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Stone Carving Demonstration by Jesse Marsolais

Saturday, August 12, 2023 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 was held during the summer season 2023 at the Bangs Hallet House, a historic house museum owned by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth.

Shown was 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 were 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 


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 – 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.

Taylor, Josiah, 1853.jpg

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%.

THACHER, Dea.Samuel 78861747_0e99cc93-62a0-45c4-9228-1dd70174fb26.jpeg
Josselyn, Fanny, 1800.jpg

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.

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.

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:

Soup & Salad Supper Meeting

The Friends of Ancient Cemetery held a lively, well-attended Soup and Salad Supper Meeting for all our volunteers on March 20th, 2022 at the Yarmouth Department of Public Works. Thanks to the energetic efforts of Lori Larsen, we enjoyed generous donations of soups, salads and bread from nine Yarmouth restaurants. Volunteers brought the desserts!

Bill Bullock generously opened the building for the afternoon. He discussed safety in the Cemetery and a future safety and refresher training clinic.

Upcoming events and discussion of  recent additions to the website followed.


Check out the new website additions:

Carvers of Ancient Cemetery

Meet the Volunteers

Laurel Gabel presented data analysis for 2021, and confirmed volunteer assignments for 2022. Volunteers are looking forward to the start of the 4th year of the Project.


Images of Ancient Cemetery Covered in Snow

Click here to visit the Gallery and  see wonderful images by volunteer Sharon Thurston who braved the cold to capture these images of Ancient Cemetery after the blizzard of February 2022.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at DPW

The Yarmouth Department of Public Works hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and Open House on Saturday November 20th for their band new building.


The Friends of Ancient Cemetery set up an exhibition of our Project with before and after cleaning stones photos, a map of Ancient Cemetery and beautiful museum quality prints of gravestone sculptures.

We now have a Friends of Ancient Cemetery Shop!

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 images captured by a fine art photographer and products are sourced from hi quality vendors. Get ready to SHOP!

Stories behind the Stones videos were shown on November 17th, at 7 pm

Five brief stories were presented:  Ruth W. The Wilder Stones, Judi T. Lost at Sea, Kelly M. The Howland Family, Laurel The Diaries of Lizzie Ryder Taylor and Melanie, A Ship, A Pirate and the Myth of Mary Hallet. Stories were generated from the gravestones we have cleaned. Next: Hollywood! If you missed it, go to the videos page of this website to see them all.

Aerial View of Ancient Cemetery

This fall we were fortunate to have a local photographer, Peter Greer, volunteer to take drone images of the entire old section of Ancient Cemetery. Maria Ferrari used computer magic to stitch the images together to create a hi resolution map. See the aerial view of Ancient Cemetery here.

A New Video - What's in My Bucket?

Our volunteers, Deb Bianchi and Sharon Thurston have produced a short video explaing how to clean gravestones. Check it out on the Download section under the Volunteers tab of this website.

Golden Scraper Awards

October 24th was daffodil planting, a cider and donuts thank you celebration at Ancient Cemetery, and the presentation of the golden scraper awards. Everyone was a winner!

Thank you for your time and dedication.

daffodils by tombstone

GPR and LiDar Survey Results

A presentation by Doria L. Kutrubes, President and Geophysicist, RSI (Radar Solutions International) Waltham, MA and Thomas Elmore, Founder of GeoNAV, Suffield, CT will be announced before end of year in Yarmouth to review the findings of their gpr and lidar surveys of the southeast corner of Ancient Cemetery. 

Surveys were conducted on May 25th, 2021.

Please read more under the Projects tab

gpr survey in ancient cemetery
Contribute to
Friends of Ancient Cemetery

The Ancient Cemetery Project is a grass roots volunteer effort to Record, Interpret, and Protect the carved records in Yarmouth's oldest burying ground. We are grateful for donations, large or small, that will help us continue preserving our community's history for generations to come.

Thank you for your help.

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patience eldridge

Patience Eldridge, d. 1832, age 92

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