Cemetery Conservation with Rachel Meyer of Epoch Preservation – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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Welcome to our 40th episode! Enjoy a great conversation with Epoch Preservation’s Rachel Meyer. Epoch, a business on the North Shore of Massachusetts specializing in the preservation of burial grounds and their artifacts, has worked repairing grave sites broadly in Massachusetts including in Gloucester, Ipswich, Newbury, Salem, Revere, Saugus, Groveland, Methuen, Peabody, West Roxbury, and at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Cemetery in Danvers. You have enjoyed Epoch’s Facebook live worksite tours, and you probably have heard Rachel on other podcasts, so you know that you are in for a treat! There is so much to take away from her gravestone preservation expertise and personable and engaging education style. We also connect historical social injustices to our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?
[00:00:20] Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. [00:00:25] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. [00:00:27] Josh Hutchinson: Today's guest is Rachel Meyer of Epoch Preservation, a business on the North Shore of Massachusetts specializing in the preservation of burial grounds and their artifacts. [00:00:39] Sarah Jack: She gives us the scoop on cemetery maintenance. [00:00:43] Josh Hutchinson: Learn about gravestone repair. [00:00:46] Sarah Jack: What is her connection to the Salem Witch Trials? [00:00:49] Josh Hutchinson: Learn about her experience working the Rebecca Nurse Homestead cemetery. [00:00:56] Sarah Jack: And how she looked after the Charter Street Cemetery, the old burying ground in Salem. [00:01:02] Josh Hutchinson: And the Riverview Cemetery in Groveland. [00:01:04] Sarah Jack: I'm gonna give it to you straight. You're gonna hear why there's better options than grave rubbing. [00:01:10] Josh Hutchinson: And we'll talk a little about cemetery etiquette. [00:01:14] Sarah Jack: Epoch has worked in Gloucester, Ipswich, Newbury, Salem, Revere, Saugus, Groveland, Methuen, Peabody, West Roxbury, Hampton, New Hampshire, Somersworth, New Hampshire, and at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Cemetery in Danvers. You have enjoyed their Facebook live worksite tours. You probably have heard Rachel on other podcasts, so you know that you are in for a treat. I love this interview, because there is so much to learn from this type of important work. And anytime a local shares experiences, you get a closer look than anyone else can give. What is the meaning of the name of your company? [00:01:58] Rachel Meyer: Oh, I wanna quiz you. How do you say the name of our company? [00:02:04] Sarah Jack: Epoch. [00:02:06] Rachel Meyer: Oh so we, when we became a business six years ago, almost to the day we asked our friends on social media, "what should we be calling ourselves? What should we name our new business?" And they had a million ideas, and all of them were taken. And Josh and I were out swimming at the marina and I was like, I don't know Josh, we gotta come up with a name. And he said, "how about Epoch?" And I said, "I don't think that's how you say that word." And so we contacted our friend Brendan O'Brien. He does Rumney Marsh and Revere, and we said, he's an English teacher, and we were like, Brendan, how would you pronounce E P O C H? And he's in America it's epoch and England, it's epoch. And so we chose the name loving it, obviously means like an era, a time of your life. We're both in our forties, so this is but one era of the things that we've done in our lifetimes, is one of the best eras or epochs. But we knew all throughout that we were going to have a little bit of, is it epic or epoch? And people pronouncing it both ways and neither way is wrong, and we don't get offended at either. And we actually giggle and I nudge him. I'm like, "see, you chose it. This is awful." But it was a good name, and it was the only one that wasn't taken of the thousand names that we Googled and tried out, you know? [00:03:29] Sarah Jack: Yeah, I love it. I called you Epic for several years, and then I heard some folks say it the other way, so then I started saying it the other way, so I've called it both. [00:03:39] Rachel Meyer: Yes. People tell me they have arguments in their household over it, and when they finally get me on the phone, they're like, how do you say your name, and one spouse loses and one wins. So I love it. [00:03:52] Sarah Jack: That's awesome. [00:03:52] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. No, it's a great name. [00:03:55] Rachel Meyer: Thank you. [00:03:56] Josh Hutchinson: And how did you get started in cemetery preservation? [00:04:01] Rachel Meyer: It's almost like I, I got started in two bursts. The very first thing I did in a cemetery was I was in Hamilton and I was looking for the gravestone of my own great-grandfather, and I found out he was an unmarked grave in a veteran's lot. So I went through all of the necessary paperwork with the veterans to get him a marker. So this will be the first time that doing something in a cemetery was planted in my brain. But then I was working as an administrator at the Sargent House Museum in Gloucester, and I was doing NaNoWriMo, but not in November because I don't ever have time in November, which is, for people who don't know, is writing a novel in a month, and I did it, but like the very last part of it was set in a burying ground in Gloucester. So I googled historic burying ground, Gloucester, and this was like nine years ago. And it brought me to First Parish on Centennial Ave. in Gloucester. And we couldn't even walk in. The weeds, I didn't even know weeds grew this tall, but they were up to my shoulder. I'm five seven, and we had to wade through them just to get to the main part of the cemetery. And the main part, you couldn't get anywhere near the gravestones. There were like a lot of syringes and trash back there. And then later, within probably like a week, we found out that there was a whole cemetery even behind that, a small, Victorian era cemetery that was so overgrown that you couldn't see the entrance, you couldn't see any of the gravestones. It was like poison ivy floor to ceiling, when it grows in big vines. And so I came home, and Josh was painting the house, and I was like, "Josh, we gotta at least get a weed whacker and like weed whack some paths so people can get to the gravestones." And then before I know it, I'm like quitting my museum career and saying I'm full-time going to save gravestones. Took tons of classes, just gained experience the hard way, and now, two years into that project, I was like this is a good time to stop. I'm not independently wealthy. I do need to work. And we also don't live in Gloucester. We live in Ipwich, so it was like a 40 minute drive and I was doing it full-time. So when I started, there wasn't a cemetery commission, and we were able to, out of the volunteers that we recruited, have a cemetery commission for their city. So we handed the project over to them, and I don't have to do anything. I check in every once in a while. If I see the grass is becoming a little unwieldy, I might make a phone call and say, "hey, I didn't give two years of my life for nothing." But but I pretty much never have to do that. It looks beautiful. They're doing a great job. So that is the very long story of how I got into cemeteries. And then after that project. I was like, I'm never doing this again. That was so hard. And I had to make people angry at me, cuz I had to call people and tell them, you're not doing your job well or you're neglecting things, and that's never fun. I still have to do things like that sometimes, and it's awful. And I was just done until about six months later, I wasn't anymore. I went up to Newbury, and I saw the condition of their cemetery. And that one's owned by a church. It's a beautiful cemetery. It just needed, it needed help. It's a very small congregation. They can't manage it. It's giant, and it's it's tied with Dorchester as like the oldest burying ground in the state. And so I think it dates to 1632. And I called them and I said, "can I just like volunteer? I've been a volunteer all this time." And they're like, actually we have a grant. Would you be able to become a business? And Josh and I were like, "who else has this knowledge? Of course, let's become a business." And then those conversations started about names, and the social media that you guys might follow. [00:07:59] Sarah Jack: That is awesome. So we, we were gonna ask you how much of your job is landscaping, but it sounds like it depends on how they've been able to take care of it before you get there. [00:08:11] Rachel Meyer: None anymore. So those were self-driven projects, where if we weren't gonna do it, no one was gonna do it. It was more than a part-time job just being out there whacking back Japanese knotweed, which is ridiculous. It was like a acre and a half of Japanese knotweed. And if you know about that plant, it does not go away. Man what's that monster where you cut off its head and two more grows? It's that. But now people really just hire us to repair their gravestones. If somebody's hiring us to repair their gravestones, they probably already maintain their grounds, so luckily we don't have to do that anymore, because I don't know if I could do that anymore. It's hard work. [00:08:49] Sarah Jack: We recently have been to an old burial ground in Connecticut, and it had those poison ivy