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Grave-tober 9 – The Neal Children (and “the Old Stone Cutter”)

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October 9, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

There’s an old (and thoroughly bogus) tale about Ernest Hemingway having written the world’s shortest tragedy, totaling just six words “For Sale, Baby Shoes. Never Worn”  If you read enough epitaphs in a New England graveyard, you will see tales as grim and as succinctly told and so very awfully true.

Neal_Children

Marker for the four Neal Children

Today’s stone can be found in Boston’s famed Granary Burying Ground and is thought to be the oldest gravestone therein.  Its carver’s identity is unknown; Harriette Forbes called him “the Charlestown Master”, but others have dubbed him “the Old Stone Cutter” or “the Boston Stone Cutter”.  He was likely the stone-cutter who taught William Mumford and Joseph Lamson (and though them effectively much of New England’s gravestone carving profession). While his name has been lost to history, the Old Cutter’s was undoubtedly a professional stone cutter who is thought to have carved more than 500 gravestones during the roughly two decades he was active.

Using a single gravestone for multiple individuals was common practice for children and, thanks to endemic disease, children in New England died with a frequency that may startle modern eyes.  Behold, gentle reader, the bucolic past, where people were in touch with the land and vaccination was unknown.  Even the, by modern standards, dangerous practice of variolation (with a mortality rate of 2%) was considered an acceptable risk to protect your children from smallpox, which had a fatality rate of between 20 and 30%.

Elizabeth1_Hannah

ELIZABETH NEAL

AGED 3 DAYES

DECD 1666

AS ALSO Ye BODY OF

HANNAH NEAL IS

HERE J(NTE)R’D

elizabeth2.jpg

ELIZABETH NEAL

AGED 2 WEEKS

DECD JUNE Ye 12

1671

Andrew

ANDREW NEAL

AGED 18 MON(TH)S

DECD

DeathsHead

“LO! Death has reared himself a throne…”

THEz CHILDREN OF ANDREW AND MELLICEN NEAL

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