Most people know the song “America the Beautiful” as the nation’s unofficial second anthem. They may even know that it was originally penned as a poem by Katharine Lee Bates, a poet, professor, and social reform advocate from Falmouth, Massachusetts. What fewer people know is how much Bates loved spending time at the cemetery.
Growing up a half-mile north of Falmouth’s Old Burying Ground, Bates would play as a child among the graves of war heroes and midwives, founders and fishermen, who lived and died long before she was born. As a teen, she spent long afternoons tracing the epitaphs and marveling at the cemetery’s somber beauty. She even wrote a sonnet called “Epitome” to capture the stillness and wisdom of these ancient memorials.
Now Bates is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, just up the street from her beloved Old Burying Ground. People still visit her grave to pay their respects nearly a century later. That’s a testament to the lasting impact she had on this community – and to the enduring power of memorials.
Falmouth’s Oldest Resting Place
Cemeteries look a bit different now than when the township was founded in 1661, and people have many more ways to be memorialized and laid to rest. But one thing has never changed: the importance of honoring our loved ones with compassion and dignity.
Like many early colonial settlements, Falmouth was built around a central common area. This area was home to the community’s most important locations: a meeting house, a church, and a graveyard.
Falmouth’s Old Burying Ground was likely established soon after the town’s founding, though the earliest markers have been lost to history. There are grave markers still standing that date back to 1705, each bearing a cherished story of the past.
Falmouth Cemeteries, Then and Now
The Old Burying Ground served as the primary resting place for Falmouth residents until 1854, when Oak Grove Cemetery opened.
Designed in the newly popular garden cemetery style, Oak Grove provided a more natural and tranquil final resting place, and some families chose to move their loved ones there. Aside from serving as a historic landmark, this cemetery is still active today, with traditional burial and cremation plots available for individuals and families.
Falmouth is home to many other cemeteries, both modern and historic, including:
- St. Joseph Cemetery on Gifford Street
- St. Barnabas Memorial Garden
- Methodist Society Burial Ground
- West Falmouth Old Friend’s Quaker Cemetery
- Woods Hole Village Cemetery
Some of these cemeteries are still active and available for graveside funerals and other burial services. Others are maintained by volunteers who tend the historic graves and welcome visitors to explore the history of Falmouth, one life at a time.
If you are planning ahead for your end-of-life wishes or need help finding a resting place for a recently departed loved one, a funeral director can help you to find the right cemetery and make all of the arrangements on your behalf.
Our Falmouth and West Falmouth Funeral Home Locations
Chapman Funerals & Cremations has been serving Massachusetts families since 1862. We expanded into Falmouth in 1979, when Bill and David Chapman opened a funeral home in historic Falmouth Center. A year later, we expanded to West Falmouth by acquiring our location on Route 28A.
Our funeral processions aren’t led by horse-drawn carriage anymore, and we’ve expanded to 10 locations across the Cape. But we’re still family-owned and committed to this community that we call home. Our ancestors are buried here among the many names that make up Massachusetts history. And it is as important to us now as ever that each family we serve receive the utmost in care.
Whether you are preplanning your funeral arrangements or need help laying a loved one to rest, we are here for you. Call (508) 540-4172 to learn more about our funeral services.