Stone Portraits

Patience Watson

Stone portraits were popular in early New England from roughly the mid 1700’s to the mid-1800s. James Blachowicz’s meticulous study captured in his book “From Slate to Marble: Gravestone Carving Traditions in Eastern Massachusetts: 1770-1870” highlights the carvers more than likely responsible for many of the early portrait stones. I took an interest in portrait stones because the first entry below is my eighth great-grandfather.

Portrait, Grindall Rawson, Mendon

Rev. Grindall Rawson, 1659-1714

Though Rawson’s stone is dated 1714, it was cut in 1744 and is thought to be the earliest extant attempt at portraiture in New England. The stone is credited to Boston carver William Codner (1709-1769.)(1)

Old Cemetery, Mendon, Massachusetts

Patience Watson

Patience Watson

Patience Watson, 1767

Patience wears a heart-shaped locket which represented the soul and bliss in early New England. Her stone was carved by Boston carver William Codner. (2)

Here lies Interr’d
the Body of
the wife of
She DEPARTED this Life
April 20th 1767
In the Thirty fourth Year of her Age.

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

John Watson, Slate, Portrait

John Watson, 1753

This cameo portrait is probably the work of Boston Carver Henry Emmes. (3)

Here lies
buried the Body of
who departed this Life
JAN.Y 3r 1753
in the 37th Year
of his Age.

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

John Virgin, Burial Hill, Slate Portrait

John Virgin, 1814

This stone is erected to the memory of
Cap John Virgin who died October 5, 1814
Aged forty seven

This portrait has been attributed to carver John Tribble (1782-1862) according to the Burial Hill National Register of Historic Places Registration form.

The John Tribble Workshop was active from about 1800 to 1861 and it produced almost twenty-five percent of the headstones at Burial Hill. (4)

This stone is the only one actually signed by John Tribble in Burial Hill, and only one of five signed Tribble stones. (5)

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Sarah Spooner, 1767

The carver credited with this sandstone marker is William Coye. (6)

Here lies Interrd
the Body of Mrs
who dece
afed January
ye 25th A. D. 1767
in ye 72nd Year of
her Age She was widow

Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts


(1) Allan Ludwig, Graven Images (Middleton, CT: Wesesyln University Press, 1966), 316.

(2) James Blachowicz, From Slate to Marble 1770-1870: Gravestone Carving Traditions in Eastern Massachusetts.
(Evanston, IL: Graver Press, 2006), 114.

(3) Blachowicz, , 114.

(4) National Register of Historic Places Registration form,Burial Hill Cemetery, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

(5) Blachowicz, 211.

(5) Blachowicz, 112.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.