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: http://www.jadoui.com/

Ammon-Booth Cemetery, Lakeville, MA

Don’t let the title of this blog entry fool you – I did not intend to find the Ammon-Booth Cemetery today! I had gathered some of my lovely family members to go hiking through the woods of Lakeville off of Race Course Road, in search of the Ramsdell-Robbins Cemetery. Lambert and Thatcher both refer to the cemetery as being “set back in the bushes”, into the woods and away from the road. Maps online and printed also positioned it slightly past halfway to the west on the road, and certainly made it look like it’s location would be behind someone’s house.

The Ramsdell-Robbins Cemetery boasts several ancestors: John Ramsdell, his wife Sarah (nee Robbins) and her brother Samuel Robbins, who owned much of the land around Race Course Road – he sold some of the land to form the Mullein Hill Church, which is right around the corner. Lambert’s book puts the founding date as 1775, intriguing since Sarah died in 1848, Samuel in 1854, and John in 1856, and they are the only graves listed in Thatcher’s book.

So my brother dropped us off halfway down the road and with my mother and some siblings we hiked in the woods between some properties, hoping to come across the cemetery back in the woods.

We were hopeful when we came across a substantial path that trailed a distance behind the homes along the road (the houses themselves were also set back deep into the woods as well). We came upon this:

A stream with a concrete and stone small walking bridge set across it! Very beautiful, and odd to find it deep in the woods. We debated it’s construction date, and it’s intended purpose. Just to the right of the bridge was also:

No real ideas here on what this structure was intended for… currently it is being used as a compost holder. But the proximity of the bridge to the stone structure most certainly indicates they were built around the same time, and perhaps used in tandem.

We followed the trail for awhile, then split up and searched the woods, pushing through thorns and lots of overgrowth, to no avail. As we walked closer to a home, a bewildered woman called out to us (her dog was having a howling field day!) and we stated our purpose (I always enjoy seeing people’s responses to graveyard hunts… bafflement? enthusiasm? get off my property or I’ll use my shotgun!? … one never knows =) Although if a cemetery is on private property, one should always seek permission to explore and photograph it! But in this case, we had no idea where it was) In any case, the woman was nice and said that they owned the property all the way into the woods for 5 acres and had never seen a cemetery. So we trekked back to the road, puzzled. I called out to another neighbor if he knew of the location of the cemetery and he said we were on the wrong side of the road, and that a small cemetery was right across the street! So we excited crossed the road and soon found:

John Booth!? That rang a bell, I recalled a Booth cemetery in the area as well.. and sure enough, Thatcher lists:
Booth, John died 30 NOV 1802 in his 74th year
Booth, Lydia, wife of John, died 28 MAR 1784 in her 52nd year
Ammon, a Negro, belonged to Capt. William Canedy, 30 MAR 1778 in his 29th year.

The little cemetery is right along the road, although it is bushy and surrounded by trees. The only marked stone is John Booth’s, which has obviously been tended to (with a veteran’s flag) and he also received an updated gravestone. Lydia’s is nowhere to be seen, nor is Ammon’s.

However, it’s very possible that Ammon’s is:

Or a number of other large fieldstones nearby which look conspicuously placed, and therefore serving as unlabelled gravestones. Why was Ammon buried with Lydia, just a few years after her death, especially if he belonged to another man (Canedy?) Were they neighbors? Had the Booths formerly owned Ammon (although he was relatively young, but I am not sure of the rate of slave ownership turnover, especially in the north) Very interesting to consider.

As for the Ramsdell-Robbins Cemetery, I have sent an email to the Lakeville Historical Commission in hopes that someone there might know it’s exact location. We shall see!

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 http://www.midlib.org/diglib/digcoll.htm , 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.

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 :
IN MEMORY OF CHARLES ANDREW DRAFTS
DROWNED IN THE NEMASKET RIVER, MIDDLEBORO MA
APRIL 21, 1894

Here is the stone:

The Ramsdell quest continues…