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Missing - Forty-one Puritan Gravestones


These Forty-one Puritan Gravestones.

These forty-one Puritan Gravestones were first moved in 1834 from the first burial ground (on the South Reading Common) to the northeastern section of the second burial ground (behind the third Meeting-House). The Puritan Gravestones were lined up at that location in a continuous row - side by side, without their remains. By 1852 the Puritan Gravestones were all completely removed from the Common. These same Puritan Gravestones were moved a second time to the western side of the second burial ground well before April of 1949 - again, side by side. Later in 1950, at least one-hundred and fifty other gravestones were moved. The reader must note that ONLY the gravestones were moved - not their remains. The legible names on the moved gravestones are listed here.

Forty-one Puritan Gravestones
Forty-one Puritan Gravestones, that were moved twice.


The epitaph on the gravestone of Capt. Jonathan Poole anticipated the future of his remains.


Momento te esse mortalem.
C. ye 2d.
Fugit hora.

Here lyes the body of Capt. Jonathan Poole,
who deceased in the 44th year of his age, 1678.

Friends sure would prove too far unkind,
If, out of sight, they leave him out of mind;
And now he lyes transform'd to native dust,
In earth's cold womb, as other mortals must,
It's strange his matchless worth entomb'd should lye,
Or that his fame should in oblivion dye.


The arrival of the English: In 1638 five men from Lynn (incorporated as the Town of Saugus in 1631, renamed in 1637 Lynn, in honor of Samuel Whiting who arrived from King’s Lynn, England.) petitioned the General Court for an inland plantation at the head of their bounds, on condition that within two years they would begin planting, so that a village could be settled there. Governor Endicott of Naumkeag, as Richard Walker, one of the company declared, "the Governor gave us leave to go where we would".

The land: The title which the Indians had to the soil has been much debated. Though the courts decided many years ago that the Indians had no title, it is doubtful if the justices understood the substantive facts. The Algonquin race were not like most others. They were not nomadic, and held possession of the territory generation after generation, replanting their fields as regularly as spring returned. They cultivated and possessed the soil in a manner similar to the English settlers of Salem and Beverly, who years later claimed that they themselves had title to the land through its possession and cultivation. The various tribes had boundaries to their tribal territory as definite as their occasions demanded, and fully as certain and exact as those of the earlier of the English settlers.
The argument may have been that, as adverse possession for a long time gives rise to the presumption that there was originally a grant, such a presumption would not apply to the case of the Indians, as there was no person or authority who could have made such a grant. This argument proceeds still further, upon the idea that all titles to be effective must be transferred according to English rules or custom. The courts held that these natives had only a right of occupancy and enjoyment. Just how they interpreted this right is uncertain.
Roger Williams claimed that the land was the property of the Indians, and that title thereto could be acquired only from them, and not by virtue of the King's grant. This was one of his ideas which made him unpopular at
Salem and led to his banishment.
Winthrop had written before he left England even that "That which lies comon & hath never been replenished or subdued, is free to any that possesse & improve it. . . As for the Natives in New England, they inclose noe Land, neither have any setled habytation, nor any tame Cattle to improve the Land by, & soe have noe other but a Naturall Right to those Countries. Soe as if we leave them sufficient for their use, wee may lawfully take the rest, there being more than enough for them & us."
Injustice to both Indians and English it should be stated that, on the part of the public here, probably no attempt was ever made to purchase the lands of the Indians. At the very first the authorities discouraged such a movement, saying, in the first general letter of the governor and deputy of the New England Company to the governor and council for London's plantation in the Massachusetts Bay in New England, dated at Gravesend, April 17, 1629, that if any of the savages pretend right of inheritance to the lands the representatives of the company should endeavor to purchase their titles "that wee may avoyde the least scruple of intrusion and this was repeated in the second general letter of the company, dated at London, May 28, 1629.
March 4,1633-34, at a court held at Boston, it was "ordered, that noe pson whatsoeuer shall buy any land of any Indian without leave from Court." These laws were passed for the protection of the Indians, by securing them from deceit and imposition, and to enable the government to avail itself of the full benefit of the grant from the crown to themselves and their grantees, by giving them the exclusive privilege of extinguishing or acquiring the Indians' right of occupancy. It was not a title to be acquired by grant in lands in which the Indians' right had once been extinguished that the English were prohibited from purchasing. If a township had been granted and settled, and the aboriginal right extinguished, it was not the intent of the general court to prevent an Indian acquiring and transmitting title like any settler.
The policy of the colonial government always was to treat the Indians fairly. It was discussed by the general court, and, finally, October 19, 1652, it was ordered, that, being "willing that there may be a free passage of justice for their right amongst us," as well as for the English, and affirmed that what lands the natives have by possession or improvement, by subduing the same, they have just right unto; that if they come and dwell with the English and live civilly and orderly, they shall have allotment amongst the English, according to the custom of the English; and if there be enough for a township of themselves, upon their request to the general court, they shall have grants of land undisposed of for a plantation as the English have."
June 26, 1701, an act was passed by the Province of Massachusetts Bay, expressly making all deeds given by Indians, without leave of the general court, after the passage of the order of 1633-34, inoperative, except as estoppels against the releasors. This act is as follows: — Whereas the government of the late colonys of the Massachusetts Bay and New Plymouth, to the intent the native Indians might not be injured or defeated of their just rights and possessions, or be imposed on and abused in selling and disposing of their lands, and thereby deprive themselves of such places as were suitable for their settlement and improvement, did, by an act and law passed in the said colonys respectively many years since, inhibit and forbid all persons purchasing any lands of the Indians without the licence and approbation of the general court, notwithstanding which, sundry persons for private lucre have presumed to make purchases of lands from the Indians, not having any licence or approbation as aforesaid for the same, to the injury of the natives, and great disquiet and disturbance of many of the inhabitants of this province in the peaceable possession of their lands and inheritances lawfully acquired; therefore, for the vacating of such illegal purchases, and preventing of the like for the future,—

