Where do mystery and history collide? Well, a lot of places in New England, but especially in cemeteries. There’s often just enough information to leave you wanting more on many old stones, hence, some of the mystery. And even historical figures must pass on at some time, where are they buried?
We once spent the better part of a day, years ago, searching every burial site in Moultonboro, and believe me, there are a lot of them, for the final resting place of Claude Raines, the ‘Invisible Man’ of silent film fame.
In New England, many burying grounds are centuries old. The gravestones are often intricate works of art, laden with symbolism. The type of stone itself can tell part of the story.
Some graveyards I am familiar with, had a previous life as a grazing area, or a colonial militia training ground, or were the former site of the local ‘hanging tree’. Conversely, it is not that unusual in New England, to hear of cemeteries that have been forgotten about, only to be re-discovered when a community improvement project is being excavated or an old map is found that shows the site. Each of the above actual examples all pertain to one municipality in New Hampshire.
I know folks who avoid cemeteries whenever possible. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time looking for them, and for certain grave sites within them. Even as a young teen, I enjoyed the peace and quiet inherent there and did multiple gravestone rubbings of interesting stones found therein.
Many interesting stones have led me on history quests to find out more. One of my all time favorite stones reads: Ira Sheridan, killed by lightning while at school. This is horrific of course, but doesn’t it prod your imagination ?
So many graves are unmarked and we can only wonder about those. It is common to read about mass graves in old municipal records, in undisclosed locations, where dozens to hundreds of corpses were deposited when plagues swept the region. New England’s final resting places, to me, are treasure troves of historical and cultural history and should be treated with respect and wonder.