Remembering the Poor : A Tribute
Updated: Feb 24
CARROLL COUNTY FARM CEMETERY 1870 —
Beyond the mournful numbers, lie no more grief or fear. No sad or sweet thoughts linger, for those who slumber here.
— Mj Pettengill
Honoring Hundreds of Anonymous Paupers Dating back to 1870…
It was a year ago when author and historian Mj Pettengill of North Sandwich, New Hampshire completed a mission. About a decade earlier, she was inspired by her discovery of a pauper cemetery in Ossipee, New Hampshire, which consists of more than 298 numbered graves.
She learned that it was the Carroll County Farm Cemetery. Coming by the names or information was no easy task, but she was driven to restore their identities. At first, she was told that the records of those buried at the Pauper Cemetery burned in a fire. After months of painstaking research, she discovered the names of 268 individuals interred at the site. The burials began in 1870, and although rare, the cemetery is still used today; those buried there remain anonymous. Although the initial research became her culminating study—"monster project" as affectionately termed by her professor and mentor Richard Hathaway, Ph.D at Vermont College—she knew that her work had only just begun.
She spent several years researching the nineteenth-century "Carroll County Poor Farm” and what it meant to be a pauper—referred to as an inmate in these oppressive institutions. You may be more familiar with the terms almshouse, workhouse, or simply a poor farm. From the inception of this unplanned journey, her passion and research resulted in the penning of the first book in the “Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series.” Originally, the book was going to be non-fiction. However, to reach a broader audience, she decided to craft a cultural narrative—historical fiction.
In addition to giving lectures and writing the book, it was her plan to have a memorial placed at the site to identify, honor, restore dignity, and reclaim their souls. When the novel was released, it was time to begin the process of creating and placing a monument at the burial site. Following several, often dense and rigid, meetings with the County Commissioners, they finally approved of her plan, and she began to raise the appropriate funds.
After coordinating with the present day, “Farm Boss,” the County donated a large piece of granite from the foundation of the original “County Farm.” This was a fitting and meaningful gesture. Arthur’s Memorial out of Redstone, crafted the monument—a bronze plaque engraved with a simple inscription affixed to the granite.
A Memorial Dedication Ceremony was held on June 17, 2017, at the site on Old Granite Road. The ceremony included offerings from Mj and the Reverend Mary Edes Kull. The gift of music was provided by Mj’s adult children: local Singer Songwriter - Anna Trevor ; Violinist - Shelby Trevor ; Vocalist - Mariel Brewster ; and the Silver Lake Hospice Singers.
There were over 300 flowers in buckets on the side of the hill. While pure, inspiring music floated over and above the graves, the participants were invited to place a flower on each of the graves. No one would be forgotten.
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 the appropriate local institutions. It is public information.
Additional details about the cemetery and those buried there are available on the website and in the book(s).
Mj Pettengill is an author and social historian with a focus on cultural narrative and traditions, collective and intergenerational trauma integration, and social welfare development.
Pedaling through history is not new to her, she has a background in Civil War musicology and performance.
She creates in her woodland studio and lives on a farm in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A wildcrafter, working with plant medicine, Mj is aligned with her passion for nature and exploring the ancient healing traditions, customs, and folklore of her Native ancestors.
“The Angels’ Lament, Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series: Book Two,” was released in December.