vines in a lot of spots and it's scary. It's like, "that's poison ivy." [00:09:01] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. I giggle because I have, in this picture in my mind of Josh who's actually sensitive to poison ivy, I am not sensitive to poison ivy. I can touch it without any really repercussions. I hear that can change. But I have this visual memory of Josh literally, as sensitive as he is, like pulling these vines outta trees. He had poison ivy. Nothing too crazy, but just always, it's a, I should send you photos so that you the visual is impressive. [00:09:31] Sarah Jack: Wow. So it's was coming with the job for him. [00:09:34] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, I mean he has a landscape background. He was an organic, he has like a certification, organic lawn care and stuff like that. So he already had an idea of how to do things. But me and the other volunteers that jumped on board were like, "oh my goodness, I feel like I'm cutting through a jungle." but it was exciting when you would find something, and it was exciting when someone would contact you and say, "hey, that picture you posted is my grandmother." Cuz these weren't long dead people. We were finding people's like grandparents. And people were getting very emotional cuz they hadn't been able to visit in 20 years. [00:10:12] Sarah Jack: Wow. That's wonderful. [00:10:14] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, it's a really good feeling. I highly suggest it for anyone. [00:10:18] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, I'm excited about the region that you cover, because I have a lot of ancestors in the cemeteries that you work in. Like I saw you were working in Groveland recently, and my grandfather's sister and mother and grandparents are all buried there in Riverview Cemetery. I've got a lot of people in there. [00:10:42] Rachel Meyer: You're gonna have to privately tell me their last names. Two years ago we repaired probably like 15 gravestones of varying ages. This year we're repairing 126, and there are varying ages. They're not just the very old ones. They're also like semi newer, too. Good chances you, some of your family may have made it into our list. [00:11:03] Josh Hutchinson: Oh yeah. Yeah. I'll definitely have to touch base with you on that. [00:11:07] Rachel Meyer: We'll plant flowers for them if they're yours. [00:11:09] Sarah Jack: Wow. [00:11:10] Josh Hutchinson: Aw, thank you. That'd be so sweet. [00:11:12] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. [00:11:14] Sarah Jack: How do your ties to the local history enrich your work? [00:11:18] Rachel Meyer: So my family goes back in Massachusetts to the Mayflower. We're also, as we talked about, witch trial descendants, also Quaker descendants. We're descended from Cassandra and Lawrence Southwick and their son, I think it's Daniel, who was told he was gonna become enslaved with his sister, and then no one acted upon it, thank goodness, but otherwise I wouldn't be here. Anyway, so I have family in all of these little burying grounds I work in, but I don't really think very much about it, because, to me, the reward is doing things for other people. No, no matter what burying ground I'm in I'm probably gonna have at least one or two people in it, just going back that far. But I'm aware when something, they're like, there are certain names I keep in my head, and when I see them in the burying ground, I'm like, oh, there's a Chase. Let's, let's make sure to tell everyone we fixed that gravestone for sure. And there's a Southwick and here's, especially the Chases. I'm very fond of my Chases. But so I'm fully aware of it, and I think part of my original feelings of we can't let our cultural heritage die, no one else is doing this, I'm gonna do it with my own hands was a dedication to my own ancestors who made it so I exist, and our predecessors that make it so our governments and our towns are here. You know, It's meaningful, but it's not really at the forefront. We don't use that information to decide what we're gonna repair. Our decisions are based on walking into a cemetery, seeing what's broken, and just fixing what's broken. We don't do a lot of research on who it is, cause we don't have time to. We're very prolific as a business. We leave it to the historians to tell us whose gravestone we just repaired. And I love it. I love it when I'm like, we just repaired this whole lot of Kimballs and I'm descended from the Kimballs, but I don't know a ton about them. And we'll have four or five people being like, "oh, they're my people, and this is all of these vital records," and they just floods through the comments. And I love that I have such smart people around me that can inform me and make it exciting for me, cuz I'm giving them a gift, but they're returning it right back. [00:13:44] Sarah Jack: Yeah. [00:13:46] Josh Hutchinson: I enjoy hearing you mention these names, because I have the same names in my family. [00:13:52] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. We look a little alike. Not that anyone can see us, but I also have a beard and mustache. Take my word on it. [00:14:02] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, no. I'll have to connect with you offline about some of these names you're dropping, because I have the same people in that area. Getting back to it, how else are you involved with history and preservation? [00:14:18] Rachel Meyer: So I serve on our local historical commission. And I think sometimes my views can be, I'm so outspoken that every time I mention I serve on the historical commission, I have to say, "but I'm not speaking as a historical commission member." I've been warned. So we live in Ipswich. So I'm on the Ipswich Historical Commission, and most people in history know that Ipswich has the largest number of first period houses in America, which is phenomenal. We wanna protect them. The reason why they're there is cuz we were actually poor, a poor town at one point who couldn't build new houses. And so now, like any other municipality, we're facing a lot of new building and stuff that we need to handle with care. So that's why I got involved with the historical commission. But we've been doing, since I joined, I have to admit that I joined with a mission and when people say, think Rachel joined with a mission, I go, "no, but I did." I knew what history wasn't being told. It bothered me. I know in general, outside of Ipswich, I take on a lot of, not take on, no one asked me to do it. I get in my head that I want to repair a lot of like African-American gravestones, and there's no one really to point them out, like with the gravestones of our white population you might have locals who know they're descended from them and will say, "maybe give this some attention." But that doesn't really happen so much with the black community, because often they don't know they're descended from these really important people. And so outside of our work as a business, I take on these pro bono projects for Howard Street segregated section, or right now we're working on getting Marblehead a couple gravestones for some important, I don't know how to describe them. Joe and Lucretia Brown, they were tavern owners, but they were also possibly black governors. We had Negro election day here where people voted black governors. But anyway, not to get too off topic. I just wanted to give you some background about the things that interest me. So when I joined the historical commission, I had it in my head that we talk a lot about colonial stuff, which is something that obviously makes us important, but it's not all that happened. And I wanna tell history in a comprehensive way. So in my time at the historical commission, which has been short, we have put up a plaque for a millworker strike that happened here, where a young woman named Nicoletta Pantelopoulos was shot by police, and so the plaque is to her. We adopted Indigenous People's Day. Off topic, but also surprisingly in the same vein, we put up a plaque to the writer John Updike, who I think in some ways, because of the scandalous nature of his writing, was also being pushed out of the mainstream for some reason. And recently we renamed a park that didn't have a name after Jenny Slew, who was the first to sue for and win her freedom from slavery. I hedge on it the way I say that, because there were other people I've learned that sued for and won their freedom based on them being indigenous. It's hard to know how exactly how to word her role, but she definitely set the precedence for others to sue and for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts. It's just incredibly important to me that we're not just telling the history that brings in the tourists, that we're telling the history that is right to tell, too. [00:18:03] Josh Hutchinson: What time period are we talking about with Jenny Slew? [00:18:07] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. So she's early, right? Sometimes when we think about slavery, we're thinking about the 1800s, cuz we're thinking about slavery in the South. But she actually won that case in 1766. And I've heard some scholarship. I'm not a historian, I'm gonna let you figure this out. I heard some scholarship that maybe her great grandmother was Dorcas Hoar. She was white on her mother's side, but I am 100% not a historian. I'd like to know more about why people think that, because it speaks to this idea that persecution is handed down not only in the black community, but possibly in the white community, too. [00:18:50] Sarah