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The Dec. 18, 2023 Storm

On Monday, December 18, 2023, the Norwood area was struck by a severe rain and wind storm. During the storm, a large pine tree in Old Parish Cemetery was felled. This was not the first major weather disruption to strike the cemetery during its long history.

 

According to Fred Holland Day’s research, “part of our burying ground was washed away by a great storm shortly after the railroad was put through in too close proximity to the old portion of the graveyard.”  And, if you look at early 1850s maps, the graveyard is depicted as extending all the way to the railroad tracks. The tracks were put down in 1849. Day goes on to say that “There is no record of the many graves so destroyed, but it is certain that no small number disappeared at that time.” Some stones were salvaged and reset further inside the grave yard.

 

A few decades later, in 1885, a late year severe storm caused a great deal of damage to the bridges and culverts in town. The bridge on Short Street washed away and the large culvert under Washington Street near the high bridge had to be re-laid. There was no mention of the Old Parish Cemetery, but, shortly thereafter, the town did seek authorization from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to lower the grade of the cemetery at its highest peak, in the part of the site that was adjacent to today’s MBTA parking lot. With this request, town officials sought “to remove, replace and re-inter the remains of the dead and the monuments erected to their memory.” The Commonwealth agreed but with the stipulation that permission for this action be gained from the families of those interred there. Those plans were never carried out but, the following year’s town report indicated an expenditure for “grading Old Cemetery” and erecting a retaining wall, likely the wall that still stands today along the eastern side of the site.

OLD PARISH BURIAL GROUND HISTORY


Norwood was originally a part of Dedham, known as South Dedham. The General Court laws, then in power, required that all residents pay taxes in support of Dedham’s Church of Christ, whether or now they were voting members of the church community. In the early 1700s, parishioners in this portion of the town petitioned for permission to establish their own place of worship and to cease paying ministerial taxes to the Dedham church. This request was finally granted and the General Court sanctioned the establishment of a new parish district, known as the Second Precinct or South Parish, in 1730. The Parish called its first minister, Rev. Thomas Balch, in 1736.

 

In 1741, one indication of the area’s growing sense of independence was the establishment of its own graveyard which would allow villagers to be buried within the parish itself rather than traveling all the way to Dedham. Parishioner Ebenezer Woodward granted to the South Parish free of charge three quarters of an acre of land, at a place called Sandy Hill, to be “used as a Burying Place forever.” This Parish Burial Ground was carved out of a piece of hilly terrain at the northern end of the village. 

 

In 1827, Lewis and Hannah Rhoads were paid $40 – an amount raised by individual subscription by parishioners – for about an acre of land “in triangular form” for the purpose of enlarging the Burying Ground. This is the area which contains these tombs on the right side of the graveyard as we enter from Washington Street.

 

Originally, the grave yard was entered via Cemetery St., close to what is now Central Street.

 

The next change in the graveyard came in the early 1850s. According to Fred Holland Day’s research, “part of our burying ground was washed away by a great storm shortly after the railroad was put through in too close proximity to the old portion of the graveyard.”  And, if you look at early 1850s maps, the graveyard is depicted as extending all the way to the railroad tracks. The tracks were put down in 1849. Day goes on to say that “There is no record of the many graves so destroyed, but it is certain that no small number disappeared at that time.” 

 

In 1885, a late severe storm caused a great deal of damage to the bridges and culverts in town. The bridge on Short Street washed away and the large culvert under Washington Street near the high bridge had to be re-laid. There was no mention of the Old Parish cemetery; however, the town did seek authorization from the State to lower the grade of the old parish cemetery, in that portion adjoining the location of the railroad, “to remove, replace and re-inter the remains of the dead and the monuments erected to their memory.” Standing on this hill, it does not appear those plans were carried out BUT, the following year’s town report indicated an expenditure for “grading Old Cemetery” and erecting a retaining wall, likely the wall that is there today. The wall was laid by Matt Drummey.

OLD PARISH CEMETERY WAS GIVEN TO TOWN IN 1741 BY ALMOST UNKNOWN SOLDIER

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