After a thoroughly enjoyable visit to Plimoth Plantation, I headed over to Plymouth’s Burial Hill Cemetery and got my first real taste of truly old headstones, the kind I always saw in movies but never in real life. In some of the European (re: English) cemeteries that I’ve visited, a lot of these older headstones have been lost to time or the repurposing of old cemeteries, although some survive in parks or along the walls of buildings or churches. But to see a cemetery full of them was something new for me.

Even though I’m Canadian, I’m well versed in American study (having majored in it during my uni years), so it felt quite significant to be in a place where people (the Pilgrims) that I’ve studied about are buried. This is an old cemetery (1622) although the oldest marker dates to 1681. It really is on a rounded hill, so to explore meant going up and down various paths, but it was worth it. Seeing all the variations in the images and epitaphs was really interesting, and I could totally understand why I came across so many books on New England cemeteries wherever I went.

The first fort/meeting house the Mayflower pilgrims built was on this hill, and a replica of it is at Plimoth Plantation (in fact, it is the first building you enter once you are past the native settlements). The fort was there until 1677, when the hill was converted to a cemetery. It took burials until 1957, which is incredibly late, given the age of the cemetery.



Monuments: Almost all are of the old slab-style common in the 17th and 18th centuries, featuring a lot of winged death or winged people, urns, willows, and occasionally some other scenes.

Grounds: There are stairs to get up and down the hill, and the grounds are well maintained. There is shade from trees in some areas.

Visitors: There were a handful of visitors here, exploring the various stones the same way I was.

Notes: Be prepared to photograph all the variations in style – no two stones are exactly alike


Cemetery: Burial Hill Cemetery

Established: 1620

Notable Internments: William Bradford (Pilgrim and Governor), Mary Allertaon (last surviving Mayflower passenger), Mercy Otis Warren and her husband James Warren, plus many others

Location: 11 Lincoln Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Hours: 07:30-16:00, Monday to Friday