Sudbury, MA - I braved the threat of the incoming “snowstorm of the season” this afternoon to go check out the Revolutionary War Cemetery in Sudbury, MA, established in 1716. It is the oldest cemetery of modern Sudbury and holds the remains of 47 soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Also buried there are Revolutionary era leaders and historical figures, such as Colonel Ezekiel How, second innkeeper of the historic Wayside Inn. The oldest existing stone is from 1727 and if you are interested, a list of the names on the stone markers is available from the Historical Society.
My quest today was to move along the trail of John Brigham (1644-1728) in hopes of finding clues about his burial. My John Brigham, as I have learned, was not only the pioneer settler of what is now Northborough, MA but also a prominent settler of nearby towns Marlborough and Sudbury. When he died in 1728, he had been a long-time resident of Sudbury, but was also reported to have stayed with his daughter Mary (Brigham) Fay in Northborough. As none of the three towns has a burial record for our John Brigham, where did he go? His church membership and death were recorded in Sudbury, so that is where I headed to find a clue or two.
I located only two headstones in the burial ground for Brigham, neither of which was for John or one of his 3 (yes, 3) wives. Located at opposite ends of the property, they were possibly infant brother and adult sister. Curiously enough, the burial for the adult Mary Brigham is located at the end of a row that has a large gap between it and the next marker, a small footstone engraved “M.B.”
Now whether or not the little footstone belongs to Mary is difficult to tell, particularly as there is a relatively generic footstone already located behind her headstone, but no matter. What does matter is that this cemetery is arranged with many “family groups” where headstones with the same surname take up a row or two. In a small historic cemetery such as this, with closely placed burials in neatly arranged rows, any “empty” spaces are quite possibly unmarked graves where the stones fell and were buried under the sod over time. As serendipity would have it, the property has a Ground Penetrating Radar project planned for it this year and the goal will be to identify probable unmarked burials.
At the end of my visit, the snow started falling and my inked notes started to bleed…but before heading home, I felt I had discovered a possible burying place for members of the Brigham family that lived during the time of my John Brigham. That alone made it a good day at work.
You can find the photos and transcriptions of the Brigham headstones at www.billiongraves.com. A virtual tour of historic Sudbury is available on the town's Historical Society website.
Allen, Rev. Joseph. History of Northborough, Mass., in Various Publications and Discourses. Worcester: 1880.
Beth Finch McCarthy