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Markers VI 


Markers VI 

Journal of 
the Association for 
Gravestone Studies 

Edited by 
Theodore Chase 



Copyright © 1989 by 

University Press of America,® Inc. 

4720 Boston Way 
Lanham, MD 20706 

3 Henrietta Street 
London WC2E 8LU England 

All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

British Cataloging in Publication Information Available 

Co-published by arrangement with 
the Association for Gravestone Studies 

"Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina" 
© 1989 bv M. Ruth Little 

ISBN (Perfect): 0-8191-7317-7 (pbk. alk. paper) 

ISBN (Cloth): 0-8191-7316-9 (alk. paper) 

LCN: 81-642903 

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

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American 

National Standard for Information Sciences — Permanence of Paper for Printed Library 

Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. 



Theodore Chase, Editor 
David Watters, Associate Editor 

John L. Brooke James A. Slater 

Jessie Lie Farber Richard F. Welch 

The editor again wishes to thank the members of the editorial board for 
their advice and help in the selection and editing of articles for this edition 
of the journal and to thank Carol Davidson for her continuing assistance 
in the preparation of copy and layout. We are also grateful to the 
University of New Hampshire which, through the intervention of David 
Watters, provided a subsidy for publication of Markers V and generously 
provided secretarial services in connection with this issue. And finally the 
editor wishes to credit Daniel and Jessie Lie Farber for the photographs 
used to illustrate the article entitled "Tributes in Stone and Lapidary 
Lapses" by Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula and the review by Peter Benes of 
James Slater's book. 

Information about the submission of manuscripts for Markers may be 
obtained from the editor, Theodore Chase, 74 Farm Street, Dover, 
Massachusetts 02030. For information about other Association for 
Gravestone Studies publications, membership and activities, write to the 
executive director, Rosalee Oakley, 46 Plymouth Road, Needham, 
Massachusetts 02192. 

Articles appearing in this journal are annotated and indexed in 
Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life. 




The John Dwight Workshop in Shirley, Massachusetts, 1770-1816 1 

Eloise Sibley West 

Tributes in Stone and Lapidary Lapses: Commemorating Black 33 
People in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century America 

Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 103 

M. Ruth Little 

Communities of the Dead: Tombstones as a Reflection of 137 

Social Organization 

Paula J. Fenza 

Camposantos: Sacred Places of the Southwest 159 

Laura Sue Sanborn 

United Above Though Parted Below: The Hand as Symbol 181 

on Nineteenth-Century Southwest Ontario Gravestones 

Nancy-Lou Patterson 

An Early Christian Athlete: The Epitaph of 209 

Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

Scott T. Carroll 

Book Review: The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern 233 

Connecticut and The Men Wlio Made Them, by James A. Slater 
Peter Benes 

Contributors 241 

Index 243 






N '' XV IMl\M.S ! iV, ( ,; NF , s 

\l i 

Fig. 1 William Simonds, 1758, Shirley. 


Eloise Sibley West 

Burying grounds throughout central Massachusetts and in areas north 
and south of Boston contain many gravestones from the workshop of John 
Dwight in Shirley which are very similar. These stones were described by 
Harriette Forbes, who wrote: "Having seen a few John Dwights, we can 
imagine all the others." 1 A recent search has revealed, however, that John 
Dwight and his son Francis were more versatile than Mrs. Forbes 
believed. The work of the shop spanned a period of more than fifty years 
and ended abruptly and tragically in 1816. 

John Dwight had two sons who were stonecarvers, a daughter who 
married a stonecarver, and a grandson who was a stonecarver. Documents 
pertaining to the Dwight workshop recently discovered in Shirley provide 
much information about the work of the shop under son Francis and cast 
new light on the business of gravestone carving in the early 1800s. 

John Dwight, stonecarver, was born in Boston about 1740. His father, 
Captain John Dwight, was lost in a shipwreck in 1744, leaving his only son 
fatherless at the age of four. His mother's maiden name was said to be 
Foster. 2 

John's life, before his arrival in Shirley, has not been documented. It 
can be inferred from a study of the style and distribution of his stones that 
John spent some time at the workshop of the Foster family in Dorchester, 
Massachusetts. The Old North Burying Ground there includes stones 
carved in the Foster style but made by Dwight. A few in the Dorchester 
cemetery, also by Dwight, are made from the tan-colored, fine-grained 
stone used by the Fosters. Although he moved to Shirley before the death 
of the carver James Foster III in 1771, John retained ties with the families 

Eloise Sibley West 

living in Dorchester, and carved their gravestones in his Shirley workshop. 
One can even speculate that John's mother was a Dorchester Foster, but 
support for this suggestion has not been found. 

Little has been written about the life of John Dwight, so probate, town 
and military records are the only official records available. He came to 
Shirley as a young man "in good pecuniary circumstances," 3 skilled in 
gravestone carving and with experience in farming. John carved stones, 
chose a wife and bought a farm. 

Susanna (Harris) Moors was the widow of Jonathan Moors, who died 
July 18, 1765. She was Moors's second wife. After their short marriage 
she was left with only one living child, Abel Moors, born posthumously on 
January 22, 1766. 4 A daughter was also born to Susanna: "Moors, Eunice, 
d. Susannah, wid., bp. Apr. 16, 1769." 5 Her birth is not recorded nor is the 
name of her father. In the records of the Town Clerk of Shirley: "There is 
a marriage intended between Mr. John Dwight and Mrs. Susanna Moors 
both of this district." No date of intention or of the marriage is included. 6 
John and Susanna were married some time before 1770. All of this sug- 
gests, but does not prove, that Eunice was an illegitimate child. John did 
not adopt her, so perhaps she was not his child. 

In 1770 John bought a farm on the banks of Mulpus Brook from the 
owners, Francis Harris (John's father-in-law) and John Ivory. The house 
was well known as the site of the first official Town Meeting, in 1753, 
when Shirley separated from its mother town, Groton. 7 John and Susanna 
had a busy life tending the farm, filling orders for gravestones and bringing 
up an ever-increasing family. They had eight children: five girls and three 
boys, of whom more will be said later. 

The founding of a new nation took precious time from personal con- 
cerns. John Dwight joined the able-bodied men of Shirley as a private in 
Henry Haskell's Company of Minute Men, marching to Cambridge after 
the battle of Lexington. He returned home April 30, 1775, having served 

The John Dwight Workshop 

thirteen days including marching time, and was paid Ll.4.9. He was called 
again to service at White Plains, New York, in October 1776. There he 
received a wound in the head that impaired his hearing for life. 8 

John shared responsibilities as a resident of Shirley. The Town "Made 
choyse of Mr. John Dwight as constable." 9 At the Town Meeting on 
March 1, 1773, John Dwight was appointed a field driver. 10 When the 
Reverend Phinehas Whitney accepted the unanimous call of First Parish 
Church, part of the terms of his "settlement" included twenty cords of 
wood, to be carried to his door annually. The Town Meeting of March 14, 
1777, "Gave John Dwight an order on Jonas Longley Treasurer for getting 
the Rev. Mr. Whitney wood." 11 

The quarries at Harvard and Lancaster were bustling with business 
when John opened his workshop. Harvard's Pin Hill quarry seems to be a 
source of the fine slate that distinguishes his work. Workmen detached 
slabs from the quarry walls by splitting with wedges. Later it was sawed. 
Stonecarvers purchased "rights" in a quarry, allowing them to take stone 
from a certain area. The carvers paid for the stone, per foot, and also for 
quarry rent. Rights could be sold, divided or used to pay bills owed to 
other carvers. The inventory in the probate file of Daniel Hastings, a 
Newton, Massachusetts, stonecutter, includes: "one note signed by John 
Dwight to be paid in stone at the quarry in Harvard, 25.00." The inventory 

in the Dwight estate lists: "a right in stone quarry in Harvard 30 

dollars." 12 

Dwight chose the dark blue slate of the Pin Hill quarry and soaked it in 
Mulpus Brook to prepare it for carving. His gravestones, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 
inches thick, look delicate but are surprisingly sturdy. The elaborate 
stones are four to five feet tall and correspondingly thicker. The back of a 
Dwight stone has a vertical, grainy texture, resembling tree bark or crepe 
paper. This is a definite clue to our carver. The flat back is gray, often 
weathered to rust, and makes the stones easy to identify. The Park family 

Eloise Sibley West 

of Groton also used this stone for a few years, but the carving on the face 
of the stone readily distinguishes the carvers. The Dwight stones have no 
chisel marks on the back, indicating that the stone must have been split, 
saving time and heavy work. 

The John Dwight gravestones are shaped with a central, curved tym- 
panum and with lower, rounded shoulders that top the narrow side bor- 
ders. Three-quarters of the stones in this study have this shape. Different 
patterns are used in the tympanum. Variety has also been achieved by 
changing the borders and varying the shape of the tablet. There are ex- 
ceptions in size and shape for special stones. From the late 1790s until 
1816, the usual shape of the Dwight stone changed to a high tympanum 
with short, straight shoulders (Fig. 18). These were used while Francis 
was carving and are typical of the urn-and-willow period. 

The change in gravestone styles did not take place in strict order by 
date, and the date on the stone is not proof that it was actually carved that 
year. Buyers chose what they liked. Some preferred the older styles, or 
bought the simple rather than the more expensive. Some of the stones, 
obviously back-dated, could have been late orders or replacements. There 
are stones in Middlesex and Worcester counties that were carved by John 
Dwight and dated as early as 1764. A few may be back-dated but most 
have patterns appropriate for the period. This means that John must have 
had access to the quarry and begun his professional carving before he 
married and acquired a permanent home. 

The earliest stone I have found that can be attributed to John Dwight is 
that of William Simonds (1758) in the Shirley Center Burial Ground (Fig. 
1). It is probably back-dated by several years since it displays the skill of 
an experienced carver. This stone is not documented but does have many 
of the elements typical of Dwight's early patterns. The Simonds stone has 
a round skull with narrow chin, round eyes, pointed nose and visible teeth. 
The high wings begin at the side of the face, along with the palm fronds. 

The John Dwight Workshop 

Hollowed lobes droop from the top. The outside feathers of the wings are 
ribbed — a good element for identifying Dwight's work. Pinwheel and 
teardrop finials (see Figs. 1 and 3) were chosen often. The scroll and leaf 
border and the lettering are typical of the carver's work. His peculiar 
mark is barely visible in the corners of the stone's tablet. 

This small mark -- an almond-shaped gouge placed diagonally in the 
corners of the tablet ~ is a decisive indicator of Dwight's work and ap- 
pears on about sixty percent of his stones which have a skull and wings in 
the tympanum. A close-up shows the position and the comparative size 
(Fig. 2). Others can be detected in photographs of entire stones (Figs. 1, 
3, 5, 6, 7). The mark varies in actual size, is deeply grooved and not con- 
spicuous. Children's stones with plain borders were seldom marked. I 
have not seen this exact identification used by any other carver. 

Fig. 2 John Dwight's mark. 


Fig. 3 Patty Pierce, 1780, Fitchburg. 

Another type of John Dwight's carving style appears with the bald head, 
bushy eyebrows and long nose considered appropriate for young Patty 
Pierce (Fig. 3). The crescent mouth is smiling. The unusual segmented 
wings were used by Dwight only in this type. The tablet has his mark. 
Dwight's stones for children were smaller but well carved. This one is 
about fifteen inches high. 

I have used the word "type" to indicate a group of stones with similar 
face and wings in the tympanum and similar side borders. When the face 
and wings change, a new type is emerging. Abraham Wheeler's stone rep- 
resents the type most frequently carved by John Dwight and is of the type 
referred to by Mrs. Forbes (Fig. 4). The face in the tympanum is longer, 
more mature than that in Patty's stone (Fig. 3). The head has rope-like 
hair (or wig), the chin is long and narrow and the mouth small. The wide- 

The John Dwight Workshop 

spreading wings have outside feathers that are ribbed. These single, 
ribbed feathers are another indication of Dwight's work, even in his later 
types. Most of this group have the peculiar Dwight marks. 

Teardrops are an essential part of Dwight's designs. He used them, in 
some form, from 1764 until he stopped carving. They made a single bor- 
der surrounding the tympanum or a double border (Figs. 4 and 9), out- 
lined parts of the tablet (Fig. 12) or completely surrounded the stone (Fig. 
16). In groups of three, they sometimes appeared in the finials (Figs. 4 
and 5). And they were used to form lobes in the border panels. In the 
Wheeler stone (Fig. 4) the center of the lobe has been carved longer and 
pointed. The side border of this stone alternates lobes with leafed scrolls, 
one of the four patterns used with this type. 

Fig. 4 Capt. Abraham Wheeler, 1778, Dorchester. 


jiKf lino 

,Cj ! lieu" I 1 1 /l i I \i i S \\ in 

:1i//^.» .«)..■// v.i.i <>M, 


*• ... ■ JK«F 

Fig. 5 Lieut. Hezekiah Sawtell, 1779, Groton. 

■ \ir '' - s ^ 
Memory cv£4 

MM' Mi-irthalMrtchel 1^1 

he Wulow nf 

v l'.' VncJiTwIMptohel m 
thoDqvar-t.erl <his jij 

Fig. 6 Martha Metchel, 1782, Lunenberg 

The John Dwight Workshop 

In 1779 John Dwight carved a stone nearly five feet tall, with an un- 
usual shape, for "A Beloved Friend." It is one of the best of his carvings in 
this period (Fig. 5). This stone for Hezekiah Sawtell (1779) has a tym- 
panum border of berries and side borders with a lovely combination of 
scrolls and flowers. The bottom border is simpler - a usual practice 
among carvers. 

Letters and numbers on the tablet are also an aid in determining the 
identity of a carver. The stone of Martha Metchel shows this clearly (Fig. 
6). Characteristic letters are: a tiny, short 't\ smaller than the other let- 
ters; a y that curls upward toward the line; and the wedge-shaped cross 
bars on 't' and T . The 'M' is deeply cut on the right side. The letters 'h' 
and T have serifs resembling handles. Numbers 1, 2, 8, are very small, 
while 4 and 6 are large. 3, 5 and 9 extend below the line, while the 7 goes 
below the line and then curls upward. Dates are uneven because of the 
size and position of the digits. Dwight used the old form of 's' and con- 
nected 'st' and 'ct', especially in the epitaphs (Fig. 8). His enthusiastic 
carving frequently took him to the edge of the tablet, with letters left over. 
To meet such situations, he simply made a bulge in the tablet or placed 
the word above. Dwight continued to fill orders for people in Dorchester. 
Among them is the stone for Miss Ruth Foster, 1783, daughter of the car- 
ver, James Foster III, who died in 1771, and his second wife, Mary (Fig. 7). 
It is much like the Metchel stone and has many of the idiosyncrasies dis- 
cussed in that connection. 

A type of face, previously used but never popular, appeared in the tym- 
panum of a typical Dwight stone, that for James Locke of Ashby (1782) 
(Fig. 8). This face is oval, fat and "amiable." Dwight stopped using his 
mark with this change. Oval faces represented a short bridge from the 
earlier faces with narrow chins to a more modern pattern. 

Fig. 7 Ruth Foster, 1783, Dorchester. 

* * » *** 

Fig. 8 James Locke, 1782, Ashby. 


The John Dwight Workshop 

Another example of this change may be seen in the stone for Levi Gas- 
chet (1784). This large stone tells the sad story of how Gaschet died when 
the Lord directed a tree to crush him to the ground (Fig. 9). 

Of course change in styles did not come abruptly, with one type ending 
as the next began. This was an overlapping progression. Each new type 
became popular while stones in an earlier style were still being produced. 
Thus during the peak years of the Dwight workshop, the 1780s and 1790s, 
several different types of gravestone were being carved at the same time. 
A new pattern had its most popular period in the 1780s and is represented 
by the Edmond Morton stone (1786) (Fig. 10). The oval face is flanked by 
high, flat-carved wings, and is confined in a pod-shaped area. There are 
teardrops across the top of the pod and decorations below the wings that 
are familiar. There are no ribs on the feathers of Capt. Edmond Morton's 
wings. The side borders are a series of scrolls with teardrop lobes as a 

Fig. 9 Levi Gaschet, 1784, Townsend. 


Fig. 10 Capt. Edmund Morton, 1786, Dorchester. 

finial. The number 8 is smaller than the other numbers, as in Dwight's 
earlier stones. Thus some of the old characteristics continued, while 
others gave place to new. 

Further changes appear on the stone for David Clap of Dorchester 
(Fig. 11), dated just one year later than the Morton stone. The oval head 
has a fringe of hair and is shaded by leaves ~ the beginning of a series of 
designs that create an arch or crown effect. The shape of the tablet is dif- 
ferent, dipping in the center and curving away from the shoulders, thus al- 
lowing more space for decoration without changing the shape of the stone. 
The 7 is now straight, the 't' looks normal, and the serifs on 'h' and T are 
less pronounced. 

Reading about the sequence of carving patterns and the transitional 
movement from one style to another can produce an artificial feeling of 
inevitability. Gravestone carving is a business, guided in the eighteenth 
century by the same principles that exist today. In the area of Mas- 


The John Dwight Workshop 

sachusetts with which we are concerned, there was no lack of formidable 
competition. The Park family in Groton sold so many stones that it is dif- 
ficult to find a graveyard in eastern Massachusetts in which they are not 
represented. John Dwight, with his smaller workshop, had to find ways in 
which to keep the shop open, through pricing, efficient production 
methods, product loyalty and the continual offering of new styles. These 
are modern words for an age-old truth. 

When a change in style seems indicated, it is possible to look back and 
find a pattern element that can be augmented, re-styled and considered 
progressive. Perhaps brand new ideas were already budding. Sometimes 
the carver could satisfy the buyer only by adopting patterns of the com- 
petition, a perfectly legitimate practice. But it should be remembered that 
the carving of gravestones is also a craft, and examples could no doubt be 
shown where the craftsman has changed and developed patterns in areas 
where no competition existed. 

i -.-.•?-•"■■ 

*#.-. ?. 

Fig. 11 David Clap, 1787, Dorchester. 


Eloise Sibley West 

The stone in memory of the stillborn daughter of John and Susanna 
Dwight (1787) in Shirley initiates a series that persisted until the begin- 
ning of the nineteenth century and was among the more elaborate types 
carved in the Dwight workshop (Fig. 12). It is almost certain that John 
carved his daughter's gravestone. It shows a mixture of the old and the 
new elements. The round face with wings, now very popular, was often 
used by the Parks and shows their influence. The center lobe, of the 
original three, has evolved into an elongated, serrated leaf. Two leaves 
meet above the head, and elongated teardrops decorate the curve of the 
tablet. The wings have the expected ribs, and the feathers begin to 
separate at the bottom. The tablet has the old 's', short 't' and straight 7. 
A large 8 is used. The delicate drawings at the base, like a signature, are 
graceful versions of border designs no longer used. 

Fig. 12 Daughter of John and Susanna Dwight, 1787, Shirley. 


TTKv ft 
Fig. 13 Lieut. Elisha Rockwood, 1788, Groton. 

Lieut. Elisha Rockwood's stone (1788) is another example of the new 
decorative styles initiated in the 1780s and chosen as memorials by many 
of Dwight's patrons (Fig. 13). The face with wings, free-floating, seems to 
look down from above, while wings sweep outward. The feathers are 
shorter. The outside feathers are ribbed, and the others stand out because 
the carving was now done in high relief. The tympanum has no complete 
border, and long leaves of a vine shade the head. The decoration, reach- 
ing down into the sides, is composed of familiar elements. Lieut. Elisha 
Rockwood's tablet gives only the important information and leaves space 
to appreciate the design. Sheaves with thin, opposed leaves begin in the 
center of the bottom border and continue up the sides, ending with a saw- 
tooth leaf at the top. The shape of the tablet has changed the appearance 
of the stone's typical shape. Some stones are less ornate than that of 
Elisha Rockwood, probably less expensive, but attractive in their 
simplicity. The rolled edging and inner plain band sets off the tablet 


Eloise Sibley West 

which gives Lieut. Jeremiah Ball's name, lettered in italics, a major place 
on this smaller stone (1792). The face has wings that droop, and the outer 
feathers are ribbed (Fig. 14). 

Most of John Dwight's stones of the type now under discussion have 
many of the same design elements and at a quick glance may look alike. 
But he included small differences in each. In the large Thomas Cowden 
stone (1792), for example, he used the same curled device under the face 
with wings as he used in the Jeremiah Ball stone of the same year and a 
similar design above the image (Fig. 15). The top of the tablet has an un- 
usual shape, leaving room in the tympanum for columns which introduce 
architectural features to replace foliage in the pattern. Although the stone 
of Josiah How (Fig. 16) is again dated in the same year, 1792, as the 
Jeremiah Ball and Thomas Cowden stones, it is different in many details. 
The teardrops edge the stone completely, sparse foliage has a place in the 
corners, while bulging urns and tall columns make the face with wings look 
smaller, yet the face looks real and is well carved. The design is well 
balanced, again with thick columns to support the heavy tympanum. 

Fig. 14 Lieut. Jeremiah Ball, 1792, Townsend. 


Fig. 15 Thomas Cowden, 1792, Fitchburg. 

' mis Iftb -. J 

? 1 

Fig. 16 Deacon Josiah How, 1792, Milton. 


Eloise Sibley West 

As architectural designs became more popular, the face with wings 
began to go out of fashion. Patrons preferred the various new patterns 
which made use of the urn and willow, and the long period of creative 
carving in New England faded into the past. With the increased standard- 
ization of letters and numbers and the use of similar figures in the tym- 
panum, designs came to look more alike, and the identity of the carver be- 
comes more difficult to discover. On the other hand, the larger number of 
probated estates in the nineteenth century increases the possibility of find- 
ing a payment to the carver, thus documenting the stone and making 
easier the task of the researcher. 

At the Dwight workshop, as in the shop of any stonecarver of the 
period, heavy work was necessary to prepare a stone before the master 
carver placed his chisel on its smooth surface. It is probable that John 
Dwight had apprentices, although no reference to them has been found. It 
is possible that John's stepson Abel Moors, who was about four years old 
when his mother married John Dwight and moved to the farm in Shirley, 
became a helper and perhaps later an apprentice in the shop. Abel was 
never adopted by John, and his uncle Joseph was appointed his guardian 
and later disqualified from managing his estate. 13 But it is certain that 
John's sons Francis, born in 1780, and Sullivan, born in 1785, assisted their 
father in his shop and later became master carvers themselves. In 1800 
John turned the business over to Francis, then twenty years old. The turn 
of the century is therefore a good time to look at the Dwight family. 

The Middlesex County census for 1800 lists in the Dwight household: 1 
male, 10-16; 2 males, 16-26; 1 male over 45; 3 females 16-26; 2 females 
26-45; 1 female over 45. 14 All John's children were still at home. Young 
John was graduated from Harvard College during this year and later be- 
came a successful doctor in Boston. Sullivan was then fifteen and working 
in his father's shop. He later opened a workshop of his own in Thomas- 
ton, Maine, in 1810, where he worked with marble, producing mantels and 


The John Dwight Workshop 

tabletops as well as gravestones. He married, had a family, and was 
respected by all who knew him. John's daughter Sally married Joseph 
Brown and moved to Westmoreland, New Hampshire, where he too 
carved gravestones. Their son, John Dwight Brown, followed the same 
profession. 15 One by one the other girls followed Sally in leaving the 
Dwight household. 

With transfer of the business from John to his son Francis in 1800 the 
history of the Dwight workshop is largely a story of Francis and his work. 
He married Maria Blanchard of Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire, and 
brought her home to live at the farm. They had five children. 16 This was 
the sum of relevant information about the Dwight family until an exciting 
day for me in January 1986. 

On that day the Librarian of the Hazen Memorial Library in Shirley 
spread before me a treasure discovered in the library archives. In folders 
were a deed to the house on the Mulpus, receipts, promissory notes, 
military records and orders for gravestones. It took days to read, 
transcribe and photocopy the out-dated handwriting, and to piece together 
the story of the last sixteen years in the lives of John and Francis Dwight. 

A handwritten deed provides further evidence of a grant of quarry 
rights in Pin Hill from Daniel Hastings to John Dwight: 

Newton FebF 27, 1800 -- 

I the subscriber by these presents do quit and convey to Mr. John 
dwight of Shierley -- one half of the right of Diging Stones in the querry 
at Harvard which I bought or hyerd by lease of Mr. Jotham Barnard of 
sd. Harvard, (this I had leas'd to me and the Mr. Park's.) 

Daniel Hastings 17 

It is evident that Francis later rented other quarry rights at Pin Hill, for 
among the papers appears the following: 


Eloise Sibley West 

Harvard May 12th 1815 Reciev'd of Francis Dwight three dollars & 
thirty three Cents it being in full for Quarry rent to this date 

Caleb Warner 

Francis loved music, gave lessons, directed a band and knew how to 
repair instruments. In the inventory of his estate were: 1 clarinet, 1 sing- 
ing book, Psalm book, bass viol. The inventory also listed: Uniform hat 
and feather, coat and Epaulet, vest, pantaloons, gaters and shoes and a 
sword with belt. 18 There is no way to know whether the uniform was for 
the band, the militia, or both. The militia, of which Lieut. Francis Dwight 
appeared to be second in command, met regularly to drill. There is an or- 
der for him to conduct the muster on Wednesday, next, and to command 
the company until the return of the ComF Joseph Edgerton. 19 

Francis continually borrowed from friends and relatives. There are 
many notes and about as many receipts for payment: 

Boston 14 April 1812 For value received I promise to pay John Dwight 
or order Ninety Dollars on demand with interest. 

Francis Dwight 

Shirley, March 5th 1813 Received of Francis Dwight five dollars in full 
of all Book accounts to this date. 

John Dwight 

Creditors did want every cent due, but this was perhaps written with a 

Shirley Nov. 27th 1809 Received one Cent in full of all Book accounts 
to this date of Francis Dwight. I say recev'd by me 

Daniel Kezar 

An early order for a gravestone reads: 

Asa Farwell JunF was born April the 8th 1800 And died November 
the 11th 1814 a verse Price 5.00 to be done first haying to be paid in 


The John Dwight Workshop 

Asa's stone is at Laurel Hill cemetery in Fitchburg, overlooking the 
down-town area. It has a willow with urn and a lobed vine in the side bor- 
ders. The stone shows only from the top to the date so we do not know 
what verse was used. And here is still another order: 

West Cambridge MF Capf Stephen Frost Died. October 31. In the 
year 1810. Remember man is born to Die, His months are all with 
God; None from the stroke of Death can fly Or break his iron rod. 
Price from 12 to 15 dollars 

West Cambridge is now Arlington, Massachusetts. The order for this 
stone went to the Dwight workshop but it was not carved by either John or 
Francis. The lettering and the pattern are done by a hand I do not recog- 

The Dwights had ties to Temple, New Hampshire, where they ordered 
a fine grade of "chees." And among the papers is this order: 

Francis Dwight the Stone Cutter Shirley, Mass. Temple June 27th 
1816 Sir I would inform you that I want a pair of gravestones for my 
father Archelaus Cumings who Departed this life July fourth 1814 in 
the sixty third year of his age. I want good stones worth about 14 dol- 
lars I could not send before for I did not know the price of Stones. 
Letter them in the usual manner if you have the opportunity Send me 
word when they are done. To Francis Dwight 

Arch. Cumings 

The stone is still standing in the burying ground down the hill from the 
Center (Fig. 17). This stone, though it resembles those done by Francis 
Dwight, lacks many of the decorative details used by him. It has an oddity 
that suggests a different carver ~ the figure 1 in the date has a semicir- 
cular serif visible in a rubbing (Fig. 17a) but not in a photograph. There 
are several other stones in the Temple graveyard like this and several 
others that do seem to have been done by Francis. The orders received by 


Eloise Sibley West 

the Dwight workshop shortly before the death of John and Francis were 
very likely done by other carvers, possibly including Francis's brother Sul- 

The only signed stone carved by Dwight that has been discovered is that 
of Susanna Bailey (1811) in Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire (Fig. 18). It is 
signed at the bottom: "Wrought by F. Dwight S" (Fig. 18 insert). This is a 
large and excellent stone of the urn and willow type. A narrow rope-like 
border outlines the stone, and the branches in the tympanum hang over 
the secondary border. The urn is typical of the Francis Dwight type. 
Notice the heart at the base of the bowl. The delicate twigs in the corners 
are also characteristic and occasionally used for dainty borders. The 
horizontal border of starred lozenges is typical. Sturdy columns form side 
borders and fans decorate corners of the tablet. The lettering is typical of 
the Dwight workshop, and the 2 was used only by Francis. 

Fig. 17 Lt. Archelaus Cumings, 1814, Temple, NH. 


Fig. 17a Detail from Cumings stone. 

Fig. 18 Susanah Bailey, 1811, Jaffrey Center, NH. 


Fig. 18a Detail from Bailey stone. 

On January 13, 1814 Francis entered into an agreement with his cousin, 
David Sawtell, described as a stonecutter of Groton, Massachusetts. The 
agreement recites that Sawtell had given Francis (described in this docu- 
ment as "Gentleman") four promissory notes, each in the amount of 
$312.50, payable in four successive years. The money had apparently been 
loaned by Francis to David, and the agreement gives David the right to cut 
slate from Francis's interest at Pin Hill, the slate so cut to be used for 
gravestones to be delivered to Francis and for "no other cause 
whatsoever." The agreement was accomplished by a series of real estate 
transactions: Francis deeded to David a parcel of land, with buildings, 
near Mulpus Brook, and "a small patch improved as a garden spot," in con- 
sideration of $1500. David mortgaged this land back to Francis as security 
for the notes and in consideration of $250 gave him a deed of a small tract 
of land in Groton near Ridge Hill Tavern. A little over a year later, on 
February 17, 1815, these transactions were in effect reversed. David gave 
up his right of redemption in the Mulpus Brook mortgage by a new deed 


The John Dwight Workshop 

to Francis. Francis deeded back the Ridge Hill Tavern piece to David for 
$250, and took from David a mortgage on this parcel to cover the pur- 
chase price. There is no record of a discharge of this mortgage, and so 
Francis was left in the end as the owner of both parcels. 20 

It appears from the Dwight papers that Sullivan did work for his 
brother Francis, for the papers include a bill for carving and lettering 
gravestones in a total amount of $15.78 for work on eleven stones. 
Charges were based on so much per foot of lettering, the greatest length 
being 10 1/2 feet, with a charge of $4.09. The bill does not indicate the 
year in which it was rendered, but presumably it was after Sullivan had set 
up for himself in Thomaston, Maine. 

John Dwight sold the farm to Francis, May 15, 1815, for three thousand 
dollars. Susannah made her mark on the deed in relinquishment of her 
right of dower in the premises. 21 This took the estate and its benefits out 
of the inheritance of John's other children and made Francis and his 
family the beneficiaries. There is no record that the brothers and sisters 
were consulted. They may have had farms of their own and expected that, 
as was usual in that day, Francis and Maria would in return take care of 
their parents, keeping the farm and business going as usual. 

But this was not to be. In the summer of the following year tragedy 
struck the Dwight family. The story is succinctly told in Chandler's History 
of Shirley: 22 

"Within six weeks time, John Dwight and his wife, his son Francis and 
wife, all living under the same roof, died one after the other, having 
been poisoned by some corned beef of which they ate, that was 

The family gravestones give the dates of death, shortly succeeding each 


Ctffc.v ' v > :. 

Fig. 19 John Dwight, 1816, Shirley. 

Susanna Dwight died September 6, 1816 
Francis Dwight died September 29, 1816 
John Dwight died October 2, 1816 (Fig. 19) 
Maria Dwight died October 9, 1816 

Francis and Maria left five children, aged one to eleven years. The 
property was sold, and at the sale "20 ruff gravestones were purchased by 
William Brown" (perhaps a relative of John Dwight's son-in-law, Joseph 
Brown). John Dwight's workshop disappeared. 

It has been said that a man can be judged by the values he admires in 
others. John Dwight's tribute "To the Memory of a Beloved Friend" also 
describes his own life: 

"in his life he was a Kind & Loving Husband 
a tender and Provident Parent 
a friendly and Benevolent Neighbour; 
Singularly Pitiful and Liberal, 
to the Poor; Needy and Distressed 

his life useful 

his Death lamented." 23 


The John Dwight Workshop 

Addendum - Painted Gravestones 

The following recipe, found among the Dwight papers, has no date or 
other identification, but it was presumably written in the early 1800s. It 
adds a little evidence to the small store of knowledge on a subject which 
has thus far had little exploration -- the painting of gravestones in the 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: 

This is written for Francis Dwight pleas to hand it to him Capt. 
Dwight To one quart of oile boile it with red led thirely then put in 
resin the bigness of an ounce Leatherage gold an ounce apeace of 
white viteral white led the bigness of an egg ground and stird in after 
cool mix your paint thick and paint but once draw your brush up and 
down the stone keep your stones in the shop turn the back out and if 
you boil it well they will dry in 2 or 3 days fit for use and you may see 
your face in them it will not do to dry them in the sun have your paint 
warm when you put it on 24 

The recipe is very similar to an entry dated February 17, 1801 in a cabinet 
maker's apprentice handbook "for Boiling of oil": 

take red led white viteral litherage one ounce of each and three ounces 
of rosin to one gallon of oil. red led Put in when the oil is boiling 
prevents it burning. White must be put in when the oil is taken off and 
sturred untill the oil is Cold. 25 

In both entries the initial instructions are for making an oil base. The red 
lead is not a coloring agent. And as appears in both entries, the paint pig- 
ments are to be added after the oil has cooled. 26 

But it is clear from the Dwight recipe that its objective was the use of 
paint in some fashion on gravestones. Kevin Sweeney, writing of Samuel 
Dougherty, a Whately, Massachusetts, carver active from 1806 until about 
1836, has this to say: 

On 30 December 1806, Dougherty placed an advertisement in the 
Hampshire Gazette announcing that he "has commenced painting and 
stonecutting business." It is unclear from the advertisement if 


Eloise Sibley West 

Dougherty painted gravestones or was a house painter in addition to 
becoming a stonecutter. Contemporary documents and physical 
evidence on Plymouth County, Massachusetts, gravestones suggest that 
a few early nineteenth-century gravestones were actually painted. The 
stones may have been polychromed or perhaps painted white to 
resemble marble if they were slate or the painting may have involved 
nothing more than a coloring of the inscription to make it more 
legible? 7 

James and Donna Belle Garvin, writing of the New Hampshire carver 
Stephen Webster (1717/18-1798), have this to say: 

Some of Stephen Webster's gravestones also suggest another pos- 
sibility. They may originally have been painted. Several of those in the 
Chester and Hollis cemeteries bear traces of what appears to be black 
and red pigment. The black, particularly, is generally seen only in the 
deeply incised portions of the stones, especially in the lettering. If 
Webster enriched the already brilliant patterns of his stones with paint, 
the effect must have been startling indeed. The traces of color on these 
stones suggest a new image of eighteenth century mortuary art, and 
should alert researchers elsewhere to the possible uses of paint in early 
graveyards. 28 

The practice of coloring stones was also known in Connecticut. In writ- 
ing of carver John Dolph (1776-1815) Ernest Caulfield quotes from the 
Connecticut probate records: 

May 31st 1803. Two Cash paid Dolph for Grave Stones 0.15.0 
June 27 Two cash paid for colouring said stones 0.3.0. 

Caulfield adds in a footnote that in the probate papers of Daniel Barker 
of Branford there is a similar item: "payed Jonathan palmer one shilen for 
Culering Daniel Barkers grave stones 0.1. 0". 29 

In Caulfield's own copy of this article (in the possession of Dr. James 
Slater) is handwritten in ink the following: 


The John Dwight Workshop 

Oscar Ogg the 26 Letters Crowell co. N.Y. 1958 page 109 After the out- 
lines (of the letters) had been carved out carefully with the chisel, they 
were gone over and filled with paint to make them look like the 
original writing' (Talking about the early Romans) 30 

Here, then, in the papers of Francis Dwight is an intriguing note which 
bears evidence that he, among other stonecarvers of the time, added color 
to his work. This is a subject which warrants far more research! 



The author wishes to thank the following persons: Mrs. Elizabeth Wade, Librarian of 
Hazen Memorial Library, Shirley, Mass. and Mrs. Meredith Marcinkewicz for use of the 
original Dwight Papers that form an important part of this study; the Shirley Town Clerk, 
Mrs. Sylvia Shipton, for use of the original Town Records and other official information; 
Daniel and Jessie Farber for the Farber collection of gravestone photographs now available 
for study through photocopies, upon request from the Research Co-ordinator of the As- 
sociation for Gravestone Studies; (the photographs for this article were made by the 
author, except that of Deacon Josiah How, which was done by Laurel K. Gabel); and 
Theodore Chase for finding and describing the real estate transactions between Francis 
Dwight and David Sawtell and for preparing the Addendum. My special thanks also to 
Mrs. Gabel, Research Co-ordinator for the AGS. Her information, assistance and en- 
couragement have made this study possible. 

1. Harriette M. Forbes, Gravestones of Early New England and the Men Who Made 
Them 1653-1800 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927; rpt. Princeton, NJ: The Pyne 
Press, 1955; New York: DaCapo, 1967), 79. 

2. Benjamin W. Dwight, Vie History of the Descendants of John Dwight of Dedham, 
Mass. 2 vols. (New York: John F. Trow and Son, 1814), 2:1011. Information given by 
Priscilla Cowdery, a daughter of the carver John Dwight, to Benjamin W. Dwight in 
1866, when she was 84 years old. Dwight, Descendants, 2:1011. 

3. Seth Chandler, History of the Town of Shirley, Massachusetts (Shirley, Mass.: Pub- 
lished by the Author, 1883), 391. 


Eloise Sibley West 

4. Chandler, History of Shirley, 563. 

5. Vital Records of Shirley, Massachusetts to the Year 1850 (Boston: The New England 
Historic and Genealogical Society, 1918), 69. This information is also reported in the 
Records of the First Parish Church of Shirley and in the Shirley Town Records of Birth, 
Marriages and Deaths 1753-1850, available at the office of the Shirley Town Clerk. 

