. 71, p. 113; Hubbard to Ball, Aug. 20, 1806, bk. 71, 
p. 132; Ball to Merrel, September 17, 1806, bk. 75, p. 
383; Ball to Cumings, December 9, 1806, bk. 77, p. 233. 

26 Vershire, Vt. deeds: Langdon to Ball, April 30, 
1806, bk. 7, p. 22; Langdon to Ball, April 30, 1806, 
bk. 7, p. 23; Ball to French, January 9, 1807, bk. 7, 
p. 138. Vershire town clerk's records for August 14 
and September 14, 1807. 

27 Ha_njia.l Ql Congre gational Church o_f Ver shire 
(Windsor, Vt.: Vermont Chronicle Press, 1863); Boston 
Transcript , July 27, 1931, no. 1835, p. 4. 


(West Topsham, Vt.: Thetford Historical Soci- 

ety, 1972), p. 24. 

2 ^Vershire town clerk's records for March, 1808. 
Vershire deeds: Titus to Ball, April 17, 1809, bk. 8, 
p. 408; Titus to Ball, April 19, 1809, bk. 8, p. 407. 

JU Vershire deeds: Ball to Senter, November 26, 
1811, bk. 9, p. 109; Ball to Senter, October 5, 1815, 
bk. 9, p. 398; Senter to Ball, October 4, 1815, bk. 9, 
p. 397; Ball to Spears, November 24, 1815, bk. 9, p. 

31 Thetf ord, Vt. town clerk's records for May 18, 

1816. Thetford deeds: Tucker to Ball, October 6, 

1817, bk. 10, p. 90; Gillet to Ball, November 27, 1817, 
bk. 10, p. 116; Ball to Gillet, Nov. 27, 1817, bk. 10, 
p. 117; Ball to Hosford, April 5, 1819, bk. 10, p. 300; 
Lathan and Kendrick to Ball, April 2, 1823, bk. 11, p. 
224; John to Nathaniel Ball, September 9, 1823, bk. 11, 
p. 225. 

32 Addie M. Ball, Additions and. C orrections ±q 
Descendants oil John BjaJLl qjL Watertown (North Amherst, 
Mass.: n. p., 1942), no. 580; notes in Ball file, 
Thetford Historical Society. Vershire, Vt. town 
clerk's records for March, 1811. Thetford, Vt. deeds: 


John Ball to John Ball, Jr., January 23, 1826, Bk. 11, 
p. 502; John Ball, Jr. to William Ball, February 13, 
1835, bk. 13, p. 46. 

33 Robert L. Bacon, Register £f_ Persons Buried in 
the Cemeteries si the Iqmh q! Thetford, Vermont 1768- 
1976 (East Thetford, Vt.: n. p., 1977), p. 4; B_all- 
Stivers Line, p. 21. 

34 The letter is among the papers of John Ball 
(1794-1884) in the Clarke Historical Library of Central 
Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. 


See n. 32. 

36 See n. 32. U. S. Census 1850 M432, Thetford 
926:43. Thetford, Vt. deeds: estate of John Ball, Jr. 
to John W. and Merrill Ball, bk. 16, p. 280; John W. to 
Merrill Ball, April 8, 1860, bk. 19, p. 498; Merrill 
Ball to Adeline H. Webster, 1863, bk. 20, p. 231. 

^'Vermont State Archives, Bradford, Vt. Probate 
District, vol. 8, p. 177. 

38 2he. Grafton County Gazetteer (1886), p. 545, 
states, "Elisha P. Ball, a stonecutter, moved with his 
family to Lyme in 1844. He died May 20, 1871, aged 61 
years. " 



Anna Merz, "Symbols and Sermons in Stone," Con- 
:ut Nut me gger . vol. 11, no. 2 (Sept. 1978), p. 


Pp. 334-38. 

41 Silas Carmi Wheat and Helen Love Scranton, Wheat 
Genealogy (Guilford, Ct.: Shore Line Times, 1960), nos. 
318, 30, 85, 32. 

42 For Solomon Wheat, Sr., see Hillsborough, N. H. 
deeds: bk. 7, p. 217; bk. 22, p. 26; bk. 29, p. 41; 
bk. 43, p. 149; bk. 48, p. 415. For Solomon Wheat, 
Jr., see bk. 87, p. 149; bk. 43, p. 108; bk. 88, p. 

43 See Bertha Hayden's account of old Hollis houses 
on deposit with the Hollis Historical Society and the 
Hollis Town Library. She refers, on p. 93, to notes on 
the Wheats's stonecutting shop, but we have been unable 
to locate these notes. She does refer, p. 13, to 


Solomon Wheat who "used to make gravestones of slate." 
While we have found no support for this statement, if 
it is true, then Solomon Wheat could well have been the 
master connecting Colburn, Ball and Josiah Wheat. 

