For those who were unable to attend the recent tour of the Old English Cemetery down on Gorham Street, tour guide and Lowell Historical Society board member Kim Zunino has kindly provided her notes. Thanks to all those who did attend, the turnout was fantastic!
Notes are after the jump
OLD ENGLISH CEMETERY TOUR
When Lowell was incorporated as a town in 1826, it took almost all of the town of East Chelmsford. The School Street Cemetery (c.1810) was one of several old burial grounds Lowell annexed, and it was declared City Cemetery #1 in 1826. However, the need for more public burial space grew as people flooded the city looking for work in the mills.
The Old English Cemetery (City Cemetery #2) had its official beginnings in 1832 when Simon Parker and Simon Parker, Jr. sold approximately 4.5 acres of land to the Inhabitants of the Town of Lowell for use as a Protestant burial ground. The Parkers also sold 1.5 acres of adjoining land to the Bishop of Boston for use as a Catholic burial ground. The New Catholic Cemetery (now known as St. Patrick’s) was consecrated ground strictly for the Irish Catholic immigrants.
The Old English Cemetery got its name from those buried there; the graveyard inscriptions show that many early burials in the Cemetery were of English and Scottish decent, and many were skilled English calico printers from Lancashire who came to work in the wool mills. They were recruited by Kirk Boott himself, and he put the dyers and printers in boarding houses behind the mills, which he dubbed “English Row.”
Lowell legend states that Kirk Boott went to John Prince, a highly skilled Calico printer in Lancashire, with the intent to get him and other skilled Englishmen to come to Lowell. Prince demanded a salary of $5000 a year. Kirk Boott first refused, stating that the governor of Massachusetts didn’t make that much, Prince replied, “Well, can the governor print?” Boott agreed and the printers came to work in the mills.
INDIVIDUAL STONES & GENERAL NOTES:
IN MEMORY OF
OBT. NOV. 11, 1835
To death my withered limbs I now resign
Transactions of another world are mine
But still I speak to you above the sod
Now is the time to meet your God.
The 1832 Lowell Directory showed Cash worked at the Printworks on Merrimack Street and lived in the Brick Block. He was one of the English Calico printers that Kirk Boott recruited to work in the Lowell mills. The epitaph speaks to how they were used to warn the living of their ultimate end and suggest living a better life. (obt =obit or “notice of death”) Slate stone, larger and slimmer than those found in Old Burial grounds, and it has classical “memorial” symbolism (urn & willows) rather than mortality symbolism (skulls & crossbones).
CARVER NOTES: Many of the stones have a distinctive design that can be attributed to Benjamin Day, a prolific stone carver who was active in Middlesex County from 1807-1855. Day had a workshop located on what is now Market Street in Lowell from 1835 until 1855, when he died of pneumonia at age 81. His work can be found in cemeteries all over Middlesex County. His distinctive design consisted of an oval cartouche surrounded by small triangles set in front of vertical architectural columns with a cross-hatched background.
TO THE MEMORY OF
MR. GEORGE P. BARKER
LATE OF THE THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTION
AT NEW HAMPTON, NH & FORMERLY
OF ST. JOHNSBURY VT. WHO DIED
MARCH 5, 1837
His parents and friends with the church of
Christ were expecting much from the fair
promise he gave of future usefulness in
the Vineyard of the Lord.
Notes: This is a very large slate carved in the style of Benjamin Day with urn and willow design.
VETERAN MARKER NOTES:
The Civil War and the massive loss of life prompted the War Department to issue general Order #75 which the leaders of National Forces responsible for tracking and marking the burial places of fallen soldiers. The first government veteran markers were wooden with round tops, but it soon became apparent that these wooden markers were going to be an issue, as they only had a five year life span and there were an estimated 300,000 burials.
