Afternoon of the Living Dead

by Pat Kennedy and Diane Brenner

Benjamin Graveyard, near a lonely stretch of West Street, is one of Worthington’s most beautiful and secluded cemeteries. In early 2018, WHS received a press release from five of the cemetery’s residents – Priscilla Burton Benjamin Clapp, Samuel Clapp, James Benjamin Jr., Sybil (Sibbel) Holten, and Amanda Smith Sadler – announcing they would rise from their eternal slumber to greet visitors on Saturday, September 22, at 4:30pm. We were taken by surprise, since recent ghost appearances around town all commenced in the evening. The wraiths acknowledged this matinee showing was hardly pro forma, but visitor safety was paramount, and Benjamin Graveyard is accessible only by forest trail. Here’s what transpired that memorable afternoon.

The gathering at Benjamin Graveyard, September 22, 2018.

Priscilla Burton Benjamin Clapp (1726-1797): Good afternoon, and welcome to the Benjamin Cemetery. As you can see from my beautiful stone, I am Priscilla Burton Benjamin Clapp. The cemetery is named after my family, so it seems only right that I go first and tell you something of my life.

Madeleine Cahill as Priscilla Burton Benjamin Clapp.

I never considered myself an adventurer. In my earliest life I was Priscilla Burton, born in 1726 and raised in the well-kept town of Preston, Connecticut, near New London. In March of 1750, at the advanced age of 24, I married James Benjamin, also a Preston native. We settled down to married life, which for me, mostly meant having children – eight of them by 1762.

Preston was home, but it had grown crowded and there were troubles – both outside, from the Indians led by King Philip, and within, from church matters. Sometimes it feels safer to risk a big move than stay where you are. In 1763 we learned that land was being sold to the west, and a group of us joined together to migrate there. We gathered our goods and what little money we had, filled our oxcarts, and set out for what we hoped was the promised land. Suddenly we were pioneers!

We were a good-sized group of young families. James and I went with seven of our children – I was pregnant with number nine – plus the Kinne brothers, the Marshes, the Starkweathers, and Nathan and Hannah Leonard and their brood. We made a fine procession with all our blankets and tools, clothing, pots and pans, and a good book or two. Traveling in a group was much safer than going alone, but it wasn’t easy, especially once we reached the hills west of Northampton and had to provision ourselves along the way. It was mostly wilderness, and what passed for the road was narrow and rutted. It took around fifteen days to cover the 100 miles between Preston and what was then called “Plantation Number 3.”

We had arrived – but where on earth were we? There was nothing here, just trees, rocks, streams and hills. Thankfully Mr. Nahum Eager and Mr. Samuel Clapp had been hard at work getting roads and a mill going. Some of the earliest settlers had built a few cabins, and the lots had been surveyed, with some set aside for a church and school. James bought two lots from Mr. Selah Barnard, east of what they had named West Street. We built our log cabin near a brook and started clearing the land for farming. Our son Selah was born in Worthington shortly after we arrived. Thankfully the other children were mostly old enough to help. More settlers arrived, and within a few years the so-called “unimproved plantation” became the incorporated Town of Worthington.

The scene at Benjamin Graveyard.

Let’s see – the next really important thing for me was the Church. It took awhile to find a minister willing to settle here, but in 1771 the Reverend Jonathan Huntington arrived with his wife Sarah to establish the Congregational Church in a building a ways up from us on West Street. Well, I dignify it by calling it a “building” – it was really a drafty shed. I was among the founding members who scraped together 40 pounds to pay the minister’s annual salary. He was a wonderful man, open-minded and kindly. On a single day – July 17, 1773 – he baptized all my children: Asa, Barnard, Delight, Elisha, James, Keziah, Lydia, Priscilla, Roger, and Selah. It’s amazing they had all survived.

