Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hampton, New Hampshire Cemetery Brouhaha

This news story is for anyone out there with roots in the New Hampshire Seacoast. Hampton has more colonial era cemeteries than any other seacoast town. Hampton was originally the “Plantation of Winnacunnet” one of four New Hampshire towns originally chartered by Massachusetts. It was founded in 1638 by my ancestor, Reverend Stephen Bachiler. The original boundaries now include Seabrook, Kensington, Danville, Kingston, Sandown, North Hampton and Hampton Falls. Original settlers include surnames like Leavitt, Dearborn, Merrill, Moulton, Sanborn, Batchiler/Batchelder, and many others.

From the website www.seacoastonline.com accessed January 12, 2010

Petition to eliminate cemetery trustees
Warrant article stems from issue on availability of burial information

By Patrick Cronin
January 12, 2010 2:00 AM

HAMPTON — A volunteer on the town's Historical Society is putting forth a petition warrant article to voters in March asking them to eliminate the Trustees of the Cemetery in Hampton.

Martha Williams said she believes the town would be better served by putting the town manager in charge of its cemeteries rather than the three-member elected board.
"I just want to put forth the article and the let voters decide," Williams said. "Right now there is no accountability and (the trustees) can do whatever they want."

The warrant article comes at a time when the Historical Society and the Cemetery Trustees have butted heads regarding the records of burials at the High Street Cemetery.

Society members have offered to computerize the records for free because they say they have received a lot of requests from researchers and relatives interested in genealogy. However, they claim the trustees have been resistant to that proposal.

While the trustees — Richard Bateman, Matt Shaw and Thomas Harrington — voted to allow the society to copy the information back in November, they only decided to release information about those interred in Section A of the cemetery. Trustees took a vote that sections B, C and D would not be made available until after the new year.

"I just don't understand what the big deal is," Williams said. "It doesn't make sense why they would be so hesitant to release the information that is public."

She also said the trustees have been less than honest with the society.

"First, we asked about mapping the cemetery and they said there was no money to do that," Williams said. "Then we find out they already have a map of the cemetery.

"When we asked to copy their files, they said we couldn't because there was no heat in the cemetery building, then we find out there was heat," she said. "I just don't understand why we are getting the runaround."

Cemetery Superintendent Dan Kenny said he is against eliminating the trustees who he calls the "selectmen of the cemetery."

He said the reason why the trustees didn't want to release all of the information at once is because they wanted to see if the town attorney could put the trustees and the Historical Society's verbal agreement into writing.

The trustees agreed to allow the society to put the records on computer as long as they didn't give out information to people who wish to remain anonymous. The trustees, he said, were concerned about possible vandalism.

"I'm really upset about this," Kenny said. "The person who is sponsoring this is not even a lot owner. They are doing this to further their personal agenda."

Williams said she has no personal agenda.

"To be honest, I never thought about the cemeteries until I started this," Williams said. "All we wanted to do was help them, and they were nothing but obstructionist. I thought, 'What is going on here?'"

While the trustees said the remaining information would be made available in January, Williams said they have yet to receive it.

"I have called them, but they haven't returned my phone calls," Williams said.

1 comment:

  1. Typical small town New England politics. Let's hope it's straightened out soon!