Church & State Walking Tour: Memorial Cemetery

37 West Main Street

Nahor Rice was the very first person to be buried in this cemetery in 1704, although his gravestone no longer exists. People continued to use the land as a burial ground after that time, but it wasn’t until 1747 that it officially became the town cemetery. Many of Westborough’s founding families are buried here with the last names of Fay, Newton, Brigham, Forbes, and Baker. The Parkman family is buried here as well, including Reverend Ebenezer Parkman, who was the first minister in Westborough. Eli Whitney, even though he was born in Westborough, is not buried here, but many of his family members are.

1868 (Westborough Public LIbrary)

Some of the earliest examples of American folk art, including symbols the Puritans used to represent their lives, are carved into the gravestones. Some of the oldest gravestones have death’s heads consisting of a skull with wings. Puritans in the early 1700s used them to remind people passing by the cemetery that death was indeed inevitable. By 1750, colonial life in Westborough had become less harsh, and carvings resembling angels replaced skulls on the gravestones. The Puritans in Westborough also thought it was important not to have class separation in their cemetery. All stones were the same size and scattered randomly around the cemetery with upper and lower classes buried next to each other. However, Reverend Parkman’s grave stands out from all the others because it is covered in writing about his 50-plus years of work as Westborough’s first minister.

The Memorial Cemetery

*Looking at the differences among the various gravestones of the Parkman family is a good way to see how the style of gravestones changed over time.*

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