Archive for July, 2015

New England Travels, Part 2

Jul 27th, 2015 Posted in Cemeteries | no comment »

 

 

June 22, 2015  (Click on any photo to enlarge!)

Early in the morning on Monday, we began our travels again. I had read an article back in April here, about the “oldest maintained cemetery,” and mentioned it to the girls during planning. So off we went.

We stopped at the Mayflower cemetery first.

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At the Mayflower Cemetery, I was interested in a grouping of stones of the Loring family, who I’d guess were all related. Barak and Perez Loring died in Grenada in 1792. I thought that was really interesting, but couldn’t find much about them. I assume they are related to some of the other famous Loring families. You can read more about the Mayflower Cemetery history here.

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Barack and Perez Loring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duxbury, MA, The Myles Standish Burying Ground

After the Mayflower Cemetery, we traveled on to the “oldest maintained cemetery.” What interested me about the Myles Standish Burying Ground is not who Myles Standish was. You can read about him all over the place, such as here or here. My traveling companion wrote about our excursion here.

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It was neat to see where they think John Alden was buried, too. (Next to his son) But you can read about him everywhere, and I have nothing I can add right now to the discourse on the Mayflower or early settlers in America.

John Alden here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Alden

And here: http://mayflowerhistory.com/alden/

 

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John and Priscilla Alden are thought to have been buried here, near their son. The slate stones were put there in 1930.

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Jonathan Alden, repairs done around the 1970s – original slate encased in concrete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, instead, I was extremely interested in the little plaque that started this whole portion of the trip.

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The plaque reads: “America’s Oldest Maintained Cemetery. Myles Standish Burying Ground is the oldest maintained cemetery in the United States. This sacred ground has been cared for by the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, and takes its name from Myles Standish, military leader of the Plymouth Colony, who was interred here in October of 1656. Plaque dedicated in August 1977, as a bicentennial gift to the Nation by the American Cemetery Association.”

 

There is a lot to discuss here. What does “oldest maintained cemetery” mean, exactly? Does oldest refer to the age of the oldest marker, considered to be Jonathan Alden, the son of John Alden (1687)? The cemetery was the first burying ground in Duxbury, and the first burials were likely either unmarked graves or they were wooden and have long disappeared. According to the National Register nomination, “Known burials date from 1656 to 1831, and surviving original gravestones date from 1697 to 1804.” Does oldest refer to the Native American discoveries made? It’s not really very clear what time period oldest refers to. According to the Town of Duxbury website, “The oldest colonial burial ground in the United States was in St. Augustine, FL., where some of the Spanish conquistadores rest, however, this cemetery has been lost to history as has the original Pilgrim cemetery on Plymouth’s Cole Hill. There in lay the honor bestowed to the Town of Duxbury by the American Cemetery Association in 1977 as naming the Standish Burial Grounds the oldest maintained cemetery in the country.”

 

And what about “maintained”? The site was mostly neglected after the Mayflower cemetery opened, around the mid 18th century. It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that anyone took an interest in the cemetery. According to the NRHP nomination, the Duxbury Rural Society (now the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society) took over the cemetery in 1886 and cleaned it up. It’s now owned by the Town of Duxbury, so presumably they are the caretakers. Or does the Duxbuury Rural and Historical Society still maintain the site? It is not listed on their website as one of their responsibilities. Does “oldest maintained cemetery” refer to the age of the earliest burial, or the amount of time it has been cared for? Because Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA, has certainly been maintained since 1831.

 

Another question I have is, who is the American Cemetery Association? I have only found brief references in newspaper articles dating no later than 1990. Nothing that tells me who the organization is or was. What is their significance, and what is their right to bestow the “honor” of oldest maintained cemetery upon the Standish Burial Grounds?

 

In April of this year, 2015, the cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. This date is interesting to me. Why now, what was the impetus for adding the cemetery now, when it’s had such a history of interested parties involved? In the 1800s, of course, there was no such thing as the National Register of Historic Places. In 1977, though the NRHP existed, there were no criteria for adding cemeteries. It wasn’t until 1986 that the National Park Service reviewed the criteria and requested additional published guidance for cemeteries and graves. In 1992, the National Register Bulletin #41, “Guidelines for Evaluating and Registering Cemeteries and Burial Places” was published. The Standish Burying Ground was eligible under criteria A-D. So why not until 2015? I’d be curious to know whose idea it was. There was a brief mention in an August, 2014 newspaper here.

