Yesterday and Today|
by Bill & Connie Warren
Yesterday, before Proprietor's Cemetery was named for the entire burying ground, the section on South Street at the end of Richards Avenue was called Auburn Street Cemetery because Richards Avenue was Auburn Street during the mid-to-late 1800s. The old picture, circa 1863, was taken by Carl Meinerth, a photographer who preceded the Davis Bros., as the leading landscape photographer in Portsmouth. He took the picture from almost the high ground looking down toward the pond which would have been on the right had it not been hidden by the trees. The old cemetery had many more trees than we have there today.
The first grave stone (the pillar with the cross) on the right marked the Ruth Elizabeth Morrison. The carvings on the stone reads, in part, "Her spirit passed away March 3, 1812 in the 24th year at her age."
The burying area, to the camera side of the pillar, on the right (where the man is seated on one of the stone walls) marked the family plot for Capt. Joseph M. Bradford and his wife. While they were still alive when the picture was taken, their son, "Harry M. Bradford died 1858 aged three months."
The grave marker pillar in the center of the picture, just to the right and above the hand cart, is the burying ground for John Harrat and two wives. The first of whom was "Mary A. T. F. born Dec. 25, 1802 and died April 22, 1839."
Today, the Proprietor's Cemetery is enclosed in the area bounded by South and Sagamore Streets and Little Harbor Road. In today's picture, the pillar grave marker on the right is missing its cross. While there is still some of the lead lining in a square hole at the top of the pillar, and a hole in the center of the square one where a pipe probably helped secure the cross, the lead is corroded which means (to me) the cross has been gone from the marker for quite some time.
The cemetery, as a place to research our city's development and population growth, is a great historical record. Every stone, every family grave enclosure, every mausoleum has a story to tell. If there is a central theme (besides the simplicity of the money values we expend to mark the passing of our family members), it seems to suggest that many families were devastated by the loss of their mothers and/or young spouses as well as the loss of young children. Growing up, in all generations, has its own relative, inherent pitfalls.
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