Colonial Carvers in Bolton's Cemeteries
Much of the following information has been gleaned from "The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connecticut and the Men Who Made Them," by James A. Slater, an encyclopedic work published by the Connecticut Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1987. Because colonial gravestone carvers have not left a record of their work, identifying their stones is a very imprecise science. What is well documented, however, is that the granite schist from Bolton quarries was highly prized by carvers all over eastern Connecticut.
— Eileen Stanley
The Hook and Eye Man
Gershom Bartlett (1723–1798)
Gravestone carver Gershom Bartlett was a native of Bolton, Connecticut. Working in stone from Bolton quarries, he created easily recognizable carvings featuring bulbous noses and raised eyebrows (hence the "hook and eye" sobriquet), vestigial teeth at the bottom of the face, and lobed crowns. Many examples of his work (over 50) still exist in Bolton's cemeteries.
Winged Face Carvers
The Manning Family
Josiah (1725–1806), Frederick (1758–1810), Rockwell (1760–1806)
Present in almost every eighteenth-century cemetery in eastern Connecticut, the predominant Manning style uses a frowning face pattern with an upswept hairstyle consisting of a central pompadour and side curls.
Aaron Haskins (1752–1795)
Haskins lived in Bolton and was a close imitator of the Mannings. His mouths are heavier, curving downward, and his eyes are very heavily lidded. His carvings in general are less elaborate than the Mannings. There are over 60 examples of his work in Bolton's cemeteries.
Daniel Ritter (1746–1828)
The "flat-eared" school of carving uses simple faces with down-curved wings coming from the side of the face. In his 1987 book, "The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connecticut," James A. Slater attributes 10 stones in Bolton Center Cemetery to carver Daniel Ritter — with the caveat that more evidence is badly needed.
Obadiah Wheeler (1673–c.1749)
Often considered the greatest of all eastern Connecticut carvers, Wheeler lived in Lebanon. Bolton Center Cemetery has this one documented stone by him. Note the characteristic horizontal row of rosettes below the face.
-?- Thatcher Lathrop (1734–1806) -?-
"The Colonial Burying Grounds of Eastern Connecticut" (see above) states that there are three stones by Lathrop in Bolton Center Cemetery. I'm guessing that this example, in red sandstone, is one of them. Lathrop favored faces that appear to be mustached, and strongly carved wings sometimes resembling cow horns.
Most of Ely's stones are in the Springfield, Mass., area, where he lived and began carving in the 1760s. Of the few examples found in our area, the Rhoda Colton red sandstone in Bolton Center Cemetery is a fine example.
Unidentified Carvers - Known by the Following Names
In the Style of William Crosby
These elaborate red sandstone carvings have many of the characteristics of the work of William Crosby (1764–1801), a leading carver of the late Middletown school. Note the sweeping crowns and scrolls in his elegant work. Crosby was in partnership at various times with several other carvers, including Peter Buckland (see above), whose work is also represented in Bolton Center Cemetery.