The older children went off to set up homes of their own. Priscilla wed the Huntingtons’ son, Simon, and Elisha married our neighbor Amy Leonard Curtis. Sad to say, my husband, James, had died suddenly the year before, unbaptized and leaving no will – but he did leave me pregnant again, at the age of 47. It took a while to sort out his estate, and a lot was sold to pay off his debts, but we still ended up with around 300 acres of land.

As it happened, I had caught the eye of the very same Mr. Samuel Clapp who had greeted us upon our arrival eight years earlier. A fine figure of a man, if I do say so myself. Though modesty prevents me from saying more, we joined forces, announcing our intention to marry in the fall of 1773.

1773 banns of marriage for Samuel Clapp and Priscilla Benjamin, announcing their intention to marry.

Sam moved in to help me with the remaining children and the farm. Some of Sam’s children had moved to town by this time, living where Sam used to live up at the Corners. With their help, we made many improvements and the farm flourished.

Those were mostly happy years, despite the usual ailments and cold winters and wartime struggles. Sam’s sons joined mine to face the perils from the Redcoats. Asa walked to Lexington to join the Minutemen, and James and Roger joined the Continental Army a year later – they fought in the Battle of Saratoga. Selah also caught the war fever and joined up when he got old enough. But he was only 17 and too young not to get into trouble. In 1783 he was court-martialed for drawing bread on a forged bill – the poor hungry lad. He was given 70 lashes and a stoppage of $1 from his already meager wages.

People think of war as men’s business, but it was terribly hard on us women too. We were left not only to worry, but to manage the farms without horses requisitioned for the war effort. With the British on the run, printed money and coins were pretty much useless, so we depended on barter. Of course we met the challenge and the men all returned home, except for poor Jeremiah Kinne, who had traveled with us from Preston, and Samuel Cole.

I was included in the first census conducted right after the federal Constitution was adopted in 1790. Of course you won’t find my name there, because until 1850 the census only listed “heads of household,” and women were named only when no men were around.

1790 census listings for the households of Samuel Clapp and James Benjamin Jr.

I died in 1797, in my 71st year, and may have been ready to rest my weary bones. But maybe not. It seems I didn’t mind a bit of adventure. Now, I would like to introduce my son, James Benjamin, Jr. – but wait, who is that??

Samuel Clapp (1725-1809): [Drops his shovel and pickax.] Is this where my Priscilla, my darling Priscilla lies?

Priscilla: Here I am, Sam! [They embrace.]

Sam: Oh Priscilla, I’m so tired of lying alone over there in New York. I was hoping I could move in here with you, just like the old days. I’ve brought my tools.

Priscilla: Later Sam! There are people watching. Why don’t you introduce yourself?

Norm Stafford as Samuel Clapp.

Sam: Samuel Clapp at your service. Like so many buried here, I came from somewhere else – Scituate, over near Plymouth. I was the first son of John Clapp and Marcy Otis, both of proud Mayflower stock. The Captain, as we called my father, fought in the French Wars, and lived to tell of it. He ran the grist mill built by my grandfather and great-grandfather, and was also a fuller, finishing woven cloth so it could be sewn into clothing – wet, messy work. I followed in the Captain’s steps and learned the value of hard work, though never took to fulling, however much it helped pay the bills.

In 1751, I married the fair Lusannah – Lucy Dwelly as she then was called. [Priscilla rolls her eyes.] Lucy also came from an old Scituate family. Her relatives weren’t so lucky when the Indians came rampaging. Well, after the first few children had arrived, things between us got a little, er, “complicated,” and we decided a change of scene might be needed. So in 1754 we joined some Scituate neighbors seeking new pastures in New York State. There we hoped to be safe from the Indian raids. We settled in New Salem, about 25 miles north of Hoosic, and our last three children were born there. We thought that cursed war with the French and their Indian allies would never end, but it finally did.

By 1763 Lucy and I decided we were done with married life together, and hearing that the King of England was selling off land to the east, over in Western Massachusetts, I left Lucy and the family in New York and joined Mr. Nahum Eager in the wilderness then called “Plantation Number 3.” The place was rough, but it had potential. I was the first settler to build a house – of logs, of course – and the first to be deeded land by the five proprietors when they first divided up lots. My lot covered pretty much all the area known by you folks as Worthington Corners.

