Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Lives of the Past Informing the Future - Page 4
By Tanya D. Marsh
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,