in memory of
Who died Dec. the 8th A.D.1817
in the 83d, year of his age.
Rachel Dickson his wife
Who died May A.D. the 20th
1798 in the 47th year of her age.
These are probably the parents of the Agness Dickson who died in 1799 and is buried next to them. Their stone was cut by the same craftsman who cut Agness’ stone, whom we call the Master of the Curly G. Here, however, he has done much more elaborate work, which may be explained by his having had eighteen years of experience since Agness’ stone. The decorations are something new, and the individual letters seem more neatly made.
This tombstone gives us very good evidence of how our early stonecutters did their work. We can still see the lines scratched into the stone with a straightedge to align the letters. But it is equally plain that the stonecutter did not first trace the letters with chalk or any other impermanent material: he made his lines, and then he just started writing. If it were not so, he would not have been taken by surprise when he came to the end of a line and had no room for the E in “wife.” He would not have left out the day of the month in Rachel’s inscription, then realized his mistake, shrugged, and stuck it in after “A.D.” And this seems to be the almost universal practice of the stonecutters of two centuries ago: they never drew the inscription first before cutting it, but launched straight into cutting the letters, dealing with errors in any clumsy way that occurred to them.
Now, it is quite possible that Agness’ stone was cut at the same time as this one, rather than when she died in 1799. In favor of that proposition we have these arguments:
- Both stones were cut by the same craftsman (but, on the other hand, local craftsmen often worked for decades in the same cemetery).
- Rachel, who died in 1798, apparently did not have a stone until her husband George died, so it is reasonable to suppose that Agness might not have had one either.
There are enough differences between the work on this stone and the work on Agness’, however, including the decorations and (in Father Pitt’s eyes) much neater individual letters, to suggest that the stonecutter might have been considerably older and more experienced when he cut this stone. Old Pa Pitt regards the matter as worthy of further investigation.