Record of lots sold to Samuel Clapp in 1763.

I wasn’t looking for a handout. I paid them good money, and like all of us early settlers, I worked hard on clearing land and building roads and bridges. We got paid, of course, but those proprietors kept careful expense records and weren’t quick to part with their money. That old shovel and pickax there could tell many a story.

Record of payments to Samuel Clapp in 1763-1764 by the original proprietors of what would become the Town of Worthington.

But I liked that work a whole lot better than fulling. It didn’t take long before I had enough money to buy a second lot, this time from Mr. Worthington, along what you call Brunson’s Brook on Capen Street.

We were building a whole new town. There was such excitement when Worthington, as they named the town, was finally incorporated that June in 1768 – around 250 years ago, I think, how the time flies! And my hard work and familiarity with the roads was recognized. At the first town meeting I was named a co-surveyor of highways, and a few years later I was named constable.

Like everyone else I was a churchgoing man, though I can’t say I was very devout or well-behaved. It was at the Reverend Huntington’s church that I first set eyes on the beautiful Priscilla Burton Benjamin. I knew she was married and had a brood of little ones. And though I loved her from the first I saw her, I bided my time. Right after she was widowed in 1772, I let her know how I felt.

Priscilla: Oh Sam, you were always too much the gentleman.

Sam: Well, no woman should be alone in this wilderness, especially with so many children. So after ten years on my own, I moved into Priscilla’s log home near what is now Almon Johnson Road. We posted our intention to marry the next year, though I can’t recall if we actually got around to the marrying part – my own marital situation being a bit unclear, if you get my meaning. I think it took ten years to actually tie the knot, not that I have the paper to prove it. But Priscilla did take my name, as you can see on her gravestone.

Priscilla: And proud I was to own it!

Sam: Priscilla’s children took to me. At their request, I became guardian to several of them, and they did well. In the War of Independence I counted myself a patriot, and would have joined the 55 Worthington men who walked all the way to Lexington to fight with the Minutemen, but at 51 I didn’t want to be a burden. My son, Lemuel, who had joined me in Worthington by that time, walked in my stead. My sons Isaac and Stephen enlisted shortly after that, also serving for the town of Worthington.

After we won and became a nation, I was counted among the 631 men listed in the very first Worthington census in 1790. Our household by then was just me and Priscilla.

After Priscilla passed to her heavenly reward in 1797, and the children grew up, age and sadness weakened my once-strong body. I eventually returned to New Salem, where I was cared for and died in 1809. The Clapp name is still honored in New Salem to this day. Lucy Clapp also lived in Salem until her death, two decades after mine. My stone is in a New York cemetery, but my heart lies here, with Priscilla and her son, James. [Picks up shovel and starts digging.]

Oh, one other thing. My daughter Lucinda married Asa Cottrell from Connecticut and settled here in Worthington to be near me. And their daughter – my granddaughter, Wealthy Cottrell – married William Rice from Conway. They used some land I owned to build a fine home right at the Corners. Wealthy’s granddaughter lived in that house too. I hear she became a famous playwright named Katharine McDowell Rice – is she here anywhere?

Priscilla: She is busy, Sam, and sends her regrets.

Sam: I’m told she got into quite a tiff with some of James’s descendants over a library. Here’s James himself – he can tell you about it.

James Benjamin Jr. (1757-1821): So, good friends, you’ve heard from my mother and stepfather. It’s time for the younger generation to take over, though I fear I compare poorly to their mettle and courage.

Priscilla: Oh James, don’t be so modest!

Jim Downey as James Benjamin Jr.