Jack: I like it, because there's more story to tell over the generations, different stories. Like you said, you've got going from witch trials into slavery, there's a lot of story to tell there. [00:19:01] Rachel Meyer: When I got up and spoke at the select board as myself, not a representative of historical commission, I said that this story is like the perfect show of intersectionality. We have somebody who is being forbidden to sue for her freedom, because she's owned by her husband, and then she's also enslaved. But also, she proved that her, because her husband himself was enslaved, it wasn't a legitimate marriage. So now she could sue. There's a lot of injustice going on in that story that's a little bit different than some of the stories you normally hear where somebody's born into slavery. This was a woman in her forties, and there's a lot to unpack there, because the reason she won her case was because her mother was white. It's it's a lot. And then you have somebody like Ma Betts coming around, shortly after her. And you're like, she was up against a hard legal battle. It's, yeah. I don't know. I'm amazed by Jenny Slew's story and it's so complicated. It was the first time I had heard this theory, too, and I was like, and it was well into the naming of the park. It didn't factor into it at all. And then I heard this, I heard, it was a little lecture given at Salem State, and I was like, whoa, this makes a lot more sense now how she ended up in this position. That makes me feel even more protective of her, that we share witch trial ancestry. [00:20:37] Josh Hutchinson: What are some of the things that you do to repair broken stones? [00:20:42] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, so there's a series of rules that we have to follow. So it's the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation. And they're similar to the same rules that you need to follow if you're restoring a house. Things need to be aimed to be reversible. They need to be similar in material to what you are replacing or restoring, the least invasive methods you can use. So everything that we do is in keeping with those standards. There are sometimes stones that are so hard to repair, but you're like, no, I need to use this particular type of mortar. So the repairs that we do, we used to do a lot of stone cleaning when we started out, and in fact, if somebody wants to start out doing this, I suggest stone cleaning. We're judicious in the stones that we clean because we didn't wanna clean anything that had an underlying condition that we didn't know how to treat. So we also piece together gravestones, even if they're a hundred pieces, because most people will give up on gravestones that are, that seem unrepairable. But we actually kinda consider it a challenge. And it's not, no disrespect to the people buried there, but sometimes if it's bad enough, we refer to those gravestones as Frankenstones, because they're literally a hundred pieces held together with mortar, and they're not the prettiest. It's the original gravestone. Somebody could replace it at some point if they wanted to, but the grave is still marked. So then, apart from just, from repairing them, we can also document sites. We do a lot of stone assessments, where we do a careful history of the burying ground and make maps and go stone by stone and photograph them and take careful notes of their condition and how we'd repair them and get people budgets and help them come up with a plan to move forward. Sometimes we have a plan to move forward. Sometimes we're just being given 10 gravestones, and someone says, "can you repair these 10?" And we don't go through that whole process, but sometimes we really get to dig into a site and learn its full history, and we walk away feeling really part of that site. And practically we wrote a book on it, and you can find it at any historical commission. It's cool cuz I'm not a very good writer. You should have read my NaNoWriMo novel. It's why you don't, you're not seeing that novel published. But instead of seeing me work in cemeteries. [00:23:09] Sarah Jack: I don't believe it. I was wondering what D2 is. [00:23:14] Rachel Meyer: D2 is a quaternary ammonium solution. In olden days, like with olden days, we're talking 20 years ago. In ye old days, when I was in my twenties, people would just take a couple gallons of water and put like a tablespoon of ammonia in the water and clean gravestones with that. It's not advisable, cause people tend to go a little heavy on the ammonia. And so D2 is a quaternary ammonia compound. So it works by, so we clean the gravestone with really just water, skewers, gentle brushes, and then we spray the D2 on afterwards, and it gets into the pores and it works over time with the rain to clean any of the biological growth out of the pores of the stone and also lightens the color of it. If you go into a graveyard and you see some glaring white gravestones, it was probably recently treated, that growth will grow back in probably five years. You'll start four or five years, you'll start seeing like a little bit of a green haze and at that point what you do is you mix the D2 one to one and you do a maintenance spray, and that'll stop you from having to scrub it again, cuz it's, cleaning a gravestone mechanically isn't something you wanna do over and over again. It's kinda like gravestone rubbing. You don't wanna keep interacting with a gravestone over and over. It's not good for it. [00:24:28] Sarah Jack: I had seen that you have a recommendation what people can do to capture images instead of gravestone rubbing. Do you wanna talk about that? [00:24:37] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, sure. I think this is like one of those divisive topics. It was never, it's never meant to shame somebody who grew up doing great. Like I get a lot of comments that are like, I've been doing this since I was a child," and I'm like, "I'm not mad at you." We didn't have cell phones then. We didn't have this ability to capture everything in front of us in real time. So you know it, it's okay, but if you want these to last for another few hundred years, that practice has to stop. So what we like to do is on a sunny day, we take a full length mirror with us to the graveyard, and you can stand quite far away from a gravestone to catch the sun. And we reflect the sun back onto the gravestone, and we can create different shadows using the mirror. It's really cool. If you go on our Instagram, you can see a lot of these shots that are like, that's because we used a mirror on them. I was also recently taught this really cool technique by our friend Andy Perrin. A few people have showed, there was another lady. It's her Instagram is Where the Dead Lie. If you go on, you'll see all these awesome like 3D renderings. And she sent me some from Old North that you could 3D print. So a friend of ours is starting to 3D print these gravestones from her renderings. But if you have an iPhone, you likely have Lidar on your iPhone, which does an amazing job. I don't. I am one of those uncool people that has a Galaxy Note 1000 wherever we are in the chain. But you can still take like dozens of photos around the gravestone and create just with your cell phone, a 3D rendering of a gravestone. The possibilities are absolutely endless. And then we have this friend, Andy Perrin. He takes those 3D renderings and he's come up with a process where he can put them through some software that he's created, that at some point I hope he sells to the public, that makes it incredibly easy to read these gravestones. They almost look like x-rays. They're like works of art. They come out so beautiful. There are other options besides repetitive gravestone rubbing, and it's, I always feel bad when people are like, "but I teach gravestone rubbing, but, and I teach to do it the right way." And it's there's not a right way to do a gravestone rubbing on a gravestone that's just been conserved. You're pushing on it. The materials we're required to use are soft. Enough people do that, our mortars are gonna crumble out. We saw that a lot in Salem where people would repeatedly sit on gravestones, and the conservators, who did work probably a year and a half before, all their mortar was crumbling out from the repetitive interactions from the public. We really don't like gravestone rubbing it. It's not we don't like gravestone rubbers. They're okay. It's just the act that we don't really like. [00:27:30] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. I've been to Salem years ago in October to the Charter Street, and that was before they put in the crowd control. And yeah, people were just walking all over off the path, sitting on things, leaning on things, and overall very disrespectful. And I'm really glad that they limit access now. It's been very helpful, I think. [00:28:00] Rachel Meyer: I think most people who know me from that time because, so at that time, you're describing a few years ago, I was the stone conservator for the City of Salem. So I did stone conservation work in all five of their historic burying grounds. I worked for the DPW, and they had never had an on staff stone conservator. They invented the job for me and my fir, so I, I'm waiting for the groans to hear this. So I'm from the area, and my very first job as a teenager was at the Salem Wax Museum, and I worked there for two years. And by the way, I had the most fun, like it was the most, it was the most fun, regardless of how people feel how they interpret history. My boss was