6. Shirley Town Business 1753-1853 (Shirley, Mass.: Office of the Town Clerk; records 
hand-copied from the originals). In the record of marriages in the Office of the Town 
Clerk, page 150 showing the marriage of Susanna and John Dwight is torn and the 
date lost. In Dwight's Descendants the name is Moore, 2:1011. 

7. Middlesex Co. Deeds 70:123. Ethel S. Bolton, Shirley Uplands and Intervales (Boston: 
George Emery Littlefield, 1914),253: List of owners of the John Dwight farm on 
Town Meeting Road, Shirley, Mass. 

8. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (Boston: Wright & Pot- 
ter, 1899), 109; and Chandler's History of Shirley, 391. 

9. Town Records of Town of Shirley, Mass. 1754-1810, 2 vols. (Publ. by the Town of Shir- 
ley, Mass.). The earliest pages are not numbered. 1:64. 

10. Shirley Town Business, 130. 

11. Town Records of Shirley, Vol. 1, March 14, 1777 entry. 

12. Middlesex Co. Probate files 10651 and 6604. For a description of quarrying methods 
see Henry D. Nourse, History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts 1732-1893 
(Harvard , MA, printed for Warren Hapgood, 1893), 70, 450. 

13. Middlesex Co. Probate file 15375. 

14. National Archives, Waltham, Mass., 1800 Census, Middlesex County, Shirley, Mass., 
John Dwight 01201, p. 213. 

15. Dwight, Descendants, 2:1013. 

16. Dwight, Descendants, 2:1016. 

17. Hazen Memorial Library, Shirley, Mass., the Library file for Dwight. All the follow- 
ing indented material are quotations from this file unless separately noted. 

18. Middlesex Co. Probate file 6600. The inventory of real estate includes a Tavern 
House with buildings estimated at $700. 


The John Dwight Workshop 

19. Military Orders in Dwight file, Shirley Town Library. 

20. The agreement is in the Shirley Library file. David Sawtell married Lucy Dickerson, 
daughter of Priscilla (Harris) Dickerson, who was a sister of Susanna Dwight, mother 
of Francis. Chandler, History of Shirley, 388. The deeds covering the land near Mul- 
pus Brook are recorded with Middlesex Co. Deeds 207:1, 209:9 and 211:54; and those 
covering the land near Ridge Hill Tavern in 209:9, 211:192 and 211:51. Both John and 
Francis Dwight engaged in numerous other real estate transactions as an examination 
of the grantor and grantee indices at the Middlesex Country Registry of Deeds will 
readily show. 

21. Middlesex Co. Deeds 215:525. 

22. Chandler, History of Shirley, 391. 

23. The gravestone of Hezekiah Sawtell (1739), Groton, Mass. (Fig. 5). 

24. The Library file of Dwight papers also includes: "A receipt to make Liquid Blacking - 
Take one fourth of an ounce of Oil of Vitriol, one fourth of a pound of Ivory black, 
one gill of sweet oil, one ditto of molasses, one quart of vinegar. Mix the first four ar- 
ticles together into a consistency, then add the vinegar which will cause high fomenta- 
tion and in twelve hours it will be fit for use." 

25. Bulletin of the Connecticut Historical Society, (January, 1943), Vol. 9, No. 2, p. 16. 

26. The quotation from the cabinetmaker's handbook and the reference to the stonecar- 
ver Samuel Dougherty which follows were brought to the editor's attention by Kevin 
M. Sweeney, Director of Academic Programs at Historic Deerfield, Inc. The opinion 
as to the use of the recipe written for Dwight was expressed by William Flynt, ar- 
chitectural conservator at Historic Deerfield. 

27. The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635-1820 (Hartford: 
Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1985) #351. Ludwig suggests that many of the early 
nineteenth century neoclassical stones in Plymouth County look as if they had been 
polychromed. Allen I. Ludwig, Graven Images (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. 
Press, 1966), 337. 

28. Historical New Hampshire (Summer, 1974), Vol. 29, No. 2, p. 102. 

29. Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones X," Tlie Connecticut Historical Society 
Bulletin (January, 1965), Vol. 30, No. 1, p. 17. 

30. Letter from Dr. Slater to the editor dated December 29, 1987. 


Fig. 1 Othello, 1818, Harvard, Mass. 





Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

Laid to rest in a "potter's field," the dead bodies of the 
slaves never mingle their dust with that of the sovereign 
race. No monument, inscribed with the name of the 
deceased, ever marks the spot where he lies, as no legal 
sanction was ever given to his name while he lived. A 
rough stone, gathered from the wayside, or a branch of 
cedar, soon to die, is his only monument. So perish, an 
undistinguishable throng, the enslaved race of the South. 1 

This remark on the absence of lasting memorials holds true for the vast 
majority of antebellum African Americans. It is the exceptional 
gravemarkers erected to the memory of black individuals in eighteenth- 
and nineteenth-century America with which this paper is concerned. 2 
Many of the grave inscriptions evoke similar themes. In their attempt to 
define the social distinction of the deceased and to describe the loss ex- 
perienced by surviving contemporaries, those who commissioned the 
stones drew upon a store of concepts of what African Americans ought to 
be in relation to their family or friends, employers or masters. The 
epitaphs project ideal images of men and women that reflect the expecta- 
tions of American society toward its black members. 

In terms of predominance, memorials offered white patrons the last 
opportunity to define black identities. The moral values chiselled in stone 
resemble those upheld in addresses and in the literature of the period: 
faithfulness and dedication are highly praised in domestics, justice be- 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

tween the races is deferred to a future state of existence, black people's 
family attachments are blithely ignored or downgraded in competition 
with their ties to employers or masters. The first four sections of this 
paper, each assembling epitaphs that make a certain point and sometimes 
employ similar phrases, present inscriptions that exemplify the values 
mentioned above. The next two sections raise the question of how per- 
sonhood and chattel slavery, devalued status and esteem are made to 
agree in certain inscriptions. In several of the epitaphs assembled in the 
last three sections the deceased seems to gain his/her own voice. They 
depict reversals of fortune, sometimes tied to geographic transition. 
Africa is mentioned as a counterplace to America. 

Blacks were not the only group in America whose members fell into 
historic oblivion at or soon after death. Only a minority of the population 
was able to afford costly stone markers that preserved biographical infor- 
mation for posterity. Unfortunately, African American genealogical and 
historical research using epitaphic evidence has to reckon with the selec- 
tion exercised by slaveholders as a determining factor, in addition to those 
of class, gender, and generation, which usually influence the size of monu- 
ments and the material used. Considering the conspicuous absence of 
tombstones erected for the underprivileged in American cemeteries and 
abroad, the relative frequency of markers commemorating "faithful ser- 
vants" in early black American cemeteries is striking. If one is to believe 
the epitaphs, a large proportion of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century 
African Americans were docile domestics. 

In addition to the selective factors which determine the recording of 
black lives on tombstones, we need to keep in mind the generally elusive 
character of African American vital statistics during slavery. Each change 
of owner implied a possible change of name and date of birth for a slave if 
the seller made age adjustments for better marketing. One slave narrative 
voices the baffled attempt at resolving such data: 


Commemorating Black People 

When in Slavery, I was called Fed. Why I was so named, I cannot tell. 
I never knew myself by any other name, nor always by that; for it is 
common for slaves to answer to any name, as it may suit the humour 
of the master. I do not know how old I am, but think I may be any age 
between thirty-five and forty. 3 

The epitaphs presented and discussed here are meant to offer an intro- 
duction to black American grave inscriptons. This paper cannot pretend 
to provide a comprehensive survey, nor even a representative one, as the 
basic data are literally fragmentary and scattered. Stones for blacks are 
not countless, but are as yet uncounted. They are not untraceable, but 
hard to trace. 

Some of the inscriptions are curious, yet they are not isolated curios. 
Placed in a socio-historical perspective they contribute to our understand- 
ing of interethnic relations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century 
America. The leading question is: Who was commemorated and for what 
reasons? In the case of markers put up by masters for slaves one may note 
the contradictory nature of the act: erecting a tombstone authenticated 
the slaves's existence and acknowledged him or her as a person in spite of 
his/her legal definition as chattel and the assertion of ownership in the 
epitaph. At the same time, their chattel status reflected slaves as property 
in wills and inventories of estates. 

The erection of a monument honors the deceased interred beneath it. 
But how can a slave, a person who is socially dishonored by definition, be 
honored? Orlando Patterson, who has explored the psychosocial implica- 
tions of slavery, points to the lack of reciprocity in master-slave relation- 

And while they may have been greatly honored by their doting 
masters, none of these slaves were in themselves honorable persons.... 
And though honored, and no doubt craving honor, none of them were 
ever able to bestow honor or to confirm it, at least not to anyone who 
mattered. 4 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

What sounds like a linguistic play on words is the consequence of crass so- 
cial imbalance. As a result of this imbalance, the mere fact that a white 
person raised a gravemarker for a black person conferred posthumous 
honor on the latter. 

An inscription such as the following from Cobb County, Georgia, was 
probably meant to enhance the reputation of the deceased: 

This stone is dedicated to the memory of Trupe McClesky, col. by one 
of his white friends, d. Jan. 1916, aged 92 yrs. 

Even in this century, the decision of the "white friend" to remain 
anonymous is a rare act of modesty-unless it was prompted by fear of 
white opprobrium. 

Other donors of memorials used the opportunity to advertize their 
charity. And the public received the message. When visiting a New Or- 
leans cemetery in the early nineteenth century, Timothy Flint came across 
a "plain but respectable" gravemarker erected "as a grateful record of the 
long, faithful, and affectionate services of a black slave." 6 Flint's comment 
furnishes a clue to the motives underlying the purchase of the gravestone: 

The whole inscription wears a delightful simplicity, and honours the 
master that erected it, as much as the slave. 7 

Memorials for slaves were a convenient medium for advertising ideal 
images of both servants and masters. Not only the inscription but also the 
type of stone used, as well as the skill and time spent in working it, indi- 
cate the "worth" of the deceased for the survivors. 8 

Self-aggrandizing portrayal of masters on servants' tombstones is not, 
however, restricted to American slaveholders. Kenneth Lindley observes 
a similar tendency in British servants' epitaphs. He notes that "it was 
usual for the employer to include his or her own name on the stone, often 
in larger letters than the name of the servant commemorated." 9 The 


Commemorating Black People 

qualities mentioned most frequently on the British stones compare with 
those on black American ones: "faithful," "zealous," and "honest." 10 The 
custom of commemorating servants was widespread enough for a book of 
epitaphs to "Faithful Servants" to be published in Britain as late as 1891. 
It contained 700 examples. 

While the majority of epitaphs commissioned by slaveholders con- 
cealed or obfuscated the reality of dependence and oppression, masters 
unwittingly or intentionally left a memorial to themselves and to the social 
and cultural hegemony they practiced. Given that most gravestones are 
not designed or even chosen by the person they commemorate but by the 
survivors, the stones tend to tell as much about the latter as the former. 

Epitaphs are notably euphemistic and eulogistic, but they tend to 
uphold social distinctions. In the case of African American slaves, explicit 
or implicit references to ethnicity and status such as "slave of," "property 
of," or "Negro servant of," the choice of a gravemarker of inferior size and 
quality or grave location in a segregated or marginal area are indicators of 
subordinate position. Conversely, a marker of average size and quality 
situated in the central part of the grounds, with an inscription and or- 
namental design that do not identify the ethnic origin of the deceased 
(although the name may), would signify equal status among the interred of 
that particular cemetery. 11 

As opposed to Christian concepts of postmortem existence, many tradi- 
tional African religions do not envision individual resurrection at some fu- 
ture date. Rather they see a continuation of life in the world of the ances- 
tors, which often mirrors the world of the living in its social and economic 
concerns. A deceased individual is assured survival as long as the living 
remember him/her in their thoughts and in their rites. In African tradi- 
tional thought the interdependence of the living and the dead is taken for 
granted. The exchange of services between the two ensures harmony and 
well-being. The grave is a place where the two worlds meet and where 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

communication between them can be established. In various cultures the 
everyday contact with the dead is held via sculptures placed in the village 
rather than at the cemeteries, which are of difficult access in the bush. In 
others, objects placed on the grave are of great symbolic and ritualistic 
value in holding dialogue with the ancestors. This does not necessarily 
render gravemarkers superfluous. In their study of recent Ivory Coast 
funeral monuments Susan Domovitz and Renzo Mandirola write: 

For the Anyi and the Brong, to be forgotten is far worse than death. 
The grave monument is an attempt to survive death, to survive the 
possibility of being forgotten. Like the funeral ceremony, it is a mes- 
sage addressed to two worlds: it is a letter of recommendation to the 
ancestors in the next world, and in this world a bid for immortality, a 
confirmation of worldly success. 12 

It is the bid for immortality in this world with which the American 
memorials to be studied are concerned. They will be interpreted as ex- 
pressions of interethnic rather than interpersonal or intragroup relation- 
ships. The epitaphs vary in documentary and expressive quality. While 
some use conventional memorial expressions and probably take their in- 
spiration from monument makers' manuals, others are unique composi- 
tions, and still others, though written on the death of a particular in- 
dividual, echo sentiments and phrases without copying the exact wording. 

Free At Last, A Faithful Friend 

One slaveholding doctrine held that only death could terminate slavery, 
and this is also a part of Christian doctrine. The entry for May 14, 1821, of 
a plantation diary records the death of "Old Bina." It reads like an 
epitaph: "She is now a free woman. Her virtues were numerous and her 
vices such as arose from her station in life." 13 A grave inscripton from 
South Carolina also refers to a future state of freedom, listing first the ser- 
vile qualities cherished in the deceased: 


Commemorating Black People 











Reference to a future existence provides a perspective that neutralizes the 
incongruous categories of slave and friend. In all probability the author of 
the epitaph was unaware of the ambiguity inherent in the last statement: 
would there be no bond of friendship between John and his master in the 

Love in life, honor in death: the reader of the epitaph is left with the 
impression that money in remuneration for rendered services would be 
too base a compensation. Nor is John in need of a family name, given his 
close family attachment. Genovese has noted the abundance of 
references to the slave force as "the black family" in the written records of 
the antebellum South. 15 Even in the 1930s a Southerner asserts: "If a 
gentleman said 'my negroes' there was no more arrogance intended than 
when he spoke of his home and family." 16 The authors of Deep South cau- 
tion against such declarations: 

When white employers say that a colored servant is a "part of the 
family," they never indicate that she is no longer considered as lower 
caste. They mean, rather, that she has a definite and very strong posi- 
tion as a servant in the family life, a position such that she has very in- 
timate and emotional relations with the members of the family and 
with their home.... The fundamental caste structure of the relation- 
ships between her and her white adult employers remains, however. 17 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

From the employees' point of view, domestic service usually entails the 
surrender of individual autonomy and of a family life of their own. 18 
When divested of the exploitative aspect, on the other hand, loyalty to an 
employer, which also means steady employment, is not disdained. 19 

If the pronouns in such phrases as "my negroes" or "our people" are 
meant to convey a sense of belonging and attachment, they also affirm 
ownership. Possessive paternalism survives in twentieth-century 
memorials such as the following: 


the glory of God 
and in affectionate 
remembrance of all 
our people at 



Caroline S. Sinkler 

Emily W. Roosevelt 

Anne W. Fishburne 

Caroline S. Lockwood 

JAN. 1941 

"I know that my 

Redeemer liveth" 20 

Whereas the names of the philanthropic women are listed individually, the 
black servants who have exchanged keepers are recorded as a group, not 
even in their own right and name but as "all our people." 

The affirmations of friendship and affection found in grave inscriptons 
may sometimes be taken at face value. In December 1785 Henry Brom- 
field, born in Boston, was living in the village of Harvard, Massachusetts. 


Commemorating Black People 

He had just lost his second wife. He wrote to his brother in England: "I 
am solus here, except a negro man." This was the faithful Othello, of 
whom it was later written: 21 

Everyone, man, woman and child in Harvard, and I may say the sur- 
rounding county, knew this excellent and devoted servant. Born a 
slave, he was in the employ of Mr. Bromfield for many years. Several 
anecdotes are told of his eccentricities, and of the entire dependence 
that the master had upon the servant. He died about seven years 
before Mr. Bromfield. Buried in an obscure corner of the graveyard, 
his resting place was neglected, and almost unknown until marked by 
a neat stone, erected by the late Henry B. Pearson, Esq., with the fol- 
lowing inscription upon it (Figs. 1 and 2). 


The Faithful Friend of 

Henry Bromfield 

Came from Africa About 1760, 

Died 1813, Aged About 72. 22 

Fig. 2 Othello's grave in a corner of the Harvard burying ground. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

In earlier years masters were less reluctant to indicate both affection and 
status, as in the following inscription from Newport, Rhode Island: 

In Memory 
of Pompey 
Beloved Serv* 
of Josias 
who died Sept 
11 1765 Aged 
28 M° and 
9 Days. 

A Southern slaveholder may have been hesitant to employ the term 
"friend" for fear of undermining the caste system, although some pro- 
slavery literature provided models of affective patterns in the doting 
master and the devoted slave. Writing in 1856 a Northern traveller cap- 
tures some of the intricacies of paternalism in the declaration made by a 
slave owner at the death of a favorite servant: 

I lost this morning the truest and most reliable friend I had in the 
world, one whom I have been accustomed to honor and respect since 
my earliest recollection; he was the playmate of my father's youth, and 
the Mentor of mine; a faithful servant, an honest man, and a sincere 
Christian. 23 

Neither the Southern speaker nor the reporter (whose pseudonym 
"Viator" betrays training in the classics and who can therefore be assumed 
to be familiar with the role of slave educators in ancient Greece) sees any- 
thing incongruous in a slave playmate or mentor. The last three phrases 
of the quotation might come straight from an epitaph. 

The deceased slave is said to have been honored and respected during 
life. Other texts present paternalistic relationships in which affection is all 
too obviously offered as a substitute for respect, and sentimentality is sup- 
posed to compensate for lack of justice. Susan D. Smedes tells of a 


Commemorating Black People 

master's attachment to an old slave woman, whom he has buried without a 
funeral sermon because he does not know anyone good enough to preach 
the sermon. 24 Apparently the idea of choosing a preacher whom the 
woman's kin or friends deem adequate does not occur to him. He also 
declares that "he would be proud to hang her portrait in his drawing-room, 
in such esteem and affection did he hold her." 25 The subjunctive mood in- 
dicates that he failed to have her picture painted, so her likeness never 
graced his walls. 

Class demarcations are upheld while the socially superior display con- 
spicuous compassion for the inferior. Self-styled "Southern matron" 
Caroline Gilman unwittingly exposes the discrepancy between (socially 
gratuitous) emotional grief and (distinction-conferring) formal mourning 
on the occasion of the death of a favorite domestic. 

We were a mourning family; true, we were not clad in weeds, but a 
tender tie had been riven, and it was riven with tears. None but those 
who live under our peculiar institutions can imagine the strong bond 
existing between faithful servants and the families with whom they are 
connected. 26 

For the Victorian reading public the image of the tie riven with tears may 
indeed have held more appeal than that of crepe clothing. Yet, for their 
social equals, Victorians indulged heavily in private and in public mourn- 

The grave inscription chosen for the cherished servant is as follows: 


To the memory of 


a faithful slave. 

His master bears this testimony to his worth. 27 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

The use of the term "worth" in the epitaph of a person who, during his 
lifetime, was subject to sale, and whose market value could be determined 
by any slave dealer, appears rather awkward, although one may safely as- 
sume that no irony or punning was intended. 

Model Men and Women 

In the following inscription the word "worth" lends itself to less specula- 
tion since it is syntactically equivalent to other character qualities. 

To record the worth, fidelity and virtue of Reynolda Watts, (who died 
on the 2d day of May 1829 at the age of 24 years, in giving birth to her 
3d child). Reared from infancy by an affectionate mistress and 
trained by her in the paths of virtue. She was strictly moral in her 
deportment, faithful and devoted in her duty and heart and soul a.... 28 

Sand having drifted over the remainder when Olmsted visited the black 
Savannah cemetery in 1853, we are left to puzzle over Reynolda Watts's 
further moral attributes-which, according to this portrayal, are matched 
by those of her mistress. 

If we are to believe the grave inscriptions, there was an extraordinarily 
high percentage of paragons of virtue among the population of eighteenth- 
and nineteenth-century America. Epitaphs of all periods and places tend 
to eulogize; eighteenth-century epitaphs use many words to do it. Almost 
all of the lengthy inscriptions we find in old burying grounds belong to the 
graves of well-to-do white Americans, but some African Americans were 
thus memorialized as well. 

The longest inscription Olmsted copied in Savannah, that of Baptist 
pastor Andrew Brian, contains almost three hundred words. The 
biographical part describes his dedication to preaching the gospel and his 
willingness to die a martyr. It concludes: "He was an honour to human 
nature an ornament to religion and a friend to mankind." The memoir is 


Commemorating Black People 

followed by a poem on tranquil death, a scriptural passage, and the 
tribute: "This stone is erected by the First Colored Church as a token of 
love for their most faithful pastor. A.D. 1821." 29 

Obviously the epithet "faithful" is not restricted to a combination with 
"servant" or to persons of African descent. It takes on different connota- 
tions when used with social roles that are undertaken voluntarily. Two an- 
tebellum epitaphs for white Southerners, a man and a woman, may be 
presented for comparative purposes. 

William Harris is buried in Marietta, Georgia. He lived from 1780 to 
1857. His epitaph reads: 

He early in youth attached himself 
to the M.E. Church, lived and died 
an acceptable member. He was faith- 
ful and exemplary in all the rela- 
tions of husband, parent, and master. 
When a young man he served in the 
legislature of Georgia from Jones 
County. He was an emphatically 
honest man. The noblest work of 
God. 30 

True to the ideal of reciprocity of services and care in the master-slave 
relationship, the master can be characterized as "faithful" as well. Slavery 
is treated as an extension of patriarchy. Whereas a slave might be charac- 
terized as "honest," too, the expression "emphatically honest" implies a de- 
gree of moral force and self-determination that can hardly be attributed to 
a person deprived of free will. 

In the epitaph of the white woman, Elizabeth Freeman of Plymouth, 
Massachusetts, identity is also determined by marital status and maternal 
role. The inscription stresses the sense of personal loss felt by her family 
rather than expanding upon her virtues. The fact that she was a minister's 
wife may have made references to piety or charity superfluous. More im- 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

portant in the choice of inscription was probably the nineteenth-century 
tendency to regard the death of a loved one as personal tragedy rather 
than God-willed fate. 

In memory of 


wife of the 


who died 

March 12, 1833 

aged 33 yrs. 

Leaving her husband and 

five children to deplore 

their loss, and cherish the 

dear remembrance of 

her worth. 

"Her children rise up and call 

her blessed; her husband also 

and he praiseth her." 31 

Nancy Williams, black domestic in the Freeman household, had died 
less than two years before her mistress. Her epitaph refers to her humble 
social position, which is taken for granted. 

memory of 


a faithful (African) servant 

in the family of 

Rev. F. Freeman. 

died Nov. 21. 1831, 

aged 25 years. 

"Honour and shame from no condition rise: 

Act well your part; -there all the honour lies." 32 

The memory of Nancy Williams is bound to occupational status and to 
ethnicity, not to family or matrimonial ties. The admonitory lines at the 
end, correlated with the information that Nancy Williams was an African 


Commemorating Black People 

servant, can hardly be read other than as a message to black Americans to 
"know their place" and to make the best of their assigned, subordinate 

Exceptional Dedication 

Epitaphs such as the following one from Newport, Rhode Island, praise 
the deceased for exceptionally long terms of service in one family. 


Serv. of M r david 

for more than Forty 
Years died June 
19 th 1772 aged 
about 57 years 

A bronze tablet on a base of tabby (a traditional Georgian building 
material consisting of lime and gravel or shells) in Retreat Burying 
Ground, now located on the Sea Island Golf Course, tells the following 

SEPTEMBER 15, 1831 
AUGUST 10, 1907 



Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

The monument purports to commemorate Neptune Small. It marks the 
place where he is buried. The inscription also indicates the location of 
Small's former master's grave. It reports Small's loyalty and heroism. It 
also reports his former master's loyalty to the South and his heroic death. 
The first sentence of the short biography defines Small's identity as 
property of the Kings. The last sentence ends with their place of burial. 
When Small is mentioned in the text, only his first name is given. If it 
were not for the first line, written in large capital letters, the casual 
passer-by (such as a golfer looking for the ninth hole) might conclude that 
the monument was erected for King rather than Small. The first name by 
which Captain King was known was "Lord." Small is said to have chosen 
his self-effacing surname because of his small stature. 33 

A black person's readiness to defend the property of white people was 
appreciated and publicized by the white community. The type of the 
"faithful slave" ready to risk his/her life or health for his/her master which 
appears occasionally on tombstones is a stock character in literature about 
slavery. One-time sacrifice or service to the white community is more 
glamorous than life-long toil in the fields or kitchen. 34 

The Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia 
has a rubbing of the gravemarker of Dinah of Stenton: 

In memory of 



Faithful Colored Caretaker 

of Stenton 

who by her quick thought 

and presence of mind 

saved the mansion 

from being burned 

by British soldiers 

in the winter of 1777. 


Commemorating Black People 

In Greenwood Cemetery, Brunswick, Georgia, a gravestone com- 
memorates Stephen Wright, who also saved white property. 

This tribute in stone is raised 

by the citizens of Brunswick 

to mark the resting place of 


who lost his life 

in saving the property of 

his white fellow citizens 

in the great conflagration 

in Brunswick Georgia 

Nov. 16, 1884. 

His was a deed of heroism 

which the earthly historian 

will leave unnoticed 

But the records of heaven 

will perpetuate. 

A rather dubious service to the community was rendered by Lydia 
Clark in nineteenth-century Delaware. Her solitary marker near Lewes 

In memory of 


Who died Dec. 26, 1856 
Aged about 75 years. 
The last one of the Aborigines 
of the Country, a person of 
truth and a witness against 
the arrogant Negros that 
assumed the be what they 
ware not.~ 


The monument is said to have been erected by Nathaniel Burton, a mem- 
ber of a local planter family, out of gratitude for testimony she gave in 
1855. Burton accused a "Moor" storekeeper of possessing a gun and of 
selling ammunition to a free mulatto. "Moor" was an ethnic category not 
recognized by the federal government but by the state of Delaware, which 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

allowed for a "Moor" school to be run in the Lewes area, in addition to a 
white, a black, and a native American one. People who designated them- 
selves "Moors" claimed their descent from shipwrecked Spanish sailors 
who had intermarried with Indian women. They refused to be classified as 
African Americans, despite physical characteristics that suggested such de- 
scent. Lydia Clark testified that the "Moors" descended from an Irish 
woman who, before the Revolution, bought a black slave from a ship in 
Lewes. She had several children by him. They intermarried with Nan- 
ticoke Indians. 36 

The fact that Lydia Clark put partly black people into the ethnic slot 
allotted to them by the white community earned her a gravemarker. It is a 
monument to her and to the racial caste system. Both Lydia Clark and 
Dinah of Stenton have won official recognition by the Colonial Dames. 

Whereas Wright, Small, Clark, and Dinah were memorialized by whites 
for specific services they rendered, Prince Hall and Pierre Toussaint have 
been celebrated by the black and the white public for exemplary service to 
the community. The grave of Prince Hall, the founder of black American 
Freemasonry, is marked by two monuments in Copp's Hill Burial Ground. 
The newer memorial, a broken column of polished stone, towers over a 
pair of gray tombstones that read: 

Here Lies Ye Body of Here lies y e body of 


wife of first Grand Master of the 

PRINCE HALL , colored Grand Lodge of 

Died Feby. the 26 tn Masons in Mass. 

1769 Died Dec. 7, 1807 
Aged 24 years. 


Commemorating Black People 

Sources differ on Prince Hall's biography, but it is commonly held that he 
and fourteen other free blacks were initiated into Masonry by an army 
lodge of a British regiment in Boston on March 6, 1775. 37 The subse- 
quently formed "African Lodge" was granted a charter from England on 
September 29, 1784. 38 

In spite of Masonic teaching of universal brotherhood, American lodges 
maintained the caste system. Only for special occasions such as the 1800 
Masonic funeral ceremonies for George Washington or the 1850 anniver- 
sary celebration of the Bunker Hill battle did black and white lodges coor- 
dinate their procedures. 39 

Prince Hall's Masonic funeral was attended by black and white Bos- 
tonians. Eighty-eight years after his death a new monument, carrying the 
Masonic emblems, was unveiled in a ceremony in which Mason celebrities 
from different countries participated. The governor of Massachusetts 
reviewed the procession; the ensuing banquet took place at Faneuil Hall. 40 

Another memorable black man who rendered charitable services to 
blacks and whites has been honored by the Roman Catholic Church. A 
memorial plaque in Old Saint Patrick's churchyard on Mulberry Street, 
New York City, reads: 

JUNE 30, 1853 



Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 


SUNDAY, JULY 1, 1951, BY 



According to a booklet distributed by the Office of Black Ministry, Pierre 
Toussaint was born in slavery on June 27, 1766 in Haiti. In 1787 his 
master took his family and five slaves, among them Pierre Toussaint, to 
New York City. When the master died shortly afterwards, Toussaint con- 
tributed to the widow's support with his earnings as a hairdresser. She 
provided for his manumission shortly before her own early death. Tous- 
saint was able to buy his sister's freedom as well as that of Juliette Noel, 
his wife. He paid $15.12 for his aunt's grave at St. Peter's, New York 
City's first Catholic church. He gave the original $100 for Saint Vincent 
de Paul Church. Throughout his life he was a benefactor ~ sometimes 
secretly when the recipient was white. 

One biographer describes Toussaint's stance on the racial situation in 
America as "tranquil, contented, yet considered emancipation a 
blessing." 41 In the mass celebrated at his funeral the priest made no 
reference to Toussaint's race and little to his class: "It seemed as if his 
virtues as a man and a Christian had absorbed all other thoughts. A 
stranger would not have suspected that a black man, of his humble calling, 
lay in the midst of us." 42 The funeral service was attended by respectable 
citizens of both colors, and whereas whites did not join the funeral proces- 
sion, many gathered around the grave for the committal ceremony. Tous- 
saint had requested that none of his white friends follow the casket at the 
funeral of his wife, and his wish was remembered at his own funeral. 43 
The graves of Toussaint's wife and adopted daughter are next to his. 
There is no mention of them on the gravemarker. 


Commemorating Black People 

Mammies, Relations and Hierarchies 

Many children's nurses were commemorated by grateful masters or 
employers, who usually disregarded the nurse's own family. The memory 
of the "mammy" is thus tied to the white family she served rather than to 
her own family or to any church, lodge, or other group to which she may 
have belonged. Stripped of biological and cultural ties, the black 
domestic's posthumous identity relies entirely on her masters or 
employers. This observation applies even to twentieth-century 

Mamy Sarah, devoted servant of the family 
who died age sixty years. 1863 44 


MALONE DIED AUG. 22, 1910 

1853 - 1929 AGED 74 


BY THE children For Forty Years a Faithful 

OF MR. & MRS. Helper and Friend. 




DIED 1927 AGE 97.^ 

Epitaphs for children's nurses provide striking examples of white 
employers' claims on black lives. They stress the attachment of the 
deceased to employers or masters and neglect to note their ties to black 
relatives and institutions. The frequent reference to church and lodge 
membership in addition to family relations on the gravemarkers erected 
by blacks for blacks are in marked contrast to those ordered by whites, 
which treat African Americans as genealogical and socio-cultural 
"isolates." 47 

Isolation is proclaimed for obvious political reasons. Hegemony is 
easily legitimized when the dominated are said to have little aptitude for 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

building social and cultural institutions of their own. Slaves were deprived 
of recognized family status. By refusing slave marriages legal sanction, the 
lawmakers precluded all confusion over conflicting powers of patriarchal 
authority, such as husband over wife, parents over children, master over 
slave. Mary L. Duncan captures the dilemma of conflicting lines of 
authority when she writes about a slave child: 

But he was not his mother's child-he was his master's. She was not 
her own, nor her husband's~she also was her master's. And who was 
he? 48 

Denying slaves their biological ties robs them of their humanity. Deny- 
ing the dominated ancestors and descendants dispossesses them of their 
place in history. Slavery was for life. Slave-holders had to impose time- 
lessness on their slaves. Disengaged from all ties for all time as well as at 
any particular time, slaves were chattels, movable and therefore easily sal- 
able property. Erecting funerary monuments for them implied situating 
them in history. But in the epitaph a slavemaster could affirm his owner- 
ship for eternity. 

Africans brought up in cultural traditions of strong kinship organiza- 
tion, interdependence and continual dialogue between the living and the 
dead members of a family encountered a radically different situation in 
America. In the official discourse of the slave states, formal kinship ties 
were denied to them, their ancestors disclaimed, their descendants not ac- 
knowledged. And yet the slaveholders' ideal coexisted with the reality of 
mutual accommodation of masters and slaves and with the actual persis- 
tence of African patterns of kinship and social organization. 49 

A Newport, Rhode Island, inscription bears testimony to the continua- 
tion of a West African belief which attached great importance to twins. 
The priority of Jem Howard's relation to the world is given to his twin 
brother, followed by his mother. 


Commemorating Black People 

In Memory of 
Jem Howard 
A Twin Brother of 
Quam & Son of 
Philis, died July 
17™ 1771 in the 
9 th Year of his Age 

The epitaph of another Newport resident, buried not far from Jem 
Howard, does not mention blood relations but the ties to two employers. 

Here lyes the Body 

of CATO. Formerly Serv 1 

Of M r JOB ALMY & 

lately a Serv* to M r 


this TOWN. He 

died May 13, 1763 
Aged about 40 Years. 

Those African Americans who happened to live in almost all-white 
communities may have experienced genuine isolation. The pathetically 
terse inscription of a woman's grave in Wayland, Massachusetts, conveys a 
sense of loneliness. 

a coloured 
AEt. 94 50 

The few words define Flora's social identity concisely by ethnicity, sex, and 
age. The Wayland Vital Records do not yield much further information; 
they list the death of "Flora, 'a Black woman,' May 14, 1823." 51 

A Marblehead, Massachusetts, gravestone is among the earliest 
memorials for African Americans: 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 


Negro Woman 
Servant to 
Samuel Russel. 
July ye 12, 1718 
aged 43 years. 52 

Agnis was buried not far from her temporal owners. She died before 
family lots and posthumous representation of the patriarchal household 
became common in America. 

Southern family cemeteries of later years provide neatly delineated 
groupings and demarcations between the generations and the races. The 
Blackwell Family Burying Ground in Cobb County, Georgia, furnishes an 
interesting example of necro-social mapping. Friends of the Blackwells, 
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver, were buried outside the fence, i.e. in proximity to and 
yet segregated from the family, in 1866 and 1886 respectively. A former 
slave of the Olivers, who remained with his mistress after Emancipation, is 
buried at their feet. 53 

What masters counted an honor did not necessarily gratify the slaves. 
Lewis and Milton Clarke tell the story of a man of high standing in the 
church who promises to remember his slave in his will in recompense for 
attending him well during a prolonged sickness. The slave anticipates 
manumission and is eager to have his hope confirmed. Eventually the 
master confides to him the provision he has made: when the slave dies he 
will receive a good casket and will be buried in the same vault as his 
master. Not letting on his disappointment, the slave explains that he is 
apprehensive about this prospect: "Why, I fraid, massa, when de debbil 
come take you body, he make mistake, and get mine." 54 Thus the master's 
claim to eternal dominance is exposed as pretentious delusion. 


Commemorating Black People 

The Clarkes give another reason for the slave's reluctance to be buried 

in proximity to his master. They discern a deep and lasting psychological 

impact of subordination and terror: 

The slaves uniformly prefer to be buried at the greatest possible dis- 
tance away from master. They are superstitious and fear that the 
slave-driver, having whipped so much when alive, will, somehow, be 
beating them when dead. I was actually as much afraid of my old 
master when dead, as I was when he was alive. I often dreamed of 
him, too, after he was dead, and thought he had actually come back 
again, to torment me more. 

West African and European world views envision the cemetery and the 
grave as liminal spaces where two worlds meet. 56 For those who recognize 
the symbolic value of the grave, contiguous burial of master and slave 
epitomizes utter and ultimate domination. 

A master who commissioned a gravestone had to decide which of the 
biological and social ties the deceased had formed would be acknow- 
ledged, which would be withheld, and the order in which the ones dis- 
closed would appear in the inscription. On a marker from Copp's Hill 
Burial Ground in Boston, Massachusetts, a woman is first related to her 
husband who is, in turn, connected with his master in a sort of hierarchical 
chain. It is only by implication that we can assume her to be the same 
master's property. 

Here lies y e Body of 

Mary y e 

wife of 

Ceasor Augustus 

Servant of Mr. Robert Ball 

Aged 25 years 

May 28 

A Newport, Rhode Island, gravestone lists the mistress of the deceased 
before the mother. 


Fig. 3 Flova, 1778, Princeton, Mass. 


Fig. 4 Thomas, 1783, Princeton, Mass. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

In Memory of 
Phillis a Negro 
Servant to M rs 
Ann Sabear & 
Daughter of Peg 
Collins died 
June y e 24 1738 
Aged 18 Years. 

Two markers in Princeton, Massachusetts, in memory of Flova "a Negro 
woman servant" and of Thomas "a Negro man servant" leave no doubt as 
to the relative importance of their master "the Hon" 1 Moses Gill" (Figs. 3 
and 4). 

On a Middletown, Connecticut, marker, which mentions a slave's mari- 
tal bond along with that of slavery, the master avoids any possible confu- 
sion over priorities by having his own name and claim on the deceased 
mentioned twice. 

In Memory of 

Servant to the Rev. Enoch Huntington, and wife of Mark Winthrop, 

Who died April 28, 1784 

The day of her death she was Mr. Huntington's Property. 57 

One may conjecture whether this extraordinary piece of assertive owner- 
ship was prompted by a legal dispute or whether Huntington wanted to 
emphasize the change from temporal to eternal ownership poor Jenny 
must undergo when she passed away. 

Person or Property? 

