Monday, February 28, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Hephzibah Dickinson

 Hephzibah Dickinson, 1795, Hatfield, MA

In Memory of
Miss Hephzibah Dickinson
Daughter of Colo Lemuel
and Mrs Molly Dickin
son, who died Decr 29th
1795. in the 21st Year
of hir Age.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Jerusha Pond Fisher

Jerusha Pond Fisher, 1812, Wrentham, MA

In memory of
Jerusha Pond,
Daughter of
Mr. Paul Fisher &
Mrs. Artemissa his wife
who died April 21st,
1812 In the 6th
Year of her Age.

If I ever write any Redwall fanfic, I'll know what to name my otters.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Abigail Carlile

Abigail Carlile, 1797, York, ME

to the memory of
wife of
Mr. John Carlile, &
daur of Mr. Henry Sewall,
born Jan. 11, 1758,
died July 17, 1797,
AEt. 40.
without issue.
A lively christian.

Near this stone are deposited the re-
mains of BENJAMIN and DANIEL,
infants, and children of
Daniel Sewall Esq.

"Of such is the kingdom of Heaven."

Daniel Sewall (1755-1842) was Abigail's older brother. He married Dorcas Bartlett (1759-1843) in 1780. Their sons, Benjamin (b. 9 Nov 1785, d. 15 Dec 1785) and Daniel (b. 1 Feb 1794, d. 21 Feb 1794) were buried in a family plot with their Aunt Abigail.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: William Burrough

William Burrough, 1772, Newburyport, MA

Ye 28th 1772

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Another Tough Name

Here's another perfectly fine 18th-century name that would cause problems on a modern American playground: Gayer Coffin.

From the Boston Birth Records.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Too Late to Apologize

Am I late to the party posting this video?

Thanks, Dad.

King George Killed Your Grandma

I am noticing a pattern as I write about the gravestones of exiled civilians who died during the siege of Boston. Many of these gravestones inflate the ages of the deceased.

For example, Solomon Kneeland, born in Boston on September 23, 1698, is listed as 80 years old in 1775, when he was 77. Lydia Dyar was 79 when she died in 1776, but her stone gives her credit for an extra six months.

Is this just a fluke-y thing? Or are people inflating the ages of the elderly exiles to make King George look like an ogre? Considering that some of these stones count down the age in years, months, and days, I think an imprecise age is interesting. On the other hand, these people were in exile — perhaps no one knew their precise ages because the church records were still in Boston and the survivors weren't sure, so they took a guess and landed on 80.

What say you? Trolling for sympathy, or legitimate mistake?

Gravestone of the Day: Sam

Sam, 1739, NCBG, Newport, RI

Here lieth Sa[m]
a Negro Servan[t]
to Wm: Barker,
aged aout 50
Years & died
Septmr: – 1739.

The fact that Sam's age was imprecisely known probably means that he was born in Africa or the West Indies and brought to Rhode Island by a slave trader.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Joel and Mary Lyman

Joel and Mary Lyman, 1778, Northampton, MA

Joel, Son of Mr. Joel & Mrs.
Mrs. Mary Lyman died
Sept. 5. 1778. aged 13
Years 1 Month.
And their Dautr Mary
died Sept. 11. 1778.
aged 10 Months.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Michele Bachmann Strikes Again

Michele Bachmann's opposition to a proposal that would make breast pumps tax-deductible leads me to believe that she hates babies. Well, specifically, she hates black babies and the babies of mothers who work. Either that, or she hates tax deductions.

My breast pump cost $249 and was not covered by insurance. It's a good pump, but it isn't a hospital-grade pump or anything fancy. For someone who needs a pump either because she is working, or because her baby is in the NICU, or because she needs to regulate her supply, or because she just prefers pumping to direct breast feeding or formula feeding, a tax deduction could help out a lot. Especially if she needs an expensive pump, not a cheap(!) one like mine.

But Michele Bachmann is so virulently anti-Obama that she has actually come out against a proposal that is specifically designed to help infants and new parents by reducing their tax burden. My head, it spins.

Molly disapproves.

Not history-related, but I'm afraid you'll have to put up with some occasional mommyblogging from now on.

Gravestone of the Day: Phebe Seabury

Phebe Seabury, 1715, Little Compton, RI

Here lyeth ye body
of Phebe the wife
of Ioseph Seabury
who deceast in ye 
36t year of her
aGe April ye 21t 1715

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Thomas Bancroft

Thomas Bancroft, 1718, Wakefield, MA

Here Lyes the Body
of Deacon THOMAS
The Curch of Reding
in the Office of a Dec
Aged 69 Years Who
Deceased June ye 12th, 1718
One Earth He Purchised a good Degre
Grte Boldness in ye faith & liberty
And Now Poseseth Imortality
The Memory of the Just is Blssed.