By 1873 the Civil War type marker was designed and issued. It had a sunken shield, and had the name and rank inscribed. It was 12” high, 10”wide, and 4” thick. It was approved for Union soldier graves, and then also approved for unmarked graves of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Mexican and Indian Campaigns. After the end of the Spanish-American War it was supplied for those veterans as well. In 1903 the size was increased to 39” high, 12” wide, and 4” thick. These are still supplied for any veteran of the listed wars who needs a marker. It wasn’t until 1906 that government markers were issued to Confederate soldiers in national Cemeteries, and 1929 allowed in private cemeteries. This marker had a pointed top without a sunken shield, but later a confederate cross was added (1930).
After WWI, the General-type marker was designed, which was taller (42” high, 13” wide, and 4” thick) with a rounded top. Flat markers for garden-style cemeteries were approved in 1936 (marble & granite) and then bronze was introduced in 1940, with changes in 1970.
47TH MASS. INF.
BORN AT NELSON N.H.
—————————– (STONE UNDERGROUND) ——————————
JAN. 10, 1831
DIED AT LOWELL MASS.
DEC. 26, 1900.
This is a Civil-War type veteran marker.
Notes: This stone is a rough stone carved for a veteran of the War of 1812. It was erected for C. Cathcart by the Vets of 1812. It simply has the name and date of death. Often veterans’ groups were formed to support those who fought and to honor the fallen soldiers. Another group was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) whose emblems can be seen on metal grave holders.
DIED AUGUST 11, 1875
AGED 3? YEARS
AUG 15, 1831
FEB. 6, 1873
BORN MARCH 17, 1829
KILLED IN THE BATTLE OF
BLACK RIVER N. CAROLINA
MARCH 16, 1865
DIED JULY 7, 1844
AGEDS 43 YRS 11 MOS. 27 DAYS
CHILDREN OF WILLIAM AND SARAH DEERING
Notes: This is the Deering Family plot. It is set apart from the rest of the cemetery by granite curbing. The family emigrated from Northern Ireland, which was Protestant. These are marble stones, some with multiple names. William Deering was killed during the Civil War at the Battle of Black River in North Carolina.
IN MEMORY OF
AARON B. FROST
A MEMBER OF CO.
F 12TH REGT. MASS VOL.
KILLED IN THE BATTLE AT
BULL RUN VA.
AUG. 2, 1862
AGED 20 YRS, 3 MOS.
HE SLEEPS IN AN UNKNOWN GRAVE
Notes: This was at the Second Battle at Bull Run, Aug. 28-30, 1862, the first being The First Battle of Bull Run/ First Manassas fought in 1861. The 12th Regiment was heavily engaged near Bald Hill on the Chinn farm, and 25 officers and men were killed or mortally wounded during that battle, including Col. Fletcher Webster, son of Daniel Webster. This is a cenotaph, as the body is not here, just a memorial. After the Civil War, the federal government tried to locate the bodies of the fallen Union soldiers to inter them in a National Cemetery or ship them home to the families. Official dog tags were not issued, although they were around commercially. Some soldiers tried to identify themselves in case that happened (engraves belts, messages in bottles, etc.) but most bodies were never recovered.
JOHN F. HUNTINGTON
DIED FEB. 4, 1863
FROM WOUNDS RECEIVED IN THE BATTLE OF BLACK WATER, VA
AET 23 YRS
KILLED IN THE BATTLE
AT WINCHESTER WEST VA
SEPT. 19, 1861
AET 22 YRS
CHILDREN OF HEMAN & SYBIL HUNTINGTON
Notes: These brothers died a few years apart during the war.
Many epitaphs were chosen by the family members, either from other verses seen or verse books published in the 1830s, such as the Churchyard Lyrist by G. Mogridge in London, 1832. It had a collection of over 500 verses and epitaphs taken from various sources, including old churchyards in England.
GIBSON D. LAWRENCE
DIED FEB.8, 1845
Passing stranger call this not
a place of fear and gloom,
I love to wander near this spot
It is my husband’s tomb.
Note: this epitaph is from a verse found in the Churchyard Lyrist. The original verse was about a child’s tomb.