The question of ownership brings us back to a point raised before: 
since slaves were both human beings and property, their vital statistics 
might be classified as such or as items of bookkeeping. 58 Given the defini- 
tion of slaves as property, it is hardly surprising to find passages that read 


Commemorating Black People 

like epitaphs in plantation record books. In Our Todays and Yesterdays, 
aptly named for its nostalgic approach to Southern history, Margaret Cate 
introduces her excerpts from one such plantation diary: "A true insight 
into the lives of the slaves of Retreat and the attitude of the mistress 
toward them is revealed by the record book in which Mrs. King kept the 
accounts of the plantation." 59 The "true insight" here translates into vital 
records, the "attitude" of the well-meaning mistress shows in the use of 
such euphemisms as "servants" or "my people" for slaves, with the posses- 
sive pronoun meant to convey identification with the "people" rather than 

Among the records quoted by Cate are the following: 

Peggy's boy child, aged 12 hours, died 18 August, 1854. 

Delia's first child died of lock jaw, 7th October 1856. 

Old Cupid, honest and true to his earthly owners, departed this 
life at 4 A.M., 29 January, 1857. 

My valued servant Annie died of fever, Oct. 5, 1858. 

Quamina - most honest and true -- a faithful servant and good 
man, after a short illness of 24 hours, departed this life 20th 
March, I860. 60 

Since babies and small children have not yet acquired social functions and 
status, their obituaries and epitaphs tend to be shorter than those of 
adults. Mrs. King's notes use evaluations of the character and life of the 
deceased that are very similar to those we have encountered in tomb in- 

Another record, of the death of a particularly favored slave, is longer 
but also reads like an epitaph: 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

My good and faithful servant Hannah, after years of suffering, expired 
on the night of the 2nd of August, 1854. For honesty, moral character, 
unselfishness and perfect devotion to her owners, she had not her 
equal. She died resigned, with firm trust in her Redeemer. 61 

Both the store of adjectives these obituaries draw upon and the themes 
the last two evoke are stock material of slave epitaphs. Very likely private 
texts such as letters and personal diaries of the time use similar themes 
and expressions. 62 

Other records openly acknowledge the economic loss involved in the 
death of a slave. The following excerpt from a Mississippi plantation diary 
is quoted in Phillips, American Negro Slavery: 


July 10, 1853 

Peyton is no more 

Aged 42 

Though he was a bad man in many respects 

yet he was a most excellent field 

hand, always at his 


On this place for 21 years. 

Except the measles and its sequence, the 

injury rec'd by the mule last Nov'r and its sequence, 

he has not lost 15 days' work, I verily believe, in the 

remaining 19 years. I wish we could hope for his 

eternal state. 

The recorder fulfills several functions. The graphic arrangement of the 
memorandum conveys dignity to the text: the passage reads like an 
obituary or an epitaph. The master expresses his concern for Peyton's 
spiritual welfare. While deploring his character defects, he commends his 
skill and willingness to work. The accounting of workdays lost serves the 
purpose of both character evaluation and bookkeeping. Accounting and 
necrology are integrated in one text. 


Commemorating Black People 

In another diary a Texas slaveowner assesses the deceased in terms of 
the religion he professed and practiced rather than in terms of his capacity 
for work: 

Died on my farm near Franklin Tennessee May 7-1857 my Old Man 
Tom so well and favorable known in this community as Henderson 
Tom~seventy three or four years of age. He has been a regular mem- 
ber of the Methodist Church between forty-five and fifty years-and a 
more faithful and constant Christian either white or black I have sel- 
dom known. He lived like a Christian and he died like he lived in full 
prospect of Immortality and Eternal life. 64 

The explicit joining of black and white Christians makes ethnicity appear 
as a criterion of minor importance. 

A grave inscription recorded by Phillips expresses hope for the 
deceased slave's spiritual state but also betrays the author's inclination 
toward bookkeeping. 

Sacred to the memory of Bill, a strictly honest and faithful servant of 
Cleland Belin. Bill was often intrusted with the care of Produce and 
Merchandize to the value of many thousand dollars, without loss or 
damage. He died 7th October, 1854, in the 35th year of his age, an 
approved member of the Black Mingo Baptist Church. Well done, 
thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into Joy of thy Lord. 65 

Cleland Belin must be given credit for having Bill's name mentioned 
twice, thus counterbalancing the dominance of his own full name in the 
epitaph. The mention of large amounts of money exposes the master's 
wealth as well as his supreme authority over the slave, whom he entrusts 
with such valuables. The closing Bible quotation not only corroborates 
the Christian foundation of domestic servitude, but also implies a parallel 
between the heavenly master and the earthly one. 

One of the purposes memorials serve is that of instructing the living. 
Since slaves in South Carolina, where the above inscription comes from, 
were supposed to be illiterate, the moral example of Bill was lost on most 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

slaves passing by his tomb. Funeral sermons and gravesite addresses 
sometimes served the hortatory function written texts could not fulfill for 
the unlettered. Some addresses delivered at a slave's burial by representa- 
tives of the master class were straightforward in holding up the life of a 
zealous servant as a model to emulate. The following excerpt is reported 
from antebellum Georgia: 

He wa[s] a faithful servant and a true Christian; 
if you follow his example, and live as he lived, 
none of you need fear, when the time comes for 
you to lay here. 66 

A Providence, Rhode Island, marker makes use of the same scriptural 
passage as the epitaph quoted above. It also indicates the source: 

Here lies 

the Body of yarrow 

an African who after a 

Life of strict Integrity, 

He resign'd his Soul to 

GOD, April 7, 1786, 

Aged about 60 years. 

Mat. 25.23 d Well done good & 

Faithful Servant enter into the 

Joy of thy Lord 

An honest Man's the Noblest work of God. 67 

The corresponding parable, a Calvinist's delight, is about the creation of 
surplus value. It celebrates a servant who multiplies the money entrusted 
to him by his master. The lesson to be drawn is that obedience toward 
masters is not sufficient: a profit must be made. Capitalism and religion 
join hands. 


Commemorating Black People 

Persons of Color and Respectability 

An inscription from Darien City Cemetery, Georgia, honors a man who 
is first credited with faculties that would become a white person and then 
complimented on his humility. 


Stone is here placed by 


As a grateful expression of his 
attachment to 


A free person of colour who died 

in his service in Darien 

June 6 tn 1822 aged 23 years. 

Having possessed the advantages of a 

decent competence, and 

a £ood education. 

His humble, unassuming, and correct 

deportment gained him the approbation, 

and secured him the good will 

of every liberal person under whose 

notice he chanced to fall. 

And in no heart perhaps was gratitude 

ever more strong. 

With all his qualities, George was not entitled to a surname. But Tunno is 
careful to balance George's ability with his servility. He does not ascribe 
too much competence to George. This may be an adequate description of 
the man's talents. It may also be a concession to racist visitors to the 
cemetery, whose conviction of white supremacy must not be challenged. 
The employer's gratefulness mentioned in line four is counterbalanced by 
the employee's gratitude referred to in the penultimate line. All this 
balancing betrays an effort to eulogize a person who is considered socially 
inferior. It also conveys fondness for the deceased and regret. 68 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

Among the grave inscriptions we have looked at so far, reference to the 
ethnicity of the deceased takes such forms as ("Negro" or "African") 
"servant of," "colored," or "of color." Ethnicity may be treated as a subject 
in the epitaph. Color may be punned upon. A well-known example ap- 
pears on the gravestone of Caesar in North Attleboro, Massachusetts (Fig. 

Fig. 5 Caesar, 1780, Attleboro, Mass. 


Commemorating Black People 

In memory of 


Here lies the best of slaves 
Now turning into dust: 
Caesar the Ethiopian craves 
A place among the just. 
His faithful soul has fled 
To realms of heavenly light, 
And by the blood that Jesus shed 
is changed from Black to White. 
Jan 15 he,quitted the stage 
in the 77* year of his age. 

Attleboro historian John Daggett reports about Caesar. It seems that 
he was given by his mother while an infant to Lieutenant Josiah Maxcy. 
(This seems a little peculiar, since slavery was not abolished in Mas- 
sachusetts until the adoption of its Bill of Rights in June, 1780; if Caesar's 
mother was still a slave, she was not in a position to decide her son's fate; 
if she was free, she would have been unlikely to give her child into 
slavery.) When Josiah Maxcy died in 1772, Caesar passed to his son, Levi 
Maxcy, who kept a tavern in Attleboro until the year of Caesar's death. 
Caesar was well known as a waiter in this tavern. Daggett goes on to say 
that Caesar survived his first master (Josiah) and was buried in the same 
yard; that a decent stone was raised over his grave by his young master 
(Levi); and that the only white stone in the Old North Burying Ground in 
Attleboro, as contrasted with the usual gray slate, was that for Maxcy's 
wife (presumably referring to Josiah's wife, Mary, who died in 1754, for 
Levi's wife was not buried there). Daggett's characterization of Caesar 
reads like an epitaph: "He was simple-hearted, but proved through a long 
life a remarkably honest and faithful servant in the family where he 
lived." 69 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

Levi Maxcy's son and namesake, born in 1770, became a stonecarver 
and his father may also have followed this trade. It may be that one of 
them carved Caesar's stone at the time of Caesar's death or some years 
later. Whether the son or his father composed the epitaph, the author 
may have been familiar with a poem of the black Boston poet, Phillis 
Wheatley, published in London only a few years before, "On Being 
Brought from Africa to America": 

'TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land, 
Taught my benighted soul to understand 
That there's a God, that there'a a Saviour too: 
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. 
Some view our sable race with scornful eye, 
"Their colour is a diabolic die." 
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, 
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. 

In the old black section of the Providence, Rhode Island, North Burying 
Ground the markers for Charles and Lucy Haskell, a pair of large, pointed 
slabs decorated with the identical motif of Cantharus urns framed by 
drapery, are easy to make out. They are believed to have been erected by 
the Haskells' employer. 70 


the memory 


man of colour. 

A soldier of the Revolution 

He died 

the 17th of December, 


aged 73 years. 

He retained through life the character 

of a faithful, industrious and honest man. 

I.S. Tinley, Jr. 


Commemorating Black People 

In memory 


Wife of 

Mr. Charles Haskell 

and Daughter of 

Pero and Phillis Brown. 

She died in May, 1812, 

aged 32 years. 

A professed disciple of Jesus Christ 

who lived in the practice of his 


and died in hope 

of reaping the rewards of grace in 

his kingdom, 

where every complexion will unite 

in praising Him who has washed their 


and made them white in his own 


Again the pun on color occurs in the context of Christian salvation. Again 
blood is the medium by which redemption is achieved. To be sure, racial 
unity is presented in the form of a non-segregated hereafter. Placed next 
to the grave inscription of her husband, that of a Revolutionary soldier, 
however, it is hard to believe that Lucy Haskell's epitaph does not invite 
reflections on the social reality of this world. 

The title "Mrs." that precedes the wife's name and the fact that her 
parents are mentioned in addition to her husband are indicators of re- 
spectability. Another Rhode Island inscription makes explicit mention of 

In Memory of 

three respectable Black 

Persons. Phillis, Rose, & 

Fanny Chace, 

who served faithfully 

in the Family of 

Samuel Chace Esqr. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

The wise, the gay, the humble 
and the exalted, the beautiful 
and the deformed must all 
moulder in the same native clay. 71 

Jamie and Jay Coughtry, to whom we owe the recording of this grave- 
stone, found that in Providence newspapers one or two slaves but no free 
blacks received a death notice from 1762 to 1804. Between 1804 and 1832 
the deaths of less than 100 African Americans were listed, "invariably 
described as 'respectable' men and women 'of color'." 72 Respectability 
refers to moral character and to social status. Respectability and slavery 
are generally thought to be mutually exclusive categories; respectability 
and racial stigma do not appear to go well together. Persons who belong 
to an ethnic group that is considered inferior by the dominant group can- 
not lay claim to respectability unless a different or parallel set of values is 
applied to them. Such social camouflage will hardly deceive the in- 
dividuals concerned about the actual distribution of power and attribution 
of respectability. As late as 1955 Hylan Lewis noted that black Americans 
living in the South tended to be "respect-starved". 73 

Born a Slave 

A number of grave inscriptions state that the deceased was born in 
slavery. After Emancipation such a reference would suggest historic depth 
to the biography of the subject of the inscription. Slavery is evoked, along 
with the familiar themes of faithful service and friendship, even in 
twentieth-century New England, on a monument in Grove Street 
Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut. 


Commemorating Black People 






OCTOBER 4, 1902. 








A Pittsfield, Vermont, gravemarker reads: 

In memory of 

A colored person who 

died in Pittsfield, Vt. 

Aug. 29, 1874 

AE about 86 years. 

He was born a slave in Salem, 

NY. He came to Pittsfield, Vt, in 

1820, where he was always 

ready to shake hands with all. 

A metal sticker and flag placed on the grave on Memorial Day identified 
him as a veteran. York appears to have participated in the community life 
of his adopted town and state. His tombstone is situated close to the 
entrance of the cemetery, not really isolated but not integrated into the 
larger rows and clusters of graves in the central area. 

In Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington, Iowa, a pair of markers give a 
compendium of the achievements of Benjamin and Catherine Sandridge: 

In memory of Benj. Sandridge, Commonly 
Known as Uncle Ben, Born a Slave in 
Virginia, Held in Bondage for 49 Years, 
Died a Free Man by the Law of His Country 
and the Grace of His God, in Iowa Nov. 7, 
1853, Being about 53 Years of Age. Erect- 
ed by His Wife, Kitty. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

In memory of Catherine Sandridge, Commonly 
Known as "Aunt Kitty", Born a Slave. The 
Wife of Uncle Ben and with Him Made Free 
by the Payment of $1,000 to their Master. 
Both Became Members of the First Baptist 
Church of Burlington, Iowa, at its Organi- 
zation in 1849 and Were Faithful As Such to 
the End. Died Sept. 10, 1863, Being about 
60 Years of Age. To Depart and Be With 
Christ Is Far Better. 75 

Whereas the husband's epitaph declares his freedom "by the Law of His 
Country and the Grace of His God", that of his wife specifies that their 
freedom was bought for the substantial sum of $1,000. Since it was 
Catherine who had the first marker put up, she must have chosen or 
agreed to the wording. Parts of the second epitaph may have been 
phrased according to her request. She thought fit to include the names by 
which she and her husband were known in the community, even though 
they were racial tags. 

The inscription on a brownstone marker in East Haddam, Connecticut, 
which was removed from the cemetery and placed in a vault for safekeep- 
ing in 1985, reads: 

HE DIED JULY Y e 12 th 1802 AGED 40 YEARS 76 

The corresponding footstone is inscribed: "Joel Jackson 1802." Jonathan 
Twiss found out that this marker of an emancipated slave was paid for by 
a relative of his former master, although the man had been free for four- 
teen years. The account book of stonecutter Silas Brainerd of East Had- 
dam lists the following entry under the heading "Epaphroditus Champion, 


Commemorating Black People 

Debtor": "1804 Nov. 29 To One pare of gravestones for Joel." The price 
was L2/17/0. Research on the Champion family revealed that the will of 
Henry Champion of Westchester, Connecticut, dated December 16, 1789, 
mentions that all of his former slaves, Sampson, Cate, and Joel, had been 
emancipated. Unless there had been some kind of financial agreement 
between Jackson and Epaphroditus Champion, the latter's commission of 
a memorial attests to his recognition of responsibility toward a former 
slave. If Champion bought the marker to present himself as a social 
benefactor, he might have had his own or his family's name included in the 
epitaph. The fact that Joel's first name only is mentioned on the 
headstone is in keeping with the image of a former slave. 

The Sedgwick family plot in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, covers a large 
circle, with dozens of graves arranged concentrically around the obelisk 
and the urn-on-pedestal monuments of the parents, Theodore and Pamela 
Sedgwick. The site is secluded, with huge conifers and trimmed shrubs 
separating the Sedgwick descendants from the general population of the 
cemetery. Among ornate Victorian monuments and upright marble slabs 
with lancet or trefoil arches, a square-shouldered marker in the Sedgwick 
lot commemorates a former slave, whose fight for freedom ignited the 
judicial debate that eventually led to the abolition of slavery in Mas- 


known by the name of 


died Dec. 28 1829 
Her supposed age 
was 85 Years. 
She was born a slave and 
remained a slave for nearly 
thirty years. She could nei- 
ther read nor write yet in 
her own sphere she had no 
superior nor equal. She nei- 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

ther wasted time nor property. 
She never violated a trust, nor 
failed to perform a duty. 
In every situation of domes- 
tic trial, she was the most effi- 
cient helper and the tender 
friend: Good mother farewell. 

Elizabeth Freemann left the house of her master in an argument with 
his wife, after receiving a blow with a heated shovel that was directed at 
her sister. She had lawyer Theodore Sedgwick plead her case in court. 
Having heard the Bill of Rights discussed by white people, she decided to 
claim her liberty according to the Revolutionary doctrine of freedom and 
equality. The jury declared her free and ordered her former master to pay 
her thirty shillings damages. She worked as a housekeeper and nurse for 
the Sedgwicks for several years before setting up house with her 
daughter. 77 In her will she left her daughter a black silk gown, a gift from 
her African father, and a gown that her African mother had worn. 78 

The epitaph, written by Catherine Maria Sedgwick, moves from slavery 
and humble status to "her own sphere," domestic work and care. In the 
domestic sphere (which is one shared by women and servants), Elizabeth 
Freemann practices civic virtues. She is portrayed as an admirable person, 
but no mention is made of her politically significant rebellion against her 
fate. Her rebellion brought her from a domestic, female sphere charac- 
terized by physical violence to the male world of public discourse and 
legal dispute. Was this distasteful to the writer of the epitaph or merely 


Commemorating Black People 

Born Free... 

The next epitaph does not avoid discussing politics. In fact, it carries a 
sweeping condemnation of slavery and a pointed comment on the current 
political situation, but it does so at the expense of the individual it com- 

God wills us free, man wills us slaves. 
I will as God wills Gods will be done. 
Here lies the body of 


A native of Africa who died 

March 1773, aged about 60 years. 

Tho' born in a land of slavery, 

He was born free. 

Tho' he lived in a land of liberty, 

He lived a slave, 

Till by his honest, tho' stolen labors, 

He acquired the source of slavery 

Which gave him his freedom, 

Tho' not long before, 

Death the grand tyrant 

Gave him his final emancipation, 

And set him on a footing with kings. 

Tho' a slave to vice, 

He practised these virtues 

Without which kings are but slaves. 

John Jack is buried in Old Hill Burying Ground in Concord, Mas- 
sachusetts. The first record we have of him is dated 1754. 79 An inventory 
prepared upon the death of Benjamin Barron of Concord, a cordwainer by 
trade but later a farmer, lists among other items: 

One Negro servant named Jack L 120:0:0 

One Negro maid named Violet, being of no vallue. 

By 1761 Jack had bought his freedom and acquired four acres of plow land 
for L16 from Susanna Barron, his late master's daughter. He paid L6:13:4 
to someone else for two more acres of land. The deed of the first pur- 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

chase sets him down as "a certain Negro man called John, a Free man, 
now resident at said Concord, a laborer," that of the second as "Jack, a 
free Negro man, late servant to Benjamin Barron, deceased." The as- 
sociate proprietors of the great fields in Concord name him "Jack Barron," 
whereas the church records mention him as "Jack, Negro." 

Cobbling shoes and working for farmers, John Jack was able to buy 
another lot of two and a half acres on which to build his house. For more 
than a century after his death, this site was to house black families. In his 
will of December 1772 John Jack left his real and personal estate, after 
funeral expenses, to "Violet, a negro woman, commonly called Violet 
Barnes, and now dwelling with Susanna Barron." Besides his real estate 
he owned a cow and calf, a pair of oxen, farming tools, a Bible and 
psalmbook as well as seven barrels of cider- the latter probably founding 
his reputation for drinking. 

As Violet, who lived until 1789, 80 was only forty-five years old when 
Benjamin Barron died, it was more likely poor health than old age that 
made her "worthless" in the inventory. In 1769, when Susanna Barron in- 
herited the homestead after her mother's death, she agreed "that she 
would take the negro woman belonging to the estate as her own, and that 
she would support her in sickness and health, she having the benefit of her 
labor." Whatever the terms of this settlement and the nature of Violet 
Barnes's relationship with John Jack were, his property went to Susanna 
Barron after his death, which indicated that Violet was still a slave. Con- 
cord historian George Tolman wonders how Violet's lacking qualifications 
for assuming an inheritance could possibly be overlooked by both John 
Jack and his lawyer, Daniel Bliss. As a slave she was not entitled to hold 
real estate. I find it difficult to believe that the lawyer ignored or dis- 
regarded this legal detail, but if there was an additional settlement be- 
tween John Jack and Susanna Barron, it has not been preserved along 
with the will. 


Commemorating Black People 

Whatever the legal skills of Bliss were, it is to him that John Jack owes 
his posthumous celebrity. As a staunch Tory, Bliss made himself quite 
unpopular in the early days of the Revolution. His support for the British 
troops was so enthusiastic that he had to flee Concord. His house on Wal- 
den Street was confiscated by the General Court and sold at auction in 
1781. 81 

Bliss composed his client's epitaph and took the opportunity to point 
out the contradiction of America's striving for independence while deny- 
ing the fundamental right of self-determination to its black population. 
Divine sanction of slavery is negated in the very first line of the inscrip- 
tion. Deeply cynical about his society and known for his sarcastic com- 
ments on his compatriots' revolutionary ambition, Bliss had no difficulty 
laying open the discrepancies between American rhetoric and reality. The 
contradictory position of pro-slavery advocates of American independence 
is skillfully exposed in the antithetical structure built on geographical, 
political, social, and moral opposites. 82 

Incidentally, American slavery and the political thinking of the Found- 
ing Fathers were closely connected, following the "logic of contradiction". 
Patterson points out: 

The idea of freedom and the concept of property were 
both intimately bound up with the rise or slavery, 
their very antithesis. The great innovators not only 
took slavery for granted, they insisted on its necessity 
to their way of life. 83 

This dialectic of freedom and slavery was given expression in both the 
form and the content of John Jack's epitaph. 

According to a Concord newspaper article of 1838 a British officer 
copied the epitaph in 1775 and sent it back to England. It was published 
in a London newspaper as a satirical comment on the pretensions of the 
American sons of liberty. The stone has always been an object of interest. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

The present monument is a facsimile of the original, the broken pieces of 
which had lain for several years beside the grave, when Judge Rufus 
Homer organized a subscription among the members of the Middlesex bar 
in 1830 to have a reproduction made. It was the object of a commemora- 
tive cult during the lifetime of Concord abolitionist Mary Rice, who 
tended the grave and planted lilies on it. 

The following inscriptions are copied from two sandstone markers in 
First Church Cemetery, East Haddam, Connecticut: 

Sacred Sacred to the Memory 

to the Memory of of Venture Smith an 

Marget Smith African tho the son of a 

Relict of Venture King he was kidnapped 

Smith who died & sold as a slave but by 

Dec the 17* his industry he acquired 

AD 1809, in the Money to purchase his 
79 tn year of her 

Freedom, who Died Sept 19 
1805 in y e 77 th year of his 

There are distinct echoes of the John Jack epitaph in that of Venture 
Smith: in the reversal of fortune turning a prince into a slave and in his 
working hard to buy his freedom. Smith's misfortune is given in the pas- 
sive voice; the active voice is used in the second part to give an account of 
his economic activity. But whereas in the Concord inscription the man's 
life was fitted into a rhetorical structure, this epitaph tells a story. A 
dramatic tale leading up to a black version of the American success story. 
The work ethic is applied to securing freedom, that essential idea in the 
American political imagination. 

The Venture Smith epitaph lacks the bitterness of the John Jack in- 
scription. Whoever the author was, his intention was different from that 
of Daniel Bliss when he summarized the life of John Jack. Venture Smith 
employed a different textual vehicle to vent his anger and frustration 


Commemorating Black People 

about the numerous injustices he had suffered. In 1798 his biography, 
compiled by amanuensis Elisha Niles, a former schoolteacher, was pub- 
lished in New London: A narrative of the life and adventures of Venture, a 
native of Africa but resident above sixty years in the United States of America 
Related by himself. At one point in the narrative, when he relates how, 
after many other hazards and misadventures, he was advised to give in to 
false accusations brought against him by an envious white man, his lan- 
guage betrays aggravation and exasperation: "Captain Hart was a white 
gentleman, and I a poor African, therefore it was all right, and good enough 
for the black dog."* 4 

The preface, quite in line with the grave inscription, recommends the 
biography to the reader for the model of "honesty, prudence, and industry" 
it displays. The book provides genealogical and geographical information 
about Venture Smith's background, such as place and approximate date of 
birth (Dukandarra, c. 1729), father's name (Saungu Furro) and his own 
name (Broteer). His original name does not appear in the epitaph. 

Broteer/Venture was about eight years old when he arrived in Rhode 
Island. The steward on the slave ship sailing from Anamboo had paid four 
gallons of rum and a piece of calico for the boy and called him "Venture" 
because he had purchased him "with his own private venture." After 
several setbacks Venture Smith managed to buy his freedom at age thirty- 
five. Being an extraordinarily strong man-his physical strength and weight 
were legend-he was able to earn money by hiring himself out as a laborer 
and also by selling fish. Later he became an entrepreneur in several 
branches of business. He bought his two sons and, at age forty-four, his 
wife. She was pregnant then, and his purchase at that point prevented his 
having to buy another child later. He also bought three men and allowed 
them to work to reimburse him the purchase price. One of the men 


Angelika Krttger-Kahloula 

Smith keeps careful account of these transactions in the biography. We 
learn that his son's death added a financial loss of L75 to the personal one, 
and that the physician's bill for attending his daughter during her lingering 
illness amounted to L40, almost the price he paid for her freedom eight 
years earlier. The casual appreciation of an individual's monetary worth is 
not peculiar to plantation diaries. 

The Smiths moved to East Haddam, Connecticut, in 1776. When he 
dictated his biography, Venture Smith possessed more than 100 acres of 
land and three residential buildings. The 1897 edition of the Narrative 
contains an account of his funeral. The four men carrying the bier 
enacted a common pattern of pre-Civil-Rights ethnic choreography: "The 
two in front were white, proving the respect he had won, while two of his 
own race assisted in the rear." By the time the new edition appeared, 
Smith's descendants had left East Haddam, except for two who are now 
buried next to Venture and Marget. Solomon Smith died in 1843 at the 
age of sixty-six, and his daughter Eliza A. Smith Roy died in 1902, aged 
seventy-five. The little family congregation in the cemetery bears witness 
to Venture Smith's success in putting down roots in New England. 

Although the markers for Smith and his wife look similar, with their 
soul effigy wearing the crown of righteousness on the tympanum, they 
were not made by the same sculptor. Our authority on East Haddam 
gravemarkers, Jonathan Twiss, informs us that Venture Smith's headstone 
was cut by John Isham, a stonecutter who lived next to the First Congrega- 
tional Church. Marget Smith's headstone was cut by Silas Brainerd, who 
lived a quarter of a mile down the road. Twiss thinks that the epitaphs 
were composed by the craftsmen, who may have had a notebook with dif- 
ferent types of epitaph for their customers to choose from. 85 If that was 
the case, Isham may have had a copy of John Jack's epitaph, or of one 
modeled after it. 


Commemorating Black People 

A pair of dark slate markers with identical urn-and-willow motif in the 
cemetery behind the First Church of Jaffrey Center, New Hampshire, 
mark the graves of another slave who bought his freedom and that of his 

Sacred Sacred 

to the memory of to the memory of 


who was born free in by sale the slave of 

Africa, a slave in America, AMOS fortune, by Marri 

he purchased liberty age his wife, by her 

professed Christianity, fidelity his friend and 

lived reputably, & solace, she died his widow 

died hopefully, Sept. 13, 1802, 

Nov. 17, 1801 Aet 73 

The concise statements are reported to have been phrased by the Rev. 
Laban Ainsworth, friend and patron of Amos Fortune. 86 

The earliest document we possess on the life of Amos Fortune dates 
from 1752, when he was listed as the property of Ichabod Richardson of 
Woburn, Massachusetts. A manumission statement of December 30, 
1763, provided for his freedom four years after that date, but it was invalid 
because it had not been signed. In the inventory of the Richardson estate 
dated August 29, 1768, a "Negro man named Amos", worth L20, is listed 
between a yearling heifer, valued at Ll.6.8 and a Bible worth 6 shillings 8 
pence. In an agreement with Richardson's widow Amos Fortune paid the 
last installment toward his freedom in November 1770. He was then sixty 
years old. Eight years later he bought Lydia Somerset for L50. She died 
several months afterwards and was buried in Woburn in a now unmarked 
grave. He bought Violet Baldwin on November 9, 1779, and married her 
on the tenth. Two years later they moved to Jaffrey, where Amos worked 
as a tanner, occasionally training apprentices, black and white. On May 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

21, 1789, he was received into full fellowship in the First Church of Christ. 
On January 28, 1796, he signed as one of the twenty-two charter members 
of the Jaffrey Social Library. 87 

Amos Fortune's will, dated October 3, 1801, specifies the following: 

Sixthly I order my executor after my decease and after 
the decease of the Said Violet my beloved wife that 
handsome grave Stones be erected to each of us if there 
is any estate left for that purpose. 

He also left money to the church and to the local school as well as to his 
adopted daughter. The "handsome gravestones" eventually cost $11 to 
make and $5 to transport and set. 

Amos Fortune's epitaph also juxtaposes African freedom with 
American slavery, but it lacks the detached cynicism of the John Jack 
stone. The epitaphs of both Amos and Violet declare their slave status 
before moving, in a series of parallel structures, toward a climax; death at 
an advanced age providing the providential solution. The syntactic seg- 
ments that sum up Amos Fortune's achievements consist of verbal 
phrases, which give the reader a sense of the activity of his life. Violet's 
epitaph lacks verbs except for "died" at the end. She is entirely charac- 
terized by attributive phrases, which convey an impression of her being ad- 
junctive to Amos. This effect is reinforced by the repetition of the posses- 
sive pronoun referring back to him who bought and married her. The 
husband's identity is defined by economic, religious, and civic activities, 
the wife's, like Marget Smith's, in relation to her husband. But how 
elegant and touching Violet Fortune's epitaph is ! 

We do not know whether Amos Fortune or his wife had a part in the 
composition or selection of the inscriptions. What becomes apparent in a 
comparison of their epitaphs to that of John Jack is the professional style 
of the respective authors, Laban Ainsworth and Daniel Bliss. Bliss's an- 


Commemorating Black People 

tithetical construction betrays the lawyer. Where he leaves tensions open, 
Ainsworth, the minister, while using similar rhetorical devices tells Amos 
Fortune's life more in terms of a quest for salvation and leaves the reader 
with the impression of peace found. The Fortune epitaphs are neither bit- 
ter nor biting; they are compassionate. The ironies of fate are responded 
to and resolved by such virtues as industry, piety, and affection. 

... In Africa 

African origin is mentioned on two of the three gravestones for blacks 
that are situated on the margin of the old Wethersfield, Connecticut, 
burial ground. Quash Gomer's tombstone is now almost completely 
defaced, the front of the sandstone slab having flaked off. The two in- 
scriptions once read: 

In Memory of In Memory of 

Francois Quash Gomer: a 

who was born in Africa, Native of Angola in 

and died July 1st Africa, brought from 

1816, aged about there in 174& & 

55 years. died June 6 tH 1799 

Aged 68 years. 88 

As imprecise as the designation "Angola" may have been in the late 
eighteenth century, it is more specific than "Africa", which is more usually 
found. Wethersfield historians Adams and Stiles report that Quash 
Gomer bought his freedom from his master in 1766 for L25. 89 

Among the epitaphs of African Americans I have read there is only one 
that connects Africa with negative circumstances. The following inscrip- 
tion, from Canandaigua, New York, subscribes to the view of Africa as a 
place untouched by the blessings of civilization: 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

Jacob Hodges 

An African Negro 

Born in Poverty and Ignorance 

Early Tempted to Sin 

By Designing and Wicked Men 

Once Condemned as a Felon 

Converted by the Grace of God 

in Prison, 

Lived many years, a Converted 

and useful Christian, 

died Feb. 2, 1842 

About 80 years of age. 90 

Reversal of fortune is not attached to the issue of slavery in the case of 
Jacob Hodges. Over several pivotal stages he acts out the drama of con- 
version. The happy ending is found in a Christian death, a closure, yet 
open to the prospect of life everlasting. 

In Riverside Cemetery in Farmington, Connecticut, a white marble 
marker commemorates one of the West Africans whose involuntary odys- 
sey aboard the "Amistad" in 1839 captured the American imagination and 
led to a famous piece of litigation. 91 


A native African 
who drowned while bathing 
in the centre basin Aug. 1841. 
He was one of the company 
of slaves under Cinque, on 
board the Schooner Amistad 
who asserted their rights 
& took possession of the vessel 
after having put the Captain, 
mate & others to death sparing 
their master Ruez & Montez. 

Niles National Register reports on March 27, 1841: "The Amistad Negroes 
have left New Haven for Farmington, where they are to be placed on the 
farm of Mr. Williams, until able to take care of themselves." On August 


Commemorating Black People 

21 the same paper runs the following item: "4-21. Chronicle-The Amistad 
Africans. One of them was drowned at Farmington, Conn, on the 7th 
inst." According to one writer, Foone lost his life while searching for the 
body of a young man who had drowned. 92 As he was an expert swimmer 
and had been depressed for days before the accident, it was suspected that 
his death was not involuntary. His host Williams wrote: 

I have no doubt that Foone drowned himself. I find that 
they entertain the belief that they will all die in 
America; they believe that when they die they will go 
immediately to Mendi and some of them think the sooner 
the better. 9 * 

American legends tell of newly arrived Africans who preferred suicide by 
drowning to slavery. Whereas Foone drowned in inland water, they 
usually walked into the Atlantic Ocean, the water that separated them 
from their families and ancestors. 

The reference to Cinque in the epitaph evokes the man among the 
Africans who impressed New Englanders most, by his lofty appearance 
and self-assured manners. The inscription also makes clear that the 
mutinous Africans did not engage in indiscriminate massacre. 

Of the fifty-three Africans who had left Havana on September 27, 1839, 
nine died during the sea voyage and eight in New Haven, besides Foone. 94 
The jail where they were held prisoners in New Haven was opposite the 
old burial ground, which was not used after 1812. Those who died in jail 
may have been buried at the almshouse (on today's Elm Street) or in what 
is now called Grove Street Cemetery. In neither case is there an extant 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

In Norwichtown, Connecticut, the following grave inscription is hard to 
make out because the schist marker has suffered from erosion and is 
covered by lichen. It is situated at the margin of the old cemetery on the 
edge of a hill that descended once toward a swamp but now to a bank and 
an auto garage in a shopping plaza. 

In Memory of 
Boston Trowtrow 
Govener of y e Affri 
can Trib he Died 
May 28 1772 

The inscription does not state whether Boston Trowtrow was born in 
Africa or America, but his surname indicates close links to African cul- 
ture. Robert Farris Thompson thinks that the doubling of the name in 
"Trowtrow", obviously the English adaptation of an African word, suggests 
that the man was a West African of aristocratic birth. 95 

Trowtrow was one of the "Negro governors", here called "Governor of 
the African Tribe", who were elected by African Americans in New 
England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. White his- 
torians once looked derisively upon the institution of "Negro elections" 
and those holding office, dismissing them as "sham officials" endowed with 
"mock dignity," in spite of black testimony as to the effort and seriousness 
invested in the position of Negro governor. 96 More recently, Joseph P. 
Reidy has produced a less caustic explanation of the institution. He draws 
parallels between black American election celebrations and African fes- 
tivities and attitudes connected with political mandate. He agrees with 
earlier writers that by providing rituals of status reversal the elections 
functioned as a social safety valve among dissatisfied African Americans. 
But he also discerns "the structure for a viable measure of self- 
government" and "qualified leaders able to provide a year-round leader- 


Commemorating Black People 

ship" beneath the surface of social gatherings and voting procedures. 
Reidy also notes the recurrence of African names among the Negro 
Governors: Cuff, Quash, Quosh, Juba. Trowtrow may be added to the list. 
Evidently, African-born men were held in respect by the black community, 
and African names were not easily shed. 97 

Unfortunately Norwich historians appear to know nothing about Bos- 
ton Trowtrow except what the inscription in the graveyard says about him. 
The design on the tympanum of the stone is that of an angel with large, 
bloated eyes, heavily outlined eyebrows and pouting mouth, the back- 
combed hair or wig curling over the temples. The angel's physique does 
not suggest that he is African. The style points to the work of an eastern 
Connecticut stonecutter, Josiah Manning, who lived from 1725 to 1806 
and is known to have sold gravestones in Norwich in the 1770s. 98 

Black governors usually achieved local celebrity. We have the descrip- 
tion of a former Negro governor's funeral in Hartford, Connecticut. 
Another Boston, also a native African, died around 1813. 

With his cocked hat and sword upon his coffin, and fol- 
lowed by a numerous train, he was carried into the South 
Congregational Church, and there Dr. Flint pronounced a 
sort of funeral eulogy over his remains, which were after- 
wards deposited in the Centre Burying Ground. 99 

The nineteenth-century historian to whom we owe this report cannot con- 
ceive of a genuine funeral eulogy held for a black person; he qualifies the 
speech as travesty. There are real elections for white men, parody for 
blacks, real eulogies for one class of people and imitations for others. 


Grave monuments, whether unique creations or standardized, may be 
studied for the artistic, symbolic, social, economic, psychological, or other 
motivations underlying their purchase or production. Working from the 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

assumption that epitaphs provide the ultimate occasion for defining a 
person's social identity, we have looked at grave inscriptions of African 
Americans as descriptions of real, or projections of ideal, inter-ethnic 
relationships. Other possible features of interest, such as carved images, 
ornamentation and spatial organization of graves, have been largely 
neglected by concentrating on the epitaphs. 

