Summer, 2021, is here, and with it the continuing restoration of the Old Village Cemetery by the Town of Dedham DPW and the Dedham Village Preservation Association, Inc. resumes. This is our third year of implementing the Halvorson Design Master Plan, and much of the worst deterioration has been addressed or scheduled by Joe Flanagan, Director of the DDPW, and his crew. With that said, there is still much to be done. Kevin Duffy and David Ray will continue to repair and clean monuments. This work, which has been ongoing for the past three years, requires patience and expertise to assure that the stones suffer no further damage.
This Summer, thanks to your generous support, we will be able to begin restoring some of the individual plots that are especially at risk. The first on Joe’s schedule is the Howe plot abutting Village Avenue. Last year the two large Hemlocks which had overgrown the plot were removed in preparation for stonework, replicated and restored iron work, and landscaping. This Spring, we added a new line of trees along Village Avenue as part of creating a welcoming and peaceful experience for the hundreds of yearly visitors from all over the world who come in search of family history, as well as for local residents. At the bottom of the Cemetery, abutting Martin Bates St. is a naturally occurring vernal pool. If our budget permits, we are hoping to develop this area into a nature-fed “Rain Garden” that would add a reflective water feature to the serenity and verdancy that we are hoping to achieve as part of the Cemetery’s rebirth.
While the community has responded generously to our project, we still urgently need donations to repair severe erosive deterioration. It is our hope that in the not too distant future, we will be able to transcend into a program of maintenance as required, and to build on our small endowment fund to assure that future costs can be met in perpetuity.
Take a walk through the Cemetery and witness firsthand our work in progress. We think you will be as excited as we are to see this ancient and hallowed ground reawakening to continue to play its critical role in Dedham history.
In April the Dedham Department of Public Works planted a line of Sugar Maple saplings, bracketed by blossoming Crab Apples, along Village Avenue. More trees and shrubs appropriate to a Colonial Cemetery will be added, this year, as part of the master landscaping plan.
Photo above: Joe Flanagan, Director of the Dedham DPW, and Marie Louise Kehoe, Chairman of the Dedham Village Preservation Assoc., Inc’s Friends of the Old Village Cemetery Committee, admire one of the new saplings, Crab Apple and Sugar Maple trees, planted along the Village Avenue abuttal. Shown in the background is Sisi, Marie Louise’s seven month old Australian Labradoodle pup, granted a 20 minute exemption by Joe from the OVC ban on dogs.
On a clear, crisp April 12, 1918 morning in France during the Great War, 1st Lieutenant Gustav Hermann Kissel of the 43rd Royal Air Force Squadron, an American Volunteer and graduate of Milton and Harvard, took off for his first combat mission and was shot down and killed when he encountered a large number of German fighter aircraft over Flanders. His Squadron was probably supporting British ground troops at the Battle of Lys, part of the ultimately unsuccessful German Spring offensive, General Erich Ludendorff’s, Operation Georgette, intended to capture Ypres. Lt. Kissel was buried in France, the only American to be buried in the Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery in La Gorgue, but a cenotaph in his honor was placed in the Kissel plot here in Dedham’s Old Village Cemetery. The inscription reads: “In Memory Of 1st Lieut. Gustav H. Kissel. Attached to British Air Forces. Killed in Aerial Combat Near Melville, France Where His Body Lies Buried.”
In 1866 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts placed a monument on a large plot that it had purchased in the Old Village Cemetery for the 64 men who had died in training at Camp Meigs. Among these were men from the three African American regiments from the State. Causes of death ranged from drownings to Smallpox and other diseases of the age. While we know that some of the trainees were buried in the plot, we do not know who or how many because many of the men were buried privately by their families, and others were buried initially at Camp Meigs and later moved to the OVC where their wooden crosses were removed and discarded when the State re-graded the plot in 1892.
Brookdale Cemetery Obelisk
In Dedham’s Brookdale Cemetery lie the remains of 14 veterans of the Civil War in a plot maintained by the Grand Army of the Republic Post (Charles W. Carroll Post 144). In 1880, the Post erected a monument of “rough cut” Dedham Granite to the fallen. Upon this obelisk is inscribed, “Erected in 1880 as a monument to the loyal soldiers and sailors of Dedham, who served in the war of the rebellion 1861-1865. Many of whom died, and rest, in unknown graves and dying broke the bondman’s chain and made the slave a man.”
On September 29, 1868, a tableau to Dedham’s 47 Civil War dead was commemorated in the brand-new Memorial Hall, Dedham’s Town Hall for 94 years. The key tablet states, “The Town of Dedham has caused to be inscribed upon these tablets the names of her Sons who fell representing her in defense of the Union in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, and in whose honor she has erected this Hall.” Among the dead was Charles W. Carroll for whom Post 144 is named. When Memorial Hall, which stood on the site of the Dedham Police Station, was demolished in 1962, the tablets were relocated to the Bryant Street Town Hall, and are now prominently displayed outside of the O’Brien Meeting Room on the 3rd floor of the new Town Hall on Washington Street.
Less well known than the famous African American 54th Regiment under the command of abolitionist Robert Gould Shaw, the 55th Regiment was the second of three African American Regiments from Massachusetts that saw service in the Civil War. When the 54th rapidly became fully subscribed by free Blacks, Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew in 1863 authorized the formation of a sister regiment, the 55th. Both regiments trained at Camp Meigs in Dedham, the largest of Massachusetts’ camps, and saw service together during the war, most notably at the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina in November 1864. e 55th also distinguished itself at the Battle of Olustee in February of 1864 during the invasion of Florida under General Truman Seymour, and at battles for James Island in South Carolina in May and July of the same year. In February of 1865, Union troops, including the 55th, under General William Tecumseh Sherman, entered Charleston, SC, where the war had begun, to the “welcoming cheers of newly freed men, women, and children.”
