Histories of Persons Interred at Prospect Hill Cemetery  |  Prospect Hill 1810 to Present & Stories of Nantucket

Prospect Hill Cemetery 1810 To Present, Stories of Nantucket & Whaling Families of Prospect Hill

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read about the storied residents at Prospect Hill from excerpts selected from Tuck’t In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Nantucket, MA.


Prospect Hill Cemetery - 1810 To Present

Founded in 1810, Prospect Hill Cemetery is a part of the Nantucket Historic District and includes
the Mount Vernon, South Side, Unitarian Universalists, Prospect Hill, Edward B. Lewis Memorial and the Nantucket Jewish Cemetery Association. The Prospect Hill Cemetery Association owns and cares for Prospect Hill Cemetery and is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and a 501 (c)(13) tax exempt cemetery. Columbarium, burial lots and estates are available. Prospect Hill Cemetery is a nonsectarian and not-for-profit cemetery association open to all.

Edouard A. Stackpole, in his book Rambling Through the Streets and Lanes of Nantucket, wrote of Prospect Hill Cemetery as the site of the Upper Milk Street Ropewalk where islanders made the cordage for rigging the whaleships.  He also recounted how the Spider Mill once occupied a hill in the cemetery. In 1836, the town blew up the Mill in an experiment to determine if using gunpowder to raze buildings would impede the course of a spreading fire.

Records of Proprietors, 1847-1881, entry of April 20, 1847, recorded changing the name of the Second Congregational Meeting House Society, Unitarian Universalist Burying Ground to Prospect Hill Cemetery.

In April, 1873, at the Annual Meeting of the Second Congregational Meeting House Society (Unitarian), a committee comprised of Joseph B. Macy, Alexander Macy and Thaddeus C. Defriez was appointed to care for Prospect Hill Cemetery. Thaddeus C. Defriez was treasurer and stated that Prospect Hill Cemetery was originally incorporated by the "Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Land of Nantucket setting off to it a certain tract of land...with other land purchased from time to time." Over the years the Second Congregational Meeting House Society's committee sold lots, put up a new fence, commissioned a survey of the cemetery, and with the assistance of the Wannacomet Water Company repaired the hearse house.

The Nantucket Historical Association Research Library’s manuscript collection of Cemeteries and Old Burial Grounds cites that “Prospect Hill was owned and cared for by the proprietors of the Second Congregational Society, Unitarian Universalist Church until it was taken over by the town in the twentieth century.” On February 23, 1884, the Mount Vernon Cemetery Company was organized as a corporation. The purpose was to control the land adjoining Prospect Hill Cemetery.
The Mount Vernon gateway, a gift by Andrew J. Morton family in 1904, has in place a commemorative plaque with the inscription “Prospect Hill Cemetery 1810.”

In 1910, one hundred years after its founding, Prospect Hill’s Board of Trustees were comprised of Maria T. Swain, Alexander M. Myrick, Ernest H. Jernegan, Henry Brown, Richard E. Congdon, David Parker, Reuben C. Small, Clinton Parker, Josiah F. Murphey, Arthur H. Cook, John C. Ring, George E. Mooers, Willard B. Marden and Israel M. Lewis. The board filed a petition with accompanying bill, House, No. 358 before the Massachusetts General Court “for legislation to authorize the incorporation of an association in the town of Nantucket to be known as the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association.” This act was passed on February 14, 1910.

In 2003, Grace Grossman, then vice president and Theresa Davis, president of the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association initiated the plan to enhance the grounds by planting bushes and trees indigenous to Nantucket as well as providing improved maintenance for the grounds and pathways. The beautification plan was presented to the Community Preservation Committee and in 2004, Prospect Hill was awarded funding to landscape and install a sprinkler system in the old section of the cemetery. In 2005, the Board of Directors of Prospect Hill Cemetery established the “Grace Grossman Cemetery Beautification Fund” to continue the maintenance of the lovely park like setting.  In June 2007, the IRS granted a 501 (c ) (3) exemption making
Prospect Hill Cemetery a charitable trust.

In 2009, The Nancy Sayles Day Foundation awarded Prospect Hill Cemetery a grant to fund a conservation survey. Ivan Myjer of Building and Monument Conservation conducted a stone by stone assessment of markers and monuments in the older sections of the cemetery. The survey was completed in 2010.

Additionally, in 2009, the Prospect Hill Cemetery Association received approval from the Nantucket Historic District Commission (HDC) to create a cremation garden, beautifully designed in keeping with the historic context of the cemetery by Carroll Associates Landscape Architects. The columbarium, completed in 2010, offers the community more choices for burial and ensures space for future generations to be interred with their ancestors.

In 2010, Prospect Hill Cemetery honors its bicentennial.

In 2011, The Community Preservation Committee approved the use of funds from a grant to begin restoration and repair of monuments and markers according to priorities established in Ivan Myjer's conservation survey at Prospect Hill Cemetery. Neil Paterson, of Neil Paterson, Inc. began work to reset and restore the monuments. To date 24 Priority 1 monuments were reset and 86 of 99 Priority 1 stones were treated. The remaining Priority 1 stones and 52 more in lower priority will be treated when funds become available.

