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Iron gate stolen from historic Canterbury cemetery

The gate at Ham Cemetery in Canterbury was recently stolen.
(Courtesy of the town of Canterbury)

The gate at Ham Cemetery in Canterbury was recently stolen. (Courtesy of the town of Canterbury)

The black iron gate at the historic Ham Cemetery on Shaker Road in Canterbury was recently stolen from the property, but the town’s cemetery trustees said they will not pursue prosecution if the gate is returned in good condition.

Cemetery trustee Kent Ruesswick said he last saw the gate in place during a walk through the cemetery May 23 with John Goegel, another trustee. Tory Dodge, a participant in the Canterbury cemetery keeper program who helps take care of Ham, noticed it was missing and notified the trustees last week.

“It must have been ripped off its pins. It probably weighs 15 to 20 pounds, I would guess,” Ruesswick said. “If it is found again, we’re going to change that; we’re going to want to make it a bit more firmly attached.”

The trustees searched the area around Shaker Road in case the gate was moved as a prank but had no luck finding it. Goegel said it may have been taken for use as a decoration.

“I can’t imagine the metal would be worth that much in terms of scrap metal,” he said. “But it’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.”

Dodge, who has been a cemetery keeper at Ham Cemetery for two years, said she was confident it happened in the past two weeks but did not know the exact day. She volunteers and helps with cemetery upkeep, mowing and maintenance, but noticed the gate was missing as she drove by.

“At first I thought someone had just taken it off to repaint it, but I guess not,” she said. “It’s so disheartening.”

Nothing else at the cemetery was damaged, she said.

The property is privately owned by Dave and Anne Emerson of Canterbury, and Ruesswick estimated that the cemetery has been around since the 1850s or 1860s. The cemetery is located in the corner of the farm that dates back to the Ham family, Dave Emerson said, alongside Shaker Road.

“It’s hard to understand why this would be done,” Emerson said. “This is one of the prettiest, nicest, most well-maintained cemeteries in the town.”

The cemetery has about six graves on one side and a large monument on the other side, Emerson said.

“The road is pretty well-traveled during the day, but there are plenty of times when the road is quite quiet and anyone could go there without much chance of anyone coming by,” he said. “It would be pretty simple for the gate to be taken off; it could have been done very quickly.”

The iron gate has a brass plaque that reads “HAM” in the center and Emerson said it was “no more than 3 feet wide.” Previously, it was fixed between two low stone walls by iron pins.

In an email sent to Canterbury residents, Ruesswick said the trustees had consulted with the town selectmen and agreed that if the gate is returned in good condition, the town will not pursue prosecution and the trustees will handle the reinstallation.

Emerson said the gate is only historically valuable when it’s in place.

“It doesn’t seem like just a prank, it feels like it was probably more serious,” he said. “It seems like a pretty long shot that we’ll get it back, I think. We’ll have to get a reproduction made, probably.”

Ruesswick asked that anyone with information about the disappearance or the gate’s current location contact him, Goegel or trustee Hugh Fifield by calling 783-9024.

(Ann Marie Jakubowski can be reached at 369-3302 or ajakubowski@cmonitor.com.)

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