Written in Stone: Meet the Carvers - Lamson Family

The Lamson Family of Charlestown, MA were well known carvers. Their stones can be found as far north as North Andover, MA and as far south as Connecticut. A concentration of their stones can be found in Boston and on Cape Cod at Yarmouth Ancient Cemetery and Truro Old North Cemetery. Four generations of carvers are attributed to this family.

The Lamson shop started around 1677 with its founder Joseph Lamson. He was born August 1658 in Ipswich, MA, the second youngest of eight children. In 1678, Lamson moved to Malden, MA where he met and married Elizabeth Mitchell on December 12, 1679. The couple moved to Charlestown, MA where they had 8 children, 6 of whom survived childhood.  It is believed that Lamson learned stone carving from the “Old Stonecarver”, an anonymous sculptor who was also known as the “Charlestown Carver” or the “Boston Stonecutter”.  Lamson also worked as a surveyor (like his father) as well as producing stonework such as slate roof tiles.

The Lamson stones are known for their distinctive winged skills with eyebrows that often have hooked ends. The eyebrow marks connect to the nose mark and there is a lip-like mouth mark above the teeth. This last mark adds expression to the skull. In addition to the skull, the tympanum often contained vines, flowers, berries, cherubs, or other decorations. In addition to the decorated tympanum, the borders of the stone contain fruits and gourds, often located on three or four sides of the inscription. A hard slate was often chosen for the stone, which has weathered well over the years.

Joseph Lamson’s sons Nathaniel (1692-1755) and Caleb (1697-1760) followed in his footsteps along with other apprentices in the Charlestown shop. Nathaniel’s son Joseph (1728-1789) and Caleb’s son John (1732-1776) also joined the family business. The fourth and final generation included Joseph (1760-1808) Caleb (1760-1824) and Samuel (1773-1818).

Joseph Lamson passed away August 27, 1722. His grave can be found in Charlestown, MA at the Phipps Street Burying Ground. His stone is a beautiful rendition of the Lamson style, complete with ornate tympanum and sides. Perhaps the stone was carved by one of his sons, or maybe, by Lamson himself.

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