Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stories in Stone, Part 2

This story from the Derry News is about the Forest Hill Cemetery, which is directly behind the First Parish Church in East Derry Village, where this New Hampshire State Historical Marker is located on East Derry Road.

from "The Derry News" Published: October 22, 2009

To the attentive visitor, cemeteries say much about a town's history

By Julie Huss

"The living come with grassy tread, to read the gravestones on the hill..."

From "In a Disused Graveyard" by Robert Frost

111For the hundreds and hundreds of those buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, it's a study in stone as their stories and lives are etched into the aging granite.

The cemetery is the final resting place for many of Derry's finest — the notables who made their mark on the town's history and forged lives through the years.

One one afternoon, a visitor stops by the historic graveyard on the hill near First Parish Church for a stroll through history. It's quiet, solemn, with hardly a sight to be seen, except for rows of stones in every size, some crumbling under the weight of generations, others shiny and gleaming under an autumn sun. A scampering squirrel creeps and hides underneath one toppled stone, storing a winter's worth of acorns in a perfect, dark spot.

The 35-acre graveyard shows its age. Stones are falling, some teeter and almost drop over; others lie flat on the grassy ground. Some stones are missing completely, others are cracked in half, with various pieces strewn nearby. Some graves are not even visible to a visitor's eye, covered in the moss of time.

The stones reflect examples of every major carving style, showing images such as frowning angels, urns and ranging from simple designs to more detailed images of death.

Forest Hill is looking better these days thanks to many volunteers pitching in for various tasks at the graveyard, according to Dorothy Goldman, longtime cemetery supporter and currently working in Forest Hill documenting graves and photographing the stones. She said she sees improvements everytime she enters this hallowed ground — one of her favorite places to spend time.

Through her work at Forest Hill, Goldman hopes to get every grave documented for future generations to enjoy. Although the town's most notables lie there, many of those unsung heroes also call Forest Hill their final home. They are the people Goldman said she enjoys learning about the most.

"I'm trying to find the common folk," she said, "the ones not always written about."

Goldman said records of those buried at Forest Hill are available through the Derry Public and Taylor libraries, also at First Parish Church and the Derry Museum of History.

Here is a look into the lives of some of those buried at Forest Hill:

Everett R. Angell, died at the age of 10 and now laid to rest with one of the most interesting stones at Forest Hill. The inscription on the stone reads, "See them up yonder," as these are believed to be the boy's last words before he died as he saw visions of angels coming through his window to take him off to Heaven.

Gregory Smart, died in Derry at the age of 24 in May of 1990, the victim of a murder plot involving several teens and his wife, Pamela, who went on to be convicted of conspiring to murder her husband. She is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The Shepard family, parents, and other relatives of America's first astronaut in space, Alan B. Shepard Jr.

The Derry-born astronaut's parents, Alan B. Shepard Sr., and Renza lie in Forest Hill as do his grandparents. The younger Alan, and his wife, Louise, were cremated following their deaths in 1998 and their ashes were spread at sea. A marker for the hometown hero is placed at Forest Hill.

Rev. James McGregor, one of the earliest settlers in this area, among the original citizens of Derry. Preached his first sermon near Beaver Lake and a leader of the original Nutfield colony. He died in 1729 at the age of 52 years.

John Parker, lived in Derry and was found dead in 1864 in the woods of North Andover, Mass. He served as a New Hampshire recruiting officer for the Civil War. His demise was deemed a murder. Parker worked for the town to procure substitutes to fill up its quota in the war.

For more stony stories from the graveyards of Londonderry, see next week's issue of the Derry News.

My computer is still away from home, so I decided to post the second part of this series from "The Derry News" you can see the story with photos at
Yesterday's post is the Derry News story about Londonderry's cemeteries.

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