The routes from Salem and Lynn: There were at least three probable routes; The inland migration trail used by natives and beast for hundreds of years was along the present Walnut to Salem to Lowell to Vernon Street (Lot End Road). Two routes from Saugus were the present Boston to Hamilton to Main to Farm to Nahant Street and the route along the present Boston to Hamilton to Saville to Elm to Walnut to Salem to Vernon Street. This last route may have been blocked for a time by 230 acres of water dammed up across the Abousett (now called Saugus) river for the Saugus Iron Works at Hammersmith in 1642-1663. For many years the early settlers of "Linn Village" traveled, back and forth, with their provisions, tools and arms, six miles (from Lynn to Lynn Village) on thin rugged trails up very rocky and ledge prone hills. The present town is one hundred and twenty feet above sea level. Between here and Saugus (Saugust meaning; great or extended outlet or overflowed grass land) there is a line of hills another sixty to one hundred feet higher.

Old Lynn and Saugus

Lynn or Linn Village: The plan of March 16, 1638 for the petition of land six miles inland from the meeting house was granted on September 9, 1638 to those inhabitants of Lynn for a place for an inland plantation at the head of their bounds. The settlement that commenced was called Lynn Village, being a part of the town of Lynn. It was stated that Lynn Village should be exempted from paying Lynn taxes as soon as seven houses should be built and seven families settled. Those that first came and settled were; Nicholas Browne, William Cowdrey, Zachery Fitch, Thomas Marshall, Thomas Parker, John Poole, John Smith and Richard Walker.

Redding: On May 26, 1644, with seven houses having been erected and seven families settled and a little church edifice built, it was ordered “That Lynn village will take the name of Redding”. The first Meeting-House was located at or near the southwest corner of Main and Albion Street. It was the twelfth in the Colony. The parsonage was just south of the Meeting-House with an orchard close by. In 1647 the Meadow Grant of four square miles was added from the pond west toward Charlestown. Those that came then were; Josiah Dustin, Jonas Eaton, Henry Felch, Isaac Hart, Thomas Hartshorn, William Hooper, Thomas Kendall, Peter Palfray, John Pearson, Jeremiah Swayne. In 1651 two square miles was added north of the Ipswich River to Andover. By 1652 those that came were; John Batchelder, Robert Burnap, John Damon, William Eaton, Rev. Samuel Haugh, Thomas Taylor, John Weston and John Wiley. By February 1667 there were fifty-nine homes in Reading.

