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An Old Town by the Sea 3

 
  A STROLL ABOUT TOWN by TB Aldrich (continued)

Pleasant St. Cemetery, Portsmouth, NH / SeacoastNH.com

The place has about it an indescribable soothing atmosphere of respectability and comfort. Here rest the remains of the principal and loftiest in rank in their generation of the citizens of Portsmouth prior to the revolution -- stanch, royalty-loving governors, counselors, and secretaries of the Province of New Hampshire, all snugly gathered under the motherly wing of the Church of England. It is almost impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on a governor. You grow haughty in spirit after a while, and scorn to tread on anything less than one of His Majesty's colonels or a secretary under the Crown. Here are the tombs of the Atkinsons, the Jaffreys, the Sherburnes, the Sheafes, the Marshes, the Mannings, the Gardners, and others of the quality. All around you underfoot are tumbled-in coffins, with here and there a rusty sword atop, and faded escutcheons, and crumbling armorial devices. You are moving in the very best society.

This, however, is not the earliest cemetery in Portsmouth. An hour's walk from the Episcopal yard will bring you to the spot, already mentioned, where the first house was built and the first grave made, at Odiorne's Point. The exact site of the Manor is not known, but it is supposed to be a few rods north of an old well of still-flowing water, at which the Tomsons and the Hiltons and their comrades staked their thirst more than two hundred and sixty years ago. Odiorne's Point is owned by Mr. Eben L. Odiorne, a lineal descendant of the worthy who held the property in 1657. Not far from the old spring is the resting-place of the earliest pioneers."

"This first cemetery of the white man in New Hampshire," writes Mr. Brewster, "occupies a space of perhaps one hundred feet by ninety, and is well walled in. The western side is now used as a burial-place for the family, but two thirds of it is filled with perhaps forty graves, indicated by rough head and foot stones. Who there rest no one now living knows. But the same care is taken of their quiet beds as if they were of the proprietor's own family. In 1631 Mason sent over about eighty emigrants many of whom died in a few years, and here they were probably buried. Here too, doubtless, rest the remains of several of those whose names stand conspicuous in our early state records."

Note 1: Mr. Charles W. Brewster, for nearly fifty years the editor of the Portsmouth Journal, and the author of two volumes of local sketches to which the writer of these pages here acknowledges his indebtedness.

CONTINUE to Chapter Four

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