|Our Kin in the Old Burying Ground|
For the sake of temporal context, let us note that Harvard College was chartered (though not yet under that name) more than a year later, and that the first permanent church there was organized, also in 1636, under (our Uncle) the Reverend Thomas Shepard (supposedly buried here). The town was first called Cambridge in 1638.
Several hundred epitaphs in the Burying Ground were still readable in 1845, when Harris1 published his transcription. Harris includes inscriptions bearing dates of death ranging from 1653 through 1844. He appends a list of recorded deaths from 1638 to 1697 not corresponding to readable epitaphs. The Cambridge Historical Society’s list of persons buried there runs to 763 entries.
By 1642, all four of our Cambridge pioneer forebears had taken their families on to Watertown and/or Hartford. If any family members were buried at Harvard Square, neither the graves nor their records seem to have survived. We have thus far identified, however, a dozen or so of our blood relatives and half-a-dozen spouses of blood relatives whose remains do lie in the Burying Ground.2 As with the first homesteaders, these somewhat later settlers showed a strong tendency to treat Cambridge (and neighboring Watertown) as a jumping-off point for wider projects of settlement.
Our blood relationships in colonial Cambridge and in the Burying Ground, insofar as we’ve uncovered them to date, link us to four additional early-settler couples who put down their primary roots in Middlesex County but not in Cambridge Towne:
1Harris, William Thaddeus. Epitaphs from the Old Burying-Ground in Cambridge, with Notes. Cambridge:John Owen, 1845.
2This research led me in October, 2000, to compile a document entitled “Plan of the Old Burial Ground at Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts”, specifying on its cover page that it was “Photographed, unofficially, by courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Commission from Plan No. 5312, City of Cambridge Engineering Dept.” I gave the Historical Commission a copy. In 2008, they scanned it and put it up on the Web in four PDF files: Cover material and notes; Base map and smaller sub-maps; Name index; and Sub-map index. Now (2013) it is no longer there, but I’ve put their four PDFs in a compressed folder named “Old Cambridge Burial Ground.zip” in the Public folder on my Dropbox, for your convenience.
3I discuss elsewhere Olive Welby Farwell’s Plantagenet connections.
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(The Old Burying Ground)
Updated Feb 2014
(Oliver and Hepzibah Wheeler)
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