Background of this project

Friday Aug 18, 2017  8:22 AM
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  • A Scattering Garden was designed at the Beech Grove Cemetery as a memorial for babies who died in their infancy.

The Cemetery Identification Group (CIG), working under the guidance of the Westport (Massachusetts) Historical Commission is a community based volunteer group formed in September, 2005. CIG's purpose is to identify, record, and protect Westport's historic cemeteries and burial grounds through registration with the State and the town, and to incorporate the cemetery location and layout into the Town of Westport's Geographic Information System (GIS) and assessors' records. Briefly, a GIS is a computer application used to store, view, analyze, and edit geographic information especially maps. To further identify the cemeteries, engraved stone markers or inscriptions on the stone walls are being placed at those cemeteries and burial grounds where possible.

This project was initiated by Betty Slade, with inspiration from Eleanor Tripp's work, with Pete Baker and volunteers from the Westport Point Neighborhood Association. Paul Pannoni,co-chair of the CIG with Betty Slade early on, organized the survey and website work. In addition to Town officials, especially to Westell Norman in the Westport Cemetery Department and Sharon Potter in the Assessors' Office, many local businesses and individuals provided extraordinary assistance to this project. Funds received from the Community Preservation Act, Ms. Beverly M. Temple, the Westport Cultural Council through grants from the Helen Ellis Charitable Trust administered by Bank of America, a local Cultural Council grant, and the Lions Club were used to prepare the documentation necessary for registration with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, to input gravestone inscriptions and other data, to engrave and transport stone markers to cemeteries, to do mapping and to design and develop the website. Liz Collins, Margot Desjardins and George Brown contributed stone markers. Leo Marshall contributed a truck with a winch. Lennie Potter provided heavy equipment and his son, Jimmy and nephew, Tommy Perry, helped. Albanese Monuments,especially Ricky Perzentz, inscribed the stones. Lucy Tabit, Rick Tabit from Digital Farms and Sarah Baker worked on photography of stones at the public cemeteries. Andrew Isidoro checked historic data against that on the stones and Sarah Baker did extraordinary work in proofreading. Dawn Manchester is reviewing the website for errors and to add information on maiden names, marriage dates, and family relationships. Glenn Russell entered 3,000 interred at Beech Grove Cemetery and provided photographs for Westport Point Cemetery. Rick Tabit of Digital Farms has done the mapping of Linden Grove, Maple Grove and Beech Grove. Tiffany Souza has done careful data entry.

Special Thanks. We owe special thanks to Garry Harstad who designed the cemetery modules and the program necessary to launch the cemetery website. His creativity is evident in the interactive maps and user-friendly data access. Tim Gillespie assisted us in organizing and presenting the data collected for public use. David Vieira helped us format the cemetery data. Greg Stone was instrumental in obtaining town support and provided background assistance to link the newly found cemetery information with the existing town website. We especially want to thank Andrew Isidoro, a Westport High School student when he started,and finishing his master's degree in history and education when the project was completed. That indicates how long this has taken and it is still underway.

Data Collection. Approximately nineteen data elements have been identified for 103 Westport burial grounds as of March, 2008. In April, 2007 these data were archived by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in the Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth. This information on the cemeteries is available at the Westport Historical Commission, Westport Public Library, and the Westport Historical Society.

In addition to overall cemetery data, information on the known interred in these cemeteries has been recorded. In some cases, even if a stone is not found, information from vital records is available.

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