Newton Cemetery: A Quiet Place to Walk in All Seasons

Thoreau wrote, “live each season as it passes.” A lovely place to enjoy at least once each season is the Newton Cemetery. After a visit to the Newton Free Library, a short walk south on Walnut Street brings you to the entrance of about one hundred acres of open space. Awaiting you are four ponds fed by Cold Spring Brook, 26 specimen trees, and graceful hillsides. One of the trees, the Tulip Tree, produces yellow flowers in the spring. Migrating warblers are often seen there flitting about after insects. In the summer colorful wood ducks may be seen in the ponds. Then the Blue Atlas Cedar is at its peak color. In the fall the Marshall Maple is brightly colored. In the winter a Red Tail Hawk might be seen in the sky over the Paper Bark Maple with snow dusting its cinnamon bark. A photo tour of the beautiful waterways, trees and grounds in different seasons can be viewed on the cemetery’s website. In addition, the hours of visitation as well as other information are available. Visitors are welcome. At the office just inside the gate visitors can obtain a free map locating the 26 specimen trees with their common as well as scientific names.

Author Thelma Fleishman has written The History of the Newton Cemetery. It is an engaging story, rich in information, starting with the good works of twelve Newton residents. The Newton Cemetery Association was organized in 1855. This group and those who followed them were thoughtful and generous community leaders. In 1860 the Board of Trustees formally adopted the name “The Newton Cemetery.” It was designed as a landscaped garden following the example of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery. They expanded the size and services of The Newton Cemetery and hired Mr. Henry Ross as Superintendent, who served with distinction for thirty-nine years. He was closely associated with The Massachusetts Horticultural Society. He and his staff made many improvements over the years. The introduction of perpetual care did much to insure the proper maintenance of individual graves. In time, the Trustees changed the exclusively Anglo-Saxon Protestant requirement to purchase a plot to the present “space available to persons of all creeds, denominations and races.”

Author’s Note: I wish to thank Susan Abele, Curator of Newton History Museum, for the opportunity to read Thelma Fleischman’s manuscript, which is the basis of this article. Wishing to honor Thelma for her contributions to Newton History, friends and colleagues have formed a Newton Conservators committee to prepare The History of the Newton Cemetery for publication in 2009. Thelma’s marker in The Newton Cemetery reads “Historian of Newton.” For others wishing to remember Thelma, donations in her name may be made to the Thelma Fleischman Archives Fund in care of the Newton Historical Society, 527 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02458

–Frank Howard