Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Lives of the Past Informing the Future | Page 4

Joseph Story and the Invention of American Cemetery Law By Tanya D. Marsh J ustice Joseph Story (1779–1845) is well known to those familiar with Mount Auburn Cemetery. One of the founders of Mount Auburn, Story gave the consecration address at the dedication of the Cemetery on September 24, 1831. He served as the president of the Cemetery from 1835 until his death in 1845. Story is buried in a lot on Narcissus Path, and his name graces the chapel at the entrance to the Cemetery. Justice Story is also well known to students of American legal history. Appointed as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1811 at the age of 32, and a professor at Harvard Law School, Story was a central figure in the development of American law. But Justice Story is not as well known for his role in inventing American cemetery law. Unlike most early American law, cemetery law was not inherited from England or adopted by elected legislatures. Instead, cemetery law was established by courts beginning in the middle part of the nineteenth century, and Story was the first to lay the foundation. To understand Story’s contribution to American cemetery law, we need to start with English law. When the former American colonies became states, each adopted English common law as it then existed. But English cemeteries were not governed by English common law. Instead, since the time of William the Conqueror (1028–1087), the established Church of England had control over the dead. Under English law, 2