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Concord is home to 13 cemeteries, some with graves of heroic residents who lived 250 years ago 

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  • Concord Cemetery Division employee George West holds up a photo of Sarah Thompson, Countess of Rumford, (1774-1852), who is buried at Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21. 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the earliest markers at Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21, 2021 during the seminar tour. Most of the lettering on the marker is gone. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Cheryl Molleur of Concord inspects some of the markers at Old North Cemetery during the seminar tour on Thursday, October 21, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sarah Walker (left) and Kristine Kenerson look over the markers at the Old North Cemetery in Concord during the tour on Thursday, October 21, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Attendees walk along the rows of grave markers at the Old North Cemetery on Oct. 21, during the seminar at the 1730 grounds for some of the famous families of Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sarah Walker (right) and Kristine Kenerson look over the markers at the Old North Cemetery in Concord during the tour on Thursday, October 21, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A tour attendee looks over into the Minot section of the Old North Cemetery during the seminar tour on Thursday, October 21, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord Cemetery Division employee George West holds up a photo of abolitionist Nathan Peabody Rogers during the tour at Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21. 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sarah Walker looks over one of the oldest markers at the Old North Cemetery in Concord during the seminar tour on Oct. 21. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Attendees look over one of the earliest grave markers at the Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21, 2021 during the seminar at the 1730 grounds for some of the famous ealry families of Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord Cemetery Division employee George West holds up a photo of Caroline Samone Foster Stickney, who is buried with her husband, Joseph in the family mausoleum at the Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21. 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord Cemetery Administrator Jill McDaniel-Huckins looks over a marker during her seminar presentation at Old North Cemetery.

  • Cheryl Molleur of Concord looks inside the Stickney mausoleum at Old North Cemetery during the seminar tour on Thursday, October 21, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the markers at Old North Cemetery in Concord on Thursday, October 21, 2021 during the seminar tour. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/26/2021 5:20:44 PM

The slate gravestones in Concord’s Old North Cemetery, many dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, have faded inscriptions, words and symbols no longer visible to curious history lovers.

They are the burial grounds of men and women who built the foundation for this area and fought in two of our most famous wars, against England and then each other. Their names were everywhere. Names we know from streets and parks and buildings.

Rolfe, Blood, Walker, Stickney.

Elsewhere, the record-keeping system used by the city’s Cemetery Division is pretty darn ancient as well. However, the name attached to this stone-aged apparatus – actual index cards with actual writing on them – is clearly marked.

It has to be. Without Jill McDaniel-Huckins and her team, how would we know who’s buried where, the family’s background, anything about vital pieces to the Granite State’s historical context?

That’s why McDaniel-Huckins hosted an informal seminar last Thursday. Fittingly held on Prince Street, between the Concord Public Library and the famed, old-school brick siding of the Concord City Auditorium.

“We’re looking into getting a computer system,” McDaniel-Huckins, the city’s cemetery administrator, told about two dozen people, gathered simply to learn about Concord’s 13 cemeteries. “But that will also involve a lot of data entry.”

Tons, in fact.

For now, McDaniel-Huckins researches and documents things the hard way and yearns to answer your questions. So call her if you’re wondering how to find a particular gravestone, lonely and, thanks to time’s cruel hand, nameless for decades and decades.

“I maintain records for all cemeteries, and each cemetery has its own internment cards,” McDaniel-Huckins told the group on a splendid fall afternoon. “If you’re looking, or if you think something is interesting, I can get that for you and give you maps to help you find it.”

She told us numbers. For example, the land for the Blossom Hill Cemetery, where McDaniel-Huckins’s hot-in-the-summer office is located, was purchased by the city in 1860.

And 25 years ago – after Blossom Hill bought the church-owned Concord Calvary Cemetery, once separated from Blossom by a fence, became Concord’s largest cemetery at 85 acres. More than 25,000 people call it home, their final resting place.

We toured the Old North Cemetery, the oldest in town, which opened in 1730, with 2,300 residents. The group walked a mile to get there, moving from Prince Street to Green Street to Centre Street to North State Street.

The entourage included McDaniel-Huckins, of course; Robbin Bailey, Concord’s reference librarian the past 28 years; George West, who’s been affiliated with Blossom Hill for 50 years; and Ashley Miller, known as the library’s archivist, reference and outreach coordinator. She came aboard five years ago and moved to her current role two years ago. She said this is the fourth edition of McDaniel-Huckins’s annual show-and-tell program.

“We work with other city departments and we try to do that as much as we can,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of local history we’re going to get to hear, a lot of famous Concord individuals who are buried there. Franklin Pierce, the only president from New Hampshire.”

Yes, he’s there, last on the two-hour tour and, for some, first on the list of this nation’s worst presidents. The White House sends flowers to the graves of all past presidents, each year on their birthdays. Pierce was born on Nov. 23, 1804. The flowers will be on a tripod in front of his grave two days before Thanksgiving this year.

McDaniel-Huckins mentioned the six flags planted around the cemetery, each about 10 feet high, each with a narrow wooden base anchoring the flagpole above.

“People came in for the first 60 years and there were hundreds of burials here,” McDaniel-Huckins explained. “But only six monuments. That was because this area did not have the means to create the monuments and to chisel out the names. The closest place was in Massachusetts. Very expensive.”

Imagine that. In the Granite State, no less.

We saw Stickney Hill, where Jeremiah has one of the six original stones. The Stickney family made millions from their gold and coal mining business, with offices around the northeast. Beyond his faded name, the rest of the inscription was gone, the stone lichen-stained yellow, black and white.

We oohed and aahed when learning that this family built the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. Babe Ruth slept there.

The nearby Stickney Mausoleum, home of Joseph and Caroline Stickney, had thick columns out front, like a home to the Gods. West held up black and white photos and drawings of the people. McDaniel-Huckins read about from her white loose-leaf binder.

West’s keys to the Mausoleum, however, didn’t work on this particular day. With Halloween approaching, some speculated that old Joseph himself was standing on the other side of the door, fighting to keep it closed.

We saw other stones with detailed symbols of a coffin and a little girl’s face, framed by shoulder-length hair, and angel’s wings. It wasn’t clear why those old monuments looked so much better than others. McDaniel-Huckins said they hadn’t been restored. Perhaps the type of stone?

A lot of information lay in the files and brown notebooks, dusty like an old western town, that she brought from the basement into her office 15 years ago. She’s been piecing these lives together ever since – for public consumption, knowledge and historical accounts.

There were gravestones, some faded, some clear, for people like Albeyable Cady, a leading local abolitionist in Civil War days, and Joseph G.A. Hill, who married Ellen Downing and partnered in the well-known Abbot and Downing Company.

There was also a stone for a woman named Nancy, no last name. She was a slave in Georgia and sold to Richard Herbert in what was then called Rumford, now Concord, in 1768. McDaniel-Huckins’s research told her that Nancy was treated well by the Herberts, friendly with his children.

She first read about Nancy after retrieving that pile of index cards and dusty notebooks, filled with names and dates, written in pen or typed, line by line.

Now, someone has planted three little yellow and red flowers at Nancy’s gravesite. The place is full of stories.

“My office is at Blossom Hill in the round granite building as you drive in,” McDaniel-Huckins said. “It’s the best office in the entire city. It’s like a little home and it’s part of me, part of my extension.

“Come in. Ask questions.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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