Jennings Hill Cemetery (Japan Cemetery), East Bridgewater, MA

The sun had almost set as we reached Jennings Hill Cemetery, also known as Japan Cemetery, which boasts a cannon which is placed by the cemetery sign. This cemetery is bordered by High St and Plain St. Surrounded by a stone wall, the cemetery itself is elevated above the road, the land here once owned by the Jenning family, after which the hill (and subsequently the cemetery) and a small stream nearby was named. I have been unable to locate the significance behind the other name – “Japan” cemetery. While Bridgewater does have neighborhoods such as Scotland named for the immigrant populations that eventually settled the area, there certainly is nothing to indicate a Japanese association here.

I’ll mention an epitaph I have spotted upon several stones across the Bridgewater cemeteries:
In memory of Edward Mitchell,
who died Nov. 26, 1828, æt. 89.
His mind was tranquil and serene,
No terrors in his looks were seen;
His Saviour’s smiles dispelled the gloom,
And smoothed his passage to the tomb.

There is a good description of the history of the Jenning family and some transcriptions of the stones in the cemetery. The oldest burial is from 1766. There are distinctive sections of old stones and new, as well as a great deal of open space without stones. According to William Latham’s Epitaphs in Old Bridgewater, this cemetery was also used as a pauper cemetery.

Vernon St. Cemetery (Alden Cemetery), Bridgewater, MA

The Alden Cemetery on Vernon Street is Bridgewater’s second oldest cemetery, although the majority of stones from the 1700s are unmarked. Most of the gravestones, therefore, are from the 19th century. Latham’s book provides an incredible view into what the land must have been like at the time. Located in Titicut, a former Native American settlement, Bethia Fobes was the first white child born in this area. With just a few houses far and few between, the land where the cemetery is must have filled very slowly at first, for it was not physically close to many settlers in the Bridgewater area – because at this time, there were not many to begin with.

But here is one of the few stones from the 1700’s, which says:
1754, probably Zebedee Leach, died aged 5.

The yard is surrounded by a short stone wall, and some of the stones along Vernon Street are very close to the road and wall.

There are many interesting stones, some of which have not stood up well to the tests of time. On the other hand, some of them have decided to stand up on their own… (these footstones have been pushed up from the ground, probably from years of New England winters with the ground beneath the stone freezing then thawing.)

There are some sad epitaphs on a series of siblings stones, who died within a few years of each other:
Helen M. dau, of Job H. and Betsey Johnson, died Sept. 27. 1849, aged 1 year, 4 mo., 23 days.
It is hard to give thee up, sweet one,
‘Tis hard to give thee up;
But nature’s saddest work is done,
‘Tis the last bitter cup.

Mary E., daughter of Job H. and Betsey Johnson, died Aug. 11, 1846, æ 1 year and 11 mo.
This lovely bud so young and fair,
Called hence by early doom;
Just come to show how sweet a flower,
In paradise could bloom.

Freddie Morton, son of Job H. and Betsey Johnson, died Aug. 18, 1856, æ 2 years, 10 days.
O, it is hard to part with one
We loved so much on earth;
But we will put our trust in him
Who gave his spirit birth.

There is a gravestone with a favorite symbol of mine, the finger pointing towards heaven. The stone itself may just be a cenotaph, as it reads:
Edwin Hayward, member of Co. I, 38 Regt., M. V.,
born Jan. 17, 1844,
died at Baton Rouge, La., Aug. 21, 1863.
Asleep in Jesus, ay, though he sleep with strangers,
In the redeemer’s eyes his dust is just as sacred,
And He will bid it rise

Keith Cemetery (South St. Cemetery), Bridgewater, MA

First stop along the way was the South Street Cemetery, also known as the Keith Cemetery, is a fine example of older New England cemeteries. A round driveway cuts through it. The oldest burial seems to be from 1756, as Joseph Harvey’s epitaph states he was the first to be buried in the cemetery.

In memory of Mr. Joseph Harvey, 2d,
who died Feb. 21, 1756,
in ye 36th year of his age;
being ye first person buried here.
And also in memory of Mr. Seth Harvey, his son,
who died at New York, July 25, in ye 24th year of his age, 1776,
in the glorious cause of liberty.

Yet the land itself was not officially deeded to be a cemetery until 1772, according to Latham. It seems to be common in these older grounds that cemeteries would spring up as they were convenient, allowing the legalities of the property ownership to fall later into place.

