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First Burial Ground

The historic First Burial Ground on Park Street is the City’s first and oldest cemetery. It is also the final resting place of Woburn’s early settlers, military heroes, church leaders, oldest families, and descendants of several U.S. Presidents.  After Woburn founding in 1640, the first burial occurred in 1642 following the death of a child, Hannah Richardson. Woburn’s most important outdoor museum saw the burials of most of the original founders and their families, the first ministers of the First Parish, direct descendants of eight American Presidents, the many veterans of the King Philip’s War, French and Indian Wars and Revolutionary War, Colonel Loammi Baldwin, architect of the Middlesex Canal, his son, Loammi, the younger, the “Father of American Civil Engineering,” Daniel Thompson, Woburn’s first military casualty of the Revolutionary War shot on April 19, 1775 and numerous others who gave of themselves to build a better town for their progeny. When the First Burial Ground was full, the First Parish opened the Second Burial Ground in 1794. Interred is the next generation of Woburn families including 56 veterans of the Revolutionary War.

As the town grew and families arrived, it was necessary for the church to create a cemetery.

established as the First Burial Ground in 1642. While it is clear from Town records that the first death in Woburn occurred in 1642, it is not as certain whether one month old Hannah Richardson was buried there. Woburn historian William Cutter does, however, note that early records indicate the Burial Grounds use in 1642.

Located on a rocky hill, the location of the cemetery might symbolically reflect a closeness to God but more likely the decision was made as a thrifty use of land not suitable for farming. Many headstones face west, that is, the inscriptions faced west and the footstones faced east with mounded graves between the pairs. This represents the readiness of the deceased to “rise up and face the new day (the sun)” when “the trumpets shall sound and the dead shall be raised” at the coming of Christ. In most cemeteries of the period, the North side was less desirable and is often the last section to be used. Often the area is set aside for slaves, servants, suicides or unknowns.

Records indicate that family members of six of the seven founding fathers are buried in these sacred grounds but for many there are no headstones especially for the original founders. Captain Edward Johnson, the “Father of Woburn,” was the leader of the seven explorers that set out in 1640 from Charlestown and founded Woburn. He and his wife, Susan, had 7 children. He died in 1672 and curiously, no headstone marks the location of Captain Johnson but history records note his burial there.