Friday, October 27, 2017


During my recent visit to Danvers, I explored two cemeteries and searched, unsuccessfully, for a third.

Somewhere on Spring Street, behind a modern house, are grave markers for ancestors in the Prince family.  In childhood, with my mother, I walked by those stones, not understanding their significance.  I've written previously about my surprised reaction when Mommy pointed to the name John Prince on a gravestone and casually commented that if I'd been a boy, I might have been named John Prince Nichols. Someday I'd like to find that stone again.  Older cousins have given me clues and instructions of where to walk, but I haven't yet succeeded in finding it.  I need a guide.

Meanwhile, I guided my friend Heather Massey to another old cemetery, one on Preston Street that is very easy to find. She and I had been indoors at a conference all day, and were eager for fresh air and exercise in the waning light of late afternoon. She kicked off her shoes and walked barefoot as I gave her a quick tour around historic graves of my relatives and of other Danvers families.

I was quite surprised to see that an old badly damaged tree is STILL standing, still alive.  I remember family gatherings around that tree we said goodbye to another family member some years ago. The tree looked terribly broken and unbalanced then; today it looks about the same.

The Nichols family gravestone also looks the same as I remember it.  Names are carved on both sides, starting with my great grandparents Andrew Nichols (1837-1921) and Elizabeth Perkins Stanley (a.k.a. Lizzie Nichols) and their eight children. They lived nearby at 98 Preston Street. Their daughter Mary Eliot Nichols, born in that house, became a beloved Danvers school teacher. She lived into her 90's, dying in the same bedroom where she had been born! I attended her funeral, in the parlor of that house, in 1966. Her sister Margaret, the last survivor of that generation, lived until 1968. Her funeral, too, was held at home in that parlor.

My friend Heather specializes in helping families care for their own dead at home, so these stories of old-fashioned family ceremonies are meaningful to her. 

Some of the monuments for other families had broken or fallen; some are laid flat on the ground. These two with the name "Swan" caught me eye.  I recall seeing an old business card from my great-grandfather with an address given as "Swan's Crossing."  I haven't yet learned the story of that name.

I had with me a directory of active cemeteries, and was surprised that the list for Danvers was quite long. Many cemeteries are clustered on Buxton Road, an address not familiar to me. With GPS, I found it. Here is a photo of the entrance sign on appropriately-named Cemetery Road, at the intersection with Rte 114.

One cemetery maintenance company is managing a number of Jewish cemeteries in that area, and advertising services for cleaning monuments.   

Some monuments are much less formal, and not even in cemeteries.  While exploring the upper end of Nichols Street last week, and trying to get a good view north to the hill where I had once lived, I walked through the woods and emerged near Rte 95. Nearby in the grassy area along Route 95 I saw this cross, commemorating the death of a young man on 8/8/2009:

In the distance, over the cross, early morning sunlight illuminated what is left of "Nichols Hill" – my former home and site of so many childhood memories.

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