America's Oldest Cemetery


Summer is often the time for family vacations, remembering loved ones who are no longer with us, and sprucing up and placing flowers on their graves.  Visiting cemeteries as a part of your vacation travels can be quite interesting, as well as an opportunity to pay your respects to the individuals for whom it has become their final resting place.  One of my personal favorites is the cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY, where Washington Irving wrote about the Headless Horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.  It’s a beautiful cemetery with a lovely old wooden bridge.  Walking around in the late evening with the wind blowing and the leaves rustling, one could almost visualize his frantic night ride. 

So, you might be curious to know where to find the oldest maintained cemetery in the USA.   According to the American Cemetery Association, it is the Myles Standish Burial Grounds in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  It is a rather small, colonial cemetery on a quiet residential street, that would be easy to miss, if you didn’t know to look for it.  Why is it worth a stop?  Because it holds the remains of several voyagers from the Mayflower, with the original slate grave markers still in place but faded by years of exposure to the elements.  The first burials in the cemetery took place in 1638.  Its most famous stone shows the resting place of Capt. Myles Standish, who was buried in 1656.  Other notables there include William Brewster and John and Priscilla Alden.  You might also remember the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Courtship of Miles Standish, written about a supposed love triangle among pilgrims, Myles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins. 

Throughout the cemetery’s history, it went through periods of decay.  In 1887, the Duxbury Rural Society took on the task of cleaning up the cemetery and building a fence to keep out the livestock that were grazing there.  Today, it is a lovely spot to include on your itinerary, along with the stunning beaches, cranberry bogs and delicious New England seafood of Massachusetts. 

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