In 2012, The Prospect Hill Cemetery Association published Tuck't In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Nantucket, Massachusetts. The book contains numerous accounts of many well known and lesser known Nantucketers. The stories are incredibly rich in history, lore and insight into the island and its people. The chronicles emanate from diaries, personal letters, memoirs, historic and contemporary images, newspaper accounts and extensive historical research. Numerous accounts have the subject's own voice or a contemporary of the individual recounting the narrative. There is intricate mapping of the property with full maps and reference by chronicle. There is an index by name and by lot number. The Prospect Hill Cemetery Association published the book with the help of donations and grants. Proceeds from our book help fund preservation, conservation and restoration at our historic cemetery.

*2016 Nantucket Preservation Trust's Caroline Ellis Landscape Award recipient Paula Lundy Levy for Tuck't In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Nantucket, MA


Come walk with Nantucket history. Joseph Starbuck, whaleship owner, merchant and builder of "The Three Bricks".
Walk along further and you will come upon his daughter and son-in-law, Eunice and William Hadwen. Their residence was the Greek Revival house built in 1845 at 96 Main Street. Take a further stroll along our paths to his daughter Eliza and her husband Nathaniel. Eliza and Nathaniel are featured in our Selected Historical Profiles below. Enjoy your walk with Nantucket history at Prospect Hill where the present meets the past.

Selected Historical Profiles

Eliza Starbuck Barney
(April 9, 1802 - March 18, 1889). Eliza was the daughter of Joseph Starbuck and Sally Gardner Starbuck. She was the wife of Nathaniel Barney. "Eliza created a genealogical record of more than 40,000 Nantucketers over two and a half centuries. The Nantucket Historical Association staff considers the Barney Record to be its most reliable and comprehensive although not an infallible genealogical resource."*

Eliza was involved in the women's suffrage and the anti-slavery movements. Frederick Douglas was among many of the prominent persons within both movements to be received as a guest at 100 Main Street, the Barney's home.

Nathaniel Barney (December 31, 1792 - September 2, 1869). Nathaniel was the son of Jonathan Barney and Abial Coffin Barney. He married Eliza Starbuck on May 18, 1820. Nathaniel was partners with his cousin and brother-in-law William Hadwen as purveyors and manufacturers of oil and candles in the building that now houses the Whaling Museum. Nathaniel too was deeply involved in the women's suffrage and anti-slavery movements. He hosted many of the prominent persons in both movements as guests at his home.


Whaling Families of Prospect Hill

For many who lived on Nantucket, whaling was not just a livelihood; it was an entire way of life involving close and extended family members. Through Prospect Hill Cemetery records and additional research thanks to the Nantucket Historical Association Research Library, we can trace the husbands, wives, fathers, sons, daughters and brothers that formed some of the whaling families of Nantucket.

Since its founding in 1810, Prospect Hill Cemetery has been a buried treasure, weaving a tapestry through island life.
During the whaling era on Nantucket, many families' lives revolved around this industry. The whaling captains of this period were well respected members of the island community.

Noted brothers include Captains Charles E. and George W. Allen, George and Obed Alley, Hiram and Stephen Bailey (Bayley), Nathaniel and Timothy Fitzgerald, Edward C., George F., and Robert M. Joy, Edward and Joseph McCleave, Henry R. and William Plaskett, Shubael and William Worth.  All were whaling masters in their own right.

Father and son whaling captains included Zephaniah and his son Albert Wood, Henry and his son Thaddeus Defrieze, Charles W. and son George A. Grant, Walter Allen and sons Charles E. and George W. Allen. All were father and son whaling masters.

Seafaring families grew by marriage, for example, Captain Roland Folger Coffin married Captain Obed Starbuck's daughter Elizabeth. Captain Charles Starbuck's daughter Delia married Captain William Holley. Captain Seth Pinkham's daughter Mary married Captain Henry R. Plaskett and his daughter Malvina was the second wife of Captain Joseph Marshall. Captain Edward B. Coffin married Captain Peter Hussey's daughter Delia. Captain Joseph Allen's daughter Eunice was the wife of Captain William E. Sherman. Sisters Avis Winslow Macy Tice, Eunice Winslow Pease Wallace and Helen Barnard Winslow Worth all married whaling captains.

Joseph Starbuck's three sons all married daughters of successful whaling masters. Oldest son George married Elizabeth Swain the daughter of Captain Jonathan Swain, 2nd. His middle son Matthew's second wife was Catharine Wyer the daughter of Captain Christopher Wyer and youngest son William married Sarah Allen the daughter of Captain Joseph Allen.

To learn more about these whaling families and others take a stroll through historic Prospect Hill Cemetery, read the histories section of our website and pay a visit to the Whaling Museum, Nantucket Atheneum, Maria Mitchell Association and The Nantucket Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum.

Paula Lundy Levy



Click on the highlighted link and enjoy an excerpt from Tuck't In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Nantucket, MA

Click on the highlighted link and enjoy an excerpt from Tuck't In: A Walking Tour of Historic Prospect Hill Cemetery Nantucket, MA and the Nantucket Historical Association interview on YouTube Jose Reyes on Lighship Baskets, with Dror Kahn