History, grad school, and gravestones!
Actually, not all that unusual. There are a bunch of stones carved by William Mumford from the 17th Century in both the Common Burying Ground and the Clifton Burying Ground (on the hill behind the public library). And there are at least 2 stones carved by Henry Emmes in the Common Burying Ground; he moved down here from the family business in Boston to work with John Stevens II in the early 1760s (he died here in 1767). Vincent Luti thinks Emmes may have introduced portrait carving on the tympanum to the Stevens Shop carvers.
You're right — I should have said for the African-American section of the NCBG.
Then again, there are several thousand stones in the NCBG and only a handful of Boston stones, most of them from the pre-1705 period, so I still think a 1760s Boston stone is pretty rare. It makes me wonder about Cato's owner, especially since the "of this town" seems like extraneous information. Why order a stone from a far-off carver at the height of the Bull-Stevens productive period? If I'm operating on the assumption that stones fro slaves were generally cheap stones, this stone is puzzling.
Looking at this, I'm wondering if this isn't one of Henry Emmes' stones. Compare the Cato stone with the Catherine Langley stone and the Hannah Stearns stone. While the carving on the tympanum on the Cato stone is much more primitive than on the other two, the design layout and lettering style are very similar, especially between the Cato stone and the Catherine Langley stone. Although the Cato stone is very obviously Boston area slate, and the other two Emmes stones in Newport are the darker Newport slate. Still, it's food for thought.
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