Written in Stone: Meet the Carvers - Geyer

The Geyer Carvers were a father and son team who worked on Boston’s South End. Henry Christian Geyer was a respected artist who carved all of his artistry by hand. He not only carved gravestones but did models out of plaster of paris.

Henry was married in 1757 to Thankful Rice Bolter and together they had two children, John Just Geyer, Sr. (1758), and Henry Geyer. After Thankful’s death, he remarried in 1771 to Sarah Jones with whom he had one son, Peter Geyer.

John Just Geyer, Sr. followed in his father’s footsteps and became a carver in his father’s Boston shop. Together Henry and John created works that were sold around the region and can be found in many cemeteries today throughout Massachusetts. Their shop was located near “Liberty Tree” in Boston, on the corner of Washington and Essex Streets. Ads depicting their product appeared in the papers in 1760.  After Henry’s death (around 1790) and John’s in 1808 the shop was not successful for those who remained and was closed.

The actual date of Henry’s death is somewhat a mystery.  There are accounts of his death in 1790 while others say he died in 1786 and 1793. The Boston Magazine stated that he died in 1790 at the age of 43. It is unknown where he is buried, but some feel it is most likely in Boston, MA and may be an unmarked grave.

The Geyer’s most recognizable carving is the stone of Mrs. Susanna Jayne. It rests in what is stated as “one of Massachusetts most beautiful graveyards”, Old Burial Hill, located in Marblehead.  This design has stirred up a lot of attention over the years and is often printed onto shirts, decals and many more souvenirs.  This gravestone held the following  symbols:  (as listed in www.findagrave.com) a skeleton crowned with a laurel wreath who holds the sun and moon in each hand while a scythe rests against his shoulder–”the grim reaper”. He’s encircled by a serpent gripping his tail (eternity), with angels (goodness) above and bats (evil) below. The uppermost part of the tympanum features an hourglass flanked by bones (mortality).

 

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