Colored Cemetery

There are 120 markers in the Colored Cemetery on Mill Hill, traditionally used for the burial of people of color, as of July 2004.

The first mention of the Mill Hill cemetery was in the Nantucket Registry of Deeds, Proprietors Records, Vol. 1, p. 228, 29th day of fifth month, 1805: “Voted that the Black People may fence in one acre of land where their Burying Place is and that the lot layers measure it to them.” 3rd day of sixth month, 1805: “Then measured where the Black People’s Burying Place is: from a rock to the southwest of where they have buried eastward 12 1/2 rods; from thence northward 12 1/2 rods; from thence westward 12 1/2 rods; from thence to the southward 12 1/2 rods to said rock; containing about one acre which was granted to the Black People to fence in for a Burying Place by the Proprietors as by a vote on record will appear.”

From this we know that by 1805 this part of the common landland was already used as a burial site and it was granted by the Proprietors (not the town meeting or selectmen) to the “Black People,” not to a church or other organization.

The first recorded reference is to “the Black People’s Burying Place.” A deed written two years later in 1807 for an adjacent piece of land refers to the cemetery as “the Burying Ground that Belongs to the Black People or People of Colour.” It is often marked simply “Burying Ground” on plats and maps. Town records of burials and maintenance refer to it as “Colored Cemetery.” On modern maps, it is usually referred to as “Mill Hill Cemetery.”

Recently, a new marker was placed in at the site to honor it.

At the April 23, 2008, meeting of the Nantucket Board of Selectmen, it was decided to officially designate the cemetery at Mill Hill as the “Colored Cemetery” and officially named the “Founder’s Cemetery.” Town Counsel had recommended adding “Historic” before the name “Colored Cemetery,” but the stakeholders had voiced their displeasure with including the term “historic” because they felt it was caving to political correctness and the board agreed.

View the Maps of the Colored Cemetery