44 W heat Genealog y, nos. 317-18, 877; Hollis town 
records, vols. 5 and 3, vol. 3, p. 33. 

^Hillsborough, n. H. deeds: Emerson to Wheat, 
February 8, 1792, bk. 41, p. 49; Wheat to Fletcher, 
January 30, 1797, bk. 42, p. 170. 

4 *>Hillsborough, N. H. deeds: Solomon to Coolidge 
Wheat, January 27, 1820, bk. 127, p. 220. 

4 ^Josiah Coolidge Wheat had two other sons; one of 
them, Josiah Alfred, married Susan Danforth of Amherst, 
N. H., and her brother Jesse Danforth, Jr. married 
Josiah Alfred's sister Sarah in 1824 ( Wheat Genealogy , 
nos. 882, 878). We found the stone of Mrs. Dorothy 
Parker, 1823, in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Litchfield, 
N. H., signed at the base, "Engraved by J. Danforth 
Amherst. " 

48 Wheat Genealogy , n. 877. 

49 (Grinnell, Iowa: Ray & MacDonald, 1894), p. 57. 

p. 180. 

51 Luther Prescott Hubbard, Descendants o_f George 
Hubbard fro m 1600 to. 1872 (New York: L. P. Hubbard, 
1972), p. 12. 

52 Hollis town records: taxes, vol. 3; surveyor, 
vol. 3, pp. 197, 343, 533; hogreeve, vol. 3, pp. 241, 
256; governor's council, vol. 3, p. 446. Hillsborough, 
N. H. deeds: Ball to Hubbard, August 16, 1806, bk. 71, 
p. 113; Hubbard to Ball, August 20, 1806, bk. 71, p. 
132; Ball to Thayer, December 31, 1814, bk. 104, p. 
136; Ball to Farley, January 1, 1821, bk. 131, p. 85; 
Ball to Conant, April 1, 1823, bk. 137, p. 632; Ball to 
Philanthropic Society, April 1, 1823, bk. 137, p. 633. 

53 Warren, nos. 41, 102, 104, 257. 

54 Elisha P. Ball, Lyme, N. H. (1810-71); John 
Ball, Jr., Thetford, Vt. (1788-1847); J. Brown, Amherst, 
N. H. (1830s); Brown & Eastman, Derry, N. H. (1840s); 
J. B. Campbell (1850s); M. Coniche, Amherst, N. H. 


(1830s) J. Danforth, Amherst, N. H. (1820s); C. Daby 
(or Darby), Worcester, Mass. (1830s); M. Davis, Nashua, 
N. H. (1830-50); B. Day, Lowell, Mass. (1830s); Nathan 
Farley, Concord, N. H. (1820s); Nelson Farley; William 
Farnsworth, Groton, Mass. (c. 1800); Joseph W. Goddard, 
Lancaster, Mass. (1810); Wm. Goddard, Lancaster, Mass. 
(1811); Isaac Hartwell, Sterling, Mass. (1840s or 
earlier); Daniel Hastings, Newton, Mass. (1749-1803); 
E. Kendall and Stephen Kendall, Littleton, Mass. (after 
1800); Josiah Kidder, Sterling, Mass.; Cheney Kilburn, 
Sterling, Mass. (1796-1873); Samuel Kilburn, Sterling 
and Concord, Mass. (1783-1858); T. Lewis, Harvard, 
Mass. (1810); John Marble, Bradford, Mass. (1764-1844); 
Joseph Marble, Bradford, Mass. (1726-1805); Abel Moore, 
Lunenburg, Mass. (1805); B. Morse (1818); D. Nichols, 
Lowell, Mass. (1840s); Benjamin K. Park; John Park, 
Groton, Mass. (1731-93); John Park, Jr., Groton, Mass. 
(1761-1811); John Park, Groton, Mass. (1787-1848); 
Thomas Park, Groton, Mass. (1745-1806); Life Parker, 
Pepperell, Mass.; Adna Phelps, Groton, N. H. area 
(1792-?); I. Reed, Jr., Harvard, Mass. (1818); David 
Sawtell, Shirley and Groton, Mass. (1820s); Ithamar 
Spauldin, Concord, Mass. (1795-1800); A. Stone, Groton, 
Mass. (1838); I. N. Stone, Harvard and Worcester, Mass. 
(1840); Abel Webster, Hollis, Plymouth and Kingston, N. 
H., Danville, Vt. and Chester, N. H. (1726-1801); Step- 
hen Webster, Chester, Hollis and Plymouth, N. H. (1718- 
98) . 


