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Securing its place in history
Cemetery is on National Register

Byline: By Mary Ford MFORD@CNC.COM

Cemeteries, especially ancient ones, tell old stories. Just take a walk through Cohasset Central Cemetery at Joy Place where the oldest grave dates back to 1705. There you'll also find the Celtic Cross memorializing the 45 unidentified victims of the brig St. John disaster 150 years ago; the grave of world renowned acrobat William Hanlon (of the Hanlon Brothers); and the grave of the Rev. Nehemiah Hobart, the town's first clergyman - to name a few.

But thanks to the efforts of cemetery trustees - in particular Anne Montague and Jo Ann Ford who did much of the research on the application with the help to town archivist David Wadsworth and Deirdre Barrett, who researched the gravestone art - the cemetery has a new story to tell. The beautiful, peaceful place with its glacial moraines and views of Little Harbor is now officially a "national treasure" through its recent inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

Phil Bergen of the Massachusetts Historical Commission presented cemetery trustees with a certificate heralding the recent accomplishment Sunday during the cemetery's annual board meeting at the Lightkeepers Residence. The National Register provides recognition that a property is of significance to the nation, state or the community. The designation also provides some protection and ensures the cemetery will be preserved. Cohasset Central Cemetery with its funerary art by Colonial stone carvers like Scituate's Jacob Vinal and his son, Jacob Jr. - has long been a town treasure.

Bergen explained the effort to place a property on the National Register could take up to two years. He said the application was affirmatively voted back in September at the state level before being sent to the National Park Service. Wadsworth, who has drafted several National Register applications in town, praised the work of Montague and Ford. "They did an absolutely marvelous job putting it together," he said. The cemetery also had the good luck of being able to work with several Boston University students who provided consulting services on the project for free as part of their master's degree thesis. The state currently has no money to provide consultants, and therefore, the cemetery could still be on the waiting list if it weren't for the help from B.U. "We filled out the application and they put it into the nomination form," Montague explained.

In addition to the honor of being listed, the designation will enable the cemetery to apply for grant money from the state Department of Environmental Management through a program aimed at providing funds to help maintain green spaces on the National Register and for preservation work in cemeteries. Montague said the association's next effort is to create a guide so people who stroll through the cemetery can have a sense of the local history the picturesque place represents.