Given their purpose of recommending the deceased to posterity and to 
ancestry (or whoever is to receive them in the otherworld), grave monu- 
ments have a tendency to eulogize in both their sacred and secular mes- 
sages. Disillusionment, discouragement, or dissatisfaction are convention- 
ally considered as inappropriate sentiments to be expressed on memorials. 
It is therefore hardly surprising to find that African Americans have 
chosen different textual vehicles for voicing discontent and depression. 
There are few if any echoes of fugitive slave narratives in eighteenth- and 
nineteenth-century epitaphs. 

John Jack, the subject of the epitaph that most poignantly denounces 
the institution of slavery, never gains contour as an individual. He appears 
to be acted upon by those who enslave him, by death, which gives him "his 
final emancipation", and by the author of the epitaph, who fits Jack's biog- 
raphy into a clever satirical structure. Several inscriptions inspired by that 
of John Jack credit their subjects with a higher degree of autonomy. Un- 
like his, their gravestones are set up as monuments to people rather than 
to political ideas. 

Whereas those markers commemorate individuals who gain or regain 
freedom in this life, some markers set up by slaveholders for privileged 
slaves seem to expect the dialectic of slavery and freedom to be resolved 
in the world to come. Praising the slave's willingness to work without 
recompense, they promise compensation in the afterworld. Their vision of 
a democratic hereafter provides an optimistic perspective at a point that 
means, above all, closure: the end of life, the termination of slavery. The 


Commemorating Black People 

temporal master surrenders authority at the very moment when the 
heavenly master takes charge. The gravestone documents the takeover; 
the slavemaster exerts a last and lasting textual control over the slave's 

In other epitaphs the bond of friendship is emphasized over that of 
slavery. Affection is substituted for respect, sentimentality for justice. 
Amid mutual attachment and general good feeling the slave's deprivation 
of individual autonomy is played down. In seeming to attach more impor- 
tance to emotional ties than to legal status, epitaphs remind the reader of 
sentimental descriptions of slavery in pro-slavery or apologetic literature. 

By stressing the ties of black individuals to masters and employers and 
by omitting their biological and socio-cultural relations, whites claim even 
the memory of blacks in a gesture of posthumous paternalism. On grave- 
stones of African Americans slaveholders assert ownership beyond the 
physical lives of slaves. The memorials become monuments to racial caste 
and class, documents of heteronomy. Yet they may be the only evidence 
we have of a historically dispossessed people. Though rarely providing 
more than the most rudimentary vital statistics, gravemarkers are tangible 
records of lives. In a largely "nameless" population, they help to recover a 
few identities, to reconstruct a few biographies. Besides their genealogical 
utility, however, they matter as visible, even touchable, markers of a group 
of people who were made historically invisible as individuals. 


Angelika Kr'uger-Kahloula 


1. Charles E. Stevens, Anthony Burns: A History (1856; reprint, New York. 1969), 167- 
168. More recently, David Bradley has the central character of his novel The 
Chaneysville Incident (New York, 1981, 1982) recall spending many hours in an old 
churchyard in Bedford, PA, in search of the gravestones of black people said to be 
buried there. He never finds evidence of any (174). It is not surprising that Bradley's 
historical reconstruction is based primarily on oral history. 

2. Anybody taking a walk in the Newport, R.I., Common Burying Ground will shrug off 
Stevens's lament as abolitionist polemics because the entire northeast section of that 
cemetery is taken up by gravestones of blacks, many of them erected by slaveholders. 
The Newport Common Burying Ground deserves attention and detailed research that 
would go beyond the scope of this study, not only because of the large number of 
monuments involved but also because an African American, Pompe Stevens, worked 
in a local stonecutter's shop (probably the John Stevens shop) and signed at least two 
of the markers. A study of his work is being undertaken by Ann and Dickran Tash- 
jian and we may look forward to gaining new insights into the life and work of an 
African American stonecutter working in a New England tradition. 

In this paper I shall be using the terms "epitaph" and "inscription" interchangeably. 

3. John Brown, Slave Life in Georgia (1855; reprint, Savannah, 1972), 5. In a telling foot- 
note, the editor of the 1972 edition, Alexis Chamerovzow, adds to this passage: 
"Brown was probably slightly older than he estimated." 

4. Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge, MA, 
1982), 331, 332. "Honor" and"who mattered" are to be understood according to the 
standard of the politically, economically, and socially dominant group. We know that 
slaves had their own code of honor, sense of dignity, and value system. 

5. Sarah B. G. Temple, Vie First Hundred Years: A Short History of Cobb County, in 
Georgia (Atlanta, 1935), 811. 

6. Timothy Flint, Recollections of the Last Ten Years (1826; reprint, New York, 1968), 

7. Ibid. 

8. In many societies, funeral expenses and gravestones are subject to social bookkeeping. 
Both social status and closeness of attachment of the deceased and the survivors 
determine the amount of resources spent on interment ceremonies and monuments. 
Social distinction does not end at death. Contemporary Western sensibility would 
find an explicit publicizing of the price paid for a memorial offensive to its idea of 


Commemorating Black People 

piety. In the 1920s D.R. Rosevear copied several inscriptions from Nigerian grave 
monuments in which the cost was stated. Two of them, from Abaragba, read: "His 
memory. Osimaku died Jan 3 of 1923. He was love and dear to his son families and 
friend. This monument is made by his e-Im(?). Okpa his brother spent L30." "Her 
memory by the late Oti Okpa died July 14th 1927. She was a catechism girl in R.C. 
Mission Abaragba. Ajan Eyam her brother spent L15." D.R. Rosevear, "Cross River 
Tombstones," TJie Nigerian Field 41/3 (1976), 120, 121. 

9. Kenneth Lindley, Of Graves and Epitaphs (London, 1965), 114. 

10. Ibid., 114-115. 

11. But is equality in assimilation the aim? Within the bounds of this paper I shall keep 
to the parameters set by European Americans, at the risk of participating in 
hegemony. In a complementary paper on African American grave decorations I hope 
to look at homemade markers and assemblages as evidence of a rich cultural tradition 
of memorializing the dead. I may have little to add, however, to the works of Robert 
Farris Thompson, especially chapter 2 of Flash of the Spirit (New York, 1983) and 
Elizabeth Fenn, "Honoring the Ancestors," Southern Exposure 13/5 (1985), 42-45. 
Her videotape, also entitled "Honoring the Ancestors", is available from North State 
Public Video, Durham, North Carolina. 

12. Susan Domowitz and Renzo Mandirola, "Grave Monuments in Ivory Coast, " African 
Arts 17/4 (1984), 52. 

13. Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Life and Labor in the Old South (Boston, 1929), 215. Martin 
Luther King's memorial in Atlanta carries the same theme, taken from the burden of 
a famous spiritual: "Free at last, Free at last. Thank God Almighty / I'm free at last." 

14. Langdon Mitchell, "The New Secession," Tim Atlantic Monthly 138 (1926), 175. As to 
the last line, compare Galations 3:28 and Colossians 3:11. 

15. One apologist of the peculiar institution affirms: "The Slave Institution at the South 
increases the tendency to dignify the family. Each planter in fact is a Patriarch." 
(C.G. Memminger, quoted in Eugene D. Genovese, Tlie World the Slaveholders Made 
(1969; reprint, New York, 1971), 195.) 

16. Julia E. Harn, "Old Canoochee-Ogeechee Chronicles," Georgia Historical Quarterly 16 
(1932), 150. 

17. Allison Davis, Burleigh B. Gardner, Mary R. Gardner, Deep South: A Social 
Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (Chicago, 1941), 450. 


Angelika Krbger-Kahloula 

18. In their discussion of the epitaph of "PHEBE / for many years a faithful domestic in 
the family of the late Governor Hopkins," of Providence, R.I., the authors of Creative 
Survival remind us that the white employer or slaveholder family was sustained at the 
expense of "the sanctity and stability of the black family." (The Rhode Island Black 
Heritage Society, c. 1980). 

19. In the late 1930s Austin Warner attended a funeral service in New Haven held for a 
black servant who had worked for a single family for almost fifty years. He had also 
been a deacon and belonged to several lodges. "In the funeral sermon, his life was 
characterized by one word, 'faithfulness'— to employer, family, church, and to all his 
commitments." (Robert Austin Warner, New Haven Negroes: A Social History (1940; 
reprint, New York, 1969, 256). 

20. Anne Sinkler Fishburne, Belvidere: A Plantation Memory (Columbia, S.C., 1949), 98, 
107. The epitaph occurs twice in the book, on a photograph and in transcription, as if 
a single mention were not enough to serve the purpose of self-advertising for these 
heiresses of the slaveholding class. 

21. Daniel Denison Slade, "The Bromfield Family," TJie New England Historical and 
Genealogical Register, 26:40 (1872). 

22. Ibid. 

23. Viator, "The Night Funeral of a Slave," De Bow's Review, Feb. 1856, 219. 

24. Susan Dabney Smedes, Memorials of a Southern Planter (1887; reprint, New York, 
1965), 47. 

25. Ibid., 48. 

26. Caroline Gilman, Recollections of a Southern Matron (New York, 1839), 81. 

27. Ibid., 83. 

28. Frederick Law Olmsted, Vie Cotton Kingdom (New York, reprint, 1953), 175. 
Olmsted copied several inscriptions from this cemetery. In 1843 another Northern 
necropolitan tourist, William Cullen Bryant, had visited it and noted the presence of 
nameless graves, overgrown with weeds, as well as marble, wooden, and brick monu- 
ments. William Cullen Bryant, Letters of a Traveller (London, 1850), 94. 

29. Olmsted 1953, 176. 

30. Temple 1935 (note 5), 624. 


Commemorating Black People 

31. Bradford Kingman, Epitaphs From Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts, From 1657 to 
1892 (Brookline, MA, 1892), 175. 

32. Ibid., 170. 

33. Cate, Wightman 1955 (note 61), 151. We also know that Small had a strong singing 
voice, which "could be heard a mile". (Lydia Parrish, Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Is- 
lands (New York, 1942), 191). When Cate wrote Our Todays and Yesterdays, she in- 
troduced Neptune Small's tale in a nostalgic mood: "The white man who has never 
lived among the true Southern darkies cannot know or appreciate the fine spirit of 
loyalty which the slave had for his master. Many stories are told of the heroism of 
these people in the trying days of the War Between the States, but none can rival that 
of Neptune Small." (1930, 155) Cate's idea of ultimate heroism on the part of the 
slave is that of risking his own life to secure the master's corpse, i.e. extending loyalty 
beyond death. Jacque, the slave mourned by Gilman (note 26), had gone even further 
than Neptune: he disinterred his master killed in action to bring him home to the 
family cemetery. 

34. A. Mott supplies two prototypes in Biographical Sketches and Interesting Anecdotes of 
Persons of Color (York, 1826): "The Grateful Negro" is a servant supporting his 
master with his day labor wages until a lawsuit is decided in the master's favor (144); 
"The Faithful Negress" sacrifices her life for a white child in the St. Domingo 
earthquake of 1770 (145). Few slaves received lasting grave monuments in Jamaica, 
in contrast to the smaller Caribbean Islands, but those who did were praised in the 
same terms as black servants in North America. A marker in Hyde Hall estate, 
Trelawney, commemorates the woman in charge of the slave children of the planta- 
tion: "In memory of / Eve / An honest, obedient and / faithful Slave, by her affec- 
tionate / and grateful master, / Henry Shirley / 1800". (Frank Cundall, Historic 
lamaica (London, 1915), 318). 

35. WPA, Delaware: A Guide to the First State (New York, 1938), 507. 

36. Ibid., 504. 

37. Harry E. Davis, A History of Freemasonry among Negroes in America (Washington, 
1946), 21. 

38. Ibid., 92. 

39. Ibid., 161. 

40. Ibid., 20. 

41. Hannah Farnham Lee, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Bom a Slave In St. Domingo 
(Westport, Conn. n. d.), 57. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

42. Ibid., 113. 

43. Ibid., 114-115. 

44. Old Bruton Parish Churchyard. WPA, Tlie Negro in Virginia (1949; reprint, New 
York, 1969), 76. 

45. Southview Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia. It is interesting to note that the children's 
names are not given but those of the employers, with whom Sophia Malone had 
economic rather than affectionate ties. 

46. Both Lucy Homer and Katie Wilson are buried in Grove Street Cemetery, New 
Haven, Conn. The later memorial is very simple and uses a nonracial occupational 

47. I owe the term "genealogical isolate" to Orlando Patterson, 1982 (note 4), 5. Robert 
W. Habenstein and William M. Lamers, in Funeral Customs the World Over 
(Milwaukee, 1960), 28, mention the opposite tendency, of genealogical promotion, 
among the Chinese, who, in order to enhance the prestige of the deceased, sometimes 
add names of fictitious descendants on grave markers. 

48. Mary Lundie Duncan, America As I Found It (London, 1852), 201. 

49. Cf. Peter H. Wood, Black Majority (1974; New York, 1975), especially chapter V, 
"More Like a Negro Country". On an individual and on a community-wide level, 
many slaves upheld the values masters tried to rob them of. Patterson describes the 
reaction of African Americans to imposed isolation: "Because his kin relations were il- 
legitimate, they were all the more cherished. Because he was considered degraded, 
he was all the more infused with the yearning for dignity. Because of his formal isola- 
tion and liminality, he was acutely sensitive to the realities of community." (Patterson 
1982, note 4, 337). 

50. I owe this reference and a rubbing of the marker to Judith Cataldo. Raymond L. 
Brown provides a transcription of a monument dated 1796 for Sunderland Point, Lan- 
caster, England. It emphasizes the solitude of a dislocated African who was buried 
there sixty years before the memorial was erected. The long inscription starts with 
the following words: "RESPECT THIS LONELY GRAVE / Here lies / Poor 
SAMBO / A faithful NEGRO / Who / (Attending his Master from the West Indies) 
/ DIED on his Arrival at SUNDERLAND / ..." {A Book of Epitaphs (New York, 
1967), 76). In the poem printed below, the first quatrain deplores the black alien's 
loneliness, the harsh coastal climate of Lancastershire providing imagery that corre- 
lates with the man's social estrangement. The second stanza then includes him in the 
(natural) cycle of the seasons, the third in the (supernatural) reunion of the souls, 
when approbation is based "Not on Man's COLOR but his "WORTH OF HEART." 


Commemorating Black People 

51. Vital Records of Wayland Massachusetts. To the Year 1850. (Boston, 1910). 

52. John Francis Marion, Famous and Curious Cemeteries (New York, 1977), 116. One of 
the motivations underlying the demand for posthumous togetherness was probably 
growing family sentiment with stronger marital and paternal/filial emotional attach- 
ment and weakened parochial ties. In 1797 the New Burying Ground in New Haven, 
Conn., was the first American cemetery to lay out family lots. (Ellen Strong Bartlett, 
Historical Sketches of New Haven (New Haven, 1897), 42). 

53. Temple 1935 (note 5), 809. 

54. Lewis and Milton Clarke, Narratives of the Sufferings of Lewis and Milton Clarke 
(Boston, 1846), 119. 

55. Ibid. 

56. European and Euro-American readers who do not recognize this concept as part of 
their cultural heritage are referred to "Cinderella" or to "Dynasty". In the latter TV 
program it is not unusual for an Anglo-American capitalist of the late 1980s to talk to 
his mother's gravestone. 

57. William C. Nell, Tlie Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (Boston, 1855), 144. 
In spite of detailed instructions from William Hosley of the Hartford Atheneum and 
the technical skills of two Middletown firefighters, I have not been able to locate this 
marker and am tempted to think that it is lost. 

58. One dismal consequence of the socially constructed category of chattel, both person 
and property, was for the slaves the ever-present menace of being killed by their 
masters or other white persons, who, depending on the circumstances, might be ac- 
quitted of homicide charges or be fined only. A fine was considered appropriate 
punishment for an offense against property. A master whose slave was killed by 
another white person could recover civil damages. (David L. Child, Tfie Despotism of 
Freedom (Boston, 1833), 31). The question of how much a slave's life was worth was 
the subject of numerous lawsuits. At times the funeral charges were part of the deal. 
In an 1836 Louisiana case a slave had died nine or ten months after changing masters. 
The purchaser had paid $700 for the woman and spent more than $150 on nursing and 
medical attention. In a supplemental petition he claimed $100 for funeral charges. 
The court decreed the return of the sales price with interest and $17 for funeral ex- 
penses. (Saul v. Magee: Helen T. Catterall, Judicial Cases Concerning American 
Slavery and the Negro, 5 vols. (Washington, 1926-1937), 3:511. 

59. Margaret Davis Cate, Our Todays and Yesterdays: A Story of Brunswick and the Coas- 
tal Islands (Brunswick, Georgia, 1930), 127. 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

60. Ibid., 128. 

61. Ibid. The 1955 edition of Margaret Cate, Orrin Sage Wightman, Early Days of Coas- 
tal Georgia (New York and St. Simon's Island), 75, gives the 3rd of August as date of 

62. To my knowledge we have studies of death news only in diaries and letters of Anglo- 
Americans, e.g. Lewis O. Saum, Tlte Popular Mood of Pre-Civil War America 
(Westport, Conn., 1980), chapter 4, "Death". Karen Cox, Betse Whilden, "Old Time 
Burials, "Foxfire 6/1 (1972), 8-25, use reproductions of letters as illustrations. 

63. Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, American Negro Slavery (New York, 1918), 292. 

64. Chase C. Mooney, Slavery in Tennessee (Bloomington, 1957), 90-91. 

65. Phillips 1929 (note 13), 215. 

66. Viator 1856 (note 23), 220. 

67. Jamie Coughtry, Jay Coughtry, "Black Pauper Burial Records: Providence, Rhode Is- 
land, 1777-1831," Rliode Island History 44/4 (1985), 113. I should like to thank 
Robert P. Emlen of the Nicholas Brown Foundation for this reference and for that in 
note 71. The last line is from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man" ("Moral Essays", 
Epistle IV, line 248). 

68. Perhaps newspapers could afford to be more outspoken about the achievements of 
African Americans. To be sure, they could be challenged by letters to the editor, sub- 
scriptions cancelled, presses smashed, printers lynched, but since they catered to a 
more educated public, they may have put forth statements that, if chiselled in stone, 
would have invited vandalism. A study matching epitaphs with obituaries could deter- 
mine the influence of the medium on the message. Sidney Kaplan, The Black 
Presence in the Era of the American Revolution: 1770-1780 (Washington, 1973), item 
64, has a facsimile of Tom Fuller's obituary. After identifying him by first name and 
as property of Mrs. Elizabeth Cox of Alexandria, the author of the obituary praises 
Tom's faculties and ends with the assertion: "Had his opportunities of improvement 
been equal to those of thousands of his fellow-men, neither the Royal Society of Lon- 
don, the Academy of Sciences at Paris, nor even a NEWTON himself, need have been 
ashamed to acknowledge him a Brother in Science." 

69. John Daggett, History of Attleborough (Boston, 1894), 727. 

70. Andrew Kull, New England Cemeteries: A Collector's Guide (Brattleboro, Vt., 1975), 

71. Coughtry, Coughtry, 1985 (note 67), 111. 


Commemorating Black People 

72. George Champlin Mason, Reminiscences of Newport (Newport, 1884), 107. 

73. Hylan Lewis, Blackways of Kent (Chapel Hill, 1955), 221. Another Newport marker 
provides a characterization written by a white man which is not condescending: 





A free black, 

of distinguished excellence: 

Intelligent, industrious 

affectionate, honest 

and of 

Exemplary Piety: 

who deceased 

June 29, 1804, aged 65 years 

"Blest thy slumbers in this house of clay 

And bright thy rising to eternal day." 

William E. Channing is supposed to be the author of this epitaph. (Robert S. 
Franklin, "Newport Cemeteries," Special Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society 10 
(December 1913), 29) Duchess Quamino was famous for her cakes. Once a year she 
entertained the three families she had served before emancipation. (Lorenzo J. 
Greene, TJxe Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776 (New York, 1942), 307.) 

74. This inscription, like those of Katie Wilson and Lucy Homer, were pointed out to me 
by the superintendent of Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, William M. Cameron 
Jr., an inexhaustable source of information and a very kind friend. He calls the plant 
growing behind the Tyler/Harris monument "African tiger lily". It very much 
resembles plants that I have seen in most of the black cemeteries I have visited in the 
Eastern United States. Since I found only three such plants in Grove Street 
Cemetery, I doubt whether its presence at Fenton Harris's grave is entirely fortuitous. 
Morris Tyler, great-grandson of the employer mentioned in the Harris epitaph, was so 
kind as to share his childhood memories of Fenton Harris with me. 

75. Charles L. Wallis, Stories on Stone: A Book of American Epitaphs (New York, 1954), 

76. I should like to express my sincere thanks to Beth Rich, the AGS archivist, who made 
this material available to me, and to Jonathan P. Twiss, who shared his research 
results on Joel Jackson and Venture Smith with me. 


Angelika Kriiger-Kahloula 

77. Rayford W. Logan, Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography 
(New York, 1982), 244. 

78. Sidney Kaplan 1973 (note 68), 217. 

79. Unless otherwise noted, the information about John Jack and his stone is taken from 
George Tolman, John Jack, Vie Slave, and Daniel Bliss, TJie Tory (Concord, c. 1902), 

80. Concord, Massachusetts: Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1635-1850 (Concord, 1894), 

81. Ruth R. Wheeler, Concord: Climate for Freedom (Concord, 1967), 109; Robert Gross, 
TJie Minutemen and Tlieir World (New York, 1976), 168. 

82. Wheeler, op. cit., 86; Gross, op. cit., 97. 

83. Patterson 1982 (note 4), VIII, IX. The peculiarities of the rhetorical construction of 
the John Jack epitaph make Tolman assume that Bliss wrote the original in Latin. 
This need not be the case, but the balanced structure, reminiscent of Juvenal and 
Martial, certainly betrays familiarity with Latin literature. This is no surprise in an 
eighteenth-century lawyer. 

84. Venture Smith, A narrative... (New London, 1798), 30. The facts cited in the next four 
paragraphs of the text are taken from the Narrative, IV, 5, 13, 27, 26, 28, 36. 

85. Personal communication from Jonathan P. Twiss, Dec. 14, 1987. 

86. F. Alexander Magoun, Amos Fortune's Choice: TJie Story of a Negro Slave's Struggle 
for Self-Fulfillment (Freeport, Maine, 1964), 1, 94, 115, 134, 146. In 1955, February 20 
was proclaimed Amos Fortune Day in New Hampshire. Except as noted, the facts in 
the next two paragraphs are taken from Magoun, 302, 223-4, 236. 

87. Sidney Kaplan 1973 (note 68), 226. 

88. Edward Sweetser Tillotson, Wethersfield Inscriptions (Hartford, Conn., 1899), 59. 

89. Sherman W. Adams, Henry R. Stiles, Tlie History of Ancient Wethersfield 
(Wethersfield, Conn., 1904, reprint 1974), 700. 

90. Wallis 1954 (note 75), 72-73. 

91. On August 26, 1839, a suspicious schooner, which had been sighted off the Long Is- 
land coast for two days, was seized by the United States brig Washington. The Amis- 
tad was not flying a flag at the time and was controlled by forty-four Africans, but 


Commemorating Black People 

there turned out to be two white men on board, Cubans Jose Ruiz and Pedro Mon- 
tez, who asserted ownership of the blacks as their slaves. They had left Havana for 
another Cuban port on June 28, the slaves had mutinied and killed the captain and the 
cook. The other crew members escaped in a boat. Ruiz and Montez were spared but 
ordered to navigate the ship to Africa. Steering east in the daytime but northwest at 
night they managed to sail toward the North American coast. The mutineers were 
taken to New London, then to New Haven and later to Hartford to be tried for mur- 
der and piracy. Ruiz and Montez, however, preferred the slaves to be returned to 
them rather than having them executed and they filed corresponding claims on Sep- 
tember 18. In the meantime, antislavery leaders had organized a defense committee 
for the mutineers. As the Africans spoke neither English nor Spanish, they could not 
be questioned until Yale Professor of Theology J.W. Gibbs found a sailor from Sierra 
Leone who then served as an interpreter. The defense counsel, including John 
Quincy Adams, learned that the West Africans had been captured and sold into 
slavery only a few months before. As the slave trade was prohibited by Spanish law, 
their slave status in Cuba had been illegal and could not be maintained in the United 
States. A New Haven court in January 1840 ruled that the Africans were free and that 
they should be transported back to Africa in accordance with an 1819 statute. The 
ensuing legal battle, complicated by diplomatic discord with Spain, took the "Amistad 
Affair" to the United States Supreme Court, which declared the captives free on 
March 9, 1842. Since no provision was made for their passage back to Africa, funds 
had to be raised among supporters of the antislavery cause before the Africans were 
shipped back to their home country later that year. 

92. Ellen Strong Bartlett, "The Amistad Captives," Tlie New England Magazine N.S. 22/1 
(1900), 87. 

93. Mary Cable, Black Odyssey: Vie Case of the Slave Ship Amistad (New York, 1971), 

94. Bernard Christian Steiner, "History of Slavery in Connecticut," (1893), in Slavery in the 
States (1969), 68. 

95. Lecture "From West Africa to the Black Americas: The Black Atlantic Visual 
Tradition", Spring semester 1986, Yale University. Lecture note for March 25, 1986: 
"Trow-trow= toro-toro by analogy with Fra-Fra - fara-fara. Doubling the name 
equals nobility of descent..." 

96. George S. Porter, Inscriptions From Gravestones on the Old Burying Ground, Norwich 
Town, Connecticut (Norwich, 1933), 6; Ebenezer D. Bassett, quoted in Orville H. 
Piatt, "Negro Governors," Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society 6 (1900), 


Angelika Kruger-Kahloula 

97. Joseph P. Reidy, "Negro Election Day and Black Community Life in New England, 
1750-1860," Marxist Perspectives, Fall 1978, 112; 108. A black man named Leb Quy 
from Norwich served as a Continental soldier for three years and was one of the 
town's quota during the War of Independence in 1780 and 1781. (Frances M. 
Caulkins, History of Norwich, Connecticut (Norwich, 1874), 331). 

98. Ernest Caulfield, "Connecticut Gravestones VIII: Josiah Manning (1725-1806)," The 
Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 27/3 (1962), 76-84; Ibid., "Connecticut Graves- 
tones XV: Three Manning Imitators," Tlie Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 43/1 
(1978), 1-16. Caulfield points out the similarities between Manning's work and that of 
John Walden II. A distinctive feature that helps to differentiate the work of the two is 
the form of the soul effigy: whereas the Manning faces are oval, those of Walden are 
perfect circles. (1978, 12) The Trowtrow marker features an oval face. I want to 
thank Alfred M. Fredette for drawing my attention to this point. 

99. Scaeba (I.E. Stuart), Hartford in the Olden Time: Its First TJiirty Years (Hartford, 
1853), 40. 


Fig. 1 Typical concrete "dove and cross" style marker crafted by Renial 
Culbreth. The inscription is made by pressing commercially-produced 
letters into the wet concrete. Irene McLaurin, 1968, Mt. Zion AMEZ 
Churchyard, Cumberland County. 



M. Ruth Little 

Sleep on Mother 

We Love You But God 

Loves U Best 

This epitaph for an eastern North Carolina black woman who died in 
1968, made with store-bought letters pressed into wet concrete by a local 
blacksmith, expresses the essential qualities of the gravemarkers that are 
the subject of this study. The marker is made of inexpensive materials by 
a local black craftsman, and it is emotionally direct in both its words and 
its pictorial symbols, a cross, dove and vase of flowers (Fig. 1). 

The Afro-American tradition, as exemplified largely in twentieth- 
century graves, was one of the North Carolina traditions of marker design 
investigated by the author from 1980 to 1982 (the others being the 
English, Scottish and German). Four basic types of black markers-the 
grave mound, the head and foot marker, the grave enclosure and the grave 
sculpture-were recorded during intensive fieldwork in four of the total 
one hundred counties in the state. These four counties, New Hanover, 
Cumberland, Davidson and Lincoln, represent a geographic and ethnic 
cross-section. North Carolina had a substantial slave population during 
the antebellum period, and two of the counties, New Hanover and Cum- 
berland, are in the eastern region where the slave population was con- 

The author recorded thirty-two black graveyards in Cumberland 
County, twelve in New Hanover county and seven in Davidson County 
(see map). Also recorded were selected black folk markers in the eastern 
and piedmont regions of the state. Most of the recorded graveyards are 
church-yards belonging to the AME Zion and Baptist denominations in 



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Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

the east and to the Baptist denomination in the piedmont, and most of 
those studied date back no earlier than 1900. The preponderance of 
church-yards is explained by the survey methodology, which was to locate 
graveyards on United States Geological Survey maps and existing 
cemetery inventories. Most small family and community graveyards do 
not show up in these sources. This is an intensive study and sampling of a 
comparatively small area. Little has been written on the general subject, 
and the books and articles which have been published are not widely avail- 
able. Examples are cited in the footnotes. 1 

When analyzing North Carolina gravemarkers as a category of artifacts 
important to the study of material culture, two primary dichotomies 
emerge: the folk/popular and the black/white. These occur in many per- 
mutations in the recorded graveyards. In all four counties the rural dis- 
persal of the population and the generally agricultural economy have 
preserved the isolated folk nature of many black communities. There is 
more similarity between individual markers for blacks and whites than 
there is between the overall design of black graveyards and white 
graveyards. Nevertheless, there are fundamental visual distinctions in 
black and white grave traditions in North Carolina. 2 

In general, the style, material and craftmanship of gravemarkers for 
blacks relate to the socio-economic status of the family, just as they do in 
gravemarkers for whites. In large black urban cemeteries where wealthy 
black families are buried, the professionally carved marble monument is 
the aesthetic norm. But in rural community graveyards the markers fall 
into the folk category. The chief difference at the lower end of the socio- 
economic spectrum between gravemarkers for blacks and whites is that 
black craftsmen are less guided by popular and academic gravestone tradi- 
tions and are more original. 


M. Ruth Little 

The most striking difference between graveyards for blacks and those 
for whites is in overall design. With the exception of large urban public 
cemeteries for blacks, the layout of black family and church graveyards 
has distinct, easily distinguishable characteristics. These yards are usually 
in wooded areas where high grass, undergrowth and trees prevent the ob- 
server from gaining a clear vista of the entire graveyard. As in white 
graveyards, individual graves are generally oriented east-west, i.e., head to 
west, feet to east. However, black graves are not aligned parallel with 
each other or in rows as are white graves. Families are loosely grouped, 
but the placement of individual graves within the family grouping has no 
established order, so that the rhythm of the overall design is irregular and 
strongly individualistic. In eastern North Carolina, where grave plots are 
often enclosed by fences, the unit of enclosure in white graveyards is the 
family plot; in black graveyards it is the individual grave. 

A second striking distinction between white and black graveyards is in 
the design of the individual markers. A majority of markers in rural black 
graveyards are homemade. In materials and symbolism a characteristic 
set of aesthetic ideals is in evidence. The materials are ephemeral: either 
found objects such as shells and bric-a-brac; commercial metal and plastic 
items intended for functional household use; concrete; or perishable 
materials such as sculpted earth and wood. Shells and objects used by the 
deceased, such as lamps, bowls, vases and mirrors, may have more than 
decorative function when serving as grave ornaments. Research by 
American folklorists has shown that the practice of placing broken 
household objects on graves has been explained by blacks themselves as a 
means of appeasing the spirit of the deceased and of preventing the spirit 
from returning to the home. 3 

Unfortunately, only a handful of pre-twentieth-century black folk 
gravemarkers were found. Most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century folk 
gravemarkers for whites are made of stone, which has a relatively high 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

rate of survival. If the pre-twentieth-century black folk markers were 
created from the same type of ephemeral materials that are being used in 
the twentieth century, it is obvious why they have not survived. Although 
many reputed slave graveyards survive in North Carolina, the markers in 
those seen by the author are either uninscribed fieldstones or, rarely, a 
professionally carved marble headstone. Many of these slave yards have 
no visible markers at all, although archaeological research may uncover 
evidence that markers once existed. 

Only one of thirty-two black graveyards recorded in Cumberland 
County, in the Coastal Plain, is known to be a slave graveyard: the Evans 
Slave Graveyard adjacent to the Evans Family Graveyard on the Cape 
Fear River. It contains the only two black markers with antebellum dates 
recorded by the author. The markers are small, plain, marble headstones 
with these inscriptions: 

My own good LUCY 
died 1856 
aged 36 yrs 


died 1856 
aged yrs 

Mark the perfect 

These two stones contribute little to understanding slave gravemarker 
traditions, for they reflect the aesthetic of Lucy's and Harry's white 
masters rather than of the slaves themselves. It is possible that even in 
death slaves were not free to express themselves and mark graves in their 
own way. This is an open question which the tools of oral history and his- 
torical archaeology may someday answer. 


M. Ruth Little 

All the other gravemarkers found by the author in black family, com- 
munity, church and public graveyards date after the Civil War, and, with 
only a handful of exceptions, after 1900. Although slave graveyards cer- 
tainly existed throughout the areas of plantation economy in North 
Carolina, depressions are all that are visible in most of them. However, it 
is possible that some slave burial customs can be inferred from twentieth- 
century black graveyards, for death traditions are durable, and it is likely 
that there are eighteenth- and nineteenth-century precedents for the four 
types of black gravemarkers made in this century: grave mounds, head 
and foot markers, grave enclosures and grave sculpture. 

Grave Mounds 

The dirt grave mound, the minimal marker, is a venerable black tradi- 
tion often found in combination with other types of markers. Because of 
sinking and erosion, the grave mound must be reworked periodically if the 
shape is to be maintained. If this reworking rarely occurs, it may be be- 
cause of belief rather than neglect. During the author's inspection of the 
Burns family graveyard in east Cumberland County, Miss Lisa, an eighty- 
year-old member of the family, asked a relative about a row of four fresh 
grave mounds. She was told that one was a new grave and that the other 
three were reworked when the new grave was dug. Miss Lisa exclaimed, 
"It's bad luck to rework a grave. Supposed to just let 'em sink on down." 4 

Dirt grave mounds decorated with sea shells, common in the Coastal 
Plain, are found in black rural graveyards less frequently than in white 
rural graveyards. The practice of decorating graves with shells may occur 
less frequently among blacks, but a reason for the disparity may be the 
generally inferior maintenance of black graveyards, allowing shells to be 
scattered and hidden by undergrowth. Shell grave mounds are present in 
two black New Hanover County graveyards, Hank's Chapel AME Church- 
yard and the Flemington Cemetery. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

At Swans Creek Baptist Church and Willis Creek Church in Cumber- 
land County there are groups of grave mounds that are covered with con- 
crete stucco. Most of these mounds have headstones and footstones that 
carry the inscriptions, but an interesting variation is the inscription for 
M.B. McNair (d. 1959), which is hand-lettered in the side of the concrete- 
covered mound. 

In the 1960s a flat concrete slab, installed by the funeral home on top of 
the concrete grave vault, came into widespread use in eastern North 
Carolina black graveyards, and these slabs continue to be popular there. 
No examples were found in the white graveyards. The inscription is on a 
small tablet, usually of marble or bronze, embedded in the head end of 
the slab. The funeral home often places a small plaque identifying itself at 
the foot end of the slab. Sometimes a decorative plaster or bronze relief 
sculpture, such as Christ kneeling at the Mount of Olives or a pair of pray- 
ing hands or a feather, is embedded in the center or lower end of the slab. 
Most slabs have a smooth finish covered with white paint, but they oc- 
casionally have a rusticated finish and sometimes a covering of reflective 
silver paint (Fig. 2). In West Africa the grave symbolized the bottom of a 
river bed where the soul rested, and mirrors on the grave created the im- 
pression of reflective water. 5 

Head and Foot Markers 

The single most common type of black gravemarker is the concrete 
headstone, usually hand-crafted rather than ordered from one of the large 
suppliers of the concrete headstones found in white graveyards. The only 
evidence of mass production of concrete markers within a black com- 
munity is in New Hanover County. During the 1960s the Shaw Funeral 
Home, the oldest black undertaking company in operation in Wilmington, 
made concrete headstones with a rectangular recess fitted with a 


M. Ruth Little 

cardboard plaque containing a stamped inscription. 6 The company aban- 
doned this short-lived experiment in the late 1960s, but many of its 
products are standing in the county's black graveyards. 

In both New Hanover and Cumberland counties there is ample 
evidence that local black craftsmen made concrete headstones. The vast 
majority of these are plain, but occasionally they are self-conscious imita- 
tions of professionally manufactured markers or creative improvisations. 
The New Hanover craftsmen did not sign their work, and they remain 
anonymous, but oral history may uncover some of their identities. 

Fig. 2 Silver-painted concrete grave slab. The funeral home's identify- 
ing tablet and a relief sculpture of a feather are embedded in the concrete. 
Frances G. Gainey, 1980, Mt. Zion AMEZ Churchyard, Cumberland 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

The author has identified two men in Cumberland County who engaged 
in sidelines of making coffins, digging graves and then the fashioning of 
head and foot markers. They are Renial Culbreth and Issiah McEachin. 

Renial Culbreth 

Nine of the black graveyards in Cumberland County contain markers 
made by Renial Culbreth, a blacksmith who made gravestones as a 
sideline, through individual commission, from the 1940s to the 1960s (Fig. 
3). Culbreth was born near Vander in east Cumberland County on May 
28, 1892. He was a blacksmith in Vander and later in Roseboro, in ad- 
jacent Sampson County. Before the advent of professional undertakers in 
the black community, which probably occurred after World War II, he 
made wooden coffins and carried bodies to the graveyard in his horse- 
drawn wagon. In later years he cast concrete gravestones, working out of 
his blacksmith shop in Roseboro and, in his last years, in a shed behind his 
house in the 600 block of West Railroad Street, Roseboro. He died 
January 30, 1974. 7 

Approximately twenty of Culbreth's markers within a twenty-mile 
radius of Vander were located and recorded by the author. According to 
Culbreth's family, his work may also be found in adjacent Bladen and 
Sampson Counties. He used a repertoire of four headstone shapes, cor- 
responding to the four wooden molds he fashioned: the scroll, the tablet, 
the dove and cross, and the double headstone with urn. Concrete was 
poured into the wooden mold to produce the basic form. Then commer- 
cially produced letters and numbers were pressed into the wet concrete to 
incise the inscription, and small wooden press molds and scraps of metal 
were pressed in for relief decoration. The last step was to paint the entire 
marker white. Most of the paint has worn off Culbreth's markers. 


