Tag Archives: Early Settlers

Some Amateur Tombstones in Brush Creek Cemetery

HERE
RESTETH IN GOD
CHRISTINA WEGL
WAS BORN 23 MAY 18—
DIED 23 DEC. 1811

[The birth date is obscured in the picture. Sorry about that.]

Is “amateur” the word we are looking for? There are tombstones in the Brush Creek Cemetery that are remarkable works of folk art—and then there are these, some of which appear to have been made by craftsmen who were quite good at scratching letters in stone, but none of which seem to rise to the level of professional stonecutting.

There were a fair number of Germans among the early settlers. Some of the families have some of their tombstones in English and others in German. Father Pitt earnestly solicits corrections to his German translations.

J. W.
B. 1718
D. 1802

The plaque gives the name of this Revolutionary War veteran as John Wagle; he is buried near Christina Wegl, and Wagle and Wegl are almost certainly different ways of spelling the same name.

IN
MEMORY
OF
PHILIP SMITH
HE WAS BORN 1743
AND DIED 1824
AGED 76

HERE LIES
LUDWIG KAEMMERER
DIED JANUARY
21ST 1808 AGED
90 YEARS

Old Pa Pitt is assuming that the line over the M indicates a doubled letter.

HERE LIES
MAGDALENA
KAEMMERIN DIED
JUNE 12th IN THE
YEAR 1794 AGED 26

If this was installed when Magdalena died, then this is one of the earliest legible tombstones in the area.

IN
MEMORY
OF
LUDWIG
KEMERER Junr. HE
WAS BORN AD 1749
DEPARDET THIS
LIFE 1817 AGE —

This seems to be the work of the same stonecutter—perhaps a family member—who did the two German stones above. Note the different spelling of “Kemerer” in English.

HERE LIES
J. CONRAD SCHIDLER
HE & ELISABETH HIS
WIFE BORE 10
CHILDREN HIS PARENTS
ANDREAS & MARGARET
HE DIED APRIL 20th
1796 AGED 58 YEARS
Text John Chap. II V. 25

PAUL EBERHART

ELISABETH
LINSENBIGLER

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Thomas and Jennet McNary Grave, Oak Spring Cemetery

An elevated slab for a Revolutionary War veteran and his wife. The two inscriptions were certainly done by the same craftsman, but from subtle differences in the thicknesses and forms of the letters it looks as though they may have been done at different times, suggesting that Jennet’s was added to Thomas’ already existing stone.

IN
Memory of
THOMAS Mc NARY Esqr.
Who departed this life on the
9th of July A.D. 1820 in the 76th
year of his age.

IN
Memory of
JENNET Mc NARY
Consort of
THOMAS Mc NARY
Who departed this life on the
15th of April A.D. 1828 in the 84th
year of her age.

White Family Plot, Oak Spring Cemetery

Oak Spring Cemetery in Canonsburg has a number of slab stones elevated into table-like structures—an arrangement common in some old cemeteries. Obviously the props under these stones are newer than the stones, but they may have replaced older ones that were original. Old Pa Pitt simply doesn’t know whether these slab stones were always elevated or whether graveyard caretakers elevated them later, when they began to vanish under the ground.

SACRED
to the
MEMORY OF
SAMUEL WHITE
Who departed this life
May 12th 1837, In the
82nd year of his
age.

Samuel White, Sr. was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He married a considerably younger woman named Mary:

SACRED
to the
MEMORY
of
MARY WHITE
wife of
SAMUEL WHITE
DIED
JUNE 12th, 1841 in the
76th year of her age.

In the short time between the death of Samuel in 1837 and the death of Mary in 1841, a new fashion in tombstones had swept over Western Pennsylvania. Samuel’s is a simple slab stone of the sort that had been made here since the late 1700s, but Mary’s is in what Father Pitt calls the “poster style,” with each line in a different style of lettering, like an advertising poster of the same era.

Jane and James McBurney Tombstones, Robinson Run Cemetery

Instantly recognizable as the work of the Master of the Curly G, these two stones have inscriptions beginning simply “the grave of”—a curious family tradition also observed by Elisabeth Moss, who was buried in the same plot and is probably related. Note the awkward and rather embarrassing correction of the name “McBur[n]ey” above.

Gideon Miller Tombstone, Prospect Cemetery

This is one of the earlier burials that were moved from nearby churchyards to Prospect Cemetery in Brackenridge, and it is probably the most artistic early-settler tombstone Father Pitt has yet found in this area. The style is a close and extraordinarily skillful imitation of nineteenth-century decorative penmanship styles, so we shall call this craftsman the Master of the Brackenridge Flourishes. And although Father Pitt admits to using the title “Master” a bit facetiously for some of the other local craftsmen, it is entirely deserved here.

In Memory of
GIDEON MILLER
Who departed this life,
February –th, 1820
in the –th Year
[Of his Age]

[Epitaph]

The stone may be later than its 1820 date, but it is almost certainly not later than the 1840s. A matching stone beside it, obviously by the same artist, is too badly damaged to read.

Richard Coulter Tombstone, Bethany Cemetery

IN
memory of
RICHARD COULTER
who departed this life
May 4th 1821, Aged 22 years
———
Long, long expected home, and lo:
Home he has scarcely come,
Till he is summon’d and must go
To his eternal home.

This is a fairly well-preserved tombstone from nearly two centuries ago, and that is of course interesting enough. The most interesting thing, however, is the poem, which is from a collection of poems by the very obscure James Meikle, this one being headed “On a gentleman who died after his return to his family from foreign parts, after an absence of twelve years.” The poem itself is dated 1768, but it was kept in manuscript until after the poet’s death in 1799. The only edition of the posthumous poems of Meikle Father Pitt has been able to find is one published in Pittsburgh in 1819, two years before the death of Richard Coulter; so that we know with near certainty that whoever specified the epitaph on this stone had read it in this particular book.

Master of the Curlicue I in Canonsburg

Oak Spring Cemetery

In memory of
James R. Sinclair
who departed this life
Jan. the 21, AD 1843.
aged 5 months.

Two early-settler graveyards at opposite ends of Canonsburg have tombstones inscribed by some of the same local craftsmen. One of them, who worked in the 1830s and 1840s, is very easy to identify by three obvious quirks of his style:

  1. He writes almost exclusively in italic letters.
  2. He begins each inscription with a very distinctive capital I with curlicues.
  3. He makes the abbreviation “AD” into a single character, with the right-hand stroke of the A serving as the left-hand stroke of the D.

In addition, if you paid him well enough, he was capable of some fine decorative folk-art reliefs.

The Giffin family, buried in Speer Spring Cemetery, employed him almost exclusively:

In memory of
ROBERT H. GIFFIN
who departed this life
in the 19 year of his
—age—
April 22 AD 1842

In memory of
ANDREW GIFFIN
who departed this life
in the 53d year of his
—age—
Aug. 12, AD 1841.

In
memory of
Samuel Webster Giffin
who departed this life
Sept. 18th, AD 1838, aged
9 months and 25 days

In
memory of
ELIZABETH McCOY
Consort of Andrew H. Giffin
who departed this life
May the 15th AD 1842, in
the 36th year of her age
— — —

Following his usual method of naming anonymous craftsmen after a distinguishing characteristic of their work, Father Pitt will call this artist the Master of the Curlicue I.

To round out the Giffin family plot, we include one broken tombstone done by a different craftsman:

IN
Memory of
ANDREW RAY
GIFFIN, who—
departed this life,
Febr. 11th, 1836
in the 13th year of
his age.