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A number of the older cemeteries in our area have decorative cast iron fencing and gates around family gravesites. These photos were taken at a cemetery in Greenville, NH.

This fencing also acted as a mortsafe and prevented grave robbing. However the decorative fencing itself is often the target for thieves.

Ironwork by John Poltrack on


Ironwork by John Poltrack on


First Parish Burying Ground

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I never pass the opportunity to visit older graveyards in the surrounding towns. The slate stones are still quite legible and many have stories to tell. The epitaphs on the limestone gravestones have eroded away, victims of acid rain.

This photo was taken behind the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Ashby, Massachusetts.

Ashby First Parish Burying Ground by John Poltrack on
Leaning Stones


Three Deaths

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I found this grave at the Ashby First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church. It raised many questions for me. These children died in different years, why only one stone? Did the parents wait for the final death before erecting the stone? Did they not expect any of these children to be older than 4 (Abigail). Why did they die so young. I have questions but no answers.

Three Deaths by John Poltrack on
Three dead children


Bridge Street Cemetery

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We have stayed at rental property on a dead end street off of Bridge Street in Eastham. When I saw this cemetery I had to take a look around.  I can’t resist a New England Cemetery.

“This is the site of the third Eastham Congregational Church which was built about 1720 and served until 1830. The church probably was located near the center of the cemetery. The first Eastham meetinghouse built about 1650 was located at or near Cove Burying Ground. The second meetinghouse built about 1718 was located in the South Precinct of Eastham (now Orleans).”…

“Epidemic of 1816 – There are twenty one gravestones carrying 25 names of persons who died in 1816 mostly in February and March. An epidemic on the Lower Cape called the “cold plague” or “spotted fever” took fifty two lives in Eastham in 1816. Ashes and gases from the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 caused global cooling in 1816 which was known as the year without a summer.”…

Bridge Road Cemetery Handout



Bridge Road Cemetery, Eastham, MA
Bridge Road Cemetery, Eastham, MA
Bridge Street Cemetery
It is rare to see a skull and cross bones carving on a tombstone. Jonathan Doane (1780), a few rows behind Dorcas Shaw, displays a skull without wings and with large crossed bones. The carved image looks like a pirate flag. The gravestone is carved in the style of the Geyer carvers of Boston.
Merrick Doane
Merrick Doane “Youth oft in health and at its ease Looks for a day it never sees”


Tragic Epitaphs – Gilman Spaulding

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Modern grave markers tell very little about the deceased, usually just a name, lifespan and family role. Some of the older cemeteries in New England  have gravestones with a lot more information such as the ones found at Village Cemetery on Main St. in New Ipswich, NH.

Mr. Gilman Spaulding
Mr. Gilman Spaulding


“Mr. Gilman Spaulding was kill’d with an ax by an insane Brother, Sept. 19,1842, AEt. 38.” 

Read more about this this tragedy on Janice Brown’s excellent blog

The Vermont Phoenix for September 23, 1842 recorded this affair of a Sunday morning—

Melancholy Occurrence.— Mr. Charles Spaulding of New Ipswich, N. H. who has been insane for the last few years, wandered from his home a short time since and came to Windham in this State. On the 20th inst. he was found by his brother, who was about to take him home. In the mean time the insane man slyly took an axe unnoticed by his brother, knocked him down, and then struck him several times with the axe, which wounded him so that he survived but a short time. The insane man was immediately taken and placed in the jail in this County. He now appears to be wholly unconcerned, says he is glad that he killed him and intends to kill another brother and a sister.


Memorial Day 2015

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Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day in 1868 when a group of Union Veterans established it as a time to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers

Photograph Okinawa Cemetery by John Poltrack on 500px

Temporary Cemetery in Okinawa in WWII. Later the remains were returned to the states.

Photograph New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery by John Poltrack on 500px

These photos were taken at the Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH in 2011

Photograph Veterans Cemetery by John Poltrack on 500px

Photograph Veterans Cemetery by John Poltrack on 500px