Graveyard

Graveyard
Cedar Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let Us Give Thanks For the Hand Carved Tombstone


Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery, Bedminster, PA



South Montrose Cemetery, South Montrose, PA

Looking at late 19th-century tombstones with their elaborate carvings does mesmerize me. But the artwork of those memorial markers were made with mechanized tools---pneumatic chisels run with steam, after man learned to harness the power of heated water droplets.  Yes, they still needed a creative human hand to guide them, and there was a great deal of skill needed to handle the tools.  But the amount of time needed to labor over the engraving was cut down dramatically.  And in doing so, some of the "craft" in the craftsmanship was diminished.  I think that is why I feel very drawn to the truly hand-carved tombstones that can only be found in the very old cemeteries of eastern Pennsylvania.  Not only do you get a glimpse into how the deceased was viewed by their loved ones that remained.  But you also can almost see the carver, be he a highly skilled mason or a simple farmer wanting to make sure the dead were not forgotten.

Late 18th-century and early-19th century stones in eastern Pennsylvania were carved  from whatever was handy:  slate, red sandstone---any stone that could be taken out of a local quarry.  Some of the carvings on the stones below are extremely simple:  the stone remains in its original found shape; the letters are crude, some block-like; and many did not have a "trial run" sketched out on a precious piece of paper first.  So the carver ran out of room and just continued on the next line, regardless of the rules of "proper English."  (or in many cases, "proper German.") 

But other tombstones were obviously carved by a skilled mason, someone who knew his way around a chisel and a hammer, and who could add artistic touches...an urn under a graceful willow, a decorative border, or pretty designs to fill in the blank spaces.  These carvings took time---a LOT of time.  These are the stones that really make me catch my breath when I uncover them.  They are treasures, most over 150 years old, and some will turn 200 years old long before I retire.  They are susceptible to breakage (because they are so thin and usually tall), erosion (most are shallowly carved), mold (seems to really like slate), and bird crap (I really need to start traveling to cemeteries with a chamois and warm dishwater).  But on occasion, I can find one that is pristine, looking like it was carved just a few years ago, sitting next to a much younger marble stone that has deteriorated beyond recognition.  And then, I pay my respects to the deceased one that it memorializes, but I also pay homage to the craftsman and his "craft" that lives on in a little rural cemetery somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Darling Cemetery, Cherry Ridge, PA

Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery, Bedminster, PA

Dillsburg Cemetery, Dillsburg, PA

Dillsburg Cemetery, Dillsburg, PA

Doylestown Mennonite Cemetery, Doylestown, PA


Durham Cemetery, Durham, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA

Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
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Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA (look at the face)
Forks Cemetery, Stockertown, PA

Franconia Mennonite Cemetery, Franconia, PA
                       Franconia Mennonite Cemetery, Franconia, PA
 











Immanuel Leidy's Cemetery, Souderton, PA

Immanuel Leidy's Cemetery, Souderton, PA

Immanuel Leidy's Cemetery, Souderton, PA

Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

Indian Creek Christ Reformed Cemetery, Indian Valley, PA

Neola Methodist Cemetery, Neola, PA

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, PA

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, PA


Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA
Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA


Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA

Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA

Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA

Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, PA

Lynn Cemetery, Lynn, Pa

Jackson Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Jackson Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Jackson Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Union Cemetery, Blakely, PA

Maplewood Cemetery, Carbondale, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, PA

Mountainview Cemetery, Upper Exeter, Pa

Marcy Pioneer Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA


Hickory Grove Cemetery, Waverly, PA

Darling Cemetery, Cherry Ridge, PA

Darling Cemetery, Cherry Ridge, PA


Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA

Old Brooklyn Cemetery, Brooklyn, PA

Dixon Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Marcy Pioneer Cemetery, Tunkhannock, PA

Urn?  Hell, this is my Holy Grail!!  Montrose Cemetery, Montrose, PA


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