History of the First Parish Burying Ground

BURYING-GROUND OF THE FIRST PARISH IN NEWBURY.

When the inhabitants of Newbury removed from the old town to the new town in 1646, they erected a new meeting-house “on a knowle of upland by Abraham Toppan’s barne.” This land was originally granted and laid out to John Moulton, who subsequently conveyed it to Abraham Toppan. A record of this transfer was made in the Proprietors’ Book. In 1660, a new place of worship was erected on the southerly or southeasterly side of this lot, and in 1700 still another house was built a few rods farther to the southeast. The house erected in 1700 was occupied until Jan. 25, 1868, when it was destroyed by fire, and during the year the present structure was built on the opposite side of the street.

The land under and adjoining the meeting-houses of 1646, 1660, and 1700, with subsequent purchases added thereto, now forms the burying-ground of the First Parish in New bury. It contains about three acres. The first burials were made in a space not exceeding one hundred and twenty- five feet square in the northwest corner. Only a few of these early graves are marked by stones, and it is probable that nothing more than a simple mound of earth covered the last resting-place of many of the early settlers of the town.

In some cases, undoubtedly, the ancient monuments erected there have crumbled to decay and disappeared. The oldest stone within the enclosure marks the grave of Isaac Brown, who died “ye second day, third month of 1674.” Others of a later date are much worn, and the inscriptions upon them can only be deciphered with great difficulty. The first ministers of the church in Newbury, and nearly all their successors in office down to the beginning of the present century, were buried there. Forty-five or fifty years ago some of the stones that stood at the head of these graves, becoming worn and dilapidated, were replaced by new ones of durable dark blue slate.

At the present time the tablets and monuments of this old graveyard bear the names of the following persons who have been regularly ordained and settled as ministers or teachers in the First Parish of Newbury : —

  • Rev. Thomas Parker, who died April 24. 1677. 
  • Rev. James Noyes, who died Oct. 22, 1656. 
  • Rev. John Woodbridge, who died March 17. 1695. 
  • Rev. John Richardson, who died April 27. 1696. 
  • Rev. Christopher Toppan, D.D., who died July 23, 1747. 
  • Rev. John Tucker, D.D., who died March 22, 1792. 
  • Rev. Abraham Moor, who died June 24, 1801.

Other prominent names found on tombstones now standing are as follows : —

  • Captain Paul White, who died in 1679. 
  • Richard Dumer, who died in 1679. 
  • Mrs. Frances Dumer, widow of Richard Dumer, who died in 1682. 
  • Ann Ordway, wife of James Ordway, who died in 1687. 
  • I Henry Sewall, who died May 17, 1700. 
  • Mrs. Jane Dummer Sewall, widow of Henry Sewall, who died in 1701. 
  • Col. Daniel Pierce, who died in 1704. 
  • Tristram Coffin, Esq.. who died in 1 703-4. 
  • Mrs. Judith Coffin, widow of Tristram Coffin, who died in 1 705.

The town of Newbury granted April 25, 1655, “to Capt. Paul White a parcell of land, not exceeding half an acre, about Watts his cellar, for to make a dock, a wharf, and a warehouse.” This grant was accepted by Captain White; and the dock, wharf, and warehouse were built by him the following year. He continued to own and occupy the property until his death, July 20, 1679.

The inscription on the stone that marks the grave of Henry Sewall and his wife, Jane Dummer Sewall, was undoubtedly written by Judge Samuel Sewall, their eldest son, whose words of tenderness and affection spoken at the burial of his mother will be forever associated with this hallowed spot.

The following epitaph to Colonel Daniel Pierce gives him a superfluity of titles, but bears truthful testimony to his ability and faithfulness : —

Here lyes interred what was mortall of ye Honourable Collonal Daniel Pierce, Esqr, who having faithfully served his generation both in civill & military station fell asleep April ye iiA 1704, aged 66.

Here lies interred a soul indeed,

Whom few or none excelled.

In grace if any him exceed,

He’ll be unparallelled.

On the tombstones of Tristram Coffin and his wife are the following inscriptions : —

To the memory of Tristram Coffin, Esq., who having served the first church of Newbury in the office of a Deacon 20 years died Feb. 4, 1 703-4, aged 72 years

On earth he pur-chas-ed a good degree,

Great boldness in the faith and liberty,

And now possesses immortality.

Not far from these graves is a large freestone slab, on which the following epitaph is inscribed : —

Here lyes interred the body of the very Hon. William Partridge, Esqr, who sustained the Government of New Hampshire for several years, and departed this life January 3d 1728, & in the 75th year of his age.

He went to England, and returned with a commission dated June 6, 1696, appointing him lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief of the province of New Hampshire in the absence of Governor Samuel Allen, who had not then arrived in America. He continued in this office under the administration of Richard, Earl of Bellemont, who came to New Hampshire in 1699 for a brief visit of eighteen days, and departed leaving the lieutenant-governor in control of public affairs. July 26, 1703, Partridge was superseded by John Usher, of Boston, who after a long struggle succeeded in obtaining a commission from the queen, appointing him lieu tenant-governor. Partridge soon after removed to Newbury, Mass., where he spent the rest of his days in mercantile pursuits. He had a son Richard, who was agent for the province in England, and a daughter, who married Jonathan Belcher, governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Daniel Noyes, born Oct. 23, 1673, son of John Noyes and grandson of Nicholas Noyes, has a quaint old headstone, bearing this inscription: —

Here lyes ye body of Mr. Daniel Noyes, who died March ye 15th 1 71 5-16, aged 42 years 4 months and 23 days.