The cemetery has a number of interesting epitaphs, spanning from the 18th century

Note an interesting comparison at the outlook of death:
From 1794, a focus still on the mortality of the body, and the ultimate will of God:
Here lies Lucy, wife of Mr. Eleazer Cary,
who died Apr. 29, 1795, in the 30th year of her age.
How loved, how well done avails thee not;
To whom related, or by whom begot;
A heap of dust alone remains of thee;
‘Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be.

Here in 1851, however, grief of a young husband is permanently etched,:
Charlotte L., wife of George H. Gurney,
daughter of Isaac and Betsey W. Packard,
died June 5, 1851, in her 21st year.
Could I but see that dear departed,
My soul would gain relief,
I should not then be broked hearted,
Bourne down with tears and grief.
O cruel death! why did you sever
The tie that made us one?
And hide her from my eyes forever,
Tell me, why was it done?

And I shall end with an alternative version to that preferred epitaph:
In memory of Mrs. Susan H., wife of Zephaniah Keith, died Apr. 6, 1824, æt. 41.
Come, living friends, see where I lie,
Remember you are born to die;
But be prepared for death and heaven
Is all for which the longest life is given.

Bridgewater Cemeteries

Decided to spend a day out of my Thanksgiving weekend taking a tour of some of the Bridgewater cemeteries. The great folks who submit to the USGenWeb Bridgewater site such as Dale Cook and Arthur Richardson have a superb cemetery section, and they were in need of a few photographs for some of the graveyards, so I brought along my camera and drove about the town.

Here’s a summary of the cemeteries visited along the way.

Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI

Providence’s beautiful garden cemetery, Swan Point still inspires and is accessible to “leisure uses” that it was designed for – although not so many as there once were! Security guards constantly buzz about to make certain you don’t get TOO leisurely! No blading, biking, animals, no faster pace than a “brisk walk”, beverages and food items are frowned upon. It’s no longer the place to bring the family and dog to have a picnic or a jog through – but still magnificent nevertheless.

Swan Point was founded by Thomas Hartshorn in 1846, arising from the “vivid intellectual community composed predominately of Providence’s emerging middle class in the mid-nineteenth century”, according to Swan Point’s “A Historical Walking Tour”.

On my visit today the clouds dimmed the beautiful foliage that exists throughout the entire cemetery, but luckily the rain held off for the journey. To get to Swan Point, you venture down Blackstone Boulevard, it’s trolley tracks still running down the center, though no longer in use.

Once within the cemetery, it’s best to grab a map from the office, because it’s easy to get lost down the long winding paths. Of of Providence’s best and brightest lie buried here, and a look in every direction grants view of huge monuments with elegant and finely crafted sculptures. Since most American museums were not invented until the late 1800s, places like Swan Point are an excellent means by which you can view American art and sculpture.

There’s the original receiving tomb for the cemetery which was designed by Brown University grad Thomas Tefft.

There’s the John Rogers Vinton sarcophagus which was designed as a publicity push for the cemetery. Swan Point was looking for a way to bring in potential customers, so they offered a free burial to a war victim – and John Vinton fit the bill, having just recently passed away in the Mexican American War at the Battle of Vera Cruz. Note the cannonball which killed him sitting atop the monument.

There’s the Colonel John Stanton Slocum Stone, a soldier who died in the Civil War at Bull Run. His granite monument is carved with his uniform and military accoutrements draped in mourning over the stone.

Victorian art at its finest when it comes to the representations of the innocence of youth:

As Swan Point was expanding, they literally bought the road which used to pass through Providence to Pawtucket and up to Boston, and had it moved to where Blackstone Boulevard currently is today. “Old Road” now runs through the middle of the cemetery, one of the very few straight paths.

“Its secret lies in understanding and continually reinventing the delicate relationship between the natural and the created. Perhaps more than any other garden cemetery, Swan Point presents a comfortable amplitude for any visitor’s experience. The land undulates easily, seemingly spontaneously, and delightfully. The variety of specimen trees and shrubbery, both planted and native to the landscape makes this a tree lover’s dream.”

The Seekonk River was once a magnificent view from the cemetery, but now modern environmental regulations issue that any vegetation growth along watersides must remain there, in order to help prevent erosion, so the river is no longer as viewable. Still a pretty sight, however.

Overall, a pretty place to wander. The cemetery is still in use, a funeral procession was coming in as I was leaving the gates. “From its inception, Swan Point Cemetery has been a place for both the living and the dead. It is one of those rare places where both have always comfortably inhabited the same space.”