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

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

  1. Kathy Says:

    Receiving tomb? Was this to ensure they were actually dead before burial?


    • Jim Parr Says:

      Could be, but most likely they were kept there until the grave was ready. In Hannah’s case, she might have rested there for a few months since she died in February and the ground was probably still frozen


  2. Alan Peters Says:

    Jim – thanks so much for your posts. When I return to Dedham to visit, I try to stop by the St. Paul’s cemetery just to remind myself how different life was for the early settlers. So many of the markers show the short lives of so many children and it is heart-breaking to imagine the grief those families endured. I greatly enjoy your posts and hope you will continue your efforts. I have also read your book and enjoyed it as well. Alan Peters (DHS ’62)


  3. nancycarroll@rcn.com Says:

    Hey Jim!  how the heck are ya??:

    so this lady came into my office yesterday just as we were about to close, said she lived on Washington Street in an ‘antique’ home across from Marsh, yet then she started talking about the weird rotary that is on Court street on the OTHER end of Marsh, and also about Worthington so she had me a bit confused….. however, her assertion was that Lafayette and his troops camped for three days on their way from somewhere to somewhere else in what then would have been ‘her’ yard and that there’s a plaque commemorating said encampment on the side of the road there……

    Now, I’ve read your book, among others, and I’m fourth generation Dedham, but I’ve never heard this……..


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