Spooky headstones at Riverside Cemetery

For years, I would look at the replica headstones stores carry at this time of year and think “Wow, that looks nothing like any gravestones I’ve ever seen.” That’s because I’m most familiar with a certain cemetery in Bellingham, where the older stones are mostly smooth, flat stones with somewhat elaborate period carvings.

In fact, our crazy “Nature Walk” teacher (actual class, one of those bizarre ’70s touches that plagued my elementary school, along with open classrooms without desks) was probably responsible for a great deal of damage to the cemetery closest to our school, since every single class eventually made their way there to make gravestone rubbings with crayon. Years later, I interviewed a historian who was absolutely appalled by the methods I described… and I didn’t even tell him about the year she had us raise a sheep on school property, only to slaughter it over the summer. We spent our remaining years in the school staring in horror at our former pet’s skin tacked to the wall of our classroom.


… decades after that, I took my first walk in Riverside Cemetery while training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day. That’s when I had my very first glimpse of tombstones that actually look like the spooky ones sold in stores. I actually had to feel them to make sure they weren’t fake.

Riverside is the Protestant cemetery near the center of town, adjacent (but not part of) Saint Phillips Cemetery on Millbury Street. Stones date from the 1800s to the current day.

Fun fact, which I didn’t know until after my walk: Riverside is the final resting place of one of Grafton’s three major league baseball players.

Asa Evans Stratton was born in Grafton on February 10, 1853. He may be the
only major league ballplayer that is buried in Grafton. He went to Boston College and Brown and played just one game as a 28 year old shortstop in 1881 for Worcester (National League) making two fielding errors in three attempts. Died August 14, 1925 in Fitchburg.

OK, in the back of my head, the ever-present editor is saying “But who were the two other baseball players?”

One is William “Hick” Carpenter, born May 23, 1855 in Grafton. He was a third baseman for Cincinnati of the major league American Association in the 1880’s and also played for Worcester’s National League Team in 1881. He played a total of 1,118 games, with only 91 strikeouts in 4,657 at bats. He later became a Pullman railroad conductor. Died in 1937 and is buried in San Diego. The baseball term, “hot corner” was reportedly coined by a Brooklyn sportswriter in reference to an exceptional game by third baseman Carpenter in 1889.

The second was — gasp! — a Red Sox player. Hugh Bradley was born in Grafton on May 23, 1885. He went to college at Holy Cross and played for the Boston Red Sox from 1910 to 1912, then played in threnegade Federal Baseball League in 1914 and 1915. He hit the first home run over the left field wall at the newly opened Fenway Park on April 26, 1912. He died in January 26, 1949 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Worcester.

Lest you be impressed by my knowledge of any of the above, I will freely admit that it, once again, comes from John LaPoint, from a post on the Grafton history group.

Getting back to Riverside again — I’m sorry, my vacation has apparently afflicted me with a tendency to go off on tangents — I have to say it’s one of the lovelier cemeteries in town, all hills and stones and interesting nooks.

“We miss thee every hour.” There are entire stories on these stones at times.

And you have to appreciate the effort it took to do all this carving.

But I’ve been staring at the blow-up of this stone for a half hour and I still can’t figure out what the heck the top is supposed to be. I’m just wondering what happened to Little Mabel and Little Minnie and the 21-month-year-old who died in New York City.

Family plots are not uncommon. Some families can’t even get through a holiday dinner together; can you imagine them lying quietly side by side for all eternity?

For cemetery maps and photos, visit here.


2 thoughts on “Spooky headstones at Riverside Cemetery

  1. My father tells me Little Mabel and Little Minnie’s stone is supposed to be two ivy-covered pillars that are falling down, which he says was a popular motif at the time.

  2. Minnie & Mabel grave you were not sure of looks like the column carved as if broke in half representing death

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