Archive for October 2016

Tales from a Dedham Graveyard 2- “Snatched from the tomb…”

October 16, 2016

shuttleworthThis is the monument to the Shuttleworth family. The elder Jeremiah ran a general store and operated the post office out of  his house on High Street, which was located where the Dedham Historical Society building now stands.

shuttleworth-house123   The Shuttleworth House, late 19th century.The house was later moved to Bryant Street and torn down in the 1970s.

Hannah Shuttleworth became the niece of Dr. Nathaniel Ames the 2nd  (son of the famed almanac publisher) when he married her father’s sister Metiliah.  When he died in 1822, Dr. Ames’ substantial estate went to the unmarried Hannah, his closest living relative.  Upon her death in 1886, Hannah bequeathed $10,000 to the Dedham Historical Society, for the purpose of building a headquarters. She also donated funds that allowed for the construction of the Dedham Public Library on Church Street, as well as $30,000 to the Town of Dedham to be used as aid to the poor.

Don Gleason Hill, town clerk and president of the Dedham Historical Society, understandably wanted to honor this generous benefactress and desired to have a portrait hung in the new society headquarters. However, no photograph of Miss Shuttleworth had been made in her lifetime. That didn’t stop Hill from executing a plan that, in his own words created a portrait that was “literally snatched from the grave.”

Hill describes the plan in an introduction to Dedham Records, published in 1888 on the occasion of the town’s 250th anniversary:

“The morning following her funeral, a cold blustering February day, Gariboldi, the statuary manufacturer, was summoned from Boston, and inside the receiving tomb a plaster cast of her face was taken, and from this alone, with the descriptions which a few friends who knew her best could furnish, Miss Annie R. Slafter, of Dedham, made the crayon portrait which now hangs in the place of honor  over the great mantel in our Historical Society room.”

040The portrait “snatched from the grave.”  Dedham Records, 1888.

The receiving tomb in which Miss Shuttleworth lay before burial was in fact, the Ames family tomb, featured in the previous post.

 

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Tales from a Dedham Graveyard

October 2, 2016

It’s October, and in honor of my favorite holiday I will be featuring stories and pictures from Dedham’s graveyards. Here is a picture of the tomb of Dr.Nathaniel Ames in the Village Avenue burying ground:

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Ames Family Tomb (now covered)

Ames was a prominenent Dedham citizen and renowned almanac publisher who died in 1764. In the fall of 1775, during the siege of Boston, a young Colonial Army lieutenant named Jabez Fitch visited the grave on one of his many excursions into graveyards and tombs in the Boston area. The following diary entry describing Fitch’s visit should help get you in the Halloween mood:

About 12 O’clock…went into the burying yard, where we found Doctor Ames’ tomb open … We several of us went down into the tomb, opened the old doctor’s coffin and see his corpse. The under jaw was all fallen in, the other part of the bone of the head retained their proper shape, the teeth were whole in the upper jaw, but the whole back and rest of the body, as far as we could see, was covered with a black film or skin, which I suppose to be the winding sheet in which the corpse was buried, being blended with the moisture of the body.

I also observed one of the arms to have fallen off from the body and the bones laying by the side of the coffin. While I was thus in a sort conversing with the dead and viewing those melancholy curiosities, I could not help reflecting that nothing of the philosophy and astronomy which once adorned the mind of that person and made him appear great among his contemporaries, was now to be seen in this state of humiliation and contempt… After sufficiently gratifying our curiosity, we moved on…