Not to be morbid about it, but the dead easily outnumber the living in Provincetown. That’s all right, though. They’re a very interesting lot — some of the town’s most prominent citizens, in fact — and well worth visiting. Apart from the old Winthrop Street burial ground, the town’s cemeteries are contiguous, so it’s easy to walk among them without being conscious of boundaries. The largest, with the official street address of 24 Cemetery Road, has been known variously as Town Cemetery, Old Cemetery (to distinguish it from the burial grounds on the east side of the road) or Cemetery No. 2 (to distinguish it from No. 1, at Winthrop Street). This big cemetery is further divided into old and new sections. The new section of the Old Cemetery is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of world-renowned luminaries, where Norman Mailer and Robert Motherwell are neighbors — just as they were in life. It’s rather like the Forest Lawn of Provincetown. Below is a list, very partial (in both senses), of the most interesting graves, stones, memorials and mausoleums.
Elise Asher | Died 2004: Asher, who lived in New York, was a painter and poet of some consequence herself who was first married to the painter Nanno de Groot and then to the poet Stanley Kunitz, with whom she is buried under a common marker. More about her life will be found at 32 Commercial Street, her Provincetown home.
Gwen Bloomingdale | Died 2001: The great-granddaughter of Lyman G. Bloomingdale, cofounder of Bloomingdale’s, was an accomplished aviator. She and her partner, Barbara Gard, were crossing the Atlantic to join a London-to-Sydney air race when their plane crashed off Iceland. The epitaph appearing at the base of the polished orb of this memorial — “Dare, Dream, Discover” — had been inscribed in the rings each woman wore. More about her life will be found at 13 Pilgrim Heights Road.
Max Bohm | Died 1923: One of the early giants of the Provincetown art scene is buried under an imposing Arts-and-Crafts-style stone inscribed with his name and his dates, enircled in a wreath. Bohm’s artistic legacy is continued through his granddaughter, Anne (Locke) Packard, and her daughters, Cynthia and Leslie. More about his life will be found at Grand View, 676 Commercial Street.
Neith Boyce | Died 1951: It was on July 15, 1915, in the home of Boyce, a novelist and playwright, and her husband, Hutchins Hapgood, that the first informal performance was given by what soon be the legendary Provincetown Players troupe. Her place in the family tree is illustrated on the unusual grave stone. More about her life will be found at 621 Commercial Street.
Nanno de Groot | Died 1963: The artist Pat de Groot created an anthropomorphic sculptural memorial for her husband that easily ranks among the most distinctive markers in Town Cemetery. The shape of the marble stone bears a relation to the human figures in the paintings of Nanno de Groot, who was born in Holland in 1913 and emigrated to the United States in 1948. More about his life will be found at 507 Commercial Street.
Gertrude (Snow) De Wager | Died 1948: A dedicated appreciation of town history can be traced back to the Research Club, the women’s group responsible for establishing the original Historical Museum, 230 Commercial Street. De Wager was instrumental in opening the museum and was its chairman. “She devoted many years to making it the storehouse of treasures which annually attracts thousands of visitors,” an obituary reported. Though steeped in Yankeedom — she was a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and of the Daughters of the American Revolution — she married an Azorean immigrant, Dr. Emmanuel Aloysius DeWager, a dentist, who was the first master of King Hiram’s Lodge to have been born outside North America. They are together in the Snow family mausoleum.
Benjamin Huldah Dyer | Died 1907: The hardware and paint store founded by B. H. Dyer in 1866 was several times over a town institution by the time it was shuttered in 1997, one of the longest lived businesses on Commercial Street. It was still in family hands when it closed after 131 years. Dyer and his wife, Sophronia, have a monumental marker with a great black-letter “D” and details that border on Art Nouveau. More about his life will be found at 171 Commercial Street, the former store, which still has his name in the pediment.
Kenneth B. Felton | Died 2001: As the grandson of Mildred and Wesley Felton, owners of the Cottage restaurant, Felton was exposed to the business early. And he took to it early. He spent the last decade of his life — terribly shortened by AIDS to 38 years — as a popular waiter at the Moors. His partner, David Harris, died six years earlier and his buried with him.
William Freed | Died 1984: Freed was one-half of a remarkable artistic partnership, with Lillian Orlowsky, that lasted almost a half century, from 1937, when they both started taking classes with Hans Hofmann, until Freed’s death. Simple stones mark their graves. More about his life will be found at 23 Brewster Street.
