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Our Pilgrim Ancestor

Newbury, Mass.
Aug 16, 2014

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We had a surprisingly tough time finding William Sawyer's marker, especially given that Jen and I had visited Newbury back in 1991 and had seen it then. I was prowling around the First Parish cemetery near Newburyport when Jen decided to ask directions at the nearby Tristram Coffin House. They directed us about 3 miles further down the road to the Burying Ground of the First Settler's, where we found the marker. It's not the original, but looks like it was replaced in the 1920s when members of the Dole family fixed up this original burial ground.

I couldn't figure out why this graveyard was so far out of town, out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, a long way to carry a coffin from town. But a book on Old Newbury that I picked up explained it: in the late 1640s, the population outgrew the original space they had laid out, and they moved the whole town up to near where Newburyport is today. Still, William's marker says he died in 1701 (which is different from the year 1703 on our family tree), long after the town had moved. Maybe he had stayed out in that part of the town.

In case you're ever looking for it: The Burying Ground of the First Settlers is located 3.4 miles south on High Street from State Street in Newburyport, Mass. It's on the west side of High Street, marked by a black-and-white sign. The sign is in front of an opening in the hedge, and through that opening is the burial ground. You can park just a few yards past the sign. (Screenshots of the maps below, and here's a link to the directions in Google Maps.)