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Momento Mori

Rev. Jones gravestone Burlington MA

Second Parish Burial Ground Burlington MA


The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, August 26, 1980

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 062)

Momento Mori

The oldest stone is that of Mrs. Kezia Reed, who died January 14, 1736 at 23. She was followed in March by Ebenezer Johnson, age 76, and in October by Obadiah Johnson, possibly a grandson, only a year and seven months old. Another early gravestone belongs to Rev. Samuel Walker, who transferred from Woburn to the then-new church in Burlington near the graveyard. He died in September of 1744 at age 77.

The interesting sculptured gravestone of Reverend Thomas Jones, the second minister of the Burlington church, is thought to be the work of a William Park, another good stone cutter of the time. It is the graveyard’s only effort at portraiture. The weatherbeaten relief bust of the Reverend has been facing the rising sun for over 200 years. The long and involved inscription is framed on either side by a narrow border finely cut with delicate ferns, an hourglass, and a pot holding a plant culminating in a rosette at the top. Jones died in 1774.

A number of stones tell tragic stories. On the gravestone of Luther Simonds, who died in 1792:”Fate rolled a massy log & stop’d his breath, spite of his virtues, fell a prey to death. Reader remember there’s under this clod, an honest man, the noblest work of God.” Luther was working his sawmill on upper Mill Street here when that accident occurred. And that of another Simonds which reads, “A youth scarce nineteen lies beneath this stone, Not sisters, sorrows, nor a Fathers moan, Could save him from ye waves; they stop’d his breath! In his full bloom, he fell a prey to death.” Young Nathan Simonds drowned in Cambridge in June of 1791.

Some inscriptions are amusing. Here’s one probably written by Mrs. Beard for her husband who died in 1800 at age 35: “Here lies a kind and tender husband dear, Who I did not live with quite three year…” On the stone to Mrs. Sarah Blanchard who died in 1783, age 30: “Death is a debt to nature due which I have paid and so must you.” But here is one that is NOT in Burlington’s Old Burying Ground although attributed to this town in several publications. “Here lies the body of Susan Lowder, Who burst while drinking a Sedlitz Powder, Called from this world to her heavenly rest, She should have waited till it effervesced. 1798.” Not only is there no such stone here but there never was an early family by the name of Lowder living in town.

One of the loveliest inscriptions is on the memorial erected in memory  Captain Joshua Walker’s widow. He died in 1798. She followed him until 1819: “As a shock of corn fully ripe for the harvest and full of faith and hope of a glorious immortality she fell asleep & is gathered to her fathers. She rests from her labors & her works Do follow her.” She was 90.

Another interesting stone is that of Cuff, “a faithful black domestic of Madam Abigail Jones.” He died in 1813, “Aged about 67 years.” She was the wife of the minister mentioned above. There was another slave named Venus living in Burlington at the time and presumably is buried beside Cuff but there is no stone marking her grave. She worked for the Captain James Reed family who ran the mills on Vine Brook.

Close to the road and easily read by youngsters going back and forth to the Center School close by is the stone erected to the memory of Mrs. Polly Dean, who died in 1817. It reads, “Behold and read 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.” To which irreverent youngsters added the following couplet: “To follow you we’re not content, For we know not which way you went.”

James Ashworth recently has made a complete survey of the Old Burying Ground and has drawn a plot plan which identifies every stone and footstone still there. But how many burials were made which were never marked or whose markers have disappeared is unknown. Where those are located and which Burlington residents finally found peace there is a matter for further study.