Prior to 1850, the piece of land where Milford’s Memorial Hall is located was one of the town’s first burial grounds.
“It was referred to simply as the old cemetery,” said historian Lynn Lovell. According to The History of Milford, by Adin Ballou, many of the original Milford families were buried there beginning in 1741. This continued until 1850.
A few of the early Milford families and individuals who were buried there include Ameriah Frost, first minister of the First Congregational Church and Deacon Nathanial Jones, also of the Congregational Church, (who also built the home where Lovell now lives), as well as the Chaney, Sumner and Chapin families. Many of the streets in Milford were named for these families.
Eventually, the location near the center of town and the disrepair of the old cemetery prompted a move to other locations. Some of these graves were relocated to the North Purchase Cemetery, some to Pine Grove Cemetery and the rest to Vernon Grove Cemetery off Depot Street.
That was 160 years ago. Time and weather have created havoc with the old slate markers. Most of them are no longer standing upright and several have cracked and fallen to the ground. When they tilt beyond 45 degrees they usually snap off at the base.
The Vernon Grove trustees recently decided the historic markers should be repaired if possible and contacted Dave Burrows of Ackerman Monument Company in Holliston.
Burrowse, along with his son Justin and Jamie Lorenzo spent three days digging by hand a 100-foot trench, 18 inches wide by 24 inches deep, to prepare the base for straightening and reinstall the head stones. “We can’t bring in any thing heavier than a shovel and wheelbarrow because the bodies are not in cement vaults. We could crush whatever is down there” said Burrows.
The stones could not be cemented in the ground because they could easily snap off with a light push so Burrows and his crew supported the grave stones in a base of fine crushed stone, which is more flexible.
Before granite and marble were used for headstones, slate was the preferred material but it becomes very brittle with age. Some were badly in need of repair and the techniques and type of materials used to repair slate are limited and very time consuming.