The Revolutionary Cemetery

Simply by virtue of their age, all New England communities have their share of old cemeteries and Ashland is no exception. We have the cemetery behind the Federated Church, Wildwood on Chestnut Street, a family cemetery on the old Kadra property, numerous individual sites, and a particular one of interest just past the corner of Union Street and Esty Street. My good friend and mentor, Kay Powers, wrote a “Story of Ashland” in 1984 about this cemetery, and I’ve always had a curiosity about it. St. Cecilia’s church is on Esty Street and anyone leaving the church and walking up Union Street towards Hopkinton would have to pass the cemetery. It may not be obvious at first due to the stone wall surrounding it, but it is an important part of Ashland’s history.

From Kay’s research, Col. John Jones was the first owner of the property. Col. Jones was the son-in-law of Savil Simpson, a Cordwainer from Boston who settled in the area. There is a lot of documentation supporting Savil Simpson, but a lot of it leads in many directions. The file at the Historical Society is quite thick, and I was told that I could spend an entire article on Mr. Simpson alone. At any rate, the property was passed on to Col. Jones’s son John Jr. and then to a son-in-law Dr. Jeremy Stimpson. Kay’s research cited the fact that the graves were so close in the cemetery that it was difficult to dig a new one without disturbing an existing one, and the unmarked graves of slaves belonging to the Jones family were alleged to be in the westerly corner.

The graves that are marked are Col. John Jones of the 3rd Regiment of the militia who died two years before the Revolution at age 82, his son and daughter-in-law John Jr. and Mary, the Colonel’s son-in-law Dr. Jeremy Stimpson who is in the tomb along with his wife Anna. The marking inscribed on the tomb proudly proclaims that Dr. Stimpson “served at the Battle of Bunker Hill and later as surgeon during the War of the American Revolution.” The photo accompanying our story is of the tomb. A few feet away is another son of Col. Jones named Isaac, who is buried next to his daughter Fanny who died at age seven. In the southeast of the cemetery is another relation, Michael Homer along with his wife who is buried some distance away. The rocky soil conditions sometimes made it impossible to place graves where they were desired. I walked the site, and there is a significant out-cropping of rock throughout the area making it difficult to place them side by side.

The descendants of Savil Simpson, Col. Jones, et al, approached the Town of Ashland shortly after its incorporation in 1846, to assume the perpetual care of the cemetery. They requested that a wall be constructed to protect the property, and in return, the property would be deeded over to the Town. The Town complied, and also erected a marker in the center that reads:

“In this cemetery lies the remains of Savil Simpson, the first settler in this valley, and who purchased it from the original grantee of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his descendants, as well as the old families of this Town. Also, many of those who served and some of who gave their lives in the service of their country during the French and Indian Wars, and the War of the American Revolution. This cemetery was deeded to the Town of Ashland in 1852 to be forever preserved and held sacred. To your honor it is entrusted.”

In addition to the basic information regarding the dates of birth and death, it was a common practice at the time to add an epitaph to the grave stone of the departed. Kay found an interesting one on the grave of Isaac’s daughter Fanny who died at such a tender age. It reads:

“Oh blooming youth
Think of that day
When to grim death
You’d fall a prey.
Over Colonel Jones you will find
If ere I feel my virtue fail
And my ambitious thought prevail
I’ll take a walk among the tombs
And see where to all glory comes.”

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions