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Stoughton Cemetery History for Memorial Day

A look at Stoughton's historic cemeteries on this Memorial Day.

For the Memorial Day holiday I thought I would share the locations of all the historic cemeteries in the town of Stoughton. 

Since I was a child I have wandered around the historic cemeteries of our town.  I have transcribed every pre-1900 gravestone in Stoughton, and the gravestones in Sharon, Canton and Avon, when they too were part of our town.  In my book A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (Boston, NEHGS, 2009), I identified the location, alias names and ages of all cemeteries in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

If you are a Stoughton resident who does not have a family member buried in town I have a kind suggestion: Think upon the forgotten gravestone of long ago, one where the family has long since moved away from Stoughton. I ask on the occasion of Memorial Day you plant some flowers at the grave of a former townsman from the rich history of your town.

The first cemetery for Stoughton now lies in the town of Canton, Mass.  The Canton Corner Cemetery has the graves of some of the earliest Stoughton families.  The earliest gravestone there is Gilburt Indicott  who died October 18, 1716 (when Stoughton was known as the Second Precinct of Dorchester). 

In the town of Sharon at the West Cemetery lies the grave of tavern keeper Capt Ebenezer Billings who died January 7, 1717.  These two gravestones are the oldest surviving gravestones from the original town of Stoughton.

In present day Stoughton the earliest cemetery is the Pearl Street Cemetery near  Stoughton High School.  This cemetery is on land once owned by Capt. George Talbot and was later set aside as a burying ground for the town. 

A small family graveyard in present day Stoughton may have predated the first official burial of Anna Morgan who died February 18, 1743 (this gravestone had fallen, and lies now in the vaults at the Stoughton Historical Society and will be restored back into the cemetery). This may explain the gravestone memorializing some of the children of Edward Esty with the earliest date of 1738.  These would also be the grandchildren of Deacon Isaac Stearns, the first settler in present day Stoughton in 1716.  Incidentally the grave of Isaac Stearns has never been located at Pearl Street or Dry Pond Cemetery.  

This cemetery contains the tombs of the First two ministers of present day Stoughton – Rev. Jedediah Adams and Rev. Edward Richmond and their families.  The state of neglect and disrepair near these tombs will be addressed shortly by the author of this article.

Located on the corner of Plain Street and Bay Road lies the second oldest cemetery in present day Stoughton. This is the Dry Pond Cemetery. Unlike the Pearl Street cemetery which was last used in the 1960’s, The Dry Pond Cemetery is still active and contains burials of Lucius Clapp the well known benefactor to the town, and his neighbors, Revolutionary War veterans like Prisoner of War Lemuel Smith, who walked back to Stoughton after being being in a British controlled jail in New York City for a year. Dry Pond Cemetery also is the last resting place of Stoughton Fire Department hero the late Victor C. Melendy who perished January 28, 1995.

Unlike the nearby towns of Easton and Norton where dozens of small family cemeteries dot the landscape, Stoughton can only claim two small cemeteries. 

One cemetery is near the former home of former Police Officer Duncan Fleming (recently razed to make room for a church still waiting to be constructed) on Rte. 138 near the Easton line.  This cemetery is the Marshall Bird Cemetery. The family of Benjamin Marshall who fought in the Revolutionary War is there with a handful of gravestones for his family. 

The other small cemetery is the Porter Cemetery on South Street Cemetery. This cemetery has burials dating back to 1808.  It is nestled on South Street next to an active Jewish Cemetery still active called the Pride of Brockton Cemetery.  This Jewish Cemetery was started by a local Brockton Synagogue in 1901.  

Originally the consecrated ground for Catholics in Stoughton was located in Canton (St. Mary’s Cemetery – 1847) and Randolph (St. Mary’s Cemetery – 1845).  Many burials dating from the 1850’s were removed from these locations to Stoughton in 1865.  This is when Holy Sepulchre Cemetery (a.k.a.) St. Mary’s Cemetery was consecrated. This cemetery is located near the intersection of Central Street and Washington St. (beside CVS Pharmacy). 

Many old Stoughton families – Murphy, Lehan, Vanston, Healey are buried here.  Veterans born in Ireland who immigrated to this country to fight in the Civil War can be found here with inscriptions bearing the regiments the fought with, and vessels they served upon.

The Methodist Church in Stoughton is now located on Pleasant Street in Stoughton, and the current edifice built in 1866 replaced an earlier structure dedicated September 16, 1835.

