Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts is one of the oldest colonial cemeteries in America and was an active burial ground until 1957. There are about 2,269 headstones along with an untold number of unmarked graves. It is believed that Burial Hill was first used as a cemetery around 1637. Prior to that, Pilgrims were buried on nearby Cole’s Hill, which was likely only used as a burial place from 1620-1643. The oldest existing gravestone on Burial Hill is dated 1681, but it was likely used as a cemetery for some time prior. At the time, stone headstones would have cost a considerable amount and so less expensive, and less durable materials would have been used instead. Because of this, the earliest graves remain unmarked.

gravestones

The hill was first known as Fort Hill and was originally a fortification site starting from when the Pilgrims first landed in Plymouth back in 1620 since the top of the hill allowed for a fantastic view of the harbor. Eventually a larger fort were constructed with a church in the lower level along with a watchtower and containment walls. By 1677 the fort was torn down and the materials were used to build the still standing Harlow House located not far from Burial Hill.

In the neighboring town of Duxbury, you’ll find the small Myles Standish Burying Grounds, which claims to be the oldest maintained cemetery in America. This distinction was granted in 1977 by the American Cemetery Association but could be challenged because it had actually been more or less abandoned in the late 18th century and was only reclaimed later in the 19th century. Not only that, but the first burials in the Standish Burial Grounds are thought to take place in 1638, a full year after Burial Hill was first used for burial purposes.

 

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