Old Hill Burying Ground ~
established in a "Motion of Comity"

© 2006Bright iDear

With the Full Sturgeon Moon of the old style calendar year March 25, 2009 - March 24, 2010, termed "The Year of Charting (New) Courses" ~ a link within will point to the folio on Old Hill Burying Grounds ~ which will be part of the growing portfolio, "Reflections of the Waterside ... throughout the generations" ~ an imaginative retrospective of the Waterside community offering digitized imagery of old and new "pictures worth (many) a thousand words." Seek and ye shall find these as well as "community in the works" to preserve this sacred grounds.

"Seek and ye shall find" more information about scheduled tours of Newburyport's historic cemeteries ~ including those conducted by Ghlee Woodworth ("Tiptoe through the Tombstones") at this link within.

© 2004 Bright iDear
Visit this link without to review the Web page on Old Hill Burying Ground presented at A Very Grave Matter. This external link offered with permission of the www.gravematter.com Web site webmaster and documentarian Jenn Marcelais. A native of the Newburyport and Amesbury area, Jenn will be home to join in this year's Yankee Homecoming events ~ and offer "certain knowledge and mere motion" to some history and "history in the making" surrounding Old Hill Burying Grounds and other sacred enclosures. Be sure to seek her out.
In John J. Currier's "Ould Newbury ~ Historical and Biographical Sketches" the Chapter on Old Hill Burying Ground cites the Waterside Third Parish of Newbury records that document the process by which suitable accomodations for both the education of children and burial of the dead would be provided within the bounds of the newly organized parish.

On November 26, 1729 the Waterside people voted that "the Comity (as the word 'committee' was spelled in old annals, this 'comity' of two being Wm. Johnson and Wm. Titcomb) to looke for out for a place for a schoole house be a comity to looke out for a place for a burial place." It would follow that:

- On March 17, 1729-30 (Old Style calendar dating)
[1] the Comity’s suggestions were voted upon that a schoolhouse be located on High Street between Fish (now State) and Queen (now Market) Street and the hill on the southwesterly side of Frog Pond be taken as a burying ground, and enclosed with a board fence.

- On March 25, 1741[1] it was “voted that Dr. Joshua Beck and Ambrose Berry be a comity to take care that the Burying Place in s’d Parish be fenced in with rocks."

- The limits of Old Hill Burying Ground were later extended, as surveyed in 1771, and in 1790 the town of Newburyport "voted to enlarge and fence the burying ground as thought best." It was at this point in time that the lower portion to the junction of Pond and Auburn Streets was added.

- Shortly after World War II, Todd Woodworth forwarded a "motion of comity" to designate a section of the southwesterly portion Old Hill as a veteran's cemetery.[2]

Of late, the Waterside community has passed three signficant historical and generational milestones for Old Hill Burying Ground:

- March 29, 2005 marked the 275th year milestone since assessors were authorized to enclose with a board fence the area known as Snelling's Hill as a burial place.

- The old style year (March 25, 2006 - March 24, 2007, termed "The Year of Common Ground" marked the 265th year milestone that a comity "take care" that said burying place be fenced in with rocks. It also marked a generational milestone (two generation of 30 years each) since the Veteran Cemetery was commemorated.

Mindful of these milestones in history ~ there is a mindset to make the strides to restore and preserve Old Hill Burying Ground ~ and address the other important historical burial places within the bounds of Newburyport which are considered publically owned and under the juridiction of the City of Newburyport ~ as well as those sacred places under the auspices of a trust such as Sawyer Hill. In addition to Old Hill Burying Ground, New Hill Burying Ground (AKA Highland Cemetery) is directly under the care of the City of Newburyport's Department of Public Works.[3]

And what better first step to take towards that careful preservation than to mend Old Hill Cemetery's deteriorated boundary wall at the foot of Auburn Street? And in a coincidence of history and "history in the making" ~ plans were in motion to complete that work as we passed the aforementioned 265th year milestone in the fall of 2006, but an early snowfall delayed the project. Howbeit, in the spring, reconstruction of that section of the wall would be completed before the blue moon milestone on May 31, 2007. And many remain hopeful that by the next new style blue moon milestone ~ (which falls on December 31, 2009, quite coincidentally celebrated as New Years Eve by the new style Gregorian calendar) ~ an application submitted to the Community Preservation Committee by Ghlee Woodworth will provide funds to commence needful restoration of the gravestones themselves.

[1] Technically, adding 11 days to convert form the old style Julian calendar to Gregorian calendar (see link without) this anniversary also would be remarked on December 7th.

[2] This is certain knowledge ascertained from parole evidence, and a fact included in Dick Cunningham's "The Burying Grounds of Old Newbury" offered by the Newbury 375th Committee. Further insight on this Web site.

[3] As Director of Public Works --- the keepers of these grounds --- Tony Furnari has expressed heartfelt concern about this historic burial site and seems most pleased to join in a Motion of Comity to bring momentum to this cause. It is however, a matter of priorities.

As for the status of the wall, the project hinges on the necessary appropriations (and labor) to perform the work. The new administration has been engaged, with Mayor Moak personally apprised of the earlier concerns expressed to prior administrations, including the issue discussed during a ward meeting in September 2004. Coinicidentally, these discussions about the wall ensued on the 265th year milestone mentioned above.

In an earlier coincidence, the Director of Heritage Preservation at the Essex National Heritage Commission (link without), Bill Steelman (who coincidentally resides in ward 3) was at the (prior) Mayor’s ward meeting when the issue of the deteriorating cemetery wall along Auburn Street surfaced. Commentary was made about the NEHA/NEHC partnership grants as a potential funding source. (Those grant proposals are typically due in April, and require matching funds.) The NEHC would be a likely source for a broader effort which would assist in this momentum. Thankfully, in the 2005 Reconnaissance Report (to inventory the Massachusetts Heritage Landscape in Essex County) jointly conducted by the NEHC and the Massachusetts Deparment of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) included the 5.3 acres of city-owned historic Old Hill Burying Ground (along with New Hill Burying Ground).

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