 

The property was approved to be submitted to the NRHP in December by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and announced in January 2015 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

 

Usually it takes a year for approval, but reading through the nomination, it’s clear that the property has just about every feature the guidelines require, including Criteria D, for yielding future information about prehistory. Duxbury was also the site of Native American settlements.

 

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So while I really enjoyed visiting the Myles Standish Burying Grounds, I am still left with many questions. Thankfully, the Massachusetts Historical Commission has a wealth of information regarding the laws, regulations, and requirements for the state of Massachusetts cemeteries and burying grounds. Other states should be so well organized.

 

 

 

 

 

New England Travels Part 1

Jul 18th, 2015 Posted in Cemeteries | no comment »

June 21, 2015. (Note: click on any photo to enlarge)

Our first stop on this trip was Gloucester. On a super wet and rainy Father’s Day Sunday, we headed from Boston-Logan airport to Gloucester.

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We were a little early for our first meeting for a tour of Dogtown, so we headed to see the Fishermen Memorial at the coast. See my blog about the trip to the Stacy Esplanade memorials here.

In addition to the Cherry Hill cemetery, mentioned in the above referenced blog post, we also drove past the Prospect (High) Street Cemetery. I snapped a few photos.

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The Prospect (High) Street Cemetery burial records are available through the NEHGS, and they offer a searchable database of the cemetery records here.

 

 

 

Beechbrook Cemetery

We also drove through (too wet to get out of the car!) the Beechbrook Cemetery. Beechbrook features the Fishermen’s Rest section devoted to mariners and a really tall monument with either an elk or a deer.

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An elk or a deer?

An elk or a deer?

Overview of the cemetery as we came around

Overview of the cemetery as we came around a corner

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Fishermen’s Rest

 

In 2007, professor David J. Stewart argued that though the seminal works of Dethlefson and Deetz blazed the way for determining cultural change over time vis a vis cemeteries, not much had been studied in maritime archaeology; and that cemeteries such as Beechbrook could aid in understanding maritime culture and lifestyle in seafaring cities such as Gloucester, though not without their limitations.

An interesting interment in Beechbrook is that of Howard Blackburn. Nestled among the plain stones in Fishermen’s Rest, his stone belies his status in life: a successful mariner-turned-saloonkeeper and famous solo voyager. (See his story here.) As Stewart addresses in his article, one of the issues with monument studies is understanding the class divide. Many lower and middle class mariners were unable to afford gravemarkers until the late 19th century, and even then it was beyond the reach of some. (Stewart 2007 p. 116) Blackburn’s monument illustrates the issues with studying artifact assemblages without the corresponding historical record.

Fishermen's Rest, Howard Blackburn center right

Fishermen’s Rest, Howard Blackburn center right – click to enlarge

The Fishermen’s Rest area of the cemetery was funded by John Hays Hammond, and as luck would have it, our next stop was the Hammond Castle.

 

Hammond Castle

The Hammond Castle was built between 1926-1929 as a wedding present for John Hays Hammond, Jr.’s wife Irene Fenton Hammond. Hammond, Jr. was one of six children of the multi-millionaire philanthropist and mining engineer who donated to fund the Fishermen’s rest area of the Beechbrook Cemetery, originally intended for poor fishermen.

John Hammond, Jr. was an inventor and collector of medieval art and artifacts. He and his wife opened their home as a museum in 1930. The grounds are beautiful and the home is massive.

Walking through the grounds you really do feel like you’re in a medieval town.

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And of course, Mr. Hammond is buried on the grounds:

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The inside was also impressive. I took way too many photos, but here are a couple:

Some day I'll have lions in my house...

Some day I’ll have lions in my house…

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The library was my favorite room.

 

Sources:

Hammond, John Hays. Autobiography, Vol. 2. Farrar & Rinehart Publishers, 1935. Pp. 774-775.

Stewart, David J. “Gravestones and Monuments in the Maritime Cultural Landscape: Research Potential and Prelimary Interpretations,” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 03/2007, Volume 36, Issue 1. Pp. 112-124.

