• ‘Remember me when I’m gone’
    April 01,2013
    Paul Wood Photo

    John P. Bowman, of Cuttingsville, with hat in hand and donated bouquet, is about to enter his mausoleum to join his wife and two daughters.

    Editor’s note: This article, the latest in a monthly series on Vermont’s granite industry, is provided courtesy of the Vermont Granite Museum.


    For the Times Argus

    Today’s monument inscriptions reflect a reticence in dealing with the sometimes unsavory aspects of the deceased’s life and exhibit a genteelness of language, omitting the character, personality, opinions, philosophy, anxieties, anticipations, hopes, despairs, joys, frustrations, fears, prides, prejudices, loves, hates, trials and triumphs that were often chronicled in earlier epitaphs. Also, the increasing cost of carving has curtailed the amount and detail (including the cause of death) of inscriptions in more recent epitaphs. Vermont tombstone inscriptions of 100 to 200 years ago confirm the Vermonter’s reputation as an independent and original thinker.

    Early gravestones thundered the sermons of judgment — the dead asked the living for awe at the power of God and then for tears. Consistent with the creeds of the predominant Baptist, Methodist and Congregational sects, gravestone inscriptions expressed a belief in God and Christ and that man will be subject to divine judgment — a fear of the Lord and an expectation of mercy on judgment day as a reward for the pious.

    Epitaphs implied a life after death, expressed the basic human emotions of loss and sorrow of parting (with the hope that the deceased is in a better, safer place, free from care and toil), and stated that the deceased would not be forgotten and that the living would rejoin them in this better place.

    Gravestones recording early deaths due to sickness (the inscrutable decisions of God) remind us of the then-limited capabilities of medicine. Even as late as the last decades of the 19th century, there was only a faint understanding of how communicable diseases spread. Patent medicines and folk remedies were still widely used. And the importance of antiseptic conditions especially during childbirth and surgery was poorly understood. Sudden deaths through accident (many related to transportation and employment) were reported on gravestones. Epitaphs often covered the “who, what, where, when and why” details of homicides.

    Some epitaphs were intended to be attention-catching with a curious or humorous message — some intended and others not. Many epitaphs narrated the deceased’s occupations, life record and influence. Others issued warnings, advice and cautions (“Don’t do what I did!” or “Prepare for death”) and remind us of the inevitability of death and decay — the unavoidable reality and the endpoint when our lives achieve a final perspective.

    Some people were ready to go, but others would have loved to stay around. The epitaphs chronicled the deceased’s life or, as Joseph Conrad phrased it, “birth and death separated by struggle.” Many gravestones record historic events such as wars and the heroic actions of soldiers.

    Epitaphs were sometimes rhymed and often included puns, moving tributes, heartfelt goodbyes and clever jokes. Epitaphs ranged the full spectrum of human emotions from the ribald, naughty, wise, ridiculous, pompous, lugubrious and courageous to the cowardly, fearful, witty, sentimental, ironic, sad and cheerful.

    Epitaphs were sometimes written by the deceased but more often by an expert, colleague, family member or friend. Thus epitaphs mostly record what the living thought of the dead. Often epitaphs were the misguided, fulsome or flattering enumerations of the departed’s supposed virtues. A few epitaphs were simple, factual and eloquent, whereas others were of prodigious length of which “half will never be believed, the other never read.”

    Misspellings, due to stonecutters’ illiteracy or error, were common in early gravestone inscriptions, and these have been reproduced here without comment. Also, some of the quoted epitaphs have been extracted from larger inscriptions.

    Here is a sampling of gravestone inscriptions from graveyards across Vermont:

    The Corporeal Part

    — Ethan Allen, Burlington


    Corporeal Part


    Genl. Ethan Allen

    rests beneath this stone

    the 12th day of Feb. 1789,

    aged 50 years.

    His spirit tried the mercies of his God

    In whom alone he believed and strongly trusted.

    Keeping It Simple

    — Calvin Coolidge, Plymouth

    Calvin Coolidge

    July 4, 1872

    January 5, 1933

    Vermont’s Horse

    — Justin Morgan, Randolph Center

    Justin Morgan

    1747 1798

    This man brought to

    To Vermont the colt

    From which all Morgan

    Horses are descended.

