How Are Quaker Cemeteries Different?

How are Quaker graveyards different? Early Quakers believed that ornate gravestones communicated the dominion of the upper classes, even in death. Earlham College professor Thomas Hamm takes us through the history of Quaker cemeteries.

Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

11 thoughts on “How Are Quaker Cemeteries Different?

  1. Wonderful. Prof. Hamm is clear and concise. I personally would rank this number 2 on the best videos yet.

    I find this initiative really worthwhile and very educational. In trying to rescue my Quaker roots from the Anglo-Catholic tradition I was brought up with, I find these videos to be very helpful in explaining my thoughts and my ancestors. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for the excellent and clear explanation of early Quaker burial practices. I would be interested to hear whether modern Quakers are exploring green burial as a way to avoid toxic chemicals used in embalming.
    When I visited the cemetery where Margaret Fell is buried near Swarthmore Hall in England, it seemed really strange to me that there were no markers. That was the first time I had seen a cemetery like that. It certainly makes a powerful statement.
    The cemetery at the Maison Quaker in Congenies, France, is a good example of the early burial practices of Quakers. There are simple rough stones with not even a name on the earliest ones, and later just initials and dates. This cemetery is a national historic site and was preserved even when Quakers no longer owned the building. It’s the reason that France Yearly Meeting raised the funds to renovate the old meeting house and turn it into a beautiful B&B that welcomes people from all over the world….and the cemetery is the highlight of the grounds. Well worth a visit!

  3. This is wonderful to hear and see. I am beginning the process of developing a cemetery – or, perhaps I should call it a burial ground – out in Northern California. listening to these ideas, I really believe we are on the right track with our and newer, simpler approach to burial a revision of the “American Way of dying.”

  4. Thank you for this wonderful video. I believe you have one of the burial grounds identified incorrectly. It’s Sandy Spring, MD, not Sandy Spring, VA.

  5. It was my understanding that most people in England were buried in the burial grounds which surrounded each church. George Fox’s great disagreements with the Church of England led to Quakers being banished from the Burial Grounds of the Church of England, forcing the Quakers to provide land and make provision for their own Burials. These equality practices of which Tom Hamm details, were products of the Quaker practices in general, I believe.

  6. Why do not Quaker burial grounds show a named month on their tomb stones? Is it because the months were named after pagan gods?

  7. I like the idea of cremation and no ornate markers. But if there is no marker at all…that is very hard to take (especially if you are doing genealogy). I like seeing my departed loved ones’ names and places of birth, and that of their spouses, and knowing where they died. I’m looking for Quaker ggggg grandparents’ markers right now. They died in 1781 and 1782 in NJ. I would love to know if their ashes were buried together. I’m in touch with historical societies where they lived–perhaps I’ll find some answers. Nothing on

  8. I’m doing my family’s genealogy and just discovered some Quaker relatives and was trying to figure out why there was a nondescript headstone (especially since there are 3 different spellings of the last name and I’d love to know how THEY spelled it). This was incredibly helpful and gave me some insight to a part of my past I didn’t know about. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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