actually really fun. I really liked him. But it's right next to Charter Street Cemetery, so I've been watching that cemetery very closely since I was 16 or 17 years old, working right next door to it and progressively as Haunted Happenings got bigger, it just became wild, people going in there in costumes. Most people that went in there actually commented to me that they thought it was a movie set. They didn't understand it was a real burying ground. And so when I worked for the cemetery department, I was in there all month one October, and I nearly lost my mind. Like I flipped out. And at this point they had a little bit of crowd control going on when I was there all month. But I was like yelling at people left, not yelling, trying to politely tell people, don't sit on that tomb, do you mind staying on the path? A million different little things. And I felt like I was being some sort of a nag and ruining people's tours, but that wasn't the intention. The intention was that the tourism in Salem was unmanageable for our historic resources, and we needed to dial it down given that it's an actual burying ground and not a movie set. So I went on, not a rampage. That sounds worse than it is, but I contacted the media. I gave a proposal that they didn't even want at the cemetery commission that they kept saying, "this is above your pay grade." And I said, "these are my ancestors, and I'm its gravestone conservator." It would be like being in the PEM and being an art conservator and seeing somebody throw paint on a painting and having to just sit there and not say something because it might upset the tourism industry or something. And as you can tell from photos and coverage of tourism in Salem, it hasn't affected the tourism industry to show respect to Charter Street Cemetery. It was constant, people putting candles on gravestones and letting the wax run and parts of the wall falling into the graveyard and me having to put it back up over and over again. I don't know if I was part of this discussion about the new welcome center, but I think that I had left that job the second season, because the conditions were hard. It's not like the other towns where I work in, where it's nice and quiet and I can think. There was a lot of, there's a lot. I don't know how to say this politely. Salem isn't the usual, it's not the usual place we work. It's different, and it can be chaotic and hard if you're in a cemetery. But shortly after I left, they made that agreement with the PEM to put a welcome center in the historic house. And we've taught a couple workshops there since. And it was absolutely beautiful. I loved doing it, and I loved seeing how much quieter and respectful it is. And there were certainly still people being disrespectful of the staff that's working there. So no one, none of your listeners are going to be doing that, but if they know people who are, tell 'em to stop it, cause you know, there's no reason to come into somebody's town and visit their historic resources and be rude to the people protecting them, which happens a lot. And those people are working hard. That visitor center's open year round, even in the cold. That's amazing. [00:32:12] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. I'm so glad all those changes have been made though, for all the reasons you said. The first Hutchinsons that came to America are buried in there, and I was there this last May, and it was just night and day different from October seven years ago. So part of it's seasonal, I know, but just the changes and how access is controlled. It was so good. [00:32:40] Rachel Meyer: It's become less seasonal. Like I was there in January, I live like 25 minutes away, and I'm from there. So I was there in January, and there were a ton of tourists, and that's not usual. And I'm not sure if it's because of the sort of end of the public health crisis that people are like, "let's get out to Salem year round." But I was actually very surprised at how many people were there in the dead of winter and it was very cold. So I think their tourism is only amping up more and more. So those conversations about how to protect our cultural heritage and the cultural heritage of the people we've been ignoring, not just our cultural heritage, but the cultural heritage of the black, the indigenous people of Salem, is a conversation that needs to happen continuously, and luckily I serve on a lot of boards and commissions where I hear that work being done. I don't see Salem's tourism going down, and I don't see the parts that we all groan at that are offensive going away, but maybe we can amplify the things that aren't offensive and the things that do warrant our respect. And maybe that'll drown out a little bit more the other stuff that we're all like, "oh, did I really just see that?" [00:33:58] Sarah Jack: Thank you so much, Rachel. And Josh and I'm not gonna speak for Josh, but I and Josh, we really agree with you. We support that, all of that. I was wondering what people need to do to take care around gravestones, but then I'm also wondering, are there any other old habits that people need to stop doing? [00:34:22] Rachel Meyer: So beyond the gravestone rubbing, I don't like seeing people sitting on tombs. They're a lot more delicate than you think, and sometimes the damage to them isn't immediately obvious. Sometimes you're creating micro cracks in the stone and then water's getting in and heaving and it's, it, sometimes you are starting the damage and you don't see it immediately, but it, the damage happens over time. Just picnicking on top of tombs. I'm actually a big fan of picnicking in some, I like when people picnic in cemeteries. I like when people use cemeteries. I don't necessarily like it if people are having like a yoga class in between the stones, and people are trying to visit their ancestors. But we have a local graveyard here in Ipswich that has this like stairway that goes, it's treacherous. It's like a famous stairway right up the center of Old North, and people just run up and down the stairway all day long. And I think it's the best thing. And because I can't do it, sometimes when they get to the bottom, I like to heckle them and say, "is that all you got in ya?" Whatever. I have to amuse myself. But there, there are a lot of behaviors that some people mind and others don't. I don't mind. There's very little that I do mind. It's literally just interacting with the gravestones in a way that is gonna wear them out over time or somehow disturbing grieving people or dancing on someone's grave or stuff like or wearing gigantic dinosaur costumes into a burying ground and in an old cemetery in Salem, that'll bum me out. I don't mind if you're dressed as a flock of bees, but you can't even see out of that dinosaur costume. [00:36:01] Sarah Jack: That dinosaur costume is like my favorite thing to see every year. I don't wanna see it in a cemetery, but I cannot wait to see that thing coming down the sidewalk every year. [00:36:11] Rachel Meyer: Imagine being at the entrance to Charter Street, and the people have to be like, "sorry, you have to take off your dinosaur costume." What a shock. Like I wonder who's in there. It's like peeling away a skin, somebody should dress as a nesting doll, just have another dinosaur costume. [00:36:30] Josh Hutchinson: Wow. What are maybe some misconceptions that people have around graves and gravestones? [00:36:38] Rachel Meyer: I don't find them morbid. When I'm in a, I don't feel a morbid feeling at all. I feel more a feeling as though I'm at the beach. It's like a calm, almost spiritual feeling that you get when you're near water is how I feel surrounded by all of this carved slate and these majestic trees and moss and birds and foxes and whatever. I don't find it morbid compared to listening to the news or being out in the world in general and hearing people fight. I think that they are in a way maybe reminders that we're going to die, of course, but they're also reminders of how much longer we get to live than they did. A lot of these people didn't make it through infancy. And maybe they're a reminder of how grateful you should be about our medical advances and not having to walk 20 miles to the meeting house every Sunday, or whatever it may have been for them. So for me, that's probably the biggest misconception is that they're depressing. How about you? Have you heard any ideas that you're like, "ugh?" [00:37:57] Josh Hutchinson: I wanted first to just comment off what you just said. I find them very relaxing places. Most of the time you go to a cemetery, it's very quiet and people are, it's like a outdoor library, just the way that people usually approach a cemetery with respect and quiet voices and you can't get a whole lot quieter and more peaceful, I don't think, which is appropriate being a place of rest. And yeah, I just think about the people and the history and their stories, and that's what I think about, not ghosts or I'm gonna feel a chill when I go to the grave sites. It's not anything like that's not. That is that dark tourism. I don't get that kind of feel at a cemetery at all. I just feel so peaceful, even when I'm looking at my own ancestors. That's such a profound feeling of a connection with them. I enjoy being in cemeteries. [00:39:09] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, I think you touched on something that is a misconception probably about us as people is that we are really into the occult. But we don't, I tell people I don't wanna disappoint people who are like, "tell me about all the ghosts," and