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  • Ann D. Watson

Tombstone Tuesday: A girl's 1961 diary documents gravestone inscriptions

Putney, Vermont, Summer 1961. I'm 9 years old. My cousin Susan is visiting us at our home on River Road. One day, an exploration takes us across the field to the south of our house, down the hill to Sackett's

Brook in the gully, and up the other side. There we discover an old family graveyard in the meadow across the road from the "Baldwin place". We immediately feel the spirits of the dead, and are intrigued by the inscriptions and dates. Next day, we return to the graveyard, this time armed with a notebook — my diary of the time — and a pencil. [1]

I carefully copy the inscriptions on all the tombstones into my diary. [2] Then we flee the graveyard, convinced the ghosts of those buried there are chasing us.

Being the historian that I was and am, I have saved the diary for all these years, and recently pulled it out for a look at those tombstone transcriptions.

I was apparently intrigued by the script and worked hard to copy the initial letters on the name. (Note the erasure and re-do.) Not knowing anything about gravestones or deacons, I misread the a in "Dea." to be a u. There was an attempt to unravel the relationships between the people, as evidenced by the word "Father" written at top right. I transcribed 8 gravestones.

Today, I decided to try to locate the cemetery online and have found that it is the Lowell Cemetery (in Putney, Windham County, Vermont). Photos of the cemetery can be found at Find A Grave. There are apparently at least 13 people buried there. [3] I suspect there are more, because one of my transcriptions does not match any of the burials listed on Find A Grave. The death date, of a baby who died at 6 months, does not match any death date entered on Find A Grave by contributors: [4]

A recent photo of Jacob Lowell's tombstone shows that the poetic inscription has been worn away or covered with moss. [5] This means that my diary, kept by a 9 year old child in 1961, becomes a document that can be used to assist in genealogical research.

Some of these inscriptions appear in a published genealogy of the Lowells — a quite well–known New England family. However, although my transcription of Sally's poem matches the book exactly, my version of Jacob's differs slightly. [6] From here the genealogist must evaluate these two sources (and possibly others as well), analyze the evidence, and resolve the conflict!

Regarding the unknown baby, an examination of the Lowell genealogy book shows an Isaac Danford Lowell, son of Jacob and Sally, born 10 January 1812, died 17 July 1812. [7]

You just never know where your life will lead, or when a diary from your youth will become a genealogical document!

Judging by the photos on Find A Grave, the location of the cemetery, which was a sunny meadow in 1961, is now wooded. [8] Trees have grown up around the graves, making it a rather forlorn spot.

Approximate location of Lowell Cemetery.

Researchers desiring information about other Lowell Cemetery inscriptions may email me at

  1. Ann Watson, 1961 diary; MS, 1961 (Putney, Vermont); privately held by Ann Dingman Watson [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] New Haven, Vermont, 2017.

  2. Ibid., pp. 62–69.

  3. Find A Grave ( : accessed 9 June 2017), path: Search for a cemetery > Lowell [in search box] > Vermont > Windham County > Lowell Cemetery Putney.

  4. Ibid.

  5. See Find A Grave, database with images ( : accessed 9 June 2017), memorial 44437289, Dea. Jacob Lowell (1762–1819), Lowell Cemetery, Putney, Windham County, Vermont; gravestone photograph by Rachel Frank.

  6. Delmar R. Lowell, The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899 (Rutland, Vt.: The Tuttle Company, Printers, 1899), 54; digital images, GoogleBooks ( : accessed 13 June 2017). Although reference is made to "the hardest kind of work and most careful painstaking could make it," [p. viii] the book has no source citations.

  7. Ibid., 98.

  8. Find A Grave, Lowell Cemetery Putney. Also, see Google Map above.

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