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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Living in New England: Cemeteries

There are many aspects of life here that are so unique from other parts of the country, and I want to share those things with my family, and perhaps with you- if you have never been here. I do a collection of posts called : "Living in New England" that highlight quintessential New England sights, events, situations, and experiences.
I know of many people who have lived here in New England their entire lives and perhaps don't realize that some of the events and sights that I will describe don't happen elsewhere in the country. Or, maybe you are originally from New England, but have moved away... I hope these posts will bring back some fond memories for you. 
In any event, I wish to share New England with you through the eyes of this Southerner!

As we first began to visit New England in search of a new home I was awestruck by all of the beautiful, serene, antique cemeteries that dot this part of the country.   I have always loved the peace and reverence of a cemetery, but the cemeteries here with their paper-thin slate headstones and their beautiful remote locations evoke a strong connection to the past.  We are fortunate to have two very close to us- we can turn left or right at the end of our driveway, walk a mile and be at either one. It has been a tradition of ours since moving into the farmhouse that about once a year, early evening, we will take a bottle of wine, or some other libation, and go to one of our cemeteries and walk the grounds reading the headstones, saying the names aloud and toasting to their memory; all the while wondering what their lives must have been like.  We feel a great kinship with these souls who have passed before us since they too lived in, and no doubt loved, the same beautiful surroundings that we do.  There are so many wonderful old first names that you just don't hear anymore, and so many stories to be gleaned from reading the headstones.
Since one of our cemeteries even has a famous ghost :O and since it's October 31st, I thought it would be the perfect time of year to bring you along!

 This particular cemetery sits atop a hill and overlooks a lake.  Not a bad place to spend eternity, me thinks!

The willow was a popular motif on headstones in the1800's.

 "Why weepest thou?  he is not here."

From very simple...

to more elaborate carved marble.

This headstone dates to 1795.

"Mrs. Anna Fiske, the amiable, virtuous confort of the Rev. Able Fiske..."

Hundreds of years of weather has made this headstone almost impossible to read.

The top of this headstone has broken off.

 This headstone dates to 1769

When a headstone develops even a small crack the weather can wreck havoc.  The freezing and thawing will crack the stone, eventually breaking it off.

A headstone that has been pieced back together.

The freezing and thawing of our New Hampshire winters must have found a crack at the base of this headstone and eventually eroded the stone until it broke off from the main piece.

A lead topper was made to protect this headstone.

Adore the antique iron repairs on this headstone.  Martha Stewart recently had a very informative post on her blog about the restoration of antique headstones in Bedford, New York.

"In memory of two sons of William Abbott.... 1784... 1788."

You can see how wafer-thin some of the headstones are in this photo.

"Little Harry" will break your heart.

 The inscription at the very bottom of this headstone reads...

"Stoop down my friends as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me."

The lake is visible through the branches of the trees.

A granite hitching post in case you rode your horse.

Not the headstone of the famous ghost, just one that I thought was ironic ;)

Dan and Ella (dressed as a pumpkin!  just kidding, it's her safety jacket as the hunters are out) leaving the cemetery.

Happy Halloween!

To read other "Living in New England" posts visit HERE.


  1. The headstones are interesting - the designs from many years ago, the stone and how it has aged and some of the inscriptions.
    My Father always laughed and recanted a story many times about a head stone he saw that read 'I told you I was sick'. I guess if you've got a stone with your name on it it may as well make people laugh rather than cry every time they visit.
    Happy Halloween.

  2. These are amazing, they truly are such personal monuments to people's loved ones. Thank you for sharing. xx

  3. Love your post about this peaceful & beautiful cemetery and so nice from you and Dan to bring a toast every year .
    Have to say that I like all your posts !!!!
    Have a nice day Joan and Happy Halloween ( we don't celebrate this in The Netherlands , so I envy you ;) ).
    Hugssssss, Stella

  4. Hi Joan, it amazes me how much we take for granted in New England, assuming the rest of the country has the same kind of charm (and the rest has their own, of course), cemeteries included! I love when you point things out, as it's great to see our lovely piece of the country through a non-native eye! Happy Halloween to you, too!

  5. A perfect post for are right if a cemetery could ever look pretty, these do the trick. Love the patina that has developed over time, there are so many unique things that make up a quintessential New England town. Happy Halloween Joan!

  6. Just beautiful! Seems straight out of a spooky story ;) I've said once, and I will say it again, I think this is the place I would love to live, just so rich in history. Thanks for sharing, hope Ella has a wonderful halloween.

