Monday, January 16, 2012

Memento Mori

Back on the road again this weekend after an aborted effort last weekend. This time instead of the mountains and barn quilts, I went in search of something a little more closer to home.

I was doing some research on historic churches in Rowan County, the same county where I visited Thyatira and Back Creek Presbyterian Churches. There were also some Lutheran, Baptist and German Reformed churches whose congregations had been established before the two Presbyterian ones; most of these churches were established in the mid to late 1700's.

While doing my Google searching, I came across an interesting article about the pierced tombstones of Davidson County, a county just north of Rowan and to the southeast of Guilford County where I live. These tombstones were carved by German cabinetmakers who had immigrated from Pennsylvania to the Piedmont of North Carolina in the late 1700's.

There are approximately 300 tombstones of this manner in Davidson County, scattered among seven churchyards. There are no other known tombstones created in this manner outside of Davidson County, either in the United States or Europe.

Historians who have studied these tombstones believe that a local cabinetmaker by the name of Swicegood and his assistants are responsible for carving these tombstones as the decorations are similar to touches that he added to his furniture.

Some of the epitaphs are written in Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) and some are written in English. This is hard to read as the sun was shining right on the inscription. You may be able to see at least that the script is in Fraktur.


Ron Ruiter said...

That is really interesting. I have gone through several cemeteries around Ansonville, Charlotte, Concord, Oakboro, and many small towns in between. Don't recall seeing any tombstones like that. Guess I'm not the only one interested in these old tombstones and old cemeteries. Thanks for the info.

Dartford Warbler said...

How interesting. The designs on these tombstones are so beautiful. I wonder where the craftsman who fashioned these learned his art?

rachel said...

Fascinating! Thank you.

Carolina said...

Such craftsmanship, beautifully made. Graveyards are such interesting places. Especially the old ones.

frayedattheedge said...

How interesting - I guess it was just too much work for it to become more widespread - it must have taken a long time to carve each one.

Karen said...

Ron: Actually the interest in the tombstones is more due to their rarity than anything else. Davidson County isn't that far for you to come and see these amazing tombstones.

DW: Many a historian has tried to answer that question, but the answer is just tentative that Swicegood produced them and not definitive. They are amazing to see in person.

Rachel: As jealous as I am sometimes of all the history you have there just in your cottage alone, I'm always thrilled to find something really interesting here locally.

Carolina: It was a great day to go out and find these tombstones and take pictures.

Anne: The carver got a small break by using soapstone for these headstones. But still, all that work involved!