Stonecutters & Cabinetmakers
of Davidson County, NC
Felix Glattfelder was born February 2, 1727 in Glattsfelden, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, a name that means Happy Field or Pleasant Field. He came to America in 1743 in an extended family group. His father, Peter (Johann Peter) Glattfelder and mother, Salomea Am Berg (AMBERG); his uncle, Casper and wife, Lisabeth Lauffer; Peter’s children: Elizabeth, Barbara Felix, Hans Rudolph, Magdalena, and Casper; and Uncle Casper’s children: Anna Margareth, Anna, Soloman, Johannes, and Felix. On April 21 1742 on the Rhine River, soon after they had departed from Glattsfelden, Peter was drowned in the river. The entire family returned with his body to Switzerland. The following year, after the birth of another child to Casper and Lisabeth, the remaining adults took stock of their vulnerability and began again their immigration with Casper as the only senior male. According to the local church in Glattsfelden, their destination was Carolina. They may have been prepared for the hardship of the Rhine trip made harrowing by pirates, but tragedy struck them again when Casper’s wife and new baby died enroute on the second attempt to depart.
They arrived in Philadelphia August 30, 1743 aboard the Francis and Elizabeth from Rotterdam by Cowes. Casper and his family remained in Pennsylvania in York County as did Peter’s widow, Salomea Amberg Glattfelder and some of her children. Two of her sons, however, were eventually drawn to the Carolinas. Felix on October 25, 1750 married Maria Sarah Meier in Christ Lutheran Church in York, daughter of John George and Sybilla Meier all of whom had arrived in Philadelphia November 25, 1740 on the Loyal Judith from Rotterdam last from Deal. ¹ They settled in Springfield Township, York County, PA
Sometime after the baptism of their son, Johann Peter, in 1763, Felix and Maria Sarah Meiers Glattfelder left York and arrived in Rowan County (later Davidson County), North Carolina. They settled on Brushy Fork of Abbott’s Creek. On April 21, 1767, Felix’ younger brother, Hans Rudolph married Veronica Hitsberger in the First Reformed Church in Lancaster, PA. By 1783 Hans Rudolph and family were paying taxes in the Conieville area of the Shenandoah Valley in VA. By November 1787 they had bought their first land in Davidson County on Hanby’s Creek.
In the period of transition from PA to NC, these branches of the Glattfelder family seem to have agreed to Anglicize the name to Clodfelter, although former spellings do appear randomly in NC.
¹ At least three Meyers/Meier families were on the same ship with the Glattfelders, The Meiers name appears profusely in Davidson County, NC
By the time Felix died on January 18, 1814 ², he had at least five slaves and enough acreage to leave farms to sons Jacob, Peter, John. Although it was the Quakers, in the same area including Abbott’s Creek, who rejected slavery, the Germans seem to have had no compunction about owning a few slaves as laborers but never in great quantity. Some may have been trained in the stonecutting trade.
² Felix and Maria Sarah Meier Clodfelter are buried at Bethany Reformed Church Cemetery near Midway, Davidson County. His death is recorded in the Moravian Archives, Vol 7, excerpts from the Friedburg Diary January 10, 1814 and notes his funeral was preached in the Zion Church (NC) to a large gathering.
Soapstone is found in a variety of shades of gray or dark green in Davidson County. It is made up of chlorite, dolomite, magnesite, and talc and the presence of talc endows soapstone with its smooth feel. It is found to be used early in fireplaces, sinks and even cookware because it could be cut easily. It was a proclivity for cabinetmakers and wood cutters in Davidson to use soapstone in creating decorative tombstones. Authorities attribute to Jacob Clodfelter, son of Felix, the credit as the first to create the pierced tombstones. Jacob owned a large set of cabinet making tools. ³ The oldest such cut stones are those for Felix and Sarah Meier Clodfelter dating to 1814 and 1813 respectively and are found in Bethany UCC and attributed to Jacob. The assumption has been made that Jacob produced these stones for his parents and probably more in the same area because his son Joseph, confirmed stonecutter, would have been only a teenager at the time of their deaths.
