St. James Lot, The First Public Lot, Is Created
“Not every good, nor every great man (or woman), has had a monument erected over his grave.”
Wilson Flagg in 1861; Writing about unmarked graves in a Mount Auburn guide book
At a November 3, 1831 meeting of the Garden and Cemetery Committee of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, it was voted to permit single interments to be made in the grounds by people who were not voting proprietors. An enclosure on Cypress Avenue was set aside for this purpose and surrounded by a small fence. These single grave interments were an ideal option for people who could not afford, or had no use for, a large family lot.
This first public lot was developed in 1831, measuring 5,400 square-feet with burials priced at $10 each. The price was later increased to $12 with an additional charge of $.50 for a stone bearing a number corresponding with a name of the occupant, which was then recorded in a book specifically for this purpose. The additional fee for a stone or grave marker might offer one explanation for Wilson Flagg’s observation above.
By 1848, there had been over 160 interments in the public lot and the Trustees voted to create a second lot on Fir Ave. The first lot was named St. James and the second St. Johns. All told there are about 180 interments in the St. James Lot, many unmarked. Carpenters, tailors, midwifes, and clerks make up the residents of Mount Auburn’s Public Lots.
The St. James and St. Johns Public Lots are now maintained as “Country Burying Ground” Landscape Character Zones. This means it is made up of mostly meadow or low native groundcover, with a simple overstory of tree and shrub plantings that rely on only a few species.