Codman Burial Ground
Norfolk Street Dorchester, MA
Rev. Dr. Cliff Hersey serves as the pastor of Meeting house Ministries under the auspices of the Second Church in Dorchester, and Lead Pastor, Rev. Dr. Victor Price.
Dr. Hersey has responsibility for all the management challenges related to the meetinghouse facility and the Codman Burying Ground.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Codman Burying Ground
In his will, filed on December 18, 1847, Rev. Dr. John Codman stated as his first bequest that: "I give and desire to the Second Parish of Dorchester, my lot of three acres, more or less, lying on Norfolk Street in Dorchester but on condition that this same be appropriated by said Parish within one year after my decease for the purpose of a Cemetery..." He may have had a premonition of his own death, for it was just five days later, on December 23, 1847 that he died.
The Second Parish did, within the year, establish a burying ground on the gifted site and built a prominent tomb for the revered minister and his wife, Mary. Since that time, over 1,000 souls have been interred at the site. Burials were most active during the 19th century when the population of Dorchester grew and the church flourished under the second pastor of the church, Dr. James Means. It was Dr. Means that led the church through the difficult history of the Civil War, and oversaw the burial of numerous veterans who lost their lives.
As the neighborhood of Dorchester changed and morphed into the 20th century, long-time members of the Second Parish continued to minister and grow. The largest attendance at the church was in the early years of the 20th century and through World War I. Between the world wars, those living in Dorchester gravitated to the suburbs and new immigrants from all over the world made the city their home. Unfortunately, the Second Parish did not keep pace with this growing population, losing membership year after year. In the early 1990s, the Congregational church was at a low point in attendance and the final Trustees of the church decided to give the building to a more active denomination; The Church of the Nazarene. All burials at the cemetery ceased at that time until the new denomination got its feet under the situation.
We repent of the fact that the church in recent years has not done what is necessary to keep the Codman Burying Ground in shape. As a community asset it deserves better. We thank the Boston Project Ministries, for their valiant efforts several years ago to restore the site. We vow to do a better and more active job in the future.
The Roots of Second Parish
On November 19, 1804, eighty residents of the town formed themselves into a “Dorchester Meeting House Company” for the purpose of erecting “this great church of ours” within 100 rods of Dr. Baker’s Comer (now Codman Square). In the winter months of 1804 – 1805 the great pine logs were cut in Maine (then a part of Massachusetts), hauled over the snow to the water’s edge, towed to the mouth of the Neponset River, and brought from there to the building site by oxen. All the work was done by hand and the exterior had to be finished and painted before winter arrived.
On August 7, 1805, the raising of the frame was begun with every able-bodied citizen taking part. Hymns of praise and prayers of Thanksgiving were offered to the “Divine Architect” for guidance in the work and gratitude that no person was injured in this great undertaking.
The building was publicly dedicated on Sunday, October 30, 1806. Pews were reserved for the minister and several other people, and the remainder were sold at public auction for $25,750 an amount which was $10,000 more than the entire cost of the land and building. The bell, cast by Paul Revere and Sons was raised into the steeple in 1816, replacing an earlier bell which had cracked. It weighs 1,248 pounds, excluding the 27 lb. clapper. In its 185 years, it has sounded forth the call to worship, notified the countryside of fire, proclaimed the death of presidents, and tolled in respect for the departed. The 4-dialed clock in the tower was added in 1852 — the gift of Col. Walter Baker of chocolate fame.
Second Church was not always so called. Early on, it was known as Upper Meeting House, New Meeting House, or South Meeting House. On January 19, 1810, it was voted unanimously to be known as the South Church in Dorchester. Two years later on April 3, 1812, another vote was passed by which it was to be called “Second Church.”
The Second Church in Dorchester was formally organized by an ecclesiastical council on January 1, 1808, with sixty-four charter members (27 men and 37 women) affectionately dismissed from the “Mother Church" on Meeting House Hill. Services of worship were held in Second Church in the interval between its dedication in 1806 and its formal organization in 1808.
The church continued to serve the Dorchester community under Congregational leadership until 1991 when it was given to the International Church of the Nazarene. The church now hosts multiple congregations and Christian ministry groups. For further information on the current ministries of the church connect to: The Meetinghouse at Codman Square at: dotmeetinghouse.com
The Burying Ground
When it was created in 1847/8, the burying ground site was laid out in the form (as seen from above) of angels wings. This was a popular trend for cemeteries in the mid-19th century. A map of the layout can be accessed here, and on the Cemetery Documents Page.
Plots at the site were purchased as "family plots" and could accommodate as many as 10-12 burials each. Some families bought several side-by-side plots and buried multiple generations of the family.
On March 20, 1630, a group of 140 people seeking religious freedom, sailed from Plymouth, England, on the ship “Mary & John,” having formed themselves into a church fellowship before leaving England.
The Rev. John White, Rector of Trinity Parish, Dorchester, England, was the motivating influence of this venture. Although he did not come with this group, he was known as the “Patriarch of Dorchester” and it was out of respect for him and in his honor that Dorchester, Massachusetts received its name. The town was named just a few months before its larger sister, Boston.
Dorchester was annexed to Boston in 1870, but would today rank as one of the top five cities in population in Massachusetts if it remained a separate city. It is today the most diverse area of Boston, and ranks among the most diverse in the country.