I'm like, "no, my, my family, even the dead ones don't wanna talk to me." They don't wanna interrupt my work. They don't want me to drop a stone on myself. They're just not talking to me. Very occasionally I'll, I don't mind a ghost story if I know it's about a fictitious person, but I don't like perpetuating this idea that anybody's family isn't at rest, even those that are 400 years old. I definitely have friends who do paranormal investigations, and I couldn't love these people more, and we just don't talk about it. People just assume that a lot of creepy things happen while we're in cemeteries. And actually, I feel very spiritually alive in cemetery, more of a connection to my own spirit there than ghosts or anything like that. So I don't know if this is a New England thing. So here, our local culture, it isn't enough to have something historical happen. So say you say Giles Cory was pressed in the general vicinity of Howard Street Cemetery. You can't end it there. That's not culturally what we do. You have to follow it with, "and he roams the cemetery forever," so which is half adorable. I don't know. It doesn't bother me as much, as long as people aren't passing it off to, I don't know. It shouldn't be. It shouldn't be such a gimmick, the witch trials. But there have been times. I worked in Howard Street Cemetery repairing a gravestone, and there was this white rat that came through. It was super friendly, like it was clearly someone's pet who got loose, and I called the police. There's probably a log of police calls that I've made in Salem that are half lunacy, but I called the police to see if they could get me a cage, because I was surrounded by my tools. I couldn't abandon them to find a way to catch this white rat that was clearly a pet, and it disappeared behind a gravestone. But I told everybody it was Giles Cory's familiar in that. I nearly named it Giles Cory, but I know that's not true. It's just a little dark gravestone conservator humor, but I'm definitely a citizen of the North Shore with my strange little, let's add on "and he wandered the halls forever." I'm from here. [00:41:40] Sarah Jack: That's great. Yeah, I I love spending time in cemeteries. My father is in one now, so I go for a different reason. I look around him, and I think of all the stories. I know his story, and then I think about what are these stories around him, and that's really one of the things that I'm curious about when I'm visiting. When we were in Connecticut last month doing a speaking tour with Dr. Leo Igwe, we went to an ancient burial ground in Windsor. And man, I just, I could have spent hours there just looking at the names, whose grouped together, what do these stones look like? What year were they? What do they say? And I love the fun stories, too, the lore, but I want the actual stories to be pulled out and talked about, too. What can we learn from looking at stones and what do they tell us? What stories do they tell us? [00:42:38] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, so I'm more of an art conservator than a historian. So for me, a lot of these people, you can tell their stories in other ways. The ones that actually have gravestones, where the ones that don't you, they're hidden and lost, but you can usually interpret their story by looking at a house or something else. One thing that people don't talk about in the general vernacular are the actual artists and carvers. So those are the people that I really try to push to the forefront, because you haven't heard these names before. You don't understand how they're connected and what a gentle little web it is. How some of them married into each other's families, and that's why we have all these generations and why some people seem to carve in the same sort of style and with the same material and others carve in another with slate, or you know, those are the faces that I'm trying to get out there, the talent. Even with contemporary gravestone carvers, it's really important for me to push them and promote them and say, "hey, these people are doing great work." Because they're gonna end up in graveyards where the focus, and rightfully so, is on the person, on the gravestone. But all that art is going overlooked, and some of those gravestones are pure art. Some of them of course are mass-produced in the sense that they were carved ahead of time, and someone came in and bought them. But some of them are specific to the person buried there. And it's not easy carving slate. I've tried, that's not my future. There are lots of people who give tours of the history, but I'm obsessed with the stone carvers and their artwork. If somebody off the street could name one gravestone carver, like they can name one painter, I'd feel like I did something. I don't, I'm not holding on hope. There's quite a heritage of stone carvers specifically here in Ipswich, where John Hartshorn lived, and there's a lot to know and a lot to learn and I'd love to tell you all about it. But this would have to be a four hour long podcast. I went through Old North Burying Ground, I think it was two days ago, with some teenagers from a summer program here in Ipswich, and they were teenagers that kind of did just like people go up and down the stairs in the middle. They did a little bit of that without looking around before, and a couple of them were just absolutely captivated, being allowed to take their time to observe the artwork on the stone. And I had one of the kids read the entire inscription on the Reverend Nathaniel, I can't remember his last name right now, but I had her read the entire inscription, and where she made mistakes, I pointed out, you're making that mistake, because we no longer use the long s we no longer say AET. We no longer shove weird letters in weird places cuz we forgot them or we now spell words the same way each time instead of spelling them five different ways on the same gravestone. It was really fun just to have a kid try to read a gravestone and say, "you're not having trouble because there's something wrong with you. It's because this is outdated. And yeah, there are two years on that gravestone. Why?" It's a blast to fully engage a young person in this. It's not always easy to get young people to put down their devices, but these kids were so smart and so funny and so engaged and curious and asked so such great questions that I think we need more of that, less tours, less I'm gonna tell you what's important about this cemetery and more self exploring with young people, allow them to walk around. I gave them flags, and I said, "I'm gonna let you just wander around for 10 minutes, and I want you to put a flag next to the gravestone you wanna talk to me about." And then we just went around, and I asked all their questions and we explored it further. So it was really guided by them, and I think we need more of that, letting young people explore their own enthusiasm and curiosity, rather than telling them what we think they should know. Maybe I lost my calling as a teacher. [00:46:51] Josh Hutchinson: Oh that's great. And so they were interested in the art then? [00:46:57] Rachel Meyer: They were interested in a little bit of everything. They had the same questions that I probably would've covered if they didn't ask them, like, why does this gravestone so small, and why does it only have initials? That's called the footstone. They had really smart questions. I noticed that the name on this one's the street I live in on. Do you think they're related? You know it, their questions were fantastic, and it opened up a lot more conversations and a lot more actual engagement from them than if I was telling them what was important about that burying ground. [00:47:27] Josh Hutchinson: And talking about the art, I love to view how it's changed over the ages, how those, the symbology has evolved is very fascinating to me. What's can you tell us about that? About what are some common motifs and how have they changed? [00:47:49] Rachel Meyer: It changes obviously with our culture. I think early on people weren't really going to come back and visit too often. So we had embedded fieldstones. We didn't have a lot of access to carvers. So people would take fieldstones that they find, and they would put 'em upright and they'd put 'em in rows and that's how they would mark graves. That's likely how Rebecca Nurse's grave is marked. That's how George Jacobs' grave was marked. And so then gravestones came into being when we got some stone carvers. Not all the stone carvers were particularly good. Some of them were just like like struggling to put some names on a gravestone. That's probably the 1660s. We have some fieldstones that are actually carved, but they're not carved with motifs, and you can't read them cuz there's not a lot of contrast between the carving and the stone. And then you go into the winged skulls and the crossbones and the you better behave yourself cause and don't get too full of yourself thinking you're gonna live forever, cause you're not, you're gonna be just like me someday. And then into sort of around like the late 1700s around the Revolutionary War, we start chilling out a little bit. We start carving on marble, and sandstone was around during slate, too, but we don't have as much of that as is in Connecticut. In Massachusetts, we have a little bit, but not a lot. But here, Massachusetts, around the Revolutionary War you really start getting into marble, and there's overlap, there's still slate, but it starts becoming willows and urns and the things that you are feeling now