John J. Gaspie | Died 1961: “Lord Protector of the Quahogs,” was what the legendary chef Howard Mitcham called Gaspie, the town’s longtime shellfish warden. Befitting this exalted rank, Gaspie’s marker is topped with the bas relief of a quahog, rendered in elegant style by a fine hand — it looks like the work of William Boogar [?] — on an especially lovely marker. Gaspie came from Pico, in the Azores; an evocative name for anyone who has read Frank X. Gaspar’s novel, Leaving Pico. (Gaspar, who grew up at 119 Commercial Street, was his one of his grandsons.) His marker describes him as “a true conservationist, a raconteur and wit,” and concludes with the epitaph: “Death, you old bugger, you can’t be proud of me. I’m just a handful of dust.” Mitcham said Gaspie played Socrates to his Plato, “a teacher who helps to mold and shape his whole way of life and thought, for better or worse.” Every September, the two men would conduct a “Salute to Indian Summer” clambake, the recipe for which Mitcham divulged in his Provincetown Seafood Cookbook (1975). It calls for about 2,500 littleneck clams (five bushels), 40 pounds of haddock fillets, 150 ears of sweet corn, 25 pounds of linguiça, 300 bottle of beer — you get the idea.
Dorothy Lake Gregory | Died 1975: Though she now rests in near anonymity as Dorothy Moffett, Gregory was herself an accomplished and able painter and illustrator who had studied under Robert Henri at the Art Students League and under Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown. That was where her relationship with Ross E. Moffett began in earnest, leading to a half century of marriage. They share a stone. More about her life will be found at 296A Commercial Street.
Edwin Atkins Grozier | Died 1924: Provincetown has less than a handful of great old mansions. Grozier’s home at 160 Commercial Street, with its marvelous widow’s-watch cupola, is one of them. So it is absolutely fitting that he and his family members should have made their eternal home in the most elegant mausoleum in town, an especially refined work of neo-Classical design. Grozier was the publisher of The Boston Post. In 1909, he devised what may be the nation’s most enduring newspaper promotional gimmick: the Boston Post Cane, a gold-headed ebony walking stick given to hundreds of towns in The Post’s circulation area, to be awarded in turn to the town’s oldest living citizen, then transmitted to his successor, and then to his successor’s successor, and so on. (For the first 21 years, only men were eligible.) The Post closed in 1957, but many towns — including Provincetown — continue to hand down their Boston Post Canes to their oldest citizens. Who knows how many ex-cane holders may be scattered around near Grozier’s white marble tomb? More about his life will be found at 160 Commercial, which is still known to old-timers as the Grozier House.
Hutchins Hapgood | Died 1944: In its highly unusual way, the Hapgood family marker sets a standard that historians and genealogists can only dream of: a four-generation family tree inscribed right into the stone! The chart begins with Hapgood, a newspaperman and author from Chicago, who met his wife, Neith Boyce, when they both worked with Lincoln Steffens. They were among the founders of the Provincetown Players. More about his life will be found at 621 Commercial Street.
Dr. Daniel H. Hiebert | Died 1972: For more than a half century, the town doctor meant only one person: Daniel Hiebert. While others came and went, he “delivered most of the babies, cared for injured fishermen, counseled the aged, and supplied medications to people who didn’t the money to pay for them,” Peter Manso wrote in Ptown (2002). He and his wife, Emily, share a grave stone inscribed with a caduceus. More about his life will be found at 322 Commercial Street, his home and office.
Stephen Hilliard | Died 1852: There are still a few traces left of Hilliard’s Wharf, behind Lands End Marine Supply. It was originally erected by Stephen Hilliard in 1846. He also served on the first board of the Seamen’s Bank in 1851. His monument is a well-worn obelisk topped by an urn.
Stanley Jasspon Kunitz | Died 2006: Poet Laureate of the United States (more than once), cofounder of the Fine Arts Work Center, winner of the National Book Award, centenarian and gardener extraordinaire, Kunitz was buried with his wife, Elise Asher, under a stone inscribed with the last two lines of his poem “The Long Boat,” which concludes: “Peace! Peace! / To be rocked by the Infinite! / As if it didn’t matter / which way was home; / as if he didn’t know / he loved the earth so much / he wanted to stay forever.” More about his life will be found at 32 Commercial Street.
