A friend of mine is a newly elected official in our little town of just over two thousand people. She actually holds two positions – the first being the “Trustee of the Trust Funds.” While that sounds pretty impressive, what got my attention was the other: “Cemetery Trustee.” What, I asked, is a Cemetery Trustee?
To clarify things, this little town has 56 cemeteries. Most of these are historic, and many have only a handful of graves. It is up to the Cemetery Trustee to walk through each of these 56 sites and determine whether repairs are needed, and then go about having the repairs made while staying within a budget. It’s actually more historical preservation than anything else.
I learned from her that if you want to be buried on your own property, you can here … provided you put a fence around it. The little cemeteries scattered across this town have wood fences, ornate ironwork, and simple stone walls enclosing them; locations include front yards, hilltops, roadsides, and woodlands. Even after all these years I occasionally run across one tucked away in the trees that I’d never seen before. Most have signs that denote the family name: i.e., “Piper Cemetery.” Even if there are only two headstones.
My favorite historic cemetery is in a larger town 45 minutes away – it is located in the corner of the Home Depot parking lot.
My Cemetery Trustee tells me that there is an old Indian burial ground on the property adjacent to her own; this is something I would love to see even though you have to hike into the woods to a small clearing to find it. All are a reminder of the people gone before us, fathers and mothers and children, in the wilds of New England when the country was new. I’ve been invited along to inspect some of these 56 historic cemeteries, and I hope I get to go. Honoring and respecting our collective past is the best way to preserve it for the future. And my friend? She is going to be busy … but I’m confident that this page of the town’s history book is in good hands!