Jacob’s son, Joseph took over his father’s profession as cabinetmaker and tombstone maker and signed at least one of his stones. ⁴ He was recognized as one of the most creative and accomplished German stonecutters in Davidson. His work is found in Bethany UCC, Pilgrim Reformed Church and Abbott’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church. ⁵
Although soapstone can be carved, it is no easy feat and researchers are still finding evidence about the origin of this particular set of craftsmen in Davidson. It would be easily assumed that the trade had come out of the Deutsch migration brought by the Lutherans who unlike the “plain” Quakers, were accustomed to more decorative art in worship and burial practices. The best assumption is that it came, at the time, out of what has been identified as the Swisegood School of Cabinetmakers ⁶ in Davidson, of which the Clodfelters were considered a part. There were perhaps three skilled stonecutters and as many as 12 less-skilled in Davidson. Joseph Clodfelter’s skill was in stonecutting not in lettering and it is thought some of his work was sold in blank and lettered by another person.
³ His tools included a bow saw, cross-cut saw, tenon saw, hand saw and mill saw planes, augers, a turning lathe, turning chisles, drawing knives, a set of tongue and grooving planes, a “gauging” rod, iron wedges, one large “compass,” a “compass saw,” and ten thousand feet of plank and scantling for use in building construction. These were all the tools necessary to producing the soapstone tombstones.
⁴ Signed “Maid By Hand of Joseph Clodfelter” on back of headstone of Josiah Spurgin (d. 1802). Signature statement is more characteristic of cabinetmakers, scrawled on back of piece of furniture, than stonecutters.
⁵ Shannon Farlow, “Stone Foundation,” Our State Magazine, May 2006.
⁶ Named for John Swisegood the area’s foremost cabinet maker.David Sowers was also a member of the Swisegood School.
Joseph, like his father, was a farmer and cabinetmaker and one of his products was coffins. When his father died in 1837 he inherited 200 acres and a slave named Joseph. In turn, when he died, he left an equally complete set of cabinetmaking tools. ⁷ Such tools, and those listed for his father, were necessary in order to produce pierced tombstones: “iron wedges to split large blocks of stone in the quarry, saws to square it into panels, augers to bore holes to start the piercing, a “compass saw” to cut the curved fylfots, and molding planes to create the relief molded decoration.” ⁸
⁷ All putpose construction tools, wedges, joiners, dazes, augers, files, drawing knives, saws, chisels, planes, and one “lerrtting, [lettering] Box.”
⁸ M. Ruth Little, Sticks & Stones, Three Centuries of North Carolina Gravemarkers, (Chapel Hill:UNC Press, 1998), 153-156.
Following Joseph Clodfelter in Davidson was David Sowers, who did not at first pierce his stones but eventually came to it under the influence of Joseph. He too did not sign his stones but we know by a receipt that he did the stone in Pilgrim Reformed Cemetery for Peter Lopp (d. 1827). Peter (Peter Johann) Lopp married Anna Maria Frank. Their son, Jacob Lopp married Magtalina Yountz and they had Susanna and Philip Lopp. Susanna married Jesse Green. Philip married Eliza Jane Hiatt and they adopted her niece, Jenette Jane Clodfelter when Jenette’s mother, Mary Ann Elizabeth Hiatt, wife of Daniel Clodfelter died early. Eliza Jane Hiatt and Mary Ann Elizabeth Hiatt were sisters. Daniel was a grandson of Jacob Clodfelter.
In the 1960’s, Claude Green gave each of his nephews and in-law nephews (the Green penchant for males) an individual tool he said had been given to him, from his tool box, by his father, Robert Smith Green. Robert’s father was Jesse Green above. I was given a chisel missing the wooden handle. I would speculate that this might have originally come from either Jacob or Joseph Clodfelter’s tool box.
I have seen examples of the Swisegood School of Cabinetmakers at MESDA and at “Deep Springs” in Rockingham County.
Charles D. Rodenbough 5/2015
Farlow, Shannon, “Stone Foundation” Our State Magazine, May 2006.
Little, M. Ruth, Sticks & Stones, Three Centuries of North Carolina Gravemarkers (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1998).
Neese, Rev. James Everette, The Dutch Settlement on Abbotts Creek, A History of Pilgrim Reformed United Church of Christ(Winston Salem, Hunter publishing Company, 1979
Rupp, I. Daniel, A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania From 1727 to 1776 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1975 reprint).
One thought on “GLATTFELTER (Clodfelter)”
I enjoyed this post. One of my family connections in Stanly County was from Switzerland and had a similar route to NC. They brought the Lutheran church to their area.
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