Present owner: West Parish Church
A one acre West Burial ground was set aside on February 6, 1692 at Town Meeting - "Granted to those men on ye west side of Shawshin River, ye libertie of a buring place, on an acre of land by ye way side near ye head of a place called Rowell's Folly, provided they fence in handsomely against swine and other creatures within a year of ye date hereof: Serjnt John Chandler, Joseph Marble, to measure sd land."
Our first burial and now the oldest stone in Andover is Samuel Blanchard's grave stone dated April 22, 1707. At this time the only burial ground was in the northeast side of town, near the Meetinghouse, on Academy Rd now in North Andover. The South Parish was created in 1709 and a new meeting house erected by Jan. 1710. A South Parish burial ground was created next to the new meeting house and first burial of record was Robert Russell in December 1710.
West Burial ground may have become redundant at this time as no records exist of interments here again until 1772. The custom of burials included carrying the coffin to the grave, not transported by ox carts or wagons. Town records about the West yard are again addressed in 1748 and again "Then measured and bounded out one acre of land for ye town's use, lying on ye southerly side of ye way that Leads from Mr. William Foster's to Ensign John Foster's, near the Head of Rowell's Folly brook." Finally in June 1751 the ground was accepted.
We know 78 burials occurred here prior to the West Parish being set off in 1826. With West Parish Church incorporated the burial ground became church property 1827. From a small one acre burial ground the yard increased to three acres in 1849 and then five acres in 1878. A hearse house was constructed in 1844 by Jacob Chickering and an expensive hearse with appropriate Palls was gifted to the Parish by Mr. John Smith. The cemetery was surrounded by a typical New England stone wall with two entrance pathways. By the turn of the century there was a need to expand again.
On Easter morning in 1908 William Madison Wood, president of the American Woolen Company, gave $5000 to the church Deacons to improve and restore the old burying ground. Stones were reset, straightened and the grounds regraded and reseeded. Mr. Wood had a plan to convert the cemetery into a beautiful garden cemetery. He first had to purchase six separate parcels of land totaling 50 acres within the boundaries of Lowell St, Cutler and Reservation Roads in 1908, then get town approval for the right to use the land for burials. Mr. Wood gave his civil engineer John Franklin the task of designing the layout and grounds for the new cemetery and help from the Church Cemetery Committee. Four structures were moved off the green in front of the church. The church Vestry, the Andover Grange, the Charles & Frank Hardy house and 24 horse sheds were moved to create a road to a grand entrance and arch. Work progressed quickly as the Arch was completed by October 23, 1909. The Chapel finished in May 1910. On October 25, 1910 William Wood handed the deed to the cemetery over to the West Parish Church along with an endowment for its maintenance.
The Arch was dedicated to Benjamin Franklin Smith Jr., grandson of Peter Smith, who worked as assistant treasurer of the American Woolen Co. and was to be elected as a vice president prior to his death at age 29 on Feb. 27, 1908. The Arch entrance was designed by George Shattuck of Boston and is constructed of Milford Pink Granite, in Milford MA. It has an unusual quality of turning from light gray to "pink" when wet. The Boston Public Library is also constructed of the same material.
All the stone for the construction of the Chapel, Office, Tomb and walls were quarried off ledges along Cutler Rd and Oriole Dr. The capstones on the walls are pink granite and the cemetery has three separate entrance gates. Grounds & plantings were carefully laid out by Playdon's Florist of Andover. The Chapel at West Parish is the crown jewel in the cemetery with all Tiffany windows opposite Wood family lot. Wood also designed his own resting place there with the help of Tiffany Studios.
The stone walls that surrounds the grounds tapers down to a plain wall on Reservation Road. It has been stated "because the farmer who owned land there refused to sell to Wood." This is most likely not true as George Averill, who owned the old Solomon Holt farm at 111 Reservation Rd, sold 44 acres of his farm to Wood for the cemetery. Mr. Averill's lot is at the highest point in the cemetery.
In April 1995 the West Parish Church created a separate governing board to run the day to day operations of the cemetery. West Parish Garden Cemetery, Inc. took over stewardship of the grounds. The board of directors is made up of seven members; two "members of the church", two are "lot owners", two "neighbors at large" and one "a member of the Andover Historical Society" (now the Andover Center of History & Culture).
For the past 24 years the cemetery grounds and buildings have been restored, improved and are in keeping to the original plan of a true garden cemetery. A park like setting open to all. The Arch was restored in 1996-97, the Chapel in 1998 and the office in 2000. The Bay Circuit Trail also passes through the grounds. The first columbarium in Andover was dedicated here in 2006 and a Children's Garden built in 2010. In Feb. 2020 a storm ripped off half the roof of the arch. This revealed further structural damage to both interior and exterior masonry. A complete restoration began in May and completed in April 2021.
web site: http://www.westparishgardencemetery.org/
Essex County Registry Deeds, Salem, MA
Essex Northern Registry Deeds, Lawrence, MA
Bailey, Sarah Loring. "Historical Sketches of Andover", Boston, Houghton, Mifflin 1880.
Historical Manual of West Parish Church & Parish of Andover, Mass". Andover Press, 1926.
Campbell, Eleanor; "West of the Shawsheen"1975
Andover Townsman 1910, Boston Transcript 1909-1910
Further information: West Parish office & cemetery, 129 Reservation Road, Tel: 978-475-3902
|Place||West Parish - West Center District|
|Historic District||West Parish Center NRH District|
|Historic Name||West Burial Ground - West Parish Cemetery|
|Original Use||Burial ground|
|Construction Date||1692, 1751, 1908|
|Source||ERDS, NERDL, style,|
|Outbuildings / Secondary Structures||Entrance Arch, stone Chapel, stone office building, tomb, horse-shed storage building|
|Major Alterations||Enlarged April 1849, 2 acres, enlarged May 1878 2 acres, 1908 enlarged 45 acres to Garden Cemetery|
|Setting||Reservation Road/Lowell Street/Cutler Road|
|Map and parcel||89-55|
|Recorded by||Stack/Mofford, James S. Batchelder|
|Organization||Andover Preservation Commission|
|Date entered||August 1977, 10/3/2018|