Historic Eastham: The Cove Burying Ground

For an understanding of historic Eastham and its national importance, visit one of Cape Cod’s oldest sites, the Cove Burying Ground. It is known as the final resting place of Mayflower passengers and many first settlers. Walk next to ghosts of the past in one of the Easternmost points in the country.

While this historic Eastham cemetery only features monuments for three confirmed Mayflower passengers — Lt. Joseph Rogers (1608-1678), Constance Hopkins Snow (1605-1677), and Giles Hopkins (1607-1690) — the cemetery has about 150 unmarked graves. This means other passengers and pilgrims may also rest here. Near the cemetery is the site where Eastham’s first settlers erected the first meeting house in 1644. 

Three Mayflower Teens a Foundation of Historic Eastham

Constance and Giles were brother and sister and in their teens when they left England. The lieutenant was not quite a teen when they sailed on the Mayflower to the New World. History documents the three as “strangers” rather than “saints.” This means they were sailing away not because of religious persecution but rather to seek a future or fortune. All three lived into their senior years and so were most likely among those alive and well to share in the first Thanksgiving. The 1621 Plymouth feast celebrated a plentiful harvest with the Wampanoag neighbors. The original gravestones of the three no longer exist, but markers, placed by Mayflower Society in 1966, commemorate them.

Founded in the 1600s, the Cove Burying Ground sits at the intersection of Route 6A and Corliss Way. This historic Eastham site features well-preserved gravestones with markings of the era. Stroll through and you’ll notice skull carvings. You'll also see angels’ wings and depictions of an hourglass. All are thought to be representations of man’s limited time on earth and the eternal future of either heaven or damnation.  

According to Amy Whorf McGuiggan, a historian and author of Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, the oldest known inscribed headstone in the Cove Burying Ground, indeed in all of Cape Cod, is the 1713 headstone of Benjamin Paine. While his and others are neatly inscribed, “others are fashioned from fieldstone — boulders turned up by farmers in their fields — roughly chiseled by a family member,” she writes. 

Plan a visit to the Cove Burying Ground during your stay at our Eastham motel. 

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