A Trip to Plymouth and a Visit to the Standish Burial Ground

I was back in Plymouth – ostensibly to celebrate our anniversary, as I was married in St. Peter’s Church there – but also to make some visits to historic sites I had missed

One of these is the shady and peaceful Old Burying Ground in Duxbury also known as the Myles Standish Cemetery – one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, coming into use in the late 1630s.

TThe most prominent feature of the cemetery is a striking monument placed over what is believed to be Myles Standish’s family plot. Martial in appearance, in keeping with Standish’s profession, the monument includes a castellated stone enclosure and four 19th century cannons and cannon balls from the Boston Navy Yard.

According to tradition, Captain Standish was buried beneath two rough, pyramid shaped fieldstones. Stones matching this description were located within the Old Burying Ground and two exhumations (one was not deemed enough) revealed a male skeleton between those of two women (consistent with Standish’s request in his will to be buried between his daughter and daughter-in-law). They also found the remains of two boys, probably Charles and John Standish, the Captain’s sons, both of whom had died young. Examining the remains of the man believed to be Captain Standish, a doctor proclaimed that he had been a man of great physical strength. The poor man was exhumed a third time so his remains could be placed in a hermetically sealed copper box which would then be placed in a new cement chamber. One can only hope Captain Standish can now rest in peace.

You can hardly expect to find any of the Mayflower passengers’ burial sites still marked there. They would have had wooden tomb markers after all, and this cemetery fell into neglect for many years.

But I did find some stones that gave me goosebumps because I recognized who had been buried there. The oldest stone (1697) marks the burial site of Jonathan Alden, son of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Both his parents were buried in this place but since no one knows where, there are some stone tablets to note their existence. His sister Sarah, married to Myles Standish’s oldest son, Alexander, is also interred here…somewhere.

I also found a tombstone for Deacon William Brewster. He was not THE Elder Brewster but the son of Love Brewster, who was the son of the Elder. The family helped to settle this area, along with the Standishes, the Aldens, the Bradfords and the Howlands.

I also found the tombstone of Gamaliel Bradford and his wife, Abigail. He is descended from William Bradford, second governor of the Plymouth Colony via William Bradford, Jr., and his son, Samuel Bradford.

Many of the Mayflower descendants were active participants in the Revolutionary War, and I hope to write about this at some time.



22 thoughts on “A Trip to Plymouth and a Visit to the Standish Burial Ground”

  1. I’m so pleased to see this! I wrote a short post about John Mullins, Alice’s father, who lived in Dorking, Surrey. There is a plaque to commemorate their home there. I love a good cemetery, even more so to link to the ​information I already know! Thanks.

  2. It is fascinating to think about those who lived on our land so many years ago. You’re a good researcher, Noelle and I’m sure you will write an interesting story!

    1. Thank you! I got gooesbumps in the Howland House during my visit because the stone entryway is the same one that was there in 1662 or thereabouts and I couldn’t help but think of the Separatists who had walked on those stones.

  3. These are great photos of old tombstones-at least old in the American sense of the word. I live near Concord Massachusetts and we have some terrific cemeteries nearby. I love walking in the sleepy hollow cemetery and seeing stones for Thoreau, Alcott and Hawthorne.

  4. Noelle, these gravestones are amazing — such fuel for the imagination. With the effects of weather and the changes in language over centuries, they are richly mysterious. I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. Hugs on the wing.

  5. So with all this intriguing information, do you have an update on when your book will come out. I am waiting with great anticipation! 😉

    1. I am editing it for the second time, Ellen, and have begun sending out query letters – hoping to have an actual agent for this one. Sometime next year is my best guess. Unless you want to read it beforehand?

  6. Those are old stones, Noelle. I enjoy old cemeteries and imagining the story behind (under?) the names on the stones. Fascinating that we have the history on some of these early settlers. A hermetically sealed copper box? I wonder why they wanted it to be hermetically sealed? Fear of ghosts? Preserving it for future grave robbers? There’s a fresh story in there. 🙂

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