Vintage Views: I was someone

  • I lived a life, James W. Spain / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 4/30/2022 6:52:26 PM
Modified: 4/30/2022 6:50:52 PM

As I walk through the forest late one spring day the rain is gently falling from the overcast sky. Nature provides a soothing sound to me as last falls deep covering of maple and oak leaves are impacted by the droplets of rain. I am alone and deep in thought as I find a clearing in the distance, void of trees the clearing deep in the New Hampshire forest is surrounded by a collection of ancient granite slabs and stones in a most reverent way. I enter the enclosure and find a collection of old slate gravestones that read like a well-worn history book. The enclosure is not very large and I admire the craftsmanship of both the old wall and each stone. I find a comfortable place to sit upon the granite wall, perhaps a place those in mourning sat themselves as they visited with their families in this secluded graveyard. As I sit and contemplate the many legacies that are before me, I read each and every name, I take my time with my new friends while I observe some wonderful names from long ago.

I wonder what kind of life each of those buried deep in the forest experienced. The hardships and simple pleasure with such appreciation when times were good. I have found woman named Hitty, Nonie, Thirza, Winnet, Sarah and Anne. I have found men and boys named Elias, Isaac, Jacob, Abraham, Fate, Hiley and Quill. Uncommon names in society today but quite well-known when our ancestors walked the fields surrounding Concord as well as the many additional communities in our beloved New Hampshire.

There was a time when graveyards were more numerous in the many country towns that we now populate. There were many private burials during the colonial era, some located on larger family farms because of the distance that separated them from the parish cemeteries located beside the local churches. When the people from over a century ago experienced the loss of a loving family member, they buried them under a favorite tree or upon a hill with views so that they could maintain their loved ones in a sentimental way.

The old families decreased in size as people passed away, families moved away and the numbers decreased even more. The old family farm passed to another family and then another generation with new owners inheriting old family plots where people were buried many years before. The once tender care ceased, claimed by the years, neglect sometimes became evident and stones were damaged, granite or fieldstone walls removed by people or the ravage of New Hampshire frost. Acorns fell from oak trees and sprouted into saplings while a variety of brush grew haphazardly. Winter, spring, summer and fall contributed equally to the demise of these forlorn sacred grounds.

As the years continued the citizens established common cemeteries such as the Old North Cemetery in Concord, a place to provide final rest in sacred ground. Some families removed their beloved from the family farms and reinterred then in the newly established public cemeteries in hope the perpetual care from the city of Concord would maintain the stones forever. As the old burial sites are lost to history the records are also lost with the gravestones fallen. Some of our ancestors now lie in fields and pastures unknown and sadly forgotten by the fast pace of todays society. Each and every soul was a person with a story, mothers, fathers brothers and sisters. Sons and daughters and aunts and uncles, serving their families and communities, participating in famous military battles, immigrating from old countries. They celebrated together while they played their fiddles and harvested their bountiful crops, prayed for peace and comfort too.

I spend some time with my new friends that host uncommon names, say a prayer or two, for they do find their eternal peace deep in the New Hampshire forest. They are no longer forgotten for I have found them and I will visit them again. As this spring day darkens, I rise from the granite wall where I sat and continue my hike towards my home miles away. I speak each and every name clearly as the New Hampshire forest listens intently, I will remember them.

Vintage Views is a local history column that explores Concord and its surrounding towns. It runs every week in the Sunday Your Life section. The author is a historian and not a member of the Monitor’s staff.

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