entrance gates of ancient cemetery
close up of tombstone skull with wings
tombstones at sunset in ancient cemetery
entrance gates of ancient cemetery
Our Mission Statement
The Friends of Ancient Cemetery is a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting the historical and cultural significance of Yarmouth Massachusetts' oldest burying ground.
View the results of our research
News & Announcements
Ancient Cemetery bloom!
Our dedicated volunteers worked, despite the rain, to plant 400 daffodil bulbs along the Winter Street fence in late October. We can't wait for Spring to see them bloom.
Fannin - Lehner Preservation Work Continues, September 2023
Professional conservators continue to assess and repair the most vulnerable gravestones in Ancient Cemetery thanks to town Community Preservation Funds. J & M Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants of Concord, MA returned to the cemetery the week of September 11th to assess and repair stones most in need. Photos of some repairs are below - use the arrows to scroll. To read a complete report of the work they accomplished during this visit, please click here.
Award presented to Friends of Ancient Cemetery
FOAC was honored to be selected as one of two recipients in 2023 of the Fred and Rosalee Oakley Certificate of Merit, presented by the Association of Gravestone Studies to individuals and groups that have helped to advance the mission of the Association. The award was made in person by AGS board member Anne Tait, on Sunday, August 27th, at the Bangs Hallet House. Following the presentation, Judi Trainor gave a demonstration of her gravestone foil impression techniques, then the audience was invited to a reception and to view the Friends' exhibit in the museum's exhibit room.
Stone Carving Demonstration by Jesse Marsolais
Saturday, August 12, Jesse gave a demonstration for the public on the art of stone carving on the lawn of Bangs Hallet House in Yarmouth Port. Jesse is a talented artist from Harwich who works in old ways – traditional methods of letterpress printing and letter carving in stone and wood.
Ancient Cemetery on Exhibit
A special exhibit by the Friends of Ancient Cemetery is at the Bangs Hallet House, a historic house museum owned by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.
On show is the work of a local stone carver, samples of the stone used for gravestones, photographs of gravestones before and after cleaning, graphs depicting data collected from cleaned gravestones, and books on gravestones. On the walls are foil impressions made from the gravestones of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and other cemeteries. These impressions are a lost art form that uniquely depicts the creativity and skill of early gravestone carvers. A video of Ancient Cemetery contains striking images of individual gravestones as well as views of the cemetery in different seasons.
The exhibit may be seen from June through mid-October. The Bangs Hallet House is located at 11 Strawberry Lane, just off Route 6A, and on the Yarmouth Port Common. For more information, please visit Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum
New Daffodils Planted!
Ancient Cemetery came alive this spring with daffodils and grape hyacinths galore. All were lovingly planted by FoAC volunteers on a special group planting day last fall.
Friends of Ancient Cemetery 2023 Annual Meeting
Friends of Ancient Cemetery volunteers gathered in March for their annual meeting and 2023 season kickoff. There was a summary presentation of 2022 accomplishments, plans and assignments for the coming year, some cemetery bingo fun, recognition of our on-going genealogy support, and socialization over pizza and homemade salads. All are eager to start the new season.
Some 2022 Accomplishments
Sturgis Library Exhibit
Lost at Sea Tour
Volunteers completed cleaning / documenting all of Section A
Successful mid-Cape Cultural Council grant application for the support of our website.
AGS Oakley Award (to be presented in Denver, CO, June 2023) in recognition of FoAC’s outstanding contribution to gravestone studies through the recording, preservation, and program initiatives that expand public awareness and stewardship of historic cemeteries.
Grant from Yarmouth Community Preservation Act to Yarmouth DPW to support the Friends of Ancient Cemetery
Annual Daffodil Day cemetery planting at October end-of-season celebration
Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants completed repairs on 8 slate gravestones
March 2022 Soup and Salad supper and annual meeting
Completed review and updating of FoAC webpage
Worked to get searchable spreadsheet data up on the FoAC webpage www.friendsofancientcemetery.org/research – check it out! Click on ‘spreadsheet’ in 'research' menu.
The new map cases are ready to receive 190 inventoried maps. Archivist has been hired to label and create finding aids for collection.
Some 2022 Facts and Figures
To date, volunteers have cleaned 1,118 gravestones and gathered data on more than 1,385 individuals.
Marble grave markers (46%), dominant during most of the 19th century, now outnumber the older slate headstones (40%) in the inventory of cleaned stones. Granite markers currently account for 13% of total cleaned stones, a reflection of the more recent 20th century burials inventoried in section A.
Thirty-one inventoried stones include the title "Capt."
Thirty-one stones mention men who were lost at sea.
Over the years, David and Pauline Schafer have identified 50 men buried in Ancient Cemetery who were Revolutionary War patriots. The Schafers have cleaned more than 140 headstones memorializing these men and their family members and contributed corresponding research relevant to each patriot’s war-related service. Bravo!
The old section of Ancient Cemetery has burials from at least 7 different wars: French/Indian, Revolutionary, Civil, World War I, World War II, Korean, and Vietnam War.
Our data still show that October is the month with the highest number of deaths and January the month with the lowest number of deaths.
