Last week, I shared a brief history of Charleston’s First Scots Presbyterian Church and its churchyard. I also told some of the stories behind the stones there, with a few carved by Scotsman Thomas Walker. He was a member of First Scots, as were many Scottish newcomers to Charleston. In Part II, we’ll take a look at some more markers along with a little history.
Although these next two markers are not exactly the same, both feature a “grieving widow” motif. Little is known about William Hunter beyond what’s on his stone. I found no death notice in the newspapers.
A native of the county of Antrim in Ireland,
who died on the 18th of September, 1805
aged 58 years
the last seventeen of which were passed in this city.
He was respected and beloved for his solicitude as a relative and friend
his probity as a man and (above all)
his philanthropy and benevolence to the stranger and the distressed.
Urn as a Greek Symbol
Take a close look at the top image on William’s stone. A mourning woman (perhaps a widow) leans over an urn positioned on top of what may be a vault. I featured the urn last week in some of Thomas Walker’s markers but on those it was the main icon, not playing a supporting role as it is here.
The urn is a Greek symbol of mourning, originating as a repository for the ashes of the dead in ancient times. It was a popular symbol of mourning, which is why you see it on so many markers or in draped form atop large monuments.
This is a departure from what we saw in the 1700s, when skeletons, winged skulls, and soul effigies were the norm. A shift in focus was taking place from trying to convince those visiting the grave to live a good life or suffer the flames of hell to a softer message of consolation to the mourner. The emotion of sadness and memory of a life well lived is stronger than fear of the afterlife.
Now let’s take a look at a similar but different marker for Alexander Kennedy, which was signed as being carved by Thomas Walker’s studio (although it wasn’t necessarily done by Thomas himself).
So who was Andrew Kennedy? According to his marker, he was a native of Scotland who died at his plantation in St. John’s Berkley Parish on Sept. 18, 1802. He was around 40 years old. As one of the 10 original parishes created by the Church Act of 1706, the parish of St. John’s Berkeley stretched northwestward from the upper reaches of the Cooper River to the Santee River through modern Berkeley and Orangeburg Counties.
If you look on a map today, this area is located near modern day Moncks Corner, S.C. about 35 miles north of Charleston. It came to be associated closely with rice plantations, one of which was probably owned by Andrew Kennedy. The 1800 Census indicates he did live there and he was married, supported by the words on his marker that say “erected in his memory by his disconsolate widow.”
“His Disconsolate Widow”
Those last words are echoed in the motif at the top of Andrew’s marker, which features a mourning figure next to what appears to be an urn sitting on an obelisk. This figure is not bending over it as in William Hunter’s, but she does appear to be “disconsolate”, her hand pressed against her cheek with her other hand on top of the urn.
To the figure’s left is a pitcher sitting amid some of the draping of her garment. You can also faintly make out the initial “K” on the base of the obelisk the urn rests on. To the right of the obelisk appears to be a flower that’s been snapped in two, indicating a life cut short. Add to that some elaborate drapery that surrounds this scene, showing off more of the carver’s talents.
When I look at these two mourning scenes side by side, I conclude that Andrew Kennedy most likely had a higher placement on the social ladder than William Hunter. The extra touches like the drapery and initialed obelisk lead me to believe this.
The Douglas Sisters
This next marker is for two sisters, Sarah and Catharine Douglas. The inscription is as follows:
This stone is erected by the
afflicted parents of
SARAH E. DOUGLAS
and her sister
the former who died
July 24th, 1806 & the latter
June 21st, 1807,
Aged 3 years 9 months
It appears that Sarah, the first child, died on the day she was born on July 24, 1806. Older sister Catharine was three years old (and nine months) when she died on June 21, 1807. We don’t know who their parents were but it was surely a blow to lose two children within about a year of each other.
Two Lives Cut Short
Let’s take a closer look at the top. Instead of a grieving widow, we’ve got an angel with full hands. In one he’s holding a trumpet to his lips. The other is holding a scythe and has cut down a flower, signifying a life cut short. We saw that motif earlier on the Kennedy marker, leading me to believe it might be another Walker studio creation. Regardless, it’s a striking image.
This last marker has no decoration on it. Fairly straightforward, it shares the information about Charleston native Dr. Peter Fayssoux (1745-1795) and his second wife, Ann (1758-1810). But Dr. Fayssoux had quite a career in and it’s worth mentioning.
The son of Huguenot émigré Daniel Fayssoux and his wife, Frances, Peter Fayssoux attended medical school in Scotland. Upon returning to South Carolina in 1769, he was dismayed by the number of “quacks” practicing medicine. “It is Sufficient for a man to call himself a Doctor, & he immediately becomes one, & finds fools to employ him,” he complained to medical school chum Benjamin Rush, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Treating the Sick and Wounded
On Jan. 29, 1772, Fayssoux married Sarah “Sally” Wilson, who died in 1776. The following year, on March 29, 1777, Dr. Fayssoux married Ann Smith Johnston. The marriages produced 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood.
Early in the Revolutionary War, Dr. Fayssoux attended the sick on James Island. By 1778, he was serving as senior physician of the South Carolina branch of the Continental army.
In 1780, Dr. Fayssoux was named physician and surgeon general of the Southern Department. Captured at the fall of Charleston, he was released to attend to the sick and wounded. At the end of the war, Dr. Fayssoux was treating patients in Camden, S.C. where he stayed until March 1782. After the war, Fayssoux became a member of the Faculty of Physic in Charleston, the first sign of organized medicine in the state.
In 1786, Dr. Fayssoux was elected to the General Assembly, where he represented St. John’s Berkeley Parish until 1790. He was a founding member and the first president of the Medical Society of South Carolina, which held its first meeting at Fayssoux’s home on Dec. 24, 1789. Dr. Fayssoux was also involved with the Charleston Library Society, the Charleston Museum (as a curator), the Society of the Cincinnati, and the St. Cecilia Society.
He died on Feb, 1, 1795, of an apoplectic stroke at the age of 50. Wife Ann died in 1810 at age 52.
I’m not quite done at First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard. Please come back for Part III for more stories from the stones.