James Jr: I was but seven years old when we traveled from Preston in 1763. For me it was a great adventure foraging for food, drinking from brooks, sleeping in the woods. I wasn’t aware of the hardships. Even after we got here, it was still an adventure – for a while, at least. But I began to doubt I liked farming all that much. Unlike Preston, there were so many different things to plant and raise: wheat, rye, potatoes, corn, peas and beans; cows, and pigs, and sheep for wool; the trees that gave us sweeteners and cider; and the herbs we used as medicine. About the only things we bought from the store were sugar, salt, the occasional bolt of fabric or sheet of paper, and, of course, rum. Other stuff we needed – leather, tools, barrels, pens – we made right here in town. Mostly we bartered. Pennies were scarce and we had to mind each one.

Sam: You did good, lad. You were a hard worker.

James Jr.: Well as you’ve heard, my father died without a will in 1772. That took a while to sort out. With provision made for my mother’s well-being, his estate went to my oldest brother, Elisha, who had married our neighbor, the widowed Amy Leonard Curtis. Amy Leonard had traveled with us from Preston, and her land was joined with ours. After my sister Priscilla and brother Elisha left home, I happily allowed Mr. Clapp here to become guardian for me and my young brothers. We children had to agree in writing. It was a comfort that he liked my mother, too.

We had no end of chores. Not just the farming – we picked berries, churned butter, put pails on the maple trees in winter, chopped endless wood. We also trapped and hunted when we could. We carted our grain to Ringville, where Mr. Adams had the second grist-mill in town. The first was built by Mr. Worthington along Bronson’s Brook, near the Albany road around the Chesterfield border. That was the main reason the town was named for him.

I had to learn my letters, too – mostly through studying the Bible and the spelling books. The first school wasn’t built until 1773, when I was 16 and too old for school anyway. It was a log building near where the Holtens lived, around the intersection of what are now Radiker and Huntington Roads.

A couplet from Benjamin Graveyard.

But there was a lot more than hard work and book learning to keep a youth’s mind focused. At church meetings there were constant discussions about events around Boston, and how the British were wearing out their welcome. We were getting ready to fight, and as I grew to manhood I was more than ready. The town had created a Committee of Correspondence, naming Mr. Nahum Eager to represent us in Boston. The Town Meeting voted funds for citizens to buy ammunition in case we were attacked, and vowed to provide financial support to soldiers and the women and children left behind. I wasn’t going to be left behind – well, I didn’t get to walk to Lexington in 1775, but in 1776 I joined Captain Oliver Lyman’s regiment out of Northampton.

Sam: I wish I might have gone with you.

James Jr.: You had to stay here to move the Albany road so it could pass Nathan Daniel’s tavern. We were glad to hear that the tavern of that scoundrel Tory, Alexander Miller, wouldn’t get any more business!

Anyway, from 1776 through 1777 I was stationed at East Hoosick and served in the Battle of Saratoga, our first major victory against the British. I left the service after that, and

came back to our farm to discover that Town Meeting had instituted price controls, as I believe you’d call them. These were to prevent profiteering after the embargos on British goods, but they added to our hardships. Town Meeting also capped wages. Men could only earn 3 pence a day for their labor, while women earned only 3 pence a week. You can learn more if you read James Clay Rice’s fine history of Worthington [LINK]. James Clay Rice [LINK] was also Mr. Clapp’s grandson, and died a hero during the Civil War.

My brother Elisha died suddenly in 1781, intestate – what a blow! His father-in-law was the executor of what turned out to be a meager estate. Elisha was declared insolvent. But I managed to purchase his property at auction in November 1782 to help pay his debts. No more log cabins! The new home I built on his land was in the Federal style, a testament to the classical democratic principles our new nation was founded on. It was a fine house, with five bays and a crowned door with sidelights. It still stands proudly, looking much like when it was first built.

The house built by James Benjamin Jr.

At age 27 I married the widow Eunice Bromley Worthington – no relation to our esteemed proprietor, who lost a bit of his shine when he sided with the Crown. We settled down in our new home to raise a family. Eunice was born in Preston, like me. She had married Calvin Worthington in 1779, but was childless. We had ten children. Sadly, she died at age 45, just two years after the birth of our youngest, Francis Franklin Benjamin.

