History of the Cemetery at the Old Center of Palmer

As soon as the matter of locating the meeting house had been decided,, steps were taken by the town to locate a burying ground nearby, although the earliest settlers had already set apart a lot for burial purposes in the south part of the district near King's Row. We find on the town records that at a town meeting held March 17, 1734-35, it was voted "That Steward Southgate, Barnard McNitt and Isaac Magoon, Jr., be a committee to pitch upon and lay out a piece of land for a Burying place." Then the records go on to say, "The Burying place layed out May the 12th, 1735, began at an oak bush with a great stone rolled against it, standing about ten rods east of the meeting house, being the norwest corner of the Burying place; thence S. 36 deg., E. 12 rods, to stones on the side hill; thence E. 36 deg., N. 13 rods to a stone against the little Pond in the southeast corner; thence N. 36 deg., W. 12 rods to a stone against a little Hollow in the noreast corner, thence to where we began 13 rods." In 1788 the town added 62 1-2 rods of land to the above lot by exchange with Landlord John Thompson. Soon after the land thus set apart was enclosed by a fence and contains about ten acres. In 1800 Solomon Shaw made a contract to open graves as required for twenty-five cents each. Nothing has ever been done to beautify these grounds or make them attractive; the very most that has been attempted has been an occasional removal of the brush which persists in putting in an annual appearance.

There are a large number of unnamed graves of the early settlers which cannot now be identified, but doubtless the first burial in the new cemetery was that of Lieut. Samuel Doolittle, although the place of his sepulchre is not known, as no headstone marks his grave. The account of his funeral is thus given in the early records: "Lieut. Samuel Doolittle Departed this Life on Saturday, ye 17th day of July, 1763, After a Short Illness of two or three Days, and was Decently Interr'd on the day following after ye afternoon service, it being the Sacrement Day. A Multitude of people Respectfully attending ye funeral." The first named grave is that of Martha, daughter of Benjamin Parsons, who died Mar. 30, 1737. The earliest headstones were formed from field stones but slightly dressed. These and the red sandstones were used till about 1800, when for a few years a soft flaky gray stone was used which soon proved unfitted for cemetery purposes, as many of them have crumbled into fragments. About 1810 slate was used and has proved a good substitute for sandstone, as it has resisted the elements remarkably well. Then came marble, which still obtains. All the monuments are of the simplest style, fully in keeping with their environments. In May, 1895, the writer spent two days in copying the inscriptions, and the following list is the result, which embraces every epitaph in the yard to that date, save the poetry, which has been left out as non-essential. Burials since that date have been added.

1. "History of the Cemetery at the Old Center of Palmer", Inscriptions From the Two Ancient Cemeteries of Palmer, Mass., 1902, pages 41-42.
See Also
Palmer Cemetery Inscriptions 1729-1901

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