Cape Ann Burying Grounds From Bill Langer

Bill writes-

Hey Joey,

I love to see people paying attention to Cape Ann’s beautiful cemeteries. When I was younger and living in the neighborhood, I did a lot of photography and general wandering around the old burying grounds, so I was happy to see a reference to them in today’s GMG. I perked up when I saw that a writer had mentioned Bayview Cemetery, a place I have always loved (being an old Annisquamian), as the third oldest. This, I thought, was maybe in error, so I looked up the Gloucester Essex website for the hard facts.

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Centennial Avenue cemetery

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When I was in my twenties, I did a beautiful rubbing of Philemon Warner’s headstone, and framed it for my parents. In the years since, some pinhead has broken it, a fate all too common for Cape Ann’s grave markers.

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Over across the bridge, off in the woods –

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The old Second Parish ground from now-deserted Thompson Street –

2nd Parish headstone

There are only a few stones in Second Parish, but some beauties remain among them –

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According to the Gloucester-Essex website, the old Lanesville cemetery, tucked away in the woods, was founded in 1720, the same year as Second Parish –

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– whereas nearby Bayview was founded in 1728, making it the fourth oldest –

But it’s not a big deal. They are all lovely and precious to our history, and I want to take the opportunity to say THANK YOU to the folks who take care of them. I wish I lived closer, because I’d be out there with the weed-whacker and lawn mower too.

Best regards, Bill Langer, far away in Seattle

13 comments

  • Thank you so much for the wonderful pictures and information. I agree that there is much fascinating history to be found in those cemeteries, not to mention that they are such magical places to explore!

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  • Thank you for such an interesting post. You and E.J. (the writer of the Bay View Cemetery post) have really peaked my curiosity now. I’m going on a quest to look for these places to see what I can see, camera in hand.

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    • Hi Deb, if you really get into it, the absolute textbook on the subject, with many photos as well as tons of information, is:
      Graven Images: New England Stonecarving and Its Symbols, 1650-1815
      by Allan I. Ludwig
      It’s out of print but can be found on the Net at Alibris.com for about $25.
      Also, take a drive up to Ipswich and walk through the old cemetery; there are some really fine, very early stones over on the right.

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  • These were great and brought back memories of childhood explorations. Particularly the one on Centennial Ave. which was also our shortcut to Don Fudgin. Have you also explored the lovely cemetery in Annisquam?

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    • Yes — both of my parents are in Mt. Adnah. If I were not so firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest, where I expect my ashes to be poured into a river, I’d end up there as well.

      Centennial Avenue cemetery has really suffered from its being a shortcut. I can’t think of another burying ground that has been hurt so badly. Fortunately there are Gloucesterites who are taking care of it. Thanks for writing -

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  • We very much enjoy your contributions Bill. Keep them coming.
    Love to you, Roz and the girls!

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    • Hi Kelly! I’m so glad to see a note from you! We all hope that you and Bill and your beautiful boy are well and happy. We’re looking forward to seeing you next time we’re back east. Love from us all -

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  • I have seen the burial ground on Centennial Ave referred to as “Old Bridge Street Burial Ground.” I wonder what the proper title is for that cemetary?

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    • Tim, I have always called it either Centennial Ave., or First Parish, which is I believe the correct title. As to the “Old Bridge Street Burial Ground,” I can’t find a Bridge Street in Gloucester — the nearest one is part of Rt.127, in Manchester.

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  • I love all the beautiful photo contributions on GMA. One comment on the broken headstone, I read once that the old slate stones were adversely affected by acid rain. It could be a different set of pinheads who cause the damage, or not.

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    • Hi Dot, I believe it is true that acid rain damages old headstones, just as it does old buildings and monuments. In New England, though, freezing and thawing cycles, which cause sedimentary rock like slate and sandstone to spall, is more harmful. However, the worst thing for the old stones is to be in a location where no one pays attention to them except vandals — most of the damage in the Centennial Avenue graveyard is that caused by rocks, bottles and baseball bats.

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  • If you get a chance check out Magnolia cemetery sometime. The Magnolia Historical Society maintains it.

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  • Thanks for writing, Lisa — I think I have been to the Magnolia cemetery. As I recall, it is a big nineteenth century graveyard, with stones and markers of a very different style than the earlier colonial cemeteries.

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