Gravestone of Eunice Benjamin at night. The verse reads, “My flesh shall slumber in the ground / till the last trumpets joyful sound / then burst the chains with sweet surprise / and in my Savours [Savior’s] image rise.” Photo by Evan Spring.

I stayed in our home, raising the children and farming until my death in 1821. I was also intestate – what were we thinking? – but by no means insolvent.

Sam: Don’t forget to tell them about Kezzie, James.

James Jr.: Right, Mr. Clapp. My children mostly did quite well. You know how children are, some make you proud, some are doomed to disappoint. They scattered the Benjamin name far and wide as the West opened to settlement. My daughter Keziah married Jesse Stone, who came from Worthington, and they moved to Columbus, Ohio, where their daughter Adelia was born. Adelia’s cousin Dwight Stone ended up buying that fine Woodbridge house [LINK] in Worthington Corners. You might have heard he wanted to donate land for the library and have it face his property. He and those Rices had quite a set-to about it. Well, the Rices won, of course, but –

Sibbel Holten (1723-1822): That’s enough, you Benjamins! And you too, Sam! You’ve always talked too much. Everyone, come up here to our quiet corner. We don’t get many visitors, just that kind Mr. Feakes with the odd British accent and young Ricki Chick who works so hard keeping our stones neat and straight!

Diane Brenner as Sibbel Holten.

I am Sibbel Holten, spelled with an “e,” so I’m told. In 1723 I was born near Worcester in what was still wilderness. Like most everyone here, my childhood was marked by that infernal warring with the French and their Indian allies, who tried to roust us from our homes. At one point things got so bad that the settlements of Deerfield, Hatfield, and Northampton had to be abandoned. The raiding didn’t stop until 1763, when the French finally gave up their claims to what the British liked to call New England. By then I was a grown woman.

My husband, Israel, lying here beside me, was born in Salem, Massachusetts – yes, that Salem. [Looks down suddenly.] Israel, can’t you see I’m busy? Ah, Israel wants me to tell you about Salem – so are you ready for a ghost story?

You may have visited Salem and noticed Holten Street, right at the center of town. Israel was born in the house at the end of that street [LINK] in 1720, the son of Benjamin Jr. and Lydia Holten. Israel’s grandparents, Benjamin Sr. and Sarah Holten, had lived there before. Their neighbor was a widow, Rebecca Nurse, a respected churchgoer who had inherited money and a great deal of land. She wasn’t one to let people push her around, and got involved in several lawsuits with the wealthy Putnam family, who wanted some of her land.

1893 illustration by Freeland Carter of the trial of Rebecca Nurse.

The Holtens kept pigs, none too carefully, and Rebecca didn’t care for them raiding her garden and rooting up her vegetables. One Saturday morning in 1689, she strode over to the Holtens and railed at Benjamin Sr., cursing and threatening harm to his pigs. Very angry, unladylike behavior to be sure. A few weeks later, Benjamin Sr. was dead after suffering horribly, with no apparent diagnosis!

Around two years later, Rebecca Nurse and a few other locals were charged by the Putnams with witchcraft. Sarah Holten was certain that her neighbor’s curse killed her husband, and her vivid testimony at the trial was crucial in condemning Rebecca to the noose. After Rebecca was executed in July 1692, the Putnams finally acquired some of her land. And not long after that, Sarah Holten married Benjamin Putnam and lived another fifteen years –unhappily, I hope. But enough about Salem!

Gravestone of Rebecca Nurse.

Israel and I married around 1741 and wandered from Worcester to Leicester to Marlborough to Spencer, all towns nearby each other. Israel was a shoemaker, and our family was growing ever larger . We moved so much because we weren’t always welcomed. We were even “warned out” of Spencer in 1762! That was common in those days. If a newly arrived family might become a burden on previous settlers, town authorities would forbid them to stay longer than three months. Most people made their own shoes at that time, and it was hard to establish a business in only three months. That soured me on “town authorities,” but we moved on quietly with our heads held high.

