History of the Palmer Cemetery (1729-1901)

One of the sad necessities connected with the settling of every town is the early setting apart of the sacred acre, where, sooner or later, the great majority must find rest after the work of life is done. And so it happened here, for on the 26th of April, 1729, death claimed Moses, the son of the pioneer John King, who first consecrated the ground set apart by the free consent of those who settled early in the precincts of our village, as we find no account of any action on the part of the town connected with it. No stone marks the place of the first burial, nor of many others who soon followed. The oldest headstone in the ccmetery bears this inscription: "Here lies the body of Jerusha, daughter of Capt. Nathaniel Vose of Milton, and wife of Andrew Mackee, who died May 22, 1732, 30 years of age."

The first mention in our town records regarding the "South Burying Yard" was on Oct. 8, 1788, when it was voted "That Timothy Brainerd make a "spaid" for the Burying Yard at the row and that he shall have his Pay out of the first town Rate that is assessed." At the same meeting it was voted that "Aaron Merrick, Lt. John King and Dr. Calvin Scott be a committee to fence the South Burying Yard." The committee reported May 8, 1789, that the people of that neighborhood had agreed to erect a fence by subscription, which report was accepted. In 1800 Capt. John King contracted to dig graves at the rate of 25 cents each in the South Yard. The Palmer cemetery was enlarged in 1865 by the addition of three acres of land purchased of Elisha Converse for about $900, and another addition of about one and one-half acres was made on the east side. After fencing the yard in 1788 the people seemed to have thought their duty had been performed and left it in Nature's care, for when I first saw the grounds a more sadly neglected spot could scarcely be conceived.

Recognizing the need of improvement, a meeting of citizens was called in 1866 to see if something could be done to redeem the cemetery from the forest aspect which it had assumed. In response to this call the Palmer Cemetery Association was formed, a code of by-laws adopted, and these officers elected June 25 of that year: John Ward, president; A. V. Blanchard, vice-president; P. P. Kellogg, secretary and treasurer; and an executive committee consisting of S. R. Lawrence, William Merriam, E. B. Lyon, C. C. Shaw and David Knox. There were seventy-seven members enrolled who paid one dollar each as annual dues, besides eight honorary members who paid five dollars-each. The sum of $100 was raised the first year and $128 the second. This society existed till 1869, when it was discontinued, but during those four years it wrought a wonderful change. From the record before me I find that 18 cords of wood were cut and sold off the grounds, so it can well be imagined how densely the trees occupied the enclosure. The wood was sold for about $68.

After this uprising the cemetery was again allowed to take care of itself till June 18, 1888, when the second cemetery association was organized and has been efficiently maintained till the present. It is supported by annual dues from members and by donations. This association deserves well of our people, for it has brought order out of chaos and made attractive and beautiful the grounds which were once an unsightly feature in our village. In 1897 the town voted to purchase about six and one-half acres of land of John M. Converse adjoining the old cemetery on the north at a cost of $3,000. In the following year the town elected these cemetery commissioners: H. E. W. Clark, for three years; H. C. Strong, for two years; H. G. Loomis, for one year. In 1899 the commissioners procured plans for the laying out of the added grounds and commenced work thereon, which promises in time to make a very attractive extension to our cemetery.

References
1. "History of the Palmer Cemetery. 1729-1901", Inscriptions From the Two Ancient Cemeteries of Palmer, Mass., 1902, pages 4-6.
See Also
Palmer Cemetery Inscriptions 1729-1901

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