Map of 1647 Redding and the location of some of the settlers

1647 Map of Reading showing some of the early settlers general locations; 1. Francis Smith, 2. John Smith, 3. Henry Felch, 4. George Davis, 5. Rev. Henry Green, 6. Samuel Dunton, 7. John Poole, 8. Thomas Parker, 9. The first Meeting House, 10. Jeremy Fitch, 11. Josiah Dustin, 12. William Martin, 13. Edward Hutchinson, 14. William Eaton, 15. Jonas Eaton, 16. John Bachellor, 17. Nicholas Browne, 18. Edward Taylor, 19. Robert Burnap, 20. Jeremiah Sweyne, 21. Nicholas Brown, 22. Isaac Hart, 23. William Hooper, 24. Thomas Kendall, 25. Richard Walker, 26. Abraham Briant, 27. Thomas Hartshorne, 28. William Cowdrey, 29. William Hooper, 30. Thomas Clark, 31. Thomas Taylor, 32. Sergt. Thomas Marshall


In 1644 the first burial ground was set out on the Common, north of Church Street, east of Pond Lane and southwest of the present pagoda (built in 1885). It was approximately one quarter of a mile north of the first Meeting-House. Puritan influence (at that time) meant that the burial grounds were secular, and not to be in proximity to a church, calling that custom "papist". For about fifty years this was the only place of interment for the fathers and mothers of the first generation of settlers with their children who early died.
One can read a description of the first burial ground on the gravestone of Deacon Thomas Parker "Here lyeth within this arched place, ye body of Deacon Thomas Parker, who was won of ye foundation of ye church, who dyed ye 12th of August, 1683. Aged about 74." [Thomas Parker is the father-in-law of my 8th great grandmother. His son Hananiah (to the right) married Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Nicholas Browne.]

 Deacon Thomas Parker
Deacon Thomas Parker 1609 - 1683
 Lt. Hananiah Parker.jpg
Lt. Hananiah Parker 1634 - 1724

During January of 2015, while following my DNA results, I found that my 2nd great grand father and his wife, are decendants of John Wesson, Zachary Fitch, Abraham Bryant, Thomas Kendall, William Hescy, Thomas Parker and Nicholas Browne. Five of which are named on one of the Forty-one Puritan Gravestones.

In 1936 there was uncovered in an excavation, on the site of this first burial ground, the upper part of the gravestone of John Bachellor (died in 1676). The evidence is that this decorative tablet marked the burial spot of one of the first settlers. That seems to be the last time anyone has seen the gravestone of John Bachellor. Some of the names of those who died in South Reading before 1700.

If the majority of these Puritan Gravestones were not significant in size they may not have survived their deconsecrations - twice. The founders (men, woman and their children) of Lynn Village later South Reading, now Wakefield suffered, toiled and survived countless obstacles. I find it absolutely heartbreaking that no one recognized their significance and defended their final resting place with an undisturbed gravestone above their remains -

Their religon: Puritans were taught from childhood to never be secure in their personal salvation and that Hell was a reality all but the few saved souls would confront. Since there was nothing that friends or relatives could do to alter the fate of a dying Puritan, there was no place in Puritan New England for expensive and elaborate religious rites or ceremonies. Funeral sermons offered no individual eulogies for the dead and funeral monuments were kept plain and simple. The first grave markers were wooden. There was a custom of setting out a grave with an arched topped head marker and a smaller rectangular foot marker with the body placed between those markers which intentionally resembled a bed. The head marker could have the persons name with numerical specifics. The foot marker, because it was much smaller, may have just the persons’ initials. Early grave markers of wood or stone contained words but no designs because the Puritans thought that the Second Commandment prohibited the use of graven images. Elaborate funerals or headstones seemed like idolatry. Their headstones normally faced east, so that on the morning of the Day of Resurrection, the bodies will respectfully face their Holy Father.

Gradually, the stark Puritan view of death softened. After 1650 Puritan funerals became increasingly elaborate and expensive and tombstones less plain. Corpses began to be embalmed in order to allow time for families to plan funerals and for guests to gather. Especially after the "Great Awakening", the intense religious revival that swept the American colonies beginning in the 1720s. Puritan attitudes toward death began to change. Where, in the seventeenth century, children were told to fear death, they were increasingly told in the eighteenth century look forward to death as a reunion with God and their parents. Adults, in turn, were increasingly assured that a life of active piety assured salvation.

