One of the perks of my travels around Massachusetts for the Commonwealth project is that it takes me past a lot of small burying grounds. I like these old cemeteries, especially the way they present cross-sections of place and styles through time. The smallest, which are usually in the middle of nowhere now, testify to the isolation of rural communities before the current age and how much things have changed in the last century.
Beyond the stone walls that demark hallowed ground, farmland returned to forest and now is opening up once again. And above all, these spaces and the memories they contain persist because a family, a congregation, or a community chooses to remember; a chain of care links the generations until the oldest stones fall over to become inlaid memorials that each season fade, until years later they are simply nameless mementos, signifying nothing more than a past life and the will to remember.
Today I stopped at the East Hopkinton Cemetary (on Clinton Road). This is the first of an occasional series of discoveries and reminiscences.
Dau. of L.R. & S.F. Haven
Died Jan. 15, 1868
Æ 7 wks
Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven
On one side of a circular stone shaped like a wheel is etched the lineage of Nathan B. Phipps, Sr. (1892-1970): his two wives, two daughters, three sons (all WWII veterans), and the words “Life is real.” On the other side: “TRAILS END”.
There were a couple of headstones cleft except at the base. One stone said “Mother. Asleep in Jesus.” The other, “Father. United above.”
A small green dragon kept guard over Mr. Hayres’ (Æ 51) black granite tombstone. The father in the photo-quality picture etched into it wears a NIN shirt. “A man unique from all others. Loved so deeply and missed so much.”
Until recently this was not a wealthy town. Most tombstones are modest until the 1970s. The image of an urn in the shade of a willow, which is the principal 18th and 19th century motif, is not as common here as elsewhere. But there are many short elegaic lines and some wonderful names from the 1800s:
- Amora Eames, Esq. (♂)
- Zina Underwood (♂)
- Mehetabel Woolson (♀ – died 1836) — I love this name.
- Maria (♀)
- Sarah (♀)
- Abigail (♀)
- Bethsheba (♀)
- Lemuel (♂)
- Simion (♂)