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  • Mj Pettengill

The Records Burned in a Fire


Carroll County Farm Cemetery, Ossipee, NH / Pettengill
Carroll County Farm Cemetery, Ossipee, NH /Pettengill

The first time I saw that abandoned site where the lost, numbered souls were laid in the earth, I couldn't get out of the car. I was overcome by intense anguish, grief, and fear.


However, everything changed that day. I gathered my courage and moved ahead. I went against the gatekeepers' narrative about giving up because the records burned in a fire. 🔥


I followed my instincts rather than the outdated programming. (It never worked for me.)


Until I discovered the identities of the 268 souls and was on my way to re-"membering" them back into society, it was challenging to be in their presence.


Once I was on my way to proper identification, comprehension, and acknowledgment, the wall of pain slowly and steadily vanished. When I facilitate programs, signings, and workshops, it is customary for me to bring a large framed poster with the names of the paupers. I also list them in the back of the book and provide handouts for attendees.


One of the most rewarding aspects of this monster project is hearing from people who have found missing branches from their family trees. Though referred to as inmates and sentenced to do time or put away until death, the people from birth to age one hundred buried there and at most other workhouses, asylums, etc., during that era were ordinary, good folks. Their crimes are listed below. Such lists are plentiful and easily accessible.



Asylum Admissions List: Public Domain
Asylum Admissions List: Public Domain

To the left is one of many lists of ailments or conditions that were guidelines for sentencing. Take a look at it and see how many apply to you. Would you be committed? If so, would you be grateful to be re-"membered" after so many years of being lost and treated as if you were not born and did not live or die? Or after suffering a social death?


Click on the pauper section of this website for a partial list (268) of those buried at the site in Ossipee. There are many familiar, old names on it. You might even find someone you didn't realize you were looking for.


Nothing is more heartwarming than going to the cemetery and seeing flowers at the graves of people intended to be forgotten. Even plastic flowers melt my heart. Acknowledgment is healing.

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