Strange Graves in New England Cemeteries


An article about the old graveyards of Massachusetts where the headstones tell much about the deceased and their habits, foibles and reputations.

Mention the name of Pere LaChaise Cemetery in Paris and everyone knows the names of at least three or four notables who are buried there… Chopin, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Sarah Bernhardt and other equally famous people. And Brooklyn, New York’s GreenWood Cemetery is alive with inhabitants who were at one time, and often still are, household names. Henry Ward Beecher, Leonard Bernstein and DeWitt Clinton are three who spring to mind.

In the deeps of New England there are many burial grounds that house personages just as renowned. Who hasn’t heard of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, Emerson, Thoreau and the Alcotts. And some pf the quaint anecdotes connected with these cemeteries are worth passing on the those who might not be aware of them.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord

The resting place of many celebrated Americans, Sleepy Hollow is now home to Nathaniel Hawthorne; Henry Thoreau; Franklin Sanborn, one-time editor of the Springfield Republican and the Alcott family. One especially interesting chap who resides in Sleepy Hollow is Ephriam Wales Bull, who was encouraged by the neighbors to go full speed ahead on the experiments that eventually led to the Concord grapes. Unfortunately Bull wasn’t canny enough to profit from this horticultural development, and his epitaph reads:

“He sowed.

Others Reaped.”

Burial Ground, Woburn

This ancient cemetery is the custodian of the graves belonging to forebears of Franklin Pierce, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. However, the most peculiar inscription belongs to a Mrs.Elizabeth Cotton:

“If a virgin marry, she hath not sinned;

Nevertheless she shall have trouble in the flesh;

But he that giveth her not in marriage doth better;

She is happiest if she so abide.”

The Granary Burying Ground, Boston

This cemetery holds the remains of three signers of the Declaration of Independence: Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Payne and John Hancock. Some of their neighbors are the parents of Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, nine early governors of the state and perhaps the most famous of them all…Elizabeth Foster Goose, ” Mother Goose,” who died in 1757.

Stockbridge Massachusetts Cemetery

This cemetery holds the remains of a woman who was a participant in a murder trial in France that most probably helped to start the ball rolling for the demise of the monarchy in that land. It seems that there was a certain Duc de Choiseul-Praslin who, in a fit of rage, murdered his wife in the bloodiest possible manner. It was said at the time that the governess to the family, Mlle. Henriette Deluzy was the reason. Common talk had the governess and the Duc engaging in an affaire du couer, and the murder trial in 1847 was one of the most celebrated in history. The governess, after pleading her own case, was acquitted; the Duc commited suicide, and a few year later, after resuming her real name, Desportes, she sailed to America where within a short time she married the Rev. Henry Martyn Field of Stockbridge.

Her story was put to paper by her great-niece Rachel Field, and was made into a movie, “All This and Heaven Too,” with Bette Davis assuming the role of Henriette and Charles Boyer that of the Duc.

The Old Hill Burying Ground, Newburyport, Massachusetts

Here is interred ‘Lord’ Timothy Dexter, an eccentric who once lived in the Jackson-Dexter House on High Street. He once held a mock funeral service for himself and apparently beat his wife for not showing enough heartbreak during the ceremony. But he was not completely batty…he made a small fortune on a shipment of warming pans he sent to the West Indies. The native people thought they were molasses ladles and gleefully bought every one of them. In 1892 he published a strange book entitled “Pickles for the Knowing Ones,” which was written without punctuation. Lord Dexter decided to fill page after page at the end with periods, commas and colons, leaving it up to the reader to “Salt and Pepper to Taste.”

Thus ends this brief look at some strange and sometimes humorous grave sites.