  7. I love the willow tree designs! AND the verse... "Why weepest, though is not here ". Beautiful!
    OK, I'd say it gives me inspiration, but I'm going to be cremated. :-)

  8. Very nice post. The end of fall is nigh and the bleak months are close. Keep us posted and we'll make it through the winter just fine.

  9. It is amazing the condition of some of those stones-considering their age. There is beauty in a cemetery.

  10. Your cemeteries are so different than ours down here. No slate here, it's marble and granite for the most part. Granite holds up well (as you know) but marble gradually fades away. Great for patina, bad for carvings and legible inscriptions.

    Thank you SO much for bringing us along on your walk. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  11. Got a few chills reading some of these tombstones! In our area of Niagara On The Lake in Canada, it was the site of the war of 1812. We also have a cemetery (or two!) with centuries old gravestones. We walk past the larger one often when walking the dogs and cannot help but admire some of the headstones both large and small.

  12. What a wonderfully interesting post, Joan. I love photographing old cemeteries and reading the headstones. There is so much history written there and so many questions arise as to why so many died very young. I really enjoyed this beautiful cemetery. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I LOVED this post!!!!! Thank you for sharing your neighborhood. We have many old cemetery grounds here in my N.C. town. As a matter of fact, the TV series "Sleepy Hollow" is being filmed in our oldest cemetery.

  14. Very interesting post, Joan. I, too, find old cemeteries fascinating. Some of the inscriptions are heartbreaking. Your post makes me want to go visit a really old cemetery here in our town, near where my husband and I were married, and take some photos.

  15. Wonderful post! I too love browsing thru old cemeteries. Such interesting history, thank you!

  16. That was beautiful! As a New Hampshire resident, Massachusetts born, and lover of New England, thank you for that post. A great reminder of past and present.

  17. I love cemeteries! They are not morbid, really it's a showing of love, that the families left behind put up such a monument. And on the east coast, particularly the northern section, there are many old cemeteries. I used to live in a house where on the original property, way back in the woods, was the original family and a slave cemetery. I visited it every year. Is the famous ghost referenced on the last picture of a tombstone? Happy Halloween! Stay safe!

  18. I did see the Joan Ella....just curious if that was the ghost. ;)

  19. I have always been a fan ....cemeteries are so peaceful. They can be the source of historical info and fun. I walked down to the Burial Ground with a neighbor...reading headstone... I said"this guy must have been a fisherman she said why? because it says House of Cod...haha she said" could that be God"....walking she questioned...what are the SPAM wars..I said not the canned meat but Spanish Am War...again haha.

  20. Happy Halloween! fun post and boo to you too :)

  21. Very nice post! I also find cemeteries to be very peaceful places. One of my favorite memories as a child was my families annual trip to Harpers Ferry, WV. We would hike up to the cemetery and just wander and read the headstones, enjoy the leaf colors, then breath in the awesome view of 3 states and 2 rivers. The baby ones always make me cry.

  22. Sally and I have often walked and wondered as you have - about the names, who they were, how they lived, etc. I love your idea of the toast. It's a perfect way to acknowledge that that person lived, loved, laughed, cried and had meaning and value in our world.


  23. Thanks so much for this awesome post. If I wasn't living in Seattle, I'd be where you are. Just lovely.

  24. Fabulous post. I enjoyed seeing these headstones. I felt so sad when I saw the "Little Harry" one. That one with the saying "stoop down friends as you pass by" etc. is quite something! The location and age of this cemetery is great. Thanks for sharing! Happy Halloween!

  25. I spend many a lunch hour in a beautiful hillside cemetery in the town where I work. Walk around and imagine their lives. Such beauty! Thanks for sharing!

  26. New England cemeteries are wonderful places to explore. Have you had the chance to explore the Shaker village in Harvard MA? The cemetary there is so different from anything else around, and the buildings are beautifull.

  27. Old cemeteries do sort of bring us back to reality: life is short indeed. And to see, in these very old cemeteries, how many children and young died at such an early age. So many mysteries in these stones.

  28. Oh, this does make me sooooo homesick...I am from New England.....
    born and raised in Rhode Island and spent lots of time in a family
    cabin in Vermont...miss, miss, miss it all so very much and your
    photos just make me heart sick to get back there...maybe after my husband the cemeteries, thank you for sharing all the info!

  29. I also loved this post. New England cemeteries are so beautiful. It helps that autumn is at it's peak. I thought it sad that Joan Ella and her daughter died at the same time, or so it appears.

