Saint Francis de Sales Parish Cemetery


On January 25, 1830 Bishop Benedict Fenwick (the second Bishop of Boston) purchased three acres of land from the Hunnewell Family for the purpose of a Catholic Burial Ground.

At the time, Charlestown was very anti-Catholic and anti-Irish. The Charlestown selectmen were united to keep Catholics from interning their dead in Protestant Charlestown.

On November 28, 1831 a document called Petition of the Selectmen of Charlestown to the General Court also known as Paddy’s Law was passed. This regulation was to stop the Catholics from burying their deceased in Charlestown or as the document calls it “a particular class of people”. The petition called on the Charlestown Board of Health for regulations. In March 1832 the selectmen withdrew the petition faring that the Legislator would not amend it.

In May, anti Catholic regulations were passed by Charlestown officials that established approved burial grounds, licensing of undertakers, and would not allow bodies into Charlestown without the selectmen’s written permission. On May 19, 1832 Bishop Fenwick petitioned the selectmen for permission to inter two children from Boston- Florence Driscoll three years old and James Kinsley three months old. By the nights end, the selectmen declined Bishop Fenwick’s request. Despite the ruling of the selectmen, Bishop Fenwick orders Mr. Murray the sexton to go ahead with the funeral of the two children. The selectmen did not respond immediately and burials continued the rest of the month. By the middle of June the selectmen had enough and brought suit against Mr. Murray and Bishop Fenwick. In April of 1833 the suit was ruled by the lower court in the Bishops favor. The selectmen did not give up and they appealed the ruling to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Some believe that the ruling by the lower court enraged the yankees who in hate and anger burned down the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict.

In October of 1834 Bishop Fenwick finally got the ruling he was waiting for from the Massachusetts Supreme Court. There was a small caretaker’s house built in front of the grave yard in January of 1835 to help deter threats made to the Sacred Ground.

There are more than 9000 souls interred in the St. Francis de Sales Cemetery and the last one was in the 1940’s. Only a very , very small number of them are marked with a head stone.


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