What is Nantucket’s most mysterious epitaph?

In Newtown Cemetery, right inside the fence along Sparks Avenue, there are a headstone and a footstone just as though someone is buried there, but the inscription on the headstone states that it is an empty grave.

The inscription reads:

Huldah, wife of Benj. Snow
However dear, is not laid here.
Some private grief was her disease
Laid to the north her friends to please.

The footstone, a body’s length away, is inscribed “H.S.”

The epitaph invites the interpretation that Huldah was buried in Old North or New North Cemetery, probably with her own family, the Dunhams. But there is no stone for her in either of those cemeteries.

Widower Benjamin Snow remarried and lived to the age of eighty-two. According to Nantucket death records, he died on-island, but there is no stone for him in Newtown Cemetery or in any of the other island cemeteries. Outdoing Huldah and her private grief, Benjamin seems to have vanished without a trace. Could he have gone to rest himself in the grave where he had intended to bury Huldah before her friends intervened?

For more about Nantucket’s cemeteries, see Frances Karttunen’s book, Nantucket Places and People 4: Underground, available from the NHA Museum shop.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

> >