Markers are missing
After looking at all the gravestones and comparing those found to two existing lists (See “People Buried in the Graveyard”), I always knew there were missing markers other than the Baylies family members (see below). I attributed the missing markers as being knocked or fallen over and hidden, or moved inside/outside the graveyard, or stolen. With all the priorities of restoring and protecting the graveyard, finding missing gravestones, I felt would just work itself out. Over the last 20 years, we have uncovered many markers that were missing. In the Fall of 2019, we updated the status of gravestones restored, identified as needing restoration, and missing. I started to try to find the missing markers.
The following Walker markers are missing:
Abigail Walker d. 1763
Dorothy Walker d. 1790
John Walker d. 1766
Nathan Walker d. 1747
Deacon Nathan Walker d. 1771
Nathan Walker d. 1775
Rebecca Walker d. 1786
These Jones markers are also missing:
Matthew Jones d. 1767
Salle Jones d. 1767
I did a search on Findagrave.com to see if any of these missing people were in another cemetery. The research found some missing Walker’s reinterred in the Unitarian Church Cemetery in Dighton, MA. which is about 4 miles away from Walker-Blake Graveyard. This was a good start.
When you look at the “Walker and Blake Family Tree Charts”, the missing Walker’s represented three generations of a branch of the Walker family tree. There was a connection. Then I recalled that Deacon Nathan Walker d. 1771 was a Deacon of the Dighton Church, now known as the Unitarian Church of Dighton.
In 1923, the Baylies family removed the remains of 11 ancestors from the Walker-Blake Graveyard (see the story below). A plausible explanation started to develop, maybe in the same time period of 1923, descendants of Deacon Nathan Walker had the remains of 7 ancestors removed from the Walker-Blake Graveyard and reinterred in the Unitarian Church Cemetery.
To follow-up on this theory, I asked Vince Luti to look at gravestones near the Baylies burials in the Unitarian Church Cemetery to see if any of the missing Walker family members were in the same vicinity. Vincent is a noted expert in gravestone carvers of Southeastern Massachusetts and was very familiar with the cemetery.
On a very hot day, Vincent walked through the graveyard and discovered several Walker family gravestones in one row. This "row" was located on the other side (south side) from the Baylies burials. The markers were covered in lichen and many could not be read. On another day, he returned with some water and with a lot of hard work he cleaned up the markers so he could photograph them. Cleaning up these markers was difficult on a very hot conditions. He photographed all the Walker and Baylies family gravestones. The results were all the markers except Deacon Nathan Walker had been found. After we looked at all the photographs, there was one slate marker that had lost material that included the epitaph. We don’t exactly know whose marker it was, but it is probably Deacon Nathan Walker’s marker!
As I mentioned, Vincent Luti had studied the markers in the graveyard 20-30 years ago. He went through his notes on the Unitarian cemetery and found a drawing he had made of the effigy and other design elements of the Deacon Nathan Walker headstone as it was still intact 20-30 years ago. Sadly, there is no known photograph of the marker. Vincent said the Deacon Nathan Walker d. 1771 and Nathan Walker d. 1775 were both carved by Coomer Soule, according to carver Coome Soole expert James Blachowicz.
For all these changes, I have updated the Walker-Blake Graveyard and the Unitarian Church Graveyard on Findagrave.com. In general, Findagrave.com had all the missing Walker and Baylies markers listed on the Unitarian Church Cemetery but was missing some information on markers as they could not be read at the time. The missing information was edited and updated as needed. One burial was missing from the Unitarian Church Cemetery memorial listing – that of Deacon Nathan Walker! Remember, Vincent Luti found one marker that had lost its entire front of the slate marker (shaled-off). I will update Findagrave.com to add Deacon Nathan Walker d. 1771 to their cemetery.
Concerning these missing Walker markers, we still have some investigating to do. Does the Unitarian Church of Dighton have records of the re-interring of these people? No they do not have any records of burials. These Walkers were buried in Walker-Blake Graveyard in the 1800’s as Edgar Hodges Reed (b. 3 July 1814 d. 25 April 1893) created a list of all buried in the graveyard called “Inscriptions from the Burial Grounds in Ancient Taunton” date unknown. We would like to have an idea of where these burials were in the Walker-Blake Graveyard. From the Reed listing, we might be able to determine the sequence he used to walk along and to write down the inscriptions. Also, John Walker d. 1824, John Walker d. 1850, Nathan Walker d. 1823 and Rebecca Walker d. 1848 were buried in the Unitarian Church cemetery and never buried in Walker-Blake. These people were descendants of the Walkers buried in Walker-Blake. So, if we look at the locations of these markers compared to the locations of the Walkers who were re-interred from Walker-Blake, we can see how the cemetery space was utilized. How were Walker and Baylies burial plots arranged?
Missing Jones markers: Matthew Backer Jones d. 1767 and Salle Jones d. 1767 sadly died very young. Mathew was 3 years old and Salle was 11 months and 15 days old. They may have been victims of smallpox which was still prevalent at this time. Their markers were in the cemetery at one time so we will continue to have hope that we find them.
The Baylies Family
Thomas and Ester Baylies emigrated from England in 1737 and they had 8 children. One of the children was Helen who married Peter5 Walker (James4, James3, James2, Widow1 Walker) of Taunton. Helen was the sister to Nicholas Baylies. Another association to the Walker family was through Henry Baylies who married Deborah7 Walker. There is a large flat slab placed by the Baylies’ family in the graveyard, and it has the following inscription:
"In 1923 there were removed from this burial ground to the South Dighton Cemetery, the remains of twelve of the earliest ancestors and kindred of the Baylies Family in America whose names are here inscribed."
Thomas Baylies, Jr.
Thomas Sargeant Baylies
The reason why these people and their gravestones were removed was because Mrs. Baylies was concerned about the remote location of the graveyard and possible vandalism of the markers. This was in 1923.
In 2009, the search for missing gravestones lead us to investigate and perform ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey. We hired Robert Perry of Topographix, LLC to perform a GPR survey of a section of the graveyard. The purpose of the work was to find any markers that may have been toppled over and covered up over the years. Sadly, we found no additional markers, but the survey found evidence of many unmarked burial locations. As the machine slides over the ground, the GPR identifies on a screen the depth of earth that may have been disturbed up to seven feet deep. So, there is good probability that the area that we did the GPR survey was in fact where the Walkers (and/or the Baylies family members) were buried. Robert Perry’s GPR Walker-Blake Graveyard work will be discussed in more detail later.
Baylies Family Plot on the north side of the Unitarian Church cemetery.
Photo by Vince Luti
This slab marker lists all Baylies family members removed from Walker-Blake Graveyard.
Photo by Marc N. Belanger