Early Burying Grounds
Reproduced, with permission, from Treasury of Cohasset History,
ed. J. M. Dormitzer (Town of Cohasset, Mass., 2005), pp. 44-47.
As early Colonial settlements planted their roots along New England
shores, one of the important tasks of each scattered group of farms
and homesteads was the setting aside of land for a cemetery or burying
ground. Cohasset's early centers of population included small groups
of homes located in various parts of the newly populated lands. The
largest settlements were those near today's village and Common, at Beechwood,
and along the shore road leading to the village called Jerusalem or
North Cohasset near the boundary of Hingham (today's West Corner). Each
of these villages developed a burying ground for the use of nearby families.
Additionally a small burying ground developed midway on Cedar Street
near today's golf course, serving families at the western end of today's
North Main Street and along Hull Street.
Each burying ground served families in the immediate area, and family
names visible on the "old slate" gravestones are those of
the earliest Cohasset generations. Of the early burying grounds all
continued to grow beyond their eighteenth-century beginnings to hold
the town's nineteenth-century residents, and three remained active by
the early twentieth century. Today's early burying grounds still active
include Central Cemetery near the Common, Beechwood Cemetery, and until
past the mid-twentieth century, North Cohasset or Green Gate on Jerusalem
Road. The early burying grounds contain numerous examples of "old
slates," the almost universal dark gray slate gravestones of Colonial
Expansions of the original burying grounds in the nineteenth century
saw the introduction of white marble grave markers. This soft stone
allowed the development of more intricate carving of decorative motifs
and monuments. However, the white marble stones have suffered severely
from erosion in recent time. By the mid-nineteenth century granite had
supplanted white marble in Cohasset's burying grounds. Favored stone
was Quincy granite, a dark gray stone from the quarries of West Quincy
widely used as a high-grade construction material, including [for] Minot's
Ledge Lighthouse off Cohasset's shore. Recent years have seen some return
to the use of dark slate for gravestones, and to the shape and style
of early Colonial markers.
At Central Cemetery the original Burying Ground, on the south-facing
slope of the hill, is easily visible from Joy Place, itself the early
"Road to the Burying Ground." Nineteenth-century expansions
of Central Cemetery included an addition running southeasterly up the
slope to North Main Street and another extending north to the shore
of little Harbor. Slate, marble, and granite stones and monuments are
found intermixed in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century expansions
of the Burying Ground.
The oldest burial in the cemetery was that of Margaret Tower, wife
of Cohasset’s first settler, Ibrook Tower, and her gravestone
is dated 1705. Among the "old slates" of Central Cemetery
can be found those of the Reverend Nehemiah Hobart, the town's first
pastor, and that of the Reverend John Browne, Cohasset's Revolutionary
War pastor, an ardent patriot who preached the cause of independence
to troops departing for the battlefield. Also evident is the marker
of the Reverend Joseph Osgood of Cohasset's First Parish, a respected
community leader instrumental in the founding of the town's centralized
school system and public library, who died in 1898. Clergymen, merchants,
seafarers, actors, and summer colony residents are buried at Central
Cemetery. Numerous [Cohasset] "Deep Sea Captains" and sailors
can be seen memorialized, more than a few [having] gravestones [with]
the legend "Lost at Sea." Central Cemetery is a virtual genealogical
record of the town's early families and leading citizens. Originally
a municipal burying ground, Central has been, since the 1860s, owned
and maintained by a private organization, the Central Cemetery Association.
Beechwood Cemetery also contains an "old slates" area going
back to 1734, as well as later marble and granite stones. At Beechwood
generations of early families of that section are seen. Prominent is
the stone of Aaron Pratt, called "Squire Pratt," many times
a public benefactor to the Beechwood community and the town in the latter
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For more than two centuries
Beechwood Cemetery was privately owned; today it is a municipal cemetery.
At North Cohasset, just off Jerusalem Road, Green Gate Cemetery also
contains old slates [as well as] marble and granite stones and monuments.
Burials there extend to as recent times as the 1960s. The cemetery,
which includes Hingham as well as Cohasset names, is maintained by the
Town of Cohasset under terms of the Charlotte Lincoln Bell Trust.
Midway along Cedar Street, amid the greens and fairways of Cohasset
Golf Club, another small and early burying ground exists, active only
from the 1700s to just past the mid-1800s. Cedar Street Cemetery once
served a cluster of families in the Hull Street and westernmost North
Main Street areas, but the last burial there dates from 1876. Cedar
Street Cemetery is also kept up by the Town of Cohasset under a small
trust provided for its maintenance. Today the town’s early cemeteries,
including its historical burying grounds, tell much of the history of
this New England community.
From David Wadsworth, “Cohasset’s Burying Grounds Reflect
Town’s History,” Historical Highlights, Cohasset Historical
Society, Spring 1993. Reprinted by permission of the author.