    Well Equipped

    — Brigham Young, Whitingham


    On this spot


    A Man of much


    And superb


    Abe’s Compassion

    — William Scott, Groton

    In Memory of William Scott, The Sleeping Sentinel

    Pardoned by Abraham Lincoln, Sept. 9, 1861.

    Born on this farm Apr. 9, 1839

    Enlisted in Company K, 3rd Vt. Volunteers

    July 10, 1861

    Died of Wounds at Lee’s Mills Va.

    April 16, 1862

    (Scott was found asleep on sentry duty by the officer of the guard and was immediately arrested.)

    The Ultimate Sacrifice

    — William P. Eames (d. 1863), West Halifax

    We mourn and lament our brave youth

    In one deep and national wail,

    Who rushed to support our dear old Flag

    In its hour of deepest travail

    Sure of Death

    — Moses Buchanan, Ryegate

    I lived on earth I died on earth

    In earth I am interred

    All that have life on earth are sure of death

    The rest may be inferred

    We All Must Die

    — John Sergeant, Brattleboro

    The Spoiler is Among the

    works of God. All that is

    made must be Distroyed.

    And all that is Born must


    Killed by a Musket Ball

    — William French, Westminster

    Here William French his Body lies

    For Murder his Blood for Vengance cries.

    King Georg the third his Tory crew

    Tha with a bawl his head Shot Threw.

    For Liberty and His Countrys Good

    he Lost his Life his Dearest blood.

    (Thought by many to be the first blood spilled in the Revolutionary War)

    Captivated by Indians

    — Capt. James Johnson, Felchville

    On the 31st of

    August 1754

    Capt. James

    Johnson had

    a Daughter born

    on this spot of

    Ground, being

    Captivated with

    his whole Family

    by the Indians

    Taken by Indians

    — Ebenezer Scott, Vernon

    The first white male born in Bernardston,

    Mass. was taken with his mother and two brothers

    by the Indians, carried to Quebec, sold to the

    French when he was 8 years old. Returned to his

    father. Served in the Revolution — drew a pension.

    A Vermonter of Color

    — Jack York, Pittsfield

    Jack York, died 1874, age about 85 yrs.

    He came to Pittsfield in 1820

    Born a Slave in Salem, N.Y.

    He was always ready to put his hand out

    in friendship to all.

    Heaven Bound

    — Nathan Jenner, Pittsford

    This hallowed spot hath proved the home

    Of him who bright in science shone.

    I saw him on that fatal night:

    With visage clothed in purer light:

    When life had fled I saw him rise

    To brighter worlds beyond the skies.

    A More Glorious Connection

    — Rhoda Nash, West Brattleboro

    If my Earthly hope has been cut off in forming

    an enduring connection in this World, yet a

    Heavenly hope revives, that I shall form a more

    glorious connection in a better world.

    In Contact with the Other World

    — Julia Eddy, Chittenden

    Our Mother

    Julia A. Eddy

    Wife of

    Zephania Eddy

    Entered the World

    of Spirits

    Dec. 29th, 1872

    Communication with the Spirits

    — Sarah C. Whitney, Dummerston

    She was an active participant in all

    Reformatory movements, and a firm beliver in

    Spirit Communication, which was a solace

    in her declining years.

    None of Your Business

    — Anonymous, Stowe

    I was somebody.

    Who, is no business

    of yours.

    His Just Reward

    — Burglar, Sheldon

    Unknown man shot in

    the Jennison & Gallup Co.’s store

    while in the act of burglarizing

    the safe Oct. 13, 1905.

    (The stone was bought with money found on his person.)

    A Lover of Nature

    — Williston Winchester, Marlboro

    “Uncle Wid”

    “One of nature’s noblemen, a quaint old

    fashioned, honest and reliable man.

    An ideal companion for men and boys.

    Delighted in hunting foxes and lining bees.

