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Grave-tober 5 – Mary Buss (and the Merrimack Valley style)

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October 5, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

Mary_Buss

We’ve preciously touched on the idiosyncratic style of the gravestone carver William Young.  Today’s carver… technically a style of carving… is equally distinctive – the Merrimack Valley style.  Before we talk style, however, let’s talk about today’s gravestone.

HERE LIES BURIED

Ye BODY OF MRs

MARY BUSS

WHO DEPARTED

THIS LIFE

FEBRUARY Ye 4th

AD 1737

JN Ye 66th YEAR

OF HER AGE

Mary Buss (1670/1-1737) was buried in the South Burying Place in Concord, Massachusetts.  Here is her listing on Findagrave. She is one of seven members of the Buss family buried there, though her relationship to the other Buss family members is unclear; I assume she married one of the sons of Joseph (1649-1681) or Nathaniel (1646-1717) but the genealogical listings for the Buss family offer no answers.

However she lived, when Mary died, her gravestone was carved by Jonathan Worster (1707-1754), a gravestone carver from nearby Harvard, Massachusetts.  Worster was a prolific carver whose gravestones can be found across Middlesex and Worcester county (as well as southern New Hampshire).  He was an apprentice of the Leighton family of carvers from Haverhill, Massachsuetts (likely studying under Richard Leighton).  He adopted the stylistic peculiarities of the Leighton stones (in turn inspired by Jonathan Hartshorne), including a simplified, highly geometric human face, frequent use of six-pointed rosettes, and waves and swirl decorations.  Worster, like other carvers in this area made use of Harvard’s Pin Hill slate quarry, which provides exceptionally durable slate, so that his stones remain clear and easily read nearly three-hundred years later.  His son Moses (1739-1789) was also a gravestone carver; his earliest stones are hard to distinguish from his father’s.  More than 400 stones carved by the Worsters survived into the 20th century.

Merrimack_Valley_Style_Chart

A chart of the Merrimack Valley style and its associated carvers.

For more information on the Merrimack Valley gravestone style and the carvers who created gravestones of that type, see Ralph Tucker’s article “Merrimac Valley Style: the Leighton and Worster Families” (from Markers XI, p. 142-167; 1994) from which the above chart is copied.

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