"And the Men Who Made Them": 
The Signed Gravestones of New England 
1984 Additions 

Sue Kelly and Anne Williams 

The following entries contain newly recorded signed 
stones by carvers included in the list in M ARKERS XI. 
The authors invite submissions of additional data as it 
is recorded, for inclusion in an annual updating of the 
original list. 

J. B_. 

Joseph Godfrey, 1750, Morton, Mass. (Timothy Plain 
Cemetery); slate; fair. "J. B." 

MiCJHAEL BALJDH1H (1719-87), New Haven, Ct. 

Martha Landon, 1775, Southold, N. Y.; sandstone; excel- 
lent. "Michael Baldwin N Haven" 

ZERUBBABEL COLLINS (1733-97), Lebanon, Ct. and Shaftes- 
bury, Vt. 

Femmitie Snyder, 1789, Albany, N. Y. (Albany Rural 
Cemetery); marble; stone on ground. "Z. Collins Sculp" 

JOHN JUST £E2£R., Boston, Mass. 

Abigail Burbeck, 1790, West Bath, Me. (West Bath Ceme- 
tery); slate. "John Just Geyer feet. Boston" 

JAftES. EEtt 11 (1751-1835), Wrentham, Mass. 

Susannah Drake, n. d., Upton, Mass. (Grove Street Ceme- 
tery); slate; excellent. "J. N." 

£. and/or £. S_LKES_, Belchertown, Mass. 

Archelaus Anderson, 1790, Chester, Mass. (Bromley Road 
Cemetery); schist; excellent. "E. S." 

BEZA £0_U_LE (1750-1835), Middleborough, Mass. and Brook- 
lyn, Ct. 

Esther Ross, 1777, West Brookfield, Mass.; slate; good, 
"by Soule" 

Jemima Lincoln, 1786, Warren, Mass. (Pine Grove Ceme- 


tery); slate; good. "B. S." 

Zeruah Mighells, 1796, Putnam, Ct. (Aspinwall Ceme- 
tery); slate; good. "Beza Soule" 

Ezra Dean, 1798, Putnam, Ct. (Aspinwall Cemetery); 
slate; excellent. "Made by B. Soule June 21st 1799" 

Levina Wood, 1800, West Brookfield, Mass.; slate; good. 
"Engraved by B. Soule" 

William Thomas, 1805, West Brookfield, Mass.; slate; 
excellent. "Engraved by B. Soule" 

SIEYEH SPALDING, Killingly, Ct. 

William Phillips, 1792, Plainfield, Ct. "By S. Spalding" 

JOHN STEVENS III (it.) (1753-?), Newport, R. I. 

Ruth Gibbs, 1784, Newport, R. I. (Common Burying 
Ground); slate; excellent. "J. Stevens" 

Three Children of Godfrey Wenwood, 1780-84, Newport, 
R. I. (Common Burying Ground); slate; excellent. 
"J. Stevens" 

EBENEZER WINSLQW (1772-1841), Uxbridge, Mass. 

Deacon Daniel Deane, 1801, Norton, Mass. (Pine Street 
Cemetery); poor. "E-W" 

?, ?, n. d., Assonet, Mass. (Lawton Cemetery); unadorned 
base fragment. "By E. Winslow, 2, $14." 



West Bath: John Just Geyer 


Assonet: E. Winslow 

Chester: C. and/or E. Sikes 

Norton: Ebenezer Winslow; J. B. 

Warren: Beza Soule 


West Brookfield: Beza Soule 

Albany: Z. Collins 
Southold: Michael Baldwin 



Index of Carvers and Illustrations 

Allen, Jonathan, 26, 28, 37 

Arms, John, 13 

Ashley, Solomon, 28, 30, 33, 35, 37 

Ball, John, 94, 101-25, 128, 129, 137 

Ball, John Jr., 114-15 

"Bat Carver, The," 9 

Bliss, Aaron, 11, 18, 

Bliss, Abel, 20 

Bliss, Mary, 23 

Bliss, Nathaniel, 19 

Brown, Mary, 55 

Buckland, John, 18 

Butterick, Elizabeth, 51 

Clark, John, 4 

Colburn, Paul, 93-101, 103, 106, 115-25, 129 

Collins, Benjamin, 71 

Collins, Zerubbabel, 71 

Colton, George, 21 

Doolittle, Sara, 29 
Dwight, Henry Esq., 8 

Emerson, Daniel, 134 
Emmes, Nathaniel, 6 

Farrar, Martha, 107 
Foster, James, 6 

Glover, Sarah, 130 
Goodwin, Hannah, 54 
Griswold, Edward, 3 
Griswold, George, 3, 4 
Gunn, John, 7 

