Sawyer Hill Burying Ground has served as a final resting place for the Newburys’ dearly departed since 1695. The cemetery, located on Curzon Mill Road in the western end of Newburyport, will be the site of a historical walking tour sponsored by the Museum of Old Newbury on Saturday, October 6. The hour-long tour will begin at 2:00pm and will be led by Mary and James Gage, a mother-son team of stonework historians. The tour is free and open to the public, though space is limited and reservations strongly recommended. Contact 978-462-2681 or firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot.
The walking tour will showcase the work of local 1700s gravestone carvers John Hartshorn and the Mullicken Family. The tour will focus on several exceptional gravestones made for prominent women in the community, and unique gravestones made for children. The oldest surviving stone in the cemetery dates to 1705 and belongs to Mrs. Hannah Bartlett, grandmother of Josiah Bartlett, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Co-leader of the tour Mary Gage notes that in the 18th century, “burying grounds with their gravestones were public places where a person’s social status was put on public view…to have the high status of a stone grave marker with artwork was a privilege marking the person buried, as well as the stone carver, [as a] standout.” With this in mind, the Gages’ tour will identify patterns seen in early gravestone ornamentation and reveal the meaning of specific symbols and decorations.
Mary and James have been researching stones structures in Northeastern United States since 1992. Their research has focused on historic agricultural farm structures, stone quarrying technology and methods, and Native American ritual stone structures and landscapes. They have authored journal articles, several books, produced a forty minute documentary film, and maintain the website www.stonestructures.org, www.mysteryhillnh.info, and www.newenglandrecipes.org.