    Not Coinciding with the Orthodox View

    — George F. Spencer (stonecutter), Lyndon Center

    Science has never killed or persecuted a single

    person for doubting or denying its teachings, and

    most of these teachings have been true; but religion

    has murdered millions for doubting or denying her

    dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.

    (Spencer carved his own epitaph. Members of his family and other townspeople defaced the monument in an unsuccessful attempt to obliterate the deeply cut inscriptions.)

    Effected by Inoculation

    — Jonathan Tute, Vernon

    But tho’ His Spirits fled on high

    His body mould’ring here must lie

    Behold the amazing alteration

    Effected by Inoculation

    The means Employed his Life to save

    Hurried Him Headlong to the Grave.

    An Early Death

    — Abial Perkins (age 13), Plainfield

    This Blooming Youth in Health Most Fair

    To His Uncle’s Mill-pond did repaire

    Undressed himself and so plunged in

    But never did come out again.

    The Youngest Sometimes Go First

    — Roxanna Elwell (age 16), Shaftsbury

    She was young & gay & strong

    To Hail Mountain Grange she did belong

    And the youngest of them all

    The first the Lord saw fit to call

    A Hard Life

    — Henry Clay Barney, Guilford

    My life’s been hard

    And all things show it;

    I always thought so

    And now I know it.

    An Unequal Marriage

    — Willie and Della Marshall, Hardwick

    She Always Did Her Best.

    He Never Did.

    (Willie was flamboyant and volatile, whereas Della was steady and good-hearted. He had the monument erected while both were alive without telling his wife.)

    Dangers of Sawmilling

    — Elisha Woodruff, Pittsford

    How shocking to the human mind

    The log did him to powder grind

    God did command his soul away

    His summings we must all obey.

    His Glass was Run

    — John Pannel, Halifax

    Mr. John Pannel killed by a tree

    In seventeen hundred & seventy three

    When his father did come

    He said Oh My Son

    Your glass is run

    Your work is done

    A Brakeman’s Hazard

    — Marshall M. Miller, Vernon

    Marshall M.

    Son of Sidney &

    Lucy Miller

    Instantly killed while in the act

    Of coupling cars at South Vernon

    Building a Bridge

    — William Pelsue, Cuttingsville

    He was killed at Bellows Falls, Vt.,

    While raising a bridge across

    The Connecticut River.

    (This was a 500-foot-long railroad bridge — an engineering masterpiece of its day.)

    A Boiler Explosion

    — Adin N. French, Dummerston

    The deceased came to his death by the

    explosion of the Engine “John Smith” on the

    Vermont and Canada Railroad, in Milton, Vermont.


    — Solomon Towslee Jr., Pownal

    Solomon Towslee Jr

    Who was kill’d in Pownal

    Vt. July 15, 1846, while

    repairing to Grind a sithe

    on a stone atach’d to the

    Gearing in the Woollen

    Factory. He was entangled.

    his death was sudden & awful

    Blown Up

    — Albert Fuller, Putney

    His death was occasioned by

    an accidental blast of powder

    on July 4th

    A Slippery Slope

    — Anna Hopewell, Enosburg Falls

    Here lies the body of our Anna

    Done to death by a banana

    It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low

    But the skin of the thing that made her go.


    — Dana Hydenal, Guilford

    Died in Jamaica, Apr. 26, 1859.

    The deceased on the day of his death

    was returning to his residence in West

    Townshend accompanied by his second son

    In attempting to ford a small stream,

    they were drowned.

    Lost on the Lake

    — Medad and Thalia Hurlburt, Monkton

    In memory of

    Medad H. & Thalia D. Hurlburt

    Who was lost on Lake Michigan

    By the burning of

    The steamer Niagara, Sept. 24, 1856

    A Craftsman’s Tools Laid Aside

    — Orie Elbridge Philbrick, Waits River

    And each tool is laid aside

    Worn with the work that was done with pride.

    Mending Shoes No More

    — A Cobbler of Weathersfield

    Beneath here lies a mender of the Sole

    Whose like you will not find from pole to pole.

    By every honest means he got his Awl

    And happy could he live tho’ in a Stall;

    His Ends he answer’d in this life that’s past

    And now let’s hope he’s happy at the last.

