(This story was written for the Brookfield (Massachusetts) Citizen, published 2005.)
The historical significance of the Brookfield Cemetery, National Register of Historic Places, does not lie simply in the fact that it is “old”. The gravestones located there are inscribed with information about residents of Brookfield through the years, and also about the formative years of the emerging nation. One such stone stands not far from modern route 9.
Here lies ye Body of Doct Thomas Weld, son of ye Revd Habijah Weld of Attleborough,
The first member of the Weld family to set foot in the New World did so in the port of Boston in 1632, during what historians now call “The Great Migration” of emigrants from Europe, mostly English. His grandson, Habijah, was born in Dunstable, MA, in 1702. Graduating from Harvard in 1732, Habijah became pastor of the church in West Attleboro and served in that capacity until his death in 1782. He married Mary Fox in 1728, and together they reared a family of fifteen children.
Their seventh child was named Thomas, who trained to become a doctor, finishing his training by the age of nineteen. When the call came from the military for young men, Thomas joined up in his professional capacity.
Having been upon ye Expedition against Crownpoint, Anno 1756,
By the middle of the 18th century, England was eager to expand her holdings in the American colonies. The western lands – namely the Ohio valley– were rich in natural resources for those strong enough to take them. Unfortunately, the French had already claimed these lands, and were prepared to fight for them. The French controlled traffic on Lake Champlain, an important transportation link between Canada and the disputed lands, by holding Crown Point, at the narrowest part of the lake. War was officially declared in 1756, and several attempts were made to take the French fortifications in the area.
And upon his Return home died at ye House of DoctorJabez Upham, in Brookfield, December ye 24th, 1756, in ye 21st year of his age.
“Home” in this case refers to the settled lands of New England, Brookfield being an important stopping place for travelers. The sick, cold, and discouraged troops would have found rest and food here on their journey back to the east. Among the sick was Thomas Weld, who apparently was taken to the home of the town’s best doctor, Jabez Upham, where the young doctor/soldier died. Out of respect for his profession or maybe for his military endeavors, Thomas was laid to rest in the Upham family plot, with a simple yet eloquent piece of slate to mark the spot. Thomas’ headstone today, nearly 250 years later, is worn and chipped, but still stands to remind us of the short, noteworthy life of Thomas Weld, Dr.