History, grad school, and gravestones!
A close look at the scroll decorations along the sides and bottom reveals that the circles are regularly sized, so it seems probable that a template of some kind was used to help make them. If so, do any such tools still exist?Also, all of the decorations outside of the frame are neatly executed and placed, in contrast to the lettering, which doesn't fit and is poorly laid out. For example, "Abigail" looks like an afterthought. My guess is the frame and all elements outside of the frame were finished and ready to go prior to the grieving family needing a headstone. Just a guess.
The holes in the center of the side swirls suggest that the circles were made with compasses. I think you're right that this stone may have been pre-cut — many of them were. Yet, I think that there is a unity of line between the letter and the tympanum design that makes me think that they were probably cut by the same hand (just not a hand that was very good at laying out letters!). You're certainly right about Abigail — somebody definitely forgot about mom.
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