Not far down the road in the center of Holliston is the Central Burying Ground. I’ve driven by it dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, and today I finally stopped. It’s one of the oldest that I’ve visited in the Commonwealth outside Boston. Many of the headstones have weathered to obscurity, others are more than 250 years old but still clearly visible. (Black stones from the 18th century have weathered better than lighter colored granite from the early 1800s.)
As I looked at the names and their placement in the cemetery, I saw a small but proud town. A town that had sent its men to fight in the Seven Years War and the American Revolution. A town that lost an eighth of its population in 1754 to illness and named new children after those who died young for generations after. A small town which intermarried repeatedly and where several surnames span the burying ground’s history while other families appeared once and then no more. I also found Wheatons — Josephus and Mary Ide Wheaton — perhaps the progenitors of my wife’s family? (There are more in Rehobeth, Father-in-Law.)
There was clearly money here, with large stones praising wives as “reflief,” “comfort,” and “consort.” Widowers took new wives, who often shared the same headstone and sometimes even the same name. But there was also poverty. Some stones, no larger than loaves of bread, mark paupers or infant children: R.A.D., E.D., A.N.E. And death came quickly to some, as marked by the eight-or-so identical stones placed close together which marked the Batchelder family: John (88), Emeline (74), Matilda (24), Charles (19), Maria (15), Almira [Pond] (21), Maria (17), George (13 mos), George (11 mos), and Emily (77).
The churchmen wrote long epitaphs praising themselves, but did their flock feel the same? On a few stones, a finger pointed toward heaven, informing the observer where to seek the deceased.
Be wise to day tis madness to defer!
Erected to the memory of Mrs. Jemima Bullard
(consort of Mr. Eleazer Bullard)
who departed this life April ye 2d 1791
in the 20th year of her age.
Here Lies Buried ye Body of Mrs. Abigail Lealand ye wife of . . .
Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Anna Claƒlin
the desirable comfort of Mr. William Claƒlin.
She departed this life October 18th 1794
in the 20th year of her age.
Our Marion sleeps.
Mehetabel [Wood] Morse
Born July 22, 1655 – Died November 12, 1681
The first white child born in Sherborn
- Loring Colman (♂ – †1854)
- Nabby Morse (♀ – †1773)
- Nabby Bridge (♀ – †1858)
- Calista Adams (♀ – †1804)
- Persis Johnson (♀ – †1864 Æ 91)
- Hiram Johnson (♂ – †1820 Æ 18 mos – Son of Hiram and Rubie)
- Seneca Wenzell (♂ – †1854)
- Lieut. Asaph Lealand (♂ – †1812 Æ 82)
- Allethina Parkman (♀ – †1792 Ætatis 29)
- Jerusha Newton (♀ – †1835 Æ 94)
- Keziah Stedman (♀ – †1825 Æ 44)
- Ichabod Hawes (♂ – †1836 Æ 52)
- Esek Marsh (†1835 Æ 91)
- Sukey Rockwood (†1829 Æ 23)
- Thankful Lealand (†1774)
- Zenolia Burlingame Daley (1851-1902)
- Elvira H. Pond (♀ – †1846 Æ 43)
- Elmira Slocomb (♀ – †1836 Æ 37)
- Little Johnie Hawks (1856-1862)
- Zeruriah Phipps (†1795 Æ 3 yrs)
- Eliphalet Holbrook (♂ – 1782-1856)
- Antipas Stewart, A.M. (♂)
- Alathina Leland (†1856 Æ 26)
- Huldah Batchelder (♀ – †1846 Æ 69)
- Oldin Batchelder (♂ – †1860 Æ 85)
- Meletiah Whiting (♀ – †1859 Æ 78)