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Subject: Burial Grounds at Harvard -- Hist. of Harvard, Mass. by Nourse - Part 1.
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 13:14:51 EDT
The Burial Grounds at Harvard, Mass.
Marriages Recorded at Harvard, Mass.
Source: The History of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1643-1732, by Henry S.
Clinton, Mass. 1894. - W. J. Coulter, Printer.
p.477 Part 1.
THE BURIAL GROUNDS AT HARVARD, MASS.
For one hundred and sixty years Harvard had but one public burial place - the
field given for that use by the Lancaster proprietors February 5, 1733. Each
year the highway surveyors of the olden times were instructed at the annual
town-meeting "to mow the brush in the burying ground."
May 19, 1766 it was "voted to fence the Burying Place with a stone wall four
foot and half high," and fifteen pounds were appropriated for this
but every man was given permission to work out his share of the appropriation
working upon the wall, if he chose to do so, within six months.
The grave-digger was one of the town's officials, chosen at the annual
Thus on March 25, 1754, "the Town appointed Simon Davis to dig graves the
ensuing." In 1808, the town bought a "hearse and harness" for eighty-eight
dollars. Before that date the coffin was borne to the grave upon a hand
by the neighbors of the deceased; or, if the distance was great, it was con-
veyed upon any convenient vehicle to the gate of the burial ground. The
building known as the hearse-house, until moved in 1821, was beside the pound
where the meeting-house of the Evangelical Society now stands. In 1846 the
present hearse-house replaced the old one upon the present site. March 1,
1886, the town accepted a legacy of one thousand dollars from the estate of
the Honorable Edward Lawrence, a resident of Charlestown
but a native of Harvard, under the provisions of his Will as given:
"to be expended by the Selectmen on such committee as may be appointed with
reasonable dispatch after receiving the same, in building a new stone wall or
wooden fence as they may think proper, around the old Burying Ground in said
Town and in planting trees therein, and generally in improving the same so
make it more in accordance with what such a place should be, and to manifest
affectionate remembrance of those dear to me lying buried there."
The spot where Deacon William Willard was buried.
With this donation a substantial stone wall was built along the roadside and
other much-needed improvements were effected. At the formation of the
Society in Still River, it was proposed to locate a 2nd burial place in the
of their meeting-house, and the fragments of an inscribed stone which lie by
wall in that place indicate that the body of Deacon William Willard, if no
was interred there.
Tomb of William Park, died 1808.
The Shaker Community, about the time of the organization in 1792, set apart
for their dead in which there have been a little over three hundred burials.
enclosed tomb in the Old Mill district bears the inscription "Erected in
William Park, who died May 15, 1808 and Joseph Munroe who died July 25, 1847
73 years, 3 mos and 23 days." Two or three solitary graves are known to
orchard and field, probably the resting places of those hurriedly buried
by contagious disease. One of these, a short distance westward from the
is marked by a stone inscribed:
Epitaph for Capt. Benjamin Stewart.
Here Lies Buried Ye Body of Capt. Benjamin Stewart of Boston
Who died of the small pox, June 16th 1775 in ye 45th year of
Other lonely graves, notably that of Israel Reed in 1824, were opened after
earth had done their disinfecting work and the relics found were transferred
family lot in the public burial place.
The 2nd cemetery at Harvard named Brookside Cemetery.
The old Burial Ground becoming crowded, a movement began in 1891 looking to
selection and purchase of land for a town cemetery. This resulted in
sixteen acres west of Pin Hill, for which the sum of eight hundred
dollars was paid. The land was at once laid out for burial purposes and
Cemetery. The burial place, though centrally located and otherwise suitable
for its use
was not distinguished by any picturesque features, now was it so diversified
as to favor the landscape gardener's art. Its selection therefore became the
some criticism, and in September, 1892, Henry L. Warner, Esq., who had
before given the
sum of five hundred dollars "to enhance and extend the beauty and
ornamentation of the
new cemetery," offered to buy a site better adapted to ornamental treatment
one thousand dollars for its improvement if the town would accept the gift
the location at Brookside.
At a very full town-meeting, September 24th, the town unanimously accepted
Third Cememter - Bellevue.
The new site chosen, to which the name Bellevue has been given, is upon the
of the road leading from Still River to Harvard, commanding charming views
of Bare Hill,
the lake and the central village; and when the skill of the engineer, the
taste of the
gardener and the growth of tree and shrub have perfected their work, it must
of the most attractive spots in this beautiful town. There had been but a
burieal at Brookside Cemetery - that of Mr. John Hutchinson.
Unmarked grave of Elizabeth Willard.
The first burial in the old field, it is said, was that of a young girl,
Willard, by name, whose unmarked grave is in the north-east corner of the
Ebenezer Davis is the oldest Memorial Stone - 1735.
The oldest memorial stone is that of Ebenezer Davis dated May, 1735. The
of the first tombs was authorized in October, 1827; others have been added
to time until there are now twelve tombs. In 1884 a public receiving tomb
at a cost of five hundred and twenty five dollars. During the excavations
for the first
tombs, human bones were unearthed and at a town-meeting in 1829, Leonard
others, being complained against by citizens dwelling near the grounds, were
to build their tombs "where they will neither disturb the dead, nor offend
At a much more recent date, the desecration of the grave of a citizen famous
early life of the town, awakened public remonstrance, and the restoration of
crumbling relics to
p.480 HISTORY OF HARVARD.
their rightful resting place was enforced by a town-meeting. Memorials to
earliest dwellers upon Harvard soil are for the most part conspicuous by
absence. The graves of the first Willards, Farnsworths, Athertons,
Houghtons, Warners, etc., were perhaps beside those of their kin in the older
fields of Groton, Lancaster and Stow, though in this enclosure a large
of the early graves were unmarked and time has so leveled the mounds that
location is no longer discernible.
The head and foot stones here have all been shaped with hammer and chisel.
is not one slab rough as rived from the ledge, such as are common in the
burial ground at Lancaster. The near neighborhood of the Pin Hill slate,
presence of stone-cutters having the requisite skill, made regular and
inscribed memorials possible. These were all small at first, with no other
attempt at decoration than a faintly outlined border, and until about 1750,
inscriptions were formal and altogether in capital letters of the plainest
Sometimes the mortuary artist attempted a deaths' head in low relief as the
crowning adornment of his work; but his representation was as conventional
school-boy's first attempts in the same line.
After the middle of the century there began to appear more ambitious stones
and inscriptions and the lettering gives evidence that another and more ambi-
tious artist wielded the chisel. The staring deaths' heads gradually grew
faces, chubby and meant to be cherubic, as the semblance of wings attached
There was no variation from the fashion of slate head and foot-stones until
gratitude placed memorials over the ashes of the two ministers, Johnson and
These and that ove Peter Atherton's grave are heavy tables of slate resting
tally upon pillars of brick and stone. A little before the Revolution,
from the Scriptures and mortuary rhymes began to appear upon the more
head-stones and soon the fashion of the day pronounced an epitaph crude that
close with at least a couplet from the standard works of the anonymous
grave-yards. The cherubim continued through the century to be the favorite
but occasionally a draped urn was substituted.
To be continued Part 2 - p. 481 - Epitaphs - Earliest cemeteries at
(note - this file will include all tombstone inscriptions from 1735 to 1800
Harvard burial grounds.)
Transcribed by Janice Farnsworth.
God Bless America
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