October 17, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)
For more than a century scholars have undertaken the sometime challenging task of identifying the stonecarvers, professional and otherwise, who crafted New England’s gravestones. Harriette Merrifield Forbes titled her groundbreaking study of gravestone art Early New England Gravestones and the Men Who Carved Them for good reason.
Some carvers inscribed their names on their stones (a few even noted the price of their work!), others included only initials. For some, their identity must be tracked down via centuries old probate records, where the payment for the deceased’s gravestone is noted among the records of the disposition of their estate. In a few cases, the carver’s identity is inferred from shop records noting the purchase of stone or carving tools. In the 19th century and on we can also rely on advertisements; there are a lot of great options for the Keeper if you ever want to have your investigators trying to track down a particular gravestone carver
Today I wanted to highlight two carvers about which we know very little – so little in fact they are only known by monikers invented by scholars, “the Bat” and “the Bozrah Devil”.
Cattron Vett ye wife of
DCt John Vett X Died
march 5 1734 Aged 68
Taphologist Dr. Ernest Caulfield dubbed this carver “the Bat”; while he thought the intention was to depict a bat in the tympanum of the gravestone is seems more likely it was supposed to be a traditional winged skull very poorly rendered by the amateur carver. Cattron Vett’s stone is a nice example of his work, which can be found “from Simsbury to Hartford, to Suffield, to Westfield Massachusetts, thence back to Simsbury, Connecticut”. You can read more about his work in an article about Connecticut Gravestone carvers in issue 8 of Markers, which collected the papers of the late Dr. Caulfield, which includes multiple examples of his work
The Bozrah Devil
Here lies the Body
of Mrs Sarah Fowler
who having ferved
her generation faith-
fully departed this
life in hope of a bet-
“The Bat” carver is thought to have made more than 100 gravestones in his career (the number might be higher, but he worked in fragile sandstone so it is assume many have been lost to time), the so-called “Bozrah Devil” carver, who operated almost exclusively in the towns of Lebanon and Bozrah, Connecticut (south central CT, just north of New London) in the later half of the 18th century.
James Slater identified 22 stones spread across 6 graveyards as the work of the “Devil” carver. The styling varies greatly, but usually have what was supposed to be a cherubic face and wings, but due to the idiosyncrasies of the carver, is a weirdly malevolent looking face with wings that are often little more than wavy lines.
In my brief research I came across a blog where the author was attempting to track down all of this carver’s stones (among other projects). She hasn’t added any photos of the BDC’s stones (as she dubbed him) in quite a while but what photos there are are very interesting. It looks like the “Devil” carver will remain an enigma for some time to come.