when you go into a cemetery. Serene motifs. Not a huge amount of originality. There are some carvers of willows and urns that definitely stand out to me, like Benjamin Day with his stout columns and very finished, almost presidential that he has these columns on both sides of the gravestone and just feels very formal, and they're beautiful, but they don't really vary from gravestone to gravestone. And then, of course, contemporary gravestones can run the gamut from playful to as boring as you could imagine. It's almost like some people are still like, "I'm not that into gravestones. I'm just going to get the name on there and mark the grave." And then some people are hugely creative. Some people still use slate and marble. You were saying that you had lost your father. When I lost my mother during the pandemic, I didn't have any choices for gravestones. I got her a flat granite plaque. That's what we were allowed to have in this cemetery. It meant a lot to me, not because the gravestone itself was special, because it's not, not really. I tried to make it a little special, but because I managed to get her a gravestone when everything was shut down. And I, I wonder sometimes that people are like, so find a grave has different like virtual cemeteries. So she's in several virtual cemeteries for covid deaths. And I wonder sometimes are people gonna see the date on that gravestone and think her daughter really tried, or are they gonna say, "Rachel's a gravestone conservator and got her mom the most boring marker on the planet?" Which wasn't the intention, it was just to mark her grave, for me to have that peace of knowing she wasn't in an unmarked grave. And as off topic as that, that is, I think that we have to keep in mind that not everybody has money, and not everybody can do large monuments. And it's not a choice sometimes. There are still people in unmarked graves, and I wish that I could start a nonprofit that would help people to afford marking graves, because you see it all the time, people doing GoFundMes. It's incredibly off topic, but I feel like we're going back to people not being able to mark graves. [00:51:43] Sarah Jack: I actually, I have two friends that passed 11 and 10 years ago, and they have unmarked graves, and I was so shocked that could happen. I wanted to go visit, and then I found out that the family hadn't been able to give them any type, and it is, it's shocking. [00:52:02] Rachel Meyer: And there should be a minimum, right? There should be a minimum thing that a family should be able to count on. Taking away the idea that some people want like green burials and stuff like that, the bare minimum of dying on this planet, if it is your spiritual belief to have a grave marker, should be getting a grave marker. That shouldn't be a thing for the rich. So I don't know how to make a nonprofit, but I just feel like there's a need there for people to, even just, there are a lot of vampire stones out in the world. I call them vampire stones, which is somebody couldn't afford to put the death date on it, but it has all the other information, as though they never died. And you, I don't think that family should have to worry about if your mom and dad didn't have life insurance, that nags on you, having a family member in an unmarked grave. For some people that really bothers them. I don't know how to solve it, but maybe I'll spend time doing it. [00:53:00] Sarah Jack: We'll try to put our heads together with you on that, but, and I don't feel like it is totally off topic. I think those struggles that are happening right now, people need to have their eyes open to it. And also, when you go back to those that were executed as witches, we don't have graves for them. [00:53:20] Rachel Meyer: Or enslaved people. [00:53:21] Sarah Jack: Yes. And enslaved people. [00:53:24] Rachel Meyer: Yeah, that's the importance of memorials and memorial markers. Like a memorial marker can be placed in a cemetery even if you don't know the person was buried there, right? That was the conversation I was having today about the Bradbury grave in Salisbury. I was under the impression it was a replacement, and when I had looked at it to begin with, I knew there was no evidence that there was a actual burial of the Bradburys there. It was a footstone. There was some fragments that identified them as the broken footstone of their son. So there's no evidence that they were buried there. So nothing was done wrong. I was just trying to find out what changed. Was there new evidence? Is that why we're calling them replacements? But they are memorial markers. And of course she wasn't hanged in the witch trials. That's not why she's in an unmarked grave. But I also think that all of these memorials that we set up, the one next to Charter Street, the one over in Proctor's Ledge, the one out in Danvers, they serve a purpose for people who can't visit a grave, and the park for Jenny Slew, maybe it won't. I don't know if it'll mean as much to the community that we're hoping to engage as we hope it will, but it's a place to go. I don't know. I don't know how to do right by everybody, but I feel like it's a step in the right direction. [00:54:45] Sarah Jack: Absolutely. [00:54:46] Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, we're definitely with you on the memorials, because we talk to a lot of descendants of witch trial victims, in particular, and they don't have any place to go if there's not a memorial, because you don't know where the person was buried, if they were buried at all. It wasn't marked. So we have no idea, and people go to visit these towns where their ancestors were from, and only to find out that there's no marker for them. [00:55:20] Rachel Meyer: Or it's something funny, like I went to Amesbury. I don't know the family, so I don't wanna, I'm not trying to insult them. I went to Amesbury to see where Susannah North Martin lived, and there was a monument, like a tiny little boulder monument with a plaque on it, but it was like underneath a basketball hoop. But recently, I think they named a stretch of the highway that went across her property after her. So whenever I drive by through that, I'll be able to say, "hey, Susannah, how you doing?" [00:55:50] Sarah Jack: And you're a Susannah descendant. [00:55:52] Rachel Meyer: I am. It's so funny, I was talking to someone how we're so proud of the accused that we're descended from, oh, proud may not really quite be the word, but we definitely gather around them, but we don't gather around the accusers that we're descended from. And there's a lot of, all of that, like in any given descendant of the accused, there's probably an accuser close by. Yeah, I don't mean to laugh, but it's human nature to rally around the person that the injustice and not own the fact that you also come from the part that you don't wanna look at. And maybe we should be looking at both. There was a ancestor in my line from Ipswich, and when I found her on Ancestry, Ipswich was literally spelled I P S W I T C H, just to like call. It was cute. It was whoever put that up, their way of being like, hey, and I think she accused someone. I feel like her first name was Rachel. You would probably know a lot more about this. She accused someone, because her baby was sick, and then this person came around and the baby got better, and then when the person left, the baby died. She accused a local of witchcraft. I'm not sure it was anyone who hanged. I actually live pretty close to what was called the old jail, but probably had no relation to the witch trials at all. [00:57:05] Josh Hutchinson: You made a really good point about how we have accusers in our lines, and we tend to not talk about them as much, but we need to, because we need to understand why the witch trials happened, and you understand it by thinking like the accusers would've thought, what were they afraid of? And you have to understand where they were coming from or else you don't understand why it happened. [00:57:31] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. And the witch trials is different than other sort of social atrocities where there's a very clear definition between two groups, and one group is doing a thing to another group. This is one group doing this to themselves. And I know there's a million reasons why. I'm pretty sure I've heard most of them throughout my life from ergot to more serious things like mental illness and sexism and land disputes and just sticking out. I think, in my family, I feel like a possible thing that isn't talked about as much is Quakerism. Like my family is very Quaker going up to Susannah North Martin and being a descendant of the Southwicks. Cause it hasn't gone unnoticed to me that she was, that they were named as caretakers of some of the Southwick children. So I wonder sometimes I hear a lot of theories about it, and I know not every case is exactly the same, why they were accused, but I wonder if people aren't paying attention to the fact that it became illegal to go after Quakers only three years before the witch trials. I think people may like underplay how hard it was to actually be a Quaker, too. They were so disruptive. I don't take myself very seriously. Maybe that's another misconception. [00:58:48] Josh Hutchinson: You're not stoic and kind of numb to everything. [00:58:55] Rachel Meyer: I think some people think I should be more stoic, but yeah. You can only be you. [00:59:01] Sarah Jack: That's right. And only you can be you. Nobody else can. [00:59:05] Rachel Meyer: That's true. Do you wanna talk about the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Cemetery? [00:59:10] Josh Hutchinson: That would be amazing. Yes. [00:59:11] Rachel Meyer: Yeah. So I'll give you a little background about how we got to working there. Dan Gagnon, who is literally one of my favorite people, contacted us and said, "someone said that you repair gravestones. He didn't know this, but years before, someone said there might be a gravestone in our basement." And I was like, "do tell," but several years later, Dan said, "we actually have quite a few gravestones in storage and it's time to get them out of our building." And I was like, "okay, let's do this." And so he went for a grant with Essex National Heritage, and they got it, but I wasn't sure they were going to get it, because it was the beginning of Covid and everything was shut down. And I was like, there's no way that this is a priority to anybody right now. But I don't remember what month it was in, but they were like, "no, you got the grant. Come start working" in like July. And like we were talking about, my mother had just died. So Dan doesn't know how precious he is to me. So not only am I working in a burying ground that has ties to the witch trials, so my ancestors, I'm able to break away from just the awfulness of what was going on in the world and do all of these live videos and engage with people in there who are stuck in their homes in this really exciting way. And I hope that the people who are watching them felt like they were getting the gift that we were trying to give them. But if you go back to our Facebook page, if you go to the beginning of when the pandemic started, so summer of 2020, you'll see tons of live videos of us digging, of the things that we found, of us putting gravestones together, of us trying to entertain people in any way we knew how. But we were hired to repair. We've repaired almost every gravestone in that cemetery. And when we got digging and got underneath some of the gravestones, someone had taken all the foot stones and threw them under the gravestones to support them, and they weren't corresponding with the gravestone that they were in. So we were like pulling together this puzzle. Like we would be in one of the Putnam, underneath John Putnam's grave, and we pulled out like four or five footstones from other graves and running around trying to figure out whose footstone that was. Sometimes they were broken and we put tons of them back into place. There are still some that we had to bury that maybe we could repair at another time. But the, just the amount of lost gravestones we found on top of also returning all those gravestones that they had in their storage. It's like a different, completely different place than it was when we started. And so then year two, we were hired back to just finish up a few different projects there. And we had a grant from the local cultural council, very small grant, but I feel so protective of that graveyard. I wonder sometimes what Dan thinks of me. So one of the things that I do is when I make art and then so sculptures and then I make molds of my art and when I mix too much material, I'll pull that material in the molds and I end up with all these magnets and artwork and all of this, and every year I drop off like a couple dozen magnets at the Rebecca nurse homestead for them to sell as fundraisers, whether or not they want them. I just do it anyway. So if you go into their gift shop, you can probably buy some of my magnets from graveyards. But I'm also like fiercely protective of the burying ground. At the beginning of every season, I email Dan. I'm like, "how did everything hold up? Any, cuz trees fall during storms?" I'm sure you've been to their homestead, and the cemetery is unprotected on three sides, so any wind would brush right through and could take out a repair, since we have to use really soft mortars. But everything's been holding up so far. We had to re-repair Phineas and Ruth Putnam's gravestones, cuz they were really low breaks and then there was a wind storm and it knocked them right over. So we had to redo those. We just come right out and maintain them and no one needs to ask us, because I want everything to be perfect there. I want people to feel as proud as I feel going in there. I don't see myself stopping feeling protective over that burying ground until I'm just not able to do it anymore. But I think about it all the time, and it's my first thought, "have they opened for the season?" I want everything to look good for the visitors. I would never charge them another dime. It's important and special to me, and here are my magnets that you didn't ask for. [01:03:50] Sarah Jack: As a Rebecca Nurse descendant, I'm so grateful for what you did there and hearing about your care for that land and those memories and those graves, it's very touching to me. I visited for the first time just under a month ago, and it was a brief visit. We were there. Dr. Leo Igwe was gonna be speaking in the meeting house, and we had just, I don't know, maybe 20 minutes before, and I got to walk through the field, go into the cemetery, and I can't wait to be back. I would love to be able to just sit there and soak it in. I was really taken by the trees, as well, cuz they're just so huge and, but everything was perfect, what you've done there has left it perfect. It was beautiful. Everything looked so wonderful. Thank you for that work. [01:04:44] Rachel Meyer: That place smells good. The pine, it just, every once in a while we work in a burying ground that just smells like a car air freshener tree. And that's one of them. You just go there, and you're like, this is amazing. Dan feels strongly that Rebecca Nurse is buried at that cemetery, and I don't disagree with him. I haven't read a lot of, I haven't retained, I should say, a lot of the documents around her burial, but, so there are actually a series of embedded fieldstones in a row and I feel, that's how we buried our early dead, so I feel strongly that those embedded fieldstones are early burials. You don't know whose they are. I can't say which one would be hers, but it makes field of someone who you were trying to conceal. Then the cemetery growing around them when it became a little bit less scandalous and unlawful to have these burials. But you can tell these embedded fieldstones, because they are in a line and one even has an embedded fieldstone footstone. Like I was told George Jacobs' grave was found over near Hollywood Hits in Danvers is that his bones were found in between two embedded fieldstones, which tracks. That makes plenty of sense. And then they were disinterred, and they were put into storage and then reinterred in the Nurse Homestead with the new gravestone. So what I know of early burying in New England, burying those very early people, you see it in slave graves, too. Like we're, we just did a gravestone assessment in Lynnfield, where we uncovered a section for people of color in the back, and there were embedded fieldstones there. We found it on a very old map. We weren't digging through and finding people, but it's, it tracks with trying to hide, either trying to hide a burial, somebody not getting enough respect, or there just not being a gravestone carver in town yet, so I wouldn't doubt if one of those sets of embedded fieldstones down at the cemetery are hers. [01:06:55] Sarah Jack: Thanks for talking about that. When you talked about feeling responsible, protecting the burials there, I just find that so interesting. When I look at her whole story over these centuries, people have felt that way, her descendants, the community, to her history. There's so much that we know of her, so much that we have of her because people have taken responsibility for that memory. I find it very interesting how that just, there's so many different ways that comes into play when you look at her story and then when I hear you speak to that, too, I'm like, that's really interesting. It's very amazing. . [01:07:41] Rachel Meyer: She died with my 11th great, I think it's 11th great grand. They died on the same day. That means something to me. There's also something about Rebecca Nurse, where she is impossibly wholesome in a way where it's not that other people weren't, but with some of the others, other people accused, you get it. You're " she spoke up, she was a little different. She owned things that she shouldn't have been allowed to own per that time in history or whatever it was." But Rebecca Nurse, it's like that's just weird. She was clearly not somebody I would accuse of witchcraft. I don't mean to laugh about that, but maybe I'm the kind of person I would accuse of witchcraft, but I look at her so pious and attending church and doing good, taking in people's kids, like why would you accuse her? Am I correct in saying that she was originally found innocent and then found guilty later? [01:08:37] Josh Hutchinson: That's absolutely correct. She was acquitted. And then Justice William Stoughton, the Chief Justice, instructed the jurors to reconsider. He had misinterpreted something that she said. When another accused person came in, she said, "oh, you brought them in. They're, they were with us." And she meant that they were another prisoner, but they're like, oh, she meant that they were another witch. [01:09:10] Rachel Meyer: That isn't the only thing that I've worked on that was connected to the witch trials, that some of the things that I work on, I'm thinking about just the people who would be like, haha, you said the wrong thing. I worked on the gravestone of Sheriff