Hillside-West Bridgewater Cemetery
Marilyn Welch-Fava became president of the West Bridgewater Cemetery Association in 2010. The Association completed a preservation project at the Hillside-West Bridgewater Cemetery this fall and we recently spoke with Marilyn about this beautiful cemetery.
VOCA: Can you give us a brief history of the West Bridgewater Cemetery Association?
Marilyn: The first meeting of the West Bridgewater Cemetery Association was held July 15, 1871, when it appears that the Association was established. This is recorded in Sherburne town Records, Book 11, p. 231. Also, the cemetery lot (2 acres) ownership was transferred from James Ayers to "ES Madden & Others" on July 17, 1871. ES Madden was the first president. Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Vermont Secretary of State on June 29, 1937. These incorporated papers included my Grandpa Fred Wardwell.
VOCA: How many members are there currently?
Marilyn: Theoretically, each lot owner (heirs/assignees) has a vote (41 lots.) In reality, the 2014 annual meeting had 4 attendees, with input received from about half a dozen additional members who could not attend the meeting. Our mailing list has 15 names.
VOCA: How do you currently operate?
Marilyn: We operate somewhat as laid out in the 1871 association document. Meet once a year, elect President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, two Trustees and two Sextons. The original document provided for a President, Secretary, Treasurer, and 3 Trustees. Maintenance and improvement is funded through interest and dividends from small investment accounts originally purchased from lot sale proceeds and voluntary donations from members.
VOCA: When and why did you join the West Bridgewater Cemetery Association?
Marilyn: The Welch and Wardwell families have been active in the WBCA since its start. Both of my parents were active in the past, as well as aunts and uncles and before them, grandparents on both sides.
Joyce Wardwell Phillips (Aunt) has been an active member for many years and is currently Vice President and Sexton. I attended my first meeting in May 2010, and was elected President at that time. Carole Welch was elected Secretary in May 2012 and is now Secretary/Treasurer. Ron Willis has served in many capacities for several years and is currently a Trustee.
We all feel the call to carry on family tradition, since so many of our ancestors are buried at Hillside-West Bridgewater.
VOCA: You have relatives in the Hillside-West Bridgewater Cemetery?
Marilyn: Maternal grandparents Fred and Maybell Wardwell (Aunt Joyce's parents,) aunt and uncle Elnora Wardwell Fadden and David Fadden, maternal great grandparents Frank and Edith Wardwell, great uncle and aunt Mason and Mildred Wardwell.
Paternal grandparents Guy and Hazel Johnson Welch and their infant daughter Dorothy, great grandparents Herbert and Carrie Johnson, as well as Carrie's second husband Orris Lewis. Carrie's parents Joseph and Sarah Spaulding. Great Uncle Herbert Johnson and Aunt Hazel Johnson.
VOCA: Please describe the current preservation project.
Marilyn: In May 2013 we decided to apply to the Vermont Old Cemetery Association for funding to reset some of the gravestones that were leaning. We were approved for up to $500; unfortunately, we had to postpone the work because of the illness and subsequent death of one of our key members. We are a very small organization and it took some time to coordinate the work. In the meantime some visitors had complained about deep ruts leading into the cemetery from the gate. We learned that we could also use grant funds to purchase topsoil and material to fix the ruts.
On October 25, 2014, three WBCA members (Carole Welch, Ron Willis and myself) and our groundskeeper Zack Sawyer met at the cemetery. We filled the aforementioned ruts, seeded, and mulched. We also leveled a large gravestone belonging to A.P. Lewis, which was leaning precariously. Investigation of other stones that are leaning showed that they will need an epoxy material, which we did not have on hand. This work will be performed at a later date.
VOCA: Do you have a story about any relative in the cemetery that you can share with us?
Marilyn: Great grandmother Carrie Spaulding married Herbert Johnson. They had two young children (one my grandmother Hazel Johnson Welch). Herbert was killed in a logging accident. She later married Orris Lewis, who adopted her children. They are all buried in Hillside-West Bridgewater with identical markers made of some molded metallic material (cast iron?) rather than granite or marble.