Spirits Alive at the Eastern Cemetery
Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts stereoscope
Burial Hill, Plymouth, Mass. Photo by WS Robbins & Co. 
Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, New York Public Library

Here Lyes the Body—Burial and Customs of the Pilgrims

1:30pm to 3:00pm
Saturday, March 26, 2016
USM Wishcamper Center, Portland, ME

Stephen C. O'Neill, Associate Director and Curator of Collections at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, will discuss the burial places, customs, and practices of the Plymouth colony's pilgrims. As Calvinists, they did not believe in including prayer in a funeral or decoration of a grave. This changed over a few generations as religion and culture was modified for the new world. More information on the lecture is available on our lectures page.

headstone for Fear Thacher Goodwin
Slate headstone for Fear Thacher Goodwin in Eastern Cemetery, by Sharon Packer

Subterranean Celebrity: Fear Thacher Goodwin

Died 1829

What possessed John and Content Thacher to name their 7th child Fear? The first six had the names Abigail, Elizabeth, Content (the smaller), Rebecca, Desire and even Jethro. But Fear? "I fear you are only my 7th of 11 children." Puritans had a habit of naming children after good qualities—perhaps to encourage their offspring to become the embodiment of it—but Fear?

This was a Puritan custom—naming your child after a word or name in the Bible—and being born in Barnstable on Cape Cod, one of the first settlements in the Plymouth Colony, it makes only sense that Fear would have this type of name. It's possible that it was shortened from other forms of the name such as "Fear-Not," "Fear-the-Lord" and "Fear-God" that are found in Puritan history.

A nice thing about Mrs. Goodwin is that we know a little about her (unlike many other women of the time). She was married to John (who is buried in the plot next to her), and she had 7 children (none who were named Fear.) We know she suffered from tumors, because a record of her correspondence with her brother James Thacher, a doctor and medical writer in Massachusetts, is archived at Boston Medical Library.

In memory of
wife of
John Goodwin,
born in Barnstable, Mass.
Feb. 1, 1748,
died Mar. 26, 1829.
AEt. 81
A voice of wisdom infinite, of matchless love,
hath call'd the christian mother to her rest in heaven.

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We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of Portland, Maine’s historic Eastern Cemetery through a range of activities including promotion and education.