The Olde Burying Yard behind the
First Church in Longmeadow is a fascinating outdoor
museum. Without musty smells of antiquity, without
the glare of a reading lamp, one learns much more
than expected in the fresh air and sunshine. You may
even complete a tour of the yard with grass stained
knees and less time than you would like to spend.
Take a walk and take an interest in the values, the
hardships, the warnings, and the legacy left to us
by our early Longmeadow ancestors.
A map of the Olde Burying Yard,
which is but a small section of the Longmeadow
Cemetery, will help you locate some of the stones of
particular interest. The stones are numbered
according to row, of which there are eight, and by
sequence within the rows which begin at the entrance
closest to the Church. For example, stone number 416
is the sixteenth stone in the fourth row.
As you walk along the foot path
in front of the first row you will notice that the
markers are made of brownstone. This hardy stone was
readily available in the East Longmeadow quarry
which was operational until ten years ago.
Surprisingly enough, the brownstone is outlasting
some of the marble stones which were more expensive
and difficult to obtain.
Click links below to view the
107. The marker of Deacon Nathaniel Ely tells a detailed
account of his spiritual life. Many of the stones in the old
section will reveal the occupation, the manner of death, and
qualities of the individual for which they stand. One finds such
comments as "killed at the Battle of Lake George,"
"killed by a powder keg, " "military genius,"
"Minister." "Merchant," or "Doctor."
108. A woman is most likely remembered as "daughter
of," "wife of," "consort
of," or "relict of." The stone of Nathaniel's
wife next to him is carefully noted that Nathaniel was her second
husband; the first husband's name is given as well. "Relict"
is a woman left behind by the death of her husband. It seems
that a woman's identity was very clear in those days.
109. The marble obelisk is of note as inscribed on
it is one of the names seen most often in the old yard: Ely.
Other important family names are Colton, Burt, Cooley, and Bliss.
The consistency of family names indicates a close community in
which roots were well established in their town.
110. Very important, too, were family relationships.
This stone reads simply "Auntie.
114. The stones in the old yard give us more to read
than the information about those who have passed on, they also
give advice and warnings to those who are passing by. They speak
of the inevitability of death, the shallowness and vanity of
this world, and warn us to mend our ways before we die. The gravestone
of Sarah Colton warns of "corruption, earth, and worms."
The pictorial warnings of stones dated
earlier than this one were skeletons with crossed bones under
them. On this stone the skull has been evolved to look more like
a face with wings in order to aid its ascent to heaven. Instead
of crossed bones, there is a collar-like affair under the chin.
120. Something can be learned of longevity during
these early times. Solomon Colton lived until he was 89 years
old and Deborah Colton died at the age of 97. Though witnessed
in the yard are many early and untimely deaths, those who survived
childhood diseases, smallpox, childbirth, and wars, had a very
good chance to live many years.
Carvings on these two stones are typical of others that you
have passed and many more that you will see in the old yard.
The sculptor has carved an urn symbolizing the remains of the
body and the weeping willow which represents those who mourn
and the possibility of new growth and life.
127. The stone of Theodosia Coomes bears a warning
for the living:
Ye living men see here your end
To Jesus voice pry now attend
Your days, your years how swift they fly.
Be warned be wise prepare to die.
This type of advice is a part of many of the older stones.
You may want to discover a few for yourself.
129. The marker of Ascha Coomes reveals a softening
of the harsh view of death. All must struggle to cope with losing
loved ones; some strive to trust and accept. Her parents wrote
of their daughter: "She we trust fell quietly asleep in
154. The small markers of very young children
are many in the old yard. The evidence of infant mortality witnessed
here can cause a lump in your throat. These stones are for three
Cooley children ages 5 weeks, 3 years and 10 months, and 9 years
255. 254. The table stone you see as you turn the corner
into the second row is representative of several other such stones
which list a considerable amount of information about a particular
individual or about entire families. What is most interesting
about this table stone, however, is the broken stone lying underneath
it. This resurrected marker is hand etched very simply and is
perhaps the oldest stone in the yard. It is dated 1636 for Nathaniel
Burt. There is some controversy among the experts as to the oldest
stone. We'll come to the rival stone later on in our tour.
252. The marker of George Cooley indicates that he
died of smallpox. So great was the toll taken by this disease
that it is mentioned on many graves. In other areas of New England,
entire graveyards were given over to the victims of this disease.
248. I mention this stone simply because it resembles
the earliest carvings of skulls and bones.
