21 June 2013

Kilburn Merritt Cemetery–A Neglected Gem


Genealogists are so weird. We treat a visit to a cemetery like a day at the carnival. We are the happiest people cemeteries have ever seen, easily recognized by the camera, broad grin, and high-spirited step. I'm somewhat ashamed to confess that even at a funeral my gaze has been known to slowly wander towards the ancient slate-stoned section. I'm very sorry about that but it is completely involuntary.

I found myself in this delighted state of mind at a private burial ground in my hometown of Scituate, Massachusetts last week. Long, long ago, my best friend in high school, let's call her "P," told me of her family's private cemetery hidden deep in the woods behind her house. Or that's how I remembered it. I kind of remember discussing it during an episode of Tales from the Darkside, so my facts could be a tad confused. Sadly, we never managed to get out there to explore it.

Forty-plus years later my cousin, herein referred to as "C," sent me some photos of this burial ground and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I knew that the Town of Scituate, in their infinite wisdom, had commissioned a study of all of the burial grounds in Scituate, published in 2007. It is an exquisite little report, detailing the history, ownership and condition of each site, and making recommendations for improvements. Cousin C. also mailed me the link and got me jazzed up about it all over again, and we planned a visit.

The published survey says this about the history of this site:

"The Merritt Cemetery (also known as the Kilburn-Merritt Cemetery) was established c. 1811 as the family burying ground of the Merritt family who owned land in this area of North Scituate. Surrounded on four sides by a dry laid stone wall, the cemetery was originally accessed from two points, (1) a dirt road leading from Clapp Road southward in a straight line to the cemetery, and (2) via a meandering footpath leading from the Merritt home (on Clapp road to the east of the cemetery) through the woods. Today the meandering footpath is no longer visible, but the dirt access road remains. Other than the 1811 tomb, the earliest burials date to the 1830s and 1840s, and the most recent burial took place in 1938. Today, a descendent of the Merritt family, [Xxxxxx] Merritt, cares for the cemetery grounds. The cemetery covers approximately 1⁄4 acre of land."[1]

Six years after the report was published, I'm here to tell you that this cemetery is suffering from neglect, and I've got the photos to prove it. C and I wandered around, snapping photos, straightening flags and lifting those stones we could to a better position. Some will require heavy equipment. There is a lot of brush at one end that needs to be cleared. We left with a sense of purpose: find out if the Town plans to intervene, map out the stones, investigate WPA surveys from the 1930s, and especially, talk to P's mother to see if she has more information.

This stone cries out to be righted!

Tomb of Unknown Revolutionary War soldier
This cemetery does appear on FindAGrave and has photos of many stones, a few of which I didn't catch myself. [2] And I took a few that the FindAGrave author didn't have. I will upload them soon.

Until then, the only direct relatives of P that I've identified so far (but I've hardly begun) are her gg grandparents, Martin Dawes Merritt and Debby Bailey. Some of the stones, including this one, are very hard to read. More investigation imminent!!
MARTIN D. MERRITT
DIED
June 18, 1882
Aged 80 years &
DEBBY
His wife
Die May [1?] 1865
Aged [60?] years
--------
[ illegible]

Footnotes

[1]  Martha Lyon Landscape Architecture, Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants, and CME Associates, "Scituate Burial Sites Survey" (prepared for Town of Scituate and the Scituate Historical Society, 2007); Town of Scituate (http://www.town.scituate.ma.us : 22 Jun 2013), 26.

[2]  "Merritt Cemetery," website with images of gravestones; FindAGrave (http://www.FindAGrave.com : 22 June 2013).

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