What Is The Sedgwick Pie Cemetery Plot?

Funeral rites and disposition of remains — burial, cremation, and so on — have taken many different forms in human history. In ancient Greece it was common for coins to be placed on the eyes of the deceased in preparation for their encounter with Charon, who would take the payment in return for transporting their soul across the river Styx into the underworld. Ancient Egyptians had many of their worldly possessions entombed alongside them for use in the afterlife, while in Ancient Mesopotamia a ruler's servants and aides might be killed for the same purpose (via The New York Times).

The Sedgwick family is no exception to this. Theodore Sedgwick was a former member of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and a U.S. Representative (via House.gov). He envisioned and employed a unique burial plan for himself and his descendants: Their graves would be positioned radiating out from his own in a circular formation known as the Sedgwick Pie (via Chicago Tribune). His motivation for doing so is not officially known, but the running (albeit somewhat joking) theory is that it was meant for the family to face one another on Judgement Day (via Bricks + Mortar).

The Segwick Pie is the resting place of many accomplished people

This notion is of debatable validity, but subsequent members of the family nonetheless consented to being buried within it (via NPR). Many were educators, writers, lawyers, and military officers, including novelist Catherine Sedgwick, scholar Francis James Child, Brigadier General William Ross Bond, and lawyer and author Henry Dwight Sedgwick (via the Sedgwick website). While there have been several members of the family not buried in the plot, there is in fact one person buried there without blood ties: Elizabeth Freeman.

Freeman was the first enslaved person in the United States to successfully win a freedom suit (via National Women's History Museum). Her lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick, was pro-abolition and instrumental in helping her win her case, which has been credited as subsequently kick-starting the abolition of slavery in all of Massachusetts (via Mass.gov). The Sedgwicks and Freeman evidently had a very good relationship, and when the latter died in 1829 she was given a spot among them in the Sedgwick Pie (via Elizabeth Freeman) .