Wachusett Dam & Reservoir
Clinton Catholic Cemetery
Entrance to St. John’s Catholic Cemetery near Sandy Pond, looking west.
In Clinton, Mass. abundant water power in the southern part facilitated the development of large textile mills.
In the 1850s a large influx of (Roman Catholic) Irish newcomers settled there to pursue their fortunes working these mills. Thriving generations had established homes, churches and, of course, a cemetery they could call their own.
By the 1890s St. John’s Cemetery contained over three thousand bodies and was poised quite close to the margin of the new Reservoir.
Preliminary engineering investigations indicated that the proposed flow line of the Wachusett Reservoir would necessarily run through a part of the Clinton Catholic Cemetery. Ultimately it was decided to purchase the entire property from the archdiocese in Springfield.
Extensive negotiations over price, replacement property and sensitivity to disturbing over three thousand graves were conducted between the Board and the Archbishop. Agreement was reached in 1898, the work completed by 1902, and final settlement made in 1910.
The following texts are detailed excerpts from consecutive Chief Engineer’s Annual Reports on the subject of the cemetery during those years.
Please note Attachment No. 6, “Report of Harold Parker, Chief Engineer of the St. John’s Catholic Cemetery Association, relative to the Preparation of the New St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, and the Removal of Bodies from the Old Cemetery”, which describes the detailed methods devised to accurately record the movement of over 3,800 bodies in 22 weeks without the loss of a single one.
I have not yet established the exact route taken by the carts (about 15 trips per day) but I suspect that it led north along Main Street, west across Sterling or Brook Streets then north again along Greeley Street to the new location.
The Bishop owned the land of the old cemetery with all of the bodies removed, the Board owned the land of the new cemetery with the bodies within it (or under it).
Why the delay in the exchange of the deeds (and the money)??