 

Public History and Public Outreach

Jul 7th, 2015 Posted in Public History | no comment »

After reading the article, “Pictures to dream with: A public historian in the nursing home,” an NCPH Public History Commons posting, a whirlwind of ideas came to me. The article deals with a public historian using the history at their fingertips to engage a nursing home audience. As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, one of my favorite things is our time spent with elderly veterans—caroling at Christmas at the VA Hospital, or meeting them as they leave or return from their visits to Washington, D.C. (on the Honor Flight), or serving at a local homeless shelter for veterans (MANA House). I also have long thought that D.A.R. would be a fantastic avenue for doing volunteer work at more senior centers, and maybe some chapters do that as well.
The author of the article writes, “Senior centers, nursing homes, and perhaps even hospital rooms are places public historians should think more about. These are places where resources at our disposal can, with a modest investment of time, meet important existing needs.” She’s absolutely right. They are also places where history is disappearing at a rapid rate. These seniors could also fill a need for public historians. For example, the Library of Congress uses Flikr to crowd source their photographs and get feedback from the public, who might know the when/where of an unknown photograph. (See here.) Many other archives and museums also do this, and other similar programs such as the Memory Project. (See the Arizona Memory Project, for example).  But consider that as the years keep going by, the audience that might have those answers is largely not tech-savvy and also probably not aware of where to look for such photos. Bringing them to these people is a way to possibly capture local history before it fades away. Think of the oral history that could be collected as the author shows her slide shows or the family history that could be captured from a sparked memory from one of these photos.

Like the author says in her other blog post, it may not solve large-scale problems, but I think it’s a great idea and a way to reach more people – and show more people – what public history is all about.

A Visit to New England – Gloucester and the Merry brothers

Jul 3rd, 2015 Posted in Adams and Merry Descendants, Genealogy | no comment »

 

 

I recently went to Massachusetts for a conference, and with a couple of friends, spent the three days prior to the conference traveling all over New England looking at cemeteries and historical sites. Our first day in MA was a trip to Gloucester, the town from where my husband’s fishermen ancestors sailed the seas.

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As you can see, the day was wet, rainy, and miserable. But that didn’t stop us, we only had one day to see it all! Our first stop was the coast. There are two memorials to fishermen and their wives and children, and though I got completely soaked, I checked them both out!

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Gloucester coast near the memorials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishermen’s Wives Memorial

 

The monument to the Fishermen’s Wives was secondary to the memorial to the men, but it had been in the works since the 1930s. Since I went there first, I’ll discuss it first. According to the North Shore Community College website, the memorial went through various iterations that included themes of melancholy, sadness, and waiting, before the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association settled on the monument that now stands on the Stacy Boulevard Esplanade. The inscription, “The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Gloucester fishermen honor the wives and families of fishermen and mariners everywhere for their faith, diligence, and fortitude,” evokes a sense of the strength and dignity held by widows of men who toil at one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

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Ground beneath the monument with stones dedicated to women and children and fishermen

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Inscription for the memorial

 

Nearby is the first memorial, the one to the fishermen and mariners of Gloucester. “The Man at the Wheel” was erected in 1923 as a memorial to the over 10,000 men lost at sea. It was also made famous as the idea behind the Gorton’s fisherman, for those of you who eat frozen fish sticks! This was particularly important for me to see, as my husband comes from a long line of fishermen and farmers in New England. Near the monument is a list of the names  over 10,000 men lost at sea between 1623-1923, listed alphabetically by year.

