Thursday, June 16, 2011

Commodore Nutt, lived in fame, but died with an unmarked grave?

Commodore Nutt and his
sweetheart, Minnie Warren
George Washington Morrison Nutt (1848 - 1881), was a popular attraction at P. T. Barnum’s circus. He was well known by his stage name of “Commodore Nutt”.  I first learned about this diminutive actor when researching the history of the Colonel Burnham Tavern in Milford, New Hampshire. You can read my blog post about the Burnham house at   In this post you can read how General Tom Thumb (Charles S. Stratton), another famous dwarf from Barnum’s show, rode his little pony coach through the front door of Colonel Burnham’s home. These actors were local legends in their own time.  Tom Thumb and Commodore Nutt were exhibited at the Barnum Museum on Broadway in New York City in the 1800s. They also traveled worldwide, and met the crown heads of Europe. They were rivals for the affections of Lavinia Warren, a female dwarf in Barnum’s show, who eventually married Tom Thumb.

Near the current South Willow Street in Manchester there is a Nutt’s Pond. This section was also called Nutt’s Road. There is a small burial ground there named “Merrill’s Cemetery” by the entrance to the Mall of New Hampshire. Many generations of the Nutt family are buried here, including Commodore Nutt’s parents. Many descendents of Londonderry families are buried here, including Youngs, Vickerys, Harveys, McQuestons, and Boyces. It’s a great little cemetery! 

Merrill Cemetery, Manchester, New Hampshire

The Nutt Family Plot
Major Rodnia and Maria Nutt
the Commodore's parents
I had read in many sources that Commodore Nut was buried there at Merrill’s Cemetery. A recent visit there showed all the members of his family, parents and siblings, but no George Washington Morrison Nutt. This was puzzling to me since all sources stated he was buried there. He had received a huge wedding and funeral from P.T. Barnum, but no gravestone? Not even a small marker? His family had a large obelisk engraved with names, and his parents (listed on the obelisk) also had a nice double gravestone.  This seemed to be above average for a farmer family.  So where is the Commodore's stone?

I contacted the city and the Manchester Historical Society. Both stated that he was buried between his parents, Rodnia and Maria, but had no record of a stone. I returned to the cemetery to look again, and there is no marker next to the parents, or between the siblings. Can it be that one of the most famous actors and circus performers of the nineteenth century was buried in anonymity? Apparently this is true!

UPDATE 22 August 2012  Did you know that Lavinia Warren was a member of the DAR? And a Mayflower Descendant of Richard Warren  (and four other Mayflower passengers?)  See this post at the blog "The Educated Genealogist":

Commodore Nutt’s lineage:

Generation 1. William Nutt, born about 1698 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, died 26 October 1751 in Chester, New Hampshire; married Jean Colbath on 29 May 1723 in Bradford, Massachusetts. Ten children. William was a weaver.

Generation 2: William Nutt, born January 1730 in Londonderry, died 26 April 1801 in Derryfield (now Manchester, New Hampshire); married to Sarah Elkins James on 26 August 1751 in Derryfield.

Generation 3: Thomas James Nutt, born 23 July 1763 in Derryfield, died 9 July 1843 in Manchester; married to Sally Boyles on 18 August 1789 in Derryfield. Ten children.

Generation 4: Major Rodney/Rodnia Nutt, born 12 June 1810 in Derryfield, New Hampshire, died 23 January 1875; married first to Maria Dodge on 15 March 1836 in Goffstown, daughter of James D. Dodge and Margaret Gordon. Five children, including “Commodore Nutt”. He married second to Ruany Call on 11 Oct 1859. Six more children.

Generation 5: George Washington Morrison Nutt, “Commodore Nutt”, born 1 April 1848 in Manchester, died about 24 May 1881 in New York City; married Lillian Elston of California. No children.

Sources:  An excellent post from Janice Brown’s “Cow Hampshire” , about Commodore Nutt with a page of genealogy on the entire Nutt Family.   The Nutt Family Genealogy   Wikipedia story about Commodore Nutt Commodore Nutt’s obituary published 26 May 1881 in the New York Times


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Commodore Nutt, lived in fame, but died with an unmarked grave?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 16, 2011, ( accessed [access date]).


  1. Heather,

    Commodore Nutt is indeed buried in the Merrill Cemetery and there is no stone. Possibly the family was afraid someone would dig up the body if there was a marker. About 15-20 years ago the Barnum and Bailey Circus was in town, actually set up their tents and performed across the street. While there, they held a special ceremony to honor Commodore Nutt.

    Nice article :)

  2. Oh and another point of interest - It seems that Lavinia's younger sister Minnie (also a dwarf) married your Commodor Nutt. She died while giving birth to their first and only child.

    1. Oh, my! I didn't know that, Sheri. Thanks for the information. There are no wives graves in Manchester, NH. (unless they are unmarked, too)

    2. I have recently done genealogy on this family for a friend who is a descendant. According to my research, Mr. Nutt did not marry Minnie, but a woman from Redwood City, California, Lillian Elston.

  3. Thanks for this post. I am trying to lean more about Commodore Nutt.

    1. Thanks for writing, Wynter! I hope you find the sources I listed helpful.

    2. i am a descendant through marriage to commodore nutt. i grew up in manchester and every memorial day my family would go to merrill cemetery and place flowers on his headstone. this was in the late 1950s-mid 1960s. when i last visited about 15 years ago there was no headstone.

  4. Nutt never married Minnie. She married another dwarf and died in childbirth with THEIR child (who was apparently full size and did not have dwarfism). Nutt married a small woman but she was not a dwarf. He dies 2 years after their wedding of Kidney disease. I read all this via Wikipedia.

  5. Does anyone have the full text of the play "Kranks; or, Fun on a hand car, a comical musical conception of the follies of the day in 2 acts" by George W. M. Nutt, New York, 1880?

  6. I hope to keep learning more about the amazing stories of us Nutts