THE GRAVE SITE
It may be the most isolated cemetery in New Hampshire. It huddles on the “back end” of Star Island ten miles out to sea. After arriving at the Isles of Shoals, you must hike to the wave-lashed end of the island facing the sea where the Civil War-era family plot is tucked among the layers of rock guarded only by hundreds of seagulls. Beneath the cemetery is a sad story of three lost girls.
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The family of Rev. George Beebe created this cemetery during the Civil War in 1863. But it is not a memorial to fallen soldiers. It is the final resting place of three little girls – Jessie, 2, Minnie, 4, and Mitty, 7. The minister’s three daughters all died when one of the girls contracted scarlet fever while attending public school for the first time on the mainland in Kittery, Maine. Her younger sisters contracted the disease and died.
Rev. Beebe was the last missionary to the Isles of Shoals, formerly Gosport, New Hampshire. A few years later almost every resident of the fading island fishing village packed up and moved to the mainland. They sold their land to a hotel developer and, all of a sudden, the island became a tourist attraction and later a conference center. The Oceanic Hotel, first build in 1873, still stands nearby. The Beebe family eventually moved to Littleton, NH with their four surviving children.
The Beebe Cemetery, long overgrown, has been cleared in the last few years and there is discussion of restoring the original cemetery to its Victorian-era status (see early photo below). From the Beebe graveyard, visitors can see the dilapidated monument to explorer John Smith, a monument also build, in part, by Reverand Beebe. The tall obelisk dedicated to Rev. John Tucke, an earlier missionary to the Shoals, is also nearby and is the tallest tombstone in the state of New Hampshire.
The Beebe plot, built before the Tucke Memorial, also has a small obelisk in memory of the lost children. A quote from young Mitty is carved into the weathering tomb and reads: "I don't want to die, but I'll do just as Jesus wants me to."
READ about the Caswells on Star Island
Read about the Haleys on the Smuttymose
Color photos © 2005 SeacoastNH.com. First posted here in 2000. The early photo is from the book “Gosport Remembered” by Maryellen Burke and Peter E. Randall, and available from PERpublisher.com.