Archive for the Cemeteries Category

Cemetery Survey

Sep 22nd, 2015 Posted in Cemeteries, Public History | no comment »

I am conducting a survey for use in my graduate project. The study is to understand how cemetery associations operate from the perspective of the general public, the association members themselves, and the state agencies overseeing the local cemeteries. I am looking at how pioneer/abandoned cemeteries could be better cared for, and what resources these associations and agencies need to accomplish this.

I am inviting your participation, which will involve answering a brief survey that should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. You have the right not to answer any question, and to stop participation at any time. Your answers will remain anonymous.

Confidentiality will be maintained by making sure the answers are completely anonymous, and used only in a tally of all the responses, such as “35% of respondents believe that ____ should be done for cemeteries in Texas.” The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used and is not even asked for in the survey, so please do not provide it. If one is given, it will be removed prior to any publication.

The links below depend on your affiliation.

If you are a cemetery association member at large, genealogist, historian, or other cemetery enthusiast, please answer the questions on this survey:

If you are a member of a cemetery association board, please answer the questions on this survey:

If you are an employee or volunteer at the State Historic Preservation Office or other municipal agency charged to oversee cemeteries, please answer the questions on this survey:

These surveys are only available for 7 days so please answer and share as quickly as possible. Thank you for your time!

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.

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.


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:

And here:



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


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.




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.



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.




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.


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

Fishermen's Rest

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.



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.


Welcome to the Cemetery section of my blog!

Oct 12th, 2014 Posted in Cemeteries | no comment »


This blog is going to be a weekly discussion over cemeteries and preservation, conservation, theory, law and anything else that comes up or seems relevant to the work I want to do in Ohio. I will be blogging about readings, progress on my project, hurdles involved in the process, and my thoughts and questions. If you are reading this, please feel free to comment as we go along! Two of the other blogs on this page have information on some of the things I’ve worked on up to this point, feel free to read those as well. Shaffer and Zirkle Descendants and Digital Humanties. The Shaffer and Zirkle Descendants blog is a place where I’ve posted various genealogy work I’ve done on the two families. I started the 52 Ancestors blog challenge, but due to school work was unable to continue it, but on my blog there is some info in that relating to the cemeteries I am working on. The Digital Humanties blog was work that I did last semester (Spring 2014) in a course on Digital Humanties. I tried a few different ways to visual the project I am working on, including a NodeXL model of the relationships between the families buried in the Zirkle cemetery and the Shaffer cemetery, and in each cemetery itself. I also mapped all the (known) cemeteries in Mad River township, Champaign, Ohio based on various records and engineer’s maps, deeds, and written histories.

For my thesis project, I will be working on the Shaffer cemetery, and there will be discussion of the Zirkle cemetery, but the Zirkle cemetery has some other issues that will come out during the course of this journey. It’s entirely possible that cemetery will also become part of this project, will see how things progress. The two cemeteries are linked together in my mind, due to their shared histories. The culmination of this project will be a written thesis over the journey of preservation of a cemetery, and hopefully the actual restoration of the cemetery with the help of the community. If you live in or around Mad River township, Terre Haute, or Thackery, please drop me a line here and let me know if you would be interested in helping with this project. Thanks for reading!

Cemetery Test

Oct 5th, 2014 Posted in Cemeteries | no comment »

This is where I will begin blogging about cemeteries and my current projects, one in Ohio and one in Arizona. I’ve made some changes recently to the webpage so I’m testing here to make sure everything is working.

Mic Check