Ancient Cemetery is the oldest of Yarmouth’s seven municipal burial sites. No one knows for sure when the first burials took place, but it was probably very close in time to the establishment of the settlement's first meeting house, believed to have been located near the large landmark boulder in the center of the burying ground.
While impermanent wooden posts or unadorned field stones may have been used to mark the early graves, the oldest surviving permanent marker is that for Margaret Miller whose slate gravestone records her death in 1698. Slate headstones and footstones mark a majority of the 18th-century burials, overtaken by marble monuments in the 19th century, with granite markers attaining dominance in the 20th century. Today the expanded cemetery contains 21.6 acres and almost 5,000 recorded graves in addition to the unknown number of unmarked burials.
Preliminary Results of Data
This data represents a random sample of information from less than 700 stones in oldest sections of Ancient Cemetery that were cleaned by January 2021.
. the most prevalent family names are Matthews, Hallet, Taylor, Eldridge, Gray and Bray
. most frequent female names are: Mary, Sarah, Hannah, Rebecca and Sally
. most widespread names for males are: John, Thomas, Isaac, Joseph, James
. men were identified by an occupation, education, social station or accomplishment
. women were described solely by their relationship to a male, e.g., daughter, wife, mother
. more adult deaths occurred in October. largest number of memorialized deaths are from the 19th Century
. most Ancient Cemetery’s 18th century gravestones are made of slate, decorated with winged skulls
photo david and pauline schafer
. earliest stones were imported from Boston
. Nathaniel Holmes was the Cape’s first resident carver
. Holmes supplied urn and willow style stones
. Jabez Fisher & Son, William Fisher were local carvers after the mid-1840s
. Carvers sometimes signed their stones
To read more about various carvers from Ancient Cemetery, click here.
Engraved on Nantucket by WM. Sturges.
J. Milmore. Boston
R. Needham, Chelsea
A. Cary, Fecit., Boston.
[F. Cooley. Prov. R.I.]
photo melanie barron