Where you now can enjoy a slice of pizza at Stelios restaurant at 1819 Central Street once stood a house of worship.  Predating both of the Methodist Churches on Pleasant Street (and the former Methodist church in North Stoughton, site of Target on Page Street) was at the Stelios location the Methodist Meeting house on Central Street built in 1818.  This church and the neighboring 19th century factory boarding house from Mill Street was demolished to put in a strip mall in 1987.

North of the former site of the Methodist Meeting house is a small cemetery with barely forty gravestones. The Methodist Meeting House Cemetery has burials dating as early as 1817. Members of the Belcher, Drake, Gay, Gill and Bird families are interred here. 

A veteran from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War lie in the rows of this cemetery.  The tragedy of an unfortunate twenty-six year old Albert Bell who drowned when his boat capsized on Massapoag Pond (Sharon, Mass.) in 1839 can be learned from his gravestone inscription. 

In the 1840’s residents of North Stoughton started a cemetery which you may miss as you drive north on Pleasant Street.  If you glance across from the former Stoughton Armory Building you will see the arch for the entrance to Maplewood Cemetery.  Here lie many former residents of North Stoughton, including descendants of the original residents of Stoughton.  The unmarked grave of Sachem Jeremiah Bancroft of the Punkapoag Indians no doubt is not far from his brother Thomas F. Bancroft who served in the African American 5th Mass. Cav. During the Civil War, and later as a Buffalo Soldier in Texas. 

The town of Stoughton still owns a small parcel of land off School Street.  If you follow a slightly warn path near 660 School Street you will find the Stoughton Poor Farm Cemetery.  This simple plot (47’ x 26’) in the woods is marked off by six granite posts.  There are no gravestones and I can only locate the occasional passing reference to its use.  In 2010 myself and Heather McGinley (both members of the Stoughton Historical Commission) cleaned up the debris in this historic cemetery.  Our hopes is to have this site restored, and a granite marker marking this site has been promised by a former Stoughton resident.

On the southeast corner of Central Street and Bay Road was once a small cemetery.  However these gravestones from the 19th century were long since gone as the current homes were built upon the lot.  It is hoped the unrecorded removal of these mortal remains actually occurred to a local cemetery.

In 1857, Evergreen Cemetery at Washington and Gay Streets was laid out with a pond in garden style. This cemetery has its earliest gravestone dated to 1799 belonging to an infant brought from Pearl Street Cemetery. The factory owners and their workers lie in the same sections in this cemetery with thousands of gravestone in every shape and size. 

The tomb of George E. Belcher commands its own section where only three people rest. 

The veterans of the 19th century and 20th century are marked with the stars and stripes, in many cases for veterans who fought for a non-Fifty Star U.S. flag.  The well known landscape artist Mortimer Lamb lies underneath a simple boulder and a bronze plaque. 

However, like all cemeteries in Stoughton your connection may be more personal.  Here at Evergreen I have many old friends, and relatives.  Including my maternal grandparents, three uncles, two aunts, one cousin and my mother and father lie. 

Every gravestone has a story behind it, and we speak as their descendants to keep their memory alive on Memorial Day and during the rest of the year.

lowertaxes May 30, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Very interesting article Mr. Lambert. There is so much history in cemetaries and it is noce to see people with an interest in preserving that.
David Allen Lambert May 30, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Thank you very much!
Snyder's Stoughton May 31, 2011 at 12:40 AM
Great article David. Timely and interesting!
Roseanne May 31, 2011 at 05:09 PM
That was a very well done story. I live near Pearl Street Cemetery and would like to wonder around and look at the old headstones, but the gate is always locked.
lowertaxes May 31, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Roseanne, I believe the Historical Society has a key. You should give them a call.
David Allen Lambert June 03, 2011 at 02:07 PM
You can also contact the Public Works Department. I am planning to do a tour of the cemetery this fall, so stay tuned.
Roseanne June 03, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Thanks lowertaxes and David for those responses. I'll look forward to that tour in the fall!
Carol Stoughton Tactac July 09, 2011 at 11:12 PM
My maiden name is Stoughton. Are there any actual "Stoughton" names in the cemetery?
David Allen Lambert July 11, 2011 at 12:54 AM
The town of Stoughton was named in honor of Lt. Gov. William Stoughton (1632-1701) in 1726. He was not married and members of his immediate family did not settle here. There no doubt have been Stoughton's in Stoughton in the 19th and 20th century but none directly related to the late Lt. Governor and former judge of the Salem Witchcraft trials.

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