Eastham (originally known as Nauset) was settled in 1644 by seven families from Plymouth (Bangs, Cook, Doane, Higgins, Prince, Smalley and Snow). The first meetinghouse about twenty feet square was built at or near this site in 1646. It was expanded in 1676 and served until 1720. Rev. Samuel Treat who was minister in Eastham from 1672 to his death in 1717 is buried here. The second meetinghouse built about 1718 was located in the South Precinct of Eastham (now Orleans). The third meetinghouse built about 1720 was located at Bridge Road Cemetery.
In 1976 the Eastham Historical Society published complete surveys of Eastham Cove Burying Ground and Bridge Road Cemetery done by Mr. Ken Collins. The surveys including maps of both cemeteries are in one book available for sale at Eastham Town Hall, Eastham Historical Society Museums and the Cape Cod National Seashore Eastham Visitor Center.
If you have comments or questions about these cemeteries, please contact Eastham Cemetery Commission, Eastham Town Hall, 2500 State Highway, Eastham, MA. 02642.
The web site www.capecodgravestones.com includes photos, complete inscriptions and some genealogical information for all gravestones in Cove Burying Ground and Bridge Road Cemetery. Information about some of the gravestone carvers is included. The web site also has Eastham Vital Records of deaths up to 1750 and a listing of about 80 possible unmarked graves of adults in Cove up to 1720.
Cove Burying Ground and Bridge Road Cemetery are in the National Register of Historic Places.
Please also visit historic Eastham Bridge Road Cemetery which succeeded Cove with gravestones starting in 1754.
Some Cove Gravestone Highlights:
There are monuments to three Mayflower passengers who lived and died in Eastham - Constance Hopkins Snow (1677), Joseph Rogers (1678) and Giles Hopkins (1690). Also there are monuments to early Eastham settlers Richard Sparrow (1660), John Doane (1685) and Ralph Smith (1685).
The original slate gravestones in Cove display winged skulls and winged heads. Some of these stones also display death symbols such as crossed bones or hourglass. Many of the graves have both headstone and footstone.
There are seven original gravestones older than any other gravestones on the Lower Cape from Chatham to Provincetown - Thomas Mulford (1706), Jonathan Sparrow (1706/7), Samuel Hedge (1709), Marcy Freeman (1711), Daniel Doane (1712), Samuel Freeman (1712) and Thankful Higins (1712).
Rev. Samuel Treat (1716/17) was minister in Eastham for 45 years from 1672 until his death. He is remembered as preaching hell fire and damnation. "His voice was so loud that when speaking it could be heard at a great distance from the meetinghouse, even in the midst of the winds that howled over the plains of Nauset." Rev.Treat learned the language of the Indians and preached to them with missionary zeal over a wide area of Cape Cod.
The large original slate headstone of Rev. Treat was stolen in the 1800's. It was replaced in the late 1800's with a marble headstone which was in style at the time. This marble stone is paired with the original slate footstone of Rev. Treat. A cedar tree grows over his grave. The original headstone later was found in a barn in Orleans. It was placed in Snow Library in Orleans for safe keeping where it was destroyed by fire in 1952.
Rev. Benjamin Webb followed Rev. Treat and served as minister at the Bridge Road meetinghouse from 1720 to his death in 1746. The broken slate stone near the front gate at the center of Cove marks his grave. This is the widest slate stone in Cove. It must have been a tall headstone. For information about the excavation and identification of this stone, see www.capecodgravestones.com.
Cove has the oldest original gravestone displaying a winged head on Cape Cod - Marcy Freeman (1711). She is located in the back left corner of the burying ground with her husband Major John Freeman (1719) who died in his 98th year and their son Lieut. Edmund Freeman (1718/19). Note the heart shaped inscription area, ornate border and hourglass above the winged head. Note that her footstone displays a winged skull with two sets of crossed bones.
The gravestone of Thomas Lewes (1718) displays an early winged head while the footstone has a prominent winged skull. The footstone also has two crosses which are rare on colonial gravestones. He is located to the right of center about half way back.
Cove has the two oldest known original inscribed fieldstone gravestone on Cape Cod – Benjamin Paine (1713) and Bennet Paine (1716). These and two other inscribed fieldstone gravestones for Barnabas Freeman (1736) and Marcy Freeman (1736) are located in the back right corner. The inscriptions are very difficult to read but they will show up in a good photo. Also they can be seen on www.capecodgravestones.com.
There are a few scattered fieldstones which have been excavated which probably are grave markers. Some of these stones have faint markings which some believe are initials.
Eastham Vital Records (which are incomplete) record about 160 deaths in Eastham before 1750. Most likely there are more than 100 unmarked graves in Cove.
Eastham Cemetery Commission