In cemeteries (derived from the Greek word for “sleeping place.”), which were now described as "dormitories," winged cherubs replaced the grisly death's heads and winged skulls that marked early Puritan graves. Republican symbols, such as urns and willows, began to appear in graveyards after the American Revolution and the discovery of the archaeological remains at Pompeii. The wording on gravestones also changed, reflecting a dramatic transformation in American views of death. Instead of saying, "Here lies buried the body of," inscriptions began to read, "here rests the soul of," suggesting that while the corporeal body might decay the soul survived. Death was increasingly regarded as merely a temporary separation of loved ones.

The Deed of the townships of Lynn and Reading, as well as the Two Nahants (Nahanta or Nahanteau meaning; twins or two united) aforesaid, ye little and ye great Nahant was signed by David Kunkshamooshaw and Abigail his wife, and Cicely alias Su George and James Quonopohit and Mary (Ponham) his wife, have hereunto set their hands and seals, ye day of ye date, being ye fourth day of September, one thousand, six hundred eighty and six, annoque regni regis Jacobus Secundi Anglice. These lands were purchased from the nearest of kin and legal successors of Sagamore George No-Nose alias Wenepawweekin for 10 pounds and 16 shillings. Redding's part being a payment of Ten Pounds. Acting for Reading in the 1687 transaction was a trustee and prudential Committee, consisting of Mr. John Browne, Capt. Jeremiah Sweyne and Lt. William Hersey.

ye signe of David and Abigail
David Kunkshamooshaw and Abigail his wife

ye signe of Cicely
Cicely alias Su George

ye signe of Mary Quonopohit
Mary (Ponham) Quonopohit

The Natives: Sagamore George No-Nose, alias George Rumney Marsh, alias Wenepoykin was born in 1616 Pawtucket (now Lynn, MA) the son of Nanapashemet (meaning; New Moon) and his wife, Squaw Sachem. Wenepoykin married Ahawayet or Ahawayetsuaine (called Joane) daughter of Poquannum, from Nahant.
His father, Nanapashemet resided in Lynn until the great war between the Penobscots and the Tarratines of northern Maine occurred, to which he sent sent a war party to aid the Penobscots in 1615. That brought about his own death and the destruction of his federation by his participation in the war. Nanapashemet anticipated the Tarratine threat and retreated to a hill on the borders of the Mystic River (in Medford) where he built a house and fortified himself in the best manner possible. He survived the desolating sickness of 1617, but the Tarratines pursued him to his retreat and he was killed by them in 1619. On March 8, 1644 Squaw Sachem submitted herself to the English and consented to have her subjects instructed in the Bible. She lost her sight and hearing in 1662, she had a stroke that completely paralyzed her in 1667, the year of her death. Squaw Sachem was buried in Medford.
During 1617 "The Great Pestilence", a devastating plague sweeps across Massachusetts (meaning; at or about the great hill - Blue Hills) country, and Nanapashemet loses 75%-95% of his people. Wenepoykin, his youngest son, becomes sachem of Naumkeag (meaning; fishing place) at eight years old in 1624. In 1633 another smallpox epidemic ravages all the tribes of Southern New England killing his older brother Wonohaquaham (b: 1609 the 2nd son of Nanapashemet), called "Sagamore John". Wenepoykin survives, but he is disfigured from the disease's terrible ulcers. He is called, "No-Nose," by many from this point forward. He succeeded his oldest brother Montowampate (called "Sagamore James") in the chieftainship of the Saugus tribe. Montowampate (b: 1606 the 1st son of Nanapashemet) died in December 5 of 1633, at age 24, of small pox in England (by invitation of Governor Winthrop) while obtaining renumeration for his twenty beaver skins by a man in England named Watts.
Wenepoykin had reason to dislike the English. Both of his brothers had died from smallpox, which he may have associated with the coming of the English. His father-in-law, Poquannum (called Black Will, Duke William) was always friendly to the English, and his end was sad as well as tragical. [Poquannum was found at Richmond's Isle, near Portland, Maine, on January 1633, by a party who were in search of pirates, and they charged him with the murder of Walter Bagnall, who had been killed by Indians a year or two before. He was undoubtedly guiltless of the crime, but one Indian was the same as any other Indian, and he was hanged. Poquannum had a son called Captain Tom, or Thomas Poquanum, and lived at Wameset (Chelmsford) near Pawtucket Falls.] His mother's lands (Squaw Sachem) were all English by 1650, and he himself had land disputes with the English. Wenepoykin brought several lawsuits before the court over land and other issues aurrounding the growing English settlements. The courts continually stalled his cases and he never received satisfaction.
Wenepoykin joined the Wampanoag Sachem Metacomet (son of Massasoit), called "King Philip", in the war (1675-1678) against the English. [During this war, hysteria, ordered that all Indians from the praying villages were to be interred on Deer Island for their said protection, it was a misery from which many Indians died - only 40% survive the ordeal.] Sagamore George was captured in 1675 (during the war) and sold into slavery, and rescued after eight years in Barbadoes through the efforts of John Eliot. According to a document in the Essex Registry of Deeds, "Sagamore George, after his return from Barbadoes, resided with and later died at the home of James Rumneymarsh on Deer Island in September of 1684 at the age of 68 years." Sagamore George No-Nose, alias George Rumney Marsh, alias Wenepoykin was the last reigning Sachem of the Saugus tribe of Indians. His wife Ahawayet or Ahawayetsuaine (called Joane) daughter of Poquannum, from Nahant died in 1685.
James Quonopohit (grandson of Nanapashemet) was born with the name Muminquash in 1636 Rumneymarsh - Chelsea, MA. James, who was also called James Rumney Marsh, died in 1712. [Note; a large area along the east coast between now Chelsea and Saugus was then called Rumney Marsh - Rumney Marsh Indians.] Cicely alias Su George (daughter of Sagamore George) was born Petagunsk Cicely Wanapanaquin in 1642. David Kunkshamooshaw (great grandson of Nanapashemet) was born with the name Nonupanohow before 1676.

