Friday, January 25, 2008

Italian Cemetery (St Michaels)

I didn't know that St Michael's cemetery had any special connection to Italians until last year, when I was doing some footwork tracing down the tributaries of Stony Brook. The old Canterbury brook wrapped around today's border of St Michael's, so I went in to look for any surviving evidence of the stream. What I found when I drove in to the property was a veritable cornucopia of vowels - row after row of musical Italian names. There had to be an explanation for this, and here it is. St Michael's was founded as an Italian Catholic cemetery. St Michael's web site describes the facility as non-denominational, so somewhere along the line both the Italian and Catholic origins gave way. Today's Boston is diverse even in death.

Here's a map of the area from 1914 - the grounds have expanded since then. The cemetery is in the upper right.

Boston Daily Globe January 9, 1906

Italian Cemetery.

Clergymen Interested in Starting It Comment Upon "Unfounded Rumors" That Have Been Circulated.

To the Editor of the Globe - Since the granting by the board of aldermen of a permit to the Italian Catholic cemetery association to use a certain parcel of land for burial purposes all sorts of unfounded rumors have been circulated, and in order that the public may have correct information we ask the publication of this letter.

The Italian population in Boston numbers about 60,000 and has had no place of its own in which to bury its dead. Holy Cross cemetery at Malden and Calvary cemetery in West Roxbury are crowded, and the burial lots can no longer be secured at reasonable figures, and no more free graves for the poor are obtainable. The movement for a new cemetery was started by the pastors of the four Italian churches in Boston, and all steps taken, both with reference to negotiating for the purchase of the land and for the granting of a permit by the board of aldermen, were by and under their advice.

The continued news items against the cemetery because of its being Italian are unfair. We are proud to say that no people of God's earth better adorn or decorate the graves of their dead than do the Italians. We characterize as false all statements relative to graft or illegal burial. We ourselves were in touch with the negotiation for the purchase of the land, and we also attended upon the board of aldermen in person the interment of the body, made solely for the purpose of taking legal possession of the premises under the permit as we understand to be customary, was made on the afternoon of Monday, and not in the evening of Saturday.

we understand that under the laws of the commonwealth and ordinances of our city the dead may be buried within the confines of the city. We asked nothing more, and we received nothing but what was our right, what has been granted to others and will be again. We deem it a right that no man can deny, that as citizens of Boston we are entitled to a place of burial for our dead.

If the entire city were searched no more fitting place could be found for the site of a cemetery than that selected, as may be attested by the location of others in the same vicinity, namely the Forest Hills cemetery, Calvary cemetery, Mt Hope cemetery and others. In fact it is the cemetery district of Boston, and this leads us to look in that direction for a location.

The property is bounded by Walk Hill, Canterbury and Bourne sts on three sides and by vacant unused land on the fourth. There are no buildings on the property save one on Walk Hill st, which we are willing and desirous of purchasing. Pierce farm, owned by the city of Boston, is on the opposite corner, and with the crematory but a few feet away on Walk Hill st it is in no sense a residential district.

We must have a cemetery and what better place could there be for one than the one selected, with a cemetery on the opposite side of the street and another directly to the rear, with very few residences in the immediate locality, and with the prospect of building entirely eliminated by the public lands held by the city in the immediate vicinity.

We have met every legal requirement, and feel that the opposition we are now meeting has been aroused, and that the press is unwittingly being used by interested persons with ulterior motives, who have endeavored to thwart us in our efforts to secure the permit, and we are cognizant of the fact that they are now encouraging unjust agitation against us.

Rev Roberto Biasotti
Rev F. Valerianus, OFM
Rev P Di Milla
Rev Francis F. Saunella.

January 28, 1907

Blessing The Ground.

Rev Fr Di Milla Officiates at the Services Held at the Italian Cemetery in Forest Hills.

Yesterday afternoon many Italians were present at the blessing of the ground of the Italian Catholic cemetery association on Walkhill st, Forest Hills.

Since it gained title to the plot of ground near Canterbury st, over which there had been much objection made by residents of that section, the association has fenced it in, graded the lot, established a system of drainage and erected an ornamental gateway.

The exercises were conducted by Rev Fr Pasquale Di Milla.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this information.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. My grandfather was buried at St. Michael's in 1921. I'm hoping to visit his grave in two weeks. Blessings

  3. Many members of my immediate and extended family are buried here in this cemetery. There were all Italian born or the off spring of Italian immigrants. It is a beautiful place and I too love to walk along the rows reading the Italian names. There are beautiful statues and tributes to Italian Americans who died fighting for the United States in the wars. -Maryanne Tirinnanzi, granddaughter of Emilia Rugo and Corrado Cesare Tirinnanzi

  4. I was just there yesterday, Indeed it is unlike any other cemetery in the area, MUCH bigger stones, ALL customized with actual sculptures of the deceased. Made by Italians, who often softly dominated the stone cutting field.....I can't imagine how gorgeous it would have been in the 1920's, 30's, 40's, with real flowers and decorations on top of the already decorated stone monuments!