Hidden in plain sight on the campus of Phillips Academy is a small, less-than-2-acre cemetery. Located off Chapel Avenue, it’s not the town’s oldest, nor is it the largest. What it lacks in size and date, however, is more than made up for in the history of those interred in this sacred space.
The first burial occurred here in 1810, a student at the Andover Theological Seminary named Lewis LeConte Congar. The land was owned by Isaac Blunt, proprietor of the Blunt Tavern on Salem Street. Approached by the Trustees of the Seminary, Blunt sold to the school, in 1820, a 1.01 parcel of land for $400. The cemetery was now officially open to serve the seminary as well as Phillips and, later, Abbot Academies.
In 1872, a group of volunteers formed the Chapel Cemetery Association. Each member owned a plot and each pledged $25 to be used for the care and maintenance of the monuments and landscape.
For the next 30 years, the association attempted to gain possession of the cemetery, but the trustees failed to act on their request until 1908, the year the seminary left the campus. By then, the association had established a constitution and bylaws creating the group as a legal entity. The land was formally conveyed to the association that year “on the condition that it shall be used for a cemetery for the burial of the dead, and for no other purpose whatsoever.”
Over the years, various firms would propose plans for the layout and landscape. In 1921, the Olmsted brothers designed an addition to the property to bring the total, and current, acreage to 1.78 acres. Burial inventories were also conducted, and the association found it necessary to consider future plans in light of the finite space. One solution was the creation of a circular garth that added 88 cremation burials. A master plan was published in 2007 and a conservation plan in 2012.