The War: The Wampanoag Sachem, Metacomet (son of Massasoit Ousamequin (1581-1661) - "Great Leader") was the head of a confederation of Algonquian tribes, called by the British "King Philip", was born in 1638 Sowans, Rhode Island. [His father, Massasoit Ousamequin, had negotiated peace with the Pilgrims in 1621 and prevented the failure of Plymouth Colony and the almost certain starvation that those Pilgrims faced during the earliest years of the colony's establishment.] Embittered by the subsequent humiliations to which he and his people were continually subjected by the British, Metacom on June 24, 1675 led a confederation of Wampanoag, Narragansett, Abenaki, Nipmuck, and Mohawk warriors into a war for Mother Earth. The ensuing conflict was the most brutal Indian war in New England history. After considerable loss of life and property on both sides, the confederation began to disintegrate, and food became scarce. Metacom returned to his ancestral home at Mount Hope ("Montaup"), where he was betrayed and assasinated on August 12, 1676 (at 38 years old) in "Miry Swamp" - Mount Hope, Bristol, Rhode Island by a Wampanoag informant named John Alderman. Metacomet was beheaded and quartered. His head was displayed on a pike for 25 years at Fort Plymouth. One of his hands was sent to Boston, the other was sent to England.

Metacomet - "King Philip"
King Philip


History of the common area: In 1688-1689, a second Meeting-House was built and located a few rods northwest of the present stone church. It faced toward the west and stood (as written in 1812) near the gravestones of the Rev. John Mellen (1722-1807) and his wife Rebecca Prentice (1727-1802) located along the front, south east corner of the second burial ground. [Their gravestones were last seen in 1950.] A second burial ground was set out and was located beside (west of) and behind (north of) the second Meeting-House extending to the now Lake Avenue. This ground has been enlarged considerably from time to time beyond its early limits. The second burial ground was said to be fully occupied by 1846. The last burial was said to be that of Ezra Eaton in 1935. [Isaac Hart, who settled in "Redding" in 1647, sold sixteen acres of land to the town on February 3, 1689. This land ran from Lafayette Street north to the pond, west of the "Common" and east of the town brook. The second town pound, built in 1761, was at the southwest corner of the old burying ground on Church Street. It was long marked by four willow trees, one at each corner, providing shade for dumb animals temporarily detained there. A second Old Brick Powder House was erected in 1765 and was located in the southwest corner of the old cemetery on a knoll.]