Fig. 3 Renial Culbreth (1892-1974), blacksmith, undertaker and maker 
of coffins and gravemarkers. At home in Roseboro, Sampson County, in 
the 1960s. 

Fig. 4 Typical "scroll style" marker crafted in concrete by Renial 
Culbreth. Clinnie M. Owens (d. 1966) First Baptist Church, Stedman 
vicinity, Sampson County. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

The headstone of Clinnie M. Owens (d. 1966), at the First Baptist 
Church, Stedman vicinity, is typical of Culbreth's scroll design (Fig. 4). It 
is a thick concrete headstone on a concrete base, with a segmental-arched 
top. Culbreth cast strips of wooden molding into the top of the front sur- 
face to give the effect of a molded pediment. An arched recessed panel 
beneath the pediment contains the name of the deceased, and birth and 
death dates are at the bottom, below a large scroll inscribed, "THE LORD IS 
MY SHEPHERD." Abstract curvilinear motifs decorate the top corners. 
The molds for the scroll and the corner decoration were apparently metal 
strips bent to the desired shapes. 

Fig. 5 Typical "tablet-style" marker crafted in concrete by Renial 
Culbreth. Dixon McLaurin, 1949, Mt. Zion AMEZ Churchyard, Cumber- 
land County. 


M. Ruth Little 

Culbreth's second basic design resembles a tablet resting on a stand. 
The headstone of Dixon McLaurin (d. 1949), at Mt. Zion AMEZ Church- 
yard, is typical (Fig. 5). The inscription, with curvilinear floral designs 
beneath it, is within a rectangular frame supported at a forty-five degree 
angle on a concrete base. The somewhat unusual shape is probably imita- 
tive of a recognition plaque set on a display stand. 

The third basic design, the dove and cross, is a large segmental-arched 
headstone on a concrete base. Its decoration and symbolism are complex. 
On an example at Mt. Zion Churchyard are a large dove in flight with rays 
of light beaming toward it, a cross and a vase of flowers (Fig. 1). Fitted in 
among these decorative symbols is the inscription: 



D June 14 1968 


Another example of Culbreth's dove- and cross-design is the headstone 
for Charlie Fuller at Lock's Creek AME Zion Church, with the epitaph: 


Culbreth's fourth design, an urn flanked by two headstones, comes from 
popular patternbooks supplied by monument firms in Elberton, Georgia. 8 
The only example of this design found by the author is for John and Laura 
Geddie (d. 1941 and 1942) in the Kelly-McLaurin Graveyard (Fig. 6). 
Each flanking headstone is inscribed and decorated with abstract cur- 
vilinear designs in the corners. A central cross is inscribed: 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 





The basic shapes used by Renial Culbreth correspond closely to 
popular commercial marble monument design. His originality emerges in 
the decoration which he pressed into the wet concrete with his hand- 
crafted molds of doves, scrolls, vases of flowers, crosses and floral orna- 
ment. Although he probably drew much of his imagery from commercial 
marble monuments, he simplified it and used it in novel combinations 
meaningful to his own community~the AMEZ congregations of Cumber- 
land and Sampson Counties. As part of a tradition of homemade concrete 
gravemarker production in black settlements of eastern North Carolina, 
Culbreth's work easily fits the definition of folk art as art produced outside 
the mainstream of rapidly changing fashions. 


Fig. 6 An urn and cross flanked by two inscribed markers, crafted in 
concrete by Renial Culbreth. John and Laura Geddie, 1941, 1942, Kelly- 
McLaurin Graveyard, Cumberland County. 


M. Ruth Little 

Issiah McEachin 

Issiah McEachin, the second black folk gravemarker artist identified by 
the author, lives and works in Cumberland County. Ten of his markers 
stand within a fifteen-mile radius of his home in Eastover, a small com- 
munity east of Fayetteville. 9 McEachin (pronounced McAhern) was born 
on June 15, 1922, near Red Springs in Robeson County, south of Cumber- 
land. Following World War II, he trained as a brick mason with Player 
Construction Company in Fayetteville. He is now self-employed. 
McEachin is a jovial, middle-aged man who lives with his wife in a one- 
story frame house at 2596 Haywood Road, a sandy dirt road surrounded 
by tobacco and corn fields (Fig. 7). His ingenuity and creativity are evi- 
dent in the attractive semicircular brick steps he added to his front porch 
and in the Victorian brackets and spindlework he recycled and installed 
on his porch in an unorthodox, upside-down position. 

Fig. 7 Issiah McEachin (1922- ), gravedigger and gravestone maker, at 
home in Eastover, Cumberland County, 1982. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

McEachin began making gravestones about 1970 as a result of another 
part-time occupation ~ grave digging. After digging inadvertently into in- 
adequately marked existing graves, he recognized the need for good, inex- 
pensive gravemarkers in his community. He has made about eighteen 
markers; for each he charged about fifty dollars and worked a total of 
about two and one-half hours. Like Culbreth, he builds his own wooden 
molds and uses commercially produced metal letters and numbers for in- 
cising the inscriptions. The only decorations on his stones are children's 
glass playing marbles, which he presses into the wet concrete to form bor- 
ders. The idea of using marbles occured to him as a substitute for the 
shiny quality of granite, which he wanted to duplicate but could not 
achieve with the rough surfaces of concrete. He casts the markers on a 
framework of steel rods, like those used in concrete footings, and leaves 
portions exposed at the base to bury in the ground when the marker is put 
in place. McEachin notes proudly that the marbles are impossible to 
chisel out because he buries them in the concrete by about three-fourths 
of their diameter. McEachin had one marker on order at the time of his 
interview with the author. His dream for the future is to make brick 
gravemarkers with inscriptions fashioned of metal letters attached to the 
brick or cast into a concrete panel set into the brick. Meanwhile, 
McEachin's "marble markers" have a whimsy that distinguishes them from 
other homemade and professional markers in local cemeteries. The 
headstone of Ernest L. Barkin, at Flea Hill Church, is typical of his work 
(Fig. 8). The inscripton reads: 










Fig. 8 Concrete marker decorated with glass marbles, typical of whimsi- 
cal markers made by Issiah McEachin. Ernest L. Barkin, 1970, Flea Hill 
Church, Cumberland County. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

Multi-colored marbles are pressed into the sides and around the top of 
the Barkin marker to form a triangular pediment. The footstone is a con- 
crete plaque inscribed with the name of the deceased and decorated with 
a border of imbedded marbles. All of McEachin's markers have the same 
basic shape, and all but one are decorated with multi-colored marbles. 
The exception, the headstone for Edith Whitted (d. 1971) at Mt. Zion 
Church, has borders of marbles that are all green. 

Like the markers of Renial Culbreth, McEachin's markers are concrete 
copies of popular grave monuments, personalized with his unique decora- 
tion. The use of children's marbles is apparently original, and his con- 
tribution to the tradition of creative recycling of materials to decorate 
gravemarkers gives McEachin a place in black folk art. 

Anonymous Craftsmen 

Several other groups of artistic concrete markers exist in black 
graveyards in Cumberland and New Hanover Counties, but their makers 
remain anonymous. Some used fraternal symbols, which are relatively 
common on black gravemarkers. At Spring Hill Church near Hope Mills 
is a plain concrete headstone for D.D. Dixon (d. 1907) with the traditional 
Masonic compass and square cast into the top, using the actual objects as 
press molds. One craftsman working in the 1930s and 1940s in south 
Cumberland County used a symbol which may signify a fraternal organiza- 
tion such as the Knights of Pythias or the Eastern Star (the women's divi- 
sion of the Masonic Order). His markers are cast concrete headstones 
with rounded tops; they are set on concrete bases, and the inscriptions are 
hand-lettered in the wet concrete. A press mold, probably fabricated from 
pieces of metal, was used to inscribe the symbols. The headstone of 
Jannie McAlister, at Snow Hill AME Zion Church, is typical of this group 


M. Ruth Little 

of five markers, except for one additional decorative element, an em- 
bedded piece of cast-iron, perhaps recycled hardware (Fig. 9). The 
marker is inscribed: 


K P 





29 1902 


A.D. 1943 

Fig. 9 Concrete marker cast, lettered and decorated by an unidentified 
maker. Jannie J. McAlister, 1943, Show Hill AME Zion Churchyard, 
Cumberland County. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

The word "MEMBR EY" may be a phonetic misspelling of "member" or 
"memory" or "remember" or possibly a combination of these words. 

Flemington Community Cemetery in rural New Hanover County con- 
tains a group of five concrete headstones by this same anonymous 
craftsman, and a number of unique homemade headstones by other 
craftsmen, as well as some unusual headstones made of marble. The 
markers in this cemetery are aligned neatly in rows rather than scattered 
loosely in the black tradition, probably because the cemetery was moved 
to its present location. A sizeable black community has used this cemetery 
since the late nineteenth century. One of the professionally cut marble 
headstones has this unusual inscription: 


African Slave 




May 21, 1927 

Another professionally cut marble headstone, for Mary E. Johnson (d. 
1926), has an epitaph similar to the lyrics of black gospel hymns: 

We loved her, Yes we loved her, 
But Jesus loved her more, and 
He has sweetly called her, to yonder 
Shining shore, The Golden Gate 
Was open, A gentle Voice said, come 
With a fairwell unspoken she calmly 
entered home 

The most distinctive group of homemade concrete markers in this 
cemetery is comprised of five creative but crude headstones, painted 
white, with inscriptions cast with homemade letters, and death dates from 
1937 to 1951. The marker for Lazurs Underwood (d. 1943) has a single 
large flower cast in relief at its top; the little marker for Georgie Spicer (d. 


M. Ruth Little 

1946) has an awkwardly scalloped top; and the headstone for Richard T. 
Nixon (d. 1951) has an even more unresolved shape~an undulating top 
which gives the impression that the concrete is still flowing. The boldest 
design, used on the headstone for Mrs. Irene Dry (d. 1937) and Mrs. Flora 
Spears (d. 1950), has three cast semicircular floral rondels at the top (Fig. 

Isolated examples of concrete headstones hand-crafted in a folk tradi- 
tion occur in black graveyards throughout North Carolina. These are al- 
most always painted white. Two of the concrete markers in Cumberland 
County are inscribed with metal lettering purchased from a hardware 
store: the headstone for Carolin Williams (d. 1964 at age 101) in the Oak 



» \w 


C ' i 


'■'■ . ■ 

Fig. 10 One of a group of distinctive markers by an unidentified grave- 
stone maker. Mrs. Flora Spears, 1950, Flemington Community Cemetery, 
New Hanover County. 


Fig. 11 Keyhole concrete marker with lettering on metal tracks. O.A. 
Melvin, 1961, China Grove Baptist Churchyard, Cumberland County. 


M. Ruth Little 

Grove Community Graveyard has metal letters and numerals glued to its 
surface; and the marker for O.A. Melvin (d. 1961), in China Grove Baptist 
Church, is a tall keyhole-shaped headstone on a high concrete base, with 
letters and numerals arranged in two metal tracks like the name and ad- 
dress on a rural mailbox (Fig. 11). 

Orange County, in the piedmont, has several interesting homemade 
markers noted during random fieldwork. A bird was drawn in the wet 
concrete of each arm of the cross-shaped headstone for Marvin Sims (d. 
1926) at Mt. Gilead Churchyard. Traces of blue paint outline the birds, 
and a scene of bushes or trees is painted near the base of the cross. The 
small concrete headstone for Albert Browder (d. 1945) and his wife Lela 
(d. 1958), in Mt. Bright Baptist Churchyard in Hillsborough, has an actual 
pocket watch embedded in the concrete. Although the hands are now 
missing, rust marks show that their position was at 5:30, probably the time 
of death. Corrugated metal strips are embedded in the concrete to form 
stars and other decorative patterns in the tympanum. In a rural black 
community graveyard in Hillsborough, two concrete crosses have inscrip- 
tions that are professionally engraved on brass plaques embedded in the 
concrete. The cross for Gery Morgan (d. 1939) has a large seashell em- 
bedded in each arm. The other cross, for Dilroy and Samuel Harrison (d. 
1944), is decorated with an embedded seashell and three stars cast in 
relief and painted yellow~the seashell and a star on the cross's vertical 
post and a star on each arm. 

The two most interesting black folk headstones recorded in the pied- 
mont county of Davidson are made of concrete and decorated with bits of 
mirror and stained glass. The concrete headstone for Emma Verdell (d. 
1937), in Buncombe Baptist Churchyard in Petersville, uses mirror frag- 
ments in a manner similar to that used to decorate an evocative headstone 
described by a Georgia folklorist. On the Georgia stone is the mark of a 
human hand with a piece of mirror embedded in its palm 10 , while the 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

slender Verdell headstone, with its pointed tympanum and molded border, 
has its surface embedded with crudely cut mirror fragments in the shapes 
of a quarter-moon and stars (Fig. 12). Emma Verdell moved to a com- 
munity of ex-slaves in Petersville in the early twentieth century from Al- 
berton, Georgia. 11 

A headstone using stained glass may be found in the Old Smith Grove 
Baptist Churchyard in Davidson County. Both this headstone and its 
footstone are hand-crafted of concrete and pierced by panels of trans- 
lucent blue stained glass set in lead muntins (Fig. 13). Both markers are 
painted white, and neither is inscribed. 

Fig. 12 Concrete marker decorated with moon and stars cut from mir- 
ror. Emma Verdell, 1937, Buncombe Baptist Churchyard, Petersville, 
Davidson County. 


Fig. 13 Uninscribed concrete headstone and footmarker painted white 
and inlaid with panels of blue glass. Old Smith Grove Baptist Church- 
yard, Davidson County. 

Not only metal and glass but even marble, the pre-eminent material of 
professional gravestones, is recycled in black graveyards. In a small num- 
ber of black graveyards in New Hanover and Cumberland and Davidson 
Counties, fragments of marble, perhaps reused from other gravstones or 
from demolished buildings, serve as gravemarkers. At Buncombe Baptist 
Churchyard in Petersville, Davidson County, a broken slab of countertop 
marble, with no inscription, serves as a headstone. Most reused marble 
markers are not inscribed, but in Flemington Cemetery an interesting ex- 
ample, which has one molded edge and was apparently part of a marble 
ledger, is inscribed in an artistic but amateurish lettering style: 

Earhbow Hainelt 

BORNE 1814 

DIED AUG. 1ST, 1888 

Mother of [ ] 
Armstrong and John James. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

Grave Enclosures 

The third most common type of black gravemarker, the grave enclo- 
sure, occurs exclusively in eastern North Carolina. In white graveyards 
nineteenth-century graves are occasionally surrounded with a cast-iron, 
marble or wooden railing, or "paling," but the usual custom was to enclose 
the entire family plot rather than the individual grave. In black graveyards 
the unit enclosed is usually the individual grave. The boundary takes the 
form of a low cinderblock wall, a low metal or plastic fence or a border of 
bricks, shells, rocks or even wooden stakes (Fig. 14). 

Decorative concrete blocks often enclose the graves in New Hanover 
County. The grave of James F. Little (d. 1964), in the Hill Graveyard in 
Wilmington, is enclosed by a solid concrete block border ten inches high. 
On the west end of the border, three large pierced concrete blocks form a 
headpiece, and two identical blocks on the east end form the footpiece 
(Fig. 15). These pierced blocks are commercial imitations of the concrete 
screen used in the Indian-inspired architecture of Edward Durrell Stone in 
the 1950s and 1960s. A metal identification plaque supplied by the 
funeral home and centered in front of the headpiece is the only inscrip- 
tion. A number of similar grave borders, also painted white, occur in 
Hank's Chapel AME Churchyard and the Freeman Community 
Graveyard. The double grave of Mamie and James Franks (d. 1958 and 
1956), in Zion Chapel Cemetery, is lined with commercial concrete coping 
blocks, and the inscription on the homemade concrete headstone is let- 
tered with white chalk or tile grout. In both New Hanover and Cumber- 
land Counties flower garden fencing of metal and plastic encloses in- 
dividual graves. The same type of fence encloses entire family plots in 
some rural white graveyards. 


Fig. 14 Grave enclosures made of cement blocks and flower garden fenc- 
ing. Hank's Chapel AME Churchyard, New Hanover County. 

Fig. 15 Cement block grave enclosure with headstone and footpiece 
made of large pierced blocks. An identification plaque is centered be- 
tween the three head blocks. James F. Little, 1964, Hill Graveyard, Wil- 
mington, New Hanover County. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 

Grave Sculpture 

The fourth and least common type of gravemarker for blacks is three- 
dimensional "found sculpture." Three unique gravemarkers in eastern 
North Carolina fit into this category of non-traditional funerary sculpture. 
Each seems to relate personally to the deceased and to be the product of a 
spontaneous moment of inspiration. The fact that the markers exist tes- 
tifies to a tradition of freedom in grave decoration among blacks that is 
not evident in markers for whites. 

The first of these sculptures is a wooden ladder that extends from a 
grave, apparently representing a ladder to Heaven. This is said to be lo- 
cated in a black churchyard in Menola community in west Hertford 
County, in the Albemarle region. 12 The second grave sculpture is in the 
cemetery of Swans Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland County. The 
grave of William Rudolph Coachman (d.1966) is marked by a 
government-issue marble headstone which notes his service in World War 
II as "TEC 5 4380 TRK CO." Marking the foot of Coachman's grave is an 
automobile wheel rim topped with a decorative arrangement of socket 
wrenches and plastic flowers (Fig. 16). He was apparently an automobile 
mechanic, and the sculpture is a strongly personalized statement of his 
vocation or avocation. Occupational symbols are traditional grave decora- 
tion in West Africa and other areas. 13 

Finally, in a black community cemetery in north New Hanover County, 
a styrofoam chair decorated with greenery and flowers sits at the head of 
an otherwise unidentified grave (Fig. 17). Although its professional con- 
struction suggests that the chair may have been made by a funeral home, 
perhaps as a custom order, it is an unorthodox grave decoration. Its 
presence gives the grave a domestic security, as if the chair is keeping 
watch over the grave or is a symbolic resting place for the deceased. 


Fig. 16 Government issue marble headstone, with a footmarker made of 
an automobile wheel rim, wrenches and plastic flowers. William Ran- 
dolph Coachman, 1966, Swans Creek Baptist Churchyard, Cumberland 


Fig. 17 Styrofoam chair with greenery and flowers marking the head of 
an unidentified grave. Northern New Hanover County, near Pender 
County line, west side of US 17. 


M. Ruth Little 


This sampling of Afro-American gravemarkers in North Carolina rep- 
resents a start toward understanding the Afro-American contribution to 
the material culture of gravemarkers. These folk grave mounds, 
headstones, grave enclosures and grave sculptures stand out starkly from 
typical mass-produced marble and granite stones in twentieth century 
graveyards, both white and black, which are so uniform in design that 
neither religious denomination, class status nor geographic location is dis- 
cernible. It is often impossible to distinguish a black grave mound or 
headstone from a white one, but a white grave enclosure or grave sculp- 
ture is readily distinguishable from a black one. White enclosures are of 
expensive materials such as cast-iron and brick; white grave sculptures are 
of marble and granite. Black grave enclosures are made of inexpensive, 
often recycled materials such as concrete blocks or wood, and black grave 
sculpture often exhibits creative symbolism, such as the use of a wheel rim 
and socket wrench as a mechanic's footmarker. A consistent distinction 
between white and black graveyards is the overall grave layout. White 
graves are parallel to one another and aligned in even rows; black graves 
are loosely scattered. The primary distinction between markers for whites 
and blacks is that those for whites are bound more tightly by popular aes- 
thetic norms than those for blacks. 

This creative, fragile artistic tradition deserves documentation. 
Perhaps this exploration in North Carolina will stimulate fieldwork in 
other areas of the United States with an Afro-American cultural legacy, 
and a comparison of the findings made here with black graveyards in other 
parts of the south to see whether there is a general theme running through 
the twentieth-century black experience and heritage. 


Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina 


Works dealing specifically with Afro-American graveyards are sparse. The most use- 
ful references for Afro-American gravemarkers are: John M. Vlach, The Afro- 
American Tradition in Decorative Arts (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1978); 
John D. Combes, "Ethnography, Archaeology and Burial Practices among Coastal 
South Carolina Blacks," Conference on Historic Site Archaeology Papers 7 (1972), 52- 
61; Robert Farris Thompson, "African Influence on the Art of the United States," 
Black Studies in the University, eds. Armstead L.Robinson et al. (New Haven and Lon- 
don: Yale University Press, 1969); Thompson and Joseph Cornet, Tlie Four Moments 
of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds, catalogue of exhibit, August 30, 1981-January 
17, 1982 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1982); and Elizabeth A. Fenn, 
"Honoring the Ancestors: Kongo-American Graves in the American South," Southern 
Exposure 1985 13(5):42-47. William Edmondson, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, 
was born about 1883 of parents who had been slaves. Serving as a railroad worker, 
fireman and hospital orderly, he took up the carving of gravemarkers of limestone in 
the 1930s. He became a prominent sculptor, and his work was displayed at the 
Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. William Ed- 
mondson: A Restrospective, the catalogue of an exhibition of his work organized by 
the Tennessee Arts Commission (Nashville, Tenn., 1981) contains a description of his 
gravestone work, with a full bibliography, by John Michael Vlach (19-29). 

In his very useful study "Rural Southern Gravestones: Sacred Artifacts in the Upland 
South," which appeared in Markers TV, ed. David Watters (1987), Gregory Jeane does 
not distinguish between white and black graveyards and markers. This is undoubtedly 
because traditional black culture is concentrated in the Lowland South, the coastal 
areas where the blacks were brought as slaves to work the plantations of the region. 
The two counties in this North Carolina study where most of the black graveyards 
were recorded, New Hanover and Cumberland, are Lowland counties. The Upland, 
piedmont counties of North Carolina have smaller black populations, and only sys- 
tematic fieldwork, not random sampling, would record rural black graveyards there. 

John M. Vlach, Tlie Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts; Robert Farris 
Thompson and Joseph Cornet, Tlie Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two 
Worlds; Thompson, "African Influence on the Art of the United States"; and Elizabeth 
A. Fenn, "Honoring the Ancestors: Kongo-American Graves in the American South" 
(note 1). 

Personal interview with members of the Burns family, Cumberland County, 23 Oc- 
tober 1981. 

Vlach 1978 (note 1). 


M. Ruth Little 

6. Personal interview with Mr. Shaw, Shaw Funeral Home, Wilmington, N.C., December 

7. Personal interviews with Hazel Culbreth, widow of Renial Culbreth, and then- 
children, Mary Julia and Renial George, 5 August 1981 and 9 July 1982. 

8. The only patternbook which I found during the inventory was a small pamphlet used 
by Doug Buchanan, who operates a one-man monument company in Newland, N.C., 
in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The brochure contains photographs of twelve different 
gravestone designs, presumably supplied by one of the monument companies in El- 
berton, Georgia, where Buchanan buys his granite. 

9. Personal interview with Issiah McEachin, Eastover, N.C., 9 July 1982. 

10. Thompson 1969 (note 1) 152. 

11. Telephone interview with Mrs. Beatrice Clodfelter, Petersville, N.C., 23 June 1982. 

12. Personal interview with Roy Johnson, Johnson Publishing Company, Murfreesboro, 
N.C., 7 February 1981. 

13. Thompson and Cornet 1982 (note 1). 


Fig. 1 Potter Palmer family mausoleum, Graceland Cemetery. 



Paula J. Fenza 

The primary purpose of archaeology is to reconstruct extinct social sys- 
tems on the basis of the physical remains left behind by a vanished society. 
One of the most fruitful archaeological sources of information about so- 
cial organization is mortuary data. According to Lewis Binford (1971, 
208), "Human burials are one of the most frequently encountered classes 
of cultural feature observed by archeologists." Because burial practices 
stress attitudes toward life and death, the study of them reveals valuable 
insights on how the society that practiced them organized itself. Joseph 
Tainter (1978, 329) states: "Indeed, to the extent to which a mortuary 
population contains individuals who held membership in the various struc- 
tural components of a system, one can expect the mortuary population to 
reflect the structure of the extinct society." 

To this end, many archaeologists have developed analytical models for 
inferring social organization from mortuary data. A common theme of 
these models is the equation of social status with the material expenditure 
found in the burial. According to all these models, it is possible to define 
the levels of social status in a society according to the different mortuary 
treatments accorded different individuals. 

Each theory presupposes that increased expenditure of material 
resources in a burial indicates increased social status of the individual in- 
terred. By the same token, the levels of expenditure in the general treat- 
ment of a cemetery, or a portion thereof, are likely to reflect the status of 
the society represented in that cemetery or in that portion. These conclu- 
sions may be modified by another factor, that of symbolism appearing on, 
or in the form of, the gravemarker, reflecting the status of the deceased 


Paula J. Fenza 

or the group in society to which he/she belonged when living. The pur- 
pose of this paper is to test these theories using data collected in contem- 
porary cemeteries in the Chicago area. 

To insure that the study sample reflects a midwestern, urban orienta- 
tion, all the cemeteries included in this study are located within the city 
limits of Chicago or in the collar suburbs immediately surrounding the city 
(Table 1). These peripheral cemeteries were established in the late 
nineteenth century and attest to the influence of the rural cemetery move- 
ment (Warner 1959) as, at the time of their founding, they were located in 
the rural area surrounding the actual city. Sizes of the cemeteries range 
from very small (St. James of the Sag, less than 100 burials) to very large 
(Forest Home, 180,000 burials). Most are of moderate size, ranging from 
30,000 to 80,000 burials. 

The tombstones used in this study cover a hundred-year time span, 
from approximately 1880 to 1987 (Table 1). Chicago did not begin to 
develop as a major urban center until the post-Civil War industrial boom; 
indeed, the real growth of Chicago as a city can be dated to its rebuilding 
after the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Consequently, its major cemeteries 
were also established during this period of urban growth and reflect the 
emergence of a new social structure, one based on the rapid influx of im- 
migrants attracted to a ready source of jobs and the birth of a new monied 
elite seeking ways to validate their status (Sawyers 1986, 7). Therefore, al- 
though the cemeteries in this study comprise a wide spectrum of ethnic, 
religious, and socio-economic levels, they are representative of a mid- 
western, urban, industrial population. 

The advantages of using these data are twofold. First, since the 
material culture is augmented by written records, it is possible to verify as- 
sumptions made on the basis of the material culture against the ethno- 


Communities of the Dead 

graphic data. Second, since in American society pertinent data on burial 
custom in the form of tombstones is readily accessible, information can be 
collected by simple survey methods. 

For purposes of this study size and cost of the monuments were criteria 
used in assessing material expenditure. It is a defensible argument that in 
American society cost is often a valid measure of the status value of an 
item. Therefore, cost of a monument is very likely a reliable measure of 
its (and its owner's) prestige. Application of this guideline to the data 
produced the five types of material expenditure described below. A sixth 
factor, that of symbolism, is then discussed. 

1. Dynastic mausoleums. Dynastic mausoleums are so titled because of 
their extended family orientation; in additon to the founding "head" of the 
family and his spouse, the mausoleum contains their children, the 
childrens' spouses, sometimes grandchildren, and occasionally the 
grandchildren's spouses. There is a conscious attempt to recreate in the 
cemetery the kind of dynastic affiliations that existed in life. 

Material expenditure in the production of dynastic mausoleums is ap- 
parent. Even a cursory examination of the mausoleums in Graceland 
Cemetery on Chicago's near north side reveals strong evidence of wealth. 
Mausoleums are large and made of expensive materials. They are embel- 
lished with fine original sculptures and reproductions of classical statuary. 
Stylistically they show great variation based on the artistic or architectural 
styles popular in the living community. For example, the mausoleum of 
the Potter Palmer family built during the Greek Revival period of the 
1890s is a facsimile of a Greek temple, not much smaller than the original 
after which it was modeled (Fig. 1). It is faced with marble and supported 
by Corinthian columns. The Honore family, across the path from the Pal- 
mers, is interred in a miniature medieval cathedral. The Getty 
mausoleum, designed by Louis Sullivan, is as elegant as any of the build- 


Paula J. Fenza 

ings he designed. Oak Woods Cemetery, on the edge of Hyde Park on 
Chicago's south side, also contains a number of fine dynastic mausoleums, 
including many of the founders of the University of Chicago 

In addition to their construction, dynastic mausoleums also reflect 
material expenditure in their surroundings. The plots on which they are 
situated are large and well landscaped. Carefully tended shrubbery ac- 
cents the structures. The mausoleums frequently overlook desirable 
natural features such as the lagoons at Graceland or Bronswood in west 
suburban Oak Brook. 

2. Dynastic burial. Like dynastic mausoleums, dynastic burials also have 
an extended family orientation. The layout consists of a family marker in 
the center of the plot surrounded by smaller markers of individual family 
members. The central markers are large and made of expensive 
materials. As with dynastic mausoleums, the range of stylistic variation is 
great. A monumental sculpture by Loredo Taft entitled "Eternal Silence" 
presides over the Graves family plot in Graceland (Fig. 2). Another plot 
features a seven-foot natural granite boulder with the family name 
engraved on it. Again, plots are large and luxuriously landscaped. Plots 
are frequently surrounded by low stone curbing or wrought iron fencing to 
separate them from their neighbors. As with dynastic mausoleums, dynas- 
tic burials may also take advantage of pleasing natural features. The 
graves of Daniel Burnham and his family (Fig. 3) are located on a small is- 
land in the center of the lagoon at Graceland, a fitting tribute to the man 
who did so much to develop Chicago's lakefront. 

Both dynastic mausoleums and dynastic burials, then, are characterized 
by stylistic variation based on personal choice and cultural aesthetics, spa- 
ciousness, advantageous positioning, and choice construction materials. It 
is not surprising, in reading the names on the dynastic monuments 
described here, to verify that they represent the leading lights of Chicago's 


Fig. 2 Graves family plot, Graceland Cemetery. "Eternal Silence" sculp- 
ture by Loredo Taft. 


sunk*-. 1 


fc ,. 

i i 

V^ 1 

Fig. 3 Daniel Burnham family graves, Graceland Cemetery. 

gilded age--the founders, the developers, the industrial giants, and the so- 
cial and political leaders of the city. In their lives these people gloried in 
luxury and conspicuous ostentation; in death they occupy the same posi- 

3. Non-dynastic mausoleums. Non-dynastic mausoleums are so named 
because there is no extended family orientation. Small mausoleums 
usually consist of only two burials, usually husband and wife. Non-dynastic 
mausoleums are much smaller and less varied than their dynastic counter- 
parts. Although attractive, they are much more stylistically homogenous; 
usually only a few conventional styles are repeated. The plots on which 
they are located are much smaller and do not make use of formal 
landscaping. Materials used in construction are also more common; they 


Communities of the Dead 

do not take advantage of rare resources. Forest Home Cemetery in west 
suburban Forest Park contains many examples of non-dynastic 
mausoleums (Fig. 4). 

4. Non-dynastic burials. Like non-dynastic mausoleums, non-dynastic 
burials do not have an extended family orientation. Plots contain the 
burials of husband and wife. Occasionally sub-adult or unmarried 
children are buried with their parents, but the inclusion of married 
children and their spouses is rare. 

Fig. 4 A "non-dynastic mausoleum" for the Chilcher family, Forest Home 


Paula J. Fenza 

There are no central family markers in non-dynastic burials, only in- 
dividual stones. Monuments are smaller and generally all the same size. 
A few are slightly larger than the rest and may belong to more prominent 
members of the community; however, these do not begin to approach the 
size of even the more modest stones of dynastic burials. Stylistically they 
are also not as diverse; they repeat a few common, mass-produced styles. 
Nor are they decorated with original artwork; engravings are simple and 

Layout of non-dynastic burials is also simple. Graves are not 
landscaped and do not take advantage of pleasing natural features. They 
are arranged in straight rows rather than pursuing individual choice or 
orientation. Plots are smaller and closer together; they are not separated 
by curbing or fencing. 

Resurrection Cemetery in south suburban Justice consists of typical 
non-dynastic burials. It serves an area of Chicago that is highly industrial 
and has always been demographically middle-income. Its members are 
drawn from a blue-collar, middle-class population, and its burials reflect 
this (Fig. 5). In Graceland or Oak Woods one gets a sense of spaciousness 
and refinement reminiscent of the upper-class Chicago neighborhoods 
from which their members originally came. Resurrection Cemetery, with 
its neat, straight rows of homogeneous stones, is equally reminiscent of a 
neighborhood of middle-class bungalows from the south side of Chicago. 

5. Low-status burials. Low-status burials represent the minimum in mor- 
tuary treatment. Two cemeteries in this sample have examples of low- 
status burials. 

A section of west suburban Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove is 
reserved for pauper burials. In this section there is no stylistic variation 
(Fig. 6). All the stones are small and flush with the ground. The lettering 
is in plain block style. The only information given is the name of the 


Fig. 5 Resurrection Cemetery in south suburban Justice. 

Fig. 6 Jane McGoogan, 1930, Resurrection Cemetery. A "non-dynastic" 


Paula J. Fenza 

deceased and the years of birth and death. In some cases even the year of 
birth is omitted, perhaps unknown. The stones are in short, straight rows 
with a minimum of space between them. They are also located in a 
remote, undesirable part of the cemetery next to a utility shed. 

Woodlawn Cemetery in west suburban North Riverside is the site of 
another set of low-status burials. In 1918 a circus train derailed near 
Chicago, killing many of the circus workers. Their remains were interred 
in Woodlawn (Fig. 7). Later, the Showmen's League of America pur- 
chased this section of the cemetery for burial of other circus personnel 
(Sarkauskas 1986, 12). These tombstones are also extremely plain and 
uniform. Information on them is sparse-just the name and years of birth 
and death. Often the first name is simply a nickname, as if the person's 
given name were unknown. Again, the year of birth is frequently missing. 

Fig. 7 Harold "Buddy" Paddock, 1968, Woodlawn Cemetery. A circus 
worker's grave. 


Communities of the Dead 

Rows are straight, and there is minimal space between stones. The only 
note of decoration is four large stone elephants marking the four corners 
of the section. The popular conception of "carnies" as nomadic people 
with no family or social ties is borne out in their cemetery. There is noth- 
ing here to connect them with any affiliation other than that of the circus. 

There is no variation or complexity among low-status burials. They 
represent the barest minimum expenditure necessary to inter individuals 
according to the legal and social mores of society. Plots are small and 
crowded together; markers give minimal information about the deceased. 
There is no family orientation, not even that of husband and wife. Low- 
status burials are the simplest possible form of burial. 

The implications of this data, according to archaeological models, are 
clear. Burials can be divided into three classes. Dynastic mausoleums and 
dynastic burials form an upper class. It has been demonstrated that they 
represent maximum material expenditure in midwestern mortuary custom. 
Size and style of stones, size of plots, and location are all lavish. Eth- 
nographic data supports this conclusion. The individuals interred in the 
dynastic burials discussed here represent the elite of Chicago society. 

Non-dynastic mausoleums and non-dynastic burials are the largest part 
of this sample and represent the middle class. Energy expenditure is less 
than that of upper-class burials, but is still at a moderately high level. Size 
and stylistic variation among middle-class burials is not as elaborate but 
still allows for a modicum of personal choice. Like the middle class itself, 
middle-class burials represent a high degree of homogeneity, yet a 
"comfortable" degree of individuality. 

The lower class, represented in low-status burials, is the most insig- 
nificant and easily overlooked segment of society. Material expenditure 
on lower-class burials is minimal. The lower class merits little attention in 
life and is given equally little attention in mortuary practice. 


Paula J. Fenza 

Midwestern mortuary practice, then, substantiates a model of material 
expenditure in mortuary custom as a measure of the rank of the deceased. 
Three levels of material expenditure are demonstrated in Chicago 
cemeteries which represent three levels of social status. The number of 
burials in each level corresponds to demographic data on the living com- 
munity. Ethnographic and historical records of Chicago verify that the 
status reflected by their burials correspond to the actual status occupied by 
these persons in life. A material culture model of social ranking is 

6. Symbolism. A few minor anomalies in the data, however, point out the 
need for at least one additional criterion for determining status from mor- 
tuary data. Study of the data indicates that an additional criterion, that of 
symbolism, helps augment and refine the conclusions suggested by the 
material expenditure model. The following examples illustrate the in- 
fluence of symbolism as it relates to material expenditure. 

In Elmwood Cemetery there is a group of tombstones of Roman 
Catholic nuns. Although these women undoubtedly came from middle- or 
even possibly upper-class families, they have low-class tombstones. The 
stones are small and simple blocks set in straight lines with minimal space 
between them. The only information recorded is the nun's religious name 
and the dates of her birth and death (Fig. 8). They represent minimum 
material expenditure and, according to a material culture model, have low 
social rank. Yet nuns are a highly respected segment of society and con- 
sidered to have a higher status than their tombstones suggest. However, 
these women espoused a vocation that preached the virtues of poverty, 
humility, and conformity. The symbolic poverty of their tombstones, then, 
is a reflection of religious doctrine. 


Communities of the Dead 

A second example of symbolism concerns gypsy burials. The gypsy 
burials in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park make a fascinating ethnic 
study. Gypsy graves present unusual characteristics. Even though gypsies 
are not a high-class group, their tombstones are very large and ornate and 
are engraved with numerous religious symbols including saints, madonnas, 
Jesus Christ, the Cross, and other examples of Christian iconography (Fig. 
9). The plots themselves are also large. But the most unusual feature of 
gypsy graves is the use of grave goods (Fig. 10). All major holidays are 
represented by grave decorations-flags on Independence Day, miniature 
Christmas trees at Christmas, colored eggs, Easter baskets, jelly beans, 
and chocolate rabbits at Easter. Offerings of food and drink at other 
times of the year are also common. Bags of snack foods, slices of birthday 
cake, bottles of whiskey or wine (complete with paper cups), cans of beer, 
cups of coffee, packs of cigarettes, and candy are just some of the items 
which the author has found. 