This epitaph is kind of a mess. It's squished into the available space, the lines are all different sizes, the spelling is funky, and the composition is inelegant. That's somewhat unusual for the Lamson shop — their epitaphs are usually planned out pretty well. Compare to this stone, which has similar iconography, carved by the Lamson shop in 1717.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"He Firmly Believed in Cats as an Article of Diet"

In honor of the day, I have an update to a story I tried to tell here nearly two years ago. I am much indebted to commenter Randy Nonenmacher for bringing this new information to my attention.

Some of you may remember Elizabeth Palmer of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Her gravestone proclaims that she "Should have been the Wife of Mr. Simeon Palmer."

Elizabeth Mortimer Palmer, 1776, Little Compton, RI

What an intriguing stone! What happened in this person's life to prompt such an epitaph?

The curious thing is that records show that Elizabeth Mortimer did marry Simeon Palmer in 1755. Back in 2009, I wrote:
So what on earth is that epitaph supposed to mean? Even if Elizabeth and Simeon were in love/engaged before he married Lidia, why would it still matter in 1776, after Elizabeth and Simeon had been married for over 20 years? It seems a strange grudge to hold. Perhaps Simeon, who outlived both his wives, was responsible for the epitaph and used the opportunity to apologize to Elizabeth for wronging her.

The whole thing is very strange. Among other things that raise red flags, Elizabeth Mortimer was 11 years older than Simeon Palmer, which certainly isn't outside of the realm of possibility, but would be unusual. Since Simeon married Lidia in 1744, when he was 21 years old, it would mean that any preexisting relationship between Simeon and Elizabeth would be between a very young man and a woman in her 30s. Again, not impossible, but strange for 18th-century New England.
Well, apparently, I did not know the half of it. In 1901, a reader named M.L.T. Alden wrote to the Newport Mercury to tell the editor about some local history he had picked up in the 1880s. It is hard to do his letter justice without quoting it at some length:
Twenty years ago this summer, I came first to Little Compton. I was much interested in this stone and made inquiries and also consulted the Town records. Aunt Sarah Charles Wilbur, the antiquarian of the village, and also Mrs. Angelina (Palmer) Griswold were then alive and they supplied the details that did not appear on the records of the Town.
The first church of Little Compton, R. I. was organized in 1704 under Rev. Richard Billings, a man of prominence and ability, much beloved, and exerted a strong influence over his charge. He had one idiosyncrasy, however; he firmly believed in cats as an article of diet, and fatted them for the purpose. Amongst his parishioners was a man, Simeon Palmer, of the fine old family resident in Little Compton. He was wealthy married first Lydia Dennis, Aug. 25, 1745, and had Susannah, Gideon, Humphrey, Sarah, Walter and Patience. At some time between 1745 and 1752 he had sunstroke which left him mildly insane and he adopted the views of his minister on cats and insisted on his family using them for food.

Gravestone of the Day: Sarah Long

Sarah Long, 1674, Phipps St. Charlestown, MA


A heart-shaped stone for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: John Butterfield

John Butterfield, 1766, Chelmsford, MA

Here lies the Body of
Capt: John Butterfield, who
departed this Life Janur:
8th 1766 Aged 67 Years
11 months, and 26 days.
The sin of Adam's laid me lo,
For sin hath wrought an overthrow,
From dust I came, to dust I'm come,
And now the dust's bcome my home;
Then Christ comes down with saints to Reign
Then dust me nomore shall detain.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Isabella Wildrage

Isabella Wildrage, 1789, Portland, ME

In Memory of
Mrs Isabella Wildrage
Consort of
Capt. James Wildrage,
who was born at the Island
of South Ronaldsha North Britain,
in the Year 1740,
& departed this Life
Septr. 23d 1789,
Aged 49 Years.

I think that the island is South Ronaldsay, pop. 854. 

Isabella Wildrage would be a good name for Fanny Forward's rancorous friend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Ruth Eastman

Ruth Eastman, 1739, Hadley, MA

30 1739 AGED

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: John Westcarre

John Westcarre, backdated 1675, Hadley, MA


This stone, carved by Joseph Nash, is almost certainly backdated. There are a few Nash stones with dates in the 17teens, but most are from the 1720s and 1730s. It would be very unusual for a carver to go 40 years between carving stones, but not very unusual for a carver to commemorate an important citizen who died before the town had a carver. As I have argued before, Nash probably moved west after the 1690s because he was familiar with Boston stones from that era. Perhaps Dr. Westcarre had a wooden marker that was decaying in the 1720s, or perhaps an elderly widow requested a stone for the husband of her youth when Nash came to town.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Titus Wells Tuttle

In Memory of
who died
Sepr. 18 1795
In the 29 year
of his age.
Death is a debt
To nature due
Which I have paid
And so must you

Titus Wells Tuttle, 1795, Holyoke, MA

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Molley Ames

Molley Ames, 1775, Groton, MA

Mrs. Sarah
Here lies the Body
of Molley Ames the
Daughter of Mr. Robert
& Mrs. Sarah Ames, who died
Augt. 6th 1775. In the
3d Year of her age.