John Harris here in Ipswich. We found very little of it, so we had to just put it in a tiny base. But, I think he was somebody who carted people from Ipswich to Salem during the trials. And then there's a strong connection at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, because it feels like a complete picture. You have a house there and all the history there. But there's a lot of people who were accused in all kinds of burying grounds around here, including also people who played some pretty nefarious roles in those trials that you're like, cool. I was over at Abbott Street Cemetery giving a tour. We've been talking a lot about restoring Abbott Street Cemetery with Historic Beverly, and we were over at the Reverend John Hale's gravestone, which is carved by Nathaniel Eames, is this really dramatic slate stone with these wings that, it's just unbelievably dramatic. And I had read the Modest Enquiry that he wrote after the trials, and it was my first time reading it and I'm so on the fence about Reverend Hale, cause I feel like I'm reading this, and part of me knows he's doesn't believe in witchcraft, like a big part of me is this is a member of my congregation that was accused and let's, I'm just gonna have an aside with her and see if maybe we can work this out. And you're reading that pamphlet and there are times as a first time reader where you're like, "and say it. There's no such thing as witches. Say it." But he never says it. And he's talking about spectral evidence, and it's like literally painful that in his time it's hard to be like, is he kowtowing to those that he answers to? Or is he believing what he's writing but not being able to really go the distance? Because the way he's speaking, it's as though he clearly didn't believe in the whole thing, but he feels only allowed to say we don't believe in spectral evidence. I don't know. As a first time reader, I got a certain, just a real feeling of letdown about that pamphlet. Go all the way. Come on, Reverend Hale. You can just say it. And he just didn't say it. There are all these middle people that weren't bad, but they were also like not helping completely, you know? [01:11:48] Sarah Jack: And now for a minute with Mary. [01:11:59] Mary Bingham: Most men in colonial America were farmers by trade and designated a portion of their farm, usually by a corner lot, to bury their loved ones. This was almost certainly so for Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor. I will return to their stories in one moment. Generally speaking, the body of the deceased was laid out at home no more than two days after the death. Mourners would come, pay their respects, and drink some liquor specifically set out for them. Then they would congregate outside the house until it was time to carry the oblong wooden coffin to the burial ground. It depended on the length of travel from the home to the burial ground as to how many sets of bearers would carry the coffin. Usually the elderly men carried the cloth that covered the coffin, and the first group of younger men carried the coffin a designated amount of time before another set of younger men took over for relief. The burial was simple, without symbols, and in silence. Messages from the mourners were attached to the frame on which the coffin rested. Those messages were removed before burial, and in some cases were published. The penalty for the capital crime of witchcraft in the colonies was hanging. The bodies were then cut from the gallows or the tree and thrown in a nearby crevice. It was confirmed by a ground penetrating technology circa 2017, before Proctor's Ledge was confirmed as the hanging site, that no human remains were there. So let's go back to 1692. What most likely happened is the families came in the darkness of night to bring their loved ones back to their farms to be buried. In the case of Rebecca Nurse, she was eventually excommunicated from her congregation. Thus she would not have a proper burial. Tradition states that her family did in fact come later for her remains and return them to her property. No historian of which I am aware has argued against this tradition. We all believe with almost 100% certainty that Rebecca is buried on the beautiful burial ground on her property. Most likely this was the case for John Proctor, as well. In John's case, there was a document that Emerson Baker and Kelly Daniel found at the Peabody Historical Society where Proctor descendants described where on his property he was buried, by a stonewall near what is today the high school in Peabody, Massachusetts. George Jacobs' remains were found on his property. He was eventually interred at the Nurse family homestead in that burial ground. For more information on the memorialization of Rebecca Nurse and George Jacobs, please listen to the following Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast episode titled "Dan Gagnon on the Salem Witch Trial victim George Jacobs, Sr." For more information on the burial of John Proctor, please listen on YouTube to "America's Hidden Stories: Salem Secrets." Thank you. [01:15:38] Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary. [01:15:40] Josh Hutchinson: Now here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News. [01:16:00] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), weekly news update. Thou Shall Not Suffer podcast records in the United States, but is important to us that we connect and partner globally as much as possible with all communities around the world. Witch-hunt violence has and does continue to impact every corner of the earth in some way. The world grows more connected, and we must collaborate collectively to end witch hunts. Dr. Leo Igwe, director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches will be going on a speaking tour of the Scandinavian countries in August of 2023. If your group is interested in hosting Leo, please inquire as soon as possible. His speaking topics include blasphemy, freedom of religious belief and humanism in Nigeria, advocacy against witch persecution, and critical thinking in educational reform in Africa. We had the pleasure of hosting Leo this past May for a speaking tour on his advocacy against witch persecution presentation in the United States in New England. You can view his May 15th Salem Witch Museum presentation on the Salem Witch Museum website. See our episode show notes for the direct link. When you host Leo, you'll be enriched by his conversations and presentation content. He is a relatable expert that is exceptional at engaging his audience and communicating the urgency of his presentation topic with facts, on the ground experience, and familiar scenarios that help attendees connect to what he is teaching. We had the pleasure of hosting him at three historical museums, a university, and the Connecticut state capitol. Holding these events with Leo grew and benefit both Leo's and our organization's social and professional network in a powerful way. Be creative and consider how one of his topics could fit your organizational events and social justice work. Please use your social connections to support him, and bring him to your Scandinavian community this August. It will not only bring diverse education to your event, hosting Leo supports his important social justice work, and amplifying his work impacts men, women, and children living in our world now who need global advocates. The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project has started to collaborate with individuals and organizations in discussion about a future Connecticut state witch trial victim memorial. This would not be in place of local community tributes for the individual victims like Alice Young, Goody Bassett, or Mary Barnes, for example. To join us in the early stages of brainstorming and recognizing what descendants and Connecticut residents would like to put together to pay tribute and educate, please contact us now. Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast supports the global efforts to end modern witch hunts. Get involved. Financially support our nonprofit initiatives to educate and intervene. Visit endwitchhunts.org to make a tax deductible contribution. You can also support us by purchasing books from our bookshop, merch from our Zazzle shop, or subscribing as a Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast super listener for as little as $3 a month at thoushaltnotsuffer.com. Keep our t-shirts available on zazzle.com in mind when you start to get excited about Halloween 2023, and buy some fun wear. Sport one of our awesome shirts, and introduce people to the podcast or one of our projects by leaving your house looking cool. [01:19:21] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you Sarah. [01:19:23] Sarah Jack: You're welcome. [01:19:24] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. [01:19:29] Sarah Jack: Join us every week. [01:19:31] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. [01:19:34] Sarah Jack: Visit at thoushaltnotsuffer.com. [01:19:38] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends about the show. [01:19:41] Sarah Jack: Support our efforts to End Witch Hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more and to give a tax exempt donation. [01:19:50] Josh Hutchinson: And please rate and review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening to us. That will help us out significantly. [01:20:01] Sarah Jack: Thanks for taking the time to do that. [01:20:04] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and beautiful tomorrow.