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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

I'm Nobody!

...Who are you? One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. We no longer have to ask, and if we do, we can now find you. We can even put a flower at your grave, if that's what we want to do, because you are more than a number. There is joy in knowing who you are. I have completed my mission.

A little over a decade ago, I was motivated and inspired by my discovery of a pauper cemetery in Ossipee, New Hampshire, which consists of over three hundred numbered graves. First, I was told that the records burned in a fire. That was more of a challenge than a deterrent. Ask my mother, I will rise up to meet a dare. Facing resistance and a lack of good record keeping was just the beginning of this experience. However, I was grateful to have learned right away, that this was the Carroll County Farm Cemetery and that at first, local folks didn’t really want to talk about it. All of that has changed. “It’s the paupers,” they said. “You won’t find anything out about them.” Coming by the names or any information to speak or write of was no easy task, but I was driven to restore their identities. I answered the call. After months of painstaking research, I unearthed 268 of the names of those buried there. The burials began in 1870 and although rare, the cemetery is still used today. And, at the cemetery, their names remain anonymous. From the inception of this unplanned journey, my research resulted in the penning of a historical novel, “Etched in Granite.” In addition to this being my culminating study at Vermont College, giving lectures and writing the book, it was also my plan to have a memorial placed at the site to honor their lives and reclaim their dignity. After several meetings with the Carroll County Commissioners, they approved of my plan, and I began to raise the appropriate funds. The present day County Farm donated a large piece of granite from the foundation of the original County Farm, dating back to the 1870s. Arthur’s Memorial out of Redstone, crafted the monument—a bronze plaque engraved with a simple inscription affixed to the granite. It weighs about two tons and happens to be shaped like the state of New Hampshire. A Memorial Dedication Ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 17, at 1:00 at the site, Old Granite Road in Ossipee, rain or shine. The ceremony will include offerings from Mj Pettengill and Mary Edes Kull, and music by local Singer Songwriter - Anna Trevor, Violinist - Shelby Trevor, and Vocalist - Mariel Brewster. Since the publishing of “Etched in Granite,” many historians, genealogists, and those seeking previously missing links in their ancestry, have been able to locate lost relatives. There is a list of the anonymously buried paupers at the end of the book, on the website, and now at various local institutions. It is public information. Mj Pettengill is an author, lecturer, and historian with a focus on cultural narrative, intergenerational studies, and social history. She lives on a small farm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where she has a small apothecary and is a wildcraft practitioner, aligned with her passion for nature and exploring the ancient healing traditions and customs of her ancestors. The second book in the "Etched in Granite" series is slated to be released in the fall of 2017.

CARROLL COUNTY FARM CEMETERY c. 1870 — Beyond the mournful numbers, lie no more grief or fear. No sad or sweet thoughts linger, for those who slumber here. —MjP


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