Monday, November 17, 2008

Search For A Lost Cemetery

The Greenough estate (approximately). Hales, 1832 (JP Historical Society).

The Greenough estate sat on 50 acres in central Jamaica Plain along South and Centre streets. From the 1780s until 1924, Five generations of owners, all named named David Stoddard Greenough, lived on the property. The estate had been the property of Loyalist Commodore Joshua Loring, and had served as a headquarters for the revolutionary militia and as a hospital after Loring and his family had removed to Boston, and then into exile in England. The estate served both as hospital and last resting place, as soldiers who died at the house were buried on the property. This burial site, as well as two others in Jamaica Plain, have already been discussed in an earlier entry.

I've seen one reference to the location of this former burial place that placed it towards the back, east side of the estate, near the former Jamaica Plain high school and the railroad tracks. During a recent tour of the Loring-Greenough house, I was told by the guide that the soldiers had been buried near the former Methodist church (now Seventh Day Adventist), which sits at the intersection of Elm and Newbern streets. That information caused me to keep digging, and I think I've come up with a clue that may settle the matter.

Lets look at the property in question. The Polleys farmed the area for three generations during the Colonial era. After the Revolution, it came into the hands of the Greenough family. Development of this and adjacent land - between Centre and Washington streets - began with Samuel Goodrich, who laid out Green street and sold house lots at the border between his property and the Greenough estate in 1837. In the 1840s, William Winchester Jr. laid out Seaverns avenue (probably from Centre to Alveston streets) from the land of Luther Seaverns, his twice father-in-law (William Winchester married Mary Parker Seaverns, who died in 1837, and then her sister Ann Augusta Seaverns, who lived until 1899).

Development of the Greenough property started during the 1850s, and and extended through the 1890s. The first David S. Greenough died in 1826, and his son followed him in 1830, leaving a widow, five children, and no will. His widow, Maria Foster Doane Greenough Sumner (takes a breath) died in 1843, son John in 1846, and daughter Jane in 1847, leaving the three surviving children as heirs of the estate. The Jamaica Plain property seems to have been divided between David and Anna, with David ending up with the south portion, from McBride street to Greenough avenue, and Anna getting the area between Greenough and Seaverns avenues.

As my current interest - remember the burial site? - is in the Sumner hill area, I'll leave discussion of the southern section for another time. When Anna married Henry King Burgwyn of North Carolina, her property was put into trust. It was her trustees, James Read and William Duhon, who sold off the land that became Sumner Hill for Anna while she lived in North Carolina.

The surveyor's plan above shows lots being sold by Samuel Goodrich. Green street (appropriately marked in green) runs from top to bottom, with Seaverns avenue (red) running parallel to it. Across the bottom is the railroad tracks (blue). Seaverns avenue and this part of Everett street served as a back access to the lots being sold, and followed the boundary between the properties of Goodrich and David Greenough. The access road continues across the railroad tracks, and crosses Stony Brook at the bottom of the page. Somewhere on the Greenough side of this map, the soldiers were buried.

Charles Whitney, 1849 (BPL)

I knew that there were maps of Jamaica Plain from 1819 and later, so I began going through each one, looking especially at the area in question. It didn't take long to find something interesting on this one, from 1849. The streets are a little different than we recognize and some are labeled incorrectly, but let's take a look. As on the Goodrich plan from 12 years previous, Green street is shown. Notice that Starr lane runs from Centre street all the way to Elm street, and that Seaverns avenue does not connect to Starr lane. Roanoke and Revere streets are there, but Greenough avenue is not, and Alveston street does not connect Harris avenue to Greenough. More importantly, look at the street that would become Everett street. Unlike the Goodrich plan above, it does not show a continuation crossing the railroad tracks and Stony brook. This is probably because Green street made a second railroad crossing superfluous. What you do see at the end of Everett street is a little drawing of a gravestone, complete with cross (click the picture to see a larger version). This would put the cemetery at approximately where Bishop street now joins Everett street.

View Larger Map

This Google map shows the location marked on the 1849 Whiteny map shown above. It is quite close to the Methodist church location referred to above, that being at the intersection of Elm and Newbern streets. Just the short length of Bishop street separates the two sites. Given that the man who drew the map may have been less than fussy about the cemetery location, my guide at the Loring Greenough house may have been right about the cemetery having been at the church site. Then again, we can assume that he did see the cemetery, and his marker may be more accurate.

All in all, I doubt I'll get any closer to the actual site than what I've come up with here. Let's just hope that all the remains were removed before the land was developed. Many years had passed, and it is possible that some bones were left behind. Could there be some buried in back yards and under streets? Could be.

Sources: Winchester Notes, by Fanny Winchester Hotchkiss,

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