Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions, 1711-2003

Jean A. Douillette recently published Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions, 1711-2003. I have eagerly awaited this book for several years, after reading an article about Jean’s work on Lakeville gravestone transcription work for their 150th anniversary in 2003. Transcription is a time-consuming process – but when they are compiled into books such as this, they serve as invaluable tools for genealogists and those interesting in family history!

Earlier postings in this blog documented a few unsuccessful (but enjoyable!) trips to Lakeville and Middleborough to locate Ramsdell ancestors (Ammon-Booth, Richmond Cemetery). This book listed John and Sarah (Robbins) Ramsdell’s gravestones, as well as the stones of Stephen Cornish Ramsdell (son of John and Sarah Ramsdell, and brother to my ancestor, John Ramsdell Jr.) and his family, whose stones I will visit and photograph once the weather warms up. Turns out the Robbins cemetery where John and Sarah Ramsdell were buried later served as a pauper’s cemetery. My trip down Race Course Road brought me close to its location – but I was looking on the wrong side of the road! John Ramsdell Jr. and Maria Jones are probably buried in Middleborough with their son Edgar Ramsdell – perhaps someday there will be a Middleborough, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions published!

I wrote the following book review for Jean’s website:

Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions
is a remarkable genealogical and historical book that lists the gravestones and inscriptions from the 31 known cemeteries in the town of Lakeville. The organization of the book is very user-friendly; each cemetery chapter provides a history of the cemetery and directions on how to locate the cemetery, an important feature for readers who would like to physically visit the gravestones. Each chapter organizes the gravestone transcriptions alphabetically, and includes the epitaph, information about the physical state of the stone, and the carved artwork on the stone. Informative maps of each cemetery are included, and stones can be located alphabetically or by numbered location. Jean Douillette spent seven years documenting these gravestones, and her hard work reveals the fascinating stories of Lakeville citizens that were cast in stone. Douillette includes references to vital records and previous Lakeville gravestone research such as Charles M. Thatcher’s 19th century Massachusetts gravestone transcription project. Since the time of Thatcher’s compilation, some of the stones and cemeteries have unfortunately been lost, or the epitaphs faded. Douillette’s book, therefore, serves not only as an essential collection of genealogical information about the lives of Lakeville’s and Middleborough’s residents for the past three centuries, but it also preserves that history for future generations. Lakeville, Massachusetts Gravestone Inscriptions is an essential book for anyone interested in the history and genealogy of Lakeville, MA.

Copies of this book can be ordered through:

St. Mary’s Cemetery, Middleboro, MA

On the way home from the YMCA Jubee and I stopped by St. Mary’s Cemetery in Middleboro. The cemetery is owned by Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Middleboro. There’s a tidy history of the church and cemetery here.

The cemetery is fairly large and is filled with modern stones, there is a great deal of large granite squares with surnames on the front and smaller individual names and dates etched on the back or on smaller flush stones nearby.

The middle of the cemetery is dominated by a large statue of Jesus:

As a Catholic cemetery, religious symbology is found throughout:

Here are a few interesting stones, one an older simple cross, the other an altar with a broken mirror:

A well-known phrase, but peculiar as an epitaph :
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

To the very modern laser-etched stones, which allow for great detail:

Parish Burial Ground at the Green, Middleboro, MA

This afternoon Jubee and I grabbed some DQ and decided to spend our time as most other normal people do: walk through a graveyard nearby. As 105 was on the way, we pulled up along the cemetery and perused.

I had not been there in several years (has it really been seven years already!?), when it was one of the “field trips” in a New England Archaeology course I had with the wonderful Edward Gallagher. We had gone into the Congo church across the road (an exact replica, it seemed, to the Hanson Congo, and every other New England Congo Church!) Then we had explored the cemetery – it has a great many old stones, and lots of interesting carvings.

So today, I was happy to become reacquainted with the cemetery. From old slate to newer marble to newest granite, the cemetery is quite large, and still serves the Middleboro community. We stuck to the older sections, always my favorite. But perhaps my preference mimics the study of history in general – historians for the most part are not interested in the modern, but rather the past (About what time frame did your high school history classes go up to?). Yet with each successive generation comes a need to research the previous!

Sadly I had forgotten to bring my camera. But Jubee had pointed out that she was interested in finding poetry on stones, for she had been inspired after recently received an assignment to write an epitaph for an English class. I always love looking at gravestones from new approaches, so it was fun to seek out poetry.

I told her about the beloved epitaph oft-quoted by AGS’ers – “I told you I was sick!!”

There were many, many spiritual references. We searched around for paper and a pencil (usually staple goods in my purse), but only came up with our napkins from Dairy Queen.. so just jotted down a few.

Here’s a sad one for a young girl:
“See the lovely blooming flower
Fades and withers in an hour
So our transient comforts fly
Pleasures only bloom to die”

In addition, I was interested in some stones in the back right corner, many of which belonged to the Thompson family. They were large white marble stones, mostly 1800s, but they were stained a dark red color. Is there a significant amount of local iron ore in the stone? I would like to look more into where stone is quarried for local stones.

Tack Factory Cemetery, Middleborough, MA

Went a few days ago to the Middleboro town hall to buy three death certificates, of 3 generations, hoping to find the burial site of the Ramsdells. Oswald Jones and his daughter Maria (Jones) Ramsdell’s certificates yielded no burial locations. Her son, Edgar Ramsdell’s, has the cryptic: Burial Place and Location: C-35.