In 1711 a second Parsonage was built on at the corner of Lafayette and Common Streets - The Prentiss House. On the grounds near the second Meeting-House a school was "fitted out" in 1694. On Sunday, July 2, 1727 there was a terrible thunder storm. Lightning struck the building, "broke off the vane and spindle, broke the turret in pieces, shivered off the clapboards on the west and south sides from top to bottom, and shattered one of the doors."

The third Meeting-House was erected in 1769. It stood a few feet south of the main entrance to the present stone church which was erected in 1892. It faced toward the west as did its predecessor. Excavations in Church Street uncovered the stone foundation piers.

On February 2, 1812 the territory of the First Parish was incorporated as the Town of South Reading. There were more votes to name the town Winthrop. The first Town Meeting was held on March 5th in the old third Meeting-House, there being no Town Hall, and the Centre School House not of sufficient size to accommodate the townspeople. The population was about 800. [The Centre School House was erected in 1789 at the northeast corner of the south Common by Main Street and discontinued in 1834. The first hay scales were located west of that school.] In 1812 it was reported, "that the gravestones on the Common, such as had not been broken down, were still standing at the graves to which they respectively belonged. [The Common was unfenced and ungraded, with only three trees for shade in the entire area. There was an open ditch that extended through one portion of it and in the central part was a hollow or basin ("Ken's Pond"), partially filled with stones, tin, chips and other debris, in which water stood and where the town's people skated in the winter. There were then but about sixteen public roads in South Reading. There was then but one single street opening leading from Main Street, from the north end of Reading Pond, to the Malden line; and leading easterly there were but three within the same limits. The existing streets were generally narrow, crooked, poorly graded, and without sidewalks, except for a short distance on one side of Salem Street". The “Great Gale of 1815" toppled the steeple of the third Meeting-House and was later replaced by a dome.]

Plan of South Reading Common in 1826
Use your browsers zoom function so you can read the small print.

In 1834 the first Town House was erected on the site of the first Burying Ground on Church Street. A committee made a contract with John Wiley "to build a cellar or basement story on the old Burial Lot. The cellar shall be 60 feet long by 40 feet wide, the walls to be 8 feet in height in all parts, and the walls to the ground surface shall be 3 feet thick of good plaster or thick stones." Wiley also agreed "to furnish eight split stone pillars 8 feet in length and 1 foot square suitable to set under the centre of the house." Upon this foundation the Town House was built. The Town of South Reading took up most (some were still present in 1852) of the old gravestones and placed them in a continuous row in the easterly part of the second cemetery behind (north of) the third Meeting-House. The Town House was built to serve as the center of government for the town of South Reading. Our town had broken off from the old town of Reading to form the separate town of South Reading in 1812. But, for twenty-two years the seat of government had been in the third Meeting-House. Two school rooms were set apart in the Town House and were occupied until 1853. The 1830 Census recorded 1,311 inhabitants in the town. [The Town House was replaced by the grand Town Hall donated by Cyrus Wakefield in 1871. Two years later, the old Town House was sold to clothing merchant John M. Cate and the building was moved to the corner of Main and Salem Street. It was remodeled and raised from two stories to three. The town maintained ownership of the Paul Revere Bell, “wheel and rope.” This bell was the only town fire alarm for many years. The Paul Revere Bell was moved to the new High School building in 1872. In 1937 it was moved to the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library. Sometime in 1997 the bell was taken off its cradle and established in a new home in the lobby of the Galvin Middle School.]

Lilley Eaton delivered a poem "Of The Town of Reading" on May 29, 1844 at The Reading Bi-Centennial Celebration, it read in part;

The magic scene, on which I'd gaz'd
With wonder, gratified and pleas'd,
Dissolv'd away, and in its place
Old Reading shone, with alter'd face;
Just fifty years had now pass'd o'er,
'T was sixteen hundred ninety-four.

And as with wonder I behold
Our Reading, half a cent'ry old,
The first great objects that attract
My gaze, that mournful sighs exact,
Are sad mausoleums of the dead,
Where death has made the pilgrims' bed;
Where humble gravestones mark the place
Of our old fathers' burying-place;
And, as I scann'd the graves around,
The solemn truth I quickly learn'd,
That out of all that hardy band,
Who first were settlers of the land,
But four remain'd: old Major Swayne,
Old Mother Kendall, of the plain,
And Captain Brown, were living still,
And old John Damon, of the hill.
A town and school-house now is found
Within this ancient burial-ground;
A house, whose granite bases rest
Among the bones of pilgrims blest,
And children play without recoil
Upon this old sepulchral soil.


