Grave-tober 25 – Nancy Adams

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October 25, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

Today’s Grave-tober entry is an unusual one, one very nearly lost and forgotten.




A respectable colored


Was born in Louisiana

Mar. 31 1766

[D]ied in Uxbr[dge]


The cemetery where Mrs. Adams’ gravestone was placed no longer exists.  It was part of the Uxbridge Almshouse Cemetery, a forgotten burial site in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, a small town in southern Worcester County, between Worcester and Providence.  In 1980 state surveyors working on a planned expansion of route 146, discovered a previously unlisted burial site on a small hill lying directly in the path of the road construction.

Due to a change in state law in 1983 (specifically the “Unmarked Burial Law”), the site, which was thought to either by a Quaker burial ground more than 100 years old or a “Praying Indian” burial site, was required to be excavated by archaeologists.  A team from Boston University excavated the site in 1985.  In advance of the dig, the researchers identified the site as the burial grounds for the Uxbridge Almshouse, from 1831 to 1872.

Almshouses, also called Poor Houses or Poor Farms, were a city-run social welfare system, providing house and upkeep for a town’s elderly, indigent, and mentally ill in exchange for labor.  Considering the health of their residents, it is no surprise that a cemetery was needed.

The archaeologists discovered the remains of 31 individuals, of where there were markers for 17.  Of these, 16 were unmarked field stones and one, shown above, an traditional marble gravestone, was discovered broken in several pieces under a few inches of earth.


The historical record and the archaeological record for Mrs. Adams are not in full agreement.  She was listed as being born in Louisiana on her gravestone, but Maryland surviving county records.  She was either in her early 90s when she died or a centenarian, etc.  To read more about Mrs. Adams, see here.

(Uxbridge is positively rich with burying grounds for geographic – the town is spread out – and historical – a large Quaker community; according to Lambert there are 37 cemeteries in the bounds of modern Uxbridge.  According to the city, 31 of these are considered abandoned and are the responsibility of the town for their upkeep.  If you want to help with this effort, they take donations and are selling gravestone-shaped soaps.)

All of this post is based on an exceptionally fascinating article about the Uxbridge Almshouse Cemetery – “Silent Stones in a Potter’s Field: Grave Markers at the Almshouse Burial Ground in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.” published in MarMkers IX (1992).

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