224. The stone of Samuel Ely, is part of the
tour because it is so typical in all elements of style. The crowned
head (the crown of glory) which ascends to heaven with wings,
and the artistic scroll work of the sculptor lend to the memory
of this young man who died just two years after his graduation
218. The stone of Jonathan Burt causes one to wonder:
"He departed this life in a sudden and surprising manner."
213. The pedestal marking Lucy Stebbins has been signed
by the sculptor, H. Newell. Not many of the sculptors are mentioned
with their work, and yet it is one of the earliest art forms
in the New World.
207. The grave of William Stebbins is interesting from
an artistic point of view. The skull head has evolved to the
extent that it may represent personal features of the deceased.
The vine decorating the top and the sides indicates new and continual
life. The design is creative and unique.
304. The fourth stone in the third row is interesting
because there are two heads carved on the stone. Two children
died within five days of each other in 1801; their ages
are very accurately recorded: one was 3 years and 9 months, the
other 14 months old. I mention children again because
any casual observer in this graveyard could hardly miss the evidence
of personal tragedy, The loss of children was a burden carried
by many people.
316. 317. 318. 319. The Ely family has left some beautiful
marble stones which are easily read and self-explanatory. Although
the stones are opulent, there is evidence that the family may
have been generous with their wealth:
"Blessed is He that considereth the Poor."
322. The grave of Naomi Woolworth is quite remarkable
because its symbolism draws from many backgrounds: the scythe
on the left symbolizes death's tool to cut down the flower of
life, under it is death's dart as mentioned in Mil-ton's Paradise
Lost. Centered and crowned is the hourglass whose sand. Has slipped
to the bottom: time is supreme. To the right is the cock whose
call brings in the new morning. Melvin G. Williams included a
copy of this stonehead in his book,
The Last Word. This book about New England graveyards is an excellent
reference and enjoyable reading.
331. Do you think that the head of James Reed has an
unusual look about it? Could there be devil's horns coming out
of his forehead?
332. The stone of Lewis
Stebbins belongs in medical
history. He died of smallpox after receiving his inoculation.
At this time in 1772, there was difficulty discerning the proper
452. In Row 4, the stone of John Gunn, a Quartermaster,
resembles the earliest of carved stones with a skull face, and
indicating a more crude view of death it reads "Here lyeth
the Body of. . ."
448. I have included the stone of Capt. George Colton
because his parents were so proud of their son's promising future
that they described in detail how he died before he could begin
a bright career.
447. Another young person who was denied a future was
Eunice Colton, age 29. Very nicely displayed on her grave stone
is the blossom severed from its stalk by death's cruel blow.
This stone is unusual in this yard as well as in the New England
area. The Biblical reference is from the book of Job: "Man
comes forth like a flower and is cut down." "My days
are past my purposes are broken off."
434. On the stone of Abigail Colton, the artist placed
a pointing finger to make sure we noted the warning placed there.
432. So great was the emphasis upon the event of birth,
that many baby girls were named Thankful. This one lived only
429. The stones of the Rumrill family tell
a very sad tale. The couple was so intent upon having a son named
after the father that they continued to give their sons the name
of Ebenezer. The third Ebenezer cost the life of his young mother
and he lived only seven weeks more. Many women were young brides
for a year and mothers for only a day. Perhaps you would like
to continue walking through the remaining rows with your own
thoughts and questions. I will mention a few more stones which
you may not want to miss.
511. The cause of Jerusha's death was cancer in 1844.
Names alone can be enjoyable: What became of Charity, Experience,
Festus, Hephzibah, Ithimar, Submit, and Wealthy?
616. Stephen Williams has a claim to fame in Longmeadow.
He was the minister of First Church when it was established in
1716. His diary is the best historical record of the town and
of this period. He retired from the pulpit at the age of 86 and
he lived until he was 89 years of age.
Stephen Williams' successor was Richard S. Storrs whose marker
is a notable structure which cannot be missed. Much information
about his life and his work is recorded on his stone.
oldest gravestone is for Mary Colton, age 83 who died on October 10,
1682. This gravestone (with no remains) was moved from the Pine Street
cemetery in Springfield, MA to the Longmeadow Cemetery.
There is much more to be discovered in the Olde Burying Yard.
The history to be gathered in this museum under the trees is
fascinating. Not only do we learn of the great deeds accomplished
and the large wars won, we also learn of the hopes that were
unfulfilled and the individual battles which were lost. It is
a well balanced history of the common people who shaped our town.