    A Good Name

    — Dill Elmer, Vernon

    Tranquil & silent here lies Dill,

    What gifts he had he managed well.

    He did his best to merit fame

    And left behind him a good name.

    Remember Dill and do the same.

    Nothing to Regret

    — James Savage, Burlington

    This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,

    With truth may say, Here lies an honest man.

    Calmly he looked on either life, and here

    Saw nothing to regret; nothing there to fear.

    A Vision Come True

    — George Gregory (farmer), Guilford

    The first man in this country

    to promulgate the idea of

    female medical schools.

    Never Married

    — F. Wytte (age 93), Middlebury

    A bachelor lies beneath this sod

    Who disobeyed the laws of God;

    Advice to others here I give,

    Don’t live a bachelor, as I lived.

    The Patriarch

    — Benjamin Carpenter (age 78), Westminster

    … left this world and 146 persons of lineal posterity

    Two Wives Lost

    — Capt. Elias Bingham, Stowe (Abigail, age 25, Betsey, age 20)

    This double call is loud to all

    Let none despise and wonder

    But to the youth it speaks a truth

    In accents loud as thunder.

    Eternal Grief

    — John P. Bowman, Cuttingsville

    A couch of dreamless sleep. To the memory of a sainted wife and daughters.

    (A statue of Bowman is about to enter the family mausoleum to join his wife and daughters.)

    At Rest, For a While

    — Edward Oakes, Middlebury

    Faithful husband thou art

    At rest untill we meet again.

    Soon Pa Must Come

    — Ermina B. Hinckley (age 3), Post Mills

    Sleep sweet with Ma, Ermina B.

    Soon Pa must come and rest with thee.

    Four Infants Born at One Birth

    — Jacamiah and Mercy Palmer, Danby Four Corners

    Four twen infants thay are dead

    And laid in one silant grave

    Christ took small infants in his arms

    Such infants he will save.

    $1.90 a Day

    — Infant, Burlington

    Beneath this stone our baby lies

    He neither cries nor hollers

    He lived just one and twenty days

    And cost us forty dollars.

    A Mother’s Sadness

    — Rebecca Park, Grafton

    Behold and se as you pass by.

    My fourteen children with me lie

    Old or young you soon must die

    And turn to dust as well as I.

    Too Young

    — Charles Henry Gilson (age 6), Putney

    He was instantly killed

    by a stagecoach passing

    over him.

    Nuisance No More

    — Philip Sydney Bennett, East Calais


    The Old Nuisance

    (He lived with a daughter and overheard his son-in-law ask how long the old nuisance would be around.)

    Her Life a Mystery

    — Mary Hoyt, Bradford

    She lived — what more can then be said:

    She died — and all we know she’s dead.


    — On a field boulder, South Wheelock Cemetery


    Exit N. 6 1811


    — Charles Bowker, Wilmington

    It is all right

    Long Enough?

    — Triphena Shepard (age 99), Plainfield

    I would not live always

    Rather Be Alive

    — Jabez Goodell (age 79), Westminster

    Our age to seventy years is set

    How short the term how frail the state

    And if to eighty we arrive

    We’d rather sigh & groan, and be alive.

    It Doesn’t Add Up

    — Eunice Page (age 73), Plainfield

    Five times five years I lived a virgin’s life

    Nine time five years I lived a virtuous wife;

    Wearied of this mortal life, I rest.

    Further Reading

    Unger, Frederic W., “Epitaphs,” Penn Publishing Co., 1904

    Pike, Robert E., “Granite Laughter and Marble Tears: Epitaphs of Old New England,” Stephen Daye Press, 1938

    Wallis, Charles L., “Stories On Stone: A Book of American Epitaphs,” Oxford University Press, 1954

    Greene, Janet, “Over Their Dead Bodies: Yankee Epitaphs and History,” Stephen Greene Press, 1962

    Mann, Thomas C. and Janet Greene, “Sudden and Awful: American Epitaphs and the Finger of God,” Stephen Greene Press, 1968

    Pike, Robert E., “Laughter and Tears,” The H-H Press, 1971

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