|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
Groton's first settlers chose the corner of the current Hollis and School Streets for their second meetinghouse in 1678. While the location of the church was changed in 1714, the Old Burial Ground remained at the original site and was the sole public place of burial in the town until 1847.
The burying ground was in use from 1678, the time of the town's re-occupation after its destruction by fire by Native Americans. At that time burial markers were either nonexistent or made of wood and so none survive from the period. The earliest stone is from 1704 and commemorates the life of James Prescott, a blacksmith.
During the Colonial Period, the appearance was that of a small cleared parcel of relatively level land with rolling mounds occupied by slate markers, most with arched tops. The Old Burying Ground retains this form despite efforts across the state during the 19th century to imitate Rural or Garden style cemeteries such as Mount Auburn in Cambridge. It contains approximately 800 recorded burials and as many as 3,000 actual burials. The boundaries form a rectangle and were fenced in stone during the 19th century. Burials continued into the early 20th century but were increasingly infrequent after the establishment in 1847 of the Groton Cemetery east of Chicopee Row.
The Old Burying Ground sits on about 4 acres. The earliest death date is 1704 with the latest c. 1900.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission refers to this cemetery in MACRIS as GRO.800 Old Burying Ground.
This cemetery is referred to as GR2 Shirley, Old Cemetery in the "Vital Records of Groton Massachusetts to the end of the year 1849.
In the early 19th century a number of tombs were built in the south-eastern corner of the cemetery and several more along the northern border of the cemetery. In the 1870’s these tombs, which were in a state of disrepair, were collapsed and the tomb “caps” or inscribed lintels, were used as the top of the wall which surrounds the cemetery. Most of these are still legible and have been arranged in the order that they are mentioned in Samuel Green’s “Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground” pp227-234. The dates on these "tomb caps" reflect when the tomb was built, not when its resident died. See the cemetery photo for two tombs which were not collapsed. The wall itself is in need of repair. It is not recommended to walk, sit on or jump over the wall. Use the gates.