  30. Awesome post! Enjoyed all the pics, so much history and mystery of the lives that once lived in the area.

  31. Maybe New Englanders should take a hint from the people in New Orleans who annually go to their cemeteries and wash and repair their families crypts. Some people also tend to those without family left to care for their family graves. This was a wonderful post! My ancestors are buried in a similar cemetery outside of Salem, Mass from the 1600's. My mother has taken rubbings from our family tombstones.

  32. I too enjoy visiting cemeteries - the older the better. Oh, the stories that are buried there. Your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  33. A very haunting and thought provoking post. Posted in such a sensitive manner.
    Lived in New England for awhile and the cemeteries always drew my attention.

  34. Really enjoyed this post.
    Some very beautiful and melancholy pictures.

  35. Joan,
    The headstones on older graves are always interesting to me...they are often works of art. The first thing that captured my attention in your post was the incredible foliage on all of the trees in your pictures. Such a beautiful time of year in your neck of the woods.
    Thanks for sharing.

  36. Hello Joan, New England cemeteries are so evocative! The older ones in Ohio are interesting, but usually not so dramatic as this. If you ever get to New Haven, you must visit Grove Street Cemetery, a real classic, from the Egyptian Revival gates, to the graves of such luminaries as Eli Whitney and Benjamin Silliman.

  37. This was fascinating! The 2 that really got to me were "an infant" and "little Harry". I also have never seen such THIN headstones. Here in Pa. they are thick and mostly pretty large. Also most cemeteries have grass and are mowed. Thanks for this post, and it is perfect for Halloween!!! Hope you are having a SPOOKY day:):) Do you get any trick or treaters?????

  38. Just beautiful as all of your posts are! Thank you for sharing and taking us along. I have always loved looking at old headstones and reading their history and thinking what their life must have been like. The headstone of the baby brought back memories of a stillborn nephew my brother had to bury about twenty something years ago, so sad. Have a wonderful Halloween.

  39. ok, i am not the only one........
    when i go to new england i always visit a cemetery or three. right now am visiting edinburgh and am current post is on a main cemetary here, come visit!

  40. I love old cemeteries. Great imagery, great verses, great imagined narrative. They're also a great place for quiet reflection and introspection. A challenging time in life just melts away when you when you see where you going to end up in a few years.

  41. What a great post! Not far from my childhood neighborhood was an old cemetery which had houses built all around it.I used to love to go and visit and read the old tombstones.I never felt scared or spooked,I always felt at peace reading the names and wondering what their lives were like.Happy Halloween! Christine Dracut Ma

  42. The detail on old headstones is so intricate compared to those of today. Growing up, We lived next to the church cemetery, often taking newcomers for a moonlight trek. I was always amazed how many were scared during the night but not in the daylight. We also noticed how body parts received headstones, like a leg that had been amputated. Interesting.

  43. I love your "Living in New England" posts. And this was the perfect Halloween treat. I live in the city and often pass cemeteries that have been engulfed by the metropolis. Sometimes at traffic lights, I glance over and think, what a sad way to spend eternity, interred next to a busy eight lane expressway. I'd never get a moments peace! But your New England cemeteries, those are optimum conditions for eternal rest. And you won't believe this - but my son and I were stopped at a traffic light today, and glanced over at the cemetery where we had passed at least a thousand times before and noticed a pumpkin setting on one of the graves. It caught our eye and made us happy to see the falling leaves, the pumpkin, and the old tombstones right in the middle of the city. Until we read the name Thrasher on the tombstone. And the names on the next two graves ... Cutter and Moon. We love autumn and Halloween. So this made our day. Thanks for such a great post!

  44. We have done the same too, one inscription on a very old grave in Wales uk
    Let the sun shine bright on you
    Warm may the south wind blow
    Sweet sod (earth) above lie light, lie light
    Goodnight sweetheart goodnight
    Though this was really lovely and I remember it years after reading it, a nice touch Joan - Avril

  45. Genealogy is my hobby! I often stroll in cemeteries. Some are lovely like yours.

    When I saw the name Fiske I knew it was in my family line. A quick search got a listing for Able but not much about him. His wife was Anna Spaulding. I could not find any direct link but as Able had relatives living in Middlesex Massachusetts around the same time as my relatives maybe...............

  46. Hi!
    I am a new reader and just read your whole blog from the beginning! It was so wonderful. When I hit 2013 I started feeling sad, the way you feel when you are approaching the end of a favorite book.

