The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry

Overview

A thousand unique gravestones cluster around old Presbyterian churches in the piedmont of the two Carolinas and in central Pennsylvania. Most are the vulnerable legacy of three generations of the Bigham family, Scotch Irish stonecutters whose workshop near Charlotte created the earliest surviving art of British settlers in the region. In The True Image, Daniel Patterson documents the craftsmanship of this group and the current appearance of the stones. In two hundred of his photographs, he records these stones ...

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The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry

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Overview

A thousand unique gravestones cluster around old Presbyterian churches in the piedmont of the two Carolinas and in central Pennsylvania. Most are the vulnerable legacy of three generations of the Bigham family, Scotch Irish stonecutters whose workshop near Charlotte created the earliest surviving art of British settlers in the region. In The True Image, Daniel Patterson documents the craftsmanship of this group and the current appearance of the stones. In two hundred of his photographs, he records these stones for future generations and compares their iconography and inscriptions with those of other early monuments in the United States, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
Combining his reading of the stones with historical records, previous scholarship, and rich oral lore, Patterson throws new light on the complex culture and experience of the Scotch Irish in America. In so doing, he explores the bright and the dark sides of how they coped with challenges such as backwoods conditions, religious upheavals, war, political conflicts, slavery, and land speculation. He shows that headstones, resting quietly in old graveyards, can reveal fresh insights into the character and history of an influential immigrant group.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The culmination of decades of research, this volume not only examines the gravestone production of the family from a folk art perspective and identification of specific carvers, but also looks more deeply into what else can be gleaned from these objects. . . . Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and researchers/faculty; general readers.—Choice

At first glance, this book documents an important legacy of artistically rendered gravestones in the Carolinas. . . But the book is much more and stands as a major contribution to material culture studies.—Simon Bronner, Journal of American Folklore

This extraordinary book is a landmark in historical ethnography.—Alan Jabbour, Journal of Folklore Research

Patterson's loving attention to the stones and his remarkable use of primary documents to understand them create a history of life on the Carolina frontier that is, to use a pun, 'close to the ground' and true to the image.—North Carolina Historical Review

This book delves into the rich tradition of headstone-related iconography. . . . The symbology and inscriptions on these stone structures prove that they are as much works of art as they are portals back in time.—Art & Antiques

A signal contribution to the study of the Scotch Irish, the colonial backcountry, and the early South.—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Daniel W. Patterson is Kenan Professor Emeritus of English and Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author or editor of nine books, including The Shaker Spiritual, Sounds of the South, and A Tree Accurst: Bobby McMillon and Stories of Frankie Silver.

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