(Posh Goth) Harvard, MA - Set back in the woods off of a narrow, winding road against the backdrop of a small, rural Massachusetts town lies an over 228 year old Shaker cemetery that is adorned with hundreds of white-painted "lollipop" grave markers.
About The Shakers
The Shakers were a pacifist Christian sect that formed in 18th century England. They were affectionately named the "Shakers" (real name the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing) due to the ritualistic dances and spastic body movements they made during worship. They were big on celibacy. Women had equal rights to the men. They lived simply and modestly. It was a new world "Utopia".
In 1774, a small group of followers led by Mother Ann Lee (8 to be exact) set sail from England and made landfall in Colonial America.
Over the course of the next 5 years, the Shakers grew from this one transplanted community to several spread across what is present-day New England. Settlements were established in New York, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts and had expanded as far west as Ohio and Indiana by the mid 19th century.
However, by the turn of the 20th century, these once sprawling Utopian communities had fallen victim to consistent declines in the number of community participants, and many of these communities closed up shop. Today, there a total of 2 (yes, 2) members who reside at the centuries-old Sabbathday Lake Community in Maine.
The Lollipop Graveyard of Harvard, MA
Over 300 cast-iron "lollipop" headstones stand watch over the graves of deceased Shakers in the small town of Harvard, MA. Set far enough away from Boston suburbia (Harvard is 40 miles west and a 50 minute car-ride from Boston), this cast-away cemetery lays in an open field canopied by towering pine-trees, barely noticeable off of the side of a narrow and winding road.
Entrance to Harvard Shaker Cemetery
I first found out about this graveyard when I was in high-school in the 90's (having grown up in nearby Shirley, another former Shaker settlement). My friends Angela and Melissa (hi bitchfaces!!!) took me out me out there one night in Melissa's Toyota Tercel. (This one event in my misspent youth may or may not be responsible for me diving head-first into the gothic lifestyle.)
Since then, I have visited the graveyard on numerous occasions over the years. I have brought my father there (a former Green Beret who was initially too spooked to get out of the car) - and it was one of the first dates I brought my husband on when we were dating. Sometimes I go by myself just to enjoy the quiet setting. (Weird, right?)
Rows of lollipop grave markers at Harvard Shaker Cemetery
There have been persistent rumors over the years that a Native American burial ground lays deeper into the woods near the lollipop graveyard, but I have never been able to corroborate this. However, it is fact that Native Americans were numerously sprawled throughout this region for hundreds of years, and they were among the first peoples of New England.
Harvard Shaker Cemetery as seen from road
How To Find It
The cemetery is located in Harvard, MA on South Shaker Road, just past Ann Lees Road. If you're turning onto South Shaker Road from Route 111, it will be on your left about a half mile down.There are no signs so drive slow. (You will kind of have to due to the narrowness and curvedness of the road).
Also Check Out
Fruitlands Museum, also located in Harvard, MA on Prospect Hill Road, houses the well-preserved remnants of the short-lived Shaker and Trasncendentalist Communities, in addition to housing a Native American Museum. Set on over 200 acres of land, this collective of colonial American history will be worth the trip.
Remnants of an old building in Harvard Shaker village
Neighboring Shirley, MA is home to well-preserved Shirley Shaker Village. Here you can visit the Shirley Shaker Cemetery (no lollipop grave markers but just as old and historic), and the village includes over half of the original Shaker buildings (including a school house and Church).
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