Old East Parish Burying Ground
Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Contributed by Paul E. Truesdell, Jr, Oct 12, 2000 [email@example.com].
Total records = 758.
Following provided by The Jackson Homestead, Newton, Massachusetts:
East Parish Burying Ground
The old burying ground at Centre and Cotton streets was one of the first
to be included in the National Register of Historic Places as an individual
site. It is the mt important, the mt evocative and also the mt fragile
historic site in the city. As the resting place of Newton's founding families
it is a direct link with the past and, as an outdoor museum, it displays
the sequence of styles in gravestone art and the changes in burial practices
over the years. The first permanent residents in what would become Newton
settled near the Brighton line in the 1630s. Gradually others joined them
and by the 1650s about fifteen families were living in an area that was
still part of Cambridge. Because of this, transacting town business, going
to school or attending religious services involved a journey (probably
on foot) to the vicinity of Harvard Square. In 1654, mt of the families
living south of the river started holding religious meetings locally,
and as a means of prodding the General Court to relieve them of taxes
to support the minister in Cambridge, John Jackson gave an acre of land
to be used as a burying place and for a meeting house. This acre remains
the core of the burying ground and the site of the first meeting house
is marked by a monument erected in 1822 by the descendants of the first
settlers. The twenty names inscribed on the west face of the marble obelisk
are now all but obliterated, but attached to schools, streets, brooks
and ponds, they are familiar to modern residents.
The markers on the graves of at least six of these early inhabitants
are still standing, the carvings, for the most part, as clear as on the
day they were cut. Much the same can be said for the majority of the markers
commemorating those who followed them: teachers, selectmen and other town
officials, weavers, soldiers, milers, yeomen, and their wives and families,
each of whom made some contribution to the development of the town. The
sum of their activities is the history of pre-suburban Newton.
Jackson's acre was added to three times: once (by his son) in the eighteenth
century and twice in the nineteenth. Because it was the only burying place
in Newton until 1781, and because it was used continuously until near
the end of the 1800s, the old cemetery is an ideal place for tracing the
stylistic changes that characterize the work of the seventeenth and eighteenth
century Boston area stone carvers.
The oldest marker is that of Mary Hyde (progenitrix of Newton's first
mayor) who died in 1672. Like others of that period, it is small and except
for the inscription, unadorned. More numerous by far are the winged death's
heads that were used extensively until the middle of the eighteenth century,
when they gradually gave way to winged cherubs and stylized portraits.
By the century's end, these, in turn, were superseded by the urn and willow
of the Classical Revival. Meticulous research over seventy years has made
it possible to identify the work of a large number of New England stone
cutters. Two of them lived in Newton, and while their work is reasonably
easy to identify, many, if not mt, other markers cannot yet, with confidence,
be attributed to any particular hand.
The final addition to what, by then, was known as the First, or East,
Parish Burying Ground, was made in 1834. This low-lying area to the north
bears little resemblance to the Puritan burying ground. Rather it is a
cemetery in transition, typical of many others of that time that preceded
the "garden cemetery" movement. Unfortunately the marble has weathered
badly and the inscriptions on the monuments to many who helped shape the
emerging suburb are hardly legible: the grid delineating the private family
plots is barely discernible.
The City owns two other historic burying grounds: one in the so-called
West Parish (River Street) dates from 1781, the other known as the South
or Evergreen (Winchester Street) cemetery from 1802.
There are two files, the mainlist and the monument
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