Graveyard Visit – Old First Cemetery

My second (and unfortunately final stop due to the rain) in Upton was the Old First Cemetery.  Established in 1735 near the site of the original meeting house, the graveyard is now up a dead-end street between some farms and a paintball course, just as the colonists would have wanted.

First off, some links – Findagrave; Macris; and the Farber Gravestone Collection.

Towns are not as permanent as we imagine.  The ‘gravity’ that draws people to certain spots fades or is overwhelmed by the pull of a stronger spot.  Graves, without human help, do not care about the vagaries of logistics, economics, rail roads, or urban development and stay put.  This leads to places like the Old First Cemetery in Upton, which once sat next to the heart of the community but now is in a forgotten, out-of-the-way corner.  While it is not the most poorly kept-up cemetery I have seen, it is definitely in need of some help.  Like with Bradish Cemetery, it was raining during my visit, necessitating speed on my part, causing some less than ideal quality photos.  My apologies.  Even under ideal conditions (when will I learn to have a light and mirror stored in the car?) the stones here would be a challenge.  Moss and lichen covers many stones; in some cases this is compounded by fallen leaves or even whole branches.  While a wall lines the yard, brush is encroaching the gravestones in several places, especially the southern portion where whole gravestones are all but buried in downed branches and knee-high growth.

Additionally there has been damage to a small but significant number of stones and I worry that vandalism or even theft has been going on.  While I could find the battered but intact stone for Rev. Fish, I couldn’t spot his wife Hannah’s (I didn’t double check since the rain really picked up by the end of my visit- to see both, click the link to the Farber database.)

As for sculptors, there are good number of those from James New, a several among the older stones a mix of winged skulls and abstract plant designes from Joseph Barber (in the somewhat overgrown section towards the back wall on the slope).  The most notable of these are the two portrait stones previously mentioned.  I believe at least the Rev’s stone appeared in Forbes “Gravestones and the Men Who Made Them”.  I’ll check my copy and update to confirm.

Hopefully the next time I come back this way it will not be raining (so I can finally explore the Upton Chamber) and someone will have begun to restore this historic graveyard.


Graveyard visit – Old Revolutionary Burying Ground, Ashland

The homunculus otherwise engaged, I decided to venture a little further afield, and dropped by a small burying ground I had not yet seen, this time the Old Revolutionary Burying Ground (aka Simpson-Jones Burying Ground aka St. Cecilia’s Cemetery.  (Findagrave entry; no entries in Farber).

This small, mostly empty lot sits to the south of (the much more recent) St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church.  Established in 1771, this was the earliest burying place in what eventually became Ashland, Mass.  There are a few older stone, with a skull, a soul effigy, and several urns among them.  It is a pretty spot enclosed by a thick stone wall.  Not the most interesting graveyard I’ve visited, but they all can’t be thrill-a-minute, eh?

Graveyard visit: Old Burial Ground, Boylston

A couple days ago we had very nice weather, so I decided, as is my way, to visit a cemetery. In this case, it was the Old Burial Ground in Boylston, MA (1741). (Findagrave listing, Farber images; no MACRIS listing as Boylston is omitted from online files oddly).

I’ve been to this cemetery many times and decided that with the stone walls surrounding the grounds, I could safely unleash the homunculus whilst I took some photographs.  It’s a scenic spot with a convenient parking lot across the street and worth a visit if you are in the area.
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Graveyard visit: Dwinnel Cemetery (Millbury)

2013-05-14 11.47.00While the weather remains overcast, I decided it was time to visit another small cemetery in the area, this time Dwinnel (sometimes Dwinell) Cemetery in Millbury.

Quick run-down; established c. 1741 in when Millbury was the north parish of Sutton as the area’s first burying ground.  At the time it was on the main road between Millbury and Auburn, but today it is on a dead-end road bracketed by suburban houses.  The grounds are mowed and relatively clean; the stones are in generally good shape (with a few broken) but lichen is very common.  There were very few foot stones, something suggesting they’ve been removed.

Here is the MACRIS entry (click on the INV button for the PDF file), the Findagrave listing, and lastly a list of everyone interred here.

Interesting stones include a few from William Young, two winged skulls, and some very late field stones.

Graveyard visit: Brigham Street Cemetery (Northborough)

With Spring fully arrived, I’ve decided to revisit a few smaller graveyards in my area and take few photos for your edification. Smaller yards mean that the Homunculus has less of a chance to grow restless.

Today’s graveyard is the Brigham Street Cemetery (aka First Burying Place) in Northborough, Massachusetts.

Here are the Findagrave and MACRIS (click on INV icon for PDF file) entries for the graveyard. To summarize, Northborough (like South- and West-) was originally part of Marlborough, eventually breaking away from the parent community as settlements expanded away from the original village. This site was close to the original meeting house but was superseded by the Howard Street Cemetery.

The graveyard is the oldest in Northborough, dating to around 1727. Lambert’s A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries mistakenly says that the burials were all removed, but there are at least four burials at this site, and likely more since there are four intact gravestones and three more rock piles (cairns) like those placed over the remaining graves.

Of the four intact gravestones, three are in the Merrimack Valley style, with a stylized human face and geometric rosettes. These stones (of slate, probably carved by Jonathan Worcester) have the distinctive headboard shape, with rounded timpanums and shoulders which tapers towards the bottom, that are the hallmarks of this style of early gravestone. The fourth stone has a winged skull; sorry my picture cuts off the right shoulder a bit.

There is no parking beyond street, but the open area allows you to pull off to the side Brigham Street safely. The few stones are to the northeast of the plaque, about 30 yards.

Grave(yard) news


Entrance sign; I had to pull out a few weeds to make it semi-legible.

Two things today- news of a project I’m considering developing and a few photos from a graveyard. First the project: I’m considering writing a Keeper’s Guide to Graveyards (particularly those of Lovecraft Country). It would cover topics like history, layout, gravestones and symbols, maintenance and upkeep, and perhaps funerary practices. It would also give expanded notes about the various graveyards in Lovecraft Country, from the Old Wooded Graveyard in Arkham to Dunwich’s pickled Bishops as well as Mythos beasties and cults that frequent our burial places. At this point I’ve not found an interested publisher (and don’t want to go the monograph route), so I might self publish as a PDF, look at other licensees, etc. I’m curious what my readership (all 6 of you) think about such a book. I’d rather not post about it to until it is a little more concrete.

After the break, my visit to Spring Hill Cemetery…

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