1856 South Reading, Massachusetts
1856 map of the center area of South Reading, Massachusetts.

Note; John Ross, John, Josiah, Bartholomew, Josiah, Samuell, Osmonde Trask lived on Grove Street, South Reading, Massachusetts.

A wooden Engine House was erected in 1852 on the north side of Church Street in front of the present pagoda (built in 1885). This early Engine House, a small building, stood a little west of the gate to the first burial ground (in which the early settlers of the town were interred). The wooden Engine House was destroyed by fire in 1859. Subsequently, a brick Engine House was erected at the same location. East of the gate to the first burial ground was Robert Ken's blacksmith shop in 1680, later occupied by Abner B. Hart and later Jeremiah Bryant in 1799. The "village smithy" was located at the northwest corner of Church Street at Main Street. [The very first Town fire apparatus was the hand engine "Republican Extinguisher" (1805-1830) it was housed in a small framed structure located west of the second burial ground on Church Street. The second fire apparatus called the "Black Hawk" was also housed there until 1834 when it was kept in the cellar of the new Town House until 1852. The "Yale" hand engine and later the first Silsby steam fire engine was quartered in the brick Engine House on the Common until 1891.]

1860 Church Street
1860's Church Street, South Reading, Massachusetts.

In 1859 the third Meeting-House was remodeled, turned to face toward the south and moved a little to the north, the spire torn down, and rebuilt with a clock. The small building and horse sheds which have been depicted as being to the rear and east may have been built about this time. The old Paul Revere bell bought in 1815 was removed to the first Town Hall in 1859. The Third Parsonage was built in 1804 and was little distance east and between the Meeting-House and old Pond Lane. The farewell services occurred on May 24, 1890. The old third Meeting-house was demolished that year to make room for the fourth edifice.

The Town of South Reading officially took the name Wakefield on July 1, 1868.

In 1871 Lake Avenue was layed out. Therefore, Pond Lane which ran parallel to it and about ten to fifteen feet to the east was covered over. The section (a dirt path) that runs toward Lawrence Street remains to this day.

In 1892 the forth Meeting-House was built a little to the north of the third. The corner stone was located at the southwest corner of the building, very close to the site of the second Meeting-House. On February 21, 1909 the forth Meeting-House was partially destroyed by fire. The exterior stone so contained the blaze that the nothing remained of the interior. The tower and the wall on the south a little beyond the main entrance and the wall on the east remained practically unimpaired.

On February 1, 1912 the fifth Meeting-House was dedicated. The exterior of the new building represents the same aspect as the former except on the west where the walls were raised one story to give space for Sunday School class rooms.

In 1950, after the Town of Wakefield sold the land, an extension was added onto the back of the fifth Meeting-House. Hence, all the remaining gravestones immediately behind (north of) and beside (west of) the fifth Meeting-House were removed to the western side of the second burial ground which was said to be fully occupied by 1846. These one-hundred and fifty or so gravestones, plus the forty-one Puritan Gravestones were arranged in a semi-circular pattern about the north, east and south side of the monument marking the grave of Cornelius Sweetser [Junior] (1780-1847) and Phebe, his wife (1777-1853).

One-hundred and fifty or so gravestones, with the forty-one Puritan Gravestones in the background.


To the Reader:

I freely admit that thirty-eight years have passed since I encountered this… anomaly at the west end of the second burial ground, while searching for the relatives of Rosillar Trask Slocomb who died on July 12, 1839 @ 4y 10m scalet fever.
She is grand daughter of Sarah, William, William, William, Captain
William Traske
Sarah Trask's mother was Eunice Eaton, daughter of Nathaniel Eaton and Mary Weston both from 1730s Reading, MA.
It was immediately apparent that presenting this would be an all or nothing endeavor. Its factualness would required time to accumulate and digest all of the information about the history of this area. My motivation to research, compile and present this information was driven by my yearning for an understanding of why this happened - twice.

I can not appreciate any circumstance where if someone asked me to move anyone’s gravestone, that someone would have been immediately confronted by my vehement objection and protest at the mere suggestion of such a proposal – RWT.