The 55th was officially marshaled out of service in September of 1865. In 1866 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts placed a monument on a large plot that it had purchased in the Old Village Cemetery for the 64 men who had died in training at Camp Meigs. Among these were men from the 54th and 55th Regiments.
We are happy and relieved to welcome back celebrated Dedham cinematographer, Jim Bride, after a lengthy touch and go battle with Covid-19. Jim’s latest video is an informative tour of the progress and prospects for the Old Village Cemetery with Marie-Louise Kehoe, former State Representative and Dedham Selectman.
Marie-Louise and Jim visit the Cemetery and discuss her dream to resurrect it from years of deterioration, and the team she has assembled to help her accomplish the daunting effort of restoring a 17th century Colonial cemetery. You can view the video on You Tube, and on Dedham TV, Channel 40, and in its entirety below.
Look for future videos by Jim as he chronicles the ongoing restoration of one of Dedham’s most important historic landmarks.
I hope that you have had the opportunity to walk past the Old Village Cemetery over the Summer and Fall and have observed the wondrous transformation that Joe Flanagan and his crew have wrought in this ancient and historic place that features so prominently in Dedham history.
The bier path has a splendid new gravel surface (that still needs a few tweaks) extending from the beautifully restored main gate, the handiwork of Bob Gillette and Stephen Black of the Dedham DPW, past the replicated ironwork of the Richard’s plot, to the no. 10 crypt, containing the remains of Elihu Onion, one of 104 Revolutionary War Veterans buried or cenotaphed in the OVC. David Ray and Kevin Duffy continue to scrub away the dirt and grime of centuries from stones marking the remains of ancient Dedham families. Additionally, they have been able to recover lost stones from deep underground and return them to their original bases.
If you have visited St. Paul’s enticing new kid-centric playground, you will see that the children have safe passage via a path bordered by appropriate new trees and plantings, a cooperative effort by the Church, the DPW, and the DVPA, Inc.
Sadly, the second Halloween Gala Fundraiser, scheduled for this October, has been cancelled because we want to keep our revelers safe, and, it did not seem appropriate at a time when everyone is struggling. Last year’s gala was a fun evening and we look forward to putting another good scare into Dedham next Halloween. In the meantime, we are working on a matching grant fund raiser, made possible by generous benefactors, that we hope will appeal to end of the year donors.
This year has seen the Halvorsan Design Partnership Plan of 2018 for the OVC begin to come to life on schedule despite a very difficult year for everyone. We are grateful to the many workers and volunteers who have made this possible, and to our loyal supporters, and, as the season ends, we are already excited about plans for 2021.
Video: Old Village Cemetery – A Brief History – 2017-2020
Marie Louise Kehoe, Chairman of the Dedham Old Village Cemetery Restoration Committee, is pleased to announce that the Dedham Village Preservation Association, Inc. is offering a $5,000 matching gift program through the end of 2020 for the benefit of the Restoration Fund. The offer has been made possible by generous supporters who wish to give end of the year donors an opportunity to double their gifts.
The landmark Old Village Cemetery, established in 1637 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of the most significant Colonial Cemeteries in America, and among Dedham’s most visited historic sites.
Mrs. Kehoe and her Committee have pledged to raise $1 million over 4 years to address serious deterioration of the Cemetery. Restoration and preservation of the site has been ongoing since 2017 by the Dedham DPW, guided by a Design Plan developed by the Halvorsan Design Partnership, with major improvements completed or in progress.
To donate, please fill out the form on our donation page, or mail to Dedham Village Preservation Association, Inc., POB 1037, Dedham, MA 02027
For Memorial Day, the Dedham Historical Society and Museum honored the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving their country with a Facebook post of the monument in the Old Village Cemetery erected for soldiers who died in training at Fort Meigs in Readville/Hyde Park, once part of Dedham.
Fort Meigs was a training camp from 1861-1865. The 64 names on the monument represent 24 units of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, including three African-American units: the 54th, commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, the first black regiment recruited in the North (see the movie “Glory”), the 55th, and the 5th Cavalry. The Civil War claimed more American lives than any conflict in U.S. history, and Memorial Day, originally Decoration Day for the decoration of graves with flowers, began being celebrated in the the late 1860’s. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
For more information on Memorial Day, visit this link on History.com. For more information on the African American regiments at Fort Meigs, visit this link on Archive.com.
In cooperation with the Town of Dedham DPW, and its Director, Joe Flanagan, the DVPA, Inc. has planted four Sugar Maple saplings adjacent to St. Paul’s new children’s play area and cleared a path to give the children safe access. Reverend Melanie McCarley, Rector of St. Paul’s, writes: “St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is grateful for the assistance of The Dedham Village Preservation Association in planning and constructing a walkway for the safety of our children to move from the church building to their new playground. Prior to the installation of the walkway children would make their way behind cars through the parking lot; a hazardous undertaking to a place of play. The Dedham Village Preservation Association and the Dedham DPW made this pathway possible by removing overgrown areas as well as a fence, gifting a small portion of land and constructing the walkway. We are deeply appreciative of their efforts.”