Coulter Road and the Tremperskill
By Jim Andrews
Early Burials & “Coffin Man”
One of Andes’ earliest residents was Jeremiah Webb (1751-1833). He served in the Revolutionary War and is buried in the oldest part of the cemetery. Other very early grave markers—all homemade—mark the final resting places of Joseph F. Webb who died on June 20, 1820 at 23 years old, William Sanderson on March 8, 1824 at 29 years, John Wells on August 30, 1826 at 45 years—(his stone bears the inscription “Be ye also ready”), Ethel Plant on September 11, 1822 and Stephen Plant on November 23, 1822.
It is interesting to note the stark difference between the gravestones of these early burials. Some are homemade while others appear to have been professionally carved. Four of the Webb family markers appear to have been carved by an itinerant gravestone carver from New England, a J. W. Stewart who has come to be known as “Coffin Man” since he often carved a little coffin at the bottom of the stone—the number of coffins carved representing the number of burials in the grave. Coffin Man had several apprentices identified as Eclectic Man, Comma Man, Open Urn Man, Fern Man and Sunburst Man, based on their style in carving the gravestones. Fern man has actually been identified as Joseph Crandall who lived in Norwich during his carving career. Marianne Greenfield of Delhi has done many hours of research on Coffin Man and his apprentices and all the information about him comes from her.
Many other local cemeteries also have coffin man stones. The oldest marked burial in the cemetery is that of a member of the Ackerly family. The field stone marker is hand inscribed simply PA, December 6, 1797 – June 15, 1814—only 17 years old. There are probably other unmarked burials which are older–their markers having long since disappeared, or perhaps they were made of wood and rotted away.
Dowie Burial Ground
A small, walled-in portion of the cemetery located at the top of the hill along the row of pines is not part of the Andes Cemetery Association. It is a private family cemetery owned by the Dowie family, although the association maintains its upkeep. Buried here along with Harry Dowie are his parents, Lucy Anderson Dowie, who died on January 5, 1845 at 54 years of age and Henry Dowie who died on December 29, 1845 at the age of 77. They were early business people whose family built the Dowie Mill, the remains of which are at the base of Ballantine Park. The now almost-illegible inscriptions on their marble monument give us some insight into the lives of these early settlers:
“Emigrated to America in 1811 and to this county in 1814, the founder of his name on this continent. He left his numerous family the rich legacy of an untarnished reputation and through the many vicissitudes of life to which he was subjected, he placed the firmest reliance on a superimenting providence. ‘He who feedeth the ravens will not permit us to perish,’ was his saying to the partner of his joys and his sorrows in their privations. Industry, Economy, Piety, and Probity (honesty) were prominent virtues in him. He lived and died emphatically the Honest Man.”
Lucy Anderson Wife of Henry Dowie
“Born in the Isle of May, in the Frith of Forth, Scotland. Where in 1789, her parents and their entire family met an awful death from suffocation—she alone by a special providence was preserved and was found three days after the fatal event, alive and sucking on the corpse of her mother. God in his infinite mercy preserved her and in his goodness blessed her with a disposition in which every female virtue shone preeminently, a pattern of Piety, Patience, and affliction invaluable as a mother, beloved as a friend, and for the last 30 years of her life, as a member of the M. E. Church of which she was an ornament, she breathed her last in the full hope of a glorious Immortality January 5, 1845, aged 54 years, 10 mos, 20 days.”~