Fig. 8 Graves of three Roman Catholic nuns, Elmwood Cemetery. 


Fig. 9 Gypsy graves, Forest Home Cemetery. 

Fig. 10 Grave goods on a gypsy tomb, Forest Home Cemetery. 


Communities of the Dead 

These practices become understandable when seen in terms of gypsy at- 
titudes toward death. Gypsies fear death and the dead. They believe that 
death is an unnatural occurrence and that the dead are resentful at having 
died. It is thought that the dead will seek revenge on the living for their 
deaths unless they are made to feel comfortable in death. For this reason 
gypsies have developed a cemetery cult to placate the spirits of the dead. 
Funeral celebrations are sumptuous affairs to please the dead; some 
families have even exhausted personal resources to provide a sufficiently 
lavish funeral. Favorite personal effects of the deceased are enclosed in 
the coffin. Families sponsor large memorial feasts, particularly in the first 
year following death, and sporadically thereafter. Food from the feasts is 
taken to the grave site so the deceased can join in the celebration. Offer- 
ings are also left at other times to keep the dead satisfied in their graves. 
For the same reason the dead are included in holiday celebrations. 
Families visit the grave regularly, either to bring food or to communicate 
with the dead through quiet meditation (Trigg 1973). 

Fig. 11 William L. Patterson, 1980, Forest Home Cemetery. A socialist's 


Paula J. Fenza 

Seen within the context of gypsy ethnic beliefs, the apparent anomaly of 
high-class stones used by a low-class group becomes clearer. Large plots, 
ornate stones, elaborate engravings, and grave goods are a means by 
which gypsy ghosts are placated and kept happy in their graves. 

A third type of symbolism may also be found in Forest Home 
Cemetery. In 1886 none of Chicago's other cemeteries would receive the 
bodies of the four victims hanged for allegedly conspiring to incite the 
Haymarket Riot. Forest Home was the only place willing to offer burial 
space. After Emma Goldman, the noted socialist, chose to be buried with 
the Haymarket victims, surrounding plots became the traditional resting 
place for other Chicago socialists, such as William L. Patterson (Fig. 11). 
The tombstones in this section reflect their owners' socialist philosophy 
just as strongly as the stones in Graceland reflect a capitalist philosophy. 
All the stones are the same size and set flush to the ground. Space be- 
tween them is minimal. In addition to pertinent information about the 
deceased, each stone bears a socialist motto. Some of the more common 
are: "working class hero," "communist leader," "a life dedicated to human 
freedom," and "tireless fighter for socialism." The socialist creed of a 
classless society is well demonstrated in their burials. Although the in- 
dividuals themselves were generally of the middle class, they chose low- 
class stones as a political statement. 

A final point on symbolism concerns the position of women in mid- 
western society, as indeed elsewhere. Superficially there does not appear 
to be any difference between men and women within classes. Each is ac- 
corded the same level of material expenditure, and from this it can be in- 
ferred that men and women are of equal status within classes. However, 
there are subtle differences in the symbolism on women's stones which 
suggest that women may, in fact, occupy a secondary status in relation to 
that of men. Women are rarely given professional attribution, although 
the mention of professional status on men's stones is common. A pair of 


Communities of the Dead 

stones in Graceland illustrates this quite well. Timothy Webster and Kate 
Warn were two Pinkerton detectives who foiled an assassination plot 
against Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Their stones are located with Allan 
Pinkerton's in his family plot. Webster's stone describes his professional 
activity in great detail (Fig. 12); Warn's stone, immediately adjacent to 
Webster's, lists only her name and dates of birth and death. Her profes- 
sional status would be unknown if not mentioned on the stones of Webster 
and Pinkerton. 

Fig. 12 Timothy Webster, Graceland Cemetery. A Pinkerton detective 
who foiled a plot against Abraham Lincoln. 


Paula J. Fenza 

Women are also described in more emotional terms than men i.e., "my 
beloved," "my darling wife," and women are more frequently referred to 
only in terms of their relationship to some other person i.e., "wife of," and 
"mother of are common; "husband of," and "father of are not (Fig. 13). 

The foregoing examples demonstrate that although material expendi- 
ture does reflect aspects of social organization, symbolism on the stones 
may also be an important criterion in determining status. In all of these 
examples symbolism on the stones is as important as the money spent in 
producing them. It has been recognized by several researchers 
(Huntington and Metcalf 1979; Hertz 1973; Aries 1974, 1975) that sym- 
bolism is an integral part of mortuary custom. A valid model, therefore, 
must consider both symbolism and material expenditure as indications of 
social status. 

" v gved h, 1 

V OF ^ 1 


BORN tj 

§1 MAY 4, 18 IS 

i L JULY S3. 135*7 I 



SEPT. 19. 1886 

JULY 5.-196 3' 




Fig. 13 Agnes Kruesinca and Annie Ritzma, 1957, 1963, described in 
terms of marital relationship. 


Communities of the Dead 

This paper represents an initial approach to defining an anthropologi- 
cal model of midwestern mortuary custom. The ultimate goal of this 
research is to develop a model which integrates the study of both material 
expenditure and types of symbols used as a means of defining social status. 
Statistical analysis of the data may reveal co-varying attributes whose 
presence or absence reinforces the significance of each other. For ex- 
ample, the kinds of symbols used on typical upper-class stones (such as 
those in Graceland) are usually secular, classical, and a reflection of 
prevailing aesthetic standards. This emphasizes that the aberrant religious 
symbolism of gypsy stones is indicative of a nonconforming subgroup. 
Even without knowing the ethnology of gypsy attitudes toward death, the 
overt religious symbolism and use of grave goods, not present in other 
burials, are an indication that these burials are a significant variation from 
the general mortuary pattern. My current research has focused on an ur- 
ban population. However, cursory examination of some rural cemeteries, 
approximately 100 miles from the Chicago area, indicates that some of the 
observations made about urban practices may also hold true for rural 
practices. Future research will be directed toward developing and refining 
the model and testing its validity for both urban and rural communities. 


Paula J. Fenza 





Oak Woods 

Bohemian National 


St. James of the Sag 

Forest Home 




St. Michael 


Mt. Carmel 

Mt. Auburn Memorial 


Chicago, near north 
Chicago, near south 
Chicago, far north 
Chicago, far south 
Chicago, far southwest 
Forest Park 
North Riverside 
North Riverside 
River Grove 
River Grove 
Oak Brook 


Communities of the Dead 


Phillipe Aries, Western Attitudes Toward Death from the Middle Ages to the Present 
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1974); "The Reversal of Death: Changes in Attitudes 
Toward Death in Western Societies," Death in America, ed. D. Stannard (Philadelphia: 
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975). 

Lewis Binford, "Mortuary Practices: Their Study and Their Potential," An Archeological 
Perspective (Seminar Press, 1971). 

Max Gluckman ed., Essays on the Ritual of Social Relations (Manchester: Manchester 
University Press, 1979). 

Jack Goody, Death, Property, and the Ancestors (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 

Ralph Huntington and Peter Metcalf, Celebrations of Death: Tlie Anthropology of Mortuary 
Ritual (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979). 

Susan Sarkauskas, "Some History Close to Home," Cicero Life, September 14, 1986. 

June Sawyers, "A Resting Place for History," Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1986. 

Arthur Saxe, Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practice (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 
University of Michigan, 1970). 

Joseph Tainter, "Modeling Change in Prehistoric Social Systems," For Tlieory Building in 
Archeology, ed. L. Binford (New York: Academic Press, 1977). "Mortuary Practices and 
the Study of Prehistoric Social Systems," Advances in Archeological Method and Tlieory 
(New York: Academic Press, 1978), 1:105-141. 

Edward Trigg, Gypsy Demons and Divinities (Secausus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1973). 

Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967). The 
Ritual Process (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977). 

William Warner, Tlie Living and the Dead (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959). 


Fig. 1 Painted concrete statue of Jesus, Espanola. 



Laura Sue Sanborn* 

Not far from our house in New Mexico is the village burial ground of 
Hispanic Catholics called a camposanto, or "field of the saints." One after- 
noon I saw a small woman enter the camposanto carrying a basket filled 
with tinfoil. Later I discovered her work: three wooden crosses neatly 
sheathed in tin foil and wrapped with rosary beads and ribbons and stuck 
into a gravemound. There were no names, no dates, no written testaments 
on these gravemarkers. They were a humble gift of love in a field of such 

The camposanto is different from the cemeteries that most of us know. 
In the camposanto people may freely express their emotions by creating 
personal, handmade gravemarkers. These markers constitute a unique 
collection of religious folk art that reflects both culture and history (Fig. 
1). The camposanto is tranquil in its harmony with nature and yet a 
vibrant and colorful portrait of its people -- both those living and those 
dead. It is full of human drama, filled with poignant expressions of emo- 
tion. The camposanto is a place of change where wind whips sand against 

The following article was written in June 1986, after a year of exploring and 
photographing New Mexican camposantos. The paper remained unpublished. Several 
months ago I returned to a large camposanto cited in my study only to find that another 
ten acres of it had been destroyed and turned into a memorial park. My concern for 
the obliteration of such a precious resource spurred the resurrection of my paper. This 
paper elaborates upon the special qualities of the camposanto gravemarker, the histori- 
cal context of which was so aptly provided in Nancy Hunter Warren's article, "New 
Mexico Village Camposantos" published in Markers IV. 


Laura Sue Sanborn 

sandstone, softening sculpted lines; where jack rabbits and quail are born 
and die; where paint blisters and peels, only to be repainted by those who 
play for time against the forces of nature; and where seasons and holidays 
are celebrated. 

As you approach a camposanto, you will notice that the vegetation in 
the camposanto is indigenous, there is no manicured turf, no irrigation. 
The desert camposanto may be covered with fragrant sage and dotted with 
dark green junipers; some are filled with cacti whose bright pink spring 
flowers further enliven the site. In the mountain camposanto long grasses 
grow with pinon pine, and boulders jut up among the stone gravemarkers. 
Visitors to a rural camposanto often find themselves completely cradled 
by nature; alone with no reminders of civilization other than the messages 
of the markers. Even those camposantos now surrounded by urban 
development retain their native vegetation, which harmonizes with the 
larger landscape of mountains and mesas. 

One enters the camposanto through a gate or portal, since all cam- 
posantos are enclosed in some way. Some camposantos have both entry 
and exit gates for funerals, symbolizing the passage of life from one point 
to another. Printed over one such portal are the words, "Dios da y Dios 
quita" ~ "the Lord gives and the Lord taketh away." In the center of the 
camposanto a massive cross, often of hewn timbers, symbolizes the 
sanctity of the place and is the focal point of the enclosure. 

Amid the native landscape inside the enclosure one finds the graves. 
Frequently not only the gravemarker but the entire gravesite is a work of 
art. Graves may be surrounded by handmade cerquitas (fences) com- 
monly crafted out of wood, wrought iron, or metal pipe (Figs. 2, 3 and 4). 
One handmade cerquita I found had wrought iron horses prancing at its 
four corners; another displayed the names of the deceased's children intri- 
cately carved on wooden side panels. Old, very ornate, cast-iron cerquitas 
were ordered by the wealthy from St. Louis and brought in on the railroad. 


Fig. 2 Wood cerquita, Albuquerque. 

Fig. 3 Metal pipe cerquita, Peralta 


Fig. 4 Wood cerquita, Peralta 

The variety and ingenuity of the gravemarkers seem endless. You feel 
compelled to walk past each work of folk art lest you miss some new form 
of a craftmen's creativity. The first-time visitor to a camposanto will be 
amazed by the range of materials used to create the gravemarkers and by 
the exuberance of color and texture. The primary materials are wood, me- 
tal, stone, and concrete, although re-used objects are also commonly in- 
corporated. I have found gravemarkers made of, or decorated with: con- 
crete blocks, patio stones, logs, wood rounds, bricks, large tiles, mosaic 
tiles, wrought iron, water pipe, PVC pipe, horseshoes, a floor grate, a 
sewer grate, appliance parts, automobile chrome, radiator parts, baby crib 
parts, ball bearings, glass blocks, marbles, shells, jewelry, a tackle box, ear- 
rings, rosaries, buttons, ashtrays, candlesticks, beer and pop cans, bottles, 
metal drums, jars, vases, pottery, pictures, picture frames, crucifixes, plas- 
tic flowers, silk flowers, paper flowers, flower boxes, egg cartons, 
styrofoam, plastic, rope, chicken wire, barrel rims, saw blades, paint, paint 



cans, cloth, yarn, ribbon, plastic beads, glass beads, tacks, nails, pins, 
metallic letters, chunks of turquoise, cogs, gears, pebbles, lava rock, gar- 
den fence, broken colored glass, small toys, suncatchers, statuary, por- 
celain picture discs, pie pans, tin cans, a garden hoe, aluminum foil, astro 
turf, carpeting, popsicle sticks, sheet metal, shingling, wind chimes, light 
sockets, buckets, hood ornaments, padlocks, chains, flags, banners, 
wooden crates, silverware, door knobs, and baby bottles. 

The ways in which these materials are used are as fascinating as the 
range of objects. The floor grate, for instance, was made into a 
gravemarker by cutting the upturned end into a series of stair-step crosses. 
Another gravemarker was created by imbedding in a concrete cross a 
sealed Coke bottle in which a statue of Christ had been placed by sawing 
off, then re-gluing, the bottom of the bottle. One woman had made a 
gravemarker for her husband by centering her favorite glass candleholders 
in the rectangular opening of a formed concrete cross, so that the evening 
light shone through the glass illuminating the entire marker (Fig. 5). A 
whimsical child's gravemarker was created out of pink and green patio 
blocks to look like a giant Easter basket, complete with colored, concrete 
eggs. Sunshine's grave had been marked by torching her name into a large 
circular saw blade which was welded to some machinery parts for a base. 
Ramon's marker was created by pouring concrete into the grill area of an 
old Model T Ford which served as a frame. Someone long ago had care- 
fully split and splayed the ends of some pinon boards to create a delicate 
fan-shaped cross. 

Fifteen of the most fascinating gravemarkers in one camposanto are the 
work of a man who fashioned chrome cages for the graves of his friends 
and family. He decorated these elaborate and sometimes multi-tiered 
cages with chains, padlocks, bolts, flags, rows of radiator caps, and metal 
nail-punched signs with messages such as "God is Love," "My God, My 


Fig. 5 A recent cross made of glass candleholders, Peralta. 


Fig. 6 Early wood gravemarker, Peralta. 


Laura Sue Sanborn 

God, You Have Forsaken Me," "Lock the Gate," and "Visitors Welcome to 
Take Pictures." Bolted to each gravemarker are from two to five plaques 
bearing the maker's name or initials. 

Some personalized gravesites may lead us to speculate upon the charac- 
ter of the craftsman or upon the character of the deceased, such as the 
man whose grave is decorated with statues of horses and cowboys, whiskey 
bottles and a lariat. Collectively, the creators' choice of materials, colors, 
forms, symbols, words and spatial arrangement provide clues to a people's 
history and culture. Such choices are especially significant because the 
creators have not been biased or inhibited by formal design training. 

The earliest camposanto gravemarkers, which were made of wood, date 
back to the mid-1800s (Fig. 6). Prior to that time the poor were buried in 
unmarked graves, and the wealthy were buried in the church floor, with 
the church itself providing a monument of status. 

Early wood gravemarkers became more elaborate when traders arrived 
in New Mexico with improved woodworking tools. Although many of the 
wooden markers have completely decayed, most camposantos still have an 
old section of weather-worn wooden crosses. Two of the most remarkable 
wood markers I found stand like Easter Island sentinels dominating an 
isolated rocky island. These giant slabs of wood, a precious commodity in 
the desert, have weathered to a silver grey and show the patterns where 
plaques are discernible-they stand as a mute testament to the status of 
those interred in their shadow. 

Traders also brought iron into New Mexico, which craftsmen formed 
into more durable crosses and cerquitas (Fig. 7). Stone gravemarkers did 
not become popular until the 1880s, when a wave of immigrants arrived in 
New Mexico with the railroad. Among the immigrants were French and 
Italian stonecutters, who were brought in to embellish public buildings, 
but who also carved marble headstones for the wealthy. Local people 
copied this art in local materials-sandstone and limestone. Stone 



markers, like those of wood and iron, range from the humble to the or- 
nate, with some no more than a boulder incised with a crude cross or ini- 
tials (Fig. 8). 

Gravemarker materials have continued to reflect the material culture 
of the time. Concrete has remained the most popular material since the 
turn of the century because it is easy to form and decorate and relatively 
durable. Gravemarkers made in the 1950s have been fashioned of large 
glass ashtrays, chrome car parts, hood ornaments, and white and black 
enameled appliance parts. An influx of the hippie culture of the 1960s is 
evident on gravemarkers decorated with peace signs and love beads. 
Flower decoration has changed from paper to plastic, and silk flowers ap- 
pear more frequently. The use of some other decorative materials is 
rooted in ancient tradition. For example, the colored tile mosaics cover- 
ing some gravemarkers represent Moorish art brought from Spain. 

Fig. 7 Iron cross, old section of Peralta camposanto. 


Fig. 8 Simple stone marker, Galisteo. 



The camposantos are colorful places, not only because of the materials 
used, but also because many markers are brightly painted. Light blue, 
pink, green, red-orange and silver are the most popular colors. Murals or 
religious scenes are sometimes painted on markers, or on a concrete slab 
covering the entire gravesite. Paint brightens grey machine-made 
markers, with the etched figures filled in like a coloring book. The use of 
bright colors, according to Terry Jordan in his book, Texas Graveyards; A 
Cultural Legacy, can be traced to Spain, where camposantos are still 
brightly colored, or to Mexico where "the use of color in a sacred context 
has ample pre-Columbian precedent," and "where even huge pyramids 
once bore bright paints". 1 


e 4RaT . >f^ k 

& > -:.* 

:*#,.. ■ ->w >« "... 

Fig. 9 Freshly white-washed markers at an Albuquerque camposanto. 


Laura Sue Sanborn 

Forms and symbols also provide cultural clues. Jordan notes in his 
study of Texas cemeteries that any sort of religious symbolism is anathema 
to the theologies of Calvin, Wesley, and Knox and that therefore the 
gravemarkers of these religious groups are devoid of crosses or crucifixes. 
In the camposanto, however, religious symbolism abounds. Almost all 
gravemarkers are either in the form of the cross or are decorated with 
crosses and crucifixes. Often three or four crosses are stuck in the 
gravemound along with rosaries, statues, and framed pictures of Christ, 
Mary, and patron saints. Other common camposanto symbols included 
the heart-long a symbol of love (Fig. 9); the Pascal Lamb-often seen on 
children's stones; the dove-representing the soul's peaceful ascension into 
heaven; and, in one village camposanto a deathshead design similar to 
those on early New England headstones. 

Less literal symbols, such as the five- and six-pointed stars and daisies 
prevalent in some Hispanic markers, reflect the influence of other cul- 
tures. Jordan believes that the Hispanics adopted the star symbol from 
German immigrants who thought it to be a "witches foot" hex sign for 
warding off "evil spirits and the Devil." 2 Some older markers are so 
covered with these symbols that they emanate an eerie mysticism (Fig. 10). 

A fascinating gesture found in some camposantos stems from old 
Navajo and Pueblo Indian traditions. The gravemounds are either com- 
pletely covered with the deceased's dishes and pottery, deliberately 
broken over the grave to symbolically break the chain of death in a family, 
or intact, placed there by the family so that the deceased may use them in 
the afterlife. Knick-knacks, clothing, favorite belongings, and even the 
contents of the deceased's refrigerator, sometimes appear on the 
gravemound, giving the burial ground an appearance surprising to the 
uninitiated visitor. 


Fig. 10 Old stone marker with hearts, stars, crescent moon and tree-of- 
life, Tecolote camposanto. 


Laura Sue Sanborn 

Other gravesite objects suggest varying explanations as to meaning and 
origin. A door plate and knob found on one grave may be a symbolic door 
to heaven, or perhaps it is just the doorknob from the deceased's home. A 
light socket imbedded in a concrete marker may have contained a bulb 
which symbolically lighted the deceased's way to the after-world, just as 
some Swiss still hang lanterns on graves for that purpose today, or it may 
be a sign of status for a family fortunate enough to have electricity. 

Decorative symbols are used far more extensively than words, espe- 
cially on the older markers, which sometimes have no more than a cross, a 
name, or a date. The abundance of misspelled words and reversed letters, 
which sometimes make a marker look like a tablet in ancient Greek, indi- 
cates difficulty with the written language, especially if written in English. 
One cannot help but smile at the carefully carved child's stone that reads, 
"For My Little Angle." 

Not only the markers themselves but their arrangement as well can 
provide insight. The spatial organization of the camposantos stresses the 
individual rather than the family. Curbed or fenced family plots with large 
family markers, which are common in Anglo cemeteries, are rarely found 
in the camposanto. Instead, the individual's grave is curbed or fenced. 
Man and wife do not necessarily lie side by side, and the children are often 
relegated to a separate section. A particularly disturbing area of some 
camposantos is the limbo area, containing an array of small concrete 
blocks which mark the graves of unbaptized babies whose souls can go to 
neither heaven nor hell. Grave alignment is important in many religions, 
with "feet to the east" the most common Christian burial pattern, reflect- 
ing a belief in Christ's resurrection in the east. 3 The Hispanic Catholic 
burial, however, does not favor any particular alignment. I have found 
burials aligned in all compass directions as well as facing the main road, 
facing the central cross, facing downslope on a hill, and facing secondary 
lanes within the camposanto. Several camposantos have gravemarkers 



which face in four or more distinctly different directions. Susan Hazen- 
Hammond, who has studied the camposantos for the past seven years, 
writes that the lack of a distinct orientation may reflect the belief that 
"since life is not orderly, why should death be?" 4 

Camposantos are places where life is celebrated not forgotten. Anna 
Marie kneels in the parted sage repainting her grandfather's name under 
the hot noon sun with the only tool she has ~ a toothpick. Mr. Romero 
brings a favorite baseball and places it on his son's ten-year-old grave. 
The Martinez family has gathered to braid bright new ribbons through the 
iron bars of a child's cerquita and to whitewash the boulders outlining 
family graves. Nearby a new banner on a gravemound is lettered with the 
words, "I love you Grandpa." 

During the Christmas season decorated Christmas trees are set at the 
foot of some graves. Garlands, wreaths, Christmas ornaments, and toys 
are placed at the headstones (Figs. 11 and 12). Last Christmas, while wan- 
dering through a camposanto aglow with luminaries, I found two small, 
red, toy-filled stockings propped up against the headstones of a baby 
brother and sister. At Easter new crucifixes appear, lilies are planted, and 
ceramic Easter bunnies and eggs are left on graves. Stryofoam hearts 
covered with red plastic roses are left for deceased wives and sweethearts 
on Valentine's Day. And attached to the cerquita of Maria Teresa were 
the shriveled remains of a pink balloon on a string and a "Happy Birthday" 
party napkin. 

Despite their significant human value, something dismaying is happen- 
ing to some camposantos: they are being destroyed. Camposantos in ur- 
ban areas are falling victim to land use pressures and the lure of higher 
economic returns. Camposantos have been paved over for parking lots 
and built over for condominiums and commercial development. Recently 
nearly 3,000 bodies were reinterred so that a camposanto could be mined 
for its sand and gravel deposits. Last year I watched as bulldozers ravaged 


Fig. 11 Grave decorated for the holidays, Albuquerque. 




i I 



1 / . 

H "*<§ T' ^^ 


T ™ 





• 'A. Bi 

Fig. 12 Grave gifts, Peralta. 


Laura Sue Sanborn 

a camposanto, destroying hundreds of handmade gravemarkers so that the 
area could be turned into a memorial park cemetery. Rows of wooden, 
stone, and wrought iron crosses were gouged from places once sanctified 
by their presence. By the time the workmen were finished, fifteen 
hundred graves had been scraped bare. The rich and colorful diversity of 
handmade markers which had been so lovingly crafted are gone forever. 

Now the native vegetation which was home to a wealth of urban 
wildlife has been replaced with sod which must be mowed and irrigated 
with water~a precious resource. Now, instead of the highly personal 
handmade markers, only uniform machine-made markers which lie flush 
with the grass are permitted. The camposanto, a unique part of the south- 
western landscape, has been replaced by the generic memorial park. 

One day while photographing this camposanto destruction, I asked the 
cemetery superintendent why it was happening. He answered, "Money," 
and went on to explain that "once we've got sod and water in here, people 
have to pay for it~you know-perpetual care. And they have to buy the 
headstones, too." Then, pointing to a few remaining handmade crosses 
lying in the sagebrush he added, "You can't make any money on this stuff." 

Unfortunately, little or no protection exists for the camposantos. The 
National Register of Historic Places recognizes only cemeteries of na- 
tional significance derived from association with historic renown (such as 
Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemetery), or of exceptional architec- 
tural design (such as the mausoleums and crypts of New Orleans). The 
New Mexico Historic Preservation division recognizes the significance of 
the camposantos, but has not had the funds to systematically document 
them. Consequently a destroyed gravemarker is lost without any public 
record of its existence. 

The question of preserving camposantos is raised by Susan Hazen- 
Hammond in a 1986 article. 5 She asks, "Is it really wise to try to freeze 
time and conserve the camposantos for the future just as they are now? 



Or should the traditional pattern continue with nature, time, and changing 
customs all taking their toll?" To insist on preservation of the camposan- 
tos' existing qualities would put an end to their value as cultural indicators. 
Yet the loss of such highly personal, meaningful traditions would be la- 

Fortunately, there are still several hundred rural camposantos where 
change takes place more slowly, and perhaps the best we can do is to 
recognize and document these jewels in the landscape. The camposanto 
itself is a landscape that will be carried in the minds of those who see it. 
For those who witness the dramatic melding of land and people, for those 
who see the tiny stuffed bear tied with ribbons to little Maria's wooden 
cross, or the eyes of Reyes as he stares from his picture across the field of 
saints, there will be no forgetting this sacred place. 

Mountain-side camposanto, Truchas 


Laura Sue Sanborn 


Particularly interesting markers may be found in these New Mexican 





Cedar Crest 





Arroyo Hondo 


Ranchos de Taos 



Santa Fe 



San Ysidro 





La Cienega 






Las Cruces 



Las Vegas 



Los Lunas 


Special note should be taken of camposantos at Galisteo, Peralta, 
Tecolote, and Truchas. At White Oaks there is an interesting old Anglo 



1. Terry G. Jordan, Texas Graveyards; A Cultural Legacy (Austin, Texas: University of 
Texas Press, 1982), 80. 

2. Ibid., 112. 

3. John R. Stilgoe, "Folklore and Graveyard Design", Landscape, (1978), 3:22. 

4. Susan Hazen-Hammond, 1986. "Dios da y Dios quita", New Mexico Magazine, (1986), 

5. Ibid. 


Fig. 1 Presenting Hand reaching downwards to a circular chain. 
Caroline Bieth, 1871, Preston Cemetery, Cambridge, Waterloo County. 





Nancy-Lou Patterson 

The white marble gravestones which characterize nineteenth-century 
graveyards in Southern Ontario have been remarked upon by several 
Canadian scholars. 1 Such markers were first produced in local workshops 
in the 1830s and have been called "distinctly Ontario stones," though in 
fact they are carved from imported calcite and strongly resemble stones 
found elsewhere in North America during the same period. 2 

The characteristic motifs which were used to adorn these marble stones 
include the willows and urns of Classical Revival symbolism, hands, 
animals such as birds and lambs, human figures and angels, flowers, and 
"miscellaneous" objects such as crosses, Bibles, and anchors. 3 The largest 
group is devoted to willow trees and the second largest to hands. 4 In 
Carole Hanks's study, Early Ontario Gravestones, some forty white marble 
stones are depicted; fifteen of these bear willows and ten bear hands. The 
willow motif has been successfully interpreted. 5 It is my intention to at- 
tempt an interpretation of the hand motifs. 

United Above Though Parted Below 

One might perceive stones with the hand motif as merely repetitive and 
banal, but close study reveals the variety and even richness of these forms. 
Their general meaning can be found in the stone from which I take my 
title (Fig. 1). This marker, which is a memorial to Caroline Bieth (1871) 
in Preston Cemetery, Cambridge, Ontario, in the southern part of the 
regional municipality of Waterloo, displays a descending hand, the 
forefinger of which is thrust down to close the links of a circular chain. 
The motto, carved in English on a stone otherwise inscribed in German, is 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

"United Above Though Parted Below." Implicit in these words is my 
thesis that all gravestone hand motifs express a relationship between the 
living and the dead. Such motifs present a double spatial symbolism, 
"Above" and "Below," combined with a binary structure of unified op- 
posites, "United . . . Though Parted." This symbolic organization may be 
shown thus: 




This motto presents in words the various meanings implicit in all hand ges- 
tures used in a mortuary setting. 

The division of the world into a below and an above is deeply seated in 
human culture and certainly predates Christianity. 6 The vertical slab- 
shaped gravemarker is intended to be faced by a standing viewer, and the 
motifs are placed in relationship to a vertical dimension which expresses 
the above-below polarity, while the horizontal dimension expresses the "I- 
Thou" relationship between living and dead. 

The orientational element in gravemarkers derives in Western culture 
through Classical culture from Mesopotamia, where the "cosmological 
symbolism of architecture [attained] ... its richest development." 7 This 
symbolic structure was still fully operative in the popular culture of the 
Victorian era. Biblical language describing the ascension of Christ into 
Heaven and creedal language about His descent into hell to save souls 
were still strongly functional. 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

Geographical Areas of Research 

My analysis of hand motifs will consider eighty stones garnered from 
thirty cemeteries. I have selected two areas of settlement. 8 The first is the 
Waterloo county heartland of Southwestern Ontario, which lies about 
eighty miles north of Lake Erie between Detroit on the west and Buffalo 
on the east; the second is the Bruce County area about 80-150 miles north 
of this region, located below the base of the Bruce Peninsula between 
Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, to its northern tip. Some of the settlers 
who came to the first region later moved north to create the second. 

In southern Ontario, which in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth 
century was known as Upper Canada, and in the mid-nineteenth century 
as Canada West, settlement by whites began in the 1780s. Though French 
traders had been in the area since the early seventeenth century, the first 
settlers were mostly Loyalists from the upper states, including Pennsyl- 
vania, New York and New England. The early Loyalists of British descent 
settled along the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario from Kingston (near 
the head of the St. Lawrence River, north of New York State) to the 
Niagara Peninsula (near Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York). It is in 
these areas that eighteenth-century gravestones can be found. 

The Loyalists were followed by other settlers who came directly from 
Britain throughout the nineteenth century. These included English, Scot- 
tish, and Irish settlers, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. It was the 
Loyalist and British culture, during Victoria's reign (1837-1901), which 
formed the major influence upon commercial and popular culture in 
nineteenth-century English-speaking Canada, and which has determined 
the choice of motifs on most of the marble stones of my study. 

This idea can be treated in Waterloo and Bruce Counties because both 
of these regions contained, in addition to those of Loyalist/British stock, 
substantial populations of German-speaking settlers. Settlement in 
Waterloo County began at the opening of the nineteenth century with 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

Mennonites and related Anabaptists from Pennsylvania, following their 
earlier arrival in the Niagara Peninsula in 1786. The cemeteries of these 
settlers and their descendants contain three time-related groups of stones: 
sandstone slabs (circa 1820-1850); marble slabs (circa 1840-1920), and 
granite stones of various shapes (circa 1890-present). With slight excep- 
tion, only the sandstone markers of the Mennonites contain Pennsylvania- 
German elements, such as the lily/tulip. 9 

The second wave of Germanic settlement in Waterloo County was 
formed by Amish people direct from Alsace (circa 1825). Most of these 
settlers assimilated to Mennonite culture and through them to "Ontario 
culture," and their cemeteries contain, for the most part, the marble and 
subsequent granite stones described above. There were additional Amish 
settlers in Southern Ontario later in the nineteenth century who came 
from Pennsylvania, and a few of these groups have developed distinctive 
gravemarkers in the twentieth century. 10 

In the 1840s South German and Alsatian Roman Catholics, whose 
cemeteries also contain marble and granite (but not sandstone), together 
with many beautiful crosses of wrought iron and cast iron, came to the 
periphery of the Waterloo Region. 11 Members of these communities 
travelled north and settled in Bruce County in the 1860s. Both areas con- 
tain stones with Roman Catholic motifs such as crucifixes and sacred 
hearts, as well as motifs typical of the Ontario style. Other German- 
speaking people, including Pennsylvania Lutherans, who came to Water- 
loo County in the 1840s and some of whom moved north to Bruce County, 
also became assimilated and adopted the same style of gravemarkers. 

As a result of these various settlement patterns, Waterloo and Bruce 
Counties contain stones of a larger number of both Pennsylvania and con- 
tinental German-speaking people than do most other parts of Ontario, 
with the exception of Renfrew County. The predominant population in 
the nineteenth century in Southern Ontario was of Loyalist or British 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

origin, and the inclusion of a few cemeteries from Wellington and Perth 
Counties, both adjacent to Waterloo County, allows a larger sample of 
these English-speaking settlements. 

It is my finding that all of the above groups -- English- and German- 
speaking alike, as well as Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite, Amish, 
Presbyterian and United Church, used the white marble stones and in- 
cluded a similar range of hand motifs. My conclusion is that hand motifs 
are indeed ubiquitous and were widely accepted by all the ethnic and 
religious groups whose cemeteries are included in this study. 

Time Distribution of Research 

The eighty stones bearing hand motifs can be divided into three 
categories: those which display linked hands; those which show upward 
pointing hands; and those which bear presenting hands. I shall discuss each 
category in turn, but first I shall describe the time distribution of the 

Despite the degraded condition of some of the epitaphs, enough dates 
remain readable to allow an analysis of the time distribution of the 
categories of hand motif. The sequence of dateable Linked Hands in- 
cludes thirty stones, which, taking all the sub-variations of this category 
together, are found from 1866 to 1928, a period of over sixty years. The 
distribution of all dated Linked Hand motifs is as follows: two stones 
from the 1860s, four from the 1870s, nine from the 1880s, and nine from 
the 1890s, three from the first decade of the twentieth century, two from 
the second, and one from the third. This forms a curve consonant with the 
development and decline of a style which was at its height during the two 
decades at the end of the nineteenth century. The Linked Hands motif is 
not only the most numerous and longest lasting hand motif but is also truly 
ubiquitous: all the cemeteries in my sample contain this motif. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

The second most common motif, that of the Upward-pointing Hand, 
with twenty-one dateable stones, is found from 1855 to 1906 (fifty years), 
and is relatively equally represented in each of the five decades in which it 
appears, although there is still a discernible curve. The dated sequence 
begins with a single stone in 1855, progresses through six stones in the 
1860s, four in the 1870s, four in the 1880s, three in the 1890s, and three in 
the first decade of the twentieth century. There is some evidence here of 
a stronger early preference for this motif tempered by a gradual decline. 

Of the eleven dateable stones with Presenting Hands, which appear in a 
sequence from 1871 to 1900 (twenty-nine years), three are found in the 
1870s, three in the 1880s, and five from 1893 to 1900. While not as 
popular as the Linked and Upward-pointing Hands, this motif is consis- 
tently found during the last three decades of the nineteenth century in my 
sample. In the following three sections I shall discuss each category in 

Linked Hands 

The motif of a pair of hands which grasp one another in a handsclasp or 
handshake is used in thirty-five of the eighty stones of my sample. There 
are four variations of this longest lasting and most widely distributed 

The first and most common, with twenty stones, shows an open hand 
with all fingers extended, entering from the viewer's left, which is grasped 
by a hand entering from the viewer's right, of which the forefinger alone is 
extended, and the other three fingers are closed or clasped (Fig. 2). One 
senses that the first hand is very loose or limp and that the hand which 
clasps it does so in a rather formal or artificial gesture. 


** » 

JL o . J| '" 1m 


I S^' .A «. ■ 

J&^V^ V 3 ^** 



j^* *- 





* ■ 

Fig. 2 Linked Hands with extended forefinger; detail of Henry 
McNaughton, 1896, Erin Cemetery, Erin, Wellington County. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

The second variation, shown on seven stones, displays a hand with all 
four fingers extended being grasped very loosely by a second hand, which 
is also open with all four fingers extended (Fig. 3). Here the gesture is so 
loose as to be either feeble or entirely formalized, a mere laying of palm 
to palm, with only the thumb of the second hand pressing the knuckles of 
the first in a limp farewell. Yet the two crossed hands form a strong 
X-shaped motif which fills the visual field with vigorous diagonals. 

In contrast, the third variation, found in six samples, shows an open 
hand entering from the left and grasped by a hand with all four fingers 
closed. This gives an impression of a firm handsclasp but still leaves the 
hand which enters from the left apparently unresponsive (Fig. 4). It also 
leaves the lower left portion of the design field empty and presents the 
folded forefinger as unnaturally long. 

Fig. 3 Linked Hands with all fingers extended. Unknown person, 1877, 
Allenford United Church, Allenford, Bruce County. 


Mwr-m^t^ «rS8* 

Fig. 4 Linked Hands with all fingers closed on clasping hand. William 
Proctor, 1878, Allenford United Church, Allenford, Bruce County. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

Finally, as a fourth variation, there are two stones, possibly by the same 
carver, in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Cemetery located halfway between 
Shakespeare and Amulree, Ontario, in which both hands are shown with 
all four fingers of each hand closed upon the other in a gesture which 
depicts a realistic handshake (Fig. 5). I have found no other example of 
this variation, though it appears in settings outside the mortuary, as for ex- 
ample in symbols of agreement signified by a handshake. 

The majority of the stones bearing Linked Hands do not display a 
motto above the rondel in which the motif appears, but of those which do 
(and are readable), the mottoes are these: "Farewell," used in seven 
stones, "In Memory Of," used on three stones, "Farewell Father," "Farewell 
. . . Mother," "Bruderlieve," "Our Father and Mother," and "Nearer my 
God to Thee." 










