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John Hartshorn (1650-1738)

John Hartshorn was a weaver from Haverhill, MA, a town about ten miles up on the Merrimack River. Boston’s slate gravestones did not make it in to Haverhill. This left the town and its neighbor, the town of Bradford across the river without gravestones. Circa 1700 Mr. Hartshorn, at age fifty, decided to take on a second career. He started carving gravestones. He developed his own image, a mask-like face. Emanating out from the face were lines of many configurations. Later on he added large circles with geometric designs inside. What he created is called the Merrimac Valley Style. Hartshorn borrowed ideas from designs he found on Boston’s gravestones. Those ideas he reworked into his own creations. He obviously had the ability to carve skull and wing designs but did not. Through various circumstances he moved a couple of times and ended up living in Connecticut where he continued to carve gravestones into his eighties. This write up gives examples of his work in Essex County Massachusetts.

Circa 1700 Elizabeth (last name missing) – Haverhill, MA
Simple folk art designs. Face with lines in place of wings. Border designs although simple geometric in shape match each other in size and were set up to fit properly.

“Crowned Lady” Sara Wicom – 1705 – Rowley, MA
This gravestone was carved ca 1708 when Hartshorn moved to Rowley. He had been experimenting with designs over the face. Here he used a crown and a rather fancy side border. His border design is composed of geometric shapes and an earlier bell design. This gravestone was done to compliment a Boston gravestone carved for her father-in-law. (see Daniel Wicom above under Boston Gravestones) The two stones stand side by side.

Circled Designs Henry Lunt – 1709 – Newbury, MA
Between 1709 and 1710 Hartshorn experimented with circle designs in various forms. One way was placing circles with designs inside in the lunette. The other was circles within circles. On this headstone he used whorls in one set of circles and half-circles (crescent shapes) inside the other circle. Circles within circles lasted a short time. Circles in the lunette beside the face he used intermittingly for the next ten years.

Dot pattern inside design Buswell – Salisbury, MA
Sets of dots set in triangular pattern within the primary design on side border. A round silver trencher salt from (1700-1725) has repeated triangle designs around the base with holes. The similarity is close enough to suggest Hartshorn may have borrowed this idea from the silver piece.



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