From Spencer, we moved to Brookfield and then on to Worthington among the earliest settlers. Finally we found our home! We bought Lot 38 from Mr. Barnard of Deerfield, at the intersection of what you call Huntington and Radiker Roads. Our son Samuel – child number ten – was born there during that cold winter of 1769, when I was 46. We were glad our home was close to the first school, so our children didn’t have far to walk. I was proud they learned their letters. I never did, and had to sign documents using my mark.

With plenty of good leather around, Israel settled down to ply his shoemaking trade. He was also one of the church founders, along with those Benjamins over there. He was among those baptized on a single day in October 1771 by the Reverend Huntington. Six years later Israel was dead, without a will, and the settlement took nearly three years. Dying without a will was expensive. Those esteemed town fathers – Misters Eager, Leonard, and Marsh – appointed themselves executors and charged 60 pounds for their services. Another 68 pounds were needed to settle Israel’s debts, and he was owed just 12 pounds for unpaid work.

Pounds, you ask? After declaring independence from England, the Province of Massachusetts became a Commonwealth, and while we started using dollars for some things, pounds were still used for legal matters. The word “dollar” referred to European silver coins, so that term was chosen to distinguish American from British currency. It was very confusing for quite awhile.

The estate, including the farm with 100 acres, was valued at over a thousand pounds, but there was little actual money. Most of the value was in furniture, clothing, animals, tools and Israel’s shoemaking materials.

Estate inventory for Israel Holten.

At one point, while conducting their inventory, the executors kindly allowed me three bushels of rye, sixteen bushels of corn, a half-bushel of pork, six pounds of butter, and nine pounds of suet for maintenance and support. And can you believe they took 18 pounds from the estate for it!

Allotment of food to the widow Sibbel Holten.

As was the custom for fatherless boys, Mr. Eager became the legal guardian for Sam, who was 12, Rufus, 14, and Benjamin, 15. Rufus and Benjamin were apprenticed out by then. Rufus was living in Ware, and Benjamin was with his oldest brother, Israel Jr., in Charlemont. The boys inherited their father’s light blue great coat, used shirts, and braces. In the end, the estate still owed a total of 500 pounds, which Israel Jr. and I scraped together.

By the time the estate was settled, the war against the British was in full swing. Our son Artemus signed up with Col. Wesson’s 9th Massachusetts Regiment. He was right glad of that 20-dollar bounty he was paid, and also got to wear a blue coat. Artemus didn’t come home to bury his father, but remained a soldier until May of 1780, serving at Saratoga and Valley Forge. Eventually all my children left. My daughter Sibella moved to Braintree. John went to Maine, and my daughter Phoebe set out for Illinois. Maine and Illinois weren’t even states then, and I never saw them again. My home, land and belongings all had to be sold, and I ended up boarding in other people’s homes.

I saw another war come and go, though I’m glad the War of 1812 drew less enthusiasm than earlier ones. I died in August of 1822, in my hundredth year – 99 years and 7 months, to be exact. It was an “advanced” age, as they say, but many folks in Worthington lived long lives, thanks to their clean living, hard work, and devotion to the Almighty.

But some didn’t. Why don’t you visit poor Amanda over there? She’s never stopped grieving.

Amanda Sadler Smith Edwards Spencer (1819-1908): Good evening, everyone, and thanks for paying a visit to us here in Benjamin Cemetery! I hope you saw the beautiful view when you came in. When I first settled here you could see over the bare hilltops for miles. We used up much of the standing timber and had those wide-open fields. That’s why so many farm families raised sheep! But I see the forest has reclaimed its rightful place.

Sheila Kinney as Amanda Sadler.

My name is Amanda Sadler Smith Edwards Spencer. Like the other ghosts this evening, I came here from somewhere else – the town of Orange. I was born on April Fool’s Day in 1819, the same year my poor father died. Five years before, he deserted the army. The scoundrel made sure to get the suit of clothes they owed him before he scarpered. My mother was left with us children and an estate worth $69.16, mostly just clothes and household items.

