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New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association

July 14, 2001


The summer meeting of the New Hampshire Old Graveyard Association was held at Rye, NH on July 14, 2001. President Joan Casarotto presided. Bonnie Goodwin, co-chair of the Rye Historical Society welcomed us. Louise Tallman introduced Nat Wright, whose Eagle Scout project involved graveyard restoration. He was in charge of organizing the work projects. He spoke briefly on his plans for various sites in Rye.


Clark Bagnall read the minutes of the spring meeting. They were approved with corrections.


Doris Ashton, Corresponding Secretary, reminded everyone that she needs articles for the rubbings.  Be sure to include the newspaper and date when sending articles.


Jean Mertinooke read the Treasurer’s report. She reported a balance of $2,027.39.


Louise Tallman noted that the Regional Planning Commission recently supplied a draft copy of a map of Rye showing all graveyard locations. These maps are now available for all towns in Rockingham County. Louise also noted that a recent historical study of the Union Cemetery in Portsmouth recommended demolishing the receiving tomb that has been unused for years.  The façade of the tomb will be preserved.


Trina Purcell reported that our USGS maps have been loaned to the Office of State Planning. We have copies.


Louise introduced our speaker, Roger Syphers of Syphers Monument Co. Mr. Syphers has extensive experience in gravestone restoration in many towns in the Seacoast area. He began by taking a course in gravestone restoration at the University of Maine in Gorham.  A recent restoration project was done at the North Cemetery in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Herald was first approached as a source of funds to finance this work. The Portsmouth Gas Company donated $5000.00 and the City of Portsmouth matched this amount. Restoration work was started in the front and has reached about the center of the cemetery. This is near the grave of William Whipple who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Nearby is buried Prince Whipple, one of William’s slaves. William Whipple was a privateer, and he captured a slave ship. The slaves were auctioned off in Portsmouth.. One of the slaves was the son of an African king and thus became known as Prince Whipple. He had a brother named Cuffy. William Whipple offered Prince his freedom if he would fight in the Revolutionary War. Prince survived the war, was made free, married, and lived in a section of Portsmouth known as “the Hill”. His gravestone in North Cemetery is a government marker.


Mr. Syphers noted that tree roots are a considerable problem in this cemetery, sometimes completely surrounding the base of a stone. There was a lot of broken glass littering the cemetery. A few bones were also found. Mr. Syphers says he is always on the lookout for ghosts in the cemetery. He always talks to the people buried there and thanks them for their patience while he works on their stone. Union Cemetery is near North. Homeless people broke into the receiving tomb and set up a couch for their comfort.


Other projects he has worked on include the restoration of the Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument in Kittery. This involved resetting four urns that weighed 1000 pounds each. He had four new bases carved in Barre, VT. These were then connected to the urns with stainless steel rods. He also had one top re-carved; in the end everything matched. The flagstone walk was in bad shape from frost heaves. Restoration of this walk turned out to be quite difficult. He also extracted a time capsule, placed there in 1924 and added to later. He noted that poison oak can be a hazard when working in old graveyards because the sap can be spread by the wind. Seabrook has recently appropriated funds for graveyard restoration. He noted that he had found one stone where the surname Green was misspelled as “Geen”. He found one stone used to prop up another. Recently while widening route 107, the grave of Nancy Gove was uncovered. She was reburied in a new coffin. He erected a new stone. This site was right next to the church on the corner of the road.


One of the oldest sites in Seabrook is the Quaker Cemetery, which dates from about 1715. All stones were cleaned. In one summer he cleaned 6000 stones and repaired 2000. He uses his own cleaning solution with a power washer. He noted that care must be taken when using a power washer. You have to balance the time it takes to clean the stone against the possibility of damaging it. It is important to clean all the way to the bottom of the stone. Some cleaning must be redone periodically. There is a preservative available but it’s too expensive for routine use. He recommends using a solution of bleach and water, allowing it to sit for half a day. Use a very soft bristle brush and be very careful. Wear old clothes and glasses. If a stone is leaning, the base must be repaired first. He emphasized the need to do the work right the first time, so you don’t need to go back.


He also restored the Riverside Cemetery in New Castle. There was an obelisk in the middle of the cemetery that was covered with lichen that had gotten into the lettering. This stone recorded the names of people lost at sea on trips to Boston and elsewhere. He has restored the Gove Cemetery. He also restored the Seavy Cemetery in Rye. John Langdon Adams, a Seavy descendant, sponsored this restoration. Initially there were only three stones visible; eventually 60 were found. There are 17 posts for a chain fence around the perimeter. This project also involved setting up a bench at the site.


He also spoke about the Whidden Cemetery on Route 1, near the Taco Belle. A car ran into the cemetery, breaking two table stones. These stones were taken for evidence in the court case. Arthur Cole’s wife is a descendant of some of the people buried here. There are 24 graves in all. All stones will be restored and a sign erected noting the date of the cemetery as 1794. Funds must be raised by donation since the insurance money only pays for the two broken stones.


He also worked in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Hampton. He was able to give an estimate of the cost to the Historical Commission that handles the funds. There are not many people doing this type of restoration work. He recommended forming a committee as the best way to obtain funds from the town for such efforts.


After this interesting talk, the business meeting commenced. Clark Bagnall gave the Computer Committee report. The pages for the web site have been redone. Site locations are now given in latitude and longitude as well as UTM coordinates. The pages also contain buttons that link to the TopoZone site, which plots the exact location on a USGS map. These maps can then be printed out as an aid to locating the site. The new pages have been sent to the Society of Genealogist but are not yet up. Clark displayed a sample of the maps.


Alex Herlihy of the Rye Historical Society spoke briefly about their museum building. He showed an 1898 town report in which the Cemetery Committee complained about trash in the cemeteries. There are three grave markers currently in the museum. A stone for John Foss was found under the tower of the church. This was moved to the Foss graveyard. Ann Langdon’s marker was broken in many pieces. It has been replaced with a plaque and the pieces moved to the museum. A Garland stone was leaning against a barn. The barn burned and the heat damaged the stone. It is now in the museum. Some stones were used to make a walkway. The Historical Society is trying to obtain these for the museum.


The fall meeting will be held September 8th in Hollis, NH. Ruth Greenway spoke briefly about our meeting place. Joan Tinklepaugh will be the speaker. After the business meeting adjourned, we toured the Historical Society’s museum, and visited several local graveyards, including the Brackett massacre burial site.


Respectfully submitted,

Clark H Bagnall

Recording Secretary