Saddle & Pillion Burial Ground

10.10.17 ~ Sandwich, Massachusetts ~ trailhead

When I was a small child developing a curiosity about family history, my grandmother told me about her 8th-great-grandfather, Edmund Freeman, who was buried with his second wife Elizabeth, in the Saddle & Pillion graves in Sandwich. Over the years I have occasionally tried to locate these graves but couldn’t make sense of any description of where in Sandwich they were located. But at long last, I stumbled across a blog, Historical Tid-Bits of Cape Cod’s Oldest Town, which had a link to a map! Maps (pictures) I can understand! And so last week, while visiting Cape Cod, my sister and I drove right up to the beginning of a short trail that led us to the site in the woods.

10.10.17 ~ Sandwich, Massachusetts ~ Saddle & Pillion Cemetery

Freeman settled on his homestead about a mile and a quarter east of the present Town Hall on the sloping land leading from what is now Tupper Road down to the Cape Cod Canal. (Most of the former Freeman land is now occupied by the NRG power plant.) They lived out their lives here and when Elizabeth passed away on February 14, 1676, Edmond buried her on a hill on their farm. He marked her grave with a large stone likening to a pillion (a British term for the seat behind the saddle on a horse). With foresight, Edmond also positioned a large stone that resembled a saddle to be used as a monument for his own grave. Family tradition tells us that the headstones reminded Edmund of the early years in Sandwich when he and Elizabeth traveled by horseback over the fields of their farm. Edmund Freeman died in 1682 and was buried beside Elizabeth, the longer stone, “the saddle,” was placed over his grave.

The burial place became known as the Saddle and Pillion Cemetery and is the oldest burying ground in Sandwich. Bronze plaques were added to these stones in 1910 by their descendants.
~ Sandwich Historical Commission website

My 10th-great-grandfather, Edmund Freeman, was baptized 25 July 1596 at Pulborough, Sussex, England, and died before 2 November 1682 in Sandwich (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married (as his first wife) 16 June 1617 in Cowford, Sussex, England, Bennett Hodsoll, who was buried at Pulborough 12 April 1630.

By 1635, Edmund married (as his second wife) Elizabeth (—), who was born about 1600, and died 14 February 1676 in Sandwich.

Edmund, his second wife Elizabeth, and Alice, Edmund, Elizabeth and John, his surviving children from his first marriage, arrived in America in 1635 on the ship Abigail. At first they lived in Saugus (now Lynn) and soon moved to Sandwich in 1637. Edmund was a farmer and was one of the ten original settlers of Sandwich, presumably not including in the count their wives and children.

Edmund & Bennett were the parents of six children:

1. Alice Freeman, baptized 4 April 1619 at Pulborough, died 24 April 1651 in Plymouth (Plymouth) Massachusetts. She married (as his first wife) 24 November 1639, in Sandwich, Dea. William Paddy, who was born about 1600 and died 24 August 1658 in Boston (Suffolk) Massachusetts. Alice & William were the parents of six children.

2. Edmund Freeman, baptized 26 November 1620 at Billingshurst, Sussex, England, died 29 March 1673. He married (as his first wife) 22 April 1646, Rebecca Prence, who was born before 22 May 1627 and died before 23 March 1648, daughter of Gov. Thomas and Patience (Brewster) Prence. Edmund & Rebecca were the parents of two daughters. Edmund married (as his second wife) 18 July 1651 in Sandwich, Margaret Perry, who was born about 1624 and died 5 November 1688 in Sandwich, daughter of Edmund and Sarah (Crowell) Perry. Edmund & Margaret were the parents of six children.

3. Bennett Freeman, baptized 20 January 1621 at Billingshurst, died before 13 January 1634, age 12.

4. Elizabeth Freeman, baptized 11 April 1624 at Billingshurst, died 24 June 1692 in Rochester (Plymouth) Massachusetts. She married by 1644, Lt. John Ellis, who was born 14 September 1623 in England and died about 1676 in Sandwich. John was censured to be whipped at a public post for committing uncleanness with Elizabeth before their marriage. Elizabeth had to stand by and observe the whipping. Elizabeth & John were the parents of seven children.

5. Maj. John Freeman (my 9th-great-grandfather), baptized 28 January 1627 in Billingshurst, died 28 October 1719 in Eastham (Barnstable) Massachusetts. He married 13 February 1650 in Eastham, Mercy Prence, who was born about 1631 and died 28 September 1711 in Eastham, daughter of Gov. Thomas and Patience (Brewster) Prence. John & Mercy were the parents of twelve children.

6. Nathaniel Freeman, baptized 2 September 1629 in Billingshurst, buried 12 September 1629 in Pulborough, only a few days old.

Edmund & Elizabeth were the parents of a daughter:

1. Mary Freeman, born about 1636, died 5 November 1688 in Sandwich. She married about 1653, Edward Perry, who was born about 1630 and died 16 February 1695 in Sandwich. Mary & Edward were the parents of nine children.

4 thoughts on “Saddle & Pillion Burial Ground”

  1. It’s wonderful that you were always interested in your family tree. When my folks tried to tell me, I was never interested and now I AM interested they are gone. I’ve been back to England and found some family graves but your research and family knowledge are amazing.

    1. Sybil, I think you are like most people when it comes to the timing of developing an interest in family history. Once when I was in my 30s I went to a genealogy convention and was dismayed to find that almost all the attendees were senior citizens!

  2. The unique “saddle and pillion” stones are a charming insight into the couples’ history and relationship.

    I can imagine how excited you were to find it!

    1. It was an exciting couple of days! We managed to visit a courthouse (land records) and five cemeteries and still had time for a two hour walk on Nauset Beach. 🙂

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