Written in Stone: Meet the Carvers - Emmes

One of the most popular gravestone makers in Boston in the first half of the 18th century was Nathaniel Emmes (1690-1750). He learned the trade from a neighbor, William Mumford, and in turn taught his sons Henry (1716-1767) and Joshua (1719-1772). He also had William Codner (1709-1769) as an apprentice in his shop.

Although a master stonecutter, his primary business was building stone foundations.  It is believed that he laid the foundation for the Old South Church in 1729 as the initials N.E. are on the corner stone of the building. It is reported that Emmes and his sons were paid for at least 78 gravestones in the Boston area, with 10 of those being in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in Boston where he is also buried.

Identifying features characteristic of Emmes include ornate borders including tympanum borders, graduated discs in the finials, indented skulls and often crossed bones over the winged skull. In the inscription Emmes generally used ‘LYES’ rather than ‘LIES’ and ‘DEC’D’ rather than ‘DIED’,

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