321Oldest Tombstone Germantown, Phila.
- Jul 27, 2007From "GERMANTOWN: Journal of the Site and Relict Society", October
THE OLDEST TOMBSTONE IN GERMANTOWN AND HOW IT WAS FOUND
In 1918, when the reorganization of the Board of Trustees of Hoods
Cemetery Company was effected and the work of restoration commenced,
efforts were made to find the gravestone of Joseph Coulston, said to
be the oldest in Germantown. It was supposed to have been buried
with a lot of broken and mutilated stones. Mr. Albanus Logan
informed the committee having the matter in charge, that he
understood it had been kept in the old toolhouse. Formerly there was
a wooden toolhouse near the side gate, the predecessor of the
present brick tool house. All efforts to find the stone failed,
although all known places of buried stones were dug into and the
old, wooden floor of the toolhouse removed and replaced by concrete.
March 15, 1919, the committee published the names of thirty-eight
lot holders in the Germantown Guide. This list was taken from the
chart of 1876. It was there stated that the committee desired to
meet any named in the list, or their descendants to arrange for the
care of their lots, resetting of stones, removing rails and cutting
off corner posts, etc.
Among the names on the list was that of George Apple. Mrs. Robert
Hales, a granddaughter, then living in Collingswood. N. J. saw the
name of her grandfather on the list, and with her sister, Miss
Elizabeth Myrtitus, called on the committee stating that they had
difficulty in getting things done satisfactorily, and that the
sexton changed the lock on the front gate nearly every year,
necessitating the purchase of a new key, and that they had given up
in disgust efforts to keep the lot in order. It is the purpose of
the present ad-ministration of the Cemetery to keep the front gate
unlocked, and the Cemetery accessible to lot holders and visitors,
as long as this privilege is not abused.
Mrs. Hales and her sister were advised to remove the rails, cut off
the corner posts, and to lower the heavy headstones which were in
three sections and very high, and had blown over against the railing
which prevented them from falling to the ground and breaking.
The ladies readily agreed to have the work done as suggested by the
committee. When the workmen removed the foundations of the stones to
carry out these suggestions, they found under one stone half of an
old tombstone, and under another, the second half. The two halves
cleaned and brought together contained the following inscription:
"Here lyeth the body of Samuel, son of Joseph and Margaret Coulson,
who died Oct. the 28, 1707, aged 9 weeks."
This was a veritable find, as the long sought-for stone of Joseph
Coulson was dated February 1707-8, and was supposed to be the oldest
stone in Germantown. (The oldest stone in the Upper Burying Ground
is to Cornelius Tison, 1716.) At the time of these burials England
and her colonies reckoned their time from the first of March, the
year beginning with March. Little Samuel died October, 1707, so
Samuel died before his father, and in this find we have the oldest
gravestone in Germantown.
The two pieces of the stone were fastened together, a concrete have
added, and it was then placed in its original position in the grave
yard, an old resident having pointed out the place. It is near the
front to the left of the main entrance.
Efforts are being made to raise enough money at the annual Coulson
reunion to purchase a new stone for Joseph Coulson, containing the
original inscription, and also to endow the lot for perpetual care.
NAAMAN H. KEYSER.