IN MEMORY OF SAPPHIRA DAUGHTER OF JOHN &
MARY CARR OBT
APRIL 5, 1836
The months of afflictions are o’er
The days and nights of distress
We see her in aguish no more
(rest not recorded?)
Sapphira might have had consumption, or TB. A lot of young women (and men) suffered from this contagious disease in the 1800s. Living in the city in unhealthy living and working conditions contributed to the spread of TB.
MILL ACCIDENTS/INTERESTING STONES:
ERECTED BY THE MEMBERS OF
THE LOWELL MECHANICS PHALANX
AS A TRIBUTE OF RESPECT
TO THE MEMORY OF
SON OF JOHN & MARY WILSON
WHO DIED NOV 24, 1846
AET 23 YRS, 3 MOS. 20 DAYS
Notes: The Lowell Mechanics Phalanx was Lowell’s first military company, forming July 5, 1825. John Wilson was listed as working as a weaver in one of the mills.
JESSE L. GOWDY
KILLED BY THE EXPLOSION
OF WHIPPLES’ POWDER MILLS
MARCH 29, 1837
KILLED BY THE EXPLOSION
OF WHIPPLES’ POWDER MILLS
MARCH 29, 1837
Notes: Industrial accidents were common, especially at powder mills. Oliver Whipple owned Powder Mills located in Lowell on the Concord River, and several explosions rocked Lowell between 1820 and 1855. In the Old English Cemetery are stones erected to two workers who were killed in the Whipple’ Powder Mill Explosion on March 29, 1837. Jesse Gowdy, age 34, and David Morrison, age 23 were instantly killed. Another explosion victim, James Philbrick, was buried here after an explosion on December 17, 1835.
Jesse Gowdy was married to Sarah Hale in 1833 and the grave of their young daughter, Abigail S. Gowdy, is nearby. Abigail died on March 17, 1836 at the age of 9 months, nearly a year before Jesse was killed. Sarah’s sister Abigail S. Hale is also buried nearby. Joshua Hale,(1777-1817) father of Sarah & Abigail, was the first New England man who built a wool-carding machine in 1803.
MARTHA A., DAU. OF
ISAAC & JERUSHA A.
NOV. 19, 1845
AET 18 YRS. & 6 MOS.
(EPITAPH NOT RECORDED)
ERECTED BY HER AFFECTIONATE G.B.
Notes: Who was G.B.? Several records might help uncover who this was, such as census records, marriage intentions (a finace?), etc.
BOOKS/BIBLES: Religious folks, clergymen, etc. or the very devout. Also seen as a symbol of a person’s good deeds/accomplishments being recorded in “book of life.”
BIRDS: Peace or messenger of God; Doves are most common
BROKEN BUD/ BROKEN BRANCH: untimely or early death; usually young person
CROWNS W/CROSS: victory & christianity
LONG CHAIN WITH BROKEN LINKS: Break in the family
TRIPLE LINKS: (Often with initials FLT) Independent Order of Oddfellows, a fraternal organization. (Friendship, Love, & Truth)
GAR: Grand Army of the Republic. Fraternal Organization for men who fought and were honorably discharged from the Union Army during the Civil War.
WREATHS/GARLAND: Victory in death
LAMB: Seen on child stones, represents innocence (And a little lamb shall lead them…)
LAUREL: “evergreen” memory of the deceased
CLAPSED HANDS: Goodbye to earth life; unity
HAND POINTING UP: Pointing to heaven
HAND POINING DOWN: Hand of God descending from heaven
WILLOW: The first half of the 19th century was very interested in the Greeks and Romans because they were republics and we were a new democracy. There was a great interest in Greek architecture during that time as well, up till around middle of that century. It was a symbol of the Underworld goddesses, mostly notably Persephone.
OAK LEAVES: Longevity; long life (sometimes seen carved with willows on B. Day stones)
SQUARE & COMPASS: “G” in middle: Masonic Symbol
URN: the Soul
WHEAT: Represents a full harvest…long life