The Story of Woodside Cemetery
In the center of historic Yarmouthport down Summer Street past the village pump and stone watering trough, lies a beautiful cemetery that many residents are unaware of and fewer still know much about.
In the earliest days of Yarmouthport, Summer Street was known as Cow Lane and was only a rough dirt pathway used by the settlers to lead their cattle to water. The Hawes family moved to the lane and it became known by their name. Other families followed and we know that more than two hundred years ago, the Sears established a family burial ground within the bounds of the present Woodside Cemetery, on what we now call Summer Street.
The Sears family plot was probably started by Ebenezer Sears. He was born in 1755 and served in the Revolution as a soldier. Later, as a sea captain, he was master of the first ship flying the American flag to round the Cape of Good Hope enroute to India. He died in 1835 and is buried in the family plot on Summer Street. A very rich man, he left just one dollar to his son Joshua because "he is a man of wealth and neither needs nor desires any part of my estate". The earliest known burials in the Sears plot date from 1788. Ebenezer's son Joshua was born in Yarmouthport, in 1791. He went to Boston and became a merchant and ship owner trading in tea and cotton in the Far East. He died in 1857 and his tomb near the southwest corner of Woodside Cemetery, highlights the original 15,000 square foot Sears family plot.
Apparently, a small village cemetery had also been established around 1800 near the Sears plot. In 1855, Charles Sears, one of Ebenezer's eleven children, joined with two others as a committee of trustees to purchase a tract of land to enlarge that burial ground. Charles conveyed to the trustees a parcel of one and one quarter acres adjoining the village cemetery.
Then in 1868, forty of the leading citizens of Yarmouthport organized the non-profit, non-sectarian "Woodside Cemetery Corporation" to take over the village cemetery. Captain Bangs Hallet, Henry C. Thacher and Nathaniel C. Simpkins were among the incorporators and cemetery records show that by 1868 there had been at least two hundred and fifty interments dating back to 1797.
In 1880, Joshua Montgomery Sears, the son of Joshua and reportedly Boston's largest taxpayer, gave an additional one and three quarters acres and later in the same year Henry C. Thacher further enlarged the cemetery by another three acres. Helen Sears, great granddaughter of Ebenezer, donated the Sears family plot in 1910. Mabel S. Agassiz conveyed the ten acres to the south and in 1956, Guido Perera and his cousins presented two more parcels on the north and east totaling more than nine acres. Much of this area abuts the Nature Trails of the Historical Society and we are pleased to have some of their trails go through our property.
Today Woodside Cemetery covers more than twenty-six acres of which only ten and one half have been developed. As you drive down Summer Street the cemetery is to the east, surrounded by a granite post and rail fence with five iron gates providing access to the paved lanes which are open in daylight hours to cars and walkers alike.
In 1997, 1998 and 1999, four acres of woodland overlooking Dennis Pond were cleared and transformed into a new area of the cemetery, enclosed by a granite post-and-rail fence with two handsome wrought iron entrance gates, a large variety of decorative trees including magnolias and dogwoods, and curved roadways connected to the original cemetery.
Woodside Cemetery Corporation is tax exempt and is administered by a Board of Directors composed of Yarmouthport residents and benefactors. The corporation has built an endowment fund over the years which currently produces an annual income sufficient to provide for maintenance of the grounds and occasional capital improvements.
We wish to remind our friends that contributions to the Cemetery by will or by lifetime gifts are Federal tax deductible as charitable gifts. Legacies have helped to build our endowment fund over the years.