Known Tombstone Carvers

of Pennsylvania

A Project of  the PAGenWeb Archives

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These pages seek to identify and document the known tombstone carvers in the state of Pennsylvania, from all time periods.  If any one has any information about additional tombstone carvers to be included, or have additional information to add to an existing carver,  please feel free to contact Ellis Michaels or Bill Plack

James Boylan (c.1780 - 1853)

Alva Boylan (1810 - 1893)

(Biographies and Photographs contibuted by Bill Plack)

     James Boylan (c.1780-1853) and his wife Hannah, accompanied by their son Alva, (born c. 1810), came to Harrison Township, Bedford County, PA from Perry County, Ohio c. 1810-1812. Their older son, George, remained in Ohio.

     James had learned gravestone carving in Ohio and shortly after his arrival in Bedford County he began to carve a few stones. When Alva grew up he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a carver himself as early as 1829.

     They continued to carve gravestones until 1855, with their peak years in the 1830s and 1840s. They were extremely versatile, and carved more different styles of gravestones than any other carvers I have seen. They were also very prolific: for example, of the approximately 175 sandstone grave markers at the Old Log Union Church cemetery near Schellsburg, Bedford County, approximately 155 were carved by the Boylans.

     The 1850 census for Harrison Township, Bedford County, PA shows, in house 108, James Boylan, 70, stone cutter, and Hannah, 64.  In house 107 was Alvey (sic) Boylan, 40, stone cutter; Catherine, 28; George, 18; Emaline, 16; Valentine, 15; John, 8; and Adam, 1.

     They occasionally carved verse on their stones, including the ever popular “Remember friend as you pass by…”.  But their favorite verse, and one that seems to have been exclusively theirs, as shown horribly misspelled on the Anna Mowry stone below, reads:

Her languishing Head is at Rest,

Its thinking And Aking Is Ore,

Her Cuiet amovable bret,

Is heved by Afliction no More

     James Boylan died c.1852-1853, and in his will he asked to be buried at “the burying grounds of the union church” (on Route 31 at the intersection with SR 3012). He may or may not be buried there; I have not been able to find any record of his burial there, or any gravestone for him.

     After James’s death it seems that Alva did not choose to continue in the stone carving trade. I have only found one stone carved in the Boylan style after 1853.

     Alva died in 1893.  His death notice shows that Alvy (sic) Boylan, born in Perry County, Ohio, married, farmer, age 83 died September 15, 1893 in Kegg, and was buried at Union Cemetery, September 17, 1893.

     There is no permanent gravestone to mark the site of Alva’s grave, only a small, aluminum, temporary marker of the type used by funeral homes.

printable text version of biography

Examples of James Boylan

and son Alva Boylan's

stone carvings



Friends Cove Cemetery

Collerain Township, Bedford County



Schellsburg Union Church Cemetery,

Napier Township, Bedford County



Berlin I.O.O.F. Cemetery

Brothers Valley Township, Somerset County


St. John's Cemetery, New Baltimore,

Allegheny Township, Somerset County


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Tombstone Carver Page maintained  by Ellis Michaels

this page was last updated 27 Apr 2011

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