Westford Cemetery Tour of the Revolutionary War Veterans and Civilian Casualties

Use these exhibits for an online or self-guided tour of Westford Revolutionary War Patriots in Westford cemeteries. Click a button below to choose one of these exhibits.

Early Cemetery Stones 

The earliest burials would have had simple fieldstone markers, with crude or no carving. Later, stones were purchased from stonecutters in the Boston area, and eventually from local stonecutters. Since there were no specific plots, the headstone would be at the top of the grave and another stone at the foot.  

18th and 19th century slate markers are overall well preserved and demonstrate typical artistic conventions and motifs such as death’s heads, portal designs and urns under willow trees. There are no contemporary explanations of what this iconography represented to the people of the time, so interpretation is based on our understanding of their religious beliefs.  

Most common styles seen in Westford: 

Winged Skull-a reminder of our mortality. 

Cherub-heavenly reward.

Weeping Willow-nature’s lament for the departed soul. 

There were many local stonecutters, the most prolific were the Parks Family who had their workshop in Groton. The slate was quarried from Pin Hill quarry in Harvard, MA.  Their workshop was known for having a number of styles from a simple fleur de lis to elaborate coats of arms. The majority of stones of our Revolutionary veterans from the 18th century are carved by the Parks.  

About 1790, The weeping willow and urn became the most popular design reflecting the changing philosophy of the new country. These stones came from various workshops in Lowell and many are signed. The earliest known gravestone carver’s name to appear is that of I. Hartwell, later stones bear carvers’ names and locations such as F. A. Brown of Derry, New Hampshire and A. Stone of Groton. B. Day, Charles Wheeler, T. Warren and D. Nichols, Gumb Bros. all had workshops in Lowell.   

When a death occurred, the “passing bell” would be rung with four or six strikes to indicate whether male or female, and finally the age was rung.  The First Parish received a sum of money in exchange for tolling the bell.  Around 1890 an article in the town warrant requested that the town no longer ring the bell for deaths.

Funerals were held at home and the body would be conveyed to the burial ground where the burial service would take place. Although it had been popular in the early days of Westford, to give those attending funerals gloves, rings or other reminders of the departed.    In the mid-1760s a “new style of funeral” was popularized as part of non-importation of goods from England to protest taxes. The practice never returned.  Judy Cataldo (2022)

Sources for Westford Revolutionary Soldiers 

April 19, 1775 Westford: https://www.westford.org/westford1775/history.html#Westford%20and%20the%20Events%20of%20April%2019th,%201775

April 19, 1775 general history: https://www.nps.gov/mima/learn/historyculture/april-19-1775.htm#:~:text=The%20events%20of%20that%20day,British%20regulars%20and%20over%204%2C000

Vital Records until 1850: https://ma-vitalrecords.org/

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (MSSRW) can be searched for free. Archive.org has all 17 volumes scanned but not necessarily in order at: https://archive.org/search?query=massachusetts+soldiers+and+sailors+of+the+revolutionary+war

MSSRW entries for men not from Westford: https://morewestfordsoldiers.blogspot.com/2023/04/westlawn-cemetery.html

Family Search https://www.familysearch.org/ also has all 17 volumes. To access them you need a log-in which will also give you access to other genealogical information.

History of the town of Westford, in the county of Middlesex, Massachusetts, 1659-1883
By Hodgman, Edwin R. (Edwin Ruthven), 1819-1900