Fig. 5 Linked Hands with both hands fully closed; detail of Peter, c. 
1872, and Catherine, 1892 McLellan, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church 
Cemetery, located between Shakespeare and Amulree, Perth County. 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

This largest category of hand motifs is called by symbolist J.E. Cirlot 
"the familiar emblem of the 'linked hands'." He gives two interpretations 
of this gesture. The first is that it is "expressive of a virile fraternity." Bar- 
bara Franco's study of Masonic symbolism states that "clasped hands sym- 
bolize fidelity," and that in a fraternal context, they "symbolize giving and 
receiving signs of recognition." 12 

Since in Freemasonry it is the pressure of the thumb rather than the 
position of the fingers which is the sign, other motifs are necessary to sug- 
gest a fraternal interpretation for the Linked Hands. The stone of Henry 
McNaughton (1896) in Erin Cemetery, Erin, Ontario, Wellington County, 
(Fig. 2), displays a pair of Linked Hands above the square and compasses 
of Freemasonry. The stone of William A. Bryan (1893) in Rushes 
Cemetery, Crosshill, Ontario, Waterloo County, places the Linked Hands 
in the context of fraternal symbolism, where it is surrounded by a variety 
of Orange Lodge motifs, including the arch beneath which the hands 
appear. 13 A third stone, that of John Becker (1871), in Preston Cemetery, 
Cambridge, Ontario, Waterloo County, which also displays Linked Hands, 
has thrust into the earth before it a metal device bearing the triple linked 
chain and the letters "IOOF" which express membership in the Interna- 
tional Order of Odd Fellows. In all of these stones the fraternal member- 
ship is made clear not by the Linked Hands but by additional and specifi- 
cally lodge-related motifs. 

Cirlot's second interpretation of the Linked Hands gesture is that it sig- 
nifies "mystic marriage." 14 This is probably a more common meaning of 
the motifs in a mortuary setting, many of which appear on stones bearing 
epitaphs describing the dead as husband and/or wife. Very often the cuffs 
of the sleeves out of which the hands extend indicate the presence of male 
and female participants in the handclasp: a husband with a masculine, 
straight-edged shirt cuff, sometimes complete with a button or cuff-link; 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

and a wife with a feminine, ruffled or flaring cuff (Fig. 5). Gender is not 
indicated by the hands themselves, which are usually of the same size and 
shape, perhaps because there is no giving or taking in marriage in Heaven. 

Another symbolist states that "clasping hands" signify "union" and 
"allegiance"," as well as friendship, loyalty, promise, agreement, contract, 
and confirmation. 15 These many generalized terms of mutuality and 
relationship reinforce the breadth and complexity of this motif. Its use 
continues to exist in the late twentieth century in this broad sense, but it 
appears very seldom in a mortuary setting beyond the Victorian and Ed- 
wardian eras, and then only on the marble stones. 16 

Linked Hands on a gravestone imply contact of the living and the dead 
not only at the moment of parting, or at the moment yet to come of greet- 
ing in another world, but also, in some mystical way, contact in the 
present. I argue this from the horizontal arrangement of the hands, which 
allows an analysis of the left-handedness or right-handedness of the hands 
depicted. In every case of the Linked Hands motifs examined in this 
study, the two hands are both right hands, and thus must be the hands of 
two different people, rather than the hands of a single person. It is 
notable that in nearly every case the hand entering from the left is shown 
with all four fingers extended in a limp manner. This person is evidently 
facing the viewer and presenting a right hand to the viewer, whose own 
right hand is inserted from the right side and actively grasps the hand of 
the other. If this is so, perhaps the hand entering from the left is the hand 
of the dead. There is nothing macabre in this contact of dead and living. 
The hands are extended from left and right in a position of equality. This 
symbol of greeting, when found on a tombstone, implies the hope of meet- 
ing the dead again, when the hands of both participants will be the hands 
of the dead, and not only the dead but the resurrected. Such a hope is 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

suggested by the epitaph found on the stone of Janet, wife of Archibald 
Rennie, (1872) in Rushes Cemetery, Crosshill, Ontario, Waterloo County: 
"Farewell Till We Meet Again." 

That the most common of hand motifs found on Victorian stones--the 
Linked Hands-can be carved in four different gestural manners, suggests 
that even for its carvers this was not the monotonous reiteration of a 
stereotype but a lively embodiment of that most desired of all meanings- 
the contact through an image carved on stone between the one whose 
body lies in the earth and the one who stands before it ready to read that 
meaning anew. 

Upward-Pointing Hands 

In the second largest category of hand motifs are twenty-nine Upward- 
pointing Hands. These are clearly divided into two groups. The largest 
and most broadly distributed group includes twenty-two Upward-pointing 
Hands inside rondels, each placed at the top of its stone (Fig. 6). There 
are mottoes placed above this image in about half of these stones and 
some of these mottoes comment upon the direction taken by the dead as 
indicated by the upraised forefinger: "Gone Home" (used twice in Rushes 
Cemetery), "Gone Before," "Gone to Glory," and "To Heaven." Other 
mottoes comment upon the state of the dead: "She is at Rest," and "There 
is Rest in Heaven." One addresses God: "Thy will be done." An epitaph 
on the stone of Philippina, Wife of Adam Halberstadt, (1863) in Preston 
Cemetery, Cambridge, Ontario, summarizes the meaning of these mottoes 
very clearly: 

Jesus has called the mother home 
Her flesh lies mouldering in the ground: 
God grant her offspring may be blessed 
And meet her in eternal rest. 



Fig. 6 Upward-pointing Hand; detail of Anna Wagner, 1889, St. Peter's 
Lutheran Cemetery, Neustadt, Bruce County. 

The Upward-pointing Hand is found in other symbolic settings in 
nineteenth-century artifacts. A well-known example in Waterloo County 
is the handsome cast-iron Upward-pointing Hand which once topped the 
steeple of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Bridgeport, Ontario (now part of 
Kitchener), Waterloo County. This object tops the steeple of the Freeport 
United Church in its own relocated position at Doon Heritage Crossroads, 
Kitchener, Ontario. 17 It shows the thumb and forefinger firmly pointed 
upwards and the other three fingers carefully folded downwards. A light- 
ning rod has been fastened to the hand in case the steeple should attract 
fire from heaven. In this position on the church, as on the stones, the 
Upward-pointing Hand is part of the emblematic tradition which the Vic- 
torian era had perpetuated, and its purpose is to direct attention upwards, 
toward the symbolic location of Heaven. 

This symbolism has been modified in the late twentieth century by em- 
phasis on the singularity of the raised forefinger. In the 1980s athletes 
(and their fans) raise their forefingers to signal that they are "number 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

one." That is, they are the first in their class and have reached the top of 
their group. Even here the gesture is associated with victory. There is a 
sense in which the element of victory is included when the same gesture is 
used in a mortuary setting as an image of transcendence, and in particular, 
of victory over death. 

The gesture of the Upward-pointing Hand as used in the nineteenth 
century may be derived from the depiction of angels at the tomb of Christ 
who point upward to tell the mourning women on Easter that Christ has 
risen from the dead, or of angels who, at the ascension of Christ into 
Heaven, point upwards to tell the assembled followers of Jesus that He 
will return even as they have seen Him go. Sunday school booklets of this 
period often show these scenes. 

When hands on gravestones point upwards without a visual referent, 
there is a suggestion that it is some angelic or otherwise lofty commen- 
tator who points, signalling to the viewer the direction taken by the 
departed. Sometimes, however, there is a visual referent plainly indicated. 
This situation forms a secondary category of Upward-pointing Hands on 
seven stones found in St. Boniface Roman Catholic Cemetery in Maryhill, 
Ontario, Waterloo County, and in St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery in Neus- 
tadt, Ontario, Bruce County. It may be that these stones in which the 
Upward-pointing Hand is directed toward a visible target comprise a dis- 
tinctive variation or exception in that they possess a denominational, eth- 
nic, or carver-related element confined to these sites. 

In St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, Neustadt, Ontario, Bruce County, 
one stone shows an Upward-pointing Hand in a small rondel beneath a 
large rondel containing an open Bible. This target (the Bible) is unique in 
this series. A stone in the Neustadt cemetery (1894) places the hand in a 
rondel beneath a larger rondel which contains as its target the Cross bear- 
ing the initials "IHS" (a Greek symbol for Jesus, derived from the spelling 
of His name in Greek capitals, and sometimes explained as standing for 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

standing for the Latin Jesus Hominum Salvator) and flanked by lilies. 
These stones are very similar in format and shape, but the date on the one 
with the Bible is entirely concealed by lichen. 

In St. Boniface Cemetery, Maryhill, there are five stones with Upward- 
pointing Hands indicating the Cross as its target. One of these, with a 
hand in a rondel pointing up to a rondel containing a Cross flanked by 
lilies and with an IHS looks very much like the 1894 stone in Neustadt and 
bears a date of 1895. There are slight differences in the presentation of 
the details, but both the Neustadt and Maryhill stones are lettered in Ger- 
man gothic script. In Maryhill there is another stone with a hand in a ver- 
tical ellipse pointing up toward a lily-flanked Cross with the IHS in a cir- 
cular rondel; here the date is 1891 and the lettering is in English script. 
These three stones are enough alike to suggest that they were done by the 
same carver or have a common design source. 

A third stone at Maryhill, which is broken and undateable, contains a 
wreath-enclosed Upward-pointing Hand in a large rondel beneath a Cross 
with an IHS inside a small rondel without flowers. This can be classed 
with those discussed above as to theme, but there are significant variations 
in the presentation. Also at Maryhill are two stones in which the 
Upward-pointing Hand, enclosed in a vertical ellipse, is deeply set within 
the arms of a large Cross surmounting the stone. One such Cross bears 
the IHS and the other bears three trefoils, one on each arm of the Cross. 
Each stone places the Cross above a rondel containing a rose bouquet. 
Both stones are lettered in German gothic; one of these stones is dated 
1868 and was made in Elora. Carvers of this type of stone placed their 
names and business locations near the base of the stone, and this informa- 
tion is very often unreadable. 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

All these Hands direct attention not only to Heaven, but to the Bible or 
the Cross, that is, to the source of consolation and instrument of salvation 
by which Heaven has been won for the dead. In all these cases, moreover, 
the hand is in a distinct rondel of its own, whether it is placed beneath a 
separate rondel containing the Bible or Cross, or is placed upon the Cross. 

A final stone in this thematic set, that of Alexander Miller (1860), is 
distinctly different in format but seems to have the same meaning, ex- 
pressed even more emphatically and clearly (Fig. 7). In this stone a hand 
appears to burst forth from the earth beside a Cross raised on a set of 
stairs, and obviously the hand points toward the Cross. Here, too, the let- 
ters IHS are prominently displayed. This hand is perhaps the hand of the 
buried dead, pointing firmly toward the Cross in which the hopes of the 
living and the dead are to be placed. 

Presenting Hands 

The third and last major category of hand motifs appears on sixteen 
stones; I shall call these motifs Presenting Hands. All of them hold or 
present an object up, down, or out to the viewer's attention. More than 
half of those (eleven) lift an object upwards: that is, the hand reaches up 
from below, as does the Upward-pointing Hand, and holds or presents an 
object in the upheld hand (Fig. 8). A few of these hands hold up nosegays 
or bouquets of flowers, many hold up open Bibles, and one, in St. Peter's 
Lutheran Cemetery in Neustadt, Ontario, holds a heart in its open palm. 
The same cemetery contains an Upward-pointing Hand which clasps a fist- 
ful of leaves, unique in the works studied. 

In Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Ontario, there are five stones with 
upheld Bibles with the motto "REV. XIV: 13," referring to a long verse, 
Revelation 14:13, the meat of which is the phrase "Blessed are the dead 
which die in the Lord." A stone bearing an upheld Bible in Erin, Ontario, 
Wellington County, bears the motto "God is Love." There are several 




Fig. 7 Upward-pointing Hand directed toward a Cross. Alexander 
Miller, 1860, St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, Maryhill, Waterloo 


**0*tm f* **"* ****** 

Fig. 8 Presenting Hand uplifting an open Bible. Elizabeth Armstrong, 
1888, Rushes Cemetery, near Crosshill, Waterloo County. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

other upheld Bible stones with mottoes which I was unable to decipher 
because of their worn condition. The space on the Bible page is small and 
the lettering small and shallow, so that these messages are easily worn 

The next, and with only four examples, much smaller group of Present- 
ing Hands, includes four which reach downward from above, holding ob- 
jects which hang down or are touched from above (Fig. 1). On each of two 
of these stones a downward-reaching hand is presenting a scroll to the 
viewer's attention. On one of these, the stone of Sally Hagey (1895) in 
Hagey Cemetery, Cambridge, Ontario, Waterloo County, the scroll bears 
the motto "At Rest." 

On a stone in Dunk's Bay Cemetery, Tobermorey, Ontario, in Bruce 
County, located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, a funerary 
drape is pulled aside by rosettes to reveal a downward-reaching Presenting 
Hand holding a large escutcheon on a cord, with a nosegay of three roses 
between the dependent cord's two portions. In memory of Alexander 
Butchard (1892), the epitaph of this elaborately detailed stone declares, 
"Too good for earth, / God called him home." 

The last of the downward Presenting Hands carries the motto from 
which the title of this article was taken. Here a hand reaches down with 
its forefinger extended, holding together two links of a circular chain (Fig. 
1). A severed chain, in which the links of the circle have been broken by 
death, here becomes a reunited chain in which, by divine intervention, the 
circle becomes unbroken once again. This hand, it seems to me, is indeed 
the hand of God, and it is the dead woman and her mourners who are to 
be "United Above Though Parted Below." 

Finally, there is a single stone in my samples with a Presenting Hand 
which reaches sideways, entering the visual field from the viewer's right 
and extending a nosegay (Fig. 9). This posture apparently lacks the 
reference to Heaven and suggests the offering of a floral tribute to a child, 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

Willie S. Martin, who died in 1890 at the age of seven years. There is, 
however, a heavenly reference in the poignant epitaph lettered below: 
"You are gone little Willie ... To stately mansions above." 

Fig. 9 Presenting Hand extending a bouquet from the side. Willie S. 
Martin, 1890, Grace United Church, Millbank, Waterloo County. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

In the category of Presenting Hands I have described three directional 
variations: the rising (or raising) hand, the descending hand, and the 
horizontal hand. This directionality can be interpreted in accordance with 
the idea of a three-storey universe. The descending Presentational Hand 
suggests, by its spatial association with the "Hand of God," the giving of a 
gift or the bringing of a message, or even the direct intervention from the 
spiritual realm, that is, from Heaven. The horizontal Presentational Hand 
suggests an offering from within the living world in the viewer's own plane, 
as does its accompanying epitaph which addresses the dead in the voice 
perhaps of the bereaved parents. The rising Presentational Hand, 
however, like the far more common Upward-pointing Hand, surely does 
not suggest an infernal manifestation but rather an effort to lift or direct 
upwards the attention of the viewer, elevating or raising the thoughts of 
the onlooker from the earthly to the heavenly. 

In the extremely archaic and psychologically powerful multilayered 
universe which was still occupied by the people who raised these marble 
stones with their ubiquitous hand motifs, the hands implied a continuum 
of being, and even of interaction, between the below and the above, be- 
tween the living and the dead, and between the human and the divine. 
The hand is the prime symbol of personal action and direct efficacy. In 
this symbol the worlds of the person whose death is memorialized on the 
stone, of the bereaved survivors who anticipated a heavenly reunion with 
the departed, and even of the passerby who pauses to view and perhaps to 
reflect upon the meaning of that stone, are, at least for a moment, united. 


Waterloo Co 


1 Freston Cemetery, Cambridge 

2 St. Matthew's Lutheran Cemetery 


3 West Montrose United Cemetery, 

West Montrose 
k St. James Lutheran Cemetery, 

5 Linwood Cemetery, Linwood 

6 Heidelberg Cemetery, Heidelberg 

7 Grace United Cemetery, Millbank 

8 Trinity Lutheran Cemetery, 


9 Wilmot Township Cemetery 

10 Freeborn Cemetery 

11 Mannheim Mennonite Cemetery, 


12 Wilmot Mennonite Cemetery 

13 Wanner Mennonite Cemetery, 


14 Rushes Cemetery, near Crosshill 

15 Consolidated Cemetery, 

Waterloo RR 22 and H'way 

16 Detweiler Mennonite Cemetery, 


17 Hagey Cemetery, Cambridge 

18 Blair Cemetery, Blair 

19 First Mennonite (Eby) Cemetery 


20 Kinsie-Biehn Cemetery, 


21 St. Boniface RC Cemetery, 

Perth County 

22 St. Andrew's Presbyterian 

Cemetery, Shakespeare 
Wellington County 

23 Elora Cemetery, Elora 
Zk Erin Cemetery, Erin 

25 St. Andrew's Presbyterian, 

Bruce County 

26 Dunk's Bay Cemetery, 


27 St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, 


28 Balsam Grove Cemetery, 


29 Allenford United Cemetery, 


30 St. Anne's RC Cemetery, 


Map of Southwestern Ontario, indicating cemeteries visited. 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 


All photographs are by the author. 

1. Carole Hanks, Early Ontario Gravestones (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1974); 
and Patricia Stone and Lynn Russell, "Observations on Figures, Human and Divine, 
on Nineteenth Century Ontario Gravestones," Material History Bulletin (Fall 1986), 

2. Stone and Russell, "Observations," 23. An advertisement for cabinetmaker and 
stonecutter Johannes Hoffman (1808-1878) featuring two gravestones and a willow 
tree appeared in Der Deutsche Canadier (28 February 1839) in Berlin (now 
Kitchener), Ontario. This is reproduced in Teruko Kobayashi, "Folk Art in Stone: 
Pennsylvania German Gravemarkers in Ontario," Waterloo Historical Society Annual 
Volume 1982 (Kitchener, Ontario: Waterloo Historical Society, 1983), 70:111. The 
Waterloo County gravestones are cut from imported calcite (a metamorphosed lime- 
stone commonly used as marble) according to tests done by Professor R. Gwylim 
Roberts of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Waterloo 
(Ontario), whose help is gratefully acknowledged. 

3. Hanks, Early Ontario Gravestones, 32; and Stone and Russell "Observations," 23. Wil- 
low and hand motifs occur commonly in Victoria era stones in the United States as 
well; see Francis Y. Duval and Ivan B. Rigby, Early American Gravestone Art in 
Photographs (New York: Dover Publications, 1978), 108-109 and 111-115 for willow 
motifs in Iowa cemeteries; for hands see Duval and Rigby 118, 120, 122, 125; and Ed- 
mund V. Gillon Jr., Victorian Cemetery Art (New York: Dover Publications, 1972), 
figs. 58-59, 124-127 and 129-130. 

4. Hanks, Early Ontario Gravestones, 35; Stone and Russell, "Observations," 23. 

5. Blanche M.G. Linden, "The Willow Tree and Urn Motif: Changing Ideas about 
Death and Nature," Markers I (Worcester, MA: AGS Publications, 1979-1980), 149- 
155. Willows were widely used in Victorian funerary symbolism; see Barbara Jones, 
Design for Death (London: Andre Deutsch, 1967) for mid-nineteenth century British 
printers' blanks for funeral cards with willow trees (137) and a mid-nineteenth century 
British catalogue of printers' stock blocks for undertakers' and masons' cards with a 
series of willow motifs. See also footnote 3 above. 

6. Just as ceremonial burial itself developed in the Paleolithic Age [see Mircea Eliade,yl 
History of Religious Ideas, Volume I (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 
"Symbolic Meanings of Burials," 9-13], so also did the concept of a vertical orientation 
of space as a cosmic model, analogous to the upright posture of human beings. 
Eliade calls this "the original and originating experience" which separates humans 
from pre-humans" (Ibid., 3). 


The Hand on Ontario Gravestones 

7. Ibid., 43 

8. The cemeteries are as follows: Waterloo County: Preston Cemetery, Cambridge, On- 
tario; St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, Conestoga, Ontario; West 
Montrose United Church cemetery, West Montrose, Ontario; St. James Evangelical 
Lutheran Cemetery, Mannheim, Ontario; Linwood Cemetery, Linwood, Ontario; 
Heidelberg Cemetery, Heidelberg, Ontario; Grace United Church, Millbank, On- 
tario; Trinity Lutheran Church, Floradale, Ontario; Wilmot Township Senior Public 
School Cemetery; Freeborn Cemetery, Wellesley Township; Mannheim Mennonite 
Church Cemetery, Mannheim, Ontario; Wilmot Mennonite Church Cemetery, Wil- 
mot Township; Wanner Cemetery (Wanner Mennonite Church), Cambridge, On- 
tario; Rushes Cemetery, near Crosshill, Ontario; Consolidated Cemetery, Waterloo 
Regional Road 22 and Highway 86; Detweiler Mennonite Meeting House, Roseville, 
Ontario; Hagey Cemetery, Cambridge, Ontario; Blair Cemetery, Blair, Ontario; First 
Mennonite (Eby) Church Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario; Kinsie-Biehn Cemetery, 
Kitchener, Ontario; St. Boniface Roman Catholic Cemetery, Maryhill, Ontario; Perth 
County: St. Andrew's Presbyterian Churh, Shakespeare-Amulree, Ontario; Wellington 
County: Elora Cemetery, Elora, Ontario; Erin Cemetery, Erin, Ontario; St. Andrew's 
Presbyterian Cemetery, Fergus, Ontario; Bruce County: Dunk's Bay Cemetery, Tober- 
morey, Ontario; St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, Neustadt, Ontario; Balsam Grove 
Cemetery, Oliphant, Ontario; Allenford United Church Cemetery, Allenford, On- 
tario; St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church Cemetery, Riversdale, Ontario. 

9. See Nancy-Lou Patterson, "Grave Matters: Swiss-German Mennonite Gravestones of 
the 'Pennsylvania Style' (1804-1854) in the Waterloo Region, Ontario," Past and 
Present (a University of Waterloo Periodical, October 1980), 56; "Death and Ethnicity: 
Swiss-German Mennonite Gravestones of the 'Pennsylvania Style' (1804-1854) in the 
Waterloo Region, Ontario," Mennonite Life (September 1982), Vol. 37, No. 3, 4-7; and 
"Swiss-German Mennonite Gravestones of the 'Pennsylvania Style' (1804-1854)," 
Newsletter of the Association For Gravestone Studies (Winter 1983/84), 4. For the ex- 
ceptions, which consist of three white marble stones found in First Mennonite (Eby) 
Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario, that appear to bear inscriptions based upon the fraktur 
lettering style of Isaac Z. Hunsicker, see Nancy-Lou Patterson, Handschriften: Hand- 
written Forms in Germanic Waterloo County (Kitchener, Ontario: Joseph Schneider 
Haus, 1984), Figure 7: Gravemarker for Magdalena Hunsicker (1854). 

10. See Nancy-Lou Patterson, Wreath and Bough: Decorative Arts of the Amish- 
Mennonite Settlers in Waterloo County (Waterloo, Ontario: Ontario German Folklife 
Society, 1983), Figure 19 and p. 11; and Handschriften (1984), Figure 11. These dis- 
tinctive gravemarkers are slabs of cast concrete inscribed with a pointed instrument in 
a naive "public school" script. 

11. See Nancy-Lou Patterson, "The Iron Cross and the Tree of Life: German-Alsatian 
Gravemarkers in Waterloo Region and Bruce County Roman Catholic Cemeteries," 
Ontario History (March 1976), 1-16; "German-Alsatian Gravemarks in Ontario," Past 


Nancy-Lou Patterson 

and Present (October 1978), 56; and "German-Alsatian Iron Gravemrkers in Southern 
Ontario Roman Catholic Cemeteries," Material History Bulletin (Fall 1983), 2 pp, 2 il- 

12. J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols (New York: American Philosophical Society, 
1962), 131; and Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts 
(Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National 
Heritage, 1976), 50. 

13. This stone is illustrated in Nancy-Lou Patterson, "Be Thou Faithful Unto Death," Past 
and Present (October 1984), 6, and in "The Gavel of Death: Masonic and Orange 
Lodge Gravemarkers in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Ontario (1864-1983), Water- 
loo County Historical Society Annual Volume 1984 (Kitchener, Ontario: Waterloo 
Historical Society, 1985), 144. 

14. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, 131. 

15. J.C. Cooper, Symbolism, the Universal Language (Wellingborough, Northampton- 
shire: The Aquarian Press, 1982), 117; and J.C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia 
of Traditional Symbols (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978). 

16. I have seen occasional examples in late twentieth-century stones of a hand motif not 
used in the stones studied in this paper: the Praying Hands motif, probably derived 
from the frequently reproduced Durer drawing, which I assume symbolizes prayer by 
the living for the dead. 

17. Bridgeport Cemetery and Free Church were founded by the Rev. August Rauschen- 
bush, who was born in 1816 in Altena, Westfalen, Germany, ordained a Lutheran pas- 
tor in 1841, and, having been given adult baptism in 1850, became a Baptist minister 
in 1851. He founded the first German Baptist Church in Canada, Benton Street Bap- 
tist Church in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, of which the Bridgeport Free Church 
was a branch. In 1861 German-speaking Lutherans in Bridgeport began to hold then- 
services in this building, and did so until 1889, when St. Paul's Lutheran Church was 
erected, with its Upward-pointing Hand upon the spire. The cemetery continues in its 
original place. See Idessa Zimmerman, "Bridgeport, Ontario," (no date), a typescript. 
I am grateful to Elizabeth McNaughton, Registrar/Researcher of Doon Heritage 
Crossroads, for this information. The religious and ethnic elements represented in 
the history of the church which bears this symbol reflect the setting in which this par- 
ticular Upward-pointing Hand was situated. 





"Christians to Christians" 

Eumeneian Formula 

Highest Concentration of Eumeneian Formula 

Map of Anatolia (drawn by Carol Gerber). 


Scott T. Carroll 

Riches await the classical historian interested in tombstones. Ancient 
gravemarkers abound with fascinating material about the lives and 
professed beliefs of antiquity's "silent majority." There are thousands of 
extant tombstones inscribed in the native languages of the ancient 
Mediterranean world. Several excellent studies survey ancient Greek and 
Latin epigraphy. 1 The epitaphs of ancient Turkey (Anatolia, later known 
as Asia Minor) are thoroughly catalogued and are of particular interest. 2 
The earliest epitaphic attestations to Christianity are found in the huge 
corpus of gravestones from Asia Minor. This paper describes one of them 
- the tomb of Aurelius Eutychus. He was an athlete, and his nickname, 
Helix, meaning twisting or turning, probably applied to his skill as a 
wrestler. The inscription on the tomb provides an excellent example of 
syncretism -- the effort to reconcile or combine different religious beliefs, 
here paganism and Christianity. 

Christianity was an illicit religion in the Roman Empire until its 
legalization by the Emperor Constantine in A. D. 313. This date marks a 
watershed in the study of early Christian epigraphy. After the Roman 
legalization of Christianity, except during the reign of Julian the Apostate 
(A.D. 361-363), it became fashionable to confess openly one's Christian 
faith on gravemarkers. Prior to the reign of Constantine, the church suf- 
fered through intermittent persecution. Believers in Asia Minor paid a 
heavy toll for their illegal faith. Funerary dedications that testified to 
Christianity before A.D. 313 jeopardized the well-being of Christians 
living in the vicinity of such unconventionally bold epitaphs. As a rule, an 
open profession of Christianity on tombstones was avoided prior to A.D. 


Scott T. Carroll 

313. 3 The tombstones from pre-Constantine Asia Minor, where numerous 
epitaphs courageously placarded Christianity in the face of persecution, 
were an exception to this rule. 

The earliest Christian epitaphs from Asia Minor are classified accord- 
ing to their formulae into two categories. The Christian epitaphs 
employed either an unveiled or a veiled formula. The unveiled formula is 
overtly Christian and boldly proclaims that the tomb was dedicated "by 
Christians for Christians" (Fig. I). 4 These epitaphs seemed to invite per- 
secution. Twenty-four "Christians for Christians" tombstones have been 
found in eastern Lydia and west-central Phrygia (see map). 

Divergent interpretations are offered to explain this unusual type of 
dedication. Several scholars maintain that these bold declarations of 
Christianity were made by Christian schismatics called Montanists. 5 
Montanism began in Phrygia in A.D. 171/2. The Montanists were 
prophetic, puritanical rigorists who called themselves "the Church of the 
martyrs." Their unhesitant proclamation of Christianity seemed to invite 
persecution. Montanism flourished in the region where the "Christians for 
Christians" epitaphs were erected. Other scholars are reluctant to identify 
the formula with the Montanists. 6 Some attempt to account for the recur- 
ring epitaphic formula by arguing that the "Christians for Christians" 
gravestones were produced by the same workshop. 7 

Unlike the bold "Christians for Christians" epitaphs, the second 
category of pre-Constantine Christian dedications from Asia Minor are 
unobtrusive. The veiled formula was characterized by a syncretistic 
camouflage of the Christian testimony on the epitaph. These crypto- 
Christian inscriptions used imprecations and artistic motifs that were in- 
distinguishable from those on pagan tombstones and consequently were 
inoffensive to their pagan neighbors. This kind of inscription contained a 
unique monotheistic dedication which has been positively identified as 


Fig. 1 Early Christian tomb in Anatolia. 


Scott T. Carroll 

Christian. 8 The veiled inscription is called the "Eumeneian formula" be- 
cause it is popularly attested around the Phrygian city of Eumeneia (see 

The sepulchre had an important function in Phrygian society. The 
Phrygians believed that the grave was "the house of the dead." They 
employed elaborate precautions to protect their tombs against desecration 
by the interment of an unauthorized corpse. These precautions were often 
framed as legal proscriptions against violators of the tomb. 9 The stock 
proscription read: "If anyone disturbs this grave or buries an alien corpse 
in it, he shall pay a fine of so much to so and so." Apparently, these in- 
scriptions were legally binding. Another common Phrygian proscription 
formula committed violators of the grave to a power higher than their 
courts -- to their gods. These types of inscription are called devotiones. 
The stock devotiones read: "The violator of this grave shall make an ac- 
count to the gods." These two kinds of protection formulae were also 
employed by Phrygian Christians. 

The Eumeneian formula incorporated dedication styles that discreetly 
hid Christian sentiments within the pagan epitaphial format. Utilizing the 
pagan invocations, the Christians declared their faith, using monotheistic 
references in an unobjectionable manner. For example, many Eumeneian 
Christian epitaphs read that the violator of the tomb should "pay before 
the true God." Other veiled Christian gravemarkers committed the 
protection of the tomb to "the Living God." 

A veiled inscription that deserves observation because of its Christian 
confession and bold syncretism is the intriguing epitaph of Aurelius 
Eutychus of Eumeneia, called Helix. 10 His tombstone was located in 
Ishekli (ancient Eumeneia). The tribulations endured by Helix's 
headstone are a story in themselves. The gravestone was first observed in 
the masonry of a Turkish house on a road leading out of Ishekli. Ancient 
tombstones were frequently used to build walls, steps and even houses. 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

The inscription on the front of Helix's stone was copied in the late 
nineteenth century when it was observed in the wall of the house. 11 A 
Greek Christian force rampaged and burned Ishekli in 1922, and Helix's 
marker lay dislodged where the house once stood. The Muslims then 
protested the destruction of their town and desecrated Christian graves- 
tones. Part of Helix's stone was mutilated. A team of epigraphists survey- 
ing the region later discovered, to their suprise, that Helix's gravemarker 
was inscribed on both the left and right sides. The interesting biographical 
information that had been hidden in the wall of the house was then re- 
corded for the first time. The present location of the stone, if indeed it 
still exists, is unknown. 

The altar-shaped stone was 0.72 meters high, 0.44 meters wide at the 
base and 0.305 meters wide along the shaft, with a thickness of 0.31 
meters. The letters on the front of the headstone ranged in height from 2 
to 1.8 centimeters, and the letters on the left side ranged in height from 
1.3 to 1 centimeters (Figs. 2, 3 and 4). 

The author's translation of the inscription is based on transcriptions 
published by Paris and Ramsay (see note 11): 

To the blessed dead. Aurelius 
Eutychus, son of Hermes, also 
called Helix, a Eumeneian 
citizen and a citizen of other 
cities, of the tribe of 
Hadrianis, a member of the city 
council and of the board of 
elders, made the grave for 
himself and his most reverend 
and dearest wife Marcella and 
their children. And if anyone 
else shall attempt to lay a 
corpse in it, he shall have to 
reckon with the Living God. 


Fig. 2 Front of Eutychus marker. 

Fig. 3 Right side of Eutychus marker. 


Fig. 4 Left side of Eutychus marker. 


Scott T. Carroll 

Since Helix's inscription is dateless, it is of primary importance to fix 
the date of the epitaph. There are several ways to establish the date of an 
undated epitaph. First, the date of an inscription can be approximated by 
the style of lettering and indications of contemporary pronunciation. The 
square sigmas used on the lettering were a stylistic idyosyncracy dating to 
the mid- third century A.D. 12 

Second, dating the formula used on a gravemarker is another conven- 
tion employed to fix the date of a tombstone. Helix used the Eumeneian 
formula in his dedication. His inscription reads, "And if anyone else shall 
attempt to lay a corpse in this grave, he shall have to reckon with the 
Living God." This formula is pre-Constantine, dating to the last half of the 
third century. Scholars believe that the Eumeneian formula was intention- 
ally designed to parallel the more overtly Christian epitaphic testimonials 
to the north of Eumeneia. All of the "Christians for Christians" inscrip- 
tions, with the exception of one, are dated between A.D. 246-73, suggest- 
ing that the Eumeneian formula was also popularly used at the same 
time. 13 

A third technique used to date such a monument is to analyze evidence 
that can be dated within the dedication. The presence of the name 
"Aurelius" places the date of the inscription after A.D. 212, when the Em- 
peror Caracalla issued the Constitutio Antoniniana, which awarded Roman 
citizenship to all free inhabitants in the Roman Empire. 14 Aurelius be- 
came the nomen of the new Roman citizens during the third century, com- 
memorating Caracalla's edict. Epitaphs with the nomen "Aurelius" are 
safely dated between A.D. 215 and A.D. 300. Helix's tombstone may be 
confidently dated between A.D. 250-300 by these criteria. 

Along with the new privilege of citizenship extended to the family of 
Aurelius Eutychus came the obligation to participate in the imperial cult. 
It was especially during the third century A.D. that the Romans revived 
the state religion, obligating all citizens to participate in mandatory obla- 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

tions to honor the genius of the emperor. Christians who refused to 
sacrifice faced the threat of imprisonment and death. 15 Christian persecu- 
tion in the third century was especially intense during the reign of Decius 
(A.D. 249-51) and certainly during the lifetime of Aurelius Eutychus. 
Helix's nomen is a reminder of the conflict that faced this Eumeneian 
Christian, and it underscores the boldness of his epitaph, which was dedi- 
cated in the midst of persecution. 

The other names on the gravestone are also of interest. The name 
Eutychus, literally meaning "good fortune," is commonly found on Chris- 
tian and pagan tombstones alike. 16 It is not unusual for the name of the 
Greek god Hermes to be found in a Christian epitaph, as witnessed by 
other Christian epitaphs from Eumeneia. 17 Helix's father's parents were 
probably not Christians when they named their son "Hermes." Conse- 
quently, it is likely that Aurelius was a second, or if he was himself a con- 
vert, a first, generation Christian. 

Helix's wife was named Marcella. She was probably raised in a home 
with Christian ancestry. The name Marcella was a derivative of the name 
of a prominent Phrygian Christian family from the late second century. 
Aviricius Marcellus (St. Abericius) was a Bishop in the Phrygian city of 
Hierapolis (see map) from A.D. 180-200). 18 Aviricius Marcellus has one 
of the most celebrated Christian epitaphs from Asia Minor. His grave- 
stone bears the earliest positively identifiable Christian epitaph in Asia 
Minor. Aviricius Marcellus's epitaphic formula and legend made a 
profound impact on later Phrygian Christianity. It appears therefore that 
Helix married a woman from a Christian family who was named after this 
eminent Phrygian saint. Finally, the epithet declaring his wife "most 
reverend and dearest" is characteristically Christian and underscores the 
devotion that Helix had for Marcella. 


Scott T. Carroll 

As the text on the stone clearly indicates, Aurelius Eutychus composed 
his own epitaph and has consequently left for antiquity some interesting 
data about his occupation and activities. 19 A poker, anvil, hammer, and 
tongs were inscribed on the right side of the tombstone (Fig. 4), showing 
that Aurelius was a blacksmith. A common method of indicating the oc- 
cupation of the deceased in antiquity was by inscribing the tools of his 
trade on his tombstone. 20 Several illustrations demonstrate that these 
tools were peculiar to the occupation of the smith. Hephaestus, the 
mythological blacksmith of the Olympian gods, was depicted on a 
Phrygian coin from Temenothyrae with a hammer, tongs, and anvil. 21 
There is also a relief of a blacksmith holding tongs over an anvil from Asia 
Minor 22 and another tomb from the vicinity of Helix's gravemarker with a 
blacksmith's implements inscribed on it. 23 One of the clearest depictions 
of the smith's tools is on a Roman sarcophagus from a tomb in Ostia (Fig. 
5X 24 The Roman writer Lucian even described the plight of a blacksmith's 
widow who was compelled to sell her husband's hammer, tongs, and 
anvil. 25 Aurelius Eutychus was certainly a member of a local smith's trade 
guild which was likely to have been organized in honor of their patron god 
Hephaestus. This kind of association was unavoidable for the early Chris- 
tians and does not necessarily imply that there was participation in any 
cultic activity. 

The Christian blacksmith from Eumeneia was also an athlete. The 
deceased's athletic career is indicated by several details on his tombstone. 
"Helix" was a common honorific nickname given to athletes. Additional 
evidence of Helix's involvement in athletics was inscribed on the side of 
the gravestone. An oil vase, two strigils, a pair of boxing gloves, and three 
crowns with palms appear on the left side of Helix's tombstone (Fig. 4). 


Fig. 5 Roman sarcophagus from Ostia showing smith's tools. 

Fig. 6 Strigils, or scrapers, and oil vase used by athletes. 


Scott T. Carroll 

These symbols identify Aurelius as a boxer. There is also strong evidence 
that he was a wrestler and pancratiast (a competition combining both 
wrestling and boxing). The same athlete in antiquity usually competed in 
all three events, referred to as the "heavy sports." 

