Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Describes with clarity a great tradition, sets it in historical context, and accomplishes an historical ethnography of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. Patterson has done a tremendous job in bringing this fascinating story and these important works of art to light."--Henry Glassie, Indiana University
"Seamlessly weaves together a catalog of the tombstones with a social history of their makers. . . . Illuminates the ways these immigrants and their descendants drew on their cultural heritage as they adapted to life on a dynamic frontier."--Richard MacMaster, co-director of the Center for Scotch-Irish Studies, University of Florida
"Decades of intensive field work and digging into archives and little-used manuscripts have produced a book that not only examines the unique Bigham headstones made before and after the American Revolution, but a vanished pioneer culture."
-Charlotte News and Observer
"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 and Antiques
"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."
"Patterson presents fresh insights into the nature and evolution of Scotch-Irish identity in America. . . . [He] has assembled an extraordinary work of historical compilation that will be of great interest to local and family historians as well as scholars studying Scotch-Irish ethnicity."
-West Virginia History
"From the initial pages of The True Image
, the reader is aware of a skillful writer embarking on a serious scholarly work. . . . Patterson reveals that the true image is not of a dichotomy, but of an art that emerges only as a unity with the culture, which it both reflects and of which it is a part. Recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries, as well as libraries with a special interest in Appalachia."
"Fascinating. . . . A valuable addition to libraries whose focus is on the art, history, and genealogy of this region."
"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
About 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.