Touring A Town's Grave Past
By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Friday, June 27, 2003
[Staff photo by Jackie Ricciardi]
HAMPTON - The Leavitts, Goves, Palmers, Marstons and Weekses were the center of attention this week through a tour of the town's oldest cemetery, one of the oldest in New England.
Sponsored by the Hampton Historical Society, the free tour of the circa 1654 Pine Grove burial grounds off Winnacunnet Road was hosted by Historical Society member Betty Moore, who led more than two dozen residents and visitors past dozens of cracked and faded burial stones, offering notes on those early Hampton residents who helped build the town and were buried in its first cemetery.
She led people past the grave site of Thomas Leavitt, who lived from 1616 to 1696 and was the first of generations of Leavitts to live in Hampton.
There was the headstone of Dr. John Weeks, who died at age 47 in 1763, and his wife Martha, who died in 1758 at age 40.
The idea of Tuesday's tour came from Carolyn Moe, an 8-year-old Hampton girl who missed a similar tour last year.
"I was in Minnesota last year and I missed it," said Carolyn, who called Moore and requested another tour.
"I like grave stones. My sister is scared of them, she holds her breath, but I'm not scared."
Carolyn's sister Sarah did not attend the tour so could not defend herself
All told, 257 stones have been identified, said Moore, crediting Boy Scout Joshua McDonald of Troop 177, who in 1999 inventoried the stones in the cemetery by family name.
"Joshua did a great job indexing all the stones by family and also by number," Moore said, noting a booklet published that year that included maps with all the stones identified and inventoried.
Moore took visitors past the grave stone of Samuel Towle, located just feet away from the entrance.
"Disease hit Hampton in 1735, then again in 1754," Moore said. "Samuel Towle lost his daughter to the earlier epidemic, which hit mostly children. Then a cousin lost three children, and Mr. Towle locked himself in his house. Eventually he and his son died."
The cemetery is filled with other stories, like that of Edward Gove.
Gove was born in 1627 and died in Hampton in 1692, but not before participating in what became known as Gove's Rebellion. He was subsequently tried and convicted of high treason for attempting to incite rebellion against King Charles II, sentenced to be "drawn and quartered" then locked in the Tower of London.
"Gove was not killed, however," Moore said, "but allowed to live in the tower until he was eventually allowed to return to Hampton, where he died."
The Gove family erected a new granite monument to their ancestor in 1992, on the 300th anniversary of his death.
Moore outlined the stones as well as the histories behind them, noting three distinctly different styles, from the simple stones bearing skulls and cross bones, or frowning angels, indicative of the Puritan period; more elaborate carvings from the "Great Awakening" in the 1700s; and the more modern stones from the 1800s with weeping willows and urns engraved on the stone faces.
She noted that families were not generally buried together. This is a cemetery "without rhyme or reason," Moore said, pointing out that family members were buried haphazardly; that no family plots seemed to exist.
Moore also noted the immaculate condition of the grounds at Pine Grove, impeccably groomed by Dan Kenney and the staff of the Hampton Cemetery trustees.