Newton Centre Burying Ground, Newton, Mass.

Lisa and I went to Newton today to get ice cream visit a cemetery that we must have run, walked, and driven past thousands of time while we lived there. If only I had started visiting these fabulous places sooner. . . .

You might think that the Commonwealth’s cemeteries only have unusual names. But you don’t really want me to give you the plain Janes, Marys, Sarahs, Timothys, Johns, Williams, Abigails, and the like who make up 90% or more the names. This particular cemetery spans almost 300 years and has some of America’s earliest Anglo families: Winchester, Jackson, Stone, Park, Clark, Cheney, etc. (My progenitors are buried elsewhere.)

Mr. Samuel Hasting’s whole Remains are here interr’d
Departed this life the 13th of May AD 1776 Ætatis Suæ 65

I love the fact that “this life” implies a common shared life that all people share rather than “his life” or “her life.” Contrast this to common gravestone phrases like “the 75th year of his age,” (which is what “anno ætatis suæ” means) and you can see how intentionally inclusive it is. Of course, it’s also meant to signify “this earthly life” as compared to eternal life, but I love how the phrase binds anyone who is or has ever lived.

A MEMORIAL of unsurpassed Ministerial Fidelity, Hallowed Affections, Social Virtues, and Holy Perserverance
Erected by his many Friends

  • Obadiah Curtis (♂ – †1811)
  • “Mifs Patience Pigeon” (♀ – †1777 Æ24) [1]
  • Deacon Ephraim Ward (♂ – †1772 Æ69
  • Jemima Parker (♀ – †1779 Æ34)
  • Mrs. Mindwell Fuller (♀ – †1777 Æ46)
  • Mrs. Experience Dyke (♀ – †1749 Æ83)
  • Mehitabel Meriam (♀ – †1770 Æ47)
  • Mehetabel Kenrick (♀)
  • Mehitable Seger (♀ – 1757-1844)
  • Ebeneezer Seger (♂ – †1813 Æ63)
  • Ebeneezer King (♂ – †1825 Æ53)
  • Ebeneezer King (♂ – †1818 Æ13)
  • Hester Curtis (♀ – †1802 Æ2yrs) daughter of Esther Curtis
  • Cornet Norman Clark (♂ – †1787 Æ77)
  • Sukey Mitchell (♀ – †1796 Æ3yrs)
  • Ensign Richard Park (♂ – †1746 Æ32)
  • John Fuller (♂ – †Jan. 21st, 1720/21 Æ75) [2]
  • Mrs. Thankfull Ward (♀ – †1742 Æ75
  • William Hide (♂ – †Feb. 9, 1754 Æ64)
  • Deliverance Hide (♀ – †Feb. 15, 1754 Æ65)
  • Job and Prudence Hyde (♂ – †1768, ♀ – †1795)
  • Pastor Lyman Cutler (♂ – †1855 Æ28)
  • Constantia Prince (♀ – †1853 Æ28)
  • Sylvanus Burnham (♂ – †1855 Æ51)
  • Rob Roy MacDonald (♂ – 1955-1974)
  • Phinehas Johnson (♂ – †1850 Æ72)
  • Hepsy Hastings (♀ – †1833 Æ51)
  • Silas Fuller (♂ – †1844 Æ79)
  • Edith O’Dowd (♀ – 1896-1935)
  • Hilda O’Dowd (♀ – 1921-1935)
  • Charles O’Dowd (♂ – 1935-1935)

[1] – It was common practice until around the turn of the 19th century to use an “f” when writing an “s”, efpecially in ligatures like “Mifs” = “Miss” or “confort” = “consort.” It does make deciphering names like “Grafton” rather tricky. Lisa informed today that “ye” was actually pronounced “the” even back in ye olden days, too; it was just written differently.

[2] – It’s unclear whether the death year was simply unknown on the memorial stone — wealthy families often added these showy markers years after burial — or if this imprecision reflects the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Perhaps both.

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