For the first twenty or so years I wrote out most of the gravestone and other information by hand, not knowing there were books with similar information. If you have any additional information that would compliment this presentation, please e-mail me - sharing is a valuable part of the education process. Now that I have just about finished researching, most of what I hunted for is easily accessible on the Internet.

The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library - Wakefield, MA
The Reading Public Library - Reading, MA
Reading's “Old Burial Ground” now in Wakefield, Massachusetts, 1688 - Eaton, William E.
- Note; the 1049 names on the gravestones in that book was collected and by Mr, John 0. Blanchard.
Inscriptions from the most ancient burial ground in South Reading, 1644-1834 - Lilley Eaton.
Genealogical history of the town of Reading, Mass. - Eaton, Lilley, 1802-1872 - Eaton, William E.
Ancient Redding In Massachusetts Bay Colony Its Planting As a Puritan Village - Loea Parker Howard
The five meeting houses and early parsonages of the first parish of Old Reading, now Wakefield, Massachusetts.
Inaugural Exercises in Wakefield, Mass.: Including the Historical Address and Poem Delivered on July 4th 1868. - Lilley Eaton.
History of Wakefield (Middlesex County) Massachusetts, compiled by William E. Eaton and History Committee.
Wakefield souvenir of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of ancient Reading, at Wakefield. - C. W. Eaton and W. E. Eaton.
Hand-book of Wakefield, Mass - Eaton, Will E. 1885.
Church records of the old town of Reading, Mass. and of the First Parish of Reading and South Reading from 1648 to 1846.
Early land grants and town bounds of the old Town of Reading, Massachusetts from 1639 to 1802 - Wightman, J.W.
Tabloid history of the town of Wakefield 1923 - Fulton, Arthur A.
Wakefield Congregational church; a commemorative sketch. 1644-1877 - Bliss, Charles Robinson, 1828.
Wakefield, By Nancy Bertrand - 2000
Wakefield Revisited, By Nancy Bertrand - 2010
Women In Early America: Struggle, Survival, And Freedom In A New World, By Dorothy A. Mays.
Boston University School Of Theology, Dissertation, by The Rev. James J. Olson.
History of Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts: By Alonzo Lewis, James Robinson Newhall - 1890
Liñ, or, Jewels of the Third Plantation, By James Robinson Newhall - 1880
The Indian land titles of Essex County, Massachusetts, By Sidney Perley - 1912
The History of Salem, Massachusetts, three Volumes 1636-1716, By Sidney Perley - 1924, 1926 & 1928
King Philip's War: 1675-1676
American Biography: Metacomet, Life in a Box, Colonial Timeline, Pathfinder
The Indian land titles of Essex County, Massachusetts, By Sidney Perley

I'd really like to thank "The Lady of The Lake", Debbie Unknown or Debbie Desilva or Debbie De Silva - if I could find her. The was a connection to the Dichiara family in Peabody. I met Debbie while searching around Lake Quannapowitt in 1983 near where once stood "the three trees".
She moved away from the John, Village, Haven Street area of Reading, MA. She once spotted a stone with the date 16th Jan. 1751 and stated that her birthdate was on January 16, 1951.
So, if you know or knew Debbie, or Debbie Desilva or Debbie De Silva of 1983 Reading, MA please contact me.


This past week of January 20th, 2015, after following my DNA results, I was absolutely shocked to find that I am related to seven of those forty-one Puritans.

Wow! I just had no idea and wonder if "something else" was the cause of my motivation to compile this story.

You may, freely, "cut and paste" our information into your word processor for personal use only.
You may extract specifically associated data into a non-commercial webpage if you link it to ours.
We would have
serious objections with anyone attempting to sell any part of "our" passion for a profit.
All the bound books, formal papers, manuscripts and photocopied materials were submitted to us in "Good Faith".
We will diligently defend the contents of "The Trask Web Pages" from any exploitation for personal gain.

We have an additional 350 gb of Trask family information on hand.
Our Trask Library has well over three hundred donated items, i.e., books, periodicals and CDs.

If you did not find who your looking, need assistance or want to use "our" Trask family information - e-mail me.


Thanks for visiting
"The Trask Web Pages"


Most recent revision: by RWT on Thursday, January 22, 2015


© 9-15-1995 by R.W. Trask

e-mail usrwtrask@rcn.com