Remains of forgotten dead reburied

Remains of forgotten dead reburied

Late last year, as the Archdiocese of Boston was selling off the property of the closed St. Joseph Parish in Roxbury, a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,000 people buried between 1850 and 1868 was discovered. Most of them were Irish immigrants who had come over during and after the Potato Famine. Unfortunately, over time the cemetery was forgotten, the grave markers probably decayed, and it became an overgrown weedy lot.

And then when the records were discovered, archeologists were called in and the remains were found. Now the 1,238 remains of men, women, and children have been re-interred at Calvary Cemetery in Waltham. Auxiliary Bishop Walter Edyvean presided over a burial service on Saturday with a number of people present, mainly people who believed their ancestors to be among the dead and former parishioners of St. Joseph’s.

Rosaries, earrings, and a faded white cross were also unearthed with the remains. Many of those who had been buried in Roxbury were immigrants from County Donegal in Ireland who had fled the potato famine, worked and started families in Boston, and died in the city.

... No one will ever know the identities of all those buried at St. Joseph’s. Incomplete parish records contain the names of 600 of the dead, fewer than half, but the remains were exhumed from graves that had no headstones.

... Church officials said they felt a sense of duty to build a proper burial ground. The memorial plot in Waltham includes the bell that once hung inside St. Joseph Church, a statue of St. Joseph atop a piece of granite found in the old burial ground, and a bronze plaque that says, “To the right of God, these souls will sit.”

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