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Ashland - Local Town Pages

The Community Restoration of Ashland’s Village Burial Ground Is Looking for Community Volunteers

Have you ever walked behind the Federated Church on Main Street in the historic village of downtown Ashland? If you have you would have noticed two things. First the calm, quiet and serene setting of the Village Burial Ground. The second thing you would have noticed is the desperate need for restoration of this historic setting. The gravestones are in desperate need of cleaning, repairs, and expert restoration. The areas around the perimeter of the site are congested with overgrowth, brush, and invasive plant species. This is not an ideal situation for a local historic cemetery that dates back to 1828. There are many residents of Ashland interned there from previous generations including some infantry from the civil war.

The Village Burial Ground has a rich history. Currently it is listed on the State MACRIS as abandoned. There are at least 225 interned residents and there is very likely many more. This is not a unique situation in New England unfortunately. The conditions are considered poor and unsecured, with many stones tipped over, or sinking. Stones at the northern edge of the burial ground (separated from the rest of the burial ground by brush) are at highest risk for loss.

The Village Burial Ground (Parish Cemetery) is significant for its association with the settlement at the mill village of Unionville, later the town center of Ashland. It was Ashland’s principal burial ground until 1870. The earliest burial here was Nathan Clark in 1828. Ownership was transferred to the town of Ashland on 6 May 1850.

I was first notified by a concerned citizen and Ashland resident, Charlene Frary, about the conditions that exist on this historic site. As a member of the Ashland Historical Commission and founder of Save Historic Ashland (FB), I was appalled at the condition of this municipal site where the past residents depend on our current town residents to care for and maintain their eternal resting place. I brought this to the attention of our Ashland Historical Commission, The Ashland Historic Society, the local town government and the DPW to see what could be done about restoring this site to an acceptable condition. The response, was that we all agree something needs to be done.

Under the partnership of the Ashland Historical Commission and the Ashland Historic Society we formed a cemetery working group to explore the possibilities of restoration. It was decided, since the entire restoration of this site, done professionally would be extremely expensive, that we would rather engage the Ashland community in the cleanup of the site and train some qualified volunteers for gravestone leveling and minor repairs. This project is a community wide effort that will instill a sense of pride and place in the volunteers who will contribute to the work and in the community at large. Later it will be determined how many gravestones require professional repair. An assessment survey will take place after the cleanup day.

The cemetery working group has done a lot of research on the needs of this site. We have established a two-to-three-year plan start to finish for the restoration of the Village Burial Grounds. This will include brush and invasive plant removal, cleanup of all the gravestones, along with the restoration of the badly damaged gravestones at the site. Eventually, we hope to install historical site information kiosks plus native plants and grasses at the site which will eliminate mowing and weed whacking that damages the gravestones.

 The restoration project of the Village Burial Ground is expected to take between 2-3 years. We are hoping to get it done in two years if possible. We need as many hands as possible for an hour, three hours, a full day, or a full weekend whatever you have to give. Bring your friends and family! We have something for everyone from 8-80.

The initial stage of the project is entirely volunteer except for the professional conservator who will oversee the community cleanup day on June 22nd, 2024, and the volunteer training weekend.


Community Cleanup And Volunteer Training Weekend Schedule:

June 22 & 23, 2024 9am-5pm both days.

Rain date: June 29 /30, 2024.


• Cleanup day volunteers attend Saturday, June 22nd from 9am-5pm.

• Training weekend volunteers attend Saturday & Sunday, June 22 & 23 from 9am-5pm both days.

There will also be another opportunity for volunteers to workwith our Landscape Expert, Cathy Rooney. They will spend a weekend learning to identify invasive plants and then removing them from the Village Burial Ground site.

• Brush removal weekend- date to be determined.

We will have refreshments and water available for all volunteers and lunch will be served both days for the volunteers.

Volunteers will need to sign a liability waiver. This can be done ahead at the Town Hall, or at the site on the volunteer days. I you choose to join us, I will also add you to our updates list. Please send your name and contact information to me, Helen Nickole at: [email protected]