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An afternoon at Eastham’s Cove Burying Ground

An afternoon at Eastham’s Cove Burying Ground, Sept/Oct Cape Cod Life |

Photograph by Paige Biviano

“Let me show you something else interesting,” our guide continues. “See those tombstones over there?” he indicated with a wave of his hand. “Notice they are brown instead of the usual gray. If someone has that kind of stone, it suggests the stone might have been brought in, through family connections, from the quarries of the Connecticut River Valley which produced much of the brownstone used in buildings that are historic today.”

“Now here’s a lady who had some connections in town,” Carlson said as we strolled on. “Her name was Marcy Freeman, and she was the granddaughter of William Brewster after whom the town of Brewster was named. You can see that her stone has an angel face carving, plus wings, along with, of course, the skull. Again, they tried to have hope by covering all bases. Marcy married John Freeman whose father, Edmund Freeman, founded Sandwich. And look at her footstone! Instead of just her initials, she has a winged skull and two pairs of crossed bones. But her daughter over there, Bennet Paine, only had a rock for her marker. Very plain.”

We came upon another grave with a story. “Benjamin Paine, of the Paine family: We think this is the oldest homemade gravestone on the whole Cape with an individual’s full name on it. You can barely see it, but it’s all there,” Carlson says, pointing out Paine’s short life span (1697 to 1713).

“And you’ll notice something else about some of the skull carvings around here,” Carlson adds. “A carver from Boston by the name of Joseph Lamsom (d. 1722) made his skulls longer and thinner, with more details. That’s how you can tell it was carved by a Lamsom, a family of stone masons which spanned generations.”

Loaded with great knowledge and a new appreciation for an ancient but not forgotten Cape Cod graveyard, our tour was complete. We thanked our guide for his time and said our goodbyes. Some visitors started to meander among the stones as we were leaving, and Carlson sprinted over to meet his new audience. We knew he would be anxious to tell the stories again and again.

For information about the Cove Burying Ground in Eastham, including tours, visit, or send an email to Robert Carlson at

A resident of Santa Maria, California, Valerie Prancevic loves the history of Cape Cod and is a regular visitor. She and her husband are planning a September trip to Brewster to enjoy some cocktails and the sunsets on the beach.

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