Monday, July 21, 2008

More "Depated" Stones

On Friday, I heard a story on Radio Boston about the Boston accent in which one of the linguists claimed that Massachusetts residents didn't start dropping their rs until the nineteenth century. That didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, especially since the other linguist noted that the Boston accent is a descendant of the English accents brought over by the 17th-century settlers.

A later date for dropped rs does not fit with the evidence I've been finding on my gravestones. The New England carvers have quite a problem with the word "departed," which is remarkable when you consider that it appears on at least a third of the 18th-century stones.

I found two more "depated" stones today. This brings my total up to six (more here and here).

The Abraham Gibson stone in Stow, MA dates from 1740:

The Francis Brown stone (1800) is in Lexington, MA:


RJO said...

It would be interesting to try to correlate this with carvers. One could imagine that certain carvers might be more literate and/or have stronger or weaker dialects. The first stone here is a Jonathan Worster stone, as was one of the previous ones you posted (Moses Worster at least). The second one here may be late Dwight, but I'm not sure.

Either way -- if the spelling was correlated with particular regions or carvers, or if it wasn't -- it would be interesting.

You could test your idea by coming up with some other words that might have the same kind of spelling variant. (As in the big sign in front of the Aquarium downtown this month for the exhibit on "Shaahks.")

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

Good suggestions.

So far, the "depated" stones I've found span a century, three colonies, and at least three workshops:

1707: William Pabodie, Little Compton, RI, carver: unknown

1740: Abraham Gibson, Stowe, MA, carver: Jonathan Worster

1741: Daniel Tyler, Brooklyn, CT, carver: Josiah Manning

1767: Manassah Fairbank, Harvard, MA, carver: Worster (possibly Moses)

1797: Ephraim Terry, Lebanon, CT, carver: Manning workshop

1800: Francis Brown, Lexington, MA, carver: unknown (urn and willow)

The only other r-deficient stone I can think of off the top of my head is an Obadiah Wheeler stone (c. 1720) in Lebanon, CT that says that the deceased died in "Novemba." I've been keeping my eye out for other Octoba/Novemba/Decemba mistakes, but I haven't found them. The months are often abbreviated. Do you have any suggestions for other common words that might have a spelling variant?

I'm also on the lookout for the added r phenomenon. So far, the only one I've seen is Annar Lawrence in Rumford, RI.

I've been going North and West in my travels, but I'm hoping to go South and East in the next few weeks. I spent four years in Rhode Island and know that it's a quirky place, so I've got my fingers crossed for some wild gravestones.

Also, I should add that the only other misspelling of "departed" I've seen is on the Elizabeth Stone stone (1751) in Lexington. This stone (by J. Worster) says "Dparted" with a tiny "e" superscript.

Corporation as Family said...

caitlin, you are amazing. and this is hysterical (in addition to interesting)

Corporation as Family said...

by the way, "corporation as family" is cate from am civ. i don't know how i got that name--perhaps something pasted accidentally from something else i was working on. but now i think it's pretty funny, so why change?

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I'm so glad you stopped by!

And no need to change - just make up an AmCivvy-sounding definition for what it means.

RJO said...

> Do you have any suggestions for other common words that might have a spelling variant?

I can't come up with one off the top of my head, but I'll keep thinking -- there must be some.

It's certainly reasonable to think that individual carvers may have had spelling idiosyncrasies, just as they have orthographic idiosyncrasies. The carvers of the Park workshop, for example, were real writing-masters, with very sophisticated use of letter details. Jonathan Worster, above, was decidedly not a writing master. The second stone above, which may be a Dwight stone, is also the work of a lettering expert -- the lovely ligature joining the long-s and t in 21st is what you see in fine typesetting.

From your several "depated" examples there doesn't seem to be a simple pattern, although it may still be correlated more with some carvers or areas than others. But what about the overall frequency: if you've found, say, 2 Worster stones that read "depated", are they surrounded by 50 more Worster stones in the same ground that read "departed"? If so, what's the cause of the difference? (Chronological? Accidental? Done by the apprentice? Too much to drink the night before? Didn't like the customer and so made the error on purpose?)

RJO said...

Say (non sequitur), there are five stones in various places that really should be documented, and that might lead to a short paper suitable for publication. Here's why. The Hazen Library, Shirley's public library, owns a sheaf of manuscript notes and receipts from carvers John and Francis Dwight. How these ever survived I can't imagine, but there they are. There are seven receipts for gravestones, with notations of the text to be carved and the price. Such things are very rare, although I'm not expert enough to say whether/how many other such receipts survive from this period. West's 1989 paper on the Dwight workshop mentions these receipts (which is how I knew they existed), but she does very little with them.

Two of the seven stones are in Fitchburg, and I have good photos of them, but I don't have a car and don't have a chance to visit many interesting localities. These are the other five Dwight stones that can be tied to specific receipts; it would be fabulous to have photos of them:

West Cambridge [Arlington]: Capt. Stephen Frost, d. 31 October 1810; Price from 12 to 15 Dollars

West Cambridge: Josiah Locke, son of Mr. Josiah and Mrs. Susanna Locke, died 11 October 1810; Price 3.50

Townsend: Hannah Petts, d. May 27th 1816; Price 17 or 18 Dollars

Townsend: Nancy Scales, daughter of Stephen and Martha Scales, died October 7th 1815; Price $3 or 3.50

Peterborough [NH]: Eli Upton, 3d son of Mr. Eli and Mrs. Rebeckah Upton, died April 1st 1811; $3.00

One of the two Fitchburg stones is quite unusual and its text doesn't match the text on the receipt very closely; this raises lots of interesting questions, for which I have no answers.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

What an interesting mystery. I'll certainly make an effort to get pics of these stones (I'll have to look through my Arlington pics to see if I have some already).

How were the stones different from the receipts? Were lines added/left out or was the wording different?

RJO said...

"How were the stones different from the receipts? Were lines added/left out or was the wording different?"

The facts are the same, but the inscription is completely different (even a different verse). What exactly the Dwight documents are is a question. I called them "receipts"; it might be better to call them "orders" or "requests" submitted by the family; or perhaps they were shopping around to find a good price and eventually ordered from someone else? To really close the circle tight the thing to do would be to check the probate records for each person and see if there was actually payment to Dwight. (Probate records are how early carver identifications are usually established of course.)

The "receipt" for one of the two stones in Fitchburg, for example, reads:

Zaccheus Farwell
Died june 28 1811 he was
fifty Eight years old the day before
he Died,    the verse
behold and see as you pas by
as you are no so once was I
as I am now so you must be
prepare for Death and follow me
[in another hand:] Price from 12 to 15 Dollars
[endorsed:] Fitchburg for Chaplin

Send me your email address and I'll send you a big image of this stone as it was finally completed -- not at all like the text above, and with the unusual notation that it was erected by his two sons (suggesting perhaps that they got together to get something fancier than originally planned?).

Bob O'Hara