Remembered in stone

Mary Pearson Palmer's gravestone in Rowley. Images courtesy of Findagrave

My family tried something new for Thanksgiving: lunch at a (very nice) restaurant in Rowley, up the road from my father’s house in neighboring Topsfield, Massachusetts. As I was there early, I went for a walk up Main Street, past the Rowley Burial Ground. Most of the stones nearest the road were well-weathered, but two popped out at me: stones for a Pearson and a Pickard.

Both are names in my seventeenth-century New England ancestry, so I sat beside a fire pit next to the restaurant and did some online digging.

[Two] popped out at me: stones for a Pearson and a Pickard.

The Frederick Ayer monument at Lowell Cemetery.

My paternal grandmother, Anne Beekman Ayer, was the great-granddaughter of Persis (Cook) (Ayer) Parke, a native of Preston, Connecticut. Persis’s grandmother, Mary (Palmer) Cook, descended from the Palmers of Rowley, and her great-grandparents — Samuel Palmer and Mary Pearson — are indeed buried in the Rowley Burial Ground. (Mary Pearson’s mother, in turn, was Dorcas Pickard; her place of burial is likely in Rowley, but not demonstrably in the town burial ground.)

It was an interesting exercise, using modern research tools while sitting in the brisk outdoors scant yards from the seventeenth-century Rowley Burial Ground. My father’s family has lived in the area for the last century or more, but there is another century’s gap in there where the Palmer and Cook families moved south to Connecticut. It was my great-great-grandfather, Frederick Ayer (1822-1918; erroneously listed as Charles "Frederick" Ayer at Findagrave), who left the Preston area for Syracuse, New York, and then Lowell, Massachusetts, although he died in far-away Thomasville, Georgia, which affords no clue about an earlier family connection to Essex County!

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward