It has been a while since I’ve done a cemetery stroll, so when the news broke that the gravestones for free African Americans who lived in Gloucester had been restored, I just had to go and see for myself. The graves of Robert Freeman and his wives Rhoda and Lucretia are marked with two newly restored and re-set headstones in the back corner of Bray Cemetery on Essex Ave. And they look GREAT! It was a long process to get the restoration completed but well worth the efforts. You can follow Bray Cemetery on Facebook, which is listed as an inactive City cemetery.
It is tucked between homes along Essex Ave, but marked with a easy-to-find sign. It is small and cluttered with broken stones on a downhill slope. It’s clearly old with a few slate stones mixed in with the marble headstones. The small intimate cemetery tells special tales of Gloucester, particularly appropriate as the 400th celebration is approaching fast. One thing I was reminded of while taking this stroll is that people a few hundred years ago lived longer lives than I had been led to believe. It is not uncommon to see stones for those in their 70s.
The iron fencing is intriguing as well. There are old iron braces securing the stone wall together which have obviously done their job for many many years. Thanks to Wellspring House and the City/DPW for their enormous efforts in accomplishing this restoration.