If These Stones Could Talk

J.D. O’Gara
Prospect Hill Cemetery Tour Brings Past Alive in Millis
Steve Main will lead a Cemetery Stroll at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Millis on October 13th. For details, contact the Millis Recreation Department either at the town website, www.millis.org or at (508) 376-7053.
Issue Date: 
October, 2018
Article Body: 

Stephen Main has worked for the town of Millis since 1984, caring for Prospect Hill Cemetery, which hails back to the 1700s, when Millis was known as East Medway.
“I come up here every day and there’s always something to do,” says Main, who fondly remembers the man who taught him his job – John Joyce -- and what he knew about the people laid to rest at Prospect Hill.
This month, in the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve, Main invites strollers along for an oral history of what he’s learned during his years caring for the location.
The entrance to the cemetery climbs a hill, known as Emerson Hill, says Main. Emerson, the founder of Emerson College, is buried in the cemetery, and Emerson Farm sat in majesty at the bottom of the hill.
“I have an old drawing and couple pictures of Emerson Hill,” says Main. “It was a huge, beautiful farm.” The drawing of the immense farmhouse, in fact shows a large area with no trees around, quite different from today. “They used all of the wood,” says Main.
Emerson’s memorial once sported brass candles, which were retrieved and placed for safe keeping at Emerson College by Emerson’s descendants. “I’ve been told at night, the moon would reflect off these candles and they’d glow, and Emerson’s widow could look up and see them.”
The candles are now in the archives at Emerson College, and Emerson’s descendants had written a letter in March, 1988, inviting John Joyce to come to see them there. Sadly, Joyce had passed away the month before, says Main.
Main explains a plaque in the wall at the top of the hill, near the shed. Arthur Ware’s family place the plaque in the wall, next to two rosebushes, which, unfortunately, did not survive. At one time, Joyce and Main planted bushes there in an effort to honor the spirit of the plaque; the rosebushes lived for awhile, but, as Main puts it, they need care to survive, and it’s all he can do to carefully keep up with mowing and weedwhacking, so right now, the area remains rose-free.
The oldest headstone in the cemetery dates back to about 1724, says Main, and he can show you where it is. Main can also tell you about the stone for former Massachusetts Governor Christian Herter, as well as an archway that local lore says was made with a piece of the Blarney stone, a piece that is always cold to the touch.
Prospect Hill’s caretaker also points to a large rock dated 1714, where East Medway’s first church was located.
“That’s how they used to bury people, too, where the churches were located,” says Main. In fact, he says, Prospect Hill was the site of three churches over the course of time, with the final church, Church of Christ, having been moved to its current site to make way for the railroad.
If you’d like to take a trip back into time and explore this historic site and Millis history, join the Cemetery Stroll on October 13th, at noon (park over at Richardson’s Pond on Curve Street). This program will display some of the local influences that helped form Millis that are buried here in this cemetery. Registration is required through the Millis Recreation Department
at http://www.millis.org/Pages/MillisMA_Recreation/index, or (508) 376-7053, and the cost is $10 per adult and $5 for seniors.