As you are, so was I.

God did call and I did dy.

Now children all,

Whose name is Noyes,

Make Jesus Christ Your only choice.

Timothy Noyes, born June 23, 1655, son of Nicholas Noyes, and a nephew of Rev. James Noyes, has an epitaph similar in style and sentiment : —

Here lies ye body of Mr. Timothy Noyes, who died August ye 21rt 1 718, aged 63.

Good Timothy in

His Youth full days

He liued much Unto Gods prays.

When age came one,

He and his wife They liued a holy & a pious life.

Therefor you children

Whos nams are Noyes

Make Jesus Christ Your only Choyse.

The oldest gravestones in this burying-ground were prob ably brought from England, and are noticeable for their great width and thickness. They are similar in design and workmanship, and were undoubtedly imported with the winged cherub’s head carved at the top, and the scroll-work or border extending down each side, leaving a blank space for inscriptions that were inserted by stone-cutters here. A hard, dark, flinty slate stone from North Wales was much used, though occasionally supplanted by a native granite bowlder or slab in its rough state, inscribed with name and date only.

The lettering upon these tombstones does not seem to have been executed according to any known rule ; and the curious mixture of large and small letters, with now and then an omission or abbreviation, gives them the appearance of having been carved with hieroglyphics.

The modern hearse was unknown to the early settlers of New England. The dead were usually borne to the grave by friends or kinsmen. ” Two sets of bearers were appointed : under-bearers, usually young men who carried the coffin on a bier; and pall-bearers, — men of age, dignity, or consanguinity, — who held the corners of the pall which was spread over the coffin and hung down over the heads and bodies of the under-bearers. As the coffin was sometimes carried for a long distance, there were frequently appointed a double set of under-bearers, to share the burden.”

The Church of England provided in the Book of Common Prayer a service for the burial of the dead ; but the men who organized the colony of Massachusetts Bay, in their desire to ignore the rites and ceremonies of the mother church, forbade the reading of the scriptures as well as prayers at funerals. Now and then a sermon was delivered at the burial of some distinguished person ; but the first prayer of which special mention is made was offered at the funeral of Pastor Adams, of Roxbury, in 1683. The Boston News Letter of Dec. 31, 1730, commends a recent burial service at which prayer was said, and speaks of it as an uncommon and noteworthy Christian observance. Still, the innovation gained ground very slowly, and was not generally adopted until the begin ning of the nineteenth century.

Judge Sewall, in his Diary, mentions several instances where the committal service of the Church of England was read at the funeral of some distinguished friend ; but he condemns the practice in unmeasured terms.

Having attended the funeral of a daughter of Colonel By- field at Dorchester, he comments on the exercises at the grave as follows : —

over the coffin and hung down over the heads and bodies of the under-bearers. As the coffin was sometimes carried for a long distance, there were frequently appointed a double set of under-bearers, to share the burden.” The Church of England provided in the Book of Common Prayer a service for the burial of the dead ; but the men who organized the colony of Massachusetts Bay, in their desire to ignore the rites and ceremonies of the mother church, forbade the reading of the scriptures as well as prayers at funerals. Now and then a sermon was delivered at the burial of some distinguished person ; but the first prayer of which special mention is made was offered at the funeral of Pastor Adams, of Roxbury, in 1683. The Boston News Letter of Dec. 31, 1730, commends a recent burial service at which prayer was said, and speaks of it as an uncommon and noteworthy Christian observance. Still, the innovation gained ground very slowly, and was not generally adopted until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Judge Sewall, in his Diary, mentions several instances where the committal service of the Church of England was read at the funeral of some distinguished friend ; but he condemns the practice in unmeasured terms. Having attended the funeral of a daughter of Colonel By- field at Dorchester, he comments on the exercises at the grave as follows : —

Aug’ 28, 1708. Mrs. Taylor is buried in Mr. Stoughton’s Tomb: Bearers, Col. Foxcroft, Mr. Palmer. Mr. Newton, Mr. Mico ; Mr. Pain, Mr. Harris, Col. Byfield there, and Mr. Lyde with three children, Mr. Leverett and wife; Mr. Angier and wife. Mr. Sargeant and Col. Hutchinson were there with their wives as Relations. C,ovr and his Lady, Maj. Gen1 Winthrop and his Lady, Mr. Secretary, Sewall, Mr. E1″ Hutchinson, Belcher, Mr. Bromfield there: and many others. There was no Prayer at the House ; and at the Grave Mr. Myles read Common Prayer; which I reckon an Indignity and affront done to Mr. Stoughton and his Friends: There apears much Ingratitude and Baseness in it because twas Mr. Danforth”s Parish, and Mr. Danforth’s wife is Cousin German to Col. Taylor : and Col. Byfield and his deceased daughter discenters as I supose. I was much surpris’d and grieved at it, and went not into the burying place.

A few days later he writes : —

At 3 p.m., Sept 1, 1708, the Council meets, from thence they goe to the Funeral of Mrs. Lyde, Col. Byfield’s eldest daughter. Remembering what I had met with at her Sister’s Burial at Dorchester last Satter- day, I slipt from the Company up to my daughter’s, and so went home, and avoided the Funeral. The office for Burial is a Lying, very bad office : makes no difference between the precious and the vile.

– “Ould Newbury”: Historical and Biographical Sketches

By John James Currier

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: