"HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY" FOR GILFORD STEAMER’s May 6, 2004 ISSUE
GILFORD’s OLD CEMETERIES, PART OF "GUNSTOCK PARISH"
When we think of burial grounds, into our mind’s eye often flash images of cemeteries associated with a church or other place of worship. This is not an accurate setting for Gilford’s early history which includes the late 1700’s cluster of settlement on the summit of Gunstock Hill arid surrounding a fine meetinghouse, hence the name "Meetinghouse Hill", in a section of the extensive township of Gilmanton that became known as "Gunstock Parish".
We find in Gilford, as elsewhere, that many early families established burial grounds on a corner of their own land and used a variety of grave markers including headstones and footstones. One theme display area in Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s Grange Hall features Gilford cemeteries and includes a wall map on which the site of each of the more than twenty Gilford cemeteries is indicated and accompanied by one or more photographs of each burial ground and of some of the headstones and footstones as well as family monuments found there.
In the Cotton Hill area are burial plots for the Cottons and the James family. In the Liberty Hill area are those of the Weeks, Rowes, and Collins. Of f Cherry Valley Road burial sites include those for Buzzells and Grants as well as for Lampreys.
As family farms came to be sold out of the family, as was the case more often in the early twentieth century, associated burial grounds became a concern. One such situation occurred on Cotton Hill. As Adair Mulligan relates, "On Cotton Hill, the family solved the problem when relatives arrived by oxen, held a picnic in the field, and reputedly dug up the bones of their ancestors, carrying them out in shoe packing boxes to another family cemetery in Wolfeboro."
Several other solutions to preserving burial grounds surfaced during research. In 1853, Noah Weeks, Jr., deeded a small area, of the Weeks Farm on Emerson Road off Swain Road, which had become used as a cemetery for the families on the west side of Liberty Hill. A burying ground in the orchard of Thomas Burns was reserved in the 1856 sale of the property to Joseph Hunt.
Some family plots apparently evolved into neighborhood cemeteries, such as the Ames, Grant, Hoyt, Lamprey, and Wilkinson plots. This was consistent with the feeling that neighbors who had shared a life together, with all the cooperation and mutual support that entailed, often chose to be buried together.
The McCoy Cemetery on Old Lakeshore Road is a significant early Gilford burying ground. It appears to have been in use since 1822, after a group of twenty-five citizens met at the nearby home of James McCoy and voted to purchase an acre of land from his former guardian Captain Samuel F. Gilman. Research indicates that the committee arranged for a "burying cloth," complete with fringe, which was rented for seventeen cents to those who did not own a lot. Of the first ten people buried in this cemetery and whose ages are known, six were children.
After 1850 many communities developed central town cemeteries with the promise of perpetual care, indicating that the significance of the neighborhood as a social unit was on the wane.
Until 1860 the people in Gilford Village used the Hoyt Cemetery or the Mccoy burying ground as burial sites since there was no burying ground at or near Gilford Village. The untimely death of f if teen-year-old Albanus Rowe, son of Simon Rowe and grandson of Benjamin Rowe, caused the people in Gilford Village to decide to have their own cemetery.
As relayed in The Gunstock Parish, "On October 31, 1860, David Gould deeded a four-acre piece from his farm just south of the Rowe place for twenty-five dollars, and the new Pine Grove Cemetery was hurriedly laid out into walks and lots. Albanus Rowe was the first person buried in the new cemetery, and his father Simon, who later joined him there with the rest of the family, planted a row of red pines to hide the grave from the view of his wife’s kitchen window (in the now vintage Rowe House)."
Some years later, Pine Grove Cemetery’s granite bank wall and arched gateway were built and given to the town by Fred Weeks and his wife Laura.
Interest in creating even more family and community cemeteries continues to the present in Gilford, with the most recent ones bearing the names of Martin, Kiedaisch, and Gerry/Smart in addition to the Wixson Memorial Garden.
Thompson-Ames Historical Society has erected several monuments in Gilford, including one at the early Weeks cemetery near the top of Hoyt Road. Also, T-AHS publications include a directory of Gilford’s cemeteries that proves helpful to persons doing genealogical research.
Popular interest in cemeteries seems to warrant the appearance of one or more related articles in this column during the month of May, along with offering a workshop "Introduction to Beginning Genealogy" to be presented by Susan Leach on Saturday morning, May 15th.