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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Which Side Are You On? From the Author's Pen

Carroll County Farm Cemetery (NH), Mj Pettengill
Carroll County Farm Cemetery (NH), Mj Pettengill

When will we learn about fences? Soon, I hope.

He looked around with wide eyes.

“Don’t be afraid. They went to heaven to live with God and the angels.” We lingered by the fence that divided the County Farm folks from regular town folks.

“Why is there a fence in the middle?”

“That’s where other folks are buried. In fact, that’s where my mother and father, your grandparents, are buried.”

“Why are they over there? Shouldn’t they be here with us?” He ran his hand over the top of the fence.

“Someday, I’ll explain it.” I started walkin’ again. “In God’s eyes, we are the same, no matter which side of the fence we are on.” I stopped in front of number 140. The wind rustled the boughs of the tall pines that surrounded us in a protective circle.

“Do they see us?” He nibbled on a strawberry.

I smiled. “They know that we’re here. We will always be together. Someone may get very sick or have an unfortunate accident and die, but love never dies.”

Abigail Hodgdon, June 22, 1878 ~Carroll County Farm Cemetery Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series: Book One


One of the first things that I noticed upon discovering the 298 was the dividing fence at the hill’s peak. On the right side, sprawled out in long, meandering rows on a partially snow-covered hillside, are many small, thick, numbered gravestones. On the left side is a common public cemetery with various shaped stones, plastic flowers, and flags—ironic signs of life.

The small numbered stones reminded me of tragically forgotten children. The contrast was unsettling; the left side being the good side of society, while the right side was almost hidden, although simultaneously crying for recognition. I heard the call and knew that I had no choice but to answer and follow the unmistakable footsteps that crossed my path. They begged me to follow.

Observing the clear, physical class distinction between the two burial sites, a well-marked division seems appropriate, not only for the nineteenth century but for our times as well. Sadly, either you have it, or you don’t.

Designed to keep people or other living things in or out, fences are hugely symbolic. In recent history, tearing down the Berlin Wall represented peace and unity. It was an act of healing from previous wounds. For many years, here in America, walls and fences continue to be hotly debated. This is part of an ongoing dispute.

Abigail takes the time to explain to her son that it doesn’t matter which side of the fence that one is on; God loves all. This is a lesson that I would encourage all to consider. If no one expressed this to you in your life, perhaps it is time to give it thought.

This surrounding theme of division and many other powerful lessons are prevalent in Down from the Tree (Book 3). Samuel shows how he listened carefully to the teachings of his wise mother. He has his own unique perspective of what lies beyond the fence.


Apr 22, 2021

I was struck by how you described the fence. It almost seemed sad to me, but if the numbered graves were among the named graves, the people who lived at the poorhouses and were numbers not names would be just as lost.

Mj Pettengill
Mj Pettengill
Apr 22, 2021
Replying to

It is symbolic of the world that we lived in then and now. The numbered stones are in one section and the named in the other. It would be a mess to mix them all together, and with the poor record-keeping system, it would be chaotic at best. But, the fence isn’t necessary... 🙏🏼

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