Early American Gravestone Art

Sould_Effigy

 

It is believed there was a burying ground here at the Old Dutch Church even before the church was built in 1685. The oldest grave that can be identified today is dated 1755.

Among the headstones are some of the earliest and most enduring examples of American folk art. One of the most respected carvers of headstones in the burying ground was Solomon Brewer. He lived in Greenburgh, New York, and was also a stonemason, schoolteacher, auctioneer and census taker. He decorated headstones with soul effigies, an 18th-century symbol of the soul’s flight to heaven. Round faces with downturned eyes at the outer corners distinguish his soul effigies.

Master carver John Zuricher of New York City also deserves mention. His soul effigies—sometimes square, oval or pear-shaped—bear distinctive puffy cheeks (see the photo above).

The choice of stone is an indication of the age of the grave. Red sandstone used throughout the 1700s gave way to white marble in the 1800s, and marble to durable granite in the 1900s.

Visitors interested in locating graves of their ancestors buried at Old Dutch may want to click on the "Searching for Ancestors?" link in the left panel.