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This blog post encourages you to take a brief walk through a small corner of my genealogical family graveyard (names listed below).  I encourage you to click on the stunning photographs from the Farber Gravestone Collection and take a closer look at the carvings.  The Danforth and French gravestones  are located in the South Burying Ground in Billerica, Simonds in Lexington, and the Bissell gravestone is located at the Old Burying Ground (information on gravestone iconography) in Windsor, Connecticut.Go ahead - dig a little deeper!!

  • Joshua Simonds, Lexington, MA. 1686-1768 (my 6th ggf) (winged face on gravestone) At dawn on April 19, 1775 some 700 British troops arrived in Lexington and came upon 77 militiamen gathered on the town green. Between the British column and the provincial lines stood Lexington’s meetinghouse, which served as a gunpowder repository for the town.  According to testimony, with British troops approaching the  entrance of meetinghouse Joshua Simonds was in the upper galley with an open cask of powder standing near him.  Simonds was said to have cocked his gun and placed the muzzle of it close to the cask of powder, and (in his words) was determined to “touch it off,” in case the troops had come into the gallery.  For a full and scholarly account of Joshua’s heroic act read:  Boston 1775: Joshua Simonds: Potential Suicide Bomber
  • Jonathan Danforth – 1628-1712 (my 8th ggf) (hourglass, winged skull on gravestone) The youngest of the family, became surveyor and was known as “Father of Billerica” where he had emigrated from Cambridge in about 1654 along with the first settlers, and built what may have been the first house in the Indian village of Sawshin. His skill as a surveyor had given him continual employment and his survey descriptions are said to have filled 200 pages of land grants, penned in very clear and handsome handwriting – the contents of which have been preserved in the state archives of New Hampshire. Check out his English roots at Danforth’s Farm – PDP Roots and Branches Blog
  • Elizabeth Poulter Danforth – 1633-1689 (my 8th ggm) (close up of winged skull on gravestone) – Elizabeth had 11 children by Jonathan.
  • Elizabeth Hill French – 1710-1786 (my 6th ggm) and Ebenezer French – 1707-1791 – (Elaborate, dual gravestone)
  • John Bissell – 1591-1677 – (my 5th ggf of wife of 3ggf) – (plain sandstone gravestone with lettering only)

The Farber Gravestone Collection/The American Antiquarian Society is an unusual resource documenting the sculpture on over 9,000 gravestones most of which were made prior to 1800.  These early stones are both a significant form of artistic creation and precious records of biographical information, now subject to vandalism and to deterioration from the environment. The data accompanying the photographs include the name and death date of the deceased, the location of the stone, and information concerning the stone material, the iconography, the inscription, and (when known) the carver. Some carvers whose work is known but who have not been identified by name are entered by stylistic groupings, rather than by name.

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.