Read Admiral Donald Baxter MacMillan | Died 1970: Don’t look for a heroic monument festooned with walrus tusks and inscribed with lines from a Robert Service poem. Provincetown’s most famous native son — a renowned Arctic explorer — lies under an appealingly modest military footstone, honoring his service in the United States Naval Reserve. His wife, Miriam Look MacMillan, who accompanied him on nine voyages, lies next to him. Though MacMillan was born in Provincetown and died here, he was raised and schooled in Maine, which may [?] explain why he is so identified on the stone. More about his life will be found at 473 Commercial Street and his boyhood home at 524 Commercial Street.
Norman Mailer | Died 2007: “There is that law of life, so cruel and so just — that one must grow, or else pay more for remaining the same.” The quotation on Mailer’s snowy white gravestone was taken from his 1955 novel, The Deer Park. It happens to have been Norris Church Mailer’s favorite quote from her husband’s work, which was fitting, since she shared the stone with him. She died in 2010. More about their lives will be found at 627 Commercial Street.
Henry Major | Died 1948: A patinated gull seems — by the exertion of its wings — poised to fly out of the bronze disk that frames it in this exquisite high- and low-relief plaque by William Boogar. Major was a Hungarian artist and caricaturist who lived in New York and summered in Provincetown from the mid-1930s until his death, at the home of Dr. Clara M. Thompson. (See below.) He liked to say that when he was born, he sketched his midwife. His caricatures of prominent politicians and entertainers appeared in Hearst newspapers and were distributed by the King Features Syndicate. Major created a stock character, the Gay Philosopher (no, not that kind), who appeared in illustrations or on tchotchkes offering some affirmative aphorism or other like “Bad officials are elected by good citizens — who fail to vote.”
Irving J. Marantz | Died 1972: Sculptors have an opportunity few of us do: to ornament their own graves. Though best known as a painter — most typically of compressed human figures in abstract patterns of bold color — Marantz, an Art Students League alumnus, was also responsible for several significant sculptural commissions in New York. More about his life will be found at 200 Bradford Street.
Capt. William Matheson | Died 1896: Matheson’s Wharf, which extended roughly from where Bubala’s stands today, was one of the principal piers in the 19th century; better known as Steamboat Wharf because it was served by the passenger and freight steamer George Shattuck out of Boston. Captain Matheson bought the pier in 1882 and ran a wholesale fishing business there. His somber crypt has been opened as recently as 2000 for the burial of a descendant.
George A. Merrill | Died 1951: Merrill led three generations of management of the Gifford House, which he bought from the Giffords in 1903. His son, Daniel C. Merrill, succeeded him as proprietor, and his granddaughter, Nancy O. Merrill, also had a hand in running the place. More about the Merrills’ lives will be found at Gifford House, 9-11 Carver Street.
Ross E. Moffett | Died 1971: After Hawthorne — perhaps even ahead of him — Moffett might be counted as the most important of the Provincetown artists; not because of his painting alone (though his work, often evocative of Thomas Hart Benton, has informed our idea of the town’s nature) but because of his civic commitment, as a leader in the fight to preserve the Province Lands from real-estate development in the early 1960s and as the chronicler of the Provincetown Art Association in Art in Narrow Streets (1964), which is still in print. More about his life will be found at 296A Commercial Street, now known as the Moffett House.
Robert Motherwell | Died 1991: Motherwell’s own bold signature, rendered on a bronze plaque affixed upon a small boulder, marks his grave — just a few paces from his neighbor Norman Mailer. Motherwell is as close as Provincetown comes to having had a world-renowned painter in its midst. More about his life will be found at Sea Barn, his studio at 631 Commercial Street.
Capt. Jonathan Nickerson | Died 1871: Having escaped British captivity during the War of 1812 — no small feat, since he was commanding a vessel at the time and had to sail her out of gun range without notice — Captain Nickerson went to serve as an important force behind the construction of what is now known the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Provincetown’s single most beautiful building.
Lillian Orlowsky | Died 2004: As an artist herself — an alumna of Hans Hofmann’s school — Orlowsky was “sensitive to the challenges artists face, especially those working against the mainstream or outside of popular schools of art,” said the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, which administers a grant program funded by an endowment that she established. More about her life will be found at 23 Brewster Street.
James Wingate Parr | Died 1969: Though Parr painted shoreline landscapes, he did so with a dark and disturbing undertone, using a palette reminiscent of Ivan Albright’s, yielding strangely affecting scenes. On the side, he helped decorate the Old Colony Tap in the 1950s. He taught in Provincetown and at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, but did not live past his mid-40s. A footstone marks his grave.
