A History of the Standish Burial Grounds
(Located in South Duxbury on the corner of Pilgrim By Way and Chestnut Street)
The Standish Burial Grounds sits on 1.44 acres, the first burial ground in Duxbury and the second burial ground in Plymouth Colony. It is believed that the First Meeting House of Duxbury once stood on the cemetery property; adjacent to the cemetery the land which is owned by the Rural Historical Society is where the Second Meeting House once stood.
The Standish Burial Grounds is so named when in 1892, as a result of thorough research it was discovered to be the resting place of Capt. Myles Standish. In the center of a stone fence surrounded by four cannons given to the Town by the Navy in the mid 1950’s is a natural bolder with the Captain’s name and date of death listed as October 3, 1656. Along with Capt. Standish lay many graves of those who bore arms with him, as well as Revolutionary heroes and veterans of the War of 1812. Many who crossed the sea in the Mayflower including notables such as John and Priscilla Alden lay here as well.
In the early days of New England the dead were silently laid to rest without prayers of any kind. The first know funeral sermon in this country was delivered in Duxbury in 1697 when Pastor Ichabod Wiswall officiated at the burial of Capt. Jonathan Alden, son of John and Priscilla Alden. The oldest memorial stone marks the grave of Capt. Jonathan Alden, his father John was also the last survivor of the Mayflower passengers dying in 1687.
The oldest colonial burial ground in the United States was in St. Augustine, FL., where some of the Spanish conquistadores rest, however, this cemetery has been lost to history as has the original Pilgrim cemetery on Plymouth’s Cole Hill. There in lay the honor bestowed to the Town of Duxbury by the American Cemetery Association in 1977 as naming the Standish Burial Grounds the oldest maintained cemetery in the country. A bronze plaque set in a natural granite stone is placed within the cemetery grounds as commemoration to this.