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Burial-places in Cambridge.

George S. Saunders, Chairman of the Cambridge Cemetery Commissioners.

Go where the ancient pathway guides,
See where our sires laid down
Their smiling babes, their cherished brides,
The patriarchs of the town;
Hast thou a tear for buried love?
A sigh for transient power?
All that a century left above,
Go,—read it in an hour!

As early as 1634-35, one John Pratt was granted two acres of land, described as situated ‘By the old Burying Place without the common pales.’ This deed indicates the first land used for burials, which was located, as nearly as can be ascertained, on the northerly corner of the present Ash and Brattle streets, outside of the stockade which was erected in 1632. Rev. Abiel Holmes, D. D., wrote in the year 1800, ‘that £ 60 was levied 3d February, 1632, towards making a Palisado about the New Towne. This was actually made, and the fosse which was then dug is in some places visible to this day. It enclosed above one thousand acres.’ This in a measure protected the little town from Indians and wild beasts. This burial-place was discontinued when the present ancient ground on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Garden Street was set apart for burials, and ordered ‘paled in,’ early in 1635-36.

One hundred years later, 1735, the town, with the assistance of the college, built a substantial stone wall in the front, on ‘Menotomy Road,’1 at a cost of £ 150. The College Records read: ‘Whereas there is a good stone wall erected round the Burying Place in Cambridge, and whereas there has been a regard to the College in building so good and handsome a wall [134] in the front, and the College has used, and expects to make use of the Burying Place, as Providence gives occasion for it, therefore, Voted, that as soon as the said wall shall be completed, the Treasurer pay the sum of £ 25 to the Committee of the Town, Samuel Danforth, William Brattle, and Andrew Boardman, Esquires.’

This wall was removed some forty years since, and a wooden fence built, which in turn was taken away, and in 1893 the present substantial iron fence erected on Massachusetts Avenue, Garden Street, and the northerly boundary. This ‘God's Acre,’ as it is often called, contains the dust of many of the most eminent persons in Massachusetts: the early ministers of the town, Shepard, Mitchel, Oakes, Appleton, Hilliard, and others; early presidents of Harvard College, Dunster, Chauncy, Willard; the first settlers and proprietors, Simon Stone, Deacon Gregory Stone, Roger Harlakenden, John Bridge, Stephen Daye, Elijah Corlett; and, later, the Lees, the Danas, Allstons, and Wares. It is much to be regretted that so many graves remain unmarked, and equally so that the names of tenants of many costly tombs are unknown by the very imperfect registration, or want of registration, in the town records. Some tombs of once prominent families, who have become extinct, were built on a level with the sod, and as no name or mark whatever is to be seen, are walked over unknown. Several of the substantial above — ground monuments had tablets inserted with names thereon, which have been broken out and lost, and only a blank aperture remains. This was caused largely by the scarcity of lead in the Revolution, when the lead in which the tablets were embedded was removed for bullet-making, at the same time that the old church building near by was desecrated. The Judge Trowbridge tomb, near the gateway, has been substantially indicated within a few years. Inclosed therein is the commingled dust of very eminent families for several generations. Near this is the prominent Vassall monument, with the figures of a vase and the sun, the armorial bearings of the family. Near by is the ancient mutilated milestone, first placed near the ‘Old Court House,’ in the present Harvard Square, in 1734, on which is cut ‘8 miles to Boston,’ the above date, and the initials ‘A. I.,’ of him who cut and first placed it. This directed travelers the way to Boston through Roxbury, over the only bridge that then crossed Charles River, to ‘Little [135] Cambridge,’ now Brighton. The above initials are explained on a headstone near by: ‘Here lyes buried the body of Mr. Abraham Ireland, who departed this life January 24th, 1753, in ye 81st year of his age. Pray God to give grace—To fly to Christ—To prepare for Eternity.’