So the clerk gave me access to a big old book that had the Middleborough section of Thatcher’s Old Cemeteries of SE Massachusetts , with a cross-reference to codes for death certificates. Middleborough cemeteries were given numbers, Lakeville one’s letter. “C” corresponded to a “Cemetery on Taunton St., near the Lakeville Line”. Heading home, I checked Lambert’s Guide to MA Cemeteries and found it also known as the Leonard Cemetery or Tack Factory Cemetery (1819), in Middleborough.

Right off of Route 18, and cut off at a dead end by Route 495, Taunton Street on the Middleborough side is short. I’d like to learn more about the history of the Tack Factory itself. A quick google search says that the neighborhood itself is known as Tack Factory, but the only tack factory nearby on the national historic register is in Norwell.

The cemetery is right along the road, and surrounded by houses. A yard sale or party was going on across the street when we pulled up, most likely confusing them when we went instead into the cemetery. It is set higher than the road, with a few stone steps leading up the hill. Currently it is completely overgrown. Grass and weeds were growing as tall as the gravestones. Mostly family plots – I don’t think I saw any solitary names. Leonards, Holloways, Woods, Tinkhams filled the place. There were some tall family obelisks or monuments, and some smaller stones.

The sheer amount of grass throughout the cemetery:

The right side of the cemetery:

The left side of the cemetery:

Leonard and Holloway stones:

Leonards and Drakes:

Holloway stones:

Namesakes of the cemetery – Leonards

My brother trekking through the tall grass:

But alas, no Ramsdells. At least not that we could see through the overgrowth. Are they there with no stones? Are the stones there but buried under grass and bushes? Or was the interpretation of the burial location mistaken? Perhaps I need to buy a few more death certificates of Edgar’s siblings, or perhaps his wife, who died in Hanson. Maybe she was buried with him in Middleboro as well.

Thomastown Cemetery, Middleborough, MA


The Thomastown Cemetery was formed in 1806. It lies on Purchase Street, near the border of Carver, and is long and rectangular in shape, with a chain-link fence surrounding it. The cemetery is still in use, and has a wide variety of shapes and sizes for the monuments.

The visit was in part to seek further for the Middleboro Ramsdells, to no success.

However, it did boast several stones with one of my favorite symbols:

There are several versions of this symbol, but the most heavy-handed of them always make me smile. The finger pointing above is fairly blunt to begin with, but when a sign is included above the hand, as is the case here with Angeline, that says HEAVEN, it certainly brings home the point.

A few interesting symbols on some children’s stones:
Dove and broken stem flower

A very stark broken stem flower – life cut short

Sleeping lamb figure:

More Middleborough searches to follow…

Warrentown Cemetery, Middleborough, MA

Am on a mission to find the burial location of the Ramsdells of Middleboro, circa late 1700-1800s. I know one set (John and Sarah Ramsdell) are buried in Lakeville (a field trip for another day!) but thus far finding John’s parents Seth and Soviah, as well as John and Sarah’s children has been a difficult task. Middleboro records do not seem to list the burial location of John and Sarah’s son (another John), who married Maria Jones of Virginia. John and Maria had a large family, with several children who died in middle childhood – old enough, I hypothesize, for their own gravestones, thus warranting a family plot.

Thus has begun a quest to wander through Middleboro cemeteries in hopes of finding them. John and Maria lived on Plain Street, in North Middleboro Street, called the “Lowlands” off of Thompson Street. (Hoping to find some records that the Ramsdell kiddos attended the East Middleboro school house, which was probably the closest school house to their home – the thought that they went to the tiny schoolhouse to learn, and now more than one hundred years later used by us every year for the East Middleboro Fair and countless 4H events is lovely! )

So I began today with the Warrentown Cemetery, as that seems to be the closest to their home. No luck though! But Thomas, Tucker, Vaughn, Washburn, Clap, Cushman surnames were aplenty, although the cemetery itself is not very large. A surprisingly low number of old Warrens, however, considering the neighborhood name! Set right along the road across from a cranberry bog, it was easy to access.

A view from the road:

A view from the graveyard looking to the bog:

Many veteran flags adorned the stones, which were mostly white granite and some slate. An interesting stone was set in the far back left corner though, beyond the marker for the yard. A tall polished granite monument, its shape was of a square tilted on a point, and it read :
APRIL 21, 1894

Here is the stone:

The Ramsdell quest continues…

Nemasket Hill Cemetery, Middleborough, MA

Took the kids this afternoon to the Nemasket Hill Cemetery in Middleboro, although we arrived right before dusk and did not get much of a chance to linger.

The cemetery’s oldest stone is from 1662, although it looks like a much more modern rural cemetery, for it has expanded greatly and has long winding pathways around a hilly landscape.

The Nemasket River runs along its back end:

The cemetery holds many of Middleboro’s oldest families, including the Tomsons (more recently called Thompson, who have a street and more named in their honor in Middleboro)

John Thompson’s original grave:

His wife, Mary Cooke’s modern grave, sponsored by her descendants (made to mimick John’s):

The holding tomb:

Overall, the cemetery was very pleasant to look at, and certainly made for leisurely strolling. Old stones are interspersed with new stones, and the cemetery is feels secluded, filled with many trees.