Founders Burial Ground
The Founders Burial Ground is a small plot of land located off Cliff Road and overlooking Maxcey’s Pond and contains two markers. It is unknown if more stones have been buried through time.
The main memorial, with the names of some of the island’s first male European settlers, is situated on the plot. The text of this memorial reads:
ERECTED A.D. 1881. BY
A DESCENDANT OF THE FIRST
SETTLERS OF NANTUCKET
IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHOSE REMAINS
ARE BURIED ON THIS HALLOWED SPOT
WHERE STOOD THE FIRST CHURCH
GATHERED HERE IN 1711,
SINCE REMOVED TO WHERE IT
NOW STANDS AS THE VESTRY OF THE
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL SOCIETY.
1609 – TRISTAM COFFIN – 1681
1598 – THOMAS MACY – 1682.
1604 – EDWARD STARBUCK – 1690
1617 – PETER FOLGER – 1690.
1624 – JOHN GARDNER – 1706
1664 – JOHN SWAIN. JR. – 1738.
1644 – JOHN COLEMAN – 1715.
1626 – RICHARD GARDNER – 1688.
1598 – CHRISTOPHER HUSSEY – 1686.
1640 – WILLIAM BUNKER – 1712.
Also on the site is a replica of John Gardner’s stone; the original was replaced in 1881 when Tristram Coffin raised funds to have a replica made. The original resides with the Nantucket Historical Association.
Reportedly, the first legal records mention of the “forefather’s burial ground” date from 1838:
“I mention that the ancient burial ground of our forefathers, the first settlers of this Island, at the eastward of Macy’s Pond (So called) which is about three hundred feet square, be reserved as a sacred spot and that the same shall not be laid out by the Proprietors of the common and undivided land on the Island of Nantucket to any individual, company or individuals hereafter and that the same shall not be appropriated for any other purpose and any set of men that have mind to enclose the same with a fence be permitted so to do.” (Record of the proprietors April 12, 1838. Recorded by Peter F. Ewer. Registry of Deeds, Nantucket, Mass.)
It is uncertain how long there has been only one stone in this burying ground. In Nantucket Scraps, by Jane Austin, copyrighted 1882, it is noted that “the only visible proofs remaining are one stone with its legend quite obliterated [the Gardner stone], and another in tolerable preservation” (p. 43). An article in the Weekly Mirror (November 29, 1851) states that only a “single dilapidated monument still remains” [the Gardner stone], but notes that three others were there within memory, that of Prince Coffin, Peter Folger, and John Jepson. Whether the stones have been stolen or covered over with the buildup of time is uncertain.
The Nantucket Historical Association was made the official trustee for this cemetery by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen at the June 20th, 1973 meeting.
At the April 23, 2008 meeting of the Nantucket Board of Selectmen, it was decided to officially name this site the”Founder’s Burial Ground.”
In December 2009, a new monument was dedicated. It’s text reads:
ERECTED A.D. 2009
TO HONOR NANTUCKET’S
AND CHILDREN ON THE
OF THE ENGLISH
SETTLEMENT OF THE ISLAND
1613–DIONIS STEVENS COFFIN–1684.
1612–SARAH HOPCOTT MACY–1706.
1609–CATHERINE REYNOLDS STARBUCK–1658.
1620–MARY MORRELL FOLGER–1704.
1656–PRISCILLA GRAFTON GARDNER–1717.
1661–EXPERIENCE FOLGER SWAIN–1739.
1645–JOANNA FOLGER COLEMAN–1719.
1631–SARAH SHATTUCK GARDNER–1724.
1598–THEODATE BATCHELDER HUSSEY–1685.
1648–MARY MACY BUNKER–1729.
THESE WOMEN BORE
A TOTAL OF EIGHTY CHILDREN.
AMONG THE ENGLISH WOMEN
LAID TO REST ON THIS HILLTOP
WERE THE FOREMOTHERS
OF MANY GENERATIONS OF OFFSPRING
WHO HAVE PEOPLED THE ISLAND SINCE 1659.
Lost Quaker Cemetery
The first Quaker, or Friends, Burial Ground occupied one acre near the south end of Maxcey’s Pond and was used for interments from about 1711 until 1760.
Native American Burial Grounds
One known Native American Burial Ground, also known as the “Miacomet Indian Burial Ground”, lies on Surfside Road. Remains were found when ground was broken for construction of a housing development by the Nantucket Housing Authority in 1987. The burial ground was dedicated in September 1993 in a ceremony featuring blessings and speeches by representatives of Native Peoples groups, plus town and state officials. Augie Ramos and Joanne Holdgate received an award from the Massachusetts Historical Commission for their efforts.
“Miacomet Indian Burial Ground” is one of the largest in the state and contains the graves of probably more than 200 Native people, according to Brona Simon, Massachusetts State Archeologist. It was used as the graveyard of the “Native American Christian” meeting house that once stood nearby. Many of those buried at the site died during the epidemic of 1763 and 1762 that took the lives of 222 Native people.
Massachusetts state law has established procedures for what to do when human remains are found. Private citizens are required to contact state or local police and the regional medical examiner about the discovery and location.
Quaise Burial Ground
The Quaise Burial Ground is located near the entrance to Altar Rock Road. Inmates of Quaise Asylum, the island’s nineteenth-century poorhouse and place of correction, were buried here. There are no stones in this burying ground.
One report of the names of individuals buried in this site are:
St. Mary’s Cemetery
St. St. Mary’s Cemetery is located between Joy and Vestal streets. The island’s Catholic cemetery, it has been in use since the third quarter of the nineteenth century. A searchable database of inscriptions is available online at Find-a-grave.
Edward Lewis Memorial Cemetery (Unitarian Cemetery)
The Unitarian Cemetery is on Somerset Road. The cemetery, which is an extension of the Prospect Hill Cemetery, dates from the twentieth century.