For infants and young children, the warmest summer months remain the deadliest, while those over age of 80 mostly died in the coldest months.
More than 204 people in our current inventory (about 15%) lived beyond the age of 80, while 110 infants (8%) died before they reached 2 years of age.
There are 296 stones for a wife, widow, relict, or consort, and 1 stone for a husband or widower.
The most common family names remain much the same but have changed positions in this year's tally: Matthews (115), Taylor (105), Hallet (98), Eldridge (92), and Thacher (79), with Bray and Hamblin following.
The most common female names are Mary (68), Sarah/Sally (52), Elizabeth/Betsey (45), and Hannah (31), with Thankful and Lucy following.
For males, common given names are John (46), James (27), Thomas (27), Joseph (24), and William (24), with Isaac, Charles, and Samuel following.
By far the greatest number of newly inventoried stones display little or no decoration. The winged skulls and faces, suns, swags, urns, and weeping trees disappeared as people turned to the purity of white marble, paired with a more modern 'tasteful' simplicity.
The earlier, mostly slate, headstones with winged skulls, faces, or setting/rising suns account for 13% of the stones. Urns, weeping willows, and swags add up to 33%. The most prevalent ‘nondescript' or no-design stones make up the majority, with 44%. Florals, geometrics, religious and "other" account for the remaining 10%.
Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants
Professional conservation is needed to assess and repair the most vulnerable gravestones in Ancient Cemetery. We propose to repair and preserve a limited number of identified/endangered gravestones over the next three to five years. J and M Fannin-Lehner Preservation Consultants, Concord, MA; began this work in September of 2022.
These are photos of before and after repair of the mehitabel taylor’s gravestone.
Mehitabel Taylor's gravestone before and after repair.
These photos show one gravestone before, during and after repair.
Volunteers receive recognition awards at end-of-the-season celebrations at Ancient Cemetery, where for the past three years, participants planted hundreds of daffodils near cleaned stones, around trees and at the Cemetery entrance.
Sturgis Library Exhibit
Our exhibit in August 2022 at the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, Massachusetts included stone examples by a local professional carver, items used to safely clean gravestones, samples of slate, granite and marble, graphs depicting a selection of data collected from cleaned gravestones, illustrations of stones before and after cleaning, books on gravestone history, carving and genealogy, and an aerial map of the old section of Ancient Cemetery. Additionally displays featured fine art photographs of gravestones and foil impressions of gravestones.
Free Self-Guided Tour at Ancient Cemetery
Visit the gravestones for those Lost at Sea, a self-guided tour narrated by Judi Trainor and produced by Maria Ferrari. The tour begins at the main entrance on Center St. Bring your cell phone or ipad, capture the QR code and follow the audio instructions along with the video maps. The tour can be viewed online. It’s a fun and educational activity for family and friends. Thank you for support from the Mid-Cape Cultural Council.
Click on the image below to begin the tour or there is also a metal sign at the cemetery entrance with a QR code.
Cape Cod Man Honored for Taking Part in the Boston Tea Party
An exceptional event was held in Yarmouth’s Ancient Cemetery On Wednesday, June 29th, 2022 at 11:30am by the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum.
Staff of the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum and from Revolution 250,
met and spoke at Ancient Cemetery to recognize and celebrate Captain Joseph Bassett, a participant in the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
“…the single most important event leading up to the American Revolution.”
His death is recorded in Yarmouth church records, as, ‘CAPT. Joseph Bassett, died 1833.’
A reenactor in costume, Ryan Stack, portrayed Captain Bassett and placed a ceremonial medal at his gravesite.
Ryan Stack, Boston Tea Party reenactor.
Stone Carving Workshop
A group of Ancient Cemetery volunteers visited the Harwich workshop of stone carver Jesse Marsolais on May 15, 2022.
Jesse, a letterpress artist and skilled gravestone carver, shared his expertise as he explained and demonstrated the lost art of hand carved lettering. Each volunteer provided with mallet, chisel, and hands-on guidance, carved a letter in slate.
Volunteers came away with a new understanding and appreciation for the effort and artistry behind the lettered inscriptions that they so carefully clean.
Jesse's website: https://marsolaispress.com/
Announcing a new addition to the SHOP!
A unique, quality jigsaw puzzle of Ancient Cemetery images is now available. Created specifically to provide hours of entertainment, it arrives in a sturdy black box with the guiding puzzle image on top. Final puzzle is approx 11x14 inches, 252 pieces of fun!
Your purchase will help us continue the work of preserving, protecting, and promoting the historical and cultural significance of Yarmouth Massachusetts' oldest burying ground. All products are sourced from high quality vendors.
Get ready to SHOP!
News & Announcements Archives
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Friends of Ancient Cemetery
The Friends of Ancient Cemetery, Inc. is a non-profit, all volunteer effort to preserve, and document carved records in Yarmouth's oldest burying ground. Through your tax-deductible support, you can help us continue to preserve our community's history for generations to come.
We are grateful for donations, large or small.
Thank you for your help.
Credit card, debit card or paypal accepted.
Patience Eldridge, d. 1832, age 92