Winter Work in the Cemetery

Date Published: 
September, 1920
Original Author: 
P.J. Caldwell
Superintendent, Cedar Grove Cemetery, Dorchester, MA
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 34th Annual Convention

When President Adams asked me to give a paper at this convention, and suggested "Winter Work at Cedar Grove," I decided it was with the idea that those of larger opportunities and accomplishments are willing to listen for a few minutes to the man of small achievements.

Cedar Grove Cemetery was started in 1868 as a burial place for the town of Dorchester, and the town appropriated about twenty thousand dollars for purchase of land and improvements up to 1872, when, by the union of Dorchester with Boston the rights and duties passed to the City of Boston, under whose management it remained until 1887, when, by an act of legislature, it was incorporated and the management was transferred to seven trustees, to be elected by the lot owners.

The cemetery contains nearly sixty acres, including two recent purchases of about seven acres, which are yet to be developed. Throughout the cemetery there are out-crippings of ledge, the famous Roxbury Pudding Stone, which is much harder to blast than the ordinary ledge.

As originally laid out the avenues circled the ledges and were set with maple trees fifteen feet apart. This is also true of many of the paths. It was the plan, as the trees attained size, to remove every other one, and later still to again take out every other one, finally having the avenues bordered by maples sixty feet apart. The first thinning has been accomplished and the second, and naturally the most difficult on account of the size of the trees and number of stones and monuments, constitutes a large part of our winter work.

In the old part of the cemetery, the preparation of new lots necessitates thoroughly working over the ground and blasting out ledges, which, as I have mentioned before, entails more work than the ordinary rock. But by the removal of the ledges we obtain all the stone needed in our foundation work the following season.

Another phase of our winter work is the destruction of gypsy moths by means of scraping the nests from every stone and monument and burning them and destroying them on trees and shrubs with creosote. By doing this work thoroughly we have, so far, eliminated the necessity for spraying and the results have been commended by the City Forester.

Unusual conditions have given us very little time for this work the past two winters; the first year on account of the epidemic of influenza and the large number of resulting burials, and last winter a recurrence of the epidemic combined with severe storms. The storms began with a heavy snow fall which turned to rain and then froze, forming a crust that was difficult to break through. All the avenues had to be cleared of snow to the ground as most of the funerals came in automobiles. For about ten days we were obliged to meet all funerals at the car lines with express sleighs as the streets from the car lines to the cemetery were not passable for autos.

It may be of interest to some if I say a word about our method of digging graves in winter. In the case of deep frost, the top layer of loam is broken out the size of the grave to the depth of 6 to 8 inches. At night we make a fire of refuse wooden paving blocks which have been treated with creosote. These blocks make a hot, slow fire which will last all night without further attention, and in the morning the frost is taken out of the ground to the depth of about three feet, and the digging can be completed as easily as in summer.

We have three greenhouses in the cemetery which demand a certain amount of care and attention and while we do not feel that they are a source of real financial profit, they provide us with all the plantings used in decorating the grounds. No attempt is made to do anything with cut flowers.

I have conscientiously, even joyfully, adhered to President Adams' injunction to be brief, but I trust no one will get the erroneous impression that there is a corresponding brevity in the amount of winter work at Cedar Grove.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 34th Annual Convention held at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
September 7, 8, 9 and 10, 1920