Stephen Risley, Tombstones


StephenRisley,Jr.,Gravestone,DiedFebruary2,1857.jpg

Madison Village Cemetery

Madison, New York


Reader attentive view this solemn ground
Death hath at every age a victim found.
Oft hath the hand which now hath lost its art
Engraved thy feelings of the tender heart.


StephenRisley,Junior,StoneCutting,March25,1806Ad.jpg

The Brattleborough Reporter


Mrs.PollyRisley,DiedAugust22,1829,AE49,MadisonVillageCemetery.jpg

For His Consort Polly In Madison, New York

Madison Village Cemetery


Reader thy fond pursuits forbear
Repent thy end is nigh.
Death at the furthest can't be far
O think before thou die.


Stephen Risley retained several elements from his earlier Vermont
gravestone style, as seen in this monument for his consort Polly.


StephenRisley,StoneCutting,December6th,1806.jpg

The Brattleborough Reporter


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Stephen Risley, Jr. and his wife Polly arrived in Brattleboro some time after December 9, 1805, from East Hartford, Connecticut, where he was born in 1778. Stephen bought land from Nathaniel Blakeslee on September 30, 1806 for two hundred dollars for his marble shop, and sold it to Nathan White on January 19, 1811 for five hundred and fifty dollars. Stephen Risley paid a faculty tax in 1808 for five dollars, based on his earning capacity as a stonecutter, and possessed one cow three years old.


This stonecutter's shop was located fifty rods north of the popular Rutherford Hayes Tavern, in part of a wedge of land formed by three roads and lanes---the later Turnpike, now Western Avenue; the "north and south Mill-Road", named for the Israel Smith mill; and the "east and west Mill-Road", now called Meadowbrook Road.


StephenRisley,Jr.,TombStones,Marble,January11,1810.jpg

The Brattleborough Reporter


This last-named road is no longer extant, and long forgotten. It once ran from the Turnpike northeasterly up the "Long Hill" directly to the first meeting-house in Brattleboro that was built in 1768, established with its burying ground, on the height of land now called Meeting House Hill.


Hayes Tavern Sign Painted By Gravestone Cutter Stephen Risley, Jr.

Circa 1808


Hayes Tavern Sign, R. Hays Entertainment.jpg


Characteristic lettering by Stephen Risley identify his stones---the "y" with the long tail called the elongated descender, the bent crossbar "H", the ear on the "r", the high barred "e", the distinctive "a" and the "m" that appears to be almost identical on his slates and on the Hayes Tavern sign.


Stephen Risley, Jr., Characteristically Carved Letters.jpg


Stephen Risley, Jr. carved over a hundred, mostly slate gravestones throughout Brattleboro. His shop stood on the north side of present Western Avenue, at the start of the Meadowbrook Road, from March 1806 until January 1811---only a few hundred feet from the Hayes Tavern. Rutherford Hayes bought the sign at auction, with its former years 1775 and 1791 still visible, and took it to Stephen Risley for re-painting for his tavern. The same design shows on both sides of the board.


Rutherford Hayes Tavern, 1808, Morgan Horse, Stallion Prince William.jpg


The wildly disproportionate horse is quite possibly Stephen Risley's work, but it may also be by an earlier artist. If it is Risley's, then this sketch may be after an illustration that ran in the Brattleboro' Reporter during the 1808 season, advertising Fridays and Saturdays for the famous Morgan stallion Prince William standing at the Rutherford Hayes Tavern.


The simple geometric figure, with the curved lines framing an oval, at the top of the sign is an extremely stylized winged angel face, or the later soul face, such as appear frequently on slate gravestones in Brattleboro, and all over New England.


Stephen Risley, Jr. and his wife Polly arrived in Brattleboro some time after December 9, 1805, from East Hartford, Connecticut, where he was born in 1778. Stephen bought land from Nathaniel Blakeslee on September 30, 1806 for his marble shop, and sold it to Nathan White on January 19, 1811.


This stonecutter's shop was located fifty rods north of the popular Rutherford Hayes Tavern, in part of a wedge of land formed by three roads and lanes---the later Turnpike, now Western Avenue; the "north and south Mill-Road", named for the Israel Smith mill; and the "east and west Mill-Road", now called Meadowbrook Road.


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