Sweet Release: The Lollipop Cemetery

September 13, 2019 — The Lollipop Cemetery sounds kind of perfect for the season, right? Candy and a graveyard? But it’s not something out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, nor is it anything like the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. It’s an old historic cemetery in Harvard, Massachusetts. That just happens to have weird headstones.

Well, not weird, really. And not headstones, really, either. Each plot in this small parcel of dead folks is marked by a white metal plaque on a stick. Other than the white stick, they don’t really look like lollipops. Don’t taste much like ’em either (o I saved you from that experience). Still, that's what people call this place. Its Christian name is the Harvard Shaker Burial Ground, which is still kind of a funny name.

The Shakers are a sect of Christianity that popped up in the 1700s in England, and then crossed the ocean in that same century to America. They got their name because of the way they got really into their worship services. Right. Whole lotta [that] goin’ on.

They established a village in 1792, and immediately needed a place to plant their dead. They placed their rot garden on what’s now South Shaker Road in Harvard and originally used more conventional stones as grave markers. In 1879, they replaced them with the cast iron lollipops, both because they thought the plaques would be easier to maintain and because they wanted to keep their dead ornaments humble.

The cemetery lasted as an active burial site until 1929, which is 11 years longer than the Shaker community itself lasted. Most of the American Shaker communities stilled in that time period, actually, except for one that’s still Jerry Lee Lewis-ing up in Maine. The rest of the communities have been divided up into museums and private homes.

The Lollipop Cemetery was given to the city of Harvard, which maintains it to this day, hence the fresh coats of white paint on the markers. Although, just one year I think it’d be dandy if they painted the plaques themselves in bright colors and kept the sticks white. Then it would really earn its nickname.