 

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The names of over 10,000 mariners lost at sea from 1623-1923

 

 

One of those 10,000 men lost at sea was David Merry. David, his brothers James and Jonathan, and their father Hiram were all fishermen from Edgecomb, Maine who sailed from Gloucester to Nova Scotia to make ends meet. On April 1, 1859, David and Jonathan left the harbor en route to Nova Scotia for another day’s work. Family lore states that sometime during the day, their schooners passed each other and the brothers were able to wave hello to one another. That evening, a gale came up suddenly, and the Grace T. Powers was lost to the depths of the sea, taking with her David Merry and his 7 shipmates. Also lost that day was the Charles E. Grover, with 9 men aboard. (per the Gloucester records, from the Sawyer Free Library, linking to Down to Sea in Ships)

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David Murray aka David Merry 1859. Fishermen’s Memorial, Gloucester, MA

 

David, at the age of 24, left behind a widow and one son (potentially two, but I have still not proven the second son). His brother Jonathan, so distraught over this loss, left the fishing industry to become a farmer in the town of Sherman, Maine. He and his wife Emeline, who was the sister of David’s wife Sarah, raised David’s son Brainard as their own and Brainard’s descendants still live in the family farmhouse in Sherman today.

 

Meanwhile, David and Jonathan’s brother James had his own adventures, and I visited the area of Gloucester where his story takes place.

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Entrance where you turn to get to Dogtown Commons

 

Dogtown Commons was many things over time. In 1641, it was a settlement for early American colonists that was safer than living right on the coast, with the threat of pirates and native american attacks. Eventually, the coast was more habitable and people left. After the Revolutionary War, elderly widows of the soldiers settled here and brought dogs to keep them company. The wild dogs that run free in the Commons today are rumored to be descended from them. Some say that is where Dogtown gets its name. Others claim the name comes from another iteration of the area, when it became a wild and ruthless wilderness with only the hardcore willing to call the area home. Dog can be used to refer to loafers, inferiors, or other undesirables. Today it is a beautiful green area perfect for hiking, biking, walking and running. Google it and you’ll find scores of ghost stories, poems, songs, videos and books written about it. You can also read my travel companion’s article about our trip the area here.

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Welcome to Historic Dogtown

 

 

Dogtown is mostly known for the decorative boulders that indicate old homesteads or interesting stories, most are carved with numbers or have a nearby plaque with information. They generally refer you back to the City of Gloucester page, located here.

 

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Under the trees, the smallish boulders are what is left of a cellar from an old 17th century house

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Some areas are marked with carved numbers that correspond to a story of that space, like this one. Kind of like an early QR code.

 

 

 

During the Depression, Roger Babson commissioned artists to carve inspirational messages on boulders in Dogtown. You can read about their history and see a map of the area that Babson drew here. It was these that drew me to the area.
James Merry, brother to David and Jonathan, was also a fisherman like his brothers. There are about as many stories about James as there are about the origins of the name of Dogtown. The most romanticized story about James is that he spent a lot of time in Madrid, running with the bulls. When he came back and settled in Gloucester, he boasted so often to friends that he was the best bullfighter ever, that he had to raise his own bull and stage a bullfight to prove his prowess. Unfortunately, the bull won, and James was dashed against a boulder to the shock and horror of his friends.

However, the newspapers of the time tell a less glamorous story. The Boston Post from 19 September 1892 says:

Gloucester, Sept. 18.– Today, while Isaac Day and Henry and Chester Norwood were walking along Dogtown Common road, a desolate place, they saw a bull with blood on his horns, and a short distance from him they found the dead body of James Merry lying between two rocks. A large wound was found in the abdomen of the dead man, and it is supposed that it was made by the bull, which is a vicious animal. Merry resided in this city, and had a wife and family. He left home this forenoon to pick barberries, and it is thought he was attacked by the bull and gored. The animal belongs to Patrick Nugent.

 

The Babson boulder commemorating the site of the goring goes along with the more romantic story,however, and bears an uplifting and inspirational “Never Try, Never Win” message.

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Babson boulder near the site where James Merry was found

 

 

These are supposedly the actual boulders that Merry was dashed against and died on:

 

 

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Scratched on the boulder are the words First Attacked

 

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Jas Merry, Died Sept 18, 1892 – the red paint indicating this was where his bloodied body was found

 

 

 

 

Nearby is a clearing believed to be where the bull was pastured:

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James is buried in the local cemetery Cherry Hill, and we scoured the whole cemetery but did not find any marker for him. Likely it was unmarked, as the cemetery history indicates the earliest burials were unmarked. We did use a dousing rod that seemed to think one particular area was where he may be buried, and it’s near the entrance so entirely plausible.

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Though James may not have been a 60 year old bullfighter, he sure left a great story to be passed on to many Merry generations!