We moved west, like so many others, and settled in Ludlow, where I met my first husband, Phineas Smith, who sleeps here beside me. He was born in South Hadley, but was living in Worthington. We married in 1848 and soon moved in with his parents, Rufus and Salome Smith, who established themselves here in the 1820s next to the Leonards and Curtises. Rufus had a small working farm of 100 acres with one horse, a pair of oxen, several cows and near 40 sheep. Those sheep provided the bulk of our income, though we also produced corn, peas, rye, maple syrup, and other items for trade and sustenance. Our cows were good producers too, and their esteemed butter was sold nearby at The Creamery in Ringville.

1853 was a terrible year in Worthington for sickness. Twenty-three people died, including my entire small family! First, my son, Albion, only four years old. Then two weeks later, his sister, Amelia, only two. Imagine my despair when my dear husband was taken from me just two weeks later! I was with child that awful summer, and in September gave birth to my son, named Phineas after his father, only to lose him two weeks later! Like me, he never knew his father. I lost my three children and husband within two months.

23 deaths recorded in Worthington for the year 1853. The long division at the bottom computes the average age of death to be 28.56 years.

Gravestone for Phineas Smith Jr.

They died of what we called the bloody flux, which you know as dysentery – a terrible sickness that takes over the poor body. Oh, they suffered such pain! No one knew why it struck only my dear ones and one of the Leonard children, but now I surmise that something fouled our food or water. To think I might have fed them something that killed them has given me many restless nights. I searched my soul for a sin that might have caused God to rain this horror down upon me. Why I wasn’t taken too I cannot say.

If not for my husband’s parents, I would have found myself all alone in this place. But I couldn’t stay here – a young, childless widow living with her in-laws. I can’t say they blamed me, but things never felt right. So I moved down to Northampton and found a place as a servant on the Strong farm. In 1862 I married a kind man, Mr. Charles Edwards, and helped care for his children and his aged mother. Mr. Edwards died in 1880 and I married Mr. Spencer Parsons, also a farmer. He had a lovely daughter, Ruth, who became my dear companion. Mr. Parsons and I shared the pain of losing a young child – his son, Joseph, died at age two. I never had another child of my own. After Mr. Parsons’ death in 1891, Ruth and I stayed together, moving from rooming house to rooming house, until we finally settled at 105 Prospect Street in Northampton for the last ten years of my life. We used to laugh because she had no husband and I had had three! She died just two years after I did.

When I died in 1908 I had seen more sorrow than most, but I was brought back here to dwell peacefully in this beautiful, quiet spot with my dear Phineas and my beloved children.

I see our time on this sweet field must end, and we must return to the spirit world. On behalf of the other wraiths, I want to thank you all for coming to learn something of our joys and sorrows – much like your own. Be careful returning to your homes and remember to get your wells tested!

A couplet from Benjamin Graveyard.


Pat Kennedy teaches English at Holyoke Community College and is the commissioner for Center Cemetery. She came by her interest in cemetery care and preservation by way of genealogical research. Most of the information about burials in Worthington was not online, so she started producing burial lists with the help of Diane Brenner and Ed Lewis of the Worthington Historical Society. The Worthington Cemetery Commission has undertaken the task of repairing and cleaning stones in our cemeteries and has made significant progress over the last few years, thanks to the generosity of the Rolland Cemetery Fund.

Diane Brenner has lived in Worthington with her spouse, Jan Roby, since 1994 and has been a longtime member of the Worthington Historical Society, serving on its board and as one of its archivists. As someone who loves the mystery and adventure of historical research, she has curated several exhibits and contributed articles and photographs to The Corners. In her spare time she works at her day job as a book indexer:

Warm thanks to Madeleine Cahill, Norm Stafford, Jim Downey, Diane Brenner, and Sheila Kinney for their sterling impersonations of the dead.

Posted August 7, 2019.

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