    I found your blog when looking for blogs on renovation, since my husband and I are considering buying and restoring an old home. But this was so much more. I was touched when you posted about Ella (I am a dog rescuer and lover as well) and moved by the pictures of New England. I laughed when I recognized my own behavior in your stories about antique hunting and felt so involved int he whole process of your renovation. Oh, and I was rather inspired by your beautiful home as well. Thank you so much for sharing! I can not wait to read more posts.

    And since this post is about cemetaries, I suppose I will mention that I smiled a bit whiel reading, since this took me back to my childhood. During my entire childhood, my parents never once took a road trip without stopping and having us all walk an old cemetary. When I share this with most people, there response is "that's creepy." :) Until I was an adult, I assumed everyone did this.

  47. Loved reading your post and seeing the funerary art carved in the headstones. I had petersburg va cemetery posted on mine on halloween , I like visiting the very old cemeteries.

  48. I do genealogy and have found the gravesites of many of my ancestors on the website: It depends a lot on people like you that take pictures and record who is buried there. If you have an interest in this, I hope you'll help out and check the website and think about contributing to it!

  49. I am firmly in the final camp of those you mention....lived in New England for the first 45 years of my life. I do miss ot heart is there in so many ways. Thank you for these wonderful posts.

  50. I love cemeteries, too, especially old ones with a long history. What really intrigues me are the "secret" ones. Every now and then, driving down a country road in Maine, we'd catch a glimpse of a headstone or two. Stopping to investigate reveals a tiny, untended graveyard of half a dozen or so headstones - sometimes only two or three. We read the names and speculate as to why they might have been buried there. Our guess is that these are probably old family graveyards that most likely existed before the roads went through.

    A wonderful post (as always) and perfect for Halloween!

  51. When my grandmother came to visit our home in Vermont for the first time what she wanted to see most in the surrounding area was the village cemetery. I had accompanied her on many cemetery visits as a child and teen so was not surprised. She spent a long time reading the headstones and, as odd as it sounds, she was not disappointed with Woodstock.
    All best,

  52. This cemeteries post was most intriguing, unique and informative with fabulous pictures!


  53. Such an unusual and touching post! I love the old cemeteries, too; lovely post. Thanks, Beth

  54. Love this post--as a Boston girl living in the south, there are so many things about New England I miss! The town cemetery where I grew up has stones dating from the 1640s. Such amazing history.

  55. In our little on both sides of the road cemetery up the road in Washington, NH we actually have a headstone for a leg! Captain Samuel Jones. as teenagers we used to sit in the crypts and tell ghost stories...and then try to walk back to the camp without getting hysterical!

    1. Anon- we love Washington, NH!! We like to go up and visit the stand/store at Eccardt Farm for great meats! It's a gorgeous part of the state- lucky you to have grown up there!

  56. Cemeteries are very interesting and unique places to visit and are often overlooked by most folks when traveling. Reading the very old headstones is also something we do on our travels. The most unique cemetery we ever visited is Hope Cemetery in VT and I would recommend you find that one. Living in the south as we currently are, cemeteries are very often found in the middle of fields or in someone's back yard. It was common to have family members buried close to where they lived; these are cemeteries we do not visit on private lands.

  57. Hi Joan,
    I think this was such an interesting post. I have told you this before I simply adore your home. It is stunning and I love you style and this blog.

  58. I grew up in a Revolutionary War town in Massachusetts with an old burying ground near the common. We used to picnic there as children and I had many of the headstones memorized.

    My parents are buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a gorgeous one designed by Olmsted. A must-visit when you are in the area. So peaceful and beautiful.


  59. love to have a wafer thin tombstone.

  60. I love the beauty and history of old cemeteries. My sister is in Georgetown, MA, and the cemetery there dates back to the 1700s. Apparently, there was a throat distemper epidemic in 1736 that killed 48 children in the small town. So sad :(

  61. Joan, I read with great interest of your affection for old cemeteries. Years ago, when my children would have soccer tournaments that were in far distance counties and beyond, we used to leave plenty early so we could take the state and county roads. Whenever we'd begin to go road weary, I would pull into an old cemetery and we'd spend half an hour or so just walking through and reading gravesite markers. To this day my children do not remember anything about their ball tournaments, but they will recall some of the catchy inscriptions they had read as we shared those precious times of family ties... in our own way, giving honor and respect to those that have gone on before.

  62. What beautiful gravestones - what beautiful photographs! Thank you so much for sharing with us!


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive and read it. joan