This child's epitaph is carved on her mother's footstone.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Edward Thurber

Edward Thurber, 1795, NBG, Providence, RI

In Memory of
Son of Mr. Samuel
and Mrs. Hopestill Thurber;
who died July 6, 1795,
aged 34 Years, 4 Months,
and 15 Days.
He was honest, industrious & humane,
Early in life, he by accident
lost his left hand in military service.
Being a Manufacturer & Tr[adesman?]
he was on to the Carolinas, where, p-----ly,
he inhaled the cause of his exit:
on his return passage, was taken sick,
& in six days after his arrival home
fell a victim to Death,
leaving a Wife & Six Children to lament
the premature loss of an esteemed Husband
& affectionate Father.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Juber Tillinghast

Juber Tillinghast, 1773, God's Little Acre, NCBG, Newport, RI

In Memory of
HAST who
died May 16th
1773 Aged
about 50 Years.

Juba Tillinghast was probably brought to Newport from Africa or the West Indies as a child or young man. If he had been born in New England, his age probably would have been known.

The rendering of Juba as "Juber" is an artifact of the New England accent. See: Marther, Annar, Prissilar, etc.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gravestone of the Day: Catherine Greene

Catherine Greene, NBG, Providence, RI

Hear in hope of the
resurrection of the just
are deposited, the
mortal remains of
GREENE, wife of
departed this Life
May the 9 AD 1793, in
the 39 Year of her age.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Children of Elizabeth DePeyster and Charles Willson Peale

The Peale Family, c. 1773, Charles Willson Peale*

Professor Ulrich spoke briefly about the family of Charles Willson Peale in a lecture this week. Here is a list of the 17 children born to Charles Willson Peale and Elizabeth DePeyster Peale:
  1. Margaret Jane, b. 1763 (they start out tame)
  2. James Willson, b. 1765
  3. Eleanor, b. 1770 (names for Charles' mother)
  4. Margaret Van Bordley, b. 1772 (ideas?)
  5. Raphaelle, b. 1774 (named for Raphael)
  6. Angelica Kauffmann, b.1775 (named for Angelica Kauffmann, painter)
  7. Rembrandt, b. 1778 (named for Rembrandt van Rijn, painter)
  8. Titian Ramsay, b. 1780 (named for Titian and [maybe?] Allan Ramsay, painters)
  9. Rubens, b. 1784 (named for Peter Paul Rubens, painter)
  10. Sophonisba Augusciola, b. 1786 (named for Sophonisba Augusciola, painter)
  11. Rosalba Carriera, b. 1788 (named for Rosalba Carriera, painter)
  12. Vandyke, b. 1792 (named for Anthony van Dyke, painter)
  13. Charles Linnaeus, b. 1794 (named for Carl Linnaeus, naturalist)
  14. Benjamin Franklin, b. 1795 (Franklin merits inclusion among the great scientists and artists)
  15. Sybilla Miriam, b. 1797 (named for Maria Sibylla Merian, illustrator and naturalist)
  16. Titian Ramsay, b. 1799 (the older brother of the same name died in 1798)
  17. Elizabeth DePeyster, b. 1802 (Elizabeth DePeyster Peale died soon after the birth of her youngest daughter).

Gravestone of the Day: Ellin Marion

Ellin Marion, 1744, Granary Burying Ground, Boston

Here lyes the Remains
of Mrs. ELLIN MARION wife
who departed this life
on the 20th. of Ianuary
A:D 1744.
aged 56 Years 3
Months & 12 Days.

Ellen Bridge Marion was the daughter of Rev. Thomas Bridge. Her husband, Joseph Marion, was a notary public and sold fire insurance.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Press for Tangible Things!

Now our course/exhibit is on Radio Boston!

Gravestone of the Day: Benjamin Peirce

Benjamin Peirce, 1735, Phipps Street Cemetery, Charlestown, MA

Benjamin Peirce
Son of Jerathmil
& Rebeckah Peirce
Died Febry 2nd
1735. Aged 7
Months & 5 Days

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy febuary!

Bartholomew Hunt, 1718, Little Compton, RI
Here lyeth Mr
Hunt, who Dyed
febuary ye 20th.
1717/8 in the 64th
year of his