Abbie Cook Putnam | Died 1958: Abbie Putnam, Abbie Putnam. Isn’t she the girl in Desire Under the Elms who seduces her older husband’s son, then kills her own baby to prove to the son she hadn’t intended to disinherit him by giving birth to a new heir? Yes. But that Abbie has a namesake in real life: the town librarian of Provincetown, who ran afoul of Eugene O’Neill and paid the consequence of having her name immortalized as a murderous, incestuous adulterer. From what we know of Miss Putnam however, she would have been more than capable of standing up for herself. She learned how to play the trumpet at 64, for instance, saying she had chosen that particular instrument because of her deafness. More about her life will be found at 476 Commercial Street, the Figurehead House, where she lived.
George Washington Readey | Died 1920: The most famous non-event in Provincetown history was “Professor” Readey’s sighting in 1886 at Herring Cove of a 300-foot-long sea serpent; covered in red, green and blue scales; bearing an eight-foot tusk; six eyes the size of dinner plates at the end of tentacle-like projections; and a V-shaped tail. Readey attested to the truth of his account by affirming that he “was not unduly excited by liquor” at the time of the siting. Later in his long life, Readey served for seven years as Town Crier.
John Rosenthal | Died 1915: To the rest of town, the Long Point Batteries may have been Forts Useless and Ridiculous, but to Ordnance Sergeant Rosenthal, they were his command. And, come to think of it, no Confederate naval raiding party ever penetrated Provincetown Harbor during the Civil War, so we may judge his performance to have been a success. More about his life will be found in the Cape Cod National Seashore: Long Point Batteries.
Irving Leopold Rosenthal | Died 1933: It is to John Rosenthal’s son, Irving, that we are indebted for some of the most precious and important images of Provincetown around the turn of the 20th century. He was a photographer, in partnership for a time with William Nickerson, and left a trove of glass-plate negatives depicting the working waterfront, winter scenes and local landmarks. He was also, from 1899 to 1900, master of King Hiram’s Lodge.
Ilya Schor | Died 1961: There are not many Hebrew inscriptions on the graves at Town Cemetery, but Schor’s footstone proclaims: “Israel … [translation needed]” — from right to left. Besides being one of the 12 tribes of Israel, Naphtali was his father’s name. Born in what is now Poland, he left that country in 1937 to study art in Paris. He and his wife Resia fled Paris in May 1940, a month ahead of the German occupation, then made their way circuitously to New York in December 1941. His artwork drew heavily on Jewish folk tradition. The principal monument at the family plot in Town Cemetery is a handsome monolith with the name “Schor” in a simple, sans-serif face. More about his life will be found at 6 Anthony Street.
Resia (Ajnsztajn) Schor | Died 2006: Born in Poland, she met her husband while they were both studying at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. They married in Paris in 1938 and managed to escape that city, and Nazi-controlled Europe, before it was too late. Their families were not so fortunate. Schor devoted her artistic life to jewelry and Judaica after her husband died in 1961. The New York Philharmonic commissioned her to create a mezuzah as a valedictory gift to Leonard Bernstein in 1969. More about her life will be found at 6 Anthony Street.
Patricia Ratcliff Shultz | Died 2008: Given the density of Provincetown, the scarcity of new development sites and the transient nature of its population, real-estate brokers play an outsized role in civic affairs. Beginning in the late 1970s, Pat Shultz Real Estate was among the most influential and well-connected brokerages. Shultz was also active below the radar, too. It is no coincidence that the new wing of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum bears the name of Shultz’s brother-in-law, Alvin Ross. She campaigned passionately for the project. More about her life will be found at 406 Commercial Street, the real estate office that still carries her name.
Avrom “Arlie” Sinaiko | Died 1984: Just after Sinaiko’s Flight, which is in the collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, his best-known sculpture may be the one marking his final resting place. The abstract work in red granite ranks with Nanno de Groot’s grave stone among the most disinctive in Town Cemetery. Sinaiko was born in Czarist Russia, attended the Art Institute and the Art Students League and studied under Alexander Archipenko, Minna Harkavy and Ibram Lassaw. More about his life will be found at 608 Commercial Street.
Suzanne Sinaiko | Died 1998: Memorialized with her husband here, Sinaiko was also an artist. But she is best known in town as the namesake of Suzanne’s Garden, for many years a privately-owned open space to which the public was welcome, with some landscaping features that reminded Sinaiko of her native Belgium. More about her life will be found at 608 Commercial Street.
