The Burial Ground
The Burial Ground
Located at 238 High Road, Newbury
Nestled among the trees, a short distance from the traffic of High Road (Route 1A) is The Burying Ground of the First Settlers. Park along the main road at the white sign and follow the path to the site.
On May 18, 1638 the town, for £3, granted to John Emery, “that parcel of land called the Greene.” “About 3 akers more or less, bounded by the half aker lotts on the west, the hyeway on the southeast, and his own land on the North, being in the triangle, only the 20 rodds is reserved in said land for a burying place, as it is, bounded by stakes with a way to the East.”
John Emery had been given the right to build at the end of the Green, that is, the field where the Jackman-Willett House now stands [at the time of this writing in 1935]. In 1679 he conveyed his homestead and one-half the land granted him by the town to his son and moved farther north.
Jonathan Emery, in 1729, sold William and Richard Dole seventeen and one-half acres “Excepting and reserving the 20 Rods reserved for a burying place.” William Dole conveyed one-half of his estate to Joseph Ilsley in 1793 and Joseph Ilsley’s heirs conveyed to Paul Ilsley a part of their right, title and interest in the property. The land surrounding the burying place, now owned by the heirs of Mrs. Joseph Ilsley, is still known as the “Emery Field.”
This burying place was, therefore, some distance in the rear of the meeting-house and there some of the first settlers were buried. As families moved toward the Merrimack River the meeting-house was moved also. Although there was much remonstrance, and petitions against removal were sent to the General Court, all finally acquiesced in the removal of the meeting-house “to a knowle of upland by Abraham Toppans’s barne” in 1647. Here was begun a new burying ground now called the First Parish Burying Ground.
The last person buried in the first burying ground was Judith Ilsley, 1794. Gravestones became worn and dilapidated. Some graves were never marked and bodies were laid to some extent outside and beyond the “20 rodds” set off. Centuries of neglect and forgetfulness followed. Stones gradually disappeared, few remembered the spot, fewer cared and two brief attempts to restore the burying ground came to naught.
In 1927 the society of the Sons and Daughters of the First Settlers was organized. Among the earliest members were Mr. and Mrs. William I. Moore of New York. Mrs. Moore’s ancestor, Richard Dole and his wife, Hannah Rolfe, were buried in the first burying ground with stones still visible. Mrs. Moore, with her husband, offered to restore the place if it could be done under the auspices of the society.
Permission was obtained of the selectmen, Stuart Little, chairman, for the society to assume care of the place, with Mrs. Moore, trustee, appointed by the town.
Anne Colman Moody, 1935.
Founder and first President of the Sons & Daughters of the First Settlers of Newbury