In 1870, the city erected a simple but appropriate monument to mark the place of burial of a few of the Cambridge Minute-Men, killed April 19, 1775. On the occasion of its dedication, November 3, 1870, Rev. Dr. McKenzie delivered a very interesting and suggestive address. He said most eloquently that it was pleasant for us to remember that our domain was wider then than now, and with a worthy pride we claim the glory of Menotomy for the praise of Cambridge. Arlington may guard their dust, Cambridge will overleap the narrow brook and claim them for her own, and let the 19th of April, 1775, hereafter be known, as it always should have been, as the day of the battle of Lexington, Concord, and Cambridge. More men were killed and wounded within the then limits of Cambridge than in all the other towns. With the names on the monument Dr. McKenzie also suggested adding the prophetic vision of Samuel Adams, ‘Oh! what a glorious morning is this!’ The full inscription is: “Erected by the city, A. D. 1870
to the memory of
John Hicks,—William Marcy,—Moses Richardson,
buried here.
Jason Russell,—Jabez Wyman,—Jason Winship,
buried in Menotomy.
men of Cambridge,
who fell in defence of the liberty of the people,
April 19th, 1775.
Oh! what a glorious morning is this!

In searching in 1870, to find the place of burial preparatory to erecting this monument, excavations were made along the northerly line of the grounds, and several skulls were found with bullet holes, showing where some of our killed at Bunker Hill were buried; but the grave of Colonel Thomas Gardner, a prominent citizen of Cambridge, a member of the Congress at Watertown with General Joseph Warren, is unknown. He was mortally wounded at Bunker Hill. The first official order of General Washington here, July 4, 1775, was for full military honors at his funeral that day. Near this locality is the grave [136] of John Hughes, a young man who died and was buried among strangers. The inscription on the headstone reads:

Beneath this tomb rests the remains of Mr. John Hughes, of Norwich in Connecticut. He died in his country's cause, July ye 25th, A. D. 1775, in ye 21st year of his age.

Death is a debt to nature due;
As i have paid it, so must you.

Another has a similar inscription to John Stearns, died August 22, 1775, aged 23 years. The ‘mound,’ on the Garden Street side, incloses tombs of once prominent families, that of Deacon Gideon Frost, Deacon Josiah Moore, Major Jonas Wyeth, and probably of Israel Porter, of the Blue Anchor Hostelry. Opposite, in the centre of the grounds, is the most prominent tomb, with this inscription, and many more lines of obituary:— “In this tomb are deposited the remains of
Thomas Lee, Esquire,
a native of Great Britain,
but for many years a citizen of America.
death released him from his sufferings May 26th, 1797,
in the 60th year of his age.

Near the front boundary is a brick monument, covered with a massive stone block, on which is cut:— “Here lyeth interred ye body of
Major-General Gookin,
aged 75 years,
who departed this life ye 19th of March, 1686-7.
” The tomb probably contains the remains of his family, including his son, the Rev. Nathaniel Gookin. General Gookin was an influential man in the early days of the colony.

Near this are the tombs of Governor Belcher, Dr. Gamage, the Watsons, and the Munroes, level with the sod and unmarked.

In the year 1845, Mr. William Thaddeus Harris published a very useful book of epitaphs from this old ground, ‘from the earliest date to the year 1800.’ In the years succeeding 1800, with a few exceptions, the names only, on the monuments erected since that date, are given. Therefore it is hoped that [137] some modern Old Mortality, with the records of the first proprietors and the town, together with the needed tools of his profession in hand, will yet be commissioned to scan every stone, monument, and all records, for the names of those resting in this consecrated ground of the Fathers. We certainly owe this, ere it is too late, to those who shall come after us.

The city of Cambridge should add an honor to its semicenten-nial this year by erecting a simple monument or tablet near that of Jonathan Mitchel, in commemoration of Rev. Thomas Shepard, who died August 25, 1649. He made it possible for Cambridge to be honorably known everywhere as the ‘University City.’ An eye-witness and historian of his time says, ‘To make the whole world understand that spiritual learning was the thing they chiefly desired, to sanctify the other, and make the whole lump holy, and that learning, being set upon its right object, might not contend for error instead of truth, they chose this Place, being then under the orthodox and soul-flourishing Ministry of Mr. Thomas Shepheard.’

In 1885 the City Council placed this ancient burial-ground in charge of the Board of Cemetery Commissioners. By their direction it was thoroughly renovated, ornamental trees and shrubs were planted, the gravestones were righted and otherwise put in a condition suitably becoming the resting-place of so many of our honored dead.

