Epitaphs are sayings, usually engraved on headstones or gravemarkers. While modern epitaphs are often standard, such as “Beloved Wife and Mother”, “Resting with the Angels”, or “Eternally Blessed”, in centuries past epitaphs were often more elaborate. Here is a sampling of some epitaphs, many witty, from years past in the early days of the American colonies:
Here lies the body of Richard Thomas, an Englishman by birth, a Whig of '76—a Cooper by trade, now food for worms. Like an old rum puncheon whose staves are all marked and numbered he will be raised and put together again by his Maker.
Here lies the body of John Mound
Lost at sea and never found.
Here lies one Wood enclosed in wood,
One Wood within another.
The outer wood is very good,
We cannot praise the other.
The little hero that lies here
Was conquered by the diarrhœa.
Here Betsy Brown her body lies.
Her soul is flying in the skies.
While here on earth she oftimes spun
Six hundred skeins from sun to sun,
And wove one day, her daughter brags,
Two hundred pounds of carpet rags.
I lost my life in the raging seas
A sovereign God does as he please.
The Kittery friends did then appear,
And my remains they buried here.
We can but mourn our loss,
Though wretched was his life.
Death took him from the cross,
Erected by his wife.
Our life is but a Winter's day.
Some breakfast and away.
Others to dinner stay and are well fed.
The oldest sups and goes to bed.
Large is his debt who lingers out the day,
Who goes the soonest has the least to pay.
Accidentally shot as a mark of affection by his
After life’s fever, I sleep well.
Here lies Cynthia, Stevens' wife
She lived six years in calms and strife.
Death came at last and set her free.
I was glad and so was she.
In youth he was a scholar bright.
In learning he took great delight.
He was a major's only son.
It was by love he was undone.
Here lies old Caleb Ham,
By trade a bum.
When he died the devil cried,
Come, Caleb, come.
He was a blessing to the saints,
To sinners rich and poor,
He was a kind and worthy man,
He’s gone to be no more.
He kept the faith unto the end
And left the world in peace.
He did not for a doctor send
Nor for a hireling priest.
Mrs. Josiah Haines.
Here beneath these marble stones
Sleeps the dust and rests the bones
Of one who lived a Christian life
T’was Haines’s—Josiah’s wife.
She was a woman full of truth
And feared God from early youth.
And priests and elders did her fight
Because she brought her deeds to light.
Here lies the wife of brother Thomas,
Whom tyrant death has torn from us,
Her husband never shed a tear,
Until his wife was buried here.
And then he made a fearful rout,
For fear she might find her way out.
She lived with her husband fifty years
And died in the confident hope of a better life.
Here lies the body of old Uncle David,
Who died in the hope of being sa-ved.
Where he's gone or how he fares,
Nobody knows and nobody cares.
Here lies the body of Samuel Proctor
Who lived and died without a doctor.
Here lies the bones of Richard Lawton
Whose death alas! was strangely brought on.
Trying his corns one day to mow off.
His razor slipped and cut his toe off.
His toe or rather what it grew to,
An inflimation quickly flew to.
Which took alas! to mortifying
And was the cause of Richards dying.