Thanks to recent posts by Bill West, Pam Carter and Heather Rojo, I decided to explore more about an ancestral line of mine I had not delved into much to date: John Prescott & Mary Gawkroger of Lancaster, Massachusetts. John and Mary are my 10th Great Grandparents and I descend from them on my mother’s matrilineal line, which has several lines going back to colonial times.
With the help of Find-a-Grave I located that John and Mary were buried in the Old Settlers Burial Field in Lancaster, Massachusetts. So, Sunday morning at the crack of dawn I left home off on a genealogical road trip down to Lancaster to explore this cemetery.
The Old Settlers Burial Field is not an easy place to find unless you know what you’re looking for. It is located in the back of Middle Cemetery off Main St, itself being a beautiful old cemetery with a multitude of large, ornate markers.
Once you’re in Middle Cemetery, go to the upper left-hand corner of the cemetery and look for a path leading to the railroad tracks. From there walk left until you see graves across the tracks perched within a hilltop forested glade.
Once within the burial ground, I had such a sense of peace. Large trees are scattered amongst the graves and the stones themselves blend in with nature as if they have always been there.
Indeed, most of the graves are from the late 1600’s to the early 1800’s and have been here for a very long time. I easily located John & Mary’s grave near the back of the cemetery which had numerous old worn-down stones which were barely readable, but over which a large dark gray marker installed more recently loomed:
"HERE WITH HIS CHILDREN ABOUT HIM LIES JOHN PRESCOTT, FOUNDER OF LANCASTER AND FIRST SETTLER OF WORCESTER COUNTY. BORN AT STANDISH, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND, DIED AT LANCASTER, MASSACHUSETTS, DEC. 1681 .INSPIRED BY THE LOVE OF LIBERTY AND THE FEAR OF GOD,THIS STOUT-HEARTED PIONEER ,FORSAKING THE PLEASANT VALES OF ENGLAND,TOOK UP HIS ABODE IN THE UNBROKEN FOREST AND ENCOUNTERED WILD BEAST AND SAVAGE TO SECURE FREEDOM FOR HIMSELF AND HIS POSTERITY. HIS FAITH AND VIRTUES HAVE BEEN INHERITED BY MANY DESCENDANTS WHO IN EVERY GENERATION HAVE WELL SERVED THE STATE IN WAR, IN LITERATURE, AT THE BAR, IN THE PULPIT, IN PUBLIC LIFE AND IN CHRISTIAN HOMES."
Unfortunately many of the stones are now unreadable due simply to wear over the hundreds of years since the markers were installed. Some though are still readable and reflect different styles of gravestones depending upon the era in American history.
On my way back to my car, I perused Middle Cemetery and located the gravestones of my 6th great grandparents Captain Daniel Rugg and Elizabeth Divoll.
I hope to visit this cemetery again, not only for its history, but as this is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've visited.