Notable “Green” Residents of Mount Auburn
In this installment of the Eternally Green series, we highlight some of the individuals interred at Mount Auburn who were early pioneers in the fight for environmental and conservation causes. Mount Auburn’s present day staff finds inspiration in learning their stories as we move forward in our own efforts to be more sustainable in our cemetery and grounds practices, continue to conserve wildlife habitat and restore native plants.
Jacob Bigelow (1787 – 1879), one of Mount Auburn’s founders, naturally had much to say on the topic of burial. Many of the methods he promoted are in line with what we now call “green burials.” He believed in burials without the use of embalming fluids or other attempts to delay decomposition and spoke eloquently the natural circle of life “The elements which have once moved and circulated in living frames do not become extinct nor useless after death: they offer themselves as the materials from which other living frames are to be constructed.” Additionally, by establishing a Cemetery on this parcel of land he preserved the natural beauty of the landscape, including 23 oak trees still standing that predate the founding of the Cemetery. For more on Natural Burials at Mount Auburn please see the Fall/Winter 2011 issue of Sweet Auburn. Jacob Bigelow is buried on Beech Avenue Lot #113.
William Brewster (1851 – 1919) is a notable ornithologist as well as an early naturalist and conservationist. Brewster recorded the diverse bird life in Cambridge, Concord, and greater New England. He helped to organize the Nuttall Ornithological Club (1873) and the American Ornithologists’ Union (1883), and served as president of both groups. Through his study of birds he witnessed many environmental changes that caused him to advocate for the preservation of bird habitat. He also served as the first president of the Massachusetts Audubon Society following its formation in 1896. William Brewster is buried on Larch Avenue, Lot #1099.
Harriett Lawrence Hemenway (1858 – 1960) is the founder of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. After reading an article describing in graphic detail the effects of a plume hunter’s rampage in the name of fashion, Hemenway and her cousin Minna Hall put a plan into action. They founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society and invited groups of women to tea and convinced 900 of them to give up wearing feathered hats. By also engaging prominent men in their cause they were able to get a law passed in 1897 in Massachusetts that outlawed trading wild bird feathers. After that victory they focused on preserving habitat and creating sanctuaries for native birds. Today the Mass Audubon is the largest conservation organization in New England, with 100,000 members and 34,000 acres of conservation land. Hemenway is buried in the family lot on Thistle Path, Lot #1463.
Charles Eliot (1859 – 1897) was a prominent landscape architect. Although he died at only 37 from meningitis, he accomplished many things in his short life including designing a number of public landscapes and having a central role in shaping the Boston Metropolitan Park System. He also wrote to defend a stand of oak trees in Belmont and argued for scenic conservation in the same way books and art are preserved which led to the formation of the Trustees of Reservations. After his death, Eliot’s father, Harvard President Charles W. Eliot, helped to create Acadia National Park in his son’s honor. He had found writings by his son that passionately called for the conservation of the Maine coast. Charles Eliot is buried on Amethyst Path, Lot #5417.
Gertrude Beals Bourne (1868 – 1962) beautified and greened the city of Boston. A prominent watercolor artist of the day and resident of Beacon Hill, at age 60 in 1928, she gathered up 24 neighbors and founded the Beacon Hill Garden Club. This effort to enhance the tiny green spaces in Boston gathered a lot of support. Through garden tours the group was able to fund window box projects for children and foster future generations of gardeners and lovers of urban green spaces. The Beacon Hill Garden Club is still an active organization. Gertrude Beals Bourne is buried on Western Avenue, Lot #7915.
Eleanor Raymond (1887 – 1989), an architect who specialized in residential housing had a hand in a very important first for alternative energy. She designed a five-room house that was the first successful solar-heated occupied house. Located in Dover, MA the project was sponsored by sculptor Amelia Peabody and the heating unit was designed by Dr. Maria Telkes. A cousin of Dr. Telkes lived in the house with his wife and child for three years. In addition to the Dover Sun House, Raymond was involved in many renovation and remodeling jobs in the Cambridge area. Raymond was elected a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1961. She is buried on Greenbrier Path, Lot #637.
Do you know of other “green” residents of Mount Auburn? Please share in the comments below.
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