About the year 1811, with the continued growth of East Cambridge and Cambridgeport, the old ground had become crowded, and ‘more than once’ entirely filled; then an urgent call was made for another burial-place. Two and one fourth acres of ground were purchased on Broadway, at the corner of Norfolk Street. This was used nearly a half century, mostly by the inhabitants of those sections of the town, until the year 1854, when the present cemetery on Coolidge Avenue was laid out under the direction of a committee appointed by the city government.

The services of consecration were held on the premises November 1, 1854, and this beautiful spot was sacredly set apart for its new purpose. Remarks on the occasion were made by Hon. Abraham Edwards, then mayor, and the consecration address was given by Rev. John A. Albro, D. D., who aptly said in reference to the place: ‘Its locality,—its natural features,—its seclusion from the great thoroughfares of life, make [138] it a spot preeminently adapted to the end for which it has been chosen. Within these grounds, and not far from where we are now standing, the first Christian proprietor of this soil, Simon Stone, a companion in faith and tribulation of our Shepard, and one of the noble band of Puritans, who first established the Church of God in this Town, built his dwelling, and planted trees which yet bear their fruit.’ The original purchase contained about twenty-five acres. Since then additions of land have been made on the northern boundary, and by the further purchase of the Winchester estate on the south, so that to-day the whole area is more than sixty acres.

The Broadway ground was disused in 1865, by authority from the General Court, April 29th of that year, as follows: ‘Resolved, That the City Council of the City of Cambridge is hereby authorized, at the expense of the city, to remove the remains of the dead from the burial-ground between Broadway and Harvard Street in Ward number Two in said Cambridge, to the Cambridge cemetery, or such other burial-place in the vicinity of Cambridge as the relatives and friends of the deceased may designate and provide. Said ground shall be surrounded by suitable enclosures, and shall forever remain unused for a public street, unoccupied by any building, and kept open as a public park.’

This was faithfully carried out by the city council of 1868. Suitable walks were made, and ornamental trees, shrubbery, etc., planted, thus making of the old burial-place a pleasant, rural, public park.

The care of the cemetery is under the charge of six commissioners, appointed by the mayor, and confirmed by the board of aldermen, their terms of office being for three years. In 1868 a substantial ornamental stone building was erected, suited to the needs of the cemetery, with rooms for the superintendent and his assistants, and for funeral services.

Twenty-five years ago a liberal area of ground was set apart as a burial-place for soldiers and sailors of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was decorated with a group of cannon, etc., given for the purpose by the United States Government. One hundred and twenty-four interments have been made, and the lot is now filled. Recently, another lot near the entrance way has been set apart for a similar purpose, making provision for two hundred and twenty burials. The number of interments, [139] including the removals from the Broadway ground, since its consecration in 1854, have been twenty thousand one hundred and twenty-five.

In 1892 an iron fence was constructed on Coolidge Avenue, together with a neat, substantial iron and stone gateway, in place of the original one of wood, built in 1854.

By a wise foresight, a generation or more ago, this beautiful spot was selected as a place of burial. Through the liberal appropriations of the several city councils, it has been enlarged on either side, and with the faithful, judicious oversight of those intrusted with its care, this ‘City of the Dead’ has reached its present attractive and satisfactory condition, sacred by many precious, holy associations, and hallowed as the resting-place of the honored and beloved who have passed from our sight.2

The picturesque grounds of Mount Auburn Cemetery are situated on the westerly boundary line of Cambridge. In the early settlement of the town, the tract was known as ‘Stone's Woods,’ being the northerly part of Simon Stone's farming lands, which were bounded on the south by Charles River. The woods were later known as Sweet Auburn, and were the property of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. In June, 1831, this society, by an act of the legislature, was authorized to appropriate any part of its real estate for a rural cemetery or burial-ground. The design for such a cemetery had long been considered with approbation, and the favored opportunity of securing Sweet Auburn for the purpose was at once earnestly attempted. This tract is undulating, and contains bold eminences and attractive dales. The highest ground is one hundred and twenty-five feet above Charles River, and on it stands a stone tower sixty feet high. From the tower the ‘winding Charles,’ in all its beauty, can be seen in one direction; the city of Boston, and the Blue Hills of Milton are in the distance; Cambridge is near by, with the venerable and modern buildings of Harvard University; and in another direction is Fresh Pond, the source of our city's supply of water, surrounded by its woody, irregular shores and grand avenues for pleasure-driving.

The first committee for the cemetery was composed of influential [140] men, the late Judge Story being chairman. It met August 3, 1831, and received a very encouraging report. August 8th, another committee was selected to procure a survey, and a plan for laying out lots. This survey was by Alexander Wadsworth, civil engineer.

The consecration of the cemetery occurred on Saturday, September 24, 1831, the late Judge Story delivering the address, in ‘Consecration’ Dell, as it has since been called. An audience of two thousand persons, seated in a temporary amphitheatre among the trees, added a scene of picturesque beauty to the impressive solemnity of the occasion.

In the year 1835 the legislature incorporated the proprietors as the ‘Mount Auburn Corporation.’ The first purchase of land contained seventy-two acres; the present area is one hundred and thirty-six acres.

The first recorded burial is that of a child of James Boyd, of Roxbury, July 6, 1832, on Mountain Avenue; the second, that of Mrs. Hastings, July 12, 1832, on the same avenue.

On elevated ground, not far distant from the gateway, stands a chapel made of granite, of Gothic design. Within are marble statues, in a sitting position, of the late Judge Story, and of John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts. Two others standing, of John Adams, the second president of the United States, and James Otis, the patriot. The Sphinx, the Egyptian symbol of might and intelligence, was erected in 1872, and fronts the chapel. It is a massive monument, recalling our civil war by its inscription,— “American Union preserved
American Slavery destroyed
by the uprising of a great people
by the blood of fallen heroes

The gateway to the cemetery is built of Quincy granite, the design being taken from the entrance to an Egyptian temple. It bears the following in bold raised letters:—

Then shall the Dust return to the Earth as it was; and the Spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Near this, at the entrance of a high natural ridge, with a level surface, running through the grounds, called ‘Indian Ridge,’ is the sarcophagus of Gaspar Spurzheim, the celebrated phrenologist; he died in 1832. Farther on is that of the poet Longfellow, who died in 1882. [141]

On Central Avenue, near the gateway, is the bronze statue, sitting, of Dr. Nathaniel Bowditch.

On High Cedar Hill stands a beautiful marble temple; beneath which rest the remains of Hon. Samuel Appleton.

Others eminent in public life rest here in this sacred soil:—

Charles Sumner.Rufus Choate.
Louis Agassiz.Rev. Wm. Ellery Channing.
President C. C. Felton.Edwin Booth.
Gov. Edward Everett.Charlotte Cushman.
Gov. Emory Washburn.Joseph E. Worcester.
Anson Burlingame.Bishop Phillips Brooks.
President Josiah Quincy.James Russell Lowell.
John G. Palfrey.Rev. A. Holmes, D. D.
President Sparks.Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Robert C. Winthrop.

On Gentian Path is a beautiful granite obelisk, erected by Thomas Dowse, on which is inscribed— “To the memory of
Benjamin Franklin, the printer,
the philosopher,
the statesman,
the patriot,
who by his wisdom blessed his country, and his age,
and bequeathed to the world an illustrious
example of industry, integrity,
and self-culture.
born in Boston, Mdccvi.,
died in Philadelphia, Mdccxc.

The number of interments to January 1, 1896, is 30,861.

Mount Auburn's greatest interest is in the fact that within this beautiful ‘City of the Dead’ are gathered together those whose lives and characters are illustrious in the history of the country, and whose names are symbols of great achievements.

The sixty-fourth annual report, January 1, 1896, shows its solid financial success. The several funds in care of the corporation amount to the sum of $1,342,582, which began with the original purchase of 72 acres of ground, at a cost of $6,000.

Outside of the cemetery grounds, the corporation owns some fifteen acres of land, a part adjoining the cemetery, on which are situated greenhouses of the latest model, a liberal homestead for the superintendent, and other buildings, stables, etc.

1 Now Massachusetts Avenue.

2 I am indebted to Mr. William A. Saunders, a member of the first Board of Cemetery Commissioners, for many historical incidents and suggestions as herein set forth.

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