Bridgewater Historical Society
The Other Cemetery
Everyone has driven by the cemetery on Main Street in town everyday, but did you know that there is another older cemetery in town? South Cemetery began in 1753 with land donated by Isaac Briscoe and was known as The Burying Place in Shepaug Neck. It is located on Christian Street near the intersection with Northrop and Stuart Road East. The old or lower cemetery was owned and maintained by the town until 1896. In 1891 a group of residents started a fund to only be used for “mowing and keeping in order the grounds and fences, also the headstones and markers in proper position of the subscribers’ burying plots in the new part.” The first meeting of the South Cemetery Association occurred in 1892. The town of Bridgewater gave the newly formed association the “power and right to take charge of, improve and care for, the Old or Town part of South Cemetery.” The Association accepted the town vote and its privileges in 1897 and the Old and New sections of the cemetery were joined. Since it is the older cemetery in town, many of the early burials were veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. These include old family names such as Beach, Warner, Beardsley, Canfield and Randall. Besides the veterans, there are burials of young lives tragically lost. There is the death of Mary Warner in 1856 in New York City only 4 days after her September wedding from typhoid fever. Then there is the loss of ten-year-old Robert Frost in 1963 in an accident at Steep Rock Summit where he fell to his death. Many of these families no longer have ties to the community since the descendants have moved elsewhere or the families have died off. Back in the day, families would visit and honor their dead by decorating their ancestral graves around Christmas and Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day). Unfortunately, the old traditions are forgotten and fewer graves are decorated seasonally now by the remaining families to continue the tradition. You will see the colorful arrangements among the neatly cut grass behind the white picket fence as you pass by. Stop and remember the former residents of our town and the stories their lives told.