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Tallest Tombstone in New Hampshire is 100 Years Old


The late Rev. John Tucke had been moldering just below the surface in the damp thin soil of Star Island for 27 years when Rev. Dudley Tyng stumbled over his grave. A minister from Newburyport, Massachusetts, Tyng had come to the Isles of Shoals in 1800 to observe first-hand the wretched condition of the fishermen and their families living there.  (Click title to read more) 

The once-thriving community had collapsed in 1773 when their beloved minister died. Most of the Shoalers moved to the mainland during the American Revolution, but a few dozen impoverished citizens of Gosport had survived and were living in squalid conditions clinging to a lifestyle begun in the 1620s.

Tyng placed an inscribed sandstone slab on top of Tucke's grave, but by the Civil War it was scarcely legible. By then the island population had rebounded, but in 1873 the tourism industry replaced the fishing industry at the Isles for good. The fishing families of Star Island sold their land to a hotel developer from Boston. Three years later the developer sold his Oceanic Hotel and the island to the Laighton brothers Oscar and Cedric who had been running their own hotel on nearby Appledore for decades. But by 1913 Cedric was dead, Oscar Laighton was bankrupt, and the island mortgage was owned by the Piscataqua Savings Bank of Portsmouth. Luckily, the bank president, Charles A. Hazlett, was a huge history buff. 

 Star Island or Gosport New Hampshire

Tuck honors Tucke

In January 1914, Hazlett and Timothy Sullivan, an expert on monument design from Concord, visited the island. On a frigid afternoon the two men marked off a circle 60-feet in diameter surrounding the grave of Rev. Tucke. Hazlett deeded the small circle of land to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord. The society had recently moved into a monumental new building. Built of fine granite and marble in the Greek style, this "Temple of History" was the gift of banker and philanthropist Edward Tuck.  

Born in Exeter, Edward Tuck (1842-1938) was the son of the famous Amos Tuck, a founder of the Republican Party and the man, some say, who got Abraham Lincoln elected to the presidency. An extremely wealthy banker and railroad investor, Edward had previously founded the nation's first business graduate school at Dartmouth College in his father's name. His gift of $500,000 was a huge sum in 1899. Tuck would later donate an estimated $6 million to Dartmouth and was also a benefactor to his alma mater at Phillips Exeter Academy and other institutions.  

By this time Edward Tuck was an expatriate living with his wife in France on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées where their art and antique collection was valued at $6 million. When asked to build a better memorial to his ancestor John Tucke, the wealthy benefactor told the NH Historical Society to spare no expense. By mid-March 1914 the society had already contracted Pigeon Hill Granite Company of Rockport, MA to build an enormous obelisk in the "Egyptian style" and similar in proportion to the memorial at Bunker Hill in Boston.  Sullivan quickly presented a model of the Tucke Memorial for approval. Granite chunks gathered from the island would form the foundation that would rest directly on bedrock. The base and plinth were to be made of massive New England granite blocks, waterproofed with the finest Portland cement. The blocks would be stacked one-on-another, joined with two dowels secured by molten lead. Rev. Tucke's remains were to be placed in a vault at the bottom of the obelisk and permanently encased in cement. The completed memorial would stand 46.5 feet, making it the tallest tombstone in the Granite State. 


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