The oil vase, strigils, and gloves were the personal implements used by 
Aurelius in his athletic career. Athletes rubbed olive oil on their skin 
before exercising, to keep dirt out of their pours and to prevent sunburn. 
The oil was kept in a small vase called an aryballos. Before competition 
the athletes dusted themselves with a coat of fine sand to help the offen- 
sive athlete get a firm grip on his otherwise slippery opponent. While the 
intention behind the use of oil and sand was to help the competitor on the 
offense, a well known ploy of the ancient palaestra was to apply a super- 
abundance of oil on the neck and shoulders, hindering the opponent's 
ability to throw his slippery adversary! After the competition, the sand 
was removed from the body with a scraper called a strigil (Fig. 6). In an- 
cient Greece wrestlers were often buried with their strigils. 

Fig. 7 Ulyrian bronze engraving of boxers. 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

The boxing gloves were the final characteristic piece of athletic equip- 
ment on the marker. When first observed, these figures were thought to 
be dumbbells, but other archaeological evidence clearly identifies the ob- 
jects as a type of boxing glove (Fig. 7). The boxer gripped the middle of 
these leather-covered, weighted objects and then fastened them to his 
wrists with straps. Thus they were not "gloves" in the accepted sense. 
They were weapons designed to hurt, rather than to protect an opponent 
in a bout. The edges of the gloves were used to lacerate the defender's 
face. Bouts continued until one of the competitors either quit, was 
knocked unconscious, or was killed. 

While the three oval symbols on the Helix stone (Fig. 3) have been 
described by some as victory urns and prize-money purses, they were prob- 
ably agonistic crowns. 26 Similar symbols appear on a number of coins 
from Asia Minor (Figs. 8 and 9), on a painted vase and on a Lydian sar- 
cophagus. An interesting Hierapolitan coin depicts a young man with a 
palm in one hand while with the other he supports a crown on his head. 27 
The crowning of victorious athletes occurs frequently in classical litera- 
ture. Inscribed crowns had the name of the festival they commemorated. 
The crowns on Aurelius's epitaph, however, were inscribed with the name 
of the city which sponsored the various festivals that he won (as distin- 
guished from the festivals' names). Two of the cities on Helix's crowns 
(Sebaste and Stektorion) were within a day's journey from Eumeneia, 
while the third city (Brundisium) was in Italy. 

Athletes and gladiators were frequently granted honorary citizenship by 
the cities sponsoring the festivals at which they were victorious. Cham- 
pions often accumulated multiple citizenships. These were the "other 
cities" of which Aurelius said he was a citizen in addition to Eumeneia. 
Helix was more than simply an athletic competitor - he was a champion. 


S v n 

Figs. 8 and 9 Agonistic crowns shown on coins from Asia Minor. 


Aurelius Eutychus or Eumeneia 

Aurelius Helix chose an interesting word in Greek to refer to his tomb. 
The word he used was heroon. This was a pagan term filled with pagan 
religious ideas. The Greeks venerated the remains of dead "heroes" 
(derived from heroon) and a cultic and civic significance was attached to 
their grave sites. 28 The medieval cult of the saints grew out of this pagan 
hero worship. Aurelius Helix called his tomb literally "the resting place of 
a hero," which in itself is filled with a hidden wealth of meaning. 

The early church had mixed attitudes toward ancient sports because the 
festivals were steeped in pagan myth and ritual. Ironically, many 
prominent Christians used athletic imagery as a metaphor for the conflict 
between Christian and pagan culture. Christians adopted a change in at- 
titude toward pagan athletics which was influenced by changed attitudes 
within Hellenistic Judaism. 29 This change is reflected in the New Testa- 
ment, which is filled with athletic terminology. Biblical writers used 
agonistic terminology to teach ethical concepts to pagan converts. 
Perhaps Aurelius found a justification for his athletic career in the Apostle 
Paul's references to boxing and wrestling in the New Testament. 30 

There are numerous classical and early Christian references to the 
morally redeeming virtue of athletic competition. 31 An intriguing point 
was made by the pagan orator Dio Chrysostom (A.D. 30-112) in his Ora- 
tions. He referred to a boxer named Melankomas, renowned for his su- 
perior strength, self-control and moderation. Melankomas won all of his 
bouts without having to fight aggressively. 32 He would simply keep his ad- 
versary at bay with an extended arm until his opponent became exhausted, 
futilely attempting to land punches. For Dio Chrysostom and many others 
in antiquity, Melankomas exemplified true virtue. He overcame adversity 
with self-restaint. It is intriguing to think about how Helix might have 
viewed himself against a popular tradition like that of Melankomas. As a 
Christian, Helix was exhorted to strive for virtue in his life, yet in his 
leisure, he pummeled pagan opponents in the Greek games. 


Scott T. Carroll 

A strong opposition arose in the church to condemn athletics. Tertul- 
lian, living in the shadow of the Carthaginian colosseum, forcefully 
renounced the Roman festivals. In the Apologeticum, he reasoned, 

We renounce your public games as much as we do their origins, which 
we know to stem from superstition ... we have nothing to do in 
speech, sight, or sound with the insanity of the circus, the shameless- 
ness of the theater,the heinousness of the arena, the vanity of physical 
education. 33 

In De spectaculis Tertullian passionately condemned the circus, 
gladiatorial combat, the amphitheater, and all athletic contests. He 
warned Christian catechumens not to attend the public spectacles. The 
Roman games were sinful because of their pagan origins and because they 
excited uncontrollable passion in the spectator, which was inharmonious 
with the Christian religion. 

Now if you insist that the stadium is mentioned in Scripture, you will 
win that point. But you will not deny that what is done in the stadium 
is unworthy of your sight, blows of the fists, kicks, poundings, every as- 
sault of the hand and attack upon man's face, which is the image of 
God. You will never approve of silly racing and hurling and even sil- 
lier jumping, never will empty and ingenious displays or power please 
you, nor the attention paid to an artificially developed body as it has 
gone beyond God's proper craft; and you will hate the men fed full on 
account of Greek pastimes. Wrestling is also the Devil's work: the 
Devil crushed men first. Its attack is the serpent's power, clinging to 
hold, twisting to bind, slippery for escape. 34 

It should be noted that Tertullian was an outspoken puritan. Later in his 
life (around A.D. 207), Tertullian joined the Montanist sect. Both of the 
works quoted above were probably written by Tertullian before his con- 
version to Montanism. However, many of his works written prior to A.D. 
207 contain strong anti-Roman and rigoristic sentiments that are closely 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

associated with the Montanists. It is noteworthy that Aurelius lived, half a 
century later, in the midst of the Montanists, who certainly must have held 
a position opposed to athletics similar to that of Tertullian. 

Another Christian puritanical rigorist who lived in the third century 
A.D. and addressed the issue of pagan sports was Novatian. In the tract 
De spectaculis Novatian explicitly condemned Christians who would even 
watch pagan sporting events. 

Among the faithful and those who lay claim to the dignity of a Chris- 
tian calling, some find no shame, no shame, I say--in vindicating from 
the heavenly Scriptures, the vain superstitions of the pagans that are 
intermingled in the spectacles . . . "Where," they ask, "are such things 
mentioned in Scripture? Where are they prohibited? ... A struggling 
apostle paints for us the picture of a boxing match and of our own 
wrestling against the spiritual forces of wickedness . . . Why then 
should a faithful Christian not be at liberty to be a spectator of things 
that the divine Writings are at liberty to mention." I can with reason 
state here that it would have been far better for such people to lack 
knowledge of the Scriptures than to read them in such a manner! 35 

The church historians reserved agonistic epithets for martyrs. They 
referred to the martyrs as holy wrestlers and God's noble athletes tri- 
umphing for piety in the arena of persecution. 36 This should be contrasted 
with Helix, who lived during the Decian persecution and dedicated a 
courageous epitaph, but who wrestled for temporal praise. By the fourth 
century the church formally barred athletes and spectators from baptism, 
adopting the standard first referred to by Tertullian in De spectaculis? 1 

Aurelius Eutychus also shared in the municipal life of Eumeneia. By 
virtue of his citizenship, he was a member of the city council. But Helix 
was given the higher distinction of being elected to the Board of Elders 
(Geraios). Like his participation in sports, his infiltration into the local 
political administration is filled with pagan implications. The local 
governments were often responsible for the prosecution and punishment 
of Christians. 


Scott T. Carroll 

Instead of viewing Helix as a compromiser with idolatry, we may see his 
motives and goals as noble. According to Eusebius, there was a town in 
Phrygia that was entirely Christian. 38 Several other Christian epitaphs at 
Eumeneia boast that the deceased were members of the local political 
council. 39 Aurelius and his Christian colleagues may have served in the 
local government to protect the other Christians in Eumeneia. 

There were several negative attitudes, however, maintained by the early 
church toward Christian political activism. Tertullian vehemently argued 
that Christians should disassociate themselves from civic responsibilities 
and flee from the idolatry associated with the Roman government. 40 
Church fathers like Clement of Alexandria (circa A.D. 150-220), reasoned 
that the church should remain apolitical. 41 And Origen (circa A.D. 185- 
254) believed that the Christian held a heavenly citizenship and should be 
dedicated to bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. 42 

The syncretism in Aurelius Eutychus's epitaph is astounding. Whether 
he was born a Christian, or if not, whether his pagan exploits preceded his 
conversion to Christianity, is immaterial. Both the Christian and pagan 
elements were engraved for all to see. The gravestone is an extraordinary 
witness not only to an individual's social and athletic achievements but 
also to his personal faith in the midst of state crisis and church debate. 
Helix's gravestone dedication, like all such, was a monument to his own 
ego. The epitaph and carvings on his stone secure an opportunity for one 
like Aurelius Eutychus, also called Helix, who would otherwise be forgot- 
ten, to be remembered, and to a degree, to become immortal. 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

This article is dedicated with gratitude to the author's mentor, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, 
Professor of Ancient History at Miami University and an avid scholar and sports fan. The 
author is grateful to Mason Hammond, Pope Professor of Latin Language and Literature, 
Emeritus, at Harvard University, for reviewing the manuscript and making helpful editorial 
suggestions. The photographs in Figures 2, 3 and 4 are reproduced by courtesy of The 
Journal of Roman Studies, in Figure 5 of Soprintendenza alle Antichita di Ostia (B699), in 
Figure 6 of the British Museum (B2455), in Figure 7 of the Tiroler Landesmuseum Fer- 
dinandeum (ins. 2274), in Figure 8 of the Libraire d'Amfirique et d'Orient Hellenica XI, pi. 
34 no. 10, and in Figure 9 of the British Museum Department of Coins and Medals (coin of 
Phrygia, Synnada 28). 

1. See R. Lattimore, Ttxemes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (Urbana: University of Illinois 
Press, 1962); Louis Robert, Die Epigraphik der klassischen Welt (Bonn: Rudolph 
Habelt Verlag, 1970); and G. Susini, 77ie Roman Stonecutter trans, by A.M. 
Dabrowski, ed. with intr. by E. Badian (Oxford: Blackwell, 1973). 

2. For primary sources consult W. Dittenberger, ed., Orientis Graeci Inscriptions 
Selectae 2 Vols. (repr. New York: Olms, 1970); J. Keil, et al, eds., Monumenta Asiae 
Minoris Antiqua 9 Vols. (Manchester: University Press, 1928- ) ; D. LeBas and W.H. 
Waddington, ed., Inscription Grecques et Latines (Paris: E. Leroux, 1870); and D. 
LeBas and W.H. Waddington, ed., Voyage arch&ologique en Grece et en Asie Mineure 3 
Vols. (Paris: Firmin-Didot Freres, Fils et Cie, 1847-77). See also for surveys and 
primary sources C.H.E. Haspels, Tlie Highlands of Phrygia (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1971); W.M. Ramsay, Vie Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia 2 Vols. 
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1895-97; repr. New York: Arno Press, 1976); and 
Louis Robert, £tudes anatoliennes; recherches sur les inscriptions grecques de I'Asie 
Mineure (Paris: E. de Boccard,1937). 

3. W.M. Calder in his "Philadelphia and Montanism," Bulletin of the John Rylands 
Library 7 (1922-23): 310 n.l, 317, has noted that the Roman catacombs should not be 
compared with epitaphs because the catacombs were not dedicated openly for all to 

4. For a thorough treatment and bibliography see Elsa Gibson, The "Christians for 
Christians" Inscriptions of Phrygia, Howard Tlieological Studies, Vol. 32 (Missoula, 
Mont.: Scholars Press, 1978). 

5. See Ramsay, Cities (note 2), 491; J.G.C. Anderson, "Paganism and Christianity in the 
Upper Tembris Valley," Studies in the History and Art of the Eastern Roman Provinces. 
Aberdeen University Studies 20 (Aberdeen: University Press, 1906), 201; Calder, 
"Philadelphia and Montanism" (note 3); Idem., "Epigraphy of Anatolian Heresies," 
Anatolian Studies Presented to Sir William Ramsay (Manchester: University Press, 


Scott T. Carroll 

1923); Idem., "Leaves from an Anatolian Notebook," Bulletin of the John Rylands 
Library 13 (1929), 254-71; Idem., "Early Christian Epitaphs From Phrygia," Anatolian 
Studies 5 (1955), 25-38; H. Gregoire, "Epigraphie chretienne (Les inscriptions 
heretiques d'Asie Mineure)," Byzantion 1 (1924), 695-710; and C. Cecchelli, 
Monumenti cristiano-eretici di Roma (Rome: Palombi, 1944), 84. On the Montanists, 
see N. Bonwetsch, Texte zur Geschichte des Montanismus KIT 129 (Bonn: Marcus, 
1914); P. de Labriolle, La crise Montaniste (Paris: Leroux, 1913); Idem., Les sources 
de I'histoire du Montanisme (Paris: Leroux, 1913); and W. Schepelern, Der Montanis- 
mus und die Phrygiscen Kulte, trans, by W. Baur (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr/Paul 
Siebeck, 1929). 

6. See Gibson, "Christians for Christians" (note 4); P. de Labriolle, La crise (note 5), 489; 
Schepelern, Der Montanismus (note 5), 80-2; A. Ferrua, "Questioni di epigrafia eretica 
romana," RivArchCrist 21 (1945), 218-21 and Idem., "Di una comunita Montanista sull 
Aurelia alia fine del IV secolo," CivCatt 87 (1936), 2.216-27; and H. Gregoire et al., 
Les Persecutions dans I'Empire Romain, Memoires de l'Academie royale de Belgique, 
Classe des lettres et des sciences morales et politiques, 2nd series, 46,1 (1951), 18. 

7. Gibson, "Christians for Christians" (note 4), 144. See also Susini, Stonecutter (note 1), 

8. W.M. Calder, "The Eumeneian Formula," Anatolian Studies Presented to William Hep- 
worth Buckler (Manchester: University Press, 1939). 

9. Lattimore, Tliemes (note 1), 106-25. 

10. See Calder, "Leaves" (note 5), 255-60; and W.H. Buckler et al., "III.- Monuments 
From Central Phrygia," JRS 16 (1926), 80-2; no. 204; L. Robert, Hellenica XI-XII, 

11. The inscription was first published by P. Paris, "Inscriptions D'Eumenia," B.C.H. 7 
(1884), 234 no. 2; and by Ramsay, Cities (note 2), 522. 

12. Calder, "Leaves" (note 5), 257. 

13. Calder, "Philadelphia" (note 3), 318, 345. 

14. Ramsay, JHS (1883), 30. 

15. The Emperors, like the Greek gods, were shown honor by athletic contests. An im- 
perial temple was situated in Aurelius Eutychus's town of Eumeneia. For further 
details see S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power: Tlxe Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor 
(London: Cambridge University Press, 1984). 

16. cf. Acts 20.9. 


Aurelius Eutychus of Eumeneia 

17. Ramsay, Cities (note 2), 522. See Rom. 16.14 and the Apostolic work entitled the 
Shepherd of Hennas; also note 2 Tim. 1.15. There is a remote possibility that the 
name Hermes refers to the Greek god instead of an actual person. Hermes was the 
patron god of wrestlers. Helix might be boasting that his natural "god-given" athletic 
abilities associate him with Hermes. 

18. See Th. Nissen, Vita S. Abercii (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1910); and W.M. Calder, "The 
Epitaph of Aviricius Marcellus," JRS 29 (1939): 1-4; and Ramsay, Cities (note 2), 709- 

19. In classical antiquity many people belonged to burial societies organized around trade 
guilds. These societies took care of the details of interment for their members, in- 
cluding at times the dedication of the decedent's epitaph. Some of the most intriguing 
dedications were made by gladiators in honor of a fallen colleague. 

20. See the article by Eve D'Ambra entitled "A Myth for a Smith: A Meleager Sar- 
cophagus from a Tomb in Ostia," American Journal of Archaeology 92, 1 (1988), 85-99. 

21. B.V. Head, Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum Phrygia; ed. by R.S. 
Poole (London: British Museum, 1906; repr. Bologna: A. Forni, 1981), pi. 48 no. 4. 

22. See description by Ramsay in JHS 25 (1905), 174 no. 56. 

23. Buckler et al., "III. - Monuments" (note 10), 85 no. 210. 

24. D'Ambra, "A Myth for a Smith" (note 20), 99. 

25. Lucian, Dial, meretr. 6. 

26. Buckler et al., "Monuments" (note 10), 81. 

27. F. Imhoof-Blumer, "Coin-Types of Some Kilikian Cities," Journal of Hellenic Studies 
18 (1898), 179 no. 52 PI. XIII no. 18. 

28. Ramsay, Cities (note 2), 517-8; and Lattimore, Tliemes (note 1), 97, 316. 

29. See M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975); A. Har- 
ris, Greek Athletics and the Jews (Cardiff, 1976); R.R. Chambers, "Greek Athletics and 
the Jews 165 B.C. - A.D. 70," Dissertation, Miami University, 1980; and M. Poliakoff, 
"Jacob, Job, and Other Wrestlers: Reception of Greek Athletics by Jews and Chris- 
tians in Antiquity," Journal of Sport History 11, 2 (1984), 48-65. 

30. 1 Cor. 9.24-7. See Poliakoff, "Jacob, Job, and Other Wrestlers" (note 29), 54; and V. 
Pfitzner, Paul and the Agon Motif (Leiden: Brill, 1962). 


Scott T. Carroll 

31. R. Merkelbach, "Der Griechische Wortschatz und die Christen," Zeitschr. fur Papyrol. 
und Epigraph. 18 (1975): 101-48; and A. Koch, "Leibesubungen im Friihchristentum 
und in der Beginnenden Volkwanderungszeit," Geschichte der Leibesubungen 2 
(Berlin -Munich-Frankfurt, 1972), 312-40. 

32. Dio Chrysostom, Orations 29.14; and L. Robert, Hellenica 11-12 (Paris, 1960), 338-9. 

33. Tertullian, ^/w/ogy 38. 

34. Tertullian, De spectaculis 18. 

35. Novatian, De spectaculis 2. 

36. Note R.L. Fox, Pagans and Christians (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987), 436, 
439, 442. See Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 8.7-8; Idem., Acta martyr. 3. 

37. Apostolic Constitution 8.32. 

38. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 8.11. 

39. A.R.R. Sheppard, "Jews, Christians and Heretics in Acmonia and Eumeneia," 
Anatolian Studies 29 (1979), 170-1, 180. 

40. Tertullian, De Idololatria 11.4, 17-18. 

41. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 5.14.98. 

42. Origen, Contra Celsum 3.30, 8.75. 


Fig. 126 Exercise Conant, 1722, Mansfield Center 


The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connecticut and The 
Men Who Made Them, by James A. Slater. Photographs by Daniel and 
Jessie Lie Farber. Hamden, CT: Published for the Connecticut Academy 
of Arts and Sciences by Archon Books, 1987. Price: $65. 

Review by Peter Benes 

James A. Slater's long-awaited publication on eastern Connecticut 
gravestones 1687-1820 represents the culmination of years of patient 
fieldwork and study by a uniquely qualified scholar. An entomologist in 
the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of the University of 
Connecticut at Storrs, the author has enlarged upon his own avocational 
research on this subject with the published and unpublished notes and 
papers of the late Ernest Caulfield, M.D. He has applied to his study sys- 
tematic data gathering procedures which took him to scores of obscure 
and hard-to-find burying sites in the study region. The result is a 
thoroughly researched and readable work of major importance in the field 
which fulfills the promise shown in the author's three earlier publications 
on individual carvers: one undertaken in collaboration with Dr. Caulfield 
on the Lebanon (Connecticut) stonecarver Obadiah Wheeler (1972); the 
second undertaken with Ralph Tucker on the Essex County 
(Massachusetts) and Norwich (Connecticut) carver John Hartshorne; and 
the third on the Coventry (Connecticut) carvers Jonathan and John 
Loomis. All of these publications follow a somewhat similar research 
method, and all are documented by the superb photographs of Daniel and 
Jessie Lie Farber. 

In keeping with its title, Slater's newest and most ambitious study is 
divided into two parts. The first concerns the identification of seventy-five 
named or hypothesized carvers who placed stones in Eastern Connecticut 
during the period. An accompanying commentary explores the source and 
evolution of each carver's style; a stone distribution table designating 


Peter Benes 

specific sites summarizes the range and geographical density of each 
carver's work. The second offers a practical guide to 201 colonial period 
burying grounds in fifty-nine eastern Connecticut towns and includes 
directions for locating every site. A capsule history of each community is 
followed by an informal commentary on some of the more interesting and 
representative markers found at the site. Tables quantitatively summarize 
the work of carvers represented in each community. Each section is ex- 
tensively illustrated with maps, line drawings, and photographs and oc- 
casional rubbings of sample stone styles. The illustrations are well 
selected and offer pleasant surprises: the poignant Dewey children stone 
(possibly by Lebbeus Kimball), and the Joseph and Judith Laevens stone 
by Jonathan Roberts are among the many that appear for the first time in 
print. A varied assortment of close-up details, whole stones, and views of 
burying sites provides an appropriate visual balance. A complete index, 
definition of terms, and introductory essay on geology and style complete 
the book. 

The reader of this volume is amply rewarded by Slater's patience. 
Characterized by a regional or naive aesthetic, the gravestone trade in 
eastern Connecticut flourished on the peripheries of commercial and 
academic stonecarving traditions emanating from the Connecticut River 
Valley, from the urban Rhode Island and the Narragansett area, and from 
Boston. The numerous variations on indigenous styles, and the continuing 
evolutionary thread of these styles in a milieu intermingling with outside 
styles and stone sources provide the chief substance and intellectual 
strength of the volume. It is here that the author's experience with fine 
differences in insect morphology leads the reader to appreciate and under- 
stand subtle differences in carver styles where most students, this reviewer 
included, previously saw only similarities. Slater's sensitivity and his em- 


Book Review 

pirical caution are reflected in the names he gives to unidentified carvers: 
"The False Huntington Carver," "The Chaplin-Helmet-Manning Imitator," 
"The Drake Imitator." 

Readers should not be misled by Dr. Slater's (refreshingly) unassuming 
writing style or by his "handbook" approach to a subject that in recent 
years has been characterized by impressionistic, art-historical analysis. 
The field work necessary to collect the material is formidable and would 
have daunted anyone else except, perhaps, a professional biologist trained 
in gathering and analyzing large quantities of minute data. The stone dis- 
tribution tables are based on approximately 20,000 extant markers, each of 
which was examined, recorded and classified by the author. The Manning 
family stones alone number 2,422. In the field of decorative arts scholar- 
ship and material culture studies, a data base of this magnitude is unprece- 
dented and constitutes a groundbreaking and innovative use of quantita- 
tive analysis-made possible, of course, by the immobility and relatively 
high rate of survival of grave markers in the greater world of antique ob- 
jects. In the specific field of gravestone scholarship, it applies the 
methodology of stone distribution analysis to a wider geographic scope 
than has been hitherto attempted. The tables provide the single most 
valuable data of this type to appear in print to date and allow the reader 
to perceive unassisted the complex genealogical, commercial, social, and 
cultural processes that these distribution patterns suggest. 

Like all good studies, The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connec- 
ticut raises as many new questions as it answers old ones. Not attempted 
in this work is any systematic explanation of the distribution of stones, 
especially the "outlier" stones such as the Boston-area slates found in 
Woodstock, a town located in the northeast sector of the state. By point- 
ing out that Woodstock was founded by former residents of Roxbury, Mas- 
sachusetts, Slater demonstrates he has a keen and sensitive understanding 
of such patterns. But numerous questions remain. Why, for example, 


Peter Benes 

does a gravestone carved by Jonas Stewart appear in East Lyme, Connec- 
ticut, ninety miles from its point of origin in Charlestown, New 
Hampshire? The reverse question is also unanswered: why should the 
gravestones of "The Hampton Indian" be almost wholly restricted to two 
eastern Connecticut parishes while Peter Barker's stones ~ certainly as 
naive and technically incompetent as those of the "The Hampton Indian" 
~ be spread over a wide range of southern coastal Connecticut? Dr. 
Slater suggests quietly that Barker was an itinerant; and, indeed, this 
stonecutter evidently was. Determining the explanation for all of these 
"outlier" stones would be a fascinating but monumental task. But in his 
self-discipline and cautious use of data, the reader may suspect Dr. Slater 
modestly kept some of the answers to himself. 

A larger unanswered question raised by Slater's study concerns cultural 
practices within eastern Connecticut itself. Why did a relatively small 
group of New England interior rural communities patronize stonecarvers 
who followed a succession of simplistic, inventive, energetic, naive~and at 
times outrageous-designs? Were the communities themselves naive, 
energetic, and inventive? Slater cautiously refers to eastern Connecticut 
as "the core areas of indigenous gravestone carving in North America" (p. 
xviii). But he does not address the question whether eastern Connecticut 
was a relict cultural zone. Were there parallel characteristics in the folk 
speech of eastern Connecticut? In farmyard architecture? Field patterns 
and fencing styles? Hairstyles and dress? This brings to mind Sarah 
Kemble Knight's observation in 1704 that Connecticut women were "very 
plain" in their dress, but "follow one another in their modes [so 
closely]. .that You may know where they belong.. .meet them where you 
will." When the Englishman William Strickland toured the northeastern 
United States in 1794 and 1795, he reported finding West-of-England 
speech characteristics and agricultural practices in Coventry, Connecticut, 
among the latter the practice of irrigating fields from water that ran off 


Book Review 

public roads. This also brings to mind the unusual cluster of orange meet- 
ing houses in the northeast Connecticut towns of Pomfret, Brooklyn, Kill- 
ingly, and Hampton during and just following the years that the Mannings 
and their imitators left stones in these communities. Do gravestones offer 
any insight into other ingrown or indigenous cultural practices in eastern 
Connecticut? Again, to answer these questions would involve far more 
research and a much larger book. Perhaps the real contribution of Slater's 
work still lies at some future point in time when enough is known of east- 
ern Connecticut speech characteristics, dress styles, or decorative arts 
practices of the colonial period to allow a side-by-side comparison of two 
or more vernacular practices from a specific region. 

The book is not without weaknesses. The price will regrettably keep 
this important imprint out of the private libraries of many deserving 
readers. Copy editing is uneven and is reflected most conspicuously in the 
book's title: the men who "made" the colonial burying grounds of Eastern 
Connecticut are the sextons who dug graves, carpenters who erected 
fences, and the town committees that set aside and surveyed burying plots. 
The men who made Connecticut gravestones were the stone carvers that 
Slater writes about. The spellings "esthetic" and "aesthetic" occur on the 
same page (p. xvi). The subheadings of part one are out of sequence with 
those provided in the summary listing on pages 3 and 4. Desperately 
needed is an index or list of carvers, including unidentified carvers and a 
crossfile on the different colloquial names given to unidentified carvers by 
Caulfield, by Slater, and by other field-workers. Desperately needed, too, 
are summary lists or section headings under each chapter in the table of 
contents. These organizational aids could have replaced the redundant 
list of illustrations on pages viii-xiv. 

The reader will find what amounts to two entirely different organiza- 
tional modes in Slater's study and must be prepared to find two books. 
The carver-identification section is arranged by geological sub-region: 


Peter Benes 

granite carvers, sandstone carvers, eastern Massachusetts slate carvers, 
northeast sector local carvers, and extra-limital carvers. The order fol- 
lowed by Slater within sub-regions lists earlier or more important carvers 
sometimes before later or less important ones; the resulting sequence 
retains a cohesive geographic/geological order that generally leads the 
reader east to west or south to north. The burying ground section, 
however, is arranged alphabetically by the name of early town limits and 
thus seems to "wander" without direction. In the best of possible worlds, 
Dr. Slater might have arranged both sections to "drift" in the same direc- 
tion, thus providing a unifying parallel. The alphabetical arrangement of 
towns in the second part might have been segregated into the same 
geologically defined sub-regional groupings as part one~the initial group 
of alphabetically listed towns would be those where granite stones are 
predominantly found; the second group of alphabetically arranged towns, 
where sandstone markers are predominantly found, and so on. It must be 
recognized, on the other hand, that many of the stones are not indigenous 
to the areas where they are found: Connecticut Valley stones were carried 
in large numbers down the river into the Sound and set up in New Lon- 
don, East Lyme and other towns; the Newport, Rhode Island, school of 
carvers is richly represented in these burying grounds; and as one moves 
northward in the Connecticut Valley the influence of Longmeadow and 
Springfield carvers becomes greater and greater. Accordingly, an arrange- 
ment different from that selected by Dr. Slater might well prove impracti- 

Slater's study of early Connecticut grave markers is appropriately dedi- 
cated to the two students who did more than any other individuals to 
pioneer gravestone scholarship in New England, Harriette M. Forbes and 
Ernest Caulfield. Mrs. Forbes published her gravestone work in 1927; 
however, Dr. Caulfield's study was terminated by his progressive blindness 
before he could assemble and organize his materials into a coherent body. 


Book Review 

Even though a number of Caulfield's articles on individual carvers ap- 
peared posthumously in the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin, the loss 
to scholarship was a major one. By bringing into the public domain much 
of the unpublished original research that still remained in Dr. Caulfield's 
papers, the present volume does much to offset this loss and is as much a 
testament to Dr. Slater's compassionate mastery of his subject as it is to 
his generous and enlightened spirit. 

Body, of M0Dc>h0 \ < 

, V 1% * w*\r% r* i/v) 1 ^Y^T% * m rv IK. \> 

Fig. 163 Dorothy Sluman, 1754, Old Tollard. 


Fig. 96 Mary Torrey, 1792, Old Brooklyn Burying Ground. 



Peter Benes is the founder of The Dublin Seminar for New England 
Folklife and editor of its annual proceedings, a founder of the Association 
for Gravestone Studies and author of many articles on gravestones and 
stonecutters. His best known work is The Masks of Orthodoxy. 

Scott T. Carroll obtained his Master of Arts degree at Trinity College and 
became a candidate for a Ph.D. at Miami University in Ohio. He is now 
an Assistant Professor of Ancient History and Languages at Gordon Col- 
lege, Wenham, Massachusetts. He is interested in a variety of areas in- 
cluding ancient religion, sports and languages and is currently studying 
Coptic tombstones between the fourth and eighth centuries, A.D. 

Paula J. Fenza holds a Masters degree in Anthropology from Northern Il- 
linois University and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. 
She has written a number of articles on history and archaeology for the 
Kendall County Bicentennial Commission. Her interest in cemeteries was 
inspired by her mother, an avid enthusiast of the subject. 

Angelika Kruger-Kahloula attended the Universities of Frankfurt, Bristol, 
Toronto and Orleans and received her doctorate from the J.W. Goethe- 
Universitat in Frankfurt. She has taught in the American Studies depart- 
ments of the Universities of Munich and Frankfurt and was a fellow at the 
Afro-American Studies Department of Yale in 1985-1986 when most of 
the research for her paper was done. She currently teaches English, 
French and Spanish at the senior high school level in West Germany. 


M. Ruth Little has a Master of Arts degree in Art History from Brown 
University and a Ph.D. in Art History and Folklore from the University of 
North Carolina. She conducted the North Carolina Gravemarker Survey 
with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1980- 
1982. She is currently National Register Coordinator for the North 
Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and is working on a book 
based on this survey. 

Nancy-Lou Patterson is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of 
Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. 

Laura Sue Sanborn holds two degrees from the University of Michigan 
and is an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmen- 
tal Planning at Utah State University, where she has taught since 1983. 

Eloise Sibley West has a Masters degree in Clinical and Abnormal 
Psychology from Ohio State University. She lives in Fitchburg, Mas- 
sachusetts, has been an active member of the Association for Gravestone 
Studies since its founding and has served several terms as a trustee. 


Index of Carvers, and of Illustrated Gravestones and their Location 

Albuquerque, 161, 169, 174 

Allenford United Church, Allenford, Bruce 

County, 188, 189 

Anatolia, 211 

Armstrong, Elizabeth, 199 

Ashby, 10 

Attleboro, 66 

Bailey, Susanah, 23 

Ball, Lieut. Jeremiah, 16 

Barker, Peter, 236 

Barkin, Ernest L., 118 

Bieth, Caroline, 180 

Brainerd, Silas, 72, 80 

Brown, John Dwight, 19 

Brown, Joseph, 19 

Buncombe Baptist Churchyard, 

Petersville, 125 

Burnham, Daniel family graves, 142 

Caesar, 66 

Chilcher family, 143 

China Grove Baptist Churchyard, 

Cumberland County, 123 

Clap, David, 13 

Coachman, William Randolph, 130 

Conant, Exercise, 232 

Cowden, Thomas, 17 

Culbreth, Renial, 102, 111, 112, 113, 114, 

115, 119 

Cumings, Lt. Archelaus, 22 

Dolph, John, 28 

Dorchester, 7, 10, 12, 13 

Dwight, daughter of John and Susanna, 14 

Dwight, Francis, 1, 4, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 


Dwight, John, 1, 26 

Dwight, Sullivan, 18, 22, 25 

Edmondson, William, 133 

Elmwood Cemetery, 149 

Erin Cemetery, Erin, Wellington 

County, 187 

Espanola, 158 

Eutychus, Aurelius, 214, 215 

First Baptist Church, Sampson County, 1 12 

Fitchburg, 6, 17 

Flea Hill Church, Cumberland County, 118 

Flemington Community Cemetery, New 

Hanover County, 122 

Flova, 58 

Forest Home Cemetery, 143, 150, 151 

Foster, Ruth, 10 

Gainey, Frances G., 110 

Galisteo, 168 

Gaschet, Levi, 1 1 

Geddie, John and Laura, 115 

Grace United Church, Millbank, Waterloo 

County, 201 

Graceland Cemetery, 136, 141, 142, 153 

Graves family, 141 

Groton, 8, 15 

Hampton Indian, The, 236 

Hank's Chapel AME Churchyard, New 

Hanover County, 128 

Hartshorne, John, 233 

Harvard, 32, 41 

Hill Graveyard, Wilmington, New Hanover 

County, 128 

Hoffman, Johannes, 204 

How, Deacon Josiah, 17 

Isham, John, 80 


Jaffrey Center, 23 

Kelly-McLaurin Graveyard, Cumberland 
County, 115 
Kimball, Lebbeus, 234 
Kruesinca, Agnes, 154 

Little, James F., 128 
Locke, James, 10 
Loomis, John, 233 
Loomis, Jonathan, 233 
Lunenberg, 8 

Manning, Josiah, 87, 100 

Mansfield Center, 232 

Martin, Willie S., 201 

McAlister, Jannie J., 120 

McEachin, Issiah, 111, 116, 117, 118, 119 

McGoogan, Jane, 145 

McLaurin, Irene, 102 

McLaurin, Dixon, 113 

McLellan, Peter and Catherine, 190 

McNaughton, Henry, 187 

Melvin, O.A., 123 

Metchel, Martha, 8 

Miller, Alexander, 198 

Milton, 17 

Morton, Capt. Edmund, 12 

Mt. Zion AMEZ Churchyard, Cumberland 

County, 102, 110, 113 

Northern New Hanover County, 131 

Old Brooklyn Burying Ground, 240 
Old Smith Grove Baptist Churchyard, 
Davidson County, 126 
Old Tollard, 239 
Othello, 32,41 
Owens, Clinnie M., 112 

Paddock, Harold "Buddy", 146 

Palmer, Potter family, 136 

Park family, 13, 14 

Patterson, William L, 151 

Peralta, 161, 162, 164, 165, 167, 175 

Pierce, Patty, 6 

Preston Cemetery, Cambridge, Waterloo 

County, 180 

Princeton, 58, 59 

Proctor, William, 189 

Resurrection Cemetery, Justice, 145 

Ritzma, Annie, 154 

Roberts, Jonathan, 234 

Rockwood, Lieut. Elisha, 15 

Rushes Cemetery, Waterloo County, 199 

Sawtell, David, 24, 25 

Sawtell, Lieut. Hezekiah, 8 

Shirley, vi, 14, 26 

Show Hill AME Zion Churchyard, 

Cumberland County, 120 

Simonds, William, vi 

Sluman, Dorothy, 239 

Spears, Flora, 122 

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church 

Cemetery, Perth County, 190 

St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church, 

Maryhill, 198 

St. Peter's Lutheran Cemetery, 

Neustadt, 194 

Stevens, Pompe, 90 

Stewart, Jonas, 236 

Sullivan, Louis, 139 

Swans Creek Baptist Churchyard, 

Cumberland County, 130 

Tecolote, 171 
Temple, 22 
Thomas, 59 
Torrey, Mary, 240 
Townsend, 11, 16 
Truchas, 177 


Verdell, Emma, 125 

Wagner, Anna, 194 
Walden, John II, 100 
Webster, Stephen, 28 
Webster, Timothy, 153 
Wheeler, Capt. Abraham, 7 
Wheeler, Obadiah, 233 
Woodlawn Cemetery, 146 


Also of Interest from 

University Press of America and 

The Association for Gravestone Studies 

Markers I 

Edited by Jessie Lie Farber 

Markers II 

Edited by David Watters 

Markers III 

Edited by David Watters 

Markers IV 

Edited by David Watters 

Markers V 

Edited by Theodore Chase