Hale, Gideon, 9, 12, 24 

Hale, Thomas, 17 

Harris, Stephen and Mary, 121 

Hartshorn, Lt. John, 72, 73, 74, 77 

Hartshorn, Jonathan, 77, 79, 85, 86 

Hastings, Daniel, 105, 106 

Hayward, Nathan, 86 

Hodgman, Josiah, 119 

Holbrook, Abiah, 61 

Holland, William, 11, 12, 16, 22, 24 

Hubbard, Luther, 106, 135-38 


Janes, Ebenezer, 27, 28, 29, 32 
Janes, Ebenezer Jr., 28 
Johnson, Joseph, 9, 11, 14 
Johnson, Thomas I, 6, 9, 10 
Johnson, Thomas II, 11, 14 
Jones, John, 126 

King, Mary, 8 

Lamson, Caleb, 82 
Lamson, Nathaniel, 82 
Leeman, Samuel and Mary, 121 
Leighton, Ezekiel, 73, 77 
Leighton, Jonathan, 77, 79, 85, 86 
Leighton, Richard, 73, 74, 77, 78 
Locke, Henry, 28 
Locke, John, 28, 30, 33, 35 

Manning family, 71, 75 

Marble, John, 105 

Marble, Joseph, 75, 105 

McCall, Samuel, 32 

Mirick, Daniel, 123 

Moore, Paul 118 

Morse, Mary, 100 

Mulican, Joseph, 73, 76, 77, 81, 85, 87 

Mulican, Robert, 73, 74, 87 

Mulican, Robert Jr. 75 

Nash, Joseph, 4, 5 
Nicholson, Ruth, 63 

Park family, 99, 105 

Phelps, Elijah, 11, 27, 33, 36 

Phelps, Nathaniel, 11,14, 22, 27 

Phelps, Rufus, 37, 38 

Pierce, Rachel, 106 

Poole, Capt. Jonathan, 51 

Seccombe, John and Molly, 120 

Sikes family, 33, 37 

Smith, Joseph, 34 

Soule, Beza, 24, 28 

Soule, Coomer, 24, 27 

Soule, Ebenezer Sr., 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 

Soule, Isaiah, 28 

Soule, Ivory, 28 

Soule family, 86 

Spauldin, Ithamar, 106 

Spaulding, Aza, 107 


Stancliff, James, 6 
Stancliff, William, 6 
Stebbins, Ezra, 11, 22 
Stebbins, Ezra II, 11, 22 
Stratton, Elisabeth, 31 

Temple, Elizabeth, 100 
Thornton, Matthew, 123 
Titcomb, Paul, 57 

Webster, Abel, 71, 75, 94 
Webster, Stephen, 94 
Westcarr, Dr. John, 5 
Wheat, Coolidge, 133-35 
Wheat family, 106 
Wheat, Josiah Coolidge, 125-32 
Wheat, Solomon, 105 
Wheeler, Obadiah, 71 
Whiting, Thomas, 131 
Whitney, Nathan, 99 
Wilder, James, 93 
Williams, Mrs. Christian, 17 
Williams, Israel Jr., 10 
Williams, Margaret, 25 
Williams, Sarah, 15 
Williston, Joseph, 11, 16, 17 
Worcester, Jonathan, 71, 75 
Worcester, Moses, 71 



Lucien Agosta teaches in the English Department of 
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas. His inte- 
rests range from gravestones to children's literature. 

Peter Benes is a leading authority on New England 
material culture. He is the founder of The Dublin 
Seminar for New England Folk Life, and editor of its 
annual proceedings. The author of many articles on 
gravestones and stonecutters, his best-known work is 
Tim M&akjs q£ Orthodoxy. 

Laurel Gabel and Theodore Chase are both officers of 
the Association for Gravestone Studies. Mrs. Gabel 
heads the Association's Research Bureau, is a member of 
the New England Historic Genealogical Society and a 
member of the Board of the Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery 
in Rochester, New York. Mr. Chase is a trustee of the 
New England Historic Genealogical Society and a member 
of the Council of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 

Sue Kelly and Anne Williams are the authors of A. Grave 
Business . They are currently working on a handbook for 
gravestone study. 

Kevin M. Sweeney is Administrator-Curator of the Webb- 
Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersf ield, Connecticut, and 
Visiting Lecturer in American Studies at Trinity College 
in Hartford. He holds a Masters in history from Yale 
University where he is a doctoral candidate. For seve- 
ral years he has lectured on and written about the 
architecture, furniture and gravestones of the Connecti- 
cut River valley. 

David Watters teaches at the University of New Hampshire 
and is the author of "With Bodilie Eyes." He is cur- 
rently writing a book on early New England rituals and 


Also of Interest from 

University Press of America and 

The Association for Gravestone Studies 

Markers II 

Edited by David Waiters