Kenneth Stubbs | Died 1967: From the same hand came some of the most elegantly lyrical line drawings of the Provincetown waterfront and exuberantly fractured, Cubist-inspired abstract paintings. Stubbs, a native of Georgia who studied at the Corcoran School of Art and under E. Ambrose Webster, spent many summers in Provincetown and up to five months a year in the 1950s and 1960s. His memorial in Town Cemetery was originally topped by a work of sculpture, not unlike that of Irving Marantz. But it has disappeared. More about his life will be found at 284 Bradford Street.
David Conwell Stull | Died 1926: I mean, what other town would think of even having an “Ambergris King” — much less celebrating the fact? But that was Stull, who traded in whale oil and in ambergris, a waxy intestinal secretion peculiar to sperm whales, which was highly prized as a binding agent for otherwise volatile perfumes. More about his life will be found at 472 Commercial Street.
Dr. Clara M. Thompson | Died 1958: “If only I knew where my analyst was vacationing,” Woody Allen says in Play it Again, Sam. “Where do they go every August?” Well, one of the foremost psychoanalysts in America came to Provincetown. Dr. Thompson was by any account a pioneer. She studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University beginning in 1916, then was herself analyzed by Sándor Ferenczi in Bupadest, beginning in the late ’20s. In 1943, a year after she bought her house in Provincetown, Dr. Thompson, Erich Fromm and others founded what is now the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology in New York. Her grave is marked by a large abstract sculpture that might be seen as evoking a human embrace. It is not far from the grave of Henry Major (see above), who died at her house. More about her life will be found at 599 Commercial Street.
Jack Tworkov | Died 1982: An artist of national consequence, Tworkov was an abstract expressionist who was strongly identified with the New York School and had deep roots in Provincetown, where he arrived in his mid-20s to study with Ross Moffett and Heinrich Pfeiffer, and where he came to know Karl Knaths. Like a number of his contemporaries here in Town Cemetery, he was born in Europe — Biala, Poland, to be exact. Like many, he also studied at the Art Students League. But among his distinctions was the chairmanship of Yale’s art department in the 1960s. He and his wife, Rachel, are memorialized in modest footstones. More about his life will be found at 30 Commercial Street.
Mary Heaton Vorse O’Brien | Died 1966: “What I experienced when I first drove through Provincetown’s long street, when I walked through the low, scrubby woods ‘in back’ through the dunes to the outside shore, was as definite, as acute, as falling in love at first sight,” Vorse wrote in Time and the Town (1942). She communicated that love in a chronicle of town life that continues to inform our understanding of Provincetown, even in the face of changes that might have rendered almost unrecognizable to her. Even now, Time and the Town can easily be recommended as the first book to read by anyone who cares to peer beyond the shingled and clapboard facades. “I knew that here was home,” she said, “that I wanted to live here always.” So she does. More about her life can be found at 466 Commercial Street.
Hudson D. Walker | Died 1976: Another footstone memorial whose modesty — though becoming — belies the importance of the subject, for Walker, a prominent New York art dealer, was a central figure in the preservation and promulgation of Provincetown’s art colony. He was particularly involved in the development of the Fine Arts Work Center, whose public gallery is named in his honor. Family connections can be traced in several directions. His grandfather Thomas Barlow Walker had an art collection that served as the nucleus of what is today the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. And his daughter runs the Berta Walker Gallery in town. More about his life will be found at 645 Commercial Street.
Ellen Harris Winans | Died 1997: Winans founded the Ellen Harris Gallery, which was cited in 1997 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for having “supported many local and nationally acclaimed gay and lesbian artists.” Her son, R. Foster Winans, is the author of Trading Secrets, about his involvement with insider trading on Wall Street. Winans has what might be the most beautiful footstone in Town Cemetery, oriented vertically and carved with images of shorebirds and a whale’s fluke. More about her life will be found at 355 Commercial Street.
Donald F. Witherstine | Died 1961: Not only a fine and respected artist himself — his moody woodblock prints depict the somber darkness that can steal over Provincetown — Witherstine was a prominent advocate of the art colony. He helped put together the seminal Forum 49, he was president of the Provincetown Art Association and he ran his own very influential gallery, Shore Studios, in the West End. That has been revived by his grandson, Fred Hemley, with Jonathan Sinaiko and Muffin Ray, as the Shore Galleries. More about his life will be found at